31 August 2007

Philosophy Class (Week 1)

I really am enjoying the class so far. Right now we're discussing the sky as it appeared and may have appeared in the myths of the past. Dr. Levenson seems to be very into Eliade, who was apparently one of his instructors. He handed out a reading from one of Eliade's books discussing some common characteristics of the sky in religion.

Here's my distillation of it. The sky is something that we can see but not touch. It brings life-giving rain and destructive storms. It's omnipresent. Wherever you go, it's right above you. Even more, there's an optical illusion that the zenith, the high point, is always right above you. Climb a mountain, and it seems as far off as ever. Eliade notes that many, many ancient traditions have the sky-god as the Creator. After the Creation, the sky-god tends to withdraw from the world and leave it to lesser deities. For most day-to-day activities, the lesser deities suffice, but in times of extreme need, the people will call upon the sky-god, the Creator.

The particular example that Dr. Levenson gave was the Hebrews. When they settled in a land that worshiped Baal, a more immediate, present, fertility god, they adopted that local god for a time...until it seemed that their entire people might be destroyed. Then they turned back to their sky-god, their last resort. I can think of another example in Catholicism: the saints. For most day-to-day matters, the saints are treated as minor deities, but for "big" things, the "big" god is invoked.

It occurs to me that in modern times, science might have largely displaced the need for the minor, local deities. Medicine, especially, will take care of many problems that our ancestors would have faced. But then when medicine fails or is powerless, there's still the sky-god to fall back on.

But because this god is the last resort, he becomes a distant figure: a "beard in the sky," as so many atheists like to put it. Where is the sense of immanence? The sacred in everyday life? The sense of purpose? Purpose is also distant in Christianity. It's put off until the afterlife. So...the ultimate purpose, arguably, is to die. That's it. Live so that you'll be okay in the next life, but to hell with this life. Maybe the reason they're so fanatical about suicide is that they subconsciously see it as "cutting in line" to get to the next life.

But living just for the hope of something better in the next life isn't living. You may as well be dead already. Aye, but there's the rub. The goal has to be distant, just as the sky-god is distant. It has to be hopeless, ironically, or there's no hope. Once you get to heaven, what then? An eternity of...what? No one knows. No one wants to know. Distance, that's the key. Keep your distance and hope you never find out.

Inquire Further


So... two days ago I signed up for Google Analytics on my blog. Since there's only two days worth of data, I didn't expect anything interesting, but I've already got two bizarre searches getting people here. Not as bizarre as Matt's (don't click if you don't like strong language), but still...

1. dodecatheon pulchellum jeffreyi
2. zinc supplements making me nauseous

Ah, the first one is one of my flower pictures from two summers ago: The Shooting Star.

As for the second, before I realized I was gluten-intolerant, zinc supplements DID make me nauseous. But then last fall my symptoms matched zinc-withdrawal, and I found that Cal-Mag-Zinc didn't make me nauseous. I have since started an occasional direct zinc supplement, without becoming ill from it. *checks bottle* 30 mg of zinc amino acid chelate. The supplement that made me nauseous was 100 mg.

Oh, I first heard of Google Analytics in a comic. Since I already had a google account through blogger, sign-up was easy. Hmmm... time to head for work.

Inquire Further

30 August 2007


I'm going to be extremely sick of days beginning with 'T' by the end of the semester. Ugh. I give four lectures each of those days, three of them 75 minutes long. Math 108 isn't so bad, as in most cases I talk for about half the time and then wander through, answering questions, for the rest. As for the rest, it's all stuff I've given lectures over often enough that I don't have to think too much about what to do next. Since we have a new book in Statistics, I have to think a little bit more there, mainly about the wording and order used in the new book.

Anyway, I found a few nice ranting links at the latest skeptic's circle: Religion as Ouroboros, and religion as mindless bully. I have a minor quibble with the first one. In terms of science, yes, an untestable hypothesis is completely worthless. In terms of philosophy, it may or may not be. So long as religions can tell the difference, I see no problem. Unfortunately, most can't.

Inquire Further

28 August 2007

Brief Summary

Math108 - More smoothly today.
Math143 - Lecture on functions and function notation, then a chat with a vision-impaired student. Basically, she's fine with anything on computer, as she can enlarge stuff to the size she can actually read, so I just need to make sure and e-mail her any and all handouts.
Math253 - I underplanned things, but as it's the first day, that's not a major problem. Next time: Graphs!
Math015 - Slightly underplanned, but not as badly. The first chapter is plain ol' arithmetic, so it tends to go pretty quickly anyway.

And now I'm exhausted. Thankfully, tomorrow is an easy day. One lecture to give; one to listen to. Night.

Oh, I seem to have wound up swapping office-mates... Andrew had moved down the hall to share with Caitlin. And Ysabel's nameplate is now under mine... Haven't seen her, though. It's possible someone was just moving nameplates around. Who knows.

Inquire Further

27 August 2007

Back to School

First day back. I was a bit short on sleep, as last night at 9:00 I noticed that the M*A*S*H season finale was on, and realized that I'd never seen it, at least not all the way through. I actually remember one bit, and the memory must be from when I was really young. Klinger points to a reddened sky and comments that it's a beautiful sunset. Potter looks at it, and says it would be a beautiful sunset if it were over there, pointing to what, presumably, was west. That's the bit that I remembered. I also remember being young enough not to understand what he was talking about. Young enough that I had no clue that the sun always sets in the west. One or two other bits seemed vaguely familiar as well, but that's the one bit that I know I'd seen before. My mom and I used to watch M*A*S*H together when I was little, so I probably watched part of the finale with her...and got bored and wandered off; it's much longer than a normal episode. If I'd realized it was going to last past midnight last night, I probably would have just recorded it, rather than trying to watch it.

There was a small bit of excitement in my Math108 class. I couldn't log into the computer lab, and discovered this just about as it was time to start the class. Thankfully, Luther hadn't left yet, so he stalled for me while I called down to find out what was going on. Apparently they're having some weird bug where people can't log on, and the only way to fix it is to change their password. Very bizarre. After that, it went fairly smoothly, apart from me trying to adjust to the projection screen stuff. I've thought of a few things I forgot to tell them since then, but nothing too major. Today was mostly a "get into the system" and "play around with the program" day.

Right after that, I have my philosophy class. Originally, it was scheduled to be in the Physical Science Building, so I ran back to my office before heading over, and met Matt aka Iamb aka the pooflinger for the first time. Both good and bad timing. Good in that I was there, bad in that I had to rush off. Anyway, that was a pleasant surprise.

An unpleasant surprise came when I got to the philosophy class, in that the professor hated the room we were in and had gotten us moved into the Liberal Arts building. It is a nicer room--I swear that all the rooms in the physical science building are specifically designed crush any sense of optimism or hope that a student might still have--but the original room was more convenient. For me, anyway. But there was another pleasant surprise in the form of Travis. I may have mentioned him before. He's an occasional taiji player, who makes it up to Don's class on the rare occasions when he wakes up in time for it (roughly once or twice a year). He's also taking the class. He's got more of a reason to take it than I do, as he's actually a philosophy major.

As far as the professor, I like him. His accent is...odd. Melissa told me that he's a rabbi, and sometimes there's a hint of the classic Jewish accent, but other times he speaks with a near-British accent. It can vary within the same sentence, even. No clue what's going on with that. Anyway, we seem to be starting with ancient religions, which aren't in the required texts; instead, they're in handouts, the first of which we got today. So sometime tonight I should read it.

Inquire Further

26 August 2007

Echoes of Thoughts

A post at Pharyngula has this rather beautiful comment:

I just can't seem to get past how small and constrained the theists seem to want to make the universe, like their creation myth is actually more impressive that what is really out there. Their great god just comes across as this petty ignorant bully doing bad slight of hand, and I just can't see the great part. They seem to think if they tell me often enough it might some how be true. How does any of that compare favorably to trillions of stars, billions of years, billions of interlocking evolving life forms, resulting in a being capable of appreciating the irony of just how pathetic religion is? I just don't get it. ~Venger

I might not have stated it exactly this way, but I've had the same reaction. Literalist Christianity comes across as this tiny, dank box that seems to think that it's a jewel-studded palace. I look at a tree, and I'm filled with awe to think of its ancestry going back millions of years; of the competition it faced to make it down into this age; of the trees that might have been had a storm not hit at the wrong moment, or a volcano not gone off; of the sheer heritage and history represented by that one lifeform.

To posit a "Creator" of trees cheapens it. It's nothing more than a descendant of a glorified lamp-post built not so long ago. No heritage. No life. Just another dead thing in a dead landscape. It's like the little kid at the Soda-Geyser. He turned up his nose at the geyser as "man-made." I don't see "god-made" as any different. It didn't come to be of itself; it was forced into being, enslaved into its current form. A tree that grows from other trees, that grew from still simpler lifeforms, that came originally from molecules that no one would recognize as living, now that is something miraculous and awe-inspiring. It is what it is, and no one made it what it is; it just is.

ADDENDUM: Speaking of Trees...

Inquire Further

25 August 2007

More on Freud

My feeling on the book has not changed, but I thought I ought to clarify a few things. First off, Freud was one of the pioneers in psychology. It's unfortunate that he seems to have turned his theory into a religion, but that's not to say that it didn't do some good in its time. Probably his most important contribution was the idea of the "unconscious," of things going on in the mind that we're not consciously aware of. Nowadays we know that a lot of bodily functions are subconsciously regulated by the brain, and that a lot of things that we don't consciously notice do wind up stored somewhere in the brain anyway. Likewise, the "ego" is as good a name for the mind's conscious, thinking voice as any other. The superego makes no sense to me whatsoever.

I'm not saying that it's never a useful idea; just that it's not useful to me. As far as I'm concerned, Freud has come up with a single visualization for the layers of the mind. We frequently use visualizations in taiji to try and help our bodies get into the correct posture. The thing that students quickly learn is that not everyone responds to the same visualization. You get someone like Freud who seems to have a guilt complex, then the superego imagery will work for that person. You get someone like me with no overarching guilt complex, and I'm just going to say, "Eh? Superego? Are you mental?"

For me, the seven chakras provide a more useful visualization. I would like to think that there's some physical reality behind the chakras, but I have absolutely no evidence for it. My subjective responses have been colored by the things I've read about chakras and hence expected from them when I started playing with the idea. I find them to be a useful diagnostic tool to check on things that might be bothering me subconsciously. Not foolproof, certainly not scientific, but useful nonetheless, and a big part of how I survived last year.

Likewise, I expect that Freud's system was useful to him and to patients with experiences and problems similar to his. I think that he overestimated the universality of his visualization, however, excepting the idea of a "hidden" dimension of the mind. (Other critics have stronger, harsher criticisms; you can get a taste of these in Wikipedia's article on Freud.)

Inquire Further

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

First off, I'm glad that I read the introduction after reading the actual text of David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. That way I came at it fresh, without one person's opinion influencing my own response to the text. I am grateful for the editor who decided that maybe bold-face indicators of which character was speaking when would be helpful. There are textual indicators of the speaker, but as bits of dialogue might go on for several pages, it would be easy to miss one and get confused as to which character was expounding. Which you can see for yourself in at least two online versions.

You may have guessed that this is another text for my philosophy class, and you'd be right. The full review is below the fold so that anyone else who wishes to read it fresh can choose to do so. This one I recommend unreservedly to anyone interested in religion in any sense. It's a fun, quick read, full of deep insights and interesting thoughts.

As you can probably tell from the title, the text takes the form of a dialogue. The three characters are Philo (the philosopher), Cleanthes (the theist), and Demea (the philosophical theist). Overall, Philo seems to get the upper hand in each argument. The topic under discussion is the nature of Deity and how much we can actually infer about that nature from, well, nature. The conclusion is "nothing useful." Hume does seem to buy into the idea that the world had a Designer, but he doesn't see this as a particularly useful idea as it leads to no new information, and, taken too far, leads to an infinite regress, e.g. "Who designed the Designer?" Ironically, I've occasionally seen ID advocates actually quoting from Hume to support the contention that ID is science. Yup. Quotemining is alive and well.

Essentially, Hume saw any attempt to unite naturalism with religion as ultimately futile, and dangerous to both disciplines. There's another essay in the volume where he decries any and all naturalistic explanations of miracles. It doesn't seem to be that he denies any miracles have occurred. Instead, he denies that it can be proven that they occurred, and that a leap of faith is required to accept them. He doesn't seem to think such a leap is necessary to accept the existence of a Deity, but since some of his writing may be intended as ironic, I can't pretend certainty on that point. It does seem that Hume valued that leap of faith, perhaps as distinguishing religion from science.

There's a lot more in there, but I don't want to go over every last detail. If you're interested in philosophy or religion at all, you should read this. Final thought: I found it interesting to see that many of the thought-processes I'd gone through as a teenager were represented in this volume.

Inquire Further

24 August 2007

So, Who Lost the War?

Why, Bush Lost the War! I'm not going to hunt down and link to each and every article from Informed Comment, but in essence, the "Surge" did nothing but put more of our soldiers at risk, as there was actually an increase in violence in Baghdad this July over last July. In addition, our "allies" in Iraq may actually be looking to Iran for support (which makes the administration's continued hostility to Iran seem...Orwellian at best). Whenever the military is attacked, it's always by Al Qaeda. Even when, well, it's not. Um, yeah...

Back to Bush's inane Vietnam comparison... Is he actually suggesting that we should have stayed in Vietnam? Seriously? I mean, I've always known that he wasn't too bright, but that's not just mental; that's put-a-strait-jacket-on-him-and-start-the-thorazine! Oh, and, Mr. President? You sort of missed the actual similarities to Vietnam: (1) We shouldn't have gone in in the first place; (2) It was/is an increasingly unpopular war; (3) Quagmire, quagmire, quagmire, quagmire; (4) The only option worse than leaving is staying. I'm sure I've missed some, but thinking too hard about this stuff just makes me angry.


Completely unrelated, but as long as I'm linking to Useless Tree, there's another excellent post on some problems associated with religion. Mostly from a Chinese perspective.

Inquire Further

23 August 2007

Civilization and Its Discontents

Ugh. If you've ever read any of the really New-Agey books that gleefully toss around abstract terminology, assuming both that the reader will be familiar with the terminology and agree with all the implied relations between it, then you have some idea of how half of Civilization and Its Discontents reads. It's the book by Freud that is required for my philosophy class. Chapter I is probably the most readable and interesting part, where he's actually discussing his own attitudes towards religion. The closer you get to the end, the more Freudian psycho-analytic babble he uses. The only reason I'd recommend this is if you have a weird sense of humor; I was chuckling to myself through a lot of the book, even though I also found it irritating.

Overall? Freud's ideas say more about the attitudes of his times and his own personal psychological problems than they do about society as a whole. He does pose some interesting questions, but that's the best I can say. He displays rampant sexism and a sense of the superiority of European culture over "primitive" cultures. He dismisses out of hand potential alternatives to his ideas, without ever describing more than a straw-man version of said alternatives, if that. He contradicts himself within the same paragraph without seeming to realize it regarding said "primitive" cultures, too.

The part that made me laugh, though, was that he rejects any notion of God in the first section, but the way he later describes the superego, and the hypothetical cultural superego, makes it clear that he's simply replaced God with the superego. He assigns it the exact same role played by the traditional Judeo-Christian God, right down to the idiotic dualism between "spirit" and "flesh." He doesn't call them that, but he might as well have. Essentially, he's taken the Christian mythos and turned it into a basis for psychology. Or tried to.

Essentially, Freud thinks that Man must repress his aggressive instincts in order to exist in any sort of society, and he does that with a "distorted" form of love; i.e. not between a man and a woman, and also weaker than a pair-bond. But because he represses his instincts, he can never be happy. The way Freud describes things, it's clear that he was stuck in the "nature red in tooth and claw" mode of seeing evolution. To be fair, that was how most saw it at that time, but it misses a lot. I'll oversimplify, but any activity that increases the species' numbers as a whole benefits the species and will be preserved, whether that activity is aggressive or cooperative. Freud sees any sort of cooperation or altruism as going against Man's nature. Translation: he internalized the Christian guilt/sin mythos despite overtly rejecting Christianity. Seriously, this book reads like bad theology (or New Age frippery).

It's likely I'll have to reread the book more slowly later on, depending on how we use it in the class. Maybe I'll find more to like then. As is, I'm unimpressed.

Inquire Further

22 August 2007

Random Revelations

Okay... note to self (and the rest of the world who happen to read this entry): do not hold kittens to show to potential adopters; have the adopters come sit on the stairs and coax them. They were fussing and clawing yesterday for Mom, and they've known her nearly as long as they've known me. The reason seems to be that they were being held, and outside. So, no more holding and showing. I might have one fewer kitten if I'd realized that on Sunday. Too late now, though.

Also, when I ordered my "text" books from Amazon, I managed to get them delivered to my dad's house instead of mine. So according to the Tracking info, two of them have been delivered... I just have to go pick them up tomorrow. And take dad a zucchini and some corn. It's so sad to see his garden empty this year. It's never been empty before, not since I was old enough to notice. Now he can't see well enough to plant it, and the bloody cataracts are fixable. *stops ranting*


Inquire Further

Yay! (mostly)

Both my pre-semester meetings are done, and I've got all three of my syllabi to the point that I could print them out, but based on past experience I should go doublecheck the calendar and generally proofread first. The one I'm least sure of is Statistics, as we have a new book this year. There are some things that I really like about it. It doesn't take itself too seriously, has lots of examples, sidenotes and stories, and is chock-a-block full of illustrations. What I don't like are the chapter divisions. It makes much more sense to me to group related topics into one chapter, and then further subdivide. So in the old book, Chapter 10 was hypothesis testing for a singles sample. 10.1 - setting up hypotheses, 10.2 - testing proportions, and so on. Here, there are a ton of short chapters, grouped into units instead, but it makes it harder to see which chapters go together. Though the trend does seem to be towards increasing the number of chapters (from a sample of size 3 ;^) : In the first book I taught out of, we rarely made it past Chapter 7, and covered a good range of topics. In the next book, we generally made it to Chapter 10, occasionally to Chapter 11, covering about the same range of topics. In this new book, we're going to have to make it to Chapter 23 (skipping a few) to cover the same range of topics. *sighs*

I'm both looking forward to and not looking forward to the new semester. On the one hand, having a set time to have to get out the door tends to be a good thing for me. On the other... *shrugs*

Inquire Further

Politics, II

From John's comment in my last post comes another political quiz, this one rating the actual quizee rather than the quizee's agreement with various candidates. The site doesn't give an easily copied code of the results, but after a few seconds of cutting and pasting, here are mine:

I didn't expect to be quite so deep on the Libertarian side, simply because I do favor some amount of business regulation. On their own, most businesses only care about profit. It takes some persuasion to get them to "care" about problems created by seeking a profit....

Inquire Further

21 August 2007


I just came across a rather interesting "survey." You enter in your stances on various contentious issues, and it gives each current presidential hopeful a "score". A candidate I'd never heard of before today got the highest score (meaning the strongest agreement with my answers, 56): Kucinich. I've never heard this name mentioned before, and the place where I found it was called Left Toon Lane, which is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of liberal-slanted comics. I don't agree with all of Kucinich's stances. Two of them I would consider contradictory. He wants to "end the war on drugs," which is fine with me, but start a war on handguns and assault weapons. A lot of the same arguments apply to these. The biggest difference is that drugs generally only harm the user (with sad exceptions), while guns can harm lots of others. I see the point of background checks, sort of, except that someone with a background bad enough to be denied a gun probably would have no compunction about breaking in and stealing said gun. Background checks are a "stop-gap" or an "at least we're doing something" measure, not a solution of any sort.

If you really want to limit the number of guns, you have to start by regulating gun production. Not sales, production. Basically, you put caps on the number and types of guns companies are allowed to manufacture. There are enough guns already in circulation that it would take several years for this to have much of an effect. It would, though, eventually decrease the number of guns available to people, and almost certainly drive the prices up. Is this a good idea? I really don't know, but an out-and-out ban on guns is no better than the current out-and-out ban on drugs.

I'd want details before supporting any sort of universal health care initiative. And I'm not sure that guaranteeing a college education to every citizen is a good idea. He really ought to talk to some college instructors. There are already people in college who shouldn't be there, who should be learning a trade instead. Oh, and he REALLY needs to talk to teachers about "No Child Left Behind." Basically it means substandard education, as schools scramble to get everyone up to the same mediocre level and everything not tested under the act suffers. Still, I actually agree with this guy on a lot of things. Probably means he won't even make it to the primaries. *sighs*

Another candidate that I'd never heard of, Mike Gravel, had the next highest score (55) for me, only one point less than Kucinich's. Let's see... he favors licenses for gunowners. Reasonable, but not much of an obstacle. Fair tax seems like one of those "sounds like a good idea, but..." issues. Again, I agree with a lot of his stances.

As for better-known candidates, my scores were:
Clinton 28
Obama 27
Edwards 24
Brownback -23
McCain -26
Giuliani -29
Romney -60

Inquire Further

20 August 2007


Knee: Much better. For the most part, I don't need the brace any more. However, for strenuous activity, I'm still going to wear it, and every so often I do get a twinge, which tells me to put it on for a while. In particular, it didn't do well when I was wearing my $10 "birkenstocks".

Neck: Almost back to normal. I can't prove that the stretches actually helped, but they made ME feel better. And one of Mom's friends/coworkers actually had a Shiatsu neck massager that she let me borrow... Nice. I told Mom she could get me one just like it for Christmas. The great thing is that you can put it wherever you need it. It's primarily aimed at the neck, but I put it on a stiff spot on my back as well.

Kittens: Still four. A family came to look at them Sunday night, but the kittens were being rambunctious and the mom freaked out. Any animal will take time to get used to new people, and when kittens are nervous they're going to scratch. Supervision is, of course, important at this stage, since her kids looked to be maybe two and three, but the kittens will calm down after a while. These people had clearly not been around cats very much. Anyway, the ad runs out on Sunday. Not sure what I'll do if there are no more calls.

ISU: Starts next week and I still haven't done anything with my syllabi. I'm planning to go in tomorrow morning before the 108 meeting (the math class; not my goal-system) and get some of them outlined. The books I ordered through Amazon may or may not be here by Monday. We shall see.

Zucchini Casserole: I ate the last serving of it tonight. I think I got six meals out of it. Pretty good for something with no expensive ingredients.

Mom's Business: We finished the measuring today, with me wearing a respirator rated for mold. Naturally only the most expensive one was so-rated, but Mom paid for it, so I can't complain too much. She suggested that she might have me put water filters in down there. I told her I would charge her for that, as I really don't enjoy plumbing. That didn't bother her; apparently she prefers me to a plumber because she knows that I will actually show up and get the job done. *shrugs* On the up-side, I now know what sort of connectors to avoid, and if they come with the filter kit, I will replace them.

Inquire Further

Further Uses for Zucchini

Over at Bob's Red Mill, they have an extensive list of gluten free recipes. Yesterday, I tried making the Chocolate Zucchini Cake. I didn't try it until this morning, as I was trying to follow the recipes instructions about letting it cool. It's quite good, but rather heavy and filling. I followed the recipe almost exactly as written. I upped the vanilla and cinnamon a tiny bit, though, and left out the orange peel, and I used an 8" x 8" cake pan, which was almost too small. The cake rose above the edges enough that I can't use the lid that the pan came with. I also accidentally left out the walnuts. They were sitting out...and somehow never made it into the batter. *shrugs*

One comment about the Zucchini-taco casserole from the last zucchini entry: I've decided that the next time I make it, I'm going to have the corn chips on the side, NOT directly in the casserole. I don't like them there. Serving the chips on the side turns it into something like a taco salad. I've been picking off the remnants of the ones I put in the pan with the casserole.

Inquire Further

19 August 2007

Long Form

We didn't do much in taiji class yesterday. Around the beginning of July, Don commented that he was running out of things to critique on our forms. Not that they're perfect, or anything, just that our mistakes are getting more and more subtle, and generally are very different from student to student. Essentially, he was complaining that any critiques would be of benefit only to one particular student, and not to the whole class. So Melissa suggested that maybe he could teach us the Yang long form, since our Cheng Man-ch'ing forms were so much improved. He looked surprised, thought for a second, and more or less said, "Why not?"

The ironic thing is that, as Don refamiliarizes himself with the long form, he's finding new things to critique us on the short form. From the sounds of things, he's planning to actually start us on the long form in September. Yesterday, he showed us a video of the sixth Yang lineage holder (uh... Yang something Jun, I think) practicing the long form. The interesting thing is that Jun has incorporated some of Professor Cheng's principles into the Yang long form.

I should probably throw in a bit of history for non-taiji players. Cheng Man-ch'ing was a student of Yang Chengfu. He did not do well in sparring. Then he went away for a year. Legend has it that he studied with one of the Eight Immortals. When he came back, he had made some modifications to the Yang form and was no longer losing every sparring match. One of the modifications is variously called "Fair Maiden's Wrist" or "Beautiful Lady's Hand." In the Yang long form, many postures end with the hand cocked back from the wrist, as close to ninety degrees as the practitioner can manage. Cheng Man-ch'ing is supposed to have said something like "I can't relax that way. If YOU can relax that way, go ahead and do it that way." In the Cheng Man-ch'ing form, the wrists are kept straight nearly all the way through the form.

Another difference is that in the Cheng Man-ch'ing form, we "shut the gate." That's taiji talk for turning the back foot in to forty-five degrees, rather than leaving it out at ninety degrees to the front foot. I find that my stance is less stable if I forget to "shut the gate." It's also harder on the knees not to shut the gate, though that's less of an issue with the Yang long form because they do not emphasize squaring the waist to the front foot, either. Again, I've found that I'm less stable if my waist is not square. We noticed that Jun has adopted the idea of turning the back foot in, if not the idea of keeping the waist square, or keeping the hips and shoulders aligned.

At any rate, I suspect that Don's going to throw some of the Cheng Man-ch'ing principles in while he's teaching us the Yang long form. They won't all work in every posture, but where they do, he'll probably use them. Occasionally, I come across a yang-stylist who disparages the Cheng Man-ch'ing form, and Cheng Man-ch'ing himself. "His form wasn't approved! He only studied with Yang Chengfu for seven years! It looks weird!" Don has a fairly simple rebuttal: one of Yang Chengfu's senior students wrote a quite favorable introduction to one of Cheng Man-ch'ing's books on the Cheng Man-ch'ing form. In that era, a senior student would not have done so without Yang Chengfu's approval. It's also thought that Cheng Man-ch'ing actually ghost-wrote Yang Chengfu's own book. Someone had to have done so: Yang Chengfu was illiterate.

Okay, enough history. Initially, I was not particularly enthused about learning the long form. There may be some unconscious snobbery on my part, but I figure I've still got so much to learn about the Cheng Man-ch'ing form that it seems odd to add something else into the mix. The thing that changed my mind, mainly, was seeing Don's enthusiasm. He's been a bit down this past year, what with all the health problems. Relearning the long form so he can teach it to us has done wonders. He seems much happier and full of life, now. My own interest also grew when Don started finding new things to tell us about the Cheng Man-ch'ing form as he relearned the long form.

Inquire Further

17 August 2007

Mondays on Thursday

My mom managed to put her cell phone through the washing machine yesterday after she got home. She says she had a monthful of Mondays yesterday. Not much progress on the car front, unless Mom being fed up with driving the pickup counts. Her insurance company's assessor is actually in IF (which would have been nice to know yesterday), so they have to wait for a day when he/she is down here. Presumably, the other driver's insurance company will also want to send an assessor. At least, they did when my car got hit several years ago. No question of blame on that one: I was driving down the lane in a parking lot when a pickup came careening through the parking spaces.

My neck has been stiff and sore since last night. I suspect it may be a mild case of whiplash; Grade 1 in the article. Since I seem to have full range of motion, I'm not particularly concerned. I found some neck exercises, rather obvious ones except for the "turtle." They seem to help. So did putting a heating pad on it for a while tonight. The sides seem to be stiffest, but they're a lot better tonight than they were last night. What I would really like is a Shiatsu neck massager. Unfortunately, stores only seem to carry them at Christmas-time. Or...there's one on Amazon, but I doubt I can get free shipping. *sighs*

Inquire Further

16 August 2007


I feel at least somewhat responsible for the collision in IF today. I wasn't driving, but I should have been. I was getting slightly tired at that point, tired enough that I asked Mom if she wantedto drive. She'd been pretty out of it in the morning, but seemed okay at this point. We had gone up to IF to do a bit of shopping. Barnes and Noble mainly, for me. Target for both of us. A few random stops here and there.

A few blocks after Mom started driving, I saw her jump when a car changed lanes in front of us. It had been cut slightly close, but not close enough she should have been surprised. I immediately asked if she needed me to drive. I don't remember getting an answer. A few blocks further down, I suddenly noticed that we were still moving full-speed-ahead toward some stopped traffic. "BRAKES! Brakesbrakesbrakesbraksebrakes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I yelped. There was much screeching of tires, and I was sure we were going to hit the car in front of us. We didn't. We stopped with maybe three or four inches to spare. Unfortunately, the pickup behind us wasn't so lucky. Nor was the trunk of Mom's car. I hit my head on the headrest of my seat when the pickup hit, but I doubt I'll even have a bruise from it. So no one was hurt. Except for Mythos, Mom's car.

The pickup was just a bit too tall for the back bumper to take all the damage. It scraped across the bumper, collapsing the top part, and then caving in the trunk. However, there was no significant structural or functional damage, in terms of driveability. The most irritating thing on the drive back (Yes, I drove after that) was not being able to see out of the rear view mirror due to the trunk sticking part way up. The second most annoying thing was having to signal left turns by hand. The right turn signal still worked. It had no nice red cover, but it worked. The left turn signal and brake light were dead.

The pickup-driver got a ticket for "following too closely." Mom felt that it was partially her fault and gave the driver a check for half the amount of the ticket. No word from insurance companies yet. I think the pickup driver was calling his as we drove off, but Mom probably won't call until tomorrow, when she's had a chance to calm down a bit. Since the pickup driver got the ticket, it seems likely that it will be his insurance company paying for the damages. Likely, but probably not guaranteed. For the moment, Mom's driving Dad's pickup.

Inquire Further

Duct Tape and Teeth

I had my dental cleaning yesterday. No cavities. Nothing at all requiring a further visit. After needing four fillings last time, I made two changes. I started using Act Fluoride Mouthwash nearly every time I brush my teeth. I also started brushing my teeth whenever I felt the least bit of gunk built up on them. I don't know which change had the greater effect, but together they were efficacious. Another change that only went into effect a month ago, and so may have been unnecessary, was the water filter in my kitchen. I'd been getting my drinking water out of my mom's revers-osmosis water-filter. Tastes great, BUT it also filters out the fluoride. I'd just as soon keep the fluoride and thereby my teeth. Both Mom and I have had worse problems with our teeth since she got that water filter. So I got a lesser water filter that leaves the fluoride intact.

And I can now officially announce that I have used duct tape on actual ducts. Dryer ducts. Pulled out of place by rambunctious kittens. I went to put some clothes in the dryer last night, turned it on, and it was making a lot more noise than I remembered... I checked behind it. Lo and behold, the duct leading to the outside vent had come loose. It's got metal straps that wrap around and can be tightened, but because everything's metal, there's no friction. Even when I had the straps tightened as far as they'd go, the blasted thing would still slide right off. I went to bed after that, extremely annoyed, and tried to think of ways to make the thing stay on. One idea was some industrial strength sealant I've got, but that seemed a mite extreme; another was to put some strips of traction matting between the connecting ducts, but that really would have required some sealant as well. Then this morning it hit me. They're ducts: Use duct tape! And lo there was much rejoicing, and hiding from the noise of the dryer, while the near-sacred load of summer shirts is cleansed from its load of water. (I don't know why I'm talking like this either; it might have something to do with sleep deprivation and/or the chocolate chips I put in my yogurt)

Inquire Further

15 August 2007

Ten Useful Commandments

1. Trust good character more than promises.
2. Do not speak falsely.
3. Do good things.
4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.
5. Learn to obey before you command.
6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.
7. Make reason your supreme commander.
8. Do not associate with people who do bad things.
9. Honor the gods.
10. Have regard for your parents.

These are Solon's ten commandments. I haven't had a chance to confirm this, but at least one site claims that our Founding Fathers based a lot of their ideas on Solon's ideals. So these are likely the real "founding commandments" of the country. Since five of the biblical ten violate freedom of speech (EDIT: more accurately, the first amendment in general), there's no reasonable claim that they had a significant impact on the founding of the U.S. Remember that the next time someone wants to put up a Ten Commandments monument. As for extant monuments, there's no reason at all to tear them down. Just put up a tasteful plaque underneath with these words from the Treaty of Tripoli: "The government of the United States of America is not founded in any sense on the Christian religion." Or, more entertaining, put up a Constitutional analysis of the validity of each commandment. At least five are written right out of the legal system.

For the record, I don't really care one way or the other about Ten Commandment displays. They're a historical example of a set of laws. I object to the lies, ignorance and idiocy.

And for full disclosure, I just got a forward from my mom with a lot of screeching about the Alabama judge who got ousted as Chief Justice for his insistence on displaying the ten commandments. So I sent her a large number of these sentiments. ^!^ I wasn't quite irritated enough to send them to everyone else who got the forward.

Inquire Further


I just finished one of the newer Charles de Lint books, Widdershins. It's a bit...convoluted, but quite enjoyable. It's touted as being the book where the two characters that everyone was certain should be together finally get together, but that's really only a small part of the story. A tenth, at best. If the book has an overall theme, it's the unity of humanity (and Cousins and Fairy and...); how people are people, whatever their shape/color/size/species.

Scanning through the reviews at Amazon, I would agree with those that say "Don't start here." This book is very complicated and convoluted, and someone not already familiar with the Newford universe would probably get lost in it. I don't agree with the ones that say, more or less, "de Lint should have focused on the romance and left out the rest." That would have been a short story, suitable for one of the short story collections. This overarching epic was much more satisfying, especially given the history of the characters involved.

Hmmm... so how can I summarize this without spoiling it for future readers... I'm reminded of a pre-WWI quote, as best I remember it: "The next big war will be over some little thing in the Balkans." It was a general or leader who said it, and those who know the history know that a relatively minor assassination in the Balkans was what set the whole thing in motion. Well, in Widdershins, it's the death of Anwatan, a deer-cousin. It's the little pebble that starts the avalanche. And yet... it really started even earlier, when a crow-cousin thought a salmon-cousin was dead and took his eyes...

Okay, not much left to say except...the death was not the beginning, but it was a beginning. Highly recommended for anyone familiar with the Newford tales. Recommended to anyone else after getting familiarized.

Inquire Further

14 August 2007

Campus Shenanigans

I decided I wanted to take a class again this semester. I took nothing at all last year, as much of the time I was barely functioning well enough to teach. Naturally, this meant that they'd managed to do something screwy with my account. When I went to try and register for the class on-line, it said "Admission Pending." This would make perfect sense for a completely new student and/or faculty member, but not for me. So I went over to the registrar to find out what was going on. She told me that my status was listed as "Master's: non-degree seeking," whatever THAT means, and that only the grad-student office could fix it. The grad student office did fix it, and the lady there had no idea why my status had been mixed up in the first place. So, I'm registered now for "Philosophical Issues in Religion." ^!^

That was one of three classes that I considered. The others were Elementary Japanese and Physical Geology. I wandered over to the bookstore to compare books before deciding. Thumbing through the Physical Geology book nearly put me to sleep; I hated to imagine what actually reading it would do to me. The Japanese class had two somewhat expensive texts, which did look interesting, but that class also meets on MTThF, and my T/Th are already rather packed. Also, I had already leaned towards the Philosophy class after seeing that the Tao te Ching and Bhagavad Gita were two of the required texts. Unfortunately, they were not translations that I already had. My two favorites are the Ursula K. LeGuin version, and the Red Pine translation. LeGuin did not translate it, per se: she compared a lot of translations and compared various meanings for the Chinese characters. It's more a transliteration, but the words in it flow beautifully.

The other texts are a novella that seems to be about Westerners encountering Eastern Thought for the very first time, a comparative religion textbook, a book by Freud, and a book by Hume. Hopefully the class will be as interesting as its required texts...four of which I had to order through Amazon, as they don't seem to have made it into the bookstore yet.

Inquire Further

13 August 2007

And Then There Were Four

*sighs* On Tuesday, I put an ad in the local paper for the kittens. The last day the ad runs is tomorrow, unless I go in and renew it. I got one call, this morning, and the lady came to see the kittens tonight. She loved the lean lines of the kittens, likely inherited from their part-Siamese mother. She took zen-girl. Her step-daughter had been wanting a cat, she said. Zen-Girl also gets to room with a Chihuahua who is said to get along well with cats. It was both harder and easier to let her go than I expected, and both saddening and a relief.

In other life news, I helped my mom measure her boss's building this morning. He's set to retire this fall, and she's planning to buy the business from him. She wants an accurate measure of the square footage before she makes an actual offer. We didn't get every room measured, for two reasons. The first is that half of the building is being leased out to a hair-place, and we couldn't find the key to it. We tried every key in the place (and there are a LOT of keys there), but none of them fit. The second is that there was some smell in there that made me feel queasy. I was game to keep trying, with a warning that I might rush out of the storage room in a hurry, since that's where the smell was worst, but Mom called it quits. We got all but her office and the store room measured on that side of the building, though.

As for what the smell was, the most likely candidate is mold. There's been at least one sewer back-up into the basement, and the store room apparently gets flooded in heavy rains and/or snow-melt. There could be other, nastier remnants from the sewer back-up, though. Another possibility is chemicals from the hair-salon that rents out the other side of the building, but what I was smelling was rather musty, dusty and...prickly grey. It wasn't the sharp, shrieking tones of hair chemicals. On the plus side, that might generate some business for Spencer's cleaning company.

Inquire Further

12 August 2007

Uses for Zucchini

My zucchini plants are producing quite well, too well to just make zucchini bread out of them unless I want to make myself very, very ill. So I went hunting for recipes. The one I'm trying at the moment is a Zucchini Taco Casserole recipe. In case the link dies, I'll reproduce it below, and note any changes I've made:

1 pound.................ground chicken breast BEEF
1 large.................YELLOW onion chopped
1 clove.................garlic, chopped
3 2+1 tablespoons...........2 T TACO SPICE MIX + 1 T chili powder
¾ teaspoonTO TASTE..............salt
1/8 teaspoon............pepper OMITTED
2 cups..................frozen whole kernel corn (1 10 oz package)
1 medium................zucchini, unpeeled, diced
1 - 15 ounce can........tomato sauce (APPROX. 10 oz. of leftover pizza sauce)
2 teaspoon..............dried cilantro OMITTED (I hate cilantro; dried is better than fresh, but yech)
APPROX 2 cups..................crushed tortilla chips
6 ounce.................cheddar 4 CHEESE MEXI MIX cheese, shredded
2 medium................green onions, chopped OMITTED
Sour cream, optional OMITTED
Salsa, optional OMITTED

Oven Temp: 375°
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Pan Type: 2 quart casserole dish

Preheat Oven.

In a large skillet brown the ground chicken onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink in the middle AND ONIONS ARE TRANSPARENT. Drain well. Add the chili powder, salt and pepper, mix well. Add the corn, diced zucchini, tomato sauce and dried cilantro. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Place one cup of the crushed tortilla chips in bottom of casserole dish.

Pour meat mixture on top of chips. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of meat mixture and remaining crushed tortilla chips.

Bake for the allotted time in preheated oven.

Garnish with sliced green onions. Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.

Serves: 4 - 6

Hmmm... I made more changes than I thought. Anyway, I'm using beef because Mexican food is one of the few places where dead cow actually tastes halfway decent. Also, beef has been tasting good to me lately, which almost certainly means I'm low in some nutrient contained in beef.

The nice thing is that there were no changes necessary for it to be gluten-free. The only thing to watch out for is the corn chips. Many Mexican corn chips are gluten free, but not all. "Modified food starch" sometimes shows up. If they're flavored, there may even be "wheat flour" in them, likely because the gluten helps the flavoring stick to the chips.

Verdict: Pretty good. I think it could use some fresh, shredded lettuce as a garnish, but overall I like it. Oh, and I'd recommend using at least a 2.5 quart casserole. It overflowed the 2 quart a bit, and I wound up leaving off some of the cheese as a result.

Inquire Further

11 August 2007

Welcome Back

Fibonacci, minus a couch, has come back to Pocatello after wandering a bit. The couch was one his parents no longer had room for. Neither did the stairways down to this apartment. Well, one stairway did, but then the corners into the hallway were too sharp. Basically, we needed to remove a wall. Then it would have gone down there. Everything else fit just fine. Presumably he's dropped the couch off at Goodwill by now and is on his way back to Twin to return the U-Haul and pick up his car. Well, not literally pick it up, unless he'd like to add a back injury to the coolant expenses.

So... appropriate way to welcome him back... Hmmm... Darn it, I don't have any tarantulas or scorpions! ;^) I could round up a bunch of earwigs, but frankly they bother me more than tarantulas or scorpions. Well, there's this old postcard of Lava Hot Springs, which is completely irrelevant. And here's one of Pocatello...which is, at least, the correct city. Ah, here we are. An old image of ISU, apparently once called the "State Academy." Unless I'm very confused, that looks like the current Administration building, with Graveley behind it. Not nearly as much other stuff built around them then, though. :^)

Inquire Further

10 August 2007

If you Miss the Train I'm on...

Yay! I just entered Quote 500 into the random-quote-list! Five-hundred points to anyone who knows why I picked the title I did. ;^) As for the quote, "We may be so defended against feeling the full impact of our emotional pain...that we unconsciously escape into a cloud of numbness in which we do not permit ourselves to feel anything at all or know what we are feeling. ~Jon Kabatt-Zinn" from Wherever You Go, There You Are. Actually, there doesn't seem to be a comma in the title, but it looks better to me with a comma. And the ellipsis is just to cut out a semi-parenthetical list of specific types of emotional pain. The quote almost describes my state last summer, except that I was actively seeking that numbness. I never found it. Instead, I found a few fleeting moments where the pain became unimportant and life meant something again.

As for me, ibuprofen-withdrawal-headaches are not nearly as unpleasant as caffeine/chocolate withdrawal headaches, but they go on longer. So if caffeine-withdrawal is like dropping a twenty pound bowling ball on your foot, ibuprofen withdrawal is like dropping a seven-pound bowling ball on your foot, and watching it bounce a few times. The headache started off feeling like someone was tightening a metal band around my head. The next day it was more like a leather band. Now it's a cloth band, but it comes loose sometimes, so that there's no headache for a few hours. Then it tightens back up. With caffeine withdrawal, it was more like the metal band stayed on for three full days, gradually getting looser until it vanished. As for the left knee, I've had to ice it once for pain and swelling, but that's better than I had anticipated. So with any luck, the headaches will be gone in a few more days, and my knee will continue to improve.

Inquire Further

08 August 2007


I've been reading a book that I found at Powell's in Portland. Wherever You Go, There You Are. You can probably tell by the title that it has a great deal of zen influence. Now, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of books about being more aware and practicing mindfulness, etc, but this is the first one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to just about anyone, even though I haven't finished it yet. I finished Part I this afternoon, and now I'm working on Part II.

The author, Kabatt-Zinn, does have a Buddhist background, but Buddhism is not really the point of the book, or the practice. He mentions Buddhist ideas almost in passing, as something for the reader to ponder. Mostly the first part of the book is about being aware of yourself, of your thoughts, of your body, of each moment. It is so easy to go through a day and just be trying to get through it. Then the day's gone, you're another day older, and you don't even remember what happened that day. Mindfulness is about being aware of what's happening as it happens. "Mind like a mirror," reflecting events as they are now, yet informed by the past and aware of the future. If you cannot see things as they are now, then how do you expect to adapt and deal with them?

The second part of the book is about Practice, aka Meditation. So far, it's just as good as the first part.

I've read several books in the same genre as this one, but this is by far the most accessible and informative one. Even though the nature of Buddhism is actually against dogma, a lot of the texts out there are very dogmatic. "You may disagree now, but in time you will agree with me," is a common sentiment. There's no sense of that in this book. It's just a book of ideas/exercises for exploring your own mind and experiencing your actual self. Highly recommended.

Inquire Further

Semi-Random Links

This explains a lot. Well, the first half of it does. I have no frame of reference to evaluate the second half, though it might explain why Clinton was impeached for something that was no one's business but his and his wife's while Bush is allowed to keep ruining the U.S. By this line of thinking, Clinton was seen as being more masculine, while Bush is seen as a whiny little twerp and therefore not a threat.

Another post well worth reading is here. There's some odd eye-candy decorating it, but it's a good read. Excerpt:

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Admittedly, I still find it amusing that the god atheists don't believe in is usually recognizable as the traditional Judeo-Christian god, and that the general response to any more mystical sort of god is to accuse the mystic of heresy against his/her professed religion. Go over to Galactic Interactions sometime and read some of the comments on the religious posts sometime. When atheists insist that he can't be Christian and hold to those beliefs, is it any wonder that they get called Fundamentalists, hmmm?

An interesting article on The Evil Eye. I particularly like part of the intro:

One problem with this, of course, is that you can take just about any creation myth from any ancient cult or any sacred text that clearly teaches a geocentric cosmology and apply this reasoning to it so that it's not really errant after all. You can create any kind of apologetics argument you want for just about any sacred text from antiquity, despite the fact that these sacred texts would still be scientifically errant. Second, I also want to know how it is that these apologists know deep down inside that these ancient authors of the Bible really didn't believe what they appeared to be writing and knew that they had to write in a language that would accommodate the primitive beliefs of the people who read their texts? Third, if God uses any "language of appearance" to have his writers describe something, God is guilty of being deceptive and reinforcing any inaccurate beliefs that people had at the time.

Jumping ship a bit, restaurants are up in arms about being required to post *GASP!* Calorie content on their menus. As far as I'm concerned, they should be required to post each and every ingredient that goes into their product, along with known cross-contaminants, AND nutrient information. Not on their menus, but maybe on a public bulletin board just inside the door. However, easily distinguished symbols indicated the presence of common allergens could easily fit on the menu.

Another jump. It seems that researchers have isolated a gene in mice that triggers some form of homosexual behavior. Between that study, and some human studies that found that the more older brothers a male human has, the more likely he is to be gay, there is no support whatsoever for the old "It's a Choice" garbage. The proposed explanation for the older brother link is that the mother's ability to generate the proper male hormones for the fetus to develop diminishes with each male child (as best I remember; I'm too lazy to look it up right now). And the "unnatural" canard is ridiculous as well. Far too many species of animal engage in homosexual behavior for it to be called "unnatural."

Note: Apologies for the shift in font, but it annoys me less than the messed up spacing did, and I'm not in the mood to figure out how to get BOTH the way I want them.

Inquire Further

07 August 2007

On the Rebound


I won't be certain for about a week, but I may not have a cold or allergies at all. I may be having "Rebound Headaches." Generally, these are caused by overuse of analgesics to treat headaches, but apparently they can also be caused by overuse of analgesics for other symptoms, like, oh, say, swelling in the knee. The best information I could find is here. Thankfully my knee hasn't been swelling up as much, so discontinuing the ibuprofen isn't going to cause me problems with it. I hope. There's always ice.

My head is another story. At the moment it feels like someone is slowly tightening a metal band around it. Strangely, foods high in potassium seem to help. For a little while. So does walking. Generally the symptoms take a week or so to go away after stopping the medication. So this week is going to be lots of fun. Yeah.

Inquire Further

06 August 2007

108 Days, Again

3o July marked the end of the second set of 108 days. I didn't quite make my goal. I missed the sword form on the day we drove back from Oregon. That was 3 June. So I only made 50 days of my full goal. Or 57 counting from then on. But I did make three rounds of the bare-hand form for the full 108 days. And I met all the other minimum requirements from the original goal. I haven't officially started on a new goal yet, largely because I either have a minor cold or major allergies at the moment. I'm keeping up the minimum, and maybe a bit extra. For my next goal, I'll probably go down to two rounds of the form and add ten minutes of standing/strengthening exercises. I want to keep the sword form in there, too. It was so much easier to follow Bataan, Beth, and Lee this year, and I suspect it's because I've been doing that form much more regularly.

For now, I think I'll try to manage two rounds of the bare-hand form and the minimum, and wait on the rest. When my head clears up, I'll start trying to add in the rest.

On a completely different note, I had to rescue a kitten stuck in a tree today. I had just called my mom to see if she'd get dad's extension ladder when the kitten finally made it down to where I could reach her with my step ladder. I'm sure she could have gotten down from there on her own. Eventually. But as she'd shown a tendency to climb UP rather than DOWN, I just grabbed her when she was within reach. Amazingly, I didn't get scratched. Of course, I grabbed her by the scruff first, then used the other hand to pry her claws out of the tree trunk. Anyway, she's now safe inside with the others.

Inquire Further

05 August 2007


This is the Akron Cemetery. Most of the sign of things not allowed has been rubbed off. The only one I could make out for sure was "No bushes." They seem to have been allowed at one point, however, as there are bushes near some of the tombstones. Below the fold are some of the gravestones from my family.

First up, my Grandma and Grandad Parker:

The windmill is perfect imagery for my grandad. My earliest memories of visiting Grandma and Grandad revolve around their old farmstead. We'd often stop to get a drink or fill a water jug at the old windmill. Before the water had gone into the tank, of course, which was primarily for cattle to drink out of. The tank was just corrugated metal wrapped into a cylinder. I suppose it had been welded to its base, but I don't know for sure. The windmill stood beside it, pumping water up out of the well. I vaguely remember Grandad having to climb up it and repair various bits of it now and then. I also remember that they used the water to irrigate a small vegetable garden that was nearby. The old farmhouse was maybe 200 feet away. I loved to explore it when I was little. The smell of dust still makes me smile, remembering the place. No one had lived in it for years, but there were still "treasures" to be found. Grandma's old jewelry used to fascinate me, as did some of Mom's old toys. Now I would be more interested in the furniture and fabrics. Unfortunately, the place was robbed and cleaned out back when I was a teenager, and now it's been torn down.

Here's the other side of the tombstone, after I'd added the red pinwheel. It's a wonder the blades aren't blurred, as fast as they were spinning.

Great Grandma Fern:

She outlived all of her children except for Grandma Parker, and Grandma was the one they didn't expect to live past 30. I don't know why she wasn't "Grandma Jenkins." She'd been Grandma Fern long before I came along. According to my mom, I inherited my tendency to rearrange furniture frequently from her. *shrugs*

My mom said that this was her Grandma Parker's grandma... which I think makes her my Great-Great-Great Grandmother.

Last, while I was wandering the graveyard, I came across a few other Parkers. My mom thinks that they're my grandad's cousins. Also a McKie, which was next to these Parkers. Grandma Fern has McKee's in her ancestry, and spelling often changes, so they're probably relatives as well.

Inquire Further

04 August 2007


Since I'm feeling slightly more coherent now that I've had food, I'll add a few things about the trip.

Last year, I wanted to put a pinwheel on Grandma's grave while we were in Akron, but I couldn't find one, so this spring when they were in the stores, I bought several. Six of them. Three purple, two blue, one red. Nothing fancy: just shiny material on a plastic stick, with a pin to rotate on. The morning we were in Akron, I walked over to the graveyard (which I found despite my mom's bad directions), and put the red one on Grandma and Grandad's grave. Then I sat down and played my singing bowl for a while. In a way, it was their last gift to me.

Shortly before my birthday, I came across one of Grandad's old wallets. In it, I found $200 as well as a large collection of $2 bills. I showed it to Mom, and kept $100 as a sort of finder's fee. Grandma always used to give me money on my birthday, so this really felt like one last birthday present from her. I wanted to buy something special with it. At one of the Tibetan import stores in Fort Collins, I found a singing bowl that would use up nearly all of the money. Including the striker and the cushion, it wound up using all of the money, and a little bit extra. I've been wanting a singing bowl for quite a while, but was never willing to spend my own money on it. Now I have something I love... that will forever remind me of my grandparents. That's why I had to bring it to their grave and play it.

I don't know how long I sat there in the grass, letting the bowl sing. I suspect it was quite a while as I was rather late getting back to the hotel, so late that my mom was getting worried. When I felt it was enough, I stood and decided to try and find my great-grandma Fern's grave. I had no clue where it was, and spent more time trying to find it, unsuccessfully. When my mom brought me back to place the rest of the pinwheels, she showed me where it was: just two rows back from Grandma and Grandad's grave. Four of the pinwheels went to them; the other two to Grandma Fern. It was windy enough that day that they all spun beautifully.

Inquire Further

Back Home

Tired. I drove most of the way. We went west to Craig, turned north to get to the interstate in Wyoming, and then turned off on US 30 as usual. My mom only drove from the junction with the interstate up to Little America, as I was much more alert than she was most of the day.

The kittens seem to be okay, though there are some messes needing clean-up. My aunt was apparently planning to get to them tomorrow. *shrugs* I think that's the limit of my coherency at the moment.

Inquire Further

03 August 2007

Try Two

I tried to update this last night, but the internet connection at the hotel was wonky at best. It's possible that blogger was having issues, but I'm inclined to blame the hotel. Supposedly there was wireless internet access in the lobbies, but the server refused to assign an IP address, and so there was no connectivity. Ah well. I borrowed the hotel's in-lobby computer for a bit, and that was when I couldn't get blogger to publish a new post.

So, camp was quite enjoyable. I think I learned more this year than in either of the previous two years. Partially I think this was because Bataan broke things down into smaller pieces, but mostly I think it was because I was more able to understand and follow the things he said/demonstrated. My knee held up very well. In the main, the taiji was good for it, with one exception. In the sword form, there are some hops. Just running through the sword form a few times was okay, but on Monday night Bataan had us working on the hops, going clear around the practice room. The practice room has a concrete floor with a very thin carpet on top of it. My knee was unhappy on Tuesday.

My mom picked me up Wednesday, and we headed to Akron for one night. We visited the "coffee girls," aka Grandma's old friends, and played a card game with them that night. The name may be "Shanghai," but they generally call it "That Damn Game." There are three decks shuffled together, jokers included. Each person gets 11 cards. In each round there is a different goal. The first goal is two "sets" (three or more cards of the same rank). When you get to that goal, you can lay your cards down. Then you want to get rid of the rest of your cards, by playing them on the sets that get laid down. On each turn, you draw a card off the deck, and discard an unwanted card into the discard pile. If someone wants a card on the discard pile out of turn, they can "buy" it, so long as the person whose turn it is doesn't want it. The catch is that you have to take an extra card when you "buy." When someone goes out, you add up the points in your hand (5 pts for 9 and under, 10 pts for 10's and face cards, 20 for aces, 50 for jokers). The winner, after all the rounds are done, is the one with the least points. I wound up 5 points away from winning. Not bad for my second time playing it, especially since the first time was probably five years ago.

Today (and last night) was Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I found two woven rugs in Estes that I think will look good in my living room. I'll probably find out for sure tomorrow. We're in Steamboat Springs for the night. We ate at the Jade Summit, which is okay. Not spectacular, but okay. And now, I may try to catch up on a bunch of other internet-related stuff.

Inquire Further