27 February 2007

Another review of Tehanu

I occasionally scan posts over at Mirkwood, and today I stumbled over a much more detailed review of Tehanu than the one I posted. I should mention that the review contains some spoilers, but I agree with it wholeheartedly. The problem is not the feminism. The problem is that the feminism is stuffed down your throat with a molten axe. Hmmm... if the permalink won't load, the entry is on 8 February. I got the main site to load no problem (first link) but the permalink did a few odd things.

Lifewise, I've got every class taking a test on Friday. Oh joy. Grading galore. Still, I might be able to get some of them graded that day. My foot problems have largely been better lately, but I noticed something odd yesterday. They hadn't bothered me much at all over the weekend, and all through the weekend I got the full complement of 6 of my multivitamin taken (3 with lunch, 3 with dinner). Yesterday I only wound up taking the 3 at dinner and I felt the difference in my feet. Majorly. My best guess is it's the B6, but there are roughly 40 different nutrients in that multivitamin. I am SO ready to finish that bottle and switch to the other. Increased amounts of almost everything in TWO pills instead of six. The decreases are in calcium and magnesium, mainly, and those I take separately anyway.

Oh, and it's still snowy here. Which is odd. Usually snow this time of year melts off the next day. Prediction says snow all week, though. I'm not complaining, just surprised. Oh, and my dad is now practically blind. I don't know what it's going to take for him to go in and get his damned cataracts operated on.

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26 February 2007

Miracles and Science

miracle, n: an event unexplainable by natural causes

In other words, something that science can find no explanation for. So explain something to me. Why do we see all these television shows and books attempting to use science to investigate supposed miracles? I’m not talking about the skeptical investigations. I mean the devoted ones who actually believe that the event in question was a miracle, and still try to find a scientific cause for it. Anyone else see the contradiction here? If it was a miracle, there is no scientific cause. If there is a scientific explanation, it was not a miracle. QED

Could it be that they don’t actually believe in the [insert “holy” book of choice here] as much as they believe in science? That’s sure what it looks like. In other words, they don’t actually believe in miracles. You can quibble and take a different definition of miracle, like “an extremely unlikely but fortuitous event,” but that doesn’t really cut it, not for [“holy” book]-type miracles. It is clear from context that these must be events with no natural explanation.

Now consider so-called “Scientific Creationism.” The Creation as described in their [“holy” book] would be a miracle. No scientific cause needed, or even possible. Oh, wait, they’re not looking for an explanation for the “how”, which they, of course, know from the [“holy” book]. They’re looking for evidence of the occurrence itself. But why would an actual miracle leave behind any evidence? It’s not naturally caused, so all natural laws get thrown out the window.

See, if it was really a miracle, if it really had no natural cause, then there is no point whatsoever in investigating it scientifically. It’s known. Period. You believe it or not. The fact that “Scientific Creationism” exists is proof that this is not enough, that people don’t really believe this stuff without science behind it. They don’t believe in their [“holy” book]. They believe in science. In fact, they believe in science so strongly that they get upset when science contradicts their [“holy” book]’s miracles.

Now if the [“holy” book] of miracles is really the ultimate authority, it doesn’t matter what science claims. The [“holy” book] is right. Science is wrong. There is no purpose in worrying about what science says, unless science is held to be a superior way of knowing. But for a belief to be truly scientific, there has to be some evidence which, if found, would convince the believer that he/she was wrong. If that is not a possibility, if there is no evidence that would convince the person, then the belief is not scientific, period. Any attempt to investigate the belief scientifically is not only pointless, it’s impossible.

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24 February 2007

Back Again

Once again I stopped at Hell's Half Acre on my way back from IF. A bit colder this time, and a mite more snow, but for once Pocatello seems to have gotten more than parts further north. A few more pictures to share. First one is a nice scenery shot.

This is a closeup of some new life coming up. Couldn't tell you what kind yet, but for a scale reference, the top little leaf rosette is about the size of the end of my index finger.

And here's a closeup of some lichen, putting up some, uh, not sure what you call them on lichen. Shoots? Stems?

ADDENDUM: Found some info on lichens, first at Wikipedia. Apparently they're a composite organism, with a fungus and an algae working together. There's some debate as to whether this is mutually beneficial, or whether the fungus is taking advantage of the algae, since the fungus seems to get more out of the deal. *shrugs* Not sure what the green things are (and maybe they're a primitive plant and not lichen at all)[I think I was right the first time; they're some sort of moss], but I think I found the white ones on the forest service's guide to lichens. Right color, shape, growth pattern and substrate, at least.

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Oy, my poor subconscious.

A very fragmented series of dreams hit me last night. No real connections between any of them.

(1) I'm walking down the street and notice a vine with purple flowers growing up a telephone pole, and over and around everything beside the telephone pole. Someone is living inside the vines, and one article of clothing (made of super shiny 50's scifi material; looked rather like tv armor made of cloth) is visible. Part of me thinks that I need to get a camera to get a picture of all the purple flowers (which I call magnolias in the dream, but I think magnolias are white), but the rest of "me" starts walking down the street the opposite way.

(2) The person walking down the street is no longer me. It's Buffy from BtVS. She's headed for a garage to meet up with Willow and Spike (and possibly others). She and Willow get there at the same time, just as the sun is coming up, and only remember to get out of the sunlight just in time. Apparently they're both vampires now. Spike shakes his head at both of them. Oh, and Gollum is outside the garage, staring in. He doesn't try to come in, however.

(3) The garage is now the Mythbuster's new workshop, only it's not a garage any more: it's part of a castle. Apparently two other shows were using the Mythbuster's old space, and drew the line at the dead goat. They refused to share space with a dead goat. Possibly the Mythbuster's were trying to reanimate it? On the bright side, all the experiments now had an awesome black stone background.

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23 February 2007

more snow

dusk snowfall
flakes in the headlights

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unexpected snow
makes mountains white again
icy radiance

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21 February 2007

Field trip!

On a whim, I searched for Japanese gardens, and actually found a result for Salt Lake City. The International Peace Gardens aren't just a Japanese garden; they've got several other cultures represented as well. All the better! There are some nice photos available on the web as well.

Pity they don't reopen until 1 May. I'd go down over spring break! :^D Ah well.

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How to Nail Jello to a Wall

While this would make a good title for a Monty Python sketch, this was an actual experiment. Links to other, odder, experiments at the bottom. And many amusing quotes, including, "While you can nail ballistic gel to a wall, you have to work fast and use enough nails."

They also have instructions for making a ballistics gel approximation using regular gelatin. :^)

(From the Cheney investigation: "Our intention was to establish with some accuracy the distance at which the shotgun was fired. And also to see what happens when you blast a watermelon with a shotgun at close range.")

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20 February 2007


There's an interesting article on chocolate that I found through Pharyngula. However, I can safely say that I am an exception. Ask anyone who's been around me when I've had chocolate. It has a STRONG chemical effect on me. And I get PHYSICAL withdrawal symptoms when I've gotten addicted, virtually identical to caffeine withdrawal. Mainly headache, but sometimes nausea and chills. I think there's a name for people who are sensitive to minute quantities of things, but I can't think of what it is. That's me, however. Maybe there's a connection with gluten intolerance. *shrugs* Oh, and one more interesting thing: the effects are much MUCH stronger when the chocolate has milk in it.

ADDENDUM: Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. Too little caffeine content to be addictive? I don't THINK so. 20 mg per oz of dark chocolate, the same as a serving of green tea. I'll buy the "too little" argument on milk chocolate, but not dark. Yeesh.

Yesterday I wound up replacing the overhead light in my yellow hallway. Two bulbs went into the old one when I painted. One went out last week. That light isn't on often enough for it to have worn out. At the time I replaced the bulbs, they were both original house equipment. One was dead (in the same socket) the other wasn't, but I can't stand the so-called long life incandescent bulbs. The light quality is horrid. Anyway, I concluded that the light fixture had a short in it and went hunting for a replacement. Lowe's had a nice one with leaf accents, but the one that I liked was a 3-light fixture and too big for a 4' x 5' hallway. The two-light version I didn't like as well; it would have looked best in a room with dark paint, not bright. I wound up at Wal-Mart with my mom on Sunday and found one that I did like, and it was a bit cheaper than the ones at Lowe's. It's a nice light, but the instructions needed some work. Right after "attach the support bar to the box" should have been "attach the arms to the main fixture" since I had to take the thing apart after "attaching the fixture to the support bar" to do so. *sighs* I'll post a picture of it if I think of it later.

I also baked pizza crusts yesterday. And bread. Any more, I just use regular GF yeast bread recipes for pizza crust. So I made two mini-loaves and five pie-plate-size pizza crusts, one of which got eaten yesterday. It's been a long time since I did that. For a while, cow's milk products were messing my asthma up and I was avoiding them. Now I find that I can handle them on an occasional basis, and it's nice to have the pizza crusts frozen for later use. Which reminds me, avoid Namasté's GF pizza crust mix. Non-yeast crusts are rarely good, but this one was worse than usual. Eck.

Other than that, I've been trying to find a configuration for the living room that I will keep clean. THe meditation room stays clean. Now the hallway does, too. If I can find the right mix of placement and organization, maybe I can get the living room to stay clean as well.

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19 February 2007

No bugs for you?

I found a site with much more detail about that Fernbush aka Sweet Fern. Still doesn't mention use as insect repellent, though. I also figured out part of why I was so confused while trying to identify it. I was seeing all the little protrusions as individual leaves, when apparently they're all considered part of the same leaf. *shrugs*

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18 February 2007

Joys and Frustrations

I only recently discovered an awesome show on PBS called Outdoor Idaho. It's a half-hour segment that picks an area of Idaho to focus on. This week was Craters of the Moon. It was so AWESOME to see plants and butterflies that I recognized, especially when I knew what they were before the narrator or anyone else identified them. Larkspur. The black and white Admiral butterfly. Several others. However, one major moment of frustration when they showed that not-fern that I've seen in Hell's Half Acre without identifying it. Aaaaagghh. They did say that the needle-like leaves were an adapatation to conserve water, and that if you rubbed the leaves on your skin they acted as a natural insect repellant. If you've forgotten what it looks like, here are links to the pictures from last summer:

In Bloom.

And while I'm at it, I came across some yesterday as well:

A bit browner, and you can (fuzzily) see the remnants of last year's flowers.

ADDENDUM: There are some photos on the show's web-site. Not, unfortunately, of the plant I'm interested in.

RE-ADDENDUM: HA! I've got you now! I searched for "Craters of the Moon" plants on Google Image Search and here is the culprit! Chamaebatiaria millefolium. Wow. I think my picture is actually better than theirs. *shrugs* Okay, looking for information on the suspect... Seems to also be known as the "fernbush," which fits my initial confusion. Lots of pictures of it here, but not much info. And this abstract isn't really the kind of detail I was after... Now this one is interesting. It doesn't mention the asserted use as as insect repellent, which is what I was hoping to confirm. Ah well. Done for tonight.

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17 February 2007

Hell's Half Acre, Frozen Over

I stopped off at the Hell's Half Acre rest area on the way back from IF today and wandered around on the paved trail. I would recommend gloves to anyone else who does so; I foolishly left mine in the car. Note, however, that the trail is still technically closed for the winter (for no good reason at the moment, though we could get a massive enough snowfall to cause problems). Anyway, some pictures:

The sun put some interesting color into this one:

Oh, and apparently there was a ghost nearby in this shot. The blob at the top left couldn't possibly just be a sun-reflection spot. ;^)

There's a surprising amount of moss for a desert just now. Probably because the moisture hasn't been totally evaporated out yet, or hasn't had time to sink clear down into the rocks. [Okay, technically that's lichen in this shot. I'll post one with moss later.]

This is my absolute favorite picture from today. Nearly of all time.

And seeing all the prickly pear was like seeing old friends. Not sure why this one was so red. The grass growing in it was rather red, too. Something in the soil in that spot?

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old blustery friend
chills fingers in the sunlight
blows cars to and fro

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This Week

It's been a rather odd week. First off, the magnesium really does seem to be helping my foot problems. It may be unlocking some stiffness in my spine as well. Second off, I've gotten overly sensitive to artificial fibers again, especially along my centerline. Third, I wound up teaching Thursday's taiji class, since Melissa wasn't feeling well. Luckily that room has enough mirrors that having people see me wasn't a major obstacle (usually Melissa is at one end of the room and I'm at the other). This group is moving more quickly than most beginning taiji classes. It probably helps that we have couple karate-kai in there who already know how to "learn" this type of stuff.

What else... Hmmm... Bananas! ;^D

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14 February 2007


beethoven too short
mendelssohn good but too long
grieg missing something

dinner's thai iced tea
wore off too quickly
ready for sleep now

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The more I read, the more I wonder if my symptoms are JUST due to magnesium deficiency, and not pseudogout at all. NIH's page on magnesium mentions that those with gluten intolerance often require supplementation. The "numbness and tingling" caught my eye, as my left big toe was half numb during the summer, and now feels consistently...tingly.

I took one magnesium pill yesterday evening, and in the morning I felt improvement in my foot AND toe. I'm hoping that's not a fluke.

And...why not go have a doctor test my nutrient levels? Well, there's the money... Also, I don't really trust doctors. Not due to any conspiracy nonsense, but because I know how my body responds to things, and they don't. I've had doctors tell me that my reactions are imaginary, or impossible, etc. I have yet to find a non-patronizing doctor who actually listens to me. If I had such a doctor, I would consider going in for testing. As is, no way. *shrugs*

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13 February 2007

Decor Update

I found a place for the Guan Yin statue, and it wasn't at all where I'd thought to put her. The cupboard was being used as a phone table downstairs, but the cupboard part had been going to waste. It is now full of tea, and I could swear that it was designed with boxes of tea in mind. Exactly two layers of boxes fit on each shelf, top to bottom and front to back. It's nearly the perfect size to hold rectangular boxes of teabags. And the statue looks spectacular amidst all the yellow.

(And I should probably find something less autumn and more spring to put up in place of the leaves, but I haven't made it to that yet. And the maple leaves on the cupboard will stay in any case; they're gorgeous.)

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Pondering Podiatric Pain

You may or may not remember, but last winter I was having foot problems, most especially when I wore unsupportive shoes like my moccasins. They've come back, now, and I don't think the footwear is the cause. I'm beginning to suspect it may be pseudogout, where calcium crystals deposit in the tissues. There are several reasons for my suspicion.
(1) My dad has attacks of pseudogout, though his affect the knee.
(2) I haven't done anything to injure either my feet or ankles recently.
(3) Problems flared up after starting to take my multivitamin and Cal-Mag regularly again (increased calcium intake).

What I don't have is the classic redness of the swollen joint. So this is definitely speculative. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article claims that magnesium and Vitamin B6 will help ease attacks and redissolve the deposited calcium (with no source cited), while every other source I've found insists that there is no way to redissolve the calcium. However, I did find out that B6 is another vitamin that people with gluten intolerance classically are deficient in. It's a bit problematic to megadose on B6, though: it can cause some pretty nasty neurological symptoms. Maximum dose believed safe is 200 mg. Maximum recommended dose is 100 mg. That's what I get if I double up my current multivitamin, but I'm switching when it runs out to one that has 100 mg in its regular dosage. (Random rant: in two pills, the new one has roughly the same nutrients as six of the other) (Random addendum: apparently low levels of B6 impair absorption of magnesium...isn't being a celiac fun???? Oh, and deficiencies in both nutrients have been linked to depression; wish I'd known that two months ago.)

So...possibly pseudogout. Increasing magnesium intake isn't likely to cause problems, so I'm trying that. B6 will get increased when I switch multivitamins. Unfortunately, a clearing of symptoms doesn't necessarily indicate that the magnesium/B6 was effective; pseudogout tends to come on suddenly, then disappear, then recur. If symptoms don't recur NEXT winter, after continuing magnesium and B6, then I might be able to conclude that there's a connection. *sighs*

On the bright side, this time I immediately switched to better shoes, and that has helped immensely. Doesn't get rid of the problem, but it does keep the pain down.

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I like this result. :^D (Via P.N. Elrod's Blog)

You Are Dr. Bunsen Honeydew

You take the title "mad scientist" to the extreme -with very scary things coming out of your lab.
And you've invented some pretty cool things, from a banana sharpener to a robot politician.
But while you're busy turning gold into cottage cheese, you need to watch out for poor little Beaker!
"Oh, that's very naughty, Beaker! Now you eat these paper clips this minute."

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11 February 2007


I've made it to Day 47 of my old-year-resolution, and I seem to have hit the point where my appetite shifts. This happened before when I had a regular yoga practice (and little else). Basically, my body starts craving healthier foods after a stint of regular practice. Which is good news, as I have put on a bit of weight and this will likely help me get it back off. So will the exercise, of course, but this will definitely help.

That (presumably) flu that I had left me with a sore throat after the fever left. It's not completely gone yet, but it's been getting less each day. Today's the first day since the fever hit that I've felt truly awake and alive. I also got a heckuva lot done around the house (laundry, dishes, general clean-up). It's been needing done for a while, too.

I've decided that I actually like the new Ross store in Pocatello. Not for their clothing—as far as I'm concerned they could ditch the clothing and make the store an eighth as big—but for the stuff in the back. Some furniture, lots of household accessories, some decorations, some kitchen stuff... Basically, Ross is a wannabe TJ Maxx. Wannabe in the sense that their stuff is generally of lower quality. But they seem to have more of what they DO have. I'm on a cleaning/organization kick at the moment, and found a desk organizer made to look like stacks of books. They also had a large Guan Yin statue. It's made of something light (papier maché? wood? *shrugs*) and was very cheap for its size. Now if I can just get the spot cleared out to put her...

An oddity: it seems that I may have missed getting two bills in December, as if they'd come, I would have paid them, and their totals seem to have been added on to this month's bill. One of them I know goes through Denver, so that may be the explanation there, but the other is a local company. Ah well.

Closing thought: I've got close to 40 quotes for the randomizer to select now. I think I'll go dig up some more.

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10 February 2007


I'm attempting to get a random quote generator going in the sideboard. Not much in it at the moment, but at least it's actually displaying this time. Oh, and Don was doing much, much better this week. He even pushed hands for a bit with me.

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Maybe a month ago, I started seeing odd, little black beetles around the two back rooms of my house. They were maybe 1 millimeter by 2-3 millimeters, with a single proboscis emerging from the face. Research didn't turn anything up, so I finally went to Lowe's and picked up some bug spray and sprayed it around all the walls and crevices. Then I didn't see very many beetles for a while, but there was a sudden surge maybe a week ago (new hatch, presumably). I had already taken some old potting soil and some unshelled nuts out into the (then) freezing outdoors, in the hopes that one of those was the breeding ground. No luck. Finally, today, I found the source.

I had gotten several varieties of rice from that Thai store down in Layton. I was trying to find my new bamboo steamer, as I've decided to let my dad burn the old one (falling apart), and had to move all this rice around, looking for it. One of the packages caught my eye. It was a package of black rice, but there seemed to be an awful lot of white powder in with it. Plus I could hear sort of...crunching noises, emanating from within. I took the bag outside and threw it into the yard. The bag broke open, so I went to take a look. Yup. The bag was chock full of the blasted beetles. I sprayed the heck out of it...and will probably shovel it into the trash cart sometime tomorrow.

I am reasonably certain that the beetles originated within that bag, but, unfortunately, they had found their way into some other bags of rice in the same cupboard. So I threw them out as well (less dramatically). I also threw out some other stuff that probably was okay, but that had been open and in the same cupboard. Anyway, I am pleased to have found the source, but irritated that I had to get rid of so much other stuff. I had looked in that cupboard before, as it was near where the beetles seemed to be thickest, but there was no obvious sign of them anywhere inside...until I looked at the bags of rice. *sighs*

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08 February 2007


Word of the Day

squink: v. (slang) Short for "squid ink" -- throw out clouds of goo to obscure evasion of the central issue.

(Via Pharyngula.)

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Weird TV shows (dream)

Two snippets from last night. In the first, it was like I was watching a new Buffy episode, but with a 3D panoramic perspective. I could follow whichever character(s) I wanted to see what happened. There was the usual Buffy gang (still high school age) plus three newer characters, who were "mice-people". One of them was played by a young Whoopi Goldberg. Another looked sort of like the mascot guy on the online Rocket Mania Game. I never got a good look at the third.

Anyway, I followed these three as they left the main group. They had some plot going to regain their former status and power, and part of this involved betraying the Buffy gang. Suddenly I was participating rather than watching, and rushed back to inform the group...and as I was doing so, the mice people emerged from underneath a blanket on a couch or a bed or something, looking very guilty. (Not entirely sure, but I think "mice-people" might be a HHGTTG reference, only these guys had wound up stuck in semi-human form)


Not sure if this was a weird continuation or an entirely new dream. I was playing 3D Risk with a...creature...who looked sort of like a LOTR-movie orc, but taller and stockier. He had a very deep voice, and kept making threats while I played. Other people there had never played before so I was trying to explain the rules. "Okay, I pick a chip and put it on this block here."

"Why a yellow chip?" someone asks.

[flash to a Math025 class]
"Why x, y and z?" a student asks.
"I just need three letters. I could choose a,b,c or l,m,n."
[back to game]

"Since I grabbed a yellow chip, I take one of the yellow dice." I try to put the die up with the chip, but the ledge is too close under the one above it.

And that's all I remember.

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06 February 2007

Existentialist? Not recently...

You scored as Existentialism. Your life is guided by the concept of
Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world,
he is responsible for everything he does.”

“It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

--Jean-Paul Sartre

“It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.”

--Blaise Pascal

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...







Justice (Fairness)






Strong Egoism




Divine Command


What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with QuizFarm.com

I was really into existentialism when I first encountered it in high school. And it's still the only western philosophy I've encountered that makes much sense to me. But there were no eastern philosophies represented, so I guess Existentialism is the closest the West has come. *shrugs* Though I do like the resulting quotes. (Via Signs of Insanity)

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05 February 2007

Easy Marks

I just finished grading half of the first set of Math025 exams (the version A ones). Usual types of errors, but one problem was SO bad that I almost wish I were the con artist type. Seriously. Problem states that the price with 5% tax was $106.25. What was the original price? Nearly every answer was LARGER than 106.25, some by several THOUSAND. Yikes. I mean, if nothing else, common sense should have told them something was wrong. So I'd like to sell them something that was worth, say, $100, then tell them that with sales tax it came to $1000. Not sure that many of them would know the difference. I think maybe one student actually got it right, and one was almost there (multiplied by 0.95 instead of dividing by 1.05), but the rest... I hope when they go shopping they have a math-guru along.

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04 February 2007

Sehr Interessant, Zwei

'Kay...how many floods do I have to deal with in a single month, hmmm? Thankfully, my house is high and dry this time. My mom had noticed some water around two cabinets downstairs. We got them moved out of the way, and found that a join in the tube that drained the furnace was dripping. It's taped up temporarily. My mom's hoping to avoid calling anyone about it until she has to bring the heater guy back anyway (can't remember for what). That one was minor, and possibly fixable if I could have found the right part.

So then I turned around and happened to glance at the concrete behind the washer and drier. It looked rather like a weeping wall, sad to say. We figured out that water was coming in through the window right above and assumed it was the snow in the window well melting, since today's the warmest day we've had in a while. Then we went outside to bail out the water, and decided that a shop vac would probably work better. I offered Mom the use of mine, but she decided she might as well have her own, so we found one on sale at Fred Meyer. Zoom there, zoom back, plug in, and we discovered that water was continuing to seep in even AFTER we'd vacuumed it all out.

It took me a while to figure out what was going on. The ground back there is sloped to the north. So is the concrete patio right close to the window. The snow was melting, seeping under and through the concrete, and winding up at the window well. To make matters worse, the rainspout from the roof ALSO tends to send water back there. Even better, the ground is too frozen right now to try and dig anything out. So...we've got an extension on the rainspout (a nice bendy one to redirect the water west). Can't do much about the water already under the patio, or frozen into the ground south of it, but at least the roof melt-off won't be adding to it. On the bright side, the main drain in the basement is only a few feet from where the water is leaking in, so it goes right back out. And the seepage is not very fast, so the drain can keep up with it easily. One obvious problem is the window well itself. It only goes a foot down. I think if it went down two or three feet, with good caulk between itself and the foundation, this would be a non-issue. Replacing it...will be a mess and involve chopping through the concrete patio. Not sure what Mom plans to do. It hasn't done this every spring, but it would be nice to avoid a repeat.

Oh, and I remembered while Mom was driving me back after we'd given up for the day that it was Superbowl Sunday, and remarked that fixing a flood was MUCH more enjoyable than watching the Superbowl. Not sure she agreed, but she did laugh. :^)

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Meditational Imagery

Going back through my old posts, I noticed some on mediational experiences and realized I hadn't really mentioned anything like that in a while. Partially this is because I fell out of practice for a while, and I mostly haven't been going very deep lately. Today, however, I let myself explore again. It was while I was practicing my mantra chanting.

I couldn't tell you whether the chanting has anything other than a psychological benefit, possibly respiratory as well due to the breathing and maintaining of sounds. But the imagery changed with the chanting. The chant I've been using most consistently is "Om Vinayakaya Namaha" which is supposed to be for "new beginnings." During this chant, I saw, first, a rather fat, ominous black butterfly. Almost like a huge cicada, but with butterfly wings. There was a monarch butterfly nearby, keeping its distance. It felt like something was missing, and a blindingly bright white butterfly flew into the area (sort of grassy and green with white flowers). The black butterfly launched itself at the white like it was attacking. Maybe it was. But then the black and white butterflies wound up latched together, almost as one butterfly. Together they flew to a branch and hung down to become a light green chrysalis. Then a bunch of other butterflies came by to offer their respects/gifts/blessings, going through the colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV) to gold to silver. Then a little yin yang symbol formed on the outside of the chrysalis.

The next chant I've been doing when I have time for two. "Om Sri Ganeshaya Namaha" It's supposed to...motivate you to get things done (and was not remotely effective when I had my consistent fever last week). But it's a Ganesha mantra. Ganesha is an elephant-headed Hindu...deity, probably. So I had elephant imagery running through my head while chanting it. First it was just dancing images of Ganesha dancing around. Then there was a large female elephant, the matriarch of her herd. I was nervous about approaching her, but she stayed calm. There was a baby elephant playing nearby that I somehow associated with my grandma. It was...sad and comforting all at once. And I could see her wanting to come back as something as strong and solid as an elephant after the weakness of her last months. *shrugs*

I still don't know how much of the imagery is essentially random dream images and how much is real.

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03 February 2007


This is probably going to turn into a rant at some point. Consider yourself warned. But I've been thinking about posting about what qi is, is not, and might be, for some time now.

First off, qi literally translates as energy. It is the term used in Chinese for all kinds of energy: electricity, wind, motion, etc. (Source: Yang Jwing Ming, since I don't speak the language myself). So someone saying that qi does not exist is apparently taking the Buddhist position that everything in the universe is illusion. ;^) Or, more likely, doesn't understand how broadly the term is applied.

Of course, mostly the deniers are decrying some of the more exorbitant claims made for qi as "life energy." And, yes, there are some real wackos out there. But, first and foremost, what else would you call the energy that keeps you alive? Sure, you can break it down into electrical, chemical and mechanical components, but taken as a whole, it might as well be called life energy. Some of the more practical, modern approaches have lumped qi in with bioelectricity and left it at that (Ken Cohen, for instance). My taiji teacher isn't convinced. I figure it's one possibility.

One of the goals of taiji is to learn to use the body to maximize qi-flow. What is involved in this? Opening the joints; relaxing; learning to move the body as a unit. When I am having a good day, I can, indeed, feel something flowing through me: heat, warmth, tingling. I don't particularly care if modern science wants to give these sensations a new name and tell me there's nothing mystical; this could very well be the case. I care when people claim that qi isn't real. You may as well claim that pain and emotions aren't real. I can feel it. When I follow the taiji recipe as closely as I am able, I can feel it more strongly. I can see/feel when other people have it. I cannot affect objects outside of my body using qi, however, and tend to be very skeptical of such claims.

So, think of it this way. Qi is a bodily sensation that indicates when the body is limber, relaxed, and alligned well enough to be martially effective. Someone with enough mastery can tell when another person has good qi-flow. It's more of a magnetic sensation, really, than anything I can see. That would fit if it is, in fact, bioelectricity.

Oh, and if it isn't obvious, be very suspicious of any devices, potions, etc, claimed to enhance qi-flow. The only way to get there is through work and practice. Hard work and continual practice. However, I do find that qi does seem to flow along the claimed Chinese energy meridians. Could be that that's where the sensory mechanisms are located, if nothing else. *shrugs*

AFTERTHOUGHT: The first qi exercise I ever encountered was actually from a televised yoga class. It's simple enough that anyone can try it. No clue what proportion of people will get results. Some people practice taiji for years before they feel qi. Others, like me, feel it almost right away. Anyway, the exercise:

Hold your hands in front of your body, like you're holding an invisible ball, maybe 8-12 inches in diameter (whatever's comfortable). Make sure that the palms face one another. Now, very very slowly, move the palms a bit closer together, then a bit further apart. It's very important to move SLOWLY so that you can feel any sensations that arise. You will get better results if your shoulders and arms are relaxed, with only enough tension to keep them from falling. Try it, if you like. (What I feel is printed lightly below; intentionally illegible unless you highlight it; I'd recommend trying the exercise yourself before you read it)

When I do this, I feel a sensation similar to playing with magnets. Pushing the hands together is like pushing the same poles together: there's resistance. But there's also resistance when pulling them apart. And, sometimes, tingling. The sensations get stronger the more I force my hands together, and weaker the more I pull them apart.

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I've got back through sometime in Fall of 2005 labelled. Reading some of the posts from last winter was difficult. Somehow I thought Grandma had died in February, but, no it was March. *sighs* I was thinking about her as I drove back from IF today.

form locked, coffin-bound
laid out under frozen earth
rotting inch by inch

when my body dies
burn it into ashes, dust
scattered in the wood

let fire consume them
—the wounds of age and pain—
leaving ash behind

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02 February 2007


I think I've had a mild case of the flu for the past week and a half or so. It's one of those things where I was feeling too rotten to actually notice how rotten I was feeling. But I suspect that was partially to blame for my alarm clock snafu of the prior week. I was too tired to think about checking to see if it was set, and actually needed those extra two hours of sleep. Oh, and I dug out a travel alarm clock so that now I have a backup if I don't turn it back on the morning before.

The reason I figure it was the flu is that it went on for so long, and that the fever lasted nearly the whole time. I had minor muscles aches and stiffness, but I get those with even regular colds. Mainly this was fever and headache, and fatigue.

On Thursday morning, I was feeling quite a bit better. Still, my temperature was 100.8 or so. That makes me wonder how high it was on the days I was feeling horrid and didn't think to check it. This morning it was down to 99.5. I suppose the good thing was that so long as I'd taken ibuprofen in the last 5-6 hours, with a bit of chocolate, I felt mostly okay. Bad thing is that I may have re-addicted myself to chocolate. *sighs* Still, so long as I'm at a reasonable temperature tomorrow morning, I'll head up to IF for taiji. If I'm still above 99, I'll probably stay home. I was probably contagious last week, unfortunately, but no reason to expose people twice.

Oh, one of the beginning taiji students in Pocatello is a very enthusiastic Karate-kai. I'm pretty sure he's a black belt. He's stated his goal to learn the entire Cheng man Ch'ing (don't blame me if the apostrophe's in the wrong place) form by the end of the semester. This class is moving faster than last fall's class, but it's unlikely we'll get all the way through in class. Still, since he's used to learning Karate Kata, he may make it. On Thursday, he showed up in class and announced that the ISU library actually had all the recommended books on Melissa's list...and that they were currently all checked out. :^D

On a final note... I discovered yesterday that having hot cocoa for breakfast, with a yerba maté chaser, right around the same time as taking decongestant, makes me a bit...loopy. Not so loopy I couldn't give coherent lectures (especially for Math025), but loopy enough that, for instance, a normal conversation required a great deal of concentration. Or else I would start singing, making random announcements, cheering, and otherwise being...hyper is too mild a word...but I can't think of a better one. Loopily hyper exuberance?

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