30 April 2007

Waifs and Strays

Warning. I've started reading another book of short stories, so expect this post to show up frequently, with updates on the latest ones I've read. Waifs and Strays is a Charles de Lint collection. It has fewer Newford stories than other collections of his (or else my memory's off). Anyway, here's the first second fourth fifth sixth installment (and I'll migrate old installments (are) below the fold as this continues): Reviews are all below the fold now. Please excuse the chaos of the preceding introduction, as I didn't want to delete it, so I thought I'd make it look insane.

Overall Verdict: Unsurprisingly, I loved it. Of course, it's Charles de Lint, so of course I loved it. Even the stories that I thought had a few problems were very enjoyable. Seriously, anyone who has not read de Lint, go forth to the Bookstore/Library/Amazon and do so!

25 April

Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood: Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I'm not sure I've ever heard that Merlin was trapped in a tree, but it's still an awesome story.

There's No Such Thing & Sisters: These two go together. They're de Lint's take on the vampire mythos. I have to admit that these surprised me a bit, as de Lint usually finds a way to avoid his main characters engaging in unseemly/semiviolent behavior. There's no major violence, but it surprised me that his vampires do kill on occasion. That's pretty rare for a de Lint character who is not a villain. And I did enjoy these stories. Very thoughtful.

26 April

Fairy Dust: Sad but charming.

A Wish Named Arnold: This is an awesome story. Clearly aimed at kids, but it's one that works for any age. Makes me curious about some of the raven/crow rock carvings I've seen. ;^)

Wooden Bones: Coming of age story. It's a bit heavy-handed, but in the intro de Lint says that it's one of his earlier works: the first, in fact, to feature his now-ubiquitous animal-people. It's one of those "messed up girl turned around by mystery and a five minute talk" things, but better done than most.

27 April

The Graceless Child: This one has a strong Celtic feel to me, despite being set in de Lint's "other" world. Trying to think why... Well, there's an entry into a sort of Underworld, and a somewhat tragic ending. The external story is about two identical brothers battling for control of the Dreamworld. One is the bringer of Nightmares; the other brings more pleasant Dreams. However, the story is not really about them, but about a small half-Trow who gets in the way.

A Tattoo on her Heart: Any other author would have turned this into a biting social commentary and a warning about how the future might be. Any other author. Somehow de Lint manages to put this device for social control in a post-apocalyptic world into a positive light. I can't decide if I'm impressed or disturbed.

28 April

Stick: This is the longest tale in the book, not quite 60 pages. It's an intriguing glimpse into the Borderlands, which were the settings for a series of short stories by various authors. The solution towards the end...isn't quite satisfying. It's too neat somehow. It almost works for me, but I just feel like something's missing.

May This Be Your Last Sorrow: This one's also set in the Borderlands, needlessly imo. There's nothing in it that wouldn't have worked just as well in, say, Newford. The story itself is a bittersweet one, with no resolution.

One Chance: This is the first of the Newford group in this book. It's not actually set in Newford, but features a character who eventually winds up there. This is a story about escaping to someplace better, and whether or not that is always the best choice.

29 April

Alone: This one's interesting. In essence, it's a story about guilt, and how no one wants to bear the burden of guilt alone.

But For the Grace Go I: I could swear that I've read this one before, though I thought that all the stories in this book had only been released in magazines or various-author-collections before. It's possible that I read a summary of the events from a different character's POV, since both Maisie and Angel show up in other Newford stories. Anyway, it's about the strange things that can turn a life around. Like not getting killed.

Ghosts of Wind and Shadow: This may well be my favorite so far in the collection. It's about a lot of things: what's real and what's not; parents who have forgotten their childhood; the power of music; the lure of mystery vs. the lure of normalcy. Beauifully written.

30 April

Waifs and Strays: Okay, I'm going to have to dig out my other de Lint collections, since I'm pretty sure I've read this one as well. Same main character as But for the Grace Go I. This one's about taking time for yourself as well as doing all the things that need to get done.

Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box: My first thought is "Beautiful." This one is a story about paths taken and not taken, paintings on canvas and in the heart.

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28 April 2007

Roger Williams Concert

If you like piano music and older tunes, and you have a chance, go see Roger Williams. He's very good: a hairsbreadth away from awesome. He's also got a great sense of humor and more stories than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means).

There was such a concert tonight. I quite enjoyed it, though it was somewhat bittersweet for me. I saw Roger Williams perform once before, in Idaho Falls. Grandma was still with us then. I think she liked that concert better than either me or Mom.

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27 April 2007

Star Trek Quiz

Your results:
You are Jean-Luc Picard

Jean-Luc Picard
Will Riker
Mr. Sulu
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Beverly Crusher
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Geordi LaForge
Mr. Scott
A lover of Shakespeare and other
fine literature. You have a decisive mind
and a firm hand in dealing with others.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

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26 April 2007


As part of ISU's Earthweek activities, there was a Native American sunrise ceremony this morning. I loved about nearly all of it. I did think there was a mite too much talking, but there had to be some talking, since none of us knew how the ceremony went.

It started with drumming. A deep, steady pulse. As participants came to the circle, we were "smudged": smoke from a burning bundle of sage was wafted over us with a hawk's wing. The leader of the ceremony took some loose tobacco and held it to the sky, touched it to his mouth, to his heart, and then used it to create a medicine wheel on the grass, pausing to give respect to each of the four directions as he did so. He placed rocks and crystals at the cardinal points and at the center. The largest crystal's three inch length pointed to the south.

Then the ceremony leader and his daughter brought crystal singing bowls to life. Recordings of such bowl-songs do not do them justice. When their song was over, they began the greeting of the six directions (the four cardinal directions plus the earth and the sky). We all turned to face each direction, then to the center for the sky-greeting, and knelt on the earth for the earth-greeting. The leader's sister sang a Shoshone song about the earth's beauty. Then the talking-stick began circulating around the circle. Some held it and said little or nothing before passing it along. Some held it and spoke at length. I expressed only a wish for the healing of the earth.

By this time, the sun was up over the hillside. We faced it while the leader's sister sang a Shoshone sunrise song. For the closing, each of us took a pinch of tobacco from the sack and offered it to the medicine circle.

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23 April 2007

The Universe in a Single Atom

I picked up an interesting book yesterday. The Universe in a Single Atom, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It's quite a good read, and makes some interesting points. Basically, it's the Dalai Lama's attempt to explore the connections between science and spirituality. Because Buddhism takes a strongly empirical approach, there's a lot to connect.

There's a fascinating logical disproof of the existence of a theistic god (his terminology) as creator, according to the Buddhist way of thinking. As I understand it, it goes: (1) this god is immutable and unchanging; (2) to cause something to happen changes the one doing the causing; (3) therefore, no immutable god can be the cause of anything. This is actually a specific version of a more general Buddhist idea, that there are no distinct, separate entities in the universe. At least, not at the deepest level of analysis. For instance. I eat some yogurt. That yogurt was produced at a factory which received milk from a farm which bought feed for its cattle...the yogurt was in a plastic container, which came from a factory, which molded the plastic, which came from petroleum, which came from animals dead millions of years... Rather than seeing separate objects, this perspective sees entire processes, which seem to converge in an object, but that object is not permanent: it will eventually fade away. Some schools of thought take this to the extreme 'all is illusion' position, but that doesn't seem to be the Dalai Lama's take on it. Mainly, he wanted to show the absurdity of an entirely separate, unchangeable entity interacting with a distinct universe.

One place where I strongly agree with the Dalai Lama is in the area of cognitive research. Western Science has a tendency to stick measuring devices on everything and say they know everything there is to know. But they don't. They have no information on the subjective experience. There is a place for the purely empirical data, but it's of no practical use without some subjective information. The Dalai Lama suggests using Buddhist meditational techniques to explore states of mind (utilizing the empirical methods as well, to see what observable differences there are). One of the reviewers at Amazon criticized this as "vague," which is a bit ridiculous in a purely exploratory book. I can think of at least one precedent to the subjective approach to consciousness. A while back, I ran across a short article about a very articulate autistic person, who was able to report and describe what it was like to be autistic. From the outside, all we get is numbers and data. From the inside, we get information that we can relate to (and use to interpret those numbers and data).

The book's one shortcoming is that it does not go into any one topic with very much depth. There are brief overviews of each idea, a small amount of discussion, and then a new idea is explored. It does mean that there's probably something of interest to nearly everyone, but parts of it did feel...too brief. still, it's a good read, and I would recommend it.

One last idea that I'm still pondering. The way the Dalai Lama sees it, if altruistic behavior serves an evolutionary purpose, then it is not truly altruistic. So he seems to reject out of hand any evolutionary explanation for positive traits. It took me a few rereads of the section to figure out what he was trying to get at. I think I follow his thinking, but I'm not sure I agree with it. He has no quibble with evolution as an explanation for neutral or negative traits, however. *shrugs*

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22 April 2007


I consider chanting to be a cheap alternative to therapy. How much have I spent on it? Well, I have two books and a Tibetan mala*. Roughly...$50 total, I think. That's probably on the high end. That might get you one therapy session, if you were very lucky.

I mentioned that I was depressed last Christmas. Chanting became my way of dealing with painful thoughts. I wandered through Barnes and Noble over Thanksgiving Break, looking for something, anything that might help me make it through. I wandered through the New Age section in particular, looking for books that talked about chakras.

I couldn't tell you whether chakras have any physical reality. They're my way of visualizing my inner state of mind/health/etc. If I meet someone who can see in them the same things that I see, then I might think there was some phsyical reality. As is, I treat them as a purely mental construct, much like the scales of pain they show to children in hospitals (neutral face, smiley face, frowny face, etc.). Only my scale involves colors. I'm a synesthetic, so what else would I use?

So, the root chakra at the base of the spine should be red. Abdomen area, orange. Solar plexus, yellow. Heart, green. Throat, blue. 'Third eye', indigo. Crown, Violet. Yes, I got this system out of a book, but I find that it works for me. This past Christmas, I had no root chakra whatsoever, my heart chakra was a crusted over and oozing red, and my throat chakra was black. If I went into detail about exactly how my heart chakra felt at that point, you would have some clue as to how messed up I was, but I really don't feel like revisiting those memories just now. Suffice to say that the root chakra is tied to survival and will to live, the heart chakra to emotions. At least, in my mental imagery.

In this rather messed up frame of mind, I came across Chakra Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrand. It was exactly what I needed at that point. And not really because of its discussion of the chakras (Farrand's system is somewhat different from mine), but mainly because of the chanting. I don't think it really mattered what I chanted, so long as I chanted. The chanting did two things: (1) it shut down the racing negative and painful thoughts; (2) it gave my subconscious a goal to work on during the chant. Each chant is associated with a particular meaning. "Healing," or "Friendship," or "Getting things done," etc. So, knowing that association, the back of my mind would be pondering that idea during the chant. (OT: it would be interesting to see if the syllables themselves were significant, or if just the association given for the syllables mattered)

I don't think this would work for everyone. Someone who sits there thinking "this is stupid" the whole time wouldn't get much benefit, imo. But for someone who enjoys things like singing, and thinks pronouncing odd words is fun, it's probably worth a go. It's certainly less expensive than therapy. Or antidepressants.

*The second book is another by Farrand: Healing Mantras. The mala has 108 beads and is used to keep track of how long you've chanted, without having to mentally count each repetition.

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21 April 2007

Line in the Sand

Destroy all that would question you. Burn all that would disagree with you. Accept all dogma unquestioningly. Think only acceptable thoughts. Discard new ideas unexamined, for they are not dogma. Blame the ones you burn for forcing your hand.

This is Origen. Stargate's Ori (pronounced OR-eye). (Why? Who did you think I was talking about?)

Let's take a look. We have supposedly benevolent, all-powerful beings, seeking to 'save' people. From what is never specified, unless it's from a nasty death at the hands of the Ori's followers. There's a holy book, twisted to reflect whatsoever the followers need in that moment. Quote-mining. Quote-twisting. Fact-hiding.

There's a lot I could say here, but there's really only one point that I want to focus on. Benevolent beings do not kill and torture people in the name of saving them. All-powerful beings do not need to kill and torture people in the name of saving them. All-powerful beings do not need to hide or twist the facts to save people. Benevolent beings do not shackle their followers and force them to be grateful for the shackles.

And the best part for these beings? It's all the victim's fault: for not believing; for resisting; for thinking; for questioning; for existing. No blame whatsoever can be attached to the wonderful and powerful Ori. Bow down before them, or face their benevolent wrath.

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20 April 2007


There was a symphony concert on Wednesday. It was very much a family thing, as the two soloists were offspring of the director, and the first three pieces were composed by the director. Verdict? Eh... They were okay. Parts of them were very, very nicely done. I liked the piece for the horn soloist the best. The concert finished with Dvorak's New World Symphony. Yes, there's supposed to be an accent mark in Dvorak. Imagine that it's invisible, okay? I'm not up to figuring out where it goes and which alt-#### combo will put it in.

Right. So. I'm tired. And forgot to mention that I absolutely loved the New World Symphony. After the concert, I was too keyed up to sleep, and wound up going to bed around midnight, and getting less than six hours of sleep. This was okay for one night, but then I couldn't sleep Thursday either. So while all cylinders are currently firing, they're running at maybe 30% efficiency or less. Food helped. So did a nap. Caffeine makes it worse, since as soon as it wears off I just want to crash.

Random news. Gottschalk's flip-flops again. They started as a clothing store, died, resurrected as a furniture store, and now they're returning to clothing. Is this a typical life cycle for a Gottschalk's store, I wonder? Hancock fabrics, meanwhile, is in its death throes. Everything must go! The dollar-five store by Fred Meyer has *GASP!* things that cost more than a dollar-five now. Looks like the type of stuff that I normally see at Westwood Discount (i.e. past-clearance items).

Dovienya is relaxing a bit. She still gets anxious when I close the door, but not desperately so. The catnip scratching toy I bought her might have helped a mite with that. Okay...and I can't tell how coherent I am so I'll stop here. Night.

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18 April 2007

VA Tech

I think that this post is the best report anyone could read. It is full of compassion, and attempts to understand. Most of the journalistic reports are full of pretenses at compassion and pretense at understanding.

There isn't much I can say about the tragedy. I wonder...why not destroy only yourself...why take 30 people with you? I know how easily depression can turn to anger, but it still makes no sense to me. All I can offer is sadness that it happened. I can't offer sympathy, because I can barely imagine what the survivors are going through. Strength and healing to those who need it.

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17 April 2007

Easy Pizza

While I do like to bake my own pizza crusts for use, sometimes I run out. And sometimes I don't want to take the time to thaw one out (or bake new ones). But there is a quick and easy version, even for the gluten-intolerant. Ricecake pizzas.
I use Lundberg's brown and wild ricecakes, but any ricecake would work.

The only "trick" is to use more tomato sauce than you would on a regular pizza crust. What happens is that the sauce soaks into the ricecake while the pizza bakes, making it less crumbly—up to a point. Too much tomato sauce makes it too gooey. I think I use roughly two tablespoons of sauce for each ricecake. Then I layer on a cheese blend, and add meat if I have any. For no extra work, you can add Canadian bacon (or pepperoni, if you suffer from THAT ailment, ;^) If I'm feeling more ambitious, I brown some sausage for it. After layering on the cheese and meat, bake at about 375° for twenty minutes. Voila. Nearly instant pizza. It's better than any frozen pizza I ever tried, with little extra work.

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16 April 2007

Busting Kirkham

Today has been surprisingly productive. At ISU, the stats students got to play with hypothetical power and the algebra students got to manipulate imaginary numbers. Then I came home, dug a bucket of dandelions (making sure to get all that had bloomed), and actually mowed my front lawn. This is a momentous event. My lawn has been mowed before school is out. I'm sure the neighbors are thrilled (especially whichever one occasionally sics the lawn cops on me). And since it got mowed, it is now being watered. The backyard hasn't been mowed yet, but I think I'm going to wind up digging up two-thirds of it, getting dandelions. Still, I want to turn part of it back into a garden, so that's not all bad.

Then I headed over to my dad's place to see if he'd let me take Buster out for a walk. Currently my dad cannot see anything more than eight inches away from him (this is fixable: cataracts. But he insists that his eyes will get better when he works out all this paranoid blame garbage; in a sense this is true: if he were taking meds for his schizophrenia, and not going through the paranoia, he probably would have fixed his eyes by now). He hasn't been walking Buster for quite a while. I was afraid he might resent me taking over, but he seemed enthusiastic, and even let me borrow the pickup. Buster wasn't happy about riding in the pickup, but he got excited as soon as I let him out at the Kirkham trail. Dad obviously hasn't even been trying to teach him to heel, but he started to get the idea today. Especially when the leash wound up between his back legs for a while. ;^)

The downside is that it's hard to get pictures while walking an excitable dog. The upside is that I probably got more of a workout trying not to slow him down too much, and not stopping to take pictures.

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15 April 2007

More Wheel of Time quizzes

:^) I finally found a few WoT character quizzes that I thought were decent. Too bad they don't have some of the later characters in them. The first quiz was female characters only (but omitted some of my favorites, like Aviendha, Min, and Birgitte). The second quiz was a mix, but my highest female was Egwene on it as well. Still no Aviendha, Min or Birgitte. Ah well.

You scored as Egwene. You are Egwene al'Vere! Strong and independent, and
able to carry burdens beyond your years, you are an excellent rolemodel for
other young women.

















Which Wheel of Time female are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

You scored as Thom Merrilin. You are Thom Merrilin. Like Thom, you are very
talented, especially when it comes to stories and music. You were once a very
important figure, but now you don't really have a place in life. You like to secretly
suprise people.

Thom Merrilin


Egwene al' Vere


al' Lan Mandragoran


Rand al' Thor


Moiraine Damodred


Matrim Cauthon


Nynaeve al' Meara


Galadedrid Damodred


Elayne Trakand


Perrin Aybara


Which Wheel of Time character r u?
created with QuizFarm.com

One more, non-WoT quiz on symbols:
You scored as Ankh. The Ankh is a
representation of life. You are inspired
by life, and all its splendor, and you
feel you are empowered by your symbol.


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And now 'tis day two of my second 108 days. I've expanded the requirements just a bit. Three rounds of the taiji form, and one round of the sword form. The problem with the sword form is finding a place where there's room for it. My backyard works right now, but may not if I get my garden area tilled and planted. The non-garden area is unfortunately close to a rather large elm tree...

Anyway, back to the topic of the post: Breathing. Most people have no idea how to breathe and no awareness of their own breath. In my high school choir, part of our warm-up routine included breathing exercises; I consider these to be far more important than the scales we did afterwards. It's not much use to hit the note and not be able to sustain it because you have no breath support. Similarly, it's not much use to make it up the stair and then have to sit and wheeze for five minutes. Yes, physical condition plays a role in that, too, but the breath, I think, is key.

There are two types of breathing that I practice as part of my daily routine. The first is a yogic breath, variously called "fire-breathing," "triangular breathing," or "bottle breathing." For this one, first I empty my lungs as much as possible. Then I begin inhaling, pulling the air down to the bottom of the lungs first, expanding the diaphragm, and filling the lungs clear up to the top for a slow count of seven. That breath is held for another slow count of seven, and then released, emptying the top of the lungs first and the bottom last for another slow count of seven. That's the first breath of seven. It's called fire breathing because practicing it tends to make you feel warm, or even hot; bottle-breathing because you fill and empty the lungs like a bottle; triangular breathing because of the three parts of the cycle.

There are several benefits to this exercise. Most people never completely empty their lungs, so there are places with 'stale' air. This exercise clears out all of that. Most people don't use their full lung capacity. This exercise gets oxygen into all of the parts of the lung. My teacher claims that holding the breath for seven counts gives the lungs time to extract the maximum amount of oxygen from the air, but I don't know enough about breathing physiology to evaluate that claim. If it does nothing else, however, it stretches all of the muscles surrounding the lungs. The yogis would add that it 'massages the internal organs.'

The other breathing exercise I practice is most often called 'reverse breathing.' As with the first, I empty my lungs first. On the inhale, though, I pull the abdomen and diaphragm in and breathe in for a count of nine without expanding the chest or raising the shoulders. So where does the air go? Into the back part of the lungs, producing a rather nice stretch across the shoulder blades. On the exhale, I expand the abdomen and diaphragm for another slow count of nine. No holding the breath on this one. One full round is 9 of these breaths. I usually do three rounds each day.

As far as the stretching/massaging the body goes, this breath has pretty much the same benefits as the fire-breathing. It doesn't produce as much stretch in the chest, but it gets more of a stretch in the back. It also focuses on the part of the lungs that is easiest to neglect, especially for people with stiff backs and shoulders. If you try this breath and feel like you can't get enough oxygen, that's probably why: the muscles in that area are too stiff. It took me quite a while to get to the point where I could use this breath effectively. I've also found that if I'm getting exhausted while hiking, I can use this breath to give myself an energy boost.

As for the mystical side of things, both breaths are considered to be qi-builders. Which makes perfect sense. Not having enough oxygen means not having much energy, after all. If you have enough oxygen, you're more likely to feel energetic. And, yes, there are more esoteric details, and energy visualizations that go along with both of them, but I'm not going to go into those right now.

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14 April 2007

Quiz Time

I'm Brown!
What Ajah Do You Belong In? quiz by Desiree

I was actually looking for a WoT character quiz, but I didn't find one that I actually liked. I liked this ajah one, and can't really say I'm surprised to get brown ajah.

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Flute Rack

And here it is. My mostly finished flute rack. 'Mostly' because the fabric store didn't have enough of the color of leather I liked to do all 8 pegs. The white cord is a stop-gap until I can find more leather. I'd prefer white leather, actually, but this sort of orangeish is okay. As for the flutes, each is a different key and a different type of wood. The wood affects the quality of the sound more than you might think. The bottom flute is of walnut and is an E-flute. It's also the hardest to play. For one thing, it's got a larger bore, so it takes more air. For another, the holes are larger and harder to get completely covered. Above it is a cedar A-flute, my very first flute and my only 5-hole flute. The top one is a birch C-flute. It's got the crispest sound of any of them, probably because birch is a harder wood than the others.

The rack isn't perfect, nor is it hung completely straight, but I don't feel like filling and putting more holes in the wall to make it straighter, nor like re-gluing the leather straps (since that would entail first removing them, and probably repainting). It's made from two wooden tie-racks, spray painted black, and a leather belt, cut into three (mostly) equal pieces. If I ever make another one, I will be much more careful about alligning the straps before gluing them into place. Probably using a square and a level. Oh, and the last ingredient is the leather cord, to cushion the flutes. Leather also provides a bit of friction, so that the flutes will stay upright. The ones on the satin cord have a tendency to flop over.

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Cherry Springs

Yesterday afternoon, I wandered down the old Bannock Highway. I wanted to take a short hike, and had a vague idea that I might go back to West Mink Creek, but then I stopped at Cherry Springs instead. It's very gorgeous up there right now. Lots of pictures below the fold, but I'll put the picture of the moose above:

I wouldn't even have known there was a moose up there, except that just as I was heading back to my car, a group of teenage boys asked me if I'd seen it. I said no, and they told me that if I went down the path to the gazebo, I'd be able to see it. At first I couldn't, but finally it moved. Up until then, it had looked like a rock on the hillside. :^)

First up, there were a whole lot of wild violets in bloom. And it seems that what I thought might be wild ginger last summer was probably wild violet instead. *sighs*

Lots of trees and shrubs were starting to bloom. I have no idea what this one is, but it's sure pretty. Ones that I recognized were currants and chokecherries.

Here we have half a tree, laying down. The other half of the tree was just as large, and standing upright, but seemed to be dead.

And I'll close with a bunch of butterfly pictures. This one is another mourning cloak. There were quite a few of these.

This one is very tiny, maybe a one inch wingspan. I think it's a gossamer-winged butterfly, maybe a Boisduval's Blue or a Greenish-Blue. *shrugs*.

And I think this one is a California Tortoiseshell. I'm sure it's a tortoiseshell, and that one seems to be the best match. *shrugs*

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13 April 2007

108 Days

Huh. I made it. 108 days of practicing breathing exercises, chanting, yoga and taiji at least once each day. There's a lot I could say about it, and I may add more later, but I will now admit that part of the reason I started on this was to get over a severe case of holiday depression. It wasn't a magic, instantaneous cure, but it did work. Eventually. Somewhere after Valentine's Day, I started to notice a difference. One interesting change is that I feel like myself again. I don't feel like a bundle of nerves and reactions and emotions. I'm also much, much healthier.

Perhaps the most interesting result has been on my sense of time. Remember when we were kids and summer vacation felt like it lasted for a year? I've managed to recapture that sense of spaciousness in time. It's surprisingly easy: (1) Get stuff done that you want to do. (2) Use the time that's available. (3) Don't look for ways to 'make the time go by' or 'fill time'. Normally at this time of the semester I'm wondering where the semester's gone, and why I didn't get anything done, etc. This time? I could swear that the semester started a year ago. I may not have gotten everything done that I wanted to, but I've done quite a lot.

Most recently? I got a flute-rack glued together, to hold my native american flutes. There's one more step left, and that's to wrap something around each of the pegs to cushion the flutes. Which...I think I'll go start on now.

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11 April 2007


This is Dovienya, caught mid-mew. Interestingly, I've never heard her do more than mew. No yowls, for instance. Purebred Siamese are known for being vocal, so this is further evidence that Dovienya is only part Siamese. You can see that her eyes are slightly crossed, though.

She's a very sweet cat, once she gets used to a person. I have no idea what her history is, but I'm sure that she was fending for herself for quite a while before she started turning up at my door. She has a tendency to bolt food. I've seen dogs do this, but never cats. She's also extremely skittish. Any surprising noise has a tendency to put her on edge, if not send her running.

Some of her behavior patterns have me wondering if she was abused. If I approach her with something in my hand, something that she doesn't recognize, she becomes very frightened. I've taken to holding my hands open at my sides, so that hopefully she'll feel safer.

She does not like enclosed spaces. When it turned cool the first time, I brought her in for a few minutes, so that she would have a warm place to eat. She ate for a while, but she had a rather wide-eyed look the whole time, and she kept looking around. The ceiling, especially, seemed to bother her. Since then, I've taken to bringing her partway into the house and leaving the door open. When she asks to get down, I put her down. Most times she heads straight for the door. A few times she's stayed for a little while, purring and asking to be petted.

I suppose if she's anyone's cat, she's mine. She only comes around at sunrise and sunset (roughly). I feed her and play with her for a while, and then she's off. No clue if she'll ever get used to being inside four walls.

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08 April 2007

Banana Bread

As usual, holiday cooking duties have fallen to me. My mom wanted ham, but I've had ham several times lately, so I convinced her to switch it to pork chops (after assuring her that I would not imbue them with red pepper, my favorite garnish). I'll also cook some rice, corn on the cob, and stir fry some vegetables. For dessert, however, gluten-free banana bread.

I use Bette Hagman's "Best Banana Bread" recipe (The Gluten Free Gourmet), but with some modifications. Her recipe calls for either 1 cup soy flour, 1/2 cup potato starch and 1/4 cup rice flour OR for 1 3/4 cup of her "4-bean flour mix." I really liked the flavor that the soy flour gave the recipe, but soy flour no longer agrees with me, and I can not stand anything made from "garfava" flour (a mixture of fava and garbanzo beans). So I've modified the flour. I used white bean flour in place of the garfava. Essentially, any bean flour will work; it's a matter of finding one whose flavor you like. The best flavor, imo, is from soy flour. *sighs* But white bean flour isn't too bad.

I also up the amount of banana in the bread. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of mashed banana for one loaf. I would guess that's about one banana. I put in three bananas per loaf. This improves the flavor and texture, but it does cause problems if you actually bake the bread as a loaf. Basically, you wind up with nearly twice as much dough as you can put in a single loaf pan and expect to get the bread done in the middle. So I stopped making loaves of banana bread, and started making banana muffins instead. :^)

Why bean flours, non-celiacs may wonder? Bean flours do two things: they add protein and they add moisture. Most GF flour mixes are rice-based, and rice flour products tend to be very, very dry, and lacking in protein. But bean flours also tend to have strong flavors, and so they're mixed with other, starchier flours, to 'water' down the taste, as it were. Bette Hagman's 4-flour-bean-mix has a texture very similar to wheat flour (from what I can remember). Depending on the bean flour you use, it will have as much or more protein than wheat flour.

Alternately, you can add rice protein to rice flour mixes (which I do), but they still won't be as moist as products made with bean-based flours.

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Chapter 16 of the Tao te Ching seems appropriate to the season.

Empty the self completely;
Embrace perfect peace.
The world will rise and move;
Watch it return to rest.
All the flourishing things
Will return to their source.

Until you've experienced emptying the self, you won't know what it means. The best description I can give is that all the worries, all the fears, all the inane chattering in the mind... they all stop. There is a moment of perfect stillness, where you experience yourself rather than the ten thousand distractions of daily life.

When the world returns to rest, it is winter. Perennials return to their root. Annuals die that their seeds may grow in the spring.

This return is peaceful;
It is the flow of nature,
An eternal decay and renewal.
Accepting this brings enlightenment,
Ignoring this brings misery.

Wishing does not stop the winter, nor make it end sooner. The trick is to enjoy the winter just as much as the summer. In the literal sense, I get this. In the metaphorical, I have a long way to go.

Who accepts nature's flow becomes all-cherishing;
Being all-cherishing he becomes impartial;
Being impartial he becomes magnanimous;
Being magnanimous he becomes natural;
Being natural he becomes one with the Way;
Being one with the Way he becomes immortal:
Though his body will decay, the Way will not.

The winter snows are as precious as the summer sun. The spiders as precious as the birds. Humans are equal in all this, not superior. As for the lines on immortality... I'm not going to claim I know the intended meaning there. Different translations read very differently there, too. In the spirit of the season, though, I'm going to interpret it thusly: "Summer passes away, but the cycle of seasons goes on, and summer will come again."

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04 April 2007

Edson Fichter

I wandered back to the Edson Fichter trail today, and am happy to report that I'm feeling much, much better now. Hopefully this will still be the case tomorrow morning. I'm curious to see what this area will look like when it greens up. From the looks of things, this was a very disturbed area that they're trying to turn back over to native plants...but in lots of places, invasive weeds are winning. Still, there are plenty of currant bushes starting to bloom. Oh, and that decorated tree I saw last time? This time I got a better look, and realized that the "decorations" are actually a vine of some sort. Probably parasitic, but I don't know for sure. It's easier to tell that the vine isn't part of the plant now that the trees and bushes are starting to green up. The vine is pretty pervasive through the area.

I did get some bird pictures, but those will wait until I can look them up. One I know is either a housefinch or the finch that looks a lot like a housefinch. The other...I don't think I've ever seen before! I've heard the call a lot, but never managed to find the source. Anyway, I'll stop babbling now and allow you to decide whether you want to look at the eight-legged cohort who shared the bridge with me.

I watched the spider building its web for a while (I think that the second spider was trapped in the web, but I'm not sure), until the wind either blew it out, or made it seek shelter. I'm not sure which, as I looked away at the wrong moment.

And this one is from the same picture, but zoomed in on the spider. I believe it's an orb-weaver of some sort; at some point I'll look it up and see if I'm right.

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Bush Lost the War: Pass it on!

And add to that: Mr. President, meet the Constitution.

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Fever? Cold?

I seem to have a minor bug of some sort, consisting mainly of fever, variable headache, fatigue, and minor sinus problems. It's rather annoying, since it's mild enough that when I'm resting, I pretty much feel fine, and want to get up and do stuff. Yesterday, for instance, I dug a bucket of dandelions and my body is complaining about it today. I think I may go for a short hike today anyway, since cool air seems to help (so does cold water). Preferably someplace flat so that I don't overdo things. *sighs*

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02 April 2007

Steel Hummingbird Flies Coop

Cal-Ranch is a local chain that could best be described as a farmer's general store. They carry lots of tools and hardware, hunting stuff, yard care supplies, seeds, and "western" style clothing (as in, it wouldn't look out of place in a Country music video). On Saturday, I wandered over to the one in Pocatello, mainly curious about their yard care stuff. I found a stiff ring woven from cocoa fibers that goes around trees and/or shrubs to keep things from growing too close to them, and got two of them. One works perfectly around my ornamental plum. I think I should have opted for the larger size for my lilac bush, so I may wind up going back.

The store also carries some very nice artwork, and yard decorations. I'm not sure which this hummingbird piece would count as:

It's currently hanging on my front door, though I wound up putting a bit of felt on it so that the metal wouldn't scratch anything. Cal-Ranch had a bunch of similar pieces that I liked, so much so that I looked up the company on the web. It's called Steel Images, Inc.. I am strongly tempted to get one of their large lizard sculptures for my living room. I recently took some plant-holders off the wall (because the plants weren't getting enough sun there), and could use something to fill up the space. They had this one at the store, but with a "welcome" on it. The one that I am considering, though is the S-Gecko.

My problem with filling that spot is that a traditional, rectangular, framed piece of art would be at odds with just about everything in that room. A nice, organic shape like the gecko would be perfect.

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