Saturday, June 30, 2007

There's a Full Moon - Tonight

I've surfing around the net looking at photographs of the moon and found this picture from the Photo Gallery of Bernd Nies

He says on his site, "I am hobby photographer and only shoot for fun. In this picture gallery I present pictures that I have taken on my travels all over the world and at home in my spare time. My specialities are underwater photography, aerial pictures and astronomy."

For someone who takes photographs as a hobby there is some really amazing work on his site. I recommend checking it out.

Friday, June 29, 2007

So I Got That Goin For Me - Which Is Nice

Somehow I think this clip from Caddyshack is as good as any when it comes to forming a philosophy of life - might as well have a few laughs while we can.

Whenever I see the Dalai Lama in an interview it looks like he enjoys laughing (he's got that twinkle in his eye).

Gunga ga lunga

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Where Heaven Stops and Earth Begins

"And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began."

Forrest Gump

You've seen that place before too.

The sunrise over the blue mountains in the distance somewhere in the middle of Montana, the sunset over a vast flat as a pancake prairie as you head west through North Dakota, the sun as it dips below the ocean somewhere in the gulf of Mexico or over a pine scented lake in Northern Minnesota. Cedar trees drooping with their heavy coats of snow in the Pacific Northwest. A field high in the mountains bursting with wildflowers.

A yard full of children laughing and playing. A baby sleeping. Two old friends visiting. A dog being a dog. A cello playing, a singer singing - it's there - you just have to stop and look.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ranier Maria Rilke: Letters To A Young Poet

"Here, where I am surrounded by an enormous landscape, which the winds move across as they come from the seas, here I feel that there is no one anywhere who can answer for you those questions and feelings which, in their depths, have a life of their own; for even the most articulate people are unable to help, since what words point to is so very delicate, is almost unsayable.

But even so, I think that you will not have to remain without a solution if you trust in Things that are like the ones my eyes are now resting upon. If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge.

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

Ranier Maria Rilke: Letters To A Young Poet

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Edgar Lee Masters - Silence

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And the silence for which music alone finds the word,
And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,
And the silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths
Of what use is language?

From the poem Silence by Edgar Lee Masters

Monday, June 25, 2007

Summer Flowers

I took a walk on this nice sunny day and brought along my very basic, pixelly-challenged, old digital camera. There are lots of flowers in bloom so I didn't have any trouble finding things to photograph. I took 94 pictures in no time at all.

I put the fourteen I liked best here.

They are almost all photographs of flowers, along with a few ants and a couple of types of bees.

The one on the right is a glass piece I bought from the artist at the Everett Sorticulture Art and Garden Show last weekend. It blends nicely with the sky today. It reminds me of flowing water. It's on top of a piece of copper pipe stuck in some yellow lillies in my back yard.

It was, and is, a really nice day today in Everett.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Austin City Limits and Lak Shme Sing - But I Thought...

If you've ever wondered where Austin City Limits is taped, here's an interesting factoid from KLRU, the Austin PBS station that produces the show -

"According to the mythology, Austin City Limits is taped on an Austin hillside above the city. In reality, the show is recorded in a KLRU television studio located on the University of Texas campus. The studio is located on the 6th floor of the U.T. Communications Building B. The famous skyline set, based on a photograph of the city taken from south Austin, debuted in 1982 for Season 7 and has remained the series' backdrop ever since."

I almost wish I hadn't found that out.

I always thought Austin City Limits was taped outside and while I watched liked to think about what the temperature was, if those were pecan trees in the many stars were out.


Slightly less distressing, than finding out Austin City Limits is filmed in a studio, but still a bit disconcerting - is the dream I had that I met the NPR reporter whose name sounds like - Lak Shme Sing.

I have no idea why I had that dream...other than I like hearing her say her name on NPR. Every time I hear her say her name I like to repeat it a few times.

I had assumed, based on the way her name sounds, that she was an Asian woman - and had formed a vague mental image of her.

It wasn't a very interesting dream - I met an Asian woman and we were talking about something, and she casually mentioned she was Lak Shme Sing. I can't be sure but I think in my dream she looked like the Korean guy from Mad was kind of fuzzy.

I mentioned the dream to B and she said she thought it would be interesting if the person in my dream actually looked like the NPR reporter. I did some Googling and found that's not the case, I didn't even have her name right - it's Lakshmi Singh

It's interesting when we form an image of a person based on their voice, and in this case name, and then when we see that person find out our mental image was off the mark. I've done that before with people I've talked to on the phone.

It's okay - I don't care what she looks like, I just like the way her name sounds...ditto for Alejandro Escovedo, or like Buddy says in the movie Elf about the name Francisco,

"Francisco! That's fun to say! Francisco... Frannncisco... Franciscooo..."

Getting over the Austin City Limits thing is going to be a little harder.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Alejandro Escovedo

I saw Alejandro Escovedo perform on Austin City Limits this weekend and was amazed at how good his music and the musicians with him are. He had two cello players, a lead guitarist, drummer, keyboard player and a singer/violin player with him for the Austin City Limits performance. The music ranged from the rocking "Break This Time" to a quiet ballad like "Evita’s Lullaby". It looked really great for the people who got to see him perform live.

There's a video the song "Break This Time" on the PBS: Austin City Limits page, along with this description -

"Few contemporary artists inspire the degree of rapturous critical praise, without the accompanying fame and fortune, as Alejandro Escovedo. Back in form after a near-death battle with Hepatitis C, the eclectic, imaginative songwriter and his extraordinary band perform songs from The Boxing Mirror, praised by Billboard as “a masterwork from one of the genuine lights in rock music.”"

You can download an MP-3 file of his song "Five Hearts Breaking" from his album "Gravity" at Alejandro

He has a page on with the songs "Arizona", "Baby's Got New Plans", "Castanets" and "Break This Time".

If you are interested in buying any of his music here's a link to Amazon's page for Alejandro Escovedo

Friday, June 22, 2007

"The Cat Arrived With a Bottle of Scotch."

The line - "The Cat Arrived With a Bottle of Scotch." is from the book The Cat Who Covered the World by Christopher S. Wren who worked as a reporter and editor for The New York Times in Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, Ottawa, and Johannesburg.

I ran across that line via TwitterLit a site that provides the first line of a book, with a link to Amazon so you can find out what book the line came from. The site is updated daily with two new lines.

Christopher S. Wren has another book Walking to Vermont that looks interesting to those of us nearing retirement age, or of any age for that matter, who is looking for an adventure close to home.

The book's publisher Simon & Schuster has this to say about "Walking to Vermont" -
"A distinguished former foreign correspondent embraces retirement by setting out alone on foot for nearly four hundred miles, and explores a side of America nearly as exotic as the locales from which he once filed.

Traveling with an unwieldy pack and a keen curiosity, Christopher Wren bids farewell to the New York Times newsroom in midtown Manhattan and saunters up Broadway, through Harlem, the Bronx, and the affluent New York suburbs of Westchester and Putnam Counties. As his trek takes him into the Housatonic River Valley of Connecticut, the Berkshires of Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and along a bucolic riverbank in New Hampshire, the strenuous challenges become as much emotional as physical.

Wren loses his way in a suburban thicket of million-dollar mansions, dodges speeding motorists, seeks serenity at a convent, shivers through a rainy night among Shaker ruins, camps in a stranger's backyard, panhandles cookies and water from a good samaritan, absorbs the lore of the Appalachian and Long Trails, sweats up and down mountains, and lands in a hospital emergency room.

Struggling under the weight of a fifty-pound pack, he gripes, "We might grow less addicted to stuff if everything we bought had to be carried on our backs." He hangs out with fellow wanderers named Old Rabbit, Flash, Gatorman, Stray Dog, and Buzzard, and learns gratitude from the anonymous charity of trail angels. His rite of passage into retirement, with its heat and dust and blisters galore, evokes vivid reminiscences of earlier risks taken, sometimes at gunpoint, during his years spent reporting from Russia, China, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa.

He loses track of time, waking with the sun, stopping to eat when hunger gnaws, and camping under starry skies that transform the nights of solitude. For all the self-inflicted hardship, he reports, "In fact, I felt pretty good." Wren has woven an intensely personal story that is candid and often downright hilarious. As Vermont turns from a destination into a state of mind, he concludes, "I had stumbled upon the secret of how utterly irrelevant chronological age is."

This book, from the author of the acclaimed bestseller The Cat Who Covered the World, will delight not just hikers, walkers, and other lovers of the outdoors, but also anyone who contemplates retirement, wonders about foreign correspondents, or relishes a lively, off-beat adventure, even when it unfolds close to home."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Setting Up

I like the bus and the desert background in this photograph.

The copy that goes with it says -

"Band members unload equipment before a show in the somewhat unlikely venue of Death Valley National Monument. The 5,210-square-mile (13,494-square-kilometer) park is the lowest, hottest, driest spot in the United States, and daytime temperatures there frequently reach 120 F (48.9 C) in the summer.

(Photo shot on assignment for, but not published in, "Dual Track in a Dry Place," September/October 1998, National Geographic Traveler magazine)

Photograph by Len Jenshel"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Notes to Myself

Do not over-complicate things - we think too much sometimes - because our minds like puzzles and complexity, we often use mind games to avoid the simple truth.

Which is?

Simple things bring us pleasure, peace and sustain us in our search for meaning, growth and transformation.

I prayed to God to give me what I needed - she gave me a warm dog sleeping on my lap, a comfortable chair and a good book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dance - Google Video

This was posted on Google Video way back in December of 2005, but I think it holds up pretty well. Hoping it will make you smile.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Small Dog

home 041
Originally uploaded by laciebug
I'd like a dog like this one.

He looks nice and smart.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Least Populated County in the Lower 48

National Geographic has a short article on the city of Mentone, located in Loving County, Texas.

From the article -

"Mentone (population 15, more or less) is the county seat of Loving County, Texas. It’s also the only town in Loving County, the least populated county in the 48 contiguous United States. You can drive through Mentone in 12 seconds flat and not even stretch the speed limit. You pass the post office and the Boot Track Cafe on the left, the courthouse and a gas station on the right. You’ve left the town behind; sand and prickly scrub lie ahead. The terrain is griddle flat; on a clear day, which is almost always, you can see the Davis Mountains 75 miles (121 kilometers) to the southwest."

I don't know if it comes from growing up in Montana or if it's something in my genetic makeup, but I sometimes really yearn for the wide open spaces. I would like to take a trip to that spacious part of Texas. I have no idea what I'd do after I got out there - which sounds like my kind of vacation.


Asleep at the Wheel – Miles And Miles Of Texas

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Doppelgänger

Someone who reportedly looks just like me, was driving an old Chevy pickup - just like mine, down I-5 tonight. I got that news from my daughter Becca while I was still at work...a long way from I-5.

She called me and asked, "if I'd been driving on I-5?"

After we determined she had been waving at some stranger on the freeway I said I hoped he wasn't doing anything to make me look bad, and now that he's around Washington maybe we could work out some arrangements where he would fill in for me when I want to take a break from the day to day routine type working until 9 pm.

I hope he likes sitting at a desk for long periods of time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Zen - What is it?

"Zen is a Japanese term which has its origins in the Sanscrit dhyana, meaning at once concentration, dynamic stillness, and contemplation. The means toward the realization of one's original nature as well as the realization itself, Zen is both something one does - the practice of cultivating attention to the present moment- and something one essentially is. To emphasize one aspect at the expense of the other is to misunderstand this subtle and profound practice."

Source - Zen at Notre Dame

I've been thinking about Zen Buddhism for 35 years now - my how time flies.

It entered my consciousness because of a great teacher who recommended I study philosophy when I was in high school and also because it was popularized by Alan Watts and by some of Jack Kerouac's writings, particularly The Dharma Bums. The main character of that book is Japhy Ryder who Kerouac based on Gary Snyder. It was also a way to rebel against some of the institutionalized religious practices that I had grown up with as a Catholic.

I have to admit if someone asked me to explain what Zen is about I can't. I can sort of point at it... maybe.

I could recommend you go to the Zen Restaurant on South Congress Avenue in Austin and sit there for awhile and see if a video comes on that shows a Buddhist Monk standing peacefully in the noise, hustle and bustle of a crowded city street...maybe it's something like that - but not really. That's a popularized version of the effect of practicing Zen - I know I liked seeing it over and over while having a raspberry green tea and tofu rice bowl. There was some catchy loud techno-like music playing and the video was on various large screens strategically placed for diners to see - which all added to my fascination with the idea of commercializing Zen (I'm not trying to put the place down - it's not a bad cafe and I'd rather be eating there than a lot of other places). I wish there was one in Everett.

The short version of Zen is that it's the practice of quieting your mind, becoming free from attachments and becoming one with something. That something is either your true self or God or both.

Rather than using the phrase "free from attachments" or the word detachment, it's more precise to say that we are becoming free to choose our attachments, which is why the popular notion of a serene monk-like figure with no-cares is not quite right. Zen is a spiritual practice (one of many) that allows us to choose what we will care about.


Wikipedia article on Zen


"Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty — it’s meant to leave space in your life for what you really want to do."
From zen habits


Thomas Merton's book Zen and the Birds of Appetite explores the relationship between Christianity and Zen, and includes a dialogue with the Zen teacher D.T. Suzuki.

I haven't read it yet but I'm putting it on my summer reading list.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Freedom Means Having a Choice

From: Choosing God at inward/outward

By Gerald May

"God refuses to be an object for attachment because God desires full love, not addiction. Love born of true freedom, love free from attachment, requires that we search for a deepening awareness of God, just as God freely reaches out to us. In addition, full love for God means we must turn to God over and against other things. If our choice of God is to be made with integrity, we must first have felt other attractions and chosen, painfully, not to make them our gods. True love, then, is not only born of freedom; it is also born of difficult choice. A mature and meaningful love must say something like, ‘I have experienced other goodnesses, and they are beautiful, but it is You, my true heart’s desire, whom I choose above all.’ We have to turn away before we can come home with dignity."

Source: Addiction and Grace

I love this quote, from a wonderful book.

It makes me think of people who have a naive, or sometimes holier than thou, attitude to any type of addictive behavior. Looking down on someone because of their "weakness" in being attracted to, and unable to stop, doing things that are not good for them. If you never wanted to drink, smoke, gamble or use drugs - then you never had to make a choice - and in my opinion you are possibly very lucky - or, depending on your point of view, very unlucky because you never had the freedom to choose, and you never found the humility, wisdom and quiet strength that comes with realizing that some things are outside our control no matter how strong we like to think we are.

We are all addicts in some sense, once we go beyond the obvious addictions with their attendant social stigma - and consider our obsessions and compulsions (addictions) to things like - ideas, power, moods, fantasies, food, security, work, television, computers, finances, social status, etc. etc. etc.

It is only in facing and working towards overcoming those obsessions and compulsions that we become truly free. By recognizing that anything and everything in this world is transitory, with the exception of grace, we begin to approach that place where we can begin to discard the material worldly desires and give up, give in and let go - not in the sense of dropping out but actually tuning in, being quiet, listening and thereby being very much part of something beyond this place and time.

There's a saying that addicts can't meditate. It's an interesting check of our own addictive behaviors to see how we do when we first remove all external distractions and secondly work towards quieting the endless loop of chatter in our minds. It's not at all easy to do the first, and the second is the goal of people on spiritual paths that last a lifetime.

Paradoxically, by accepting that we are not as powerful as our pride leads us to think we are, leads to a quiet strength, peace and the ability to transcend our human nature.

There aren't any answers here - it's not a destination it's a journey, you don't need step by step instructions - but you do need a compass and some wise teachers to point you in the right direction every so often.

I'm a long way from the place I wish to be, I try to do the right things and often fail...but I pray that I'm headed in the right direction.


Here's another quote from the book Addiction and Grace by Gerald May that I hope is uplifting for those of us who try and fail. He is writing about two things addiction and grace can teach us -

"First, although God calls us toward more perfect life, we cannot personally achieve the state of perfection. We can and should do our very best to move in that direction, struggling with every resource we have, but we must accept the reality of our incompleteness. Second, we need to recognize that the incompleteness within us, our personal insufficiency, does not make us unacceptable in God's eyes. Far from it; our incompleteness is the empty side of our longing for God and for love. It is what draws us toward God and one another. If we do not fill our minds with guilt and self-recriminations, we will recognize our incompleteness as a kind of spaciousness into which we can welcome the flow of grace. We can think of inadequacies as terrible defects, if we want, and hate ourselves. but we can also think affirmatively, as doorways through which the power of grace can enter our lives. Then we may begin to appreciate our inherent, God-given lovableness."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Science of Your Brain on Games

I've been playing the Japanese PS2 video game Katamari Damacy a little bit lately. It's fun and super addictive (to me anyway). I found after about 20 hours of playing it last weekend that my brain had morphed into a big ball of stuff (that's the point of the game - rolling stuff up into a big ball). It's weird but fun and has some catchy music.

I've never been a super-gaming type person, generally being more interested in doing something than playing video games. I'm also have a personal tendency towards addictive or compulsive behavior that makes me try and steer away from getting to carried away with fun stuff which doesn't have an obvious redeeming value (Steven Johnson disputes the idea that video games are total time wasters in his book "Everything Bad is Good For You"). He has some points - but of course moderation and balance would have to be taken into account no matter how fantastic a video game is at sharpening up your bean.

I've written about Brain Age for the Nintendo DS here (a good game for old and young people that involves doing calculations and other brain teasers as quickly as possible).

I've also become rather fond of Animal Crossing a Game Cube game that is simple and peaceful - you can fish, plant flowers, dig up fossils, buy and sell things and improve your house (bonus points for using the principles of Feng shui). It's a basic simulation type game that appeals to a pre-schooler in my wife's school and a 52 year old like me. My young daughters like it too - and I have a friend at work who plays it on occasion.

The article The Science of Your Brain on Games that tells me a professor Gee, or maybe Stephen Johnson, thinks Katamari Damacy is one of the "best brain games" (the article is a little confused about who said that...maybe they both did...or neither one of them). I'm not real sure if IGN - "a unit of Fox Interactive Media, Inc., a leading Internet media and services provider focused on the videogame and entertainment enthusiast markets" is the most unbiased source for information on the benefits of playing video games.

I'm amazed if anyone said Katamari Damacy was a good "brain game". I've played it for maybe 30 hours and it seems more like a good "thumb game". You use the two joysticks to move the ball forward/back left/right to pick up bigger and bigger objects - it's fun and sometimes funny (and a little violent since you can role up cats, and cows and people as the ball gets bigger)...but I'm at a loss to see what the brain exercise part of it is.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Coming Up For Air

My life has been out of balance for about 6 weeks.

Too much work, not enough sleep, and not enough play make Jack a dull boy...a grouchy boy and an ineffective boy.

Shortly after my leisurely trip to Austin, my day job became my day and night and weekend job - which sometimes comes with the territory - but luckily for me it is not something I have to try and sustain for extended periods of time.

I am driven (which makes for a good employee...provided you can be driven and effective) and I have a great deal of natural curiosity (again a good characteristic for an employee but something that also makes me not want to devote 14/7 to any one thing for extended periods of fascinating as my work may be).

Luckily for me I work with a great team of people, and I have enough experience to know how to push myself far but not too far. I'm also really glad I had started a regular morning gym routine a few months ago and have learned various relaxation/meditation/prayer techniques that help me deal with stress over the years.

Part of my interest in relaxation/meditation/prayer stems from an experience I had years ago when I was driven to complete a project. The work itself was important, interesting, challenging and enjoyable - but the difficulty in overcoming the inertia inherent in a large bureaucracy was stressful. I started to internalize a lot of stress and ended up with chest pains (which I foolishly ignored for days). I eventually visited the local ER and the tests showed I was suffering from some sort of heartburn, not a heart attack....they had me drink a local anesthetic which made the pain stop - and I got right back to work.

Later - after talking to my Doctor and thinking it over I realized how stupid that episode was, and knew that I needed to find ways to take care of myself if I was going to be effective, help other people and survive.

Enough about me. I'm just really glad to be able to take a breath and think about other things.