Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What a Noisy Lot We Are



The video description is a bit incorrect; this isn't sound "captured with a special tool"--this is electromagnetic and polar radiation CONVERTED to sound.

 What's interesting is that all of the other planets have a very calm signature, while the Earth is noisy. You hear pulses, whooshes, and I swear planes go by every now and then, ha.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thought for the Day

If it weren't for the early philosophers, we wouldn't have the studies of logic, mathematics, psychology, psychoanalysis, and the list of specializations goes on.

If it weren't for the alchemists, we wouldn't have modern-day chemistry, physics, or medicine.

If it weren't for religious dogma, most wars, crusades, excommunication, and the burning of heretics and "witches" would never have happened.

The human search for meaning, our place in the universe, indeed our understanding of the Universe, has brought out the best in us--and the worst in us.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Break at Bellagio



We're back from Las Vegas! We spent two nights at Bellagio, just hanging out and having a good time. I recorded the above from our table at Jasmine, where we had dinner last night. Monday evening, we had dinner at Prime, which was absolutely fantastic.

And we also had a run of good luck yesterday and this morning, so we came home with cash in our pockets (which is always a plus). We upgraded to First Class on the flight home, which was almost a necessity since I somehow managed to pull a muscle behind my left knee. Walking or even sitting in the same position for long is quite uncomfortable, and at least you have room to wiggle around outside of Coach.

The Bellagio was fabulous as always, all decked out in winter splendor. Here are some shots from the Conservatory.





And a cute polar bear:



And some cute little penguins:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"The Primacy of Consciousness": A Lecture by Peter Russell



I watched this last night. He's humorous and never once did I get bored. Here's his basic thesis (he's a physicist, by the way): Consciousness is inherent in all things, is more fundamental than matter; indeed, even matter is conscious. I don't want to give away too much, but I'll conclude by saying that the spiritual implications are enormous.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Carpenters: "Merry Christmas, Darling"



It's easy to make fun of the Carpenters, but this really is a very sweet song for the season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Seven Wonders of the World

A group of students was asked to list what they thought were the present "Seven Wonders of the World."

Though there were some disagreements, the following received the most votes:

1. Egypt's Great Pyramid
2. Taj Mahal
3. Grand Canyon
4. Panama Canal
5. Empire State Building
6. St. Peter's Basilica
7. China's Great Wall

While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not finished her paper yet.

So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list.

The girl replied, "Yes, a little. I couldn't quite make up my mind because there were so many."

The teacher said, "Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help."

The girl hesitated, then read: "I think the 'Seven Wonders of the World' are:
1. To be able to see
2. To be able to hear
3. To be able to touch
4. To be able to taste
5. To be able to feel
6. To be able to laugh
7. And to be able to love."

The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

The things we overlook as simple and ordinary and that we take for granted are truly wondrous. So, a gentle reminder: The most precious things in life cannot be built by hand, or purchased.

Mannheim Steamroller: "Stille Nacht"



This has been, for some years, my favorite arrangement of "Silent Night." The video is a so-so live recording of them playing it live, but the music itself comes through loud and clear. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Putting the HA HA HA back in Hanukkah



Everybody on Facebook, it seems, has hopped on the "put the Christ back in Christmas" bandwagon, which amuses me to no end. They criticize the "politically correct" "Happy Holidays." Well, I don't know about you, but it makes ZERO sense to me to wish, say, a Jewish friend "Merry Christmas" (even if Christmas is what I celebrate), or to wish an atheist, Muslim, or pagan friend the same. I know I would think it was awfully weird if, on December 5th, a Muslim wished me a "Merry Day of Ashura."

Sorry, but Christians don't OWN the month of December. See?

Dec 5: Ashura * ** - Islam

Dec 8: Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) ** - Buddhism

Dec 21-28: Hanukkah * - Jewish

Dec 22: Solstice/Yule * - Wicca/Pagan Northern Hemisphere

Dec 22: Solstice/Litha * - Wicca/Pagan Southern Hemisphere

Dec 26: Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra) ** - Zoroastrian

Besides all that, Dec. 25th is just a random date chosen in early Christianity for celebrating the birth of Jesus: nobody knows when Jesus' birthday actually is. Christians can't even agree on the YEAR of his birth. Some think it was the year 0, others the year 3 BCE, and Biblical scholars argue for 4 BCE. The 25th of December was landed on most likely because so many pagans already celebrated on that date. It's easier to bring someone into the fold if you adapt their rituals to yours. A good history of how Dec 25th was chosen is right here.

And Christmas was not always celebrated right here in the good ole US of A. Nope. The early Puritans didn't like the Roman influence on the holiday, nor the Catholic influence in celebrating a "Mass" of Christ. Some Christians think celebrating Christmas is actually sinful. Read about that here.

So, instead of taking potshots at people who say "Happy Holidays" because they rightfully don't care to assume everybody they know is a Christian, stop and remember: being polite and not judging others are Christian values. If you want to personally put the "Christ" back in Christmas, the best way to do so is to act like a Christian, not like an intolerant jerk.

ps: I'm not Jewish, but I do so get a kick out of this song by Adam Sandler.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Follow Me or Worship Me?

Maybe it's the season, or maybe it's because I've been dipping lately into hermetic texts, but these past few days I've been revisiting the Gnostic Gospels and seeing them with fresh eyes.

There were some fragments of them in existence before the big trove of them was discovered at Nag Hammadi, and Biblical scholars knew of them because other early Church writings had referred to them, but it's always much better to be able to look at the earliest texts yourself and draw your own conclusions rather than simply being told what they say.

Like anything in this world, Church doctrines and decrees are largely political in nature and decisions need to be viewed through the context in which they were made. The early Christian Church had tons of factions, and the Church was not unified. Constantine, who'd recently converted, found all the conflicting Gospels, Acts, Apocalypses, and Letters confusing and challenged the Church to unify the teachings. This would, frankly, draw in more converts.

I'm oversimplifying, but there was kind of a split between those who supported the idea of Jesus as Savior who was resurrected and gave his life as a sacrifice to save humankind and then the Gnostics (some of whom refuted the idea that Jesus had even been crucified), who were much more interested in the actual teachings of Jesus and what they revealed about the Kingdom of Heaven; the idea of "being saved" solely because you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior seemed absurd to them. The Gnostics believed that the divine is within and that, for lack of a better way to put it, you "save" yourself by seeking the divine knowledge within, thus emulating the teachings of Jesus. In other words, what came to be the Church believed God was above us, Jesus was his literal Son, and then the Church Fathers reveal to everyone else what Jesus did and meant. Anything that wasn't approved Church Doctrine was heresy. The Gnostics believed it is up to every individual to interpret Jesus' teachings and to experience the Divine for themselves.

So, we wound up with a Pope who was God's representative on Earth and spoke for God. The Gnostics were deemed heretical and their writings not included in the Bible. Of some--what? Thirty?--or more Gospels, for instance, only four appear in the Bible. The original argument given was that they were the earliest (Mark the first, followed by Matthew and Luke, the latter two using Mark as a basic text--thus the three are termed the Synoptic Gospels--and then the later John, which incorporated the logos). Nowadays some Biblical scholars are refuting the Gospel of Mark as the first gospel and are saying it was Thomas (which isn't really a story like the others as much as it is simply a list of Jesus's sayings).

Now, look here. If someone like Rodrigo Borgia could eventually become Pope, do you really think the Pope speaks for God? It's hard to fathom. In fact, over the centuries, the Church became so corrupt that in swooped Martin Luther, setting off the Protestant Reformation, and then in England, Henry XIII hopped on the Protestant bandwagon because it was a convenient way to rid himself of an unwanted wife. He then elevated himself to head of the Church of England. So it is abundantly clear that Church Doctrine is, and has been since the days of the early Church, political in nature.

As for me, I accept all the writings about Jesus as potentially true and all useful to know and study. I also do not accept any version of the Apostles' Creed as literally true, which decidedly makes me a non-Christian in the eyes of today's church, be it Catholic or Protestant. I believe Jesus existed (he is an historical figure recorded in records not related to the Church). I believe Jesus was a man who became (like) a god, as opposed to a God who became a man. You could say he found Enlightenment, or he found the Divine within, and in my mind, this is what he was trying to convey to his followers ("Follow me," as in "follow my example," not "follow me" as in "See me as God.") I think he was trying to say the Kingdom of God is within each of us, and to know yourself is to know God. We are ALL God. We are ALL part of God. Creation is God revealing itself in its many dualities and varieties of form. That is the Good Word. The Kingdom of God is already here, always has and always will be. Open your eyes and you will see--if you have eyes to see.

All of which is decidedly hermetic in nature.

And all of which, I might add, is decidedly mystical in nature. One interesting thing to me is that, regardless of one's "basic background religion," once one gets into mysticism, the religions are virtually all the same. Kabbalistic, Gnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, Hermetic, and Christian mystics all sound very much alike in their experience of "God." Meditation is a big part of the practice. Once you go within to look for God, god reveals itself in the same ways, no matter what your outside rational religious practice may be.

For me, it is a message of joy, hope, deliverance. So mote it be, and Peace Profound.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You're A Mean One, Newt Gingrich



This is just too priceless to not put on my blog, regardless of your political persuasion.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy Sober Holidays

The holidays can be a particularly tough time for recovering alcoholics because temptations abound. People unknowingly may give you a fine bottle of wine as a gift, or you're invited to half a dozen parties (including office parties) where the booze will be flowing. Your "devil addict" will be perched on your shoulder, hissing into your ear: "Oh, you can handle it. It's Christmas! You can quit drinking again with the New Year" and things like that to rationalize your drinking.

So, how do you cope?

One strategy is to head things off at the pass. Make yourself the designated driver. The responsibility of that may ward off the temptation to imbibe. Take somebody with you to the party who is also in recovery, or who at least respects your recovery, and make a plan ahead of time with them about how to assist you if you get tempted. Be prepared to walk outside and call your sponsor if you need to.

It's also hard to enjoy drinking if you've got a belly full of AA, so go to extra meetings during the holidays. This reaffirms your commitment to a lifetime of recovery.

Make sure your spiritual program is in good standing. If you're Christian or Jewish, focus on the meaning of the season instead of the gifts and the parties and the commercialization of the religious holidays. Same thing for pagan religions; you're celebrating Yule or the Solstice. It's hard to be fully committed to your spiritual program if you're besotted with substances. It's hard to connect with your Higher Power when you're falling down drunk. Indeed, you are NEVER your best self or in touch with your Higher Self or Cosmic Consciousness if your brain is scrambled.

Another problem with the holidays that can make drowning yourself in your sorrows tempting to do is just that: depression. The holidays can be a time when you're grieving losses again, when you miss someone you held dearly, or when you find yourself taking stock of your life and suddenly realize you really don't have that many friends. Perhaps you're not close to your family, or you're far away from them in a new city where you don't know anyone yet.

You need to be proactive and shake yourself out of the brooding: or at least, make an earnest effort to. AA always schedules alcohol-free parties and pot-lucks. Find a meeting and ask, or just look online. If you're a total introvert and hate parties, read that book you've been meaning to read. Rent some movies. Better yet, invite someone you know over to watch them with you. Pop popcorn; make some holiday cookies together.

Or volunteer. Do something that will help you feel good about yourself. Go buy a toy, wrap it, and drop it off to a charity. Put together a bag of nonperishable food and donate it to your local food bank. It's been argued that there really isn't such a thing as altruism because the giver does get something back in return: a good feeling, a feeling of "I've just made a difference in someone's life in some small way."

When you're feeling good about yourself, when you are committed to your recovery, and when your spiritual program is working for you, it's not so hard to overcome any cravings you may have. The bottom line is, keep these three aspects in order and close to your heart. And bear in mind: alcohol is the biggest liar you know. It never makes us feel better. It only makes us feel worse.

May you have a wondrous, sober holiday season!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thank a Teacher

Ah, the last week of the semester. Then comes the deluge of final essays and exams. Thank goodness I finally entered the 21st century and started using Gradekeeper, so calculating final grades should be a cinch.

I had some stray problems with accidental plagiarism this semester, so perhaps over break I'll teach myself how to use Turn It In. On the other hand, my freshman comp. textbook has a new edition, so I may need to use the break to update assignments, change readings, and adjust to the new book.

People say teachers have it easy: we have Christmas Break, Spring Break, Summer Break... but let me tell you, it's during these breaks that we catch up or keep up, doing the kind of prep work that we don't have time to do during the actual semester. If you intend to stay effective in the classroom, then you continually need to educate yourself in new technology and new theories in your field, along with adjusting teaching strategies to more effectively teach a changing student population. Today's student is drastically different from the student of several decades ago: these kids have grown up computer literate, rely on the Internet, and have short attention spans because they're used to a rapid influx of information and what's in front of them constantly changing. They don't read a lot just for pleasure and find the idea of slowing down, focusing, savoring, and thinking something through an alien concept. You have to find a way to get through to a brain that's used to listening to a conversation, texting in another conversation, and playing a computer game all at the same time.

Some of them are good at juggling it all and in honing in on hearing or seeing what's significant; but others treat all the clutter as equal bits of information and have no idea what's important and what's trivial. It's challenging to teach kids how to sort information. Many are intellectually lazy and just want you to tell them what to think and don't want to go to the trouble of analyzing and interpreting the information you give them. So you have to convince them of the value in being able to do this.

The only way to do this is to somehow apply the value of this to their own teenage lives, which means a good teacher also has to stay current with pop culture and know how to relate to people who are decades younger.

Sometimes these kids initially can't handle an adult to who expects to engage them in discussions and who expects them to think for themselves. Many have never had meaningful discussions with adults (parents, pay attention!) and their worldview is totally dependent on what their peers and the television set have taught them.

Teachers don't have the "cushiest job," and it's certainly not true that those who can, do; and those who can't, teach. Teachers walk the walk, all right, and put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Sometimes we get discouraged, thinking we have no impact at all; but the truth is, we do change some lives for the better.

If you happen to read this today, thank a teacher.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ruminations on Egypt

I couldn't tell you why, but I've always been interested in Ancient Egypt. And let me tell you, there are a lot of wacky theories out there about that civilization. For one thing, it's so old (dating back at least to 3000-5000 BCE, and maybe even further than that), and there were so many dynasties and periods that the civilization went through numerous transformations. So most people choose favorite periods, such as the Middle Kingdom when the pyramids of Giza went up, or the very end when Cleopatra and the Ptolemies were reigning. Or, they'll be fascinated by particular individuals, like Tut or Rameses the Great or Hatshepsut or the beautifully mysterious Nefertiti. Or, perhaps, it's the various gods and goddesses that will appeal, like Isis or Osiris, Thoth, Bastet, Ma'at, or Ra.

There's a lot to know, and I don't pretend to be anything close to an expert, but the most interesting hypothesis I've read lately involves the Sphinx. Now, it's always been assumed that the Sphinx was constructed about the same time as the pyramids of Giza. (The silliest theory about the pyramids is that they were built by ancient aliens.) But there's a problem with that dating. The problem is that there is clear evidence of water erosion on the Sphinx, the kind that comes after decades of steady rainfall. And, when the pyramids went up, that area was (and still is) a desert.

So, the Sphinx has to be considerably older--and I've seen it surmised that it could be as old as 10,000BCE, that the water damage occurred after the last Ice Age was ending. This brings us to theories about the fabled Great Flood or whatever cataclysm it was that appears in Gilgamesh and the Bible (Noah) and that, possibly, also sank Atlantis (stories about which Plato gathered from his grandfather, who'd visited Egypt, where he was told by priests of the mystery schools that they held ancient wisdom handed down from the Atlanteans). And the speculation goes on.

I love all this stuff, and, lately since I've become a student of Rosicrucianism, I've turned my attention to the "heretic king," Akhenaten (who was married to Nefertiti). The Rosicrucians trace their earliest wisdom back to this pharoah, who was the world's first monotheist. He simply tossed out all the traditional Egyptian gods and worshiped only one: the Aten, or the Sun God. Why, no one can say--and there are some speculations about this too, such as he was rejected by his family early on because he was deformed, so did not take part in the usual religious celebrations growing up (so he grew up thinking the pantheon of gods and goddesses was all stuff and nonsense)--or, perhaps, he was just more "concrete minded" and could only believe in a god that he could see and was a part of nature and the world's natural laws. Art in Egypt changed under his reign and at first was highly stylized, but later on became much more realistic compared to most Egyptian art. For instance, there's a painting of Nefertiti in later life, standing stooped, with a belly and sagging breasts. Akhenaten himself was depicted as an odd-looking fellow with characteristics reminiscent of Marfan's Syndrome. And much of the art breaks with tradition in showing the pharoah at home with his wife and children in domestic scenes--nothing at all like the portrayals of, say, Rameses the Great, who was always depicted slaying enemies.

But after Akhenaton died, his son (King Tut, the boy king)--probably influenced by the old high priests and former powers-that-were--restored the capitol city to Thebes and returned the land to the old polytheistic religion.

Thus, I was pleased when visiting the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum today (in San Jose) that an entire room was devoted to Akhenaton. Here he is:


That's the Aten sun disk behind him, with its rays beaming down. Akhenaton composed a Great Hymn to the Aten, which I'll close with exerpts from (and with a sly suggestion to compare it to Psalm 104 of the Bible).

How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
They are hidden from the face (of man).
O sole god, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,
Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,
And what is on high, flying with its wings.

The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,
Thou settest every man in his place,
Thou suppliest their necessities:
Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned.
Their tongues are separate in speech,
And their natures as well;
Their skins are distinguished,
As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.
Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,
Thou bringest forth as thou desirest
To maintain the people (of Egypt)
According as thou madest them for thyself,
The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,
The lord of every land, rising for them,
The Aton of the day, great of majesty.

The whole hymn, along with other information, can be found here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today's Wisdom


Nothing like snark on a Thursday morning!

But seriously, the more I learn about human nature, the more I realize that people treat us only in the way we allow them to. If someone mistreats you or uses you, you must demand respect. If they won't give it, you must walk away.

Easier said than done, sometimes, I know, especially if we're still clinging to the hope that the other person will grow up or change. Let that go. If they ever do, they may one day return to you wanting to make amends.

But don't count on it.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." --Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No Stop Button

See this picture? It illustrates beautifully what an alcoholic is.

We're not gutter bums, we're not having a rollicking good time, we're not irresponsible on purpose. We just weren't born with a "stop" button.

The average (normie) drinker has one, two, maybe even three drinks, and their inner "stop button" gets triggered at laughing a lot or I love everybody. Sometimes--but it's a rare occasion--they may even get to drunk dialing or exotic dancing, but it's not a common thing for them.

Because we alcoholics don't have a stop button, we keep going until we're either forced to stop or we pass out. If we don't pass out soon enough, you may very well find us in the hospital with a crazy BAC. We couldn't begin to tell you what possessed us to get that drunk. There is no reason.

We just aren't wired to stop. Who knows if it's a brain chemistry thing (and maybe we altered our own brain chemistry by drinking too much over time)? Who knows if we're born this way and it's a genetic problem (alcoholism runs in families)? Does it even matter? Whatever the cause, we just can't stop ourselves.

Thus we say: one drink is too many, a thousand never enough.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Casting Crowns: "Does Anybody Hear Her?"



A good message for this day after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, people shoot each other and pepper spray each other on Black Friday, fighting over discounts on gifts for people for Christmas. We've lost our way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Key to Happiness

One problem with alcoholics (and addicts) is that we have a warped sense of what happiness really is. It's kind of like Calvin's here:


I think it's because we get ourselves accustomed to feeling "happy" only when we're using. We like the rush; the loss of inhibitions, which gives us a feeling of power; we're excited; intense; on top of the world.

Of course, as we take in more of our substance, we lose that fleeting happiness because we keep craving more and more and more, and then we find ourselves slurring and staggering and unable to keep a thought in our heads.

When we get sober, we fear we'll never feel that kind of euphoric happiness ever again.

It's a big step when we realize that euphoria isn't what happiness is at all.

Happiness is being content. It's feeling strong within yourself even when the chips are down. It's the comfort of knowing you're doing the best you can, focusing on the people and things that are important to you. You occasionally feel euphoria when you get those "perfect moments," say, when looking at the sunset with a loved one, but you know those moments are fleeting, so you relish them. You don't live for them. Happiness is something that comes from inside you, not from without. Happiness is mostly a sense of being okay with, and loving, yourself, just the way you are with all the imperfections and flaws and talents that make you uniquely you.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Do the Thing You Are Afraid to Do

For me, fear was the thing that kept me trapped in my comfort zone. Fear of change, fear of rejection, fear of consequences, fear of being misunderstood. My fears kept me small. Often, my fears (particularly of consequences) drove me to lie. I often felt I had something to give the world, but I just couldn't muster the courage to burst out of my comfort zone.

Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.

And when you do it anyway, that's where the miracles are. Things you never imagined will happen.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
--Marianne Williamson

Step out of your comfort zone. Do the thing you are afraid to do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Purisima Creek Redwoods



From "Song of the Redwood Tree" by Walt Whitman:

2
Along the northern coast,
Just back from the rock-bound shore, and the caves,
In the saline air from the sea, in the Mendocino country,
With the surge for bass and accompaniment low and hoarse,
With crackling blows of axes, sounding musically, driven by strong arms,
Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes—there in the Redwood forest dense,
I heard the mighty tree its death-chant chanting.

The choppers heard not—the camp shanties echoed not;
The quick-ear’d teamsters, and chain and jack-screw men, heard not,
As the wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years, to join the refrain;
But in my soul I plainly heard.

Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top, rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs—out of its foot-thick bark,
That chant of the seasons and time—chant, not of the past only, but the future.

The Purisima Creek Redwoods are presently young trees, as all old-growth redwoods were logged some time ago. Many of the developed trails were once logging roads. The preserve was established with a gift of $2 million from the Save-the-Redwoods League.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wonderful Weekend


Had a special friend fly in to spend the long weekend and just dropped her off at the airport. Now I have to shift gears from "fun and relaxation" mode back into "teach tomorrow and collect two new batches of papers" mode. Erk. Then my in-laws are coming down for Thanksgiving dinner and I need to start thinking about planning a menu.

On Thursday, Di landed in San Jose right during rush hour traffic, so she got to experience the famous Bay Area gridlock (on the way to the airport today, it should have been smooth sailing, but oh no. A big rig decided to jackknife on the 101 and backed things up for several miles. I was glad we'd left early.)

Thursday we had dinner in San Carlos at Piacere and then hung out in her hotel room for a little while chatting. But then I came home and went to bed, because Friday was to be the big day!

And, so, naturally, it rained. Not a heavy rain, so we took the opportunity to go to see the redwood forest at Purisima Creek. The canopy kept us mostly dry, although it was somewhat muddy going. Di saw her first redwood tree and snapped dozens of photos--can't wait to see them, will no doubt post some of them. Along the way we saw no banana slugs, and I'm not quite sure she didn't think I was just pulling her leg about them until ha! There was one on the path. Being the silly Tigger that I am, naturally I decided to pick it up and pretend to give it a smooch. Lord. It took several hand washings to get all that sticky slime off my hand. Note to self: Leave the banana slugs alone, Joyce.

Then we went to the pier at Pigeon Point and watched the gulls and pelicans, stopped for a capuccino, and then drove to Sam's Chowder House to try the famous Lobster Roll. I think I've decided I prefer crab to lobster. It's a pity crabbing season doesn't start until this Tuesday, because I'd talked up the fresh crab at this place and I think, though Di's crab louie salad was good, it wasn't really the quintessential experience with Dungeness crab caught just a few hours before. Oh, well. Next time, maybe.

Then came the highlight: we checked into the Cypress Inn where I'd booked a room with a balcony that looked right onto the ocean. Figures it would still have to be gray and drizzly, but we left the balcony door cracked open overnight and had the fireplace going to keep the room warm. So we were treated to the sounds of waves pounding against the shoreline all night. In the morning, we got up and took a walk along the beach, collecting bits of shells and driftwood. Here is video of the sea.



We loaded up, drove back to San Carlos, had a snack in Redwood City at City Pub, and then just took the afternoon to relax. Later on that evening, Chelle surprised us with a home-cooked surf and turf meal: filet mignon, shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi, steamed veggies, and cheesecake for dessert. Then we caught a bit of the Stanford-Oregon game, the result of which I shall not discuss, except to say that the Stanford QB, my namesake Andrew Luck, did not have a good game.

All in all, a nice, relaxing weekend full of good food and communing with nature, which is always good for the soul.

Here we are blissing out in Half Moon Bay.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Veterans Day


One of my favorite poems by Randall Jarrell:

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.


I thank all Veterans for their service. Some gave all.

Scandal at Penn State--Who Will Help Those Children?

Everyone has an opinion about Joe Paterno's firing. Some fully agree that it's appropriate. Others think it's ridiculous, the University after-the-fact making heads roll just to save its reputation. It's no small matter when you fire a legendary football coach, held up for decades as THE example of a no dirty playing, morality-driven football program. Paterno "made a bad decision," goes the rationale. We all make bad decisions. Give the man a break.

It's no small matter when you fire a University President, either, and the Paterno supporters don't seem to be refuting that decision. That's odd to me, because the President knew less than Joe Paterno did, if you read the full indictment.

We all make bad decisions. I can't count how many bad decisions I have made in my life, many of them occurring when I was a full-blown using alcoholic.

But I can say with 100% certainty that, even when I was a drunk asshole, had I ever witnessed somebody raping a child in a shower, even though I may be female and not the greatest physical speciman, I would have done everything within my power to insert my body between the rapist and the child. I would've utilized every evil girl tactic known to man: spitting, biting, hair pulling, nard kicking. My own ass might've gotten beaten up in the process, but I wouldn't have cared. I would've done my best to break it up, and then I would've informed the cops the second I had the chance.

This isn't what happened. A 28 year-old graduate student witnessed the rape and, apparently frozen in shock to see Jerry Sandusky, the retired defensive coordinator, raping a child, went home and told his daddy about it. (What the heck is wrong with this picture? "Dad, I saw coach raping a child. What should I do?" Think about that. What does this tell you about the sheer pressure within Penn State football to protect its own program?)

The grad student (who is now a coach, by the way. Was he rewarded with that job for his silence? Just wondering.) drove the next day over to Paterno's home to tell him what he'd witnessed. According to the indictment, this man told Paterno exactly what he'd seen. Paterno denies this and says the grad student was upset and vague, just that "something inappropriate" had happened in the shower with Sandusky and a boy. The next day (now three days have passed and the cops have still not been called, and nobody has apparently even asked who the boy is or where he is or whether he's okay), Paterno goes to the Athletic Director and tells him. By the time, weeks later, the AD and VP for Business and Finance get the story to the University President, the story has been morphed into "Sandusky was horsing around with a kid in the showers."

Excuse me? Stop right there. In 1998, Sandusky had been caught with a kid in the showers. The kid's mom reported it to the police, and in any police investigation, they are going to interview people close to Sandusky. In short, Joe Paterno at the very least KNEW this crap had happened before. Anybody who thinks it's normal behavior for a grown man to be showering with a young boy needs to have his head examined. Then, for no apparent reason in 1999, Sandusy, who had been next in line to replace Joe Paterno as head coach, is informed by Paterno that he will not be head coach and that it's time for him to retire. Don't be stupid--why on earth do you think that happened? Because Penn State did not want to have as its head coach an odd duck who had been caught taking showers with little boys. Duh.

No legal action was taken against Sandusky at the time because there is no law that says an adult may not shower with a child, even if the kid isn't his. The cops tried to catch the man, listening in on a phone conversation Sandusky had with the child's mother, a conversation in which she tried to pry more information or some kind of admission out of him, but he didn't spill. He'd only admit he was sorry and wouldn't shower with kids again.

So, Coach Paterno knew about this, no doubt the AD did as well, and if you've ever been active in any team sport, you know perfectly well that gossip was flying. Still, as these things do when there is no proof of a crime, it apparently all blew over. Penn State probably thought it was safe by making the man retire.

But, foolishly, the university allowed Sandusky to continue bringing boys from his charity, The Second Mile, onto campus. He'd groom them, work out with them, then insist they shower with them (again, read the indictment. The man is a classic, textbook pedophile), and who knows how many kids he had sex with before 2002. Some janitors witnessed him raping a child. But they were too afraid to report it. (Again, what does this tell you about a football program that is so powerful that peole are afraid to speak up about something as horrid as a child rape?)

Despite there being an EYE WITNESS to the rape, and despite Joe Paterno knowing full well Sandusky had been known to shower with little boys so there was no reason to doubt the grad student in what he had seen, Joe Paterno did not call the police. The AD did not call the police. No, they just slapped Sandusky on the wrist, took his locker room keys and said, "Don't bring little boys into our showers anymore."

What the heck is wrong with this picture? They may as well have said, "We don't care that you're raping kids, but don't do it on our campus."

Damn right Paterno should have been fired. The man deliberately chose to ignore evidence that was strongly damning and yet uttered not a word to the police. Had it been YOUR child, would you accept that?

Let's talk about what's at stake here. The good reputation of a college football program versus the sexual abuse of young boys (to date the count is 20, since more boys have come forward), and bear in mind that some of these could have been prevented had the University only done the right thing back in 2002.

Damn right Penn State University is going to fire anybody who should have known to speak up: the AD, the VP, the President, and Paterno. All of them were in a position of responsibility, and all of them chose to look the other way and took as little action as possible in order to just make the Sanduksy problem go away. Hide it. It's damaging information. Sweep it under the rug.

If this is okay behavior with you, then let me tell you what happens to children who are molested. It can destroy a life. The people who are supposed to be protecting you violate your person and your body (heck, Sandusky took some of these kids to church on Sundays. How is a child to mentally deal with the hypocrisy of that?) You wonder what it is about you that made this person do this to you. There are years of guilt and thinking back and wondering why you didn't fight back harder, or why you submitted, or why you didn't tell your mother or why you didn't call the police yourself. You grow up knowing you're supposed to be able to trust people, but how can you after such a thing? No one would believe you if you did tell on Sandusky: look how he is admired and held up as the great Penn State coach who cares so much about kids and their well-being? You know that's a lie. How can everybody be so fooled? You also get a jacked vision of what sexuality is all about. Sexual arousal is not to be trusted. You can't trust your own body. Whenever someone hugs you, your body tenses up and you wonder what's really on their mind.

Later on, you turn to drugs or alcohol or some other addiction to ease your pain and your buried rage and your grief over the theft of your childhood.

If you're lucky, you somehow climb out of the dark hell you are in, at least enough to function well, give up your addictions, reprocess everything with the help of several therapists over the years and maybe some help from your sponsor if you're in a Step 12 program. You have to find it in you to somehow forgive--not just your abuser, but yourself. Or at least come to peace with it all somehow. Some never do.

Some never can.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Fall of a Lion

I got my master's degree in English from Penn State in 1987. Joe Paterno was already a legend when I got there in 1984. In 1986, the Nittany Lions won the National Championships against Florida, and I can remember a gang of us at a table at the Rathskeller, a local dive, sitting in front of the television watching the games and drinking Rolling Rock.

As a graduate student in English, I liked Joe Paterno. For one thing, he himself had a degree in English literature, and he made his players study. When they weren't doing well in English classes, he made them sign up for English 5, a semester of tutoring in our Writing Center, in which they got an extra hour of help every week. I worked with a number of football players. They all looked up to Coach in awe. I liked Joe Paterno's belief in the value of an education.

And I liked JoePa because he supported women's sports. He'd show up to the women's basketball games on occasion, cheering on the Lady Lions (even though Rene Portland was the coach then--I've blogged about her skanky ass before here.)

But now Joe Paterno, college football's winningest coach, who still looks about the same as he did in 1987 (although perhaps a bit more frail and rickety), is caught up in allegations of involvement in a sex-abuse scandal. We are talking about Joe Paterno and the University turning a blind eye to the actions of a pedophile. More than that, the University apparently gave this man access, even after his retirement, to the locker room and showers where he committed his crimes. In short, they made things easier for him.

It's a nasty story, and you can read all the details online because the story is spreading like wildfire, but here is one thorough account. Here's the gist: in 2002, a graduate student (who is now a coach) witnessed the pedophile in question assaulting a boy in the locker room. He drove to Paterno's home to tell him what he saw. (Why didn't this man intervene in the assault? No one knows.) Paterno is claiming the grad student wasn't very specific about what he saw, but Paterno heard enough to take the allegation to his superiors.

And then the University proceeded to sweep the problem under the rug. After all, their former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, who had once upon a time been next in line to succeed JoePa as head coach, couldn't possibly be a pedophile. Why, he's a married man. He has kids. Heck, he takes in foster kids. Heck, he works with Second Mile, a charity that helps disadvantaged kids. He's a saint!

Oh, but Jerry Sandusky is a pedophile. And apparently a smart one, because he sure had devised some clever ways to give himself access to a lot of children. There have been at least 8-9 kids he's assaulted over a 15-year period, and I'm betting this is just the tip of the ice berg. (Wait until the foster kids start talking.)

So, what should Joe Paterno have done, back in 2002? Well, upon hearing the account of the eye witness to the assault, he should've called the cops. Duh. (So should have the grad student.) But he did do what he was legally called upon to do--he told his superiors. No crime committed. So he's not being charged with participating in any cover-up.

But, damn. I'm thinking if I were told such a thing, and I'd reported it, I'd still do some follow-up to find out the result. "Did you tell the police? Was there an investigation? Will there be one? Does anyone know what happened to the child?"

It's not like it was a situation of someone helping himself to a few free jerseys in the locker room. We are talking about someone sexually assaulting a child. It's not something you forget or take lightly.

The other question that hangs so obviously there, like a big red sheet flapping on a clothesline, is this: why, after Sandusky retired, was he allowed access to the Penn State sports complex? What was that all about? My Chelle, who has worked in athletics at universities such as Long Beach, Santa Clara, Eastern Washington, and Stanford, says that's not typical. Once you retire, you're out of there. There is no reason to be hanging around in the locker rooms.

So, the whole thing has a fishy smell.

But one thing's for sure: turning a blind eye to child sexual abuse is absolutely unacceptable. Paterno will end up either resigning or being fired. His reputation--and Penn State football--has now been besmirched.

How the mighty fall.

(A summary of the grand jury report is here. It will make you sick to your stomach.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wish Us Luck!!

Chelle and I put our heads together this morning and decided on this Pick 6 ticket for today. Fingers crossed.

Race #6 11/05/2011
Churchill Downs
$2 Pick-6
# 8
WT # 5,8,9
WT # 2,7
WT # 5,10
WT # 1
WT # 2,3,10
$72.00

UPDATE: COURT VISION??? Nobody saw that one coming. Oh well, easy come, easy go. Better luck next year.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Picks for Saturday's Breeders Cup Races 2011

What a crazy day for longshots at Breeders Cup Friday! I'm tired and feeling lazy, so I'm just going to post my four (or five) top picks for each race. If you're looking for possible singles, I'd say Goldikova and Regally Ready seem the most likely, although Chelle swears Hansen is too. (Mmm-Bop!) Good luck tomorrow.

Marathon: AU Miner, Meeznah, Brigantin, and Birdrun

Juvenile Turf: State of Play, Caspar Netscher, Farraaj, Animal Spirits

Sprint: Big Drama, Euroears, Jackson Bend, Amazombie

Turf Sprint: Regally Ready, Havelock, Camp Victory, Caracortado

Dirt Mile: Wilburn, Caleb's Posse, Trappe Shot (and hope The Factor can hang on if he gets loose on the lead)

Turf 1.5: seriously, just bet the Euros: 1,2,6,7,9

Juvenile: Hansen, Crusade, Union Rags, Creative Cause

Turf Mile: GO GOLDIKOVA!! (but you can also throw in Gio Ponti, Jeranimo, Turallure)

Classic: GO HAVRE DE GRACE!! (but you can also throw in Flat Out, Game on Dude, Stay Thirsty, and Uncle Mo)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Picks for Friday's Breeders Cup Races 2011




Race 5: Juvenile Sprint: Baffert is lethal in a sprint, so you have to pick Secret Circle despite the short odds. So I'll toss in a longshot upset: Holdin Bullets. Don't forget Vexor. Now, Chelle likes Blacky the Bull, and I want to like Blacky the Bull because I know Jeff Bonde is high on this horse and he put P Val aboard, a very good speed jockey. But can he really beat Baffert's entry?

Race 6: Juvenile Fillies Turf: well, Elusive Kate is the one to beat. But here's the thing. She's said to have a knee problem, and she's said to not be taking to the surface at Churchill Downs. At short odds, this makes her a bet against. Unfortunately, the rest seems a crapshoot on paper. Dayatthespa is a nice longshot, along with Pure Gossip, Somali Lemonade, and you better not leave out Aidan O'Brien's Up. In other words, you kind of have to go deep in this leg.

Race 7: Filly & Mare Sprint: Everybody likes Turbulent Descent because of that huge speed figure she posted last time. But don't overlook Great Hot; Chantal Sutherland's up and she would love to be the first female jockey to ever win a Breeders Cup event. My other two picks are Tanda and Golden Mystery.

Race 8: Juvenile Fillies: Well, Candrea is Baffert's entry and the word is she just had a lousy work over the track; clockers said she didn't look good. But maybe she was just being a fussy girl that day. Still, look also to the undefeated Weemissfrankie. I also like My Miss Aurelia. Put in Grace Hall as well.

Race 9: Filly & Mare Turf: This is a tough race. Stacelita, the French girl, looks great on paper, posting the best speed figures in the field. Nahrain is undefeated. Aruna and Announce both look good. And, since the turf may be somewhat soft tomorrow, don't leave out Misty for Me, the Irish girl who loves her turf squishy. I don't think Shared Account will win this one again this year (though looking ahead to Saturday, I do think Goldikova can take it for a fourth year in a row).

Race 10: The Ladies Classic: We're back to Bob Baffert again and his entry Plum Pretty. I also like It's Tricky, Royal Delta, and Ultra Blend.

Breeders Cup Pre-Handicapping: Ultra Blend

Chelle has bronchitis and an ear infection, so naturally she has given me the cold that brought all this on to begin with. I don't feel too horrible, but these past few days have been a challenge what with sinus headaches and plugged up ears and the attendant equilibrium problems. Standing in front of class and feeling dizzy isn't exactly fun! I did actually miss Tuesday because I didn't think it was wise to drive, and my voice was doing the cracking congested thing anyway.

In any case, once I get home today (I'm in my office right now), I intend to start handicapping tomorrow's Breeders Cup races. Chelle has had little to do all week but study lifetime performances and watch TVG and read workout reports, so she's got some insights into which horses may be "bet againsts."

I have a sentimental favorite this year: and that's Ultra Blend in the Ladies Classic. She's Art Sherman's, and his son Steve used to be our trainer at Golden Gate Fields, where Ultra Blend spent some time. Needless to say, Chelle and I used to visit her sometimes on the backside so we know the horse. The word I have for her is "heart." She always tries. She may not win (though I'll bet her to), but I feel fairly sure she'll at least get up for a piece. Here's a photo of the pretty girl:



More to come....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do It Anyway



People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

Attributed to Mother Teresa


Even if you don't believe in a "God" per se, these are still words to live by.

Hat tip to MrSponsorPants.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween


Chelle has her annual bout of bronchitis, so yesterday we stayed in to carve a pumpkin (something we've never done in seven years together). I found a horse template online, cut off the top of the pumpkin, scooped and scraped out the guts, and then Chelle went to work. Above is the result.

Meanwhile, yesterday my brother-in-law Jimmy went surfing at Ocean Beach near where he lives in the city. He noticed a helicopter hovering over the water, and, a half hour or so later when he emerged from the ocean, he was stunned to see a thousand people or so Occupying Ocean Beach. And below is what that was all about.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Get Through Step Four


Lots of people go out when they do Step Four. It brings them so much grief to dredge up past hurts, injuries done to them and injuries they've done to others--a detailed Step Four can get overwhelming. Resist the urge to judge yourself harshly. We've all done stupid and hurtful things. We've all been someone's victim. Instead of beating yourself up about it, ask yourself, "What can I learn from that experience?" This is how you will be able to move past it.

See yourself as a seeker of wisdom.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Your Daily Chuckle


All we are saying is ... give us a government that represents the PEOPLE once again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

INFPs and Addiction

When I was in college, I took a course in Jungian Thought (heady stuff, especially when you factor in bong hits while pondering the idea that we're all carbon, so at the molecular level, how can you say you're "you" and I'm "me"--how do we know we're not just two parts of a single larger entity comprised of all of us?) and things like that. Our professor, Charles Haynes, had us take the Myers-Briggs, and I turned out to be an INFP. Now, you know these personality tests: we do tend to change as we mature, so every time we take them, we get a different result. Well, over the years, I've taken the Myers-Briggs two other times, and guess what? I'm really consistent in being an INFP.

The INFP is a comparatively rare type, which fits in quite nicely with my being, in general, an odd duck. We are also uniquely prone to addiction problems, due to our sensitivity and discomfort with pain.

But I was thinking about intuition and feelings this morning--and how much I am driven by both, rather than by sheer logic or rationality. Someone who meets me and doesn't know me well is likely to get the impression that I'm a bright, logical person who only reaches conclusions after considering the evidence. And I can do that; I certainly teach that. When I'm making decisions, I have tried to operate that way.

Yet at a very basic level, I don't. Instead, I start with my feelings (and if it's a person, it'll be how I feel when I'm around them or what I sense about them). Classic empath, in other words. If something feels good or right or honest or moral or like it's the truth, that is my starting place and then if I have to defend a course of action, I will marshal the evidence to support it. Now this is academically dishonest, and I once even told Professor Haynes that, expecting to be chided, but he just laughed. "I do that too," was all he said.

Many of you have seen me moan and groan on Facebook about grading papers. It's precisely because I find it so draining to actually assign a grade. I don't mind reading them; it's the GRADING that gets to me. I have to be fair, so I have to set aside all my subjective stuff (feelings, intuitions, hopes for a student, irritation with mental laziness, etc) and land on a grade that is fair and objective. Consequently I have had to fail papers when I totally agreed with what the student was saying; it was just a weak argument fraught with logical and grammatical errors. Or I've given A's to students when they've written papers which with I deeply disagree; but if it was a pretty sound argument and the essay was clean, there you go.

It's this clash between my values and ideals and the simple reality of things that is bound to disturb me. Yet I deal with that clash when it involves things that don't threaten my own value system. The way I am able to respect people with vastly different views than mine (say, when it comes to politics) is because, most of the time, I intuit that we desire the same good ends. What we disagree about are the means. The means are debatable.

If I realize we don't share the same end (say, someone hates gay people because they think we're evil); and then my intuition is borne out by some gentle probing that shows me their mind is snapped shut and their heart is a block of stone--goodbye. I have no more time for you.) You could say my own mind and heart are just as snapped shut. But that's MY value system. I'm gay; I know I'm not evil. One thing you cannot do is dissuade me from my deep conviction that no one is innately evil. That feels totally wrong to me. I'm going to think you've just gone awfully off-track, and I prefer to not be blasted by your hatred. We all know where hatred has tended to take the human family.

So why did I used to have an alcohol addiction?

I do NOT deal well with the clash I've been describing when my value system is threatened by my own behavior or words. THAT is when I would drink. Something inside me would niggle and gnaw at me, and I thought drinking would make the feeling go away. What I didn't see was that consuming alcohol didn't make me feel better; it was more likely to make me act out even more in direct contradiction with my own value system. I would lie to others; I'd lie to myself; I'd erupt in anger; I would disregard other people's feelings and do things I knew were hurtful. Truth got muddled and I got lost in a world of hurt.

For me, recovery has been a process of getting back in touch with my own value system and aligning my words and actions with it. My alcoholism put the brakes on that. I'm relearning how to trust my own feelings and intuition--what I didn't see before is that they have everything to do with my value system. I spent far too much time tamping those down when ironically, they are who I am, what I am, my little spot in the cosmic unfolding.

"The body's carbon is simply carbon. Hence 'at bottom' the psyche is simply 'world.'"
--Carl Jung

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Daring to Be Greater


What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God. All we need do is conquer those fears which keep us small.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Insanity Is ....


Who knows if Einstein was actually the originator of this quotation, but it's attributed to him all over the Internet. It's certainly a common saying in AA (usually in the context of how many of us alcoholics tried over and over to quit or moderate our drinking on our own and failed time after time). But really, it's genius. And it applies to everything.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

AA Is Not a Magic Pill

I met with my sponsor yesterday, who wanted to know how my program was coming. Of course I knew what program she meant, but I was being silly (and feeling guilty, because I haven't been to any meetings lately), so I answered, "What program?"

Her eyes narrowed and she gave me that 'I know you're not serious' look she is so good at delivering.

"Oh. AA," I said.

"Been to any meetings?"

Now I knew damn well she knew I hadn't been to any meetings lately, because she'd asked my partner that recently, and Chelle told her I hadn't. Bless her, Chelle came home and then warned me I was going to get my ass chewed.

I was just honest. "Eh, not getting much from meetings lately. Same old stuff... and I really have no interest in drinking."

She looked at me skeptically.

"Well... I guess I've been throwing my extra time lately into pursuing my spiritual program."

She relaxed and looked curious. "Which is?"

I felt silly because I know my answer is kind of "out there," but you don't lie to your sponsor. That's like a triple-dog lie. You just don't go there. Besides, she knows me so well she knows even when I'm lying to myself. So I just said it.

"I've become a Rosicrucian student. So, I've been doing a lot of reading. Studying some physics. Meditating a lot. I really seem to have lost all interest in drinking."

She was satisfied. "Alcohol wasn't actually the problem."

And of course it wasn't. My alcoholism had been a spiritual problem, the big hole that was left in my psyche when I set aside my spirituality. I was floundering rudderless, and alcohol had merely been a way to relieve me from the anxiety of that.

She reminded me to keep a foot in the door, to go to meetings anyway, and I will. I never intended to just abandon them. For now I am just working on increasing my conscious contact with God--whoever or whatever that is.

AA is not some magic pill that if you work the steps and attend meetings regularly, you will find yourself magically cured. It is relearning how to live in a world fraught with uncertainties and injustices and suffering. If you go to enough meetings and really listen with an open mind, you start to get that. Then there are others who seem to be at every meeting and still never seem to really "get" things. But that's okay. They derive great strength from the community itself, and they stay sober. That's their process. There is no single right way; at least, that's how I see it.

Right now I'm throwing my energy into Step 11. It is a mystical experience for me, so it is kind of solitary work.

I retain community at In the Rooms but I'll return to the real rooms in time. With, I hope, greater wisdom. In the meantime, I continue to share my experiences and insights here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do Nothing for Two Minutes


Click here.

Writers Support the Occupy Movement


I proudly add my name to this list in support of this movement and consider myself in most excellent company (actually, that part is rather humbling if you check out the signers and the extraordinary books they've written).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Collisions

In quantum mechanics, there is the theory of entanglement in which two apparently unrelated photons, even separated by a great distance, each react as if they each somehow knew what the other was doing.

In Jungian Thought, there is the concept of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, in which two apparently unrelated things happen together, thus creating something meaningful (free of cause-effect).

So. Why do certain people come into our lives?

I don't mean everyday acquaintances or bump-into-a-stranger chance encounters: these folks are more like the extras in a movie, just background in the totality of your life (as you are in theirs). I mean the people who wind up being an influence, who make a difference of some kind, who become a part of your story. I don't think meeting these people is random, though it looks random. When you first encounter someone who is going to change your life in some way, you seldom know at first meeting that this is what will happen. Heck, I met my spouse on www.planetout.com. When I read her first email to me, I had no idea that one day I would be marrying this woman.

I think we are all here to carry out a purpose, and certain people cross our paths either because we agreed to do so before we incarnated here or because the universe sees fit to have us cross paths because each of us has something to teach the other. Ever notice how people come to you at just the right time? It's not random--the universe collides us together because it sees you are both in a unique position, perfectly timed, to do something for the other. The significant people in our lives are here to meet either physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. Each of you is drawn to the other. You will either meet each other's needs or you will be challenged to examine them in some way. The outcome, whether for good or for bad, is a lesson learned or a valuable experience of some kind.

If you don't learn it, someone else will enter your life and the lesson will be repeated.

Our significant others are here--whether they hurt us or fill us with joy; whether they stay or whether they go--to open your mind, heart, or perspective to your current situation and guide you closer to the life you're supposed to lead, so you can fulfill the purpose for which you are here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why This Sign Is Beyond Stupid


There are plenty of people who voted for Obama in 2008 (I would be among them) who aren't totally pleased with his performance as President. They voted for change, reforms in government, an end to the war in Iraq, or because they weren't happy with George W. Bush's running up the deficit. There are tons of reasons Obama held appeal. But here's my real point: NOBODY, ABSOLUTELY NOBODY, VOTED FOR OBAMA BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT PEOPLE WOULD THINK THEY WERE RACIST IF THEY DIDN'T.

Nope. In fact, this very idea would occur only to a racist. Why? Because they're forever thinking they're being picked on for being racists. Poor things. And they can't imagine anybody would have actually voted for Obama because they saw something they liked about him. So, it had to be his race. It just had to be. Right?

Aside from this, guess what else? Your vote is private. You fill in the grid or punch your chad and turn in your ballot and nobody knows how you voted unless you blab it to the world. So why would anyone vote a certain way because they're afraid of being called a name for the vote they cast?

Would. Not. Happen.

Hence, this sign is not just racist in its conception, it's just stupid.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Twelve Steps According to Hapless Tigger


The following is MY interpretation of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I do not see them as dogma. They are not the "word of God" as handed down from on high. They are simply TOOLS. I find them useful as a way to relearn how to cope more effectively with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (ie, life). As tools, they are useful as a means to bringing me peace of mind--it's the peace of mind that keeps me sober. (Some may be offended that I've kind of "updated" the language of the Steps--but I needed to, to make them work for me. The current language is, shall we just say, intellectually unpalatable to me personally.) Your own mileage may vary.

1. I have finally had to accept--as in, fully grok it--that I'm just one of those people who can't drink. All attempts to successfully moderate my drinking have failed over the long term. So, I finally accept that I have had to chuck it. Put the stuff down; leave it alone; it never serves me well, and it winds up making all my problems worse. Me and my big ego have no power over this stuff. My own self-will and wishes aren't enough.

2. If I'm not big enough to control what alcohol does to me, maybe something else out there--anything that is NOT me (because I have failed at it numerous times)--can help me get a handle on this.

3. I am willing to suspend my skepticism and outright disbelief long enough to have hope that there is something greater than me and my own will operating in the Universe. I sure as heck don't understand it, and physicists sure are positing some interesting things nowadays, but I'm pretty sure my life wasn't meant to be spent being hungover half the time and staring at the bottom of a shot glass the rest of the time. There's got to be more than this. There is some reason we are here.

4. I reexamined my life--my words, my actions, my decisions--with a willingness to admit to fault with an eye towards not repeating my same mistakes. This isn't an exercise in beating myself up, though: I was not always at fault, and more often was only partially at fault, and this exercise opened my mind and heart up to the idea that we are all imperfectly yet wonderfully human. There is much to learn about myself, about human nature, and better ways to cope with this world if I do an honest appraisal of what has happened to me in the past. Plus, when I do this, I can finally set things down and let them go. And I gain the wisdom of learning from my experiences rather than just obsessing about them all the time to no end.

5. I had a frank discussion with my sponsor about my 4th step work and what I've found out. She's a good coach: she could see the places where I was being too hard on myself or, alternately, too easy on myself, and she could see the places where I needed to turn over a few more rocks and dig a little deeper. We were both able to clearly see where my own values did not align with my words and actions, and I finally understood that most of what drives me crazy and has driven me to drink in the past is when I'm living hypocritically or am scared to death or resentful about something.

6. Silly me! Well, I have faith that I can start living in a sane, rational manner, and if I'm stuck, then I have faith that something will help me work things out in a productive way as opposed to a destructive way.

7. When I'm stuck, I ask for help.

8. If I'm going to start over with a clean slate, then I need to set things right with those I have harmed. This makes us all feel a lot better.

9. I do so, wherever possible (unless my entry into their lives would be more destructive or disruptive or do more harm than good).

10. I continue 4th Step work for the remainder of my days, because it's just a gosh darn good way to check in with myself and make sure I'm not harboring fears or resentments or acting in ways that don't align with my values. I keep my side of the street clean. My life rocks!

11. I continue searching for meaning in my life, which for me personally, has a lot to do with serving others (which is why I teach for a living. It brings me great satisfaction).

12. I've been sober for over two years now, and I feel much, much better than I did when I was using. When people ask me for help, I give it, and I freely share my own experiences in the hopes it may help others. I blog like a maniac. This is 12th Step work to me.

Sacrilege to some; freedom for others.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Overview of Kepler Mission


Find more videos like this on The Rosicrucians


Okay, so Voyager is probing; SETI is listening; and Kepler is actively looking for habitable planets. When will there be contact is the big question.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thoughts on Solitude

Chelle sometimes worries about me. During the fall semester, she works a lot of long hours at her job, and since I teach only in the mornings, I pretty much have afternoons to myself. Sounds luxurious, but in truth I spend most of my afternoons grading papers and doing lesson plans. And I blog, and I'll visit with some of my friends on Facebook between grading papers.

But when she works late, especially several nights in a row, she worries that I'm home alone doing nothing but living in my head too much, and she has a residual worry that if something upsets me, I may relapse. Now this last worry has pretty much gone away for her over time, and I'm sure more time will make it vanish. I protect my sobriety. Alcohol is nothing I care to ever indulge in again. Not even the thought of one drink appeals. I'd much rather pry my fingernails off, one by one, with a pair of tongs.

So I always have to remind her that I'm by nature an introvert. I deal with 55 students in the morning, along with assorted colleagues, and though I enjoy them all, being sociable exhausts me. (Extroverts are the opposite: they are invigorated by interactions with others. They come alive.) Me, I get sapped. For equilibrium to return, I need to get quiet for a while.

Now this was dangerous when I was drinking, because it basically turned into my being a closet drinker, the kind of alcoholic who'd sit at home and drink myself into a stewing hot mess.

But this isn't what I do at home now. I'll chat with a couple people, sometimes Skype, sometimes on the phone. I'll do chores. And once all the work is done, I take "me" time: sometimes I'll lift weights (I need to do more of that); I'll read; I'll find something on Netflix or amazon--I do things to engage my intellect. Like now: I'm making my way through Season One of Through the Wormhole and that is teaching me about some interesting new discoveries and theories and postulations in physics, which I will then quite happily start mentally riffing on: how does God fit into this? Do what we perceive as spirits or ghosts fit into this? I mean, if particles are conscious. . . . Maybe reincarnation is really not a half-baked wishful thinking fear of death kind of idea, and so on. This is the kind of stuff that invigorates and refreshes me. I feel most like myself when I'm continuing to learn about this universe we all inhabit. And yes, I meditate.

So, to my dear Chelle, and to my dear friends who worry I get lonesome, and to those who think solitude is a fate worse than death: Au contraire.

As far as I'm concerned, for me, solitude is only bad if I'm hiding from something.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ray LaMontagne: "Beg, Steal, Borrow"



Hands up if he reminds you of Joni Mitchell, with maybe a little Dan Fogelberg and Neil Young thrown in as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

USS Hornet: The Gray Ghost

Chelle and I were wondering what to do today for fun, just to get out of the house, so we decided to go visit the USS Hornet berthed over in Alameda. She's one of the United States' most decorated ships, served in World War II (with her pilots shooting down over 1400 Japanese planes over the course of the war); served in Vietnam; and served in the first few Apollo moon missions (the astronauts were fished out of the water and taken aboard the Hornet, where they had to undergo quarantine).

It's also a famous ship because she's said to be haunted, and if you watch Ghost Hunters on the Syfy Channel, then you know Grant and Jason both declared the ship definitely had paranormal activity aboard. She's retired now, of course, and the ship is a museum.

A day that started off cloudy wound up glorious. Here is a shot of the San Francisco skyline across the Bay from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier.


It was altogether an interesting tour. Tourists were pretty much free to wander all over, and not much of the ship was cordoned off. So we went up and down ladders, got lost in the maze that was the bowels of the ship, walked the length of the flight deck, checked out the Apollo exhibits, saw the mess and berths and briefing rooms and officers' quarters and so on. Then we climbed on up to the Island, which is a series of shorter decks with the navigation bridge, captain's cabin, chart room, pilot house, flag deck, etc.

Chelle parked herself in a chair in the pilot house and declared she could drive the colossal ship, and I wandered away laughing at her. I saw a catwalk outside so stepped through a door to get some fresh air and see where the catwalk led. I took a few paces and felt Chelle touch my arm. So I turned to see what she wanted.

Except nobody was there!

Okay, it was just a gentle hand on the inside of my arm, right by my elbow, but it was firm enough to be a clear touch. There was nobody else on that catwalk with me. I turned around a couple times, trying to see if I'd bumped into anything. Nothing but the steel railings, which would've hit the outside, not the inside, of my arm and felt like a bump, not like a touch.

I patted my pockets. There was a brochure stuck in my back pocket, so I pulled it out, then tucked it back in, then let my arm swing against it to touch it (which involved twisting my body a little, which I hadn't done anyway), but no, that felt like paper, not a touch.

So... I have no idea. I either totally imagined that, or I was touched. I can't say it was scary, either. It wasn't cold or creepy or whatnot. It was just a touch. Like I said, I'd honestly thought Chelle had caught up to me and done it.

So that's my USS Hornet ghost story.

Oh, a final point worth noting about the Hornet: she's a Rosie the Riveter ship. Approximately 30% of the crew who built her were women.