Archive for March, 2009

My “To Be” list

Posted on March 29, 2009. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

This is a follow-up to a recent post, as I’ve continued to be, and to think about what I wrote there. The comments of lovely blog friends have touched and inspired me, also.

A lot of us have “To Do” lists, and they can be very helpful in organizing our activities and helping to remember everything we intend to do. I make such lists, when I remember to, ;) and they’re very helpful and serve me well.

But before the “To Do” lists, and even the “To Have” lists (or Wants, or Desires, or Goals; call them what you will), I have my “To Be” list, because that’s the most important list of all.

The quality of life I have, or even the number and kind of “things” I have; the amount of money I have in the bank, and the relationships I enjoy, are all generated from the “To Be” list, whether it’s on paper, or not. I mean this to be taken as literally true, not just metaphorically, or emotionally, or as one of my fanciful notions; of which there are many.

Here is my “To Be” list, for this week!

I want to be: joyful, at peace, helpful, attractive, prepared, flexible, spontaneous, ready, accomplished, studious, energetic, rested, strong, independent, creative and musical.

Obviously, I could think of a lot more words and phrases, but these will do for a week—don’t you think? I make a new list at the start of each week. (Well, no I don’t, actually, but I thought if I declared that I did here I might start, as I think it’s a really good idea!) ;)

With those ideas, or qualities, as the core values for my week, I can allow everything else to follow. I have found that if I do that, the week seems to just unfold on its own; I don’t have to try and strive as I once did.

I can, consciously, compare choices I’m called upon to make with my list: “Will, for instance, taking on a new project for a client I don’t resonate with bring me joy, or peace, or strength? It might be seen as helpfulness—but at what cost? Is it worth sacrificing five values for the sake of one? Can I still embrace the one value (helpfulness) in another way?”

In most cases, though, I don’t have to make those kinds of decisions. If I keep my core weekly values in mind, the rest mostly just flows. I may have some leftover projects I’d committed to before I articulated these values, but that’s OK. I’m willing to fulfill those commitments, for a reasonable amount of time, and then let them go, along with the disharmonious feelings they may have engendered in me.

I had to laugh while I was composing my list—which I did, right here, right now; you’re seeing the first draft!—because when I typed a few terms, such as “musical”, my mind immediately began saying things like, “Well, if you’re going to be musical this week, you have to step-up practicing your scales, learning your choral music, and listen to a symphony!”

That’s the mind for you! :) I may do those things this week, but the whole point of the “To Be” list is NOT to “figure out what I gotta DO”, but to sit quietly, and breathe, and allow the musical-ness of my being (or whichever quality I’m looking at). That’s all!

AFTER that, I may just make a “To Do” list, if only to feel more organized and relaxed. (Oooh, I should go put “organized” and “relaxed” on my “To Be” list!) :razz: My only caution—to myself, as well as anyone choosing to try this out—is to avoid having TOO many things on the list. How many is too many? I will know, and so will you. The thing I like about a weekly list is that it can change and evolve in a short period of time. I’m sure many things on this week’s list will also appear on next week’s. I’ll very likely think of some new ones, and let go of some no longer as important.

I’ve been to workshops meant to “discover my life’s purpose” during which I was asked to list my “goals and values”. This is all very well, but being the sort of person I am, those exercises stressed me out. That workshop list was going to be the MOST IMPORTANT LIST OF ALL TIME! I had BETTER NOT MISS ANYTHING! That sort of pressure, self-imposed though it was, left me feeling none of my lists were good enough. This way, I can always tweak the next week. Yay!

Thanks for reading my list-rant. I wish you good Be-ing this week! :D

“I write to get my thoughts in order. Once they are, I’ll stop. I should be at this for a very long time…”

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Free Cell, Cheating, and Philosophy

Posted on March 20, 2009. Filed under: Games, Philosophy, Spirituality |

playingcards Have you played the game Free Cell? You most likely have if you have a Windows-based PC, as it comes with your computer. It’s a Solitaire game in which you must form four stacks of cards by suit, by moving cards around from “free cells” to spaces in the layout.

I had a discussion with my best philosophy-discussion mate about this game. He asked me if I had any strategy for Free Cell. (I’m not sure why we were talking about this as our discussions usually tackle such topics as “Is there really free will?” and “If two particles can communicate at infinite distance, what does that say about the nature of our own consciousness?”—you know the sort of thing.)

I said that I usually win this game, so I guess my strategy is to keep trying until I do.

“You usually win?”, he asked?

“I do. Rarely do I resign a game.”

“But, what do you mean you keep trying until you win? How do you do that? Once you get stuck, you lose!”

“Whadduya mean?”

“Well, have you looked at your stats?”

I replied that I hadn’t looked at my Free Cell stats in years. (Unlike my WordPress stats, which I look at, like, 27 times a day.) ;)

“Why not?” he wanted to know.

I don’t like what the statistics say, is why. The stats record a loss just because I get stuck once! I have the opportunity to replay the game and move different cards in a different order each time. He told me that the game records each re-start as a new game, therefore each time I did that it had recorded a loss.

Well, exactly. It wasn’t a loss to me; therefore why would I want to look at statistics which said that it was?

Years ago, I remember thinking that a game that branded me a “failure” after only one attempt at solving a “problem” was no fun at all. Also, it didn’t reward persistence and strategy. It required someone to see the big picture right from the first move. I am not good at that. But I will plug away until I work through all my “issues” with a situation.

To me, each time I win a game of Free Cell using a particular random dealing of cards—no matter how many times I have to restart the game—counts as One Win; No Losses. I like to win! So I don’t look at rules and recordings that tell me I haven’t done.

My companion says this is cheating! There are rules! I should have read and acknowledged them if I wish to play this particular game! (Honestly, he did put in all those exclamation points!) My position, however, is this: MY computer; MY software; MY game; MY rules. If following the developers statistics doesn’t please me, I’m free to ignore them.

Of course I AM a stickler for agreements. If I engage in an agreement or contract with you, I will adhere to it under all but the most adverse circumstances. And I won’t like breaking it even then. Most software comes with lengthy license and legal information, which we tacitly “agree” to, in exchange for using the program. Once we open up that game and start playing, we have “agreed” to many, many provisions. In the case of Free Cell; nowhere did it say I must consider myself a failure; a loser; a big fat zero if I don’t win the game at the first go—I looked it up :!: In the interest of full disclosure though, I’ll state here and now that I WILL NOT make a copy of my Free Cell game and distribute it to you, nor will I SELL YOU the game in any form, no matter how much you beg! I did in fact “agree” to those provisions. Just so we’re clear. :cool:

Sometimes, following rules just makes the most sense. It would be confusing if I were to enter a race, say, and instead of starting at the start line, I just walked to the finish before the official start and said “I’m here! Isn’t that the point, to get to this line?”

In many instances, probably most; the journey is the point, and if that results in an award-winning finish, then fine. If not, then I’ll bet I’ve learned something along the way.

If neither of those things are true, than why not rewrite, reconfigure, or rewire? After all, it’s MY life, and I am free to create it as I wish. {Remember the Kobayashi Maru!}

Am I cheating? Or am I just molding the clay to form my own vision?

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Privilege

Posted on March 17, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, Philosophy |

I am a person of Privilege and Culture. I grew up with certain advantages many in my country do not enjoy. Like other sheltered and entitled people, I didn’t realize there was anything different about me until in my late teens. I just thought everyone was like us, because that’s what I knew.

You might not think my birthplace, San Francisco, California, would have such exclusive neighborhoods, but believe me, there are quite a few that are “special” in the way that mine was. I’ve been away from my childhood region for some years now, and I’m told, and I can observe on my increasingly rare visits, that the “demographics”—a word we didn’t even know back then—have been changing. I have mixed feelings about this, as many would. Who amongst us doesn’t like the comfort of what’s known; the familiarity of our childhood surroundings—at least if they were pleasant, which mine were.

Change can be tough to deal with, so when I’ve watched my old neighborhood change, I sometimes felt a bit queasy. I’ve changed now, too, though. I’m no longer the sheltered individual I was then. I’ve seen more of the world now, and interacted with even more of it through this blog you are reading. I think I can handle my childhood home becoming…even more culturally diverse and welcoming than it already was!

I’ve been reading quite a few articles about race/gender/nationality/orientation/etc., lately, and rather than flowing through and around my mental taste buds, they sit on the tongue of my brain and taste…not quite right. Among these were excellent posts from two blogbuds, Deirdra Kiai on the reluctant reality of minority group membership; and ellaella of From Scratch on cultural expectations that never were. Then, I played an adventure game I was really looking forward to. It was from a European developer whose first game I admired greatly, and this new game got a lot of good press for its design and story. The story didn’t work for me at all, though, as it used an American racist cliché as its centerpiece. Making the strident point that “racism is bad” didn’t help. Why choose this theme at all?

You see, in the privileged bubble in which I lived, I was not a member of the largest ethnic group. Nor was I a minority. In my neighborhood, there were not enough of any one “kind” of people to make up a “majority” so I didn’t know there were millions of people who saw mostly those, day by day, who had features and colors just like theirs. I didn’t realize, until much later, that this made it difficult for those millions to stop seeing “other kinds” of people as “other”, just as it made it difficult for me to travel to a new neighborhood and see mostly people who’d sprung from the loins of immigrants of just a few northern European countries. It felt weird to me, seeing that, as if half the town had gone missing. It was incomplete; unnatural.

Now I know that most towns and cities in my country have different “demographics”; different mixes of “these” sorts of people and “those” sorts of people. Where I live now has different proportions, but that’s OK, at least it has proportions! I don’t think I could be happy in a town where 80% or more of the people looked as if they could be my cousins—but upon further thought, perhaps I could.

My particular set of cousins and close relatives includes those of British, German, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Mexican and Serbian descent. Many of the marriages in my family would be considered “mixed” in some way by some portion of the American population, but they seem normal to me.

I’ve just really started to realize, over the past few years, how “un-normal” this is to so many. It feels very strange. I appear typically Caucasian, and am, for the most part, but because I look a way that’s thought of as a majority; sometimes people say things to me or in front of me they would never say to a person of “color”. This shocks and disappoints me. It amazes them when I tell them that as a child, I never gave a person’s race a second thought—really! We were a bunch of kids, on a city street, who played and attended school together. We celebrated each others’ ethnicities as human interest stories: “How does YOUR family celebrate _____?” or “Oh, poor you; having to go to Japanese school (or Hebrew, or several others) after regular school, when I can learn Spanish or German right in school!”

I took my Chinese best friend to German picnics with my family, and I went to New Year’s festivals with my friend’s family. The grandmother in the family didn’t speak much English, and was called “Po-Po” by them (an affectionate term for the maternal grandmother in Cantonese) so I called her Po-Po, too. I still remember saying “Hi, Po-Po!” and getting this weird look in return, as if to ask “Who’s this white child calling me Po-Po?”, but I didn’t care. Lots of us had some relative or other who didn’t speak English, or who had some kind of accent.

Now my country has a President who is “of color”. I, as do many, feel this is long overdue, and I celebrate that it is now possible. Still, I wonder that so many people, including even himself at times, must refer to him as “the first African American” President. Where does his mostly English mother fit into the scene? It seems strange to me, a person who grew up with many mixed-race children, not to acknowledge the totality of ones background, if one is going to talk about it at all.

I knew black/white children. I knew their parents; their siblings. Sometimes one looked more black; another more white. I knew a boy named “Michael Fitzgerald” who appeared to be 100% Chinese, and no, he wasn’t adopted, his mother’s genes won out in this case. My Spanish language teacher, a man named Robert MacKenzie (he wore his family tartan tie every single day!) was, ethnically, 100% Scottish, but he would admonish us in Cantonese to hurry up! (“fie-di-lah!”) because he’d been raised by his stepmother from Hong Kong. I finally became an ethnic minority myself when I lived in Hawaii for a year. I met most of my friends through the University, and nearly everyone was Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese or Filipino, not northern European, like me.

An American sports celebrity who also, apparently, has the “face” of an African American, Tiger Woods, has said on many occasions that he’s actually more Asian (Chinese and Thai) than anything else, and is disturbed when others don’t want to acknowledge that. I understand that people of a perceived minority are delighted to have a “face”; a “celebrity”; a “spokesperson” in high places formerly not accessible to those of their background. But I think we are in denial when we don’t want to celebrate how truly mixed-up (in the best way) we are!

I’m intrigued by how diverse the First Family actually is. In addition to the President himself, there is his sister, an Indonesian/English American, married to a Chinese American whose parents had emigrated to Canada from Malaysia. Now that’s my idea of a “normal American family”! :)

Yes, I am a person of class, culture, and privilege. Often people learn to outgrow the “perks” which come with that status; to get older, and wiser, and to see the bigger picture. Don’t expect that from me, though. I admit I’m an elitist; I am a snob. I intend to live in my sheltered bubble, which, by the way, now contains the Whole Wide World.

Peace; Pômaikai; Salaam; Shalom.

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First Gila Monster of the year—It must be Spring!

Posted on March 14, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Science |

gila I was looking into my back garden yesterday—I always want to see what all the wildlife is up to—and I noticed this large reptilian lump perching on one of the fence-rungs. The creature had its back to me (mooning me!) so I couldn’t look at it’s little lizard face, but it looked about 6 inches long. It was too fat for a common garden lizard, though. Those are generally skinny little things. Fortunately I keep a pair of binoculars in the house (Is the term “PAIR of binoculars” redundant, actually, as the word “binocular” contains the prefix “bi” which already means “two”?  —‘scuse me, my thoughts sometimes go off like this…) so I ran to fetch them before the small dragon-y thing moved.

Turns out it was a baby Gila Monster! Oh boy! It was the first time I’d seen one in my own backyard! Gila Monsters get their name from the Gila River in southern Arizona, where they used to be quite abundant. For those who don’t know, “Gila” is pronounced “HEE-lah”, following the Spanish pronunciation of the letter “G”, and is a Spanish transliteration of a Tohono O’odham word meaning something like “the salty water stream”. I’m not sure where the “Monster” comes from. They can get about two feet long, and their bite is venomous (one of only two species of poisonous lizards in the US), but calling them “Monsters” is, I think, a little over the top.

I often wonder how I ended up in a place where so much of the vegetation AND animal life has fangs, claws, spikes, spines, and needles. Must reflect my personality. ;) Though venomous, as I said, a Gila Monster bite is not fatal to humans, and they are so slow moving we can easily outrun them—with a slow walk! Most of these prickly spiny creatures don’t want any more to do with us than we with them, and will only attack if provoked. Additionally, Gilas are usually quite visible in a garden. The first thing I noticed about my baby visitor was how scaly the little reptile was. You might think “Of course s/he was scaly! S/he’s a lizard!”, and you’d be right, but this was different; I could see each individual bead-like scale quite distinctly. And Gila Monsters have broad tan or orange and black patterns. You will see one if one is there. They don’t blend well with the cactus, so it made me wonder why they were this color; what their natural camouflage was. I snooped around the Internet and saw these pictures which showed me they do blend well into a multi-colored river rock environment. Their colorings also remind me of some native pottery designs.

The species is native to the southern parts of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico, and do not appear elsewhere. They are now a protected species. They’re quite elusive, generally, so it was a real treat to have one visit. My new friend will probably head underground as the weather heats up; not to be seen again.

In other nature news, and with more evidence of Spring, I must ask: “Are doves as dumb as posts?” Now, mind you, I don’t don’t object to our desert doves in general, even though their constant “coo-coo” can get to me at times. But…I have a light fixture in front of my house. It is a glass enclosed light, and the outside glass rectangle has about a three-inch square top. Occasionally, one of our local birds decides this is a wonderful perch, and will sit up there (and poop!) until I chase them away. Three days ago, I noticed a pair of birds flying back and forth across my kitchen window, and, believe it or not, were trying to build a NEST up there. I guess my covered doorway looked sheltered to them, or something, but can you imagine trying to build a nest on a 3-inch piece of glass suspended 5 feet in the air?

At first I laughed to watch them. They would fetch twig after twig, spilled from my neighbor’s mesquite tree (twigs so thin as to be like toothpicks) and pile them up on my light…and they’d promptly fall off! So, then, they’d gather more…which would fall off! Soon, I had a rather enormous pile of mesquite twigs on my front porch. If this kept up, I’d wouldn’t be able to leave my house. I’d be “twigged-in”. So, I chased them away; swept up the twigs, and thought that was an end to it. An hour later they were back, and back at it. The world “birdbrained” did not creep its way into the language by accident. This time, I put a balled-up t-shirt up there, since that had worked once before when another pair had been trying to nest on my back pillar.

I’m not anti-bird. I’m all for supporting this pair’s reproductive urges. I enjoy seeing a nest, and watching the babies hatch (except for quail, perhaps. Gila Monsters eat Quail eggs, heh) This was just an impossible situation for us all, though. It turns out they liked the t-shirt; probably felt softer than a pane of glass with three twigs on it. I didn’t want to do anything poisonous or injurious, I just wanted them to take their twigs and…So, I finally filled an old shampoo bottle with water, and set it on top of the light, giving them nowhere to land. Success!

(They did let me (and my front window) know, loudly, what they thought of my plan before they departed.)

Happy Spring, if Spring there be, where you are. :D

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How have you BEen?

Posted on March 9, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I’ve been off for a bit, practicing what I preach, as the saying goes. I’ve felt I haven’t had much to say recently. I thought about writing a post saying I had nothing to say…but then I’d be saying something, wouldn’t I? ;)

Seriously, if I were to take an extended blog vacation, I would post a note before I did. It’s never been my intention to do so, at least so far. There are just times when more pours forth from me than other times.

The way I’ve been practicing what I preach is by just being. I’ve been following a teaching, lately, from ancient wisdom and modern best-sellers which tells me that society (whatever that is) has it all backwards. We’re encouraged to get an education or take assessment tests, in order to determine how we’re going to “Make A Living” (!) because then we can earn money, or prestige, or value to the world, or with any luck, all of those. And THEN we can Have Things We Want, whether they are material possessions, or the ability to help others, or what we perceive as financial security. At that point, we can feel free to enjoy life, or choose freely what to do with our time.

This model might be summarized as: Do>Have>Be.

There is a better, easier, and faster model to get what one desires from life, in my opinion, and it turns the first one on its head: Be>Have>Do.

This way, if we want something to change in our current circumstances, such as: “Want a new job”, Want more friends”, or “Want to feel I’m making a difference”, the FIRST step—rather than running around trying to figure out what to DO about that—is to sit quietly, and joyfully imagine how the improved circumstance will feel. This connects us up with all the support the Universe can give.

I think this is why many cultures emphasize meditation as a practice. It clears the mind, and puts the daily clutter away for a while, so we can allow what really matters to emerge. I’m aware that some of the wonderful people who read my blog are not spiritually oriented, and this may sound “airy-fairy” and not at all tenable. But, I must say that I’m interested in practical results before anything else, and the Be>Have>Do model is just faster and more efficient, whether it’s “spiritual” or not.

So many of us think we need to “Do” in order to “Have”. This notion is practically embedded in our universal psyche. I like this saying from the Tao Te Ching:
Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”
This suggests to me that all the frantic running around that we do in this life is largely wasted effort. Well, not “wasted”, exactly, because I don’t believe anything is wasted, really, but more…inefficient. Sure, we can get things done if we expend effort, and try, and strive…but what if there were an easier way?

Perhaps instead of saying to yourself, “I have to get (do) a job, so I’ll have some money…”, try just sitting for a moment, and imagining how you want to be; how you want to feel. In this moment, most likely you are not starving. You have clothes to wear; you have a place to sit comfortably. You can imagine that with this little tweak, and that little tweak, life can be really good! Just imagine those little tweaks already taken care of, and the wonderful, happy You resulting.

Then—and only then, when you feel confident that all is possible—will you truly have what you desire, which (unless you are very unusual) is a feeling of peace and contentment. That is the only “have” worth “having”. Not to get too preachy, but you know material possessions don’t MAKE you happy, right? They can only enhance the happiness you already have.

After that last step, (and, unless you’ve been practicing this a while, you’ll just have to trust me on this!) the obvious course of ACTION will suggest itself to you. That’s when the “doing” comes into play. We all know it’s best not to make decisions or take actions when we’re stressed. Here’s a way of avoiding those unfortunate decisions, and seeing what actions actually have value.

This is as preachy as I’ve been, for quite a while. I started this post saying I’ve been PRACTICING what I preach. Who do you think I’ve been preaching to? That’s right, me!

Have a good day!

To do is to be. – Socrates

To be is to do. – Plato

DoBeDoBeDo. – Sinatra

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Magical Musical Memeical Morph

Posted on March 2, 2009. Filed under: Games, HowTo, Musings |

According to my blogfriend sulz, I now have my very own (faux) band! She’s tagged me with this Meme, and I found myself strangely moved by the results. Here are the rules (and if you are reading this, you may consider yourself tagged—if you want to be!):

1 – Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random” or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band. If it’s already the name of a band, you can hit random again.

2 – Go to “random quotations” or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 – Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 – Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 – Post it to your blog with this text and tag the blog buddies you want to join in.

I followed those directions precisely, and here is the result:

ludlow-spirit2

The name of my band, Ludlow Typograph, is taken from an old kind of typesetting machine. Before computers, these were used to get vital information into print, relatively quickly. These machines used hot metal to cast bars or slugs of type.

One of my first jobs was at a printing company which had a couple of these in the print shop. They actually were occasionally used for certain jobs requiring large print areas; otherwise, they just sat there like museum pieces. I was in awe of those few printers who had worked in the industry for many years, and actually knew how to operate those machines, with elegance and precision.

Given all that, my band’s style obviously is:  Hot Heavy Metal—Ballads and Sagas!

My new album, titled “to craft a spirit“, explores the journey through time and place taken by an individual, and a culture, in order to find meaning. The full quote is:

It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit.
Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, 2000

I love the picture of this pensive little girl against a backdrop of graffiti, perfectly illustrating the spirit emerging from the chaos of creation. What is next for her? Indeed, for any of us? Listen to my ballads and you shall know.

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