Games

Humanity in the Balance

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

 Picture this: You are walking along a ridge, say, 30 feet above the valley floor. The path is narrow, and, suddenly, as you make a turn you’ve taken many times before, a few stones become dislodged, and you lose your footing. You tumble down the side of the ridge, rolling down the gentle slope.

You would have picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and rejoiced in the fact you weren’t seriously hurt. Except:

There was a large campfire, sheltered from the wind, near the place you landed, and you rolled right into it. The tenders of the fire were away for a short time, and didn’t see your fall at first. You roll right out of the fire pit again, but not before being rather badly burned.

At this point, the fire-builders come back, and the universe splits into several possibilities.

#1: They address you rather rudely, saying “Hey, watch where you’re rolling, you jerk! Can you move? Can you crawl? OK, then, move along; we’re trying to have a meeting here!”

#2: “OMG are you hurt? What happened? Did someone push you? No? Are you sure? We’ve been after the committee to make that path safer up there! Heads are going to roll for this! Let’s start an action group right now! …Oh, did you just moan? Sorry about that, maybe someone will take you to the infirmary”.

#3: “Hello, fellow human. While we take no joy in your pain, we do recognize that you are completely responsible for your circumstances in life. If we can render you immediate assistance we will; on the other hand, we don’t want to ‘enable’ you. Obviously, though, if we leave you here to just, sort of, die or something, that would mess with our own ‘karma’ so tell us what you need, but no whining or playing victim, OK?”

#4: “Oh, no, you are hurt! Let me check for injuries…can someone get the first aid kit? Can you walk? We’ll get you to the infirmary right away. Later, when you’ve had some rest and a chance to recover a bit, we’ll be by to visit to find out what happened, what we can do to help you recover, and, if you’re up to it, assess what to do to prevent future injuries in this area. Really sorry for your pain, but glad you weren’t more seriously hurt. They’ll take care of you now, please just relax and don’t worry.

Now, these are all rather overblown responses, but I think we can see that all of them “could” occur. This sort of situation came to mind recently as I participated in philosophical discussions on the topics of “offence” and “blame”. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer response #4 to any of the others. The first response would not be desired by anyone, but the middle two, #s 2 & 3, are common responses these days, and form philosophical extremes when we talk about social interaction and responsibility.

There is a large school of thought that goes something like this: “You create your own reality (or you are subject to the ‘Law of Attraction’). Therefore, anything you see and experience is because of how you are ‘vibrating’, and nothing I do can change your vibration, only you can. I am somewhat in this camp myself, by the way, even though I’ve just stated the position rather bluntly. Critics of this say it ‘blames the victim’, to which proponents reply that this is, in fact, the case, but they don’t like to use the word “victim”, as we are all really empowered to make changes. If one is feeling like a victim, that’s the time to look deeply within and focus on what is wanted instead.

Another group of thinkers takes the position that society’s ills govern unpleasant circumstances. I suppose they also think that progress in civilisation also contributes to our comfort. “Yes,” they’ll tell us, “we have a large field to play in, and many of our choices will better or our circumstances. But, what about the person that just can’t get ahead because the government has cut their program? Or people who suffer because of prejudice and hatred? If we care at all, we must do what we can for social reform!” I’m a little bit in this camp, too…with the caveat that it does NOT help us to talk and complain endlessly about societal ills. If we feel called to work for a cause, then by all means, let’s do so. A more worthy pursuit is not easily imagined. But keeping our thoughts mired in how awful things are, without either taking some action, or doing our best to focus thoughts elsewhere, is like slowly drowning in a sea of despair.

This is why I liked Universe #4, from the options above. It is a balanced approach. It doesn’t get angry at victims, outraged at injustice, or overwhelmed in trying to fix everything at once. It renders aid where it can, but also uses an incident to examine circumstances and see what can be done, should one choose action.

I think our feelings and emotions are a wonderful guide, if we will just consult them dispassionately (and I realize this is a contradiction in terms!) It’s when we get self-righteous about situations, whether as victims ourselves, or in “fighting for the rights” of those we perceive as victims, that division, angst, and even wars occur. Stepping back and assessing is always a good idea; so is allowing for the possibility that someone else may see a situation differently than ourselves. The only “winning” position is one where everyone, at least, feels heard. That is the least we can do for each other. Also the most.

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Three Spikes and You’re Sprout!

Posted on July 6, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, HowTo, Musings, Travel |

Subtitle: “Muse’s Tips for a Peaceful Summer*

I’ll get to the title and what it means in a second, but first! Here is tip #1
1. Do not wash a duvet cover in the same load as your socks!
I own two socks (from two different pair, of course) that I fear I won’t see again until winter (or what passes for that in the desert). In the summer, I don’t use the thick fluffy duvet, or its cover, so I launder and fold away the latter to keep safely stored through the hot months that make all us desert dwellers think we’ll never be cool again, but somehow winter does eventually come and we say: “Gosh it’s cold; wish I didn’t have to wear three pair of socks!” Honestly, I searched in all the corners and pockets of the duvet and pillowcases and such…but I guess these socks are not summer socks. I’ll put their mates with the duvet, and with luck we’ll all reunite in the winter.

2. Do not have three spikes on your Desert Spoon!
…it gets unwanted attention from the neighbors, and, perhaps from international reporters. This is not so much a tip as a warning. After all, you can’t really tell your plants how to grow, can you? Perhaps it would be better put: “If your main water line breaks in the spring, expect anomalies in the summer!+
I have written about my trials and tribulations with this ubiquitous shrub before (here and amazingly enough, again here.) I swore I would not do this…but, seriously, the Spoon near my kitchen window was getting so big it was about to push through and become my roommate, so I succumbed and had it trimmed up on the bottom. Yet another landscaper told me it would be more trouble to take that plant out, than to do that. Oh well.  It, in spite of the intrusive trimming, it has one spike. This is normal. Having TWO spikes is unusual, but common. Due to (I’m guessing) the large amount of water the huge, center, non-trimmed Spoon got during my pipe-bursting incident, I was not surprised to see it put up two building-high spikes. But, just in the last week or so, I see that a third spike has emerged! Do you know how rare this is? This is the only other one I’ve EVER seen! (photo credit: about-garden.com)    Perhaps we are easily amused here in the desert, or soft-headed from temperatures exceeding 105F (41C) each day, but I do see the neighbors stopping and pointing! Really!

3. When celebrating the American holiday “Independence Day”, decide ahead of time whether you want “natural” or “human-made” fireworks. Again, this will be only partially under your control. Quite recently, on the just-passed 4th of July, after enjoying various contributed foods and watching a spectacular sunset, it began to thunder. And rain. And loud non-nature-made booms ensued. And the sky lit up with spectacular lightning, while also hosting the colourful sparkles of created light this holiday is known for. Being out of doors, and a little damp, and a little anxious about the lightning, I nonetheless enjoyed this rare spectacle of nature and human creativity.  (This particular firework looks a bit like an exploding Desert Spoon, doesn’t it? hmmm :) )

Perhaps I’ll have other tips as the summer moves hotly along. We’ll stick with just these three for now. Happy Hot Days, for those experiencing them :D

* The actual title of this piece is a word play on a rule in American Baseball: “Three Strikes and You’re Out!” For those that DON’T know: A ball is thrown at a person holding a big stick in her/his hands. If the person fails to hit the ball with the stick (and therefore doesn’t get to run around in a square) three times in a row (or three “strikes”) they are “out”, which means they don’t get to play anymore. Until the next time.
I’m not really that much of a baseball fan, I prefer the sport of American Football (which is not “real” football, or soccer) but went to a lot of baseball games as a youth.
Why did I go? cuz my friends were going. Isn’t that why we do a lot of things? Should we give some thought to our motivations? …nah!
For more on the difference between American Football and American Baseball, see this video, which explains it kindly and sensibly (not really, but it’s funny as heck!)

+ The broken water line did in fact happen to me, and I lived in mud, but with no incoming water, for the better part of a week. Much landscaping and cash later, I have running water, new pipe and a better looking front garden, however the trauma caused the relocation of my favorite lizard, who had been living under the above-referred-to Desert Spoon for several years. :(

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The game comes to rest.

Posted on June 29, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, Musings |

 So I play this subtle game. I mean, literally, a game. It’s a puzzle game that lives in the background of my computer and comes to haunt me when I’m trying to write or to get things done.

Of course one cannot “try” to write. I punch at the keys now; I am writing. If I don’t press, or speak, or tell—it is not.

I’m playing it now, I admit. Well, not RIGHT now, RIGHT now I am writing. Or punching. Or pressing. But in a moment, I’ll go back to the game, just hit the tab and I’m in.

“Multitasking” they call it. “Avoiding”, me. Yet in the switching, I find my thoughts, as it requires fewer and different ones.

There! I just did it! Played another round–could you tell?

And went again, as no further inspiration struck, except to tell you I found myself rather clever in writing my process as it happens.

“Too eclectic!” my blog screams at me. “This will NOT appeal to your usual audience!”

My audience, if any remain, has been so generous they might not notice. Patiently waiting as they find me here again. As arrogant as I find that last statement (“waiting”?…as if!) I know my friends are there.

I did it again! I went off to play the game for a bit and came back here, except…I wrote three other pieces first. I got ideas for them, you see, whilst playing the game, making the SIMPLE decisions that free my mind to go elsewhere, as an untethered balloon. But, the balloon travels a solitary path, and bumps and bounces and looks pretty and shiny and fragile and belongs to the child that let the string go.

Sometimes life is forgiving oneself for letting go.

Sometimes it’s OK to find a new string.  

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“Hi, Atus!”

Posted on February 9, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, HowTo, Musings |

 OK, I admit it. I plunked this post into the middle of February even though I didn’t write it until almost the end of April. If I confess that, am I excused?

The reason I did this is I hadn’t posted ANYthing in February, and it was the first month since this blog’s inception that I had not come up with EVEN ONE POST for an entire calendar month. I looked at my blog archives list in my sidebar, “February” was conspicuously missing. Although a short month, it made January and March look lonely.

So this post title is in acknowledgement of what I actually, did, blogwise, in February of 2011. :)

Using the title “Hi, Atus!” (You did know that was my clever destruction of the word “hiatus”, right; to indicate that I’d been away) I thought the least I could do is search for the word or term “atus” and promote the results. I found an acronym for “American Time Use Survey” and also a blogger named “Atus“! Well met, both. Now, I think I need a “random” category for posts if I keep this up…

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Random Confessions

Posted on September 22, 2010. Filed under: Culture, EFT, Games, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings, Philosophy |

This is a time of year I often evaluate aspects of my life. Some do it at Gregorian New Year; others in the Spring…to me, the fall is the best time, the time of the Autumnal New Year. I can look at what I’ve “harvested” over the past few months; evaluate what I want to tuck away for the winter (Don’t chuckle; though I live in the Sonoran Desert, we DO get winter. Or what passes for winter, here, anyway) ;)

Another reason to evaluate in the fall is that it’s a tradition for part of my family. Although I wasn’t raised with this holiday; some of my family members celebrate the Jewish New Year; and I observe my own version of Yom Kippur in a September. I think the fact that I was not brought up in that particular religion makes me more able, objectively, to appreciate some of the ceremonies it has. I have a lot of religious baggage from the religious upbringing I did have; and am still reconciling myself with what was passed to me as truth.

Some random things I’m looking to let go of:

Hair! I’m sure I won’t really do this; but my hair has been bugging me lately. I’m sorely tempted to shave it all off. I’ve always been “into” my hair; it’s sort of long for who I am, and it gets into everything. During the long hot summer we’ve been having here, it’s particularly annoying. I know the more obvious solution is to just cut it short! But I can’t! That would be so un-me. I’d rather just cut it all off, if I’m going to change it…but then I’m afraid I’ll look like an melon or, worse, TweedleDum! (TweedleDee wouldn’t be as bad!) :) So, I’ll probably, as I usually do, just let it grow another inch while I ponder…

Papers! Seriously, is there any reason to keep old bills around any more? They are all accessible and stored online from every institution. I act as if I’m about to be subject to a tax audit of the last 78 years (!) and I’ll be one of those people that rolls in 24 carts of materials to be examined. In looking to clean out and simplify certain aspects of my life; both out of desire and necessity, I’m gingerly going through these old records and shredding away! I hope I feel better afterward.

People! Do you ever see people as baggage? Is that a rude thing to ask? Some of the people who have been in my life don’t quite fit anymore, while others are changing roles or adding to them. This is natural evolution in most cases; but we humans tend to hold on even as we evolve, sometimes. I’ve heard it said that if a relationship isn’t serving you, let it go! Much like you would and old vacuum cleaner that blows dusty air out instead of sucks it in. Some of my relationships are work-related, and I’ve noticed that, in most cases, when the working relationship ends, very often the personal one does too. Most of them need the glue of the common interest and activity to hold them together. There are exceptions, of course. It’s perfectly possible—and I have done—to find a long-term friend in these circumstances, but as I look back, I realize that, out of all the people I felt were extremely important in my day-to-day existence, only a handful have stayed in touch with me, or I with them. I am more guilty of this than most, I think. If someone calls, months after a project, and wants to have lunch, I’ll think “Why?” I may go ahead and have the lunch, but in these cases I’ll feel tongue-tied and awkward, and say things like “So, how’s your life been since we finished producing that art project 1000 balloons as Representative of Modern Angst?”

Thoughts! Here are things—and I have heard it said many times that “thoughts are things”–that are a bit harder to deal with, even more so than people. People will eventually go away if I ignore them long enough (I know I sound unsociable, and I sort of am!, but I only do that with people I want to go away), but thoughts! what can one do about thoughts? Really, for me anyway, there are only two ways to clear up the unwanted kind. One is to replace them with better-feeling thoughts, and make some new memories. After some practice, these will become my thoughts. It doesn’t do a lot of good to dwell on the unpleasant ones without some form of relief. This can be anything from vigorous exercise to energy techniques, but best for me is to imagine the kinds of thoughts I’d like to have!—Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish… :)

English! By this I specifically mean the English language used in sacred choral music. A lot of people in the western world play in orchestras or sing in choruses. I have done both for many years. In the “classical” tradition (misnamed, but that’s another post) ;) most—by no means all, but most—of the vocal music consists of interpretations of western Christian liturgy. Many people can just sing those right along for years, regardless of their background or beliefs. In one of the choral groups I work with, there are a surprising number of spiritual persuasions and non-persuasions. I will confess that, for me, it is increasingly difficult to repeat phrases that have no place in my belief system. I could just continue to “suck it up” as I have been doing for years. After all, choral directors and coaches often tell us that part of our “job” singing this music is to be actors, to “sell” it. I do see this as important if accepting a role in a play (and I WAS a missionary, for the Save-A-Soul Mission, in the musical Guys and Dolls–ironic, huh?) but, there are a variety of roles in plays, whereas in traditional western classical music, there is mostly this adulterated religious expression. When these works are sung in Latin or German or French, I at least get some distance from them, even though I still know what every word says. I can more easily step into a “role” if I’m not using the language I speak and think in.

Ideas! You’d think this would have been covered in “Thoughts”, above, but ideas are different from thoughts. An idea is: “Hey maybe I’ll become a circus clown! That’s just what I’ve been needing to spice up my life!” or, “I’ve noticed that when I go into rooms painted Chartreuse I feel peppier! I think I’m going to paint my whole house Chartreuse!” (I never said “ideas” were necessarily “good” or “helpful”.) They are Proclamations rather than mere Thoughts. All of us have probably thought of a product or two from time to time that *does* seem to be a good idea. Some of them languish away on the back burner, while others are brought to the forefront. So I’m ready to let go of the not-as-good ones.

Fix-it Projects! My house seems to need a lot of work at the moment, some of which I can do myself, some not; some of which costs a fair amount of money, and some not. Everything from replacing the carpets to fixing the leak in the garage seems to need doing. The kitchen could use some work. The bathrooms scare me a little. But how to prioritize? Should I do the things that cost the least and that I can do myself first? Or should I make a list of things from most to least urgent and work my way down as best I can? I’m a bit unmotivated and disheartened, but if I want to leave this house for greener pastures, these things must be done. Even if I don’t…I deserve a nice place to live, don’t I? I’ve just thought of a third way to do my list, which brings me finally to…

Lists! I have a love/hate relationship with lists. When I travel, I obsess about them. I put everything I want to pack on a list, from underwear to nail clippers. After all, I’m traveling all the way to…California!, a primitive land where I’m sure they don’t have things like toothpaste, should I forget it, nor could I possibly borrow it from my native Californian sister, whom I will visit–backwards creature that she is! She probably scrubs her teeth with backyard sand! …And then there’s the other kind of list: “Things To Do”. I like to make these lists, but I rarely do what’s on them. My streak of rebelliousness comes out when I’m told to do something, even when I’m the one telling. I don’t really want to “Do” anything. I do often do things, but I’d rather just “Be”. Perhaps I should make a “To Be” list! Yes! I’ll put that on my list of things To Do. :)

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Blogiversary revisited: #3

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, HowTo, Musings |

On the 27th of July, in 2007, I published my very first blog post. I had “rehearsed” my posts for a number of weeks prior to this, as I was trepidatious about this sort of personal writing. After three years, and having people come and go out of my life, I know that this blogging thing is more than just a fancy pixelated diary. It has become a source, and has led to other sources, of much valued communication between me and me, and me and you.

I like to celebrate both my birthday and my blogiversary on my blog; they’ve both become annual traditions for me. I looked back at my last two July 27 posts, for 2008, and 2009, and I can’t help but feel a little sad. :? On the one hand, I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met here, who have enhriched my life in unexpected and wonderful ways. On the other hand, I’ve seen many of my most cherished blogmates either depart from the blogosphere, or greatly lessen their postings for a variety of reasons, as I have myself. But—thankful again am I for new friends which have arrived within the past year.

Of those who have moved on in the past year, I most miss B0bby and ellaella. B0bby was a young student, pre-university when I met him, who started a blog as a class project. I think he was as surprised as anyone that it expanded to something more. He did say on his blog this past year, that the blogging spirit had gone out of him, and he was going to give it a rest. I appreciated his many comments, the chapters of his excellent serial novel he published on his blog for a while, and his unique and charming perspective. I imagine he’s at University in the west of England, or in Wales now, with all that life has to offer. I just wonder if he has—or will—finish that novel :)

ellaella is another story. Many of you have read her blog, From Scratch. She is one whose friendship initially surprised me, as, while I’m greatly interested in eating food, I’m not as much in cooking it. And while there are a few political issues I’m passionate about; politics, in general, is not my thing. Nevertheless, she and I formed a strong bond. She always supported my writing, and, when I learned recently that she had been in the media professionally, I was even more humbled by that. I also turned to her when I was called upon to bring a special dish to a holiday potluck…she referred me to simple things I could actually cook; and they were always a hit at the party.

ella’s most recent post was on December 25, 2009. In it, she said she was taking a few days off, and would see us in the new year. In fact, she hasn’t. A few of us bloggers who have been close to her have been trying to investigate what’s happened to her, but so far, we don’t know if she is ill, disabled, or…  All of us who have known her recently and in the past are convinced she never would have stopped blogging without notice unless something dire had happened. ella was one of the first people I met here at WordPress. A Real-Life old friend of hers has gotten involved in the search for her, and, if there is any further information, I’ll post it here. It is a bittersweet thing to recall our three-year friendship on this anniversary.

There are a few people who have almost stopped blogging ;) but do pop up occasionally, like my lovely French-Canadian friend Colourful Vision, Randomly Relevant, from Melbourne, Mr. Gnome from Finland, Creative Expressions of South Africa, and walkingbetween from China and now in New York, who would have to really, finally, go away before I would stop checking in with them.

Apar, Bret, Care, Cat, Davidya, Ian, Jules, Kate, Kiran, Poch, Poonam, Shane: you continue to delight me! JoanHarvest went and got herself a grandchild, WillRhodes got himself more politics :) and TheBeadDen got herself more work, and remodeling, and family issues. To those three: I know where to find you; muahaha!

Moonbeam McQueen and Ronnie Ann: you are dear, and erudite, and witty; your posts and comments never fail to bring cheer to my day. :)

Newer on my goto list are Dave–seriously entertaining gardening; animals; bike rides; origami: many things, and my newest blog buddy Tricipian’s 3dom, who, in addition to creating new philosophies from ancient truths, enhances my existence in many ways.

There are those few who have exchanged comments, advice, and friendship from almost the first day of my BlogBirth. They all have changed in these years, either in HOW they blog, HOW OFTEN thy blog, or the FOCUS of their blogs, but they are still here! Three years is a long time in any online community, and I feel particularly blessed that you are still in my life:

cjwriter, from down under, has been the most amazingly supportive and informative friend. He helped me out when I was a fledgling, and has supported my growth as a blogger. He has grown, much, as writer as well, inventing a new novel form, and recently has had much interest from publishers! It is a pleasure to read you and know you, cj.

Deirdra Kiai is the blogger who got me to blog. She makes socially relevant games; and has socially relevant comments. Until recently (!) she’s worn Birkenstocks and socks—how can you not trust a person like that? (I may forgive her for the toe shoes, haven’t decided yet.) ;) She’s quirky and kind and plays unusual musical instruments. And she composes the music for her games as well. Deirdra, I thank you for continuing inspiration.

Juan‘s technical wizardry has gotten me out of a couple of scrapes! He and I both have a different way of viewing relationships and social obligations that has been interesting to explore. And, he has offered to make me cookies! Thanks, Juan, for your continuing friendship and support. :)

It’s hard to know how to describe raincoaster. She’s been blogging a long time, and teaches blogging in Vancouver. Her topics range from the emotionally moving to the bizarre. Sea creatures are remarkably prevalent, as are obsessions with certain celebrities. Always entertaining, she is a very helpful blogging friend. She wants us to get it right. Thanks, rain, for helping me when I was a newbie, and continuing to add your own unique voice to this world.

Richard, of The Sacred Path, now hails from aloha land. I watched as he made this huge move and change in his life, yet remained the calm, supportive, and wise spiritual friend he always was. We met in the forums, and discovered many things in common. He journeys! I’m on one! Rich, I thank you for your friendship and aloha. :)

When I first met sulz, she was a very witty and articulate college student in Malaysia. She blogged about her life and opinions in a way that gave new meaning to “letting it all out”! ;) I found her charming and entertaining, and an odd sort of friend—not because she is odd—but because on the surface, we don’t have much in common. It just shows me what a fantastic medium blogging is: I might not have met someone like sulz in real life, but now that I know her, I’m so grateful I do! I’ve watched her go, and grow, through her first post-college career moves. She has matured, and learned and traveled since then. Her blogging frequency and topics have changed, but she remains as dear to me as she ever has. sulz, your loyalty and stalwart friendship are ever there; evolving over time, perhaps, but never leaving my heart. :)

Timethief writes a very well-regarded personal growth blog. She also has a helpful blogging tips and technical blog, and beyond those things is an artist and excellent writer from an island in western Canada. She and I became forum friends early on, and timethief is still very helpful to WordPressers needing assistance. Thank you timethief for supporting this blogger’s whims and emotions, and sharing yours. :)

All in all, I feel humbled, blessed and nurtured. Not a bad result for three years of spewing forth! Thank you readers, visitors and friends. ♥

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My toilet is singing; my window replies

Posted on June 23, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings |

Alright, this is going to be a strange one, even for me! You know how, when the water-fill mechanism begins to deteriorate inside the water tank on a toilet, it might start to leak? Well, mine is doing this. In the past, when this has happened, it sounded like an annoying, constant trickle. Not this time. I work in a large room which contains an attached bathroom. I was sitting here, typing away, as I will do, when I heard a mournful but uplifting tune from not far away. At first, I thought a neighbor might have the radio on. Both bubbly and mystical—what instrument could it be? It sounded a bit like panpipes+water fountain. I wanted to know which station was playing this music. I stood up, and noticed that the closer I got to the bathroom, the louder the tune became.

You guessed it; it was coming from the commode. The WC. The lowliest, yet greatly useful, appliance in the house. I’d patched in a couple of devices to regulate water pressure a while back, and the nice, clean water was spritzing through one of those. My first thought was I’d have to go to Home Depot and get a new thingy (technical term), but just as I was about to jiggle the handle (that’s the temporary fix for these things, right?) I drew back, as if from a hot stove, and realized I’d have to jot down the tune first!

You must understand I’m afflicted with a chronic sense of pitch recognition. When pouring a glass of water, I’ll hear a musical scale—all the pitches in the universe—as the water level gets higher. That’s why I used to think a container for serving drinks was called a “pitcher”, because it contained all the pitches!*

Perhaps you have seen the public television creativity promotion which features a composer sitting at a piano, looking for inspiration for his latest piece? He happens to glance out the window, and notices five electrical power lines arranged horizontally, like a musical staff. On the lines perch several birds. He plays the notes represented by the birds on his piano, and, voilà! his new melody.

I was feeling rather like that bloke. Except, while he was inspired by birds! in nature! I was inspired by…a toilet. :( Should I read something into that? {Insert joke/bad pun}

So… I’m writing the notes on staff paper when we get one of those desert “breezes” that can sometimes rattle the windows. (Yes, my windows need repair, as well as the commode.) The wind made this “whoosh” sound (rather glissando-like), then a rumbling (percussion), and the window rattled a beat just right to accompany the tune I was writing.

The harmony is emerging naturally from the tune. It’s in a plaintive, inquisitive mode. It forms itself as I sit here and take dictation, and mold it all into a coherent work. I like this work. It’s one of the best things I’ve written in some time. The thing is: What shall I call it? “Toilet Symphony”? I think not! :? Somehow, “Ode to Water and Wind” sounds a bit…meh! Can you help me out with a title? If I choose yours, I’ll send you a Muse-o-graphed copy of the final score when it’s complete! ♪ ♫ (Just promise me you won’t play it in the bathroom!)

*Actually, no I didn’t. I just made that up. But it seemed to fit. :)
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MUSE in Space!

Posted on June 15, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, Science, Travel |

Part 1: Speculation. OK, so I have this friend, that I met through this organization, who is a physicist. He teaches physics at the local U, and he’s brilliant at explaining mysterious mathematical concepts to the uninitiated. During the course of helping to facilitate several of his lectures for the organization, I’ve become a fan. Here in the Sonoran Desert, many residents run away when the temperature begins to stay at 100F (40C) or more, consistently. (Can’t really blame them, can you?) So, when I heard that this excellent speaker was giving a talk “downtown”, on Astronomy, I decided I would enjoy going to hear what he has to say, and support his project during this slow time of year.

Now, granted, I’m a bit of a Space Nut, as you’ll know if you read this post about how I collected moonlight on my body (shameless attempt to drive traffic to a prior post; I really did that, though). I like science in general; it is one of the creative arts for me. I’m not among those who believe it has definitive answers (nothing has definitive answers in my opinion) but I see it as a tool or filter to examine the Universe. This is important: “examine” not “conclude”. Perhaps you will put on sunglasses when it’s bright outside, and therefore are able to see, in greater detail, the nude pool party over your neighbor’s fence. The “nature” of the “party” hasn’t “changed” because of the “tool”—namely, the “sunglasses”—they just give you the opportunity to examine it in detail from one perspective. [Now, stop that! And go back into the house!] If you are like me (which I wouldn’t wish on you) you certainly wouldn’t make any Universal Conclusions about your neighbors based on that one observation of that one event. You may, however, decide to move away based on the one event. After all, they didn’t invite you, did they? Who wants to live next to people like that?

I checked out the venue for tonight’s lecture. It’s called Sky Bar. My first thought: “Quaint name for an astronomy club, that. Probably a rented room somewhere with mismatched chairs and concrete floors where science geeks gather.”

It turns out “Sky Bar” is an actual, well, Bar. You know: drinks; tables; dark room; bartenders; loud music; big screen tvs. The kind of place I generally stay away from…but! This one has a telescope mounted on the roof, which projects the night sky onto the aforementioned big screen tvs. And! They have “Family Night” on Tuesdays (don’t know how old the “families” have to be in order to be accommodated; it is a “bar” after all) during which they have a guest lecturer on an astronomical topic. Do you know anywhere else that has an astronomy bar? It’s so fun to live here!

Tonight’s topic is: “A Voyage through the Universe”. How could I not want to go?

This is an unprecedented blog post for me, because I’m posting Part 1 before I go. I shall UPDATE with Part 2: The Actual Experience upon my return. I just wanted to write up a little background first. I can’t believe this Bar for Space Geeks has been open since late last year, and I’m only just now hearing about it! See you later, with impressions.

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Part 2: The Actual Experience: I’m back! My first reaction to the experience is that it was hilarious! What are they thinking? I went with three friends, all of whom knew the speaker: (warning! switching tenses!)

We walk past an enclosed patio with university-looking-types waiting in line to peer through a HUGE telescope. Looks fun. Right inside the door, there are teenagers crowded around experiments from Tucson’s vegetable oil-powered Physics Factory, which was parked outside. Once inside we’re in what looks like a warehouse, with a very long bar along once side (Did I mention that this is a BAR? Yes, I believe I did.)

There were three very large televisions placed along the brick wall opposite the bar; #s 1 and 3 showing a basketball game, the middle with a live cam-feed of the local mountains. As it was still daylight, the Sky Bar was not yet featuring the night sky. We noticed a small platform, a piano, and a lectern near the middle tv, and figured that’s where the speaker would stand. Right next to THAT were two pool tables; even at this early hour getting plenty of use. We took seats at a one of the small tables scattered about, and ordered some drinks; waited to see what would happen next. Presently our average, yet overpriced pizza was delivered from next door, and the place started to fill. I looked around at the students, instructors, and other kinds of people, many of whom had their laptops out, working on this or that; others, though, beginning to speak louder and louder as their drinks began to take effect.

The speaker arrived, came over to say “hello”, and wondered out loud what he’d gotten himself into. They gave him a microphone and projector, and let him loose on the crowd. He began to speak about the wonders of the Universe, the relative sizes of the various galaxies and planets, and showed us what our sun will look like when it finally explodes sometime in the future. He told us we’d have time to finish our drinks, first.

A little girl, there with her family, stares at the slides and at the speaker in rapture. A little boy, with a different family, loudly declares: “This is so BORING! When can we go home?”

“Clink” go the glasses.
“Thwack” sounds the pool cue.
“Roar” yells the group that is watching the game.
“Born”—did I hear him say “spiritual globules”?
No, it was spherical: Baby star’s name.

Visit the Sky Bar…if you dare.
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Look up: Party Time

Posted on May 2, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, Musings, Spirituality, Travel |

I went to a party today. An organization I work for holds a party for its members twice a year. It’s location a little hard to find, so they say:” “Look for the Balloons!” in the invitations.

How did balloons come to be associated with parties? Why are there balloons, at all?

I don’t like these parties all that much. They are very noisy, and it’s not my favorite way to meet strangers. I’m not supposed to only talk to people I already know, either. I’m meant to “circulate”.

“The first rubber balloons were made by Professor Michael Faraday in 1824 for use in his experiments with hydrogen at the Royal Institution in London.” See? I knew I liked balloons for a reason! They’re meant for physics experiments!

The way I “circulate” at most parties is to stay in one place, and people come and go around me. I don’t run around the room saying “hello” to everyone I know. I don’t take official leave. I’m kind of rude, socially, actually.

“Balloons made from animal intestines have been known of throughout history.”  Sure! Let me blow air into a piece of wildebeest gut, and send it soaring!—Well, one does what one can for entertainment.

Still, people seem to like me well enough at these events; I don’t lack for conversation. I’d rather not yell the whole time, but it’s only for a couple of hours. And then there’s the food. There is usually great food.

There are two sad things about balloons. One is when they POP and scare little children (and unsuspecting adults). Worse, though, is when I see a child holding onto her balloon by the string, and she inadvertently lets go, and it goes floating away. I want to cry along with her!

Our organization is all about lectures and seminars and discussions about science and consciousness. Exciting, but, at the same time, rather dry. It is thought by some members of the governing committee that it’s a good idea to allow our attendees to socialize; to “let their hair down.” I take a look at three people busy letting their hair down. I giggle to myself. All three happen to be bald.

And there’s the “other” kind of balloon, too; the kind that humans can ride in a basket under! The first time I saw that kind of balloon was while watching the Wizard of Oz float away in one, leaving poor Dorothy and Toto behind! For a definitive and accurate history of ballooning, I refer you to Monty Python’s excellent series on the topic

The thing is, I don’t really understand parties. There are a lot of things I don’t understand, and this is one of them. Why are they fun? Granted, one gets to see people in a different context than usual. Perhaps see some people one hasn’t, for a while, or meet some interesting new folks. But, drink in hand; stories flying high–does this sort of social engagement really promote friendship? or business “networking”? Or–what?

My neighboring state, New Mexico, has a balloon fiesta each year; one of the largest and best known. It’s quite a sight! Look at the photos. And then, look up! You might just see one float by. Find your own story. Let your thoughts grow lofty with the air currents. Who knows? Perhaps balloons carry our wishes and desires to the gods!   National Blog Posting Month

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I(‘)M

Posted on November 25, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, HowTo, Musings |

The title of this post is a bit cryptic. IM is the acronym for “Instant Messaging”, something we’ve all probably done, at least a bit. With the apostrophe in place, it is also the contraction for “I Am”. I’m writing today about online communication as I experience it. I’ve had a shift in thinking, recently, and want to share that shift in my favorite place to write—here on the blog!

When I was very, very, young; long ago in a land far away, before there was email; before there were home computers, even, I had a pen-pal. I met her on a cruise ship, of all places. My aunt decided to treat my mother and I to a cruise to Hawaii! She was looking for travel companions, and didn’t like to fly, so a-cruising we went. This was the first time I’d been in Hawaii, and I would remember the place for eleven years until I went there to live for a time.

Anyway, I met Penny; exactly my age. She lived in New Jersey; I, in California. We got along. We ran around the ship together. She was with her aunt, as well—what a coincidence! We didn’t see each other during our stay in Hawaii, but, we discovered we’d be on the same ship together on the way back, too. We decided to become pen-pals, and wrote to each other for a decade. Amazing! I don’t know what’s become of her. She stopped writing to me when she got married, at a very young age. Apparently she’d outgrown our friendship.

A few years later, along came email. I signed on as soon as possible. I got a free account from the local university, and it took a lot of work to log on in those days. You know, dial-up, POP, and other things I still don’t understand. Still, some of my far-flung friends were online, and I could sit in my room, late at night, and catch up with them without writing letters.

There are still some of those relationships I continue primarily through email, including that with my sister, my only sibling. Then, a few years later on, I started to hear about this thing called “Blog”. This was right up my alley…but wait! I have skipped a step. My email account at that point was on America Online. I still have that one, used mostly for personal correspondence and family. AOL had introduced this feature called “IM”, later, “AIM”. I would be online, surfing the web, minding my own business, and suddenly a popup would appear! “Hi”, my friend or relative would say, “Whatcha doin’?” —To use an expression popular at the time, this really freaked me out! Someone knew I was online! They knew what I was doing! They might as well have had secret cameras planted in my room for all it affected my equilibrium!

I liked my friends; I liked (most of) my family, but, soon, I learned how to disable this “IM” thing. It made me uncomfortable. I found it interruptive, and, unlike blogging, it required a real-time instant response from me. This does not paint me at my best. I like to MUSE (thus my blog name) cogitate, regurgitate, ponder, and post. Instant chat? —Not so much.

All well and good. As you can see, I discovered the blogging platform, and enjoy it tremendously. I still use email for personal messages, and I like that I can respond in my own good, thoughtfully considered time. By the way, you will also have guessed by now that I don’t do “texting” either. I use my phone to make occasional calls, when life dictates it is the quickest path to my goal. I don’t like actually talking on the phone much, either!

Then, recently, I joined an online virtual community. There, the primary mode of communication is….INSTANT MESSAGING!!! At first, I was so fascinated with the whole experience, that I figured maybe it was time to go ahead and learn to do this despicable thing. There really is no other way to be in the virtual world. One runs around, and meets people—in my case in classes and discussion groups, mostly—and unless one wants to just be lonely and explore, one must chat. Eeek!

When I decided to move to Hawaii, eleven years after my introduction to that tropical world by my Auntie, I spent the first couple of months all by myself. This was OK with me. I like to scope out new territory before interacting with people. Eventually, I did make friends (through classes I took—do you see a pattern?) and began to do things with them. In the virtual world, I spent the first month largely by myself. When I met a couple of people on an island, I confessed that “you are the first people I’ve talked to!” Probably the wrong thing to say, as they thought I was a bit weird. I had met a couple of avatars, or virtual representations of people, who walked right up to me; must have thought my avatar was attractive, and asked if I had a partner and how old I was. When I explained I “wasn’t there for that” (at least not initially) :) they would run away, very quickly.

After a while, I kind of got used to the “IM” thing. After all, when I was in a class or discussion, how could I discuss if I didn’t type something, in real time? But, what I noticed is that I “made friends” VERY quickly, often based upon the most superficial of details. I guess this is a condition of Facebook, too—you’d have to tell me, as I don’t participate in that platform, either.

One of the things I liked about the virtual world was that I could have chats very late at night, when I’m actually awake and alert, at times I would never telephone a real life friend. During one such chat with a person I had “friended” I found myself on the receiving end of some very unpleasant dialog. The person had thought I had certain values and interests. I’d thought the person had other values. It ended excruciatingly, and, actually, I felt emotionally drained and abused by this person’s contempt. Oh my.

I have never experienced this on the blog. Even when I’ve gotten less than supportive comments, I’ve been able to step away, consider my response, and always look for the good in the commenter. In IM, it all goes by so fast, I don’t have that ability. You might be wondering if I’m able to have face-to-face conversations with real people. Somehow, this is possible and pleasurable for me. I think the difference is that in IM, one doesn’t have physical cues, just words flashing by; fast and furious.

I stepped away from the virtual world for a week or so. It happened that it was also at an extremely busy time in my real life: a concert series ending production; a speaker series ready to go. I didn’t blog during that time, either. I felt some “online burnout”, and it translated to real-life friend-avoidance, too. Now, I’m cautiously approaching the virtual world again. But it’s different; no longer as carefree.

I learned much from this experience. Firstly, to re-evaluate my values; to be sure they are ones with which I’m currently congruent. Secondly, to not get distracted by the dazzle of an online personality if that person’s values are greatly incompatible. (I can learn a lot from people who differ, but not from those who hold my values in contempt.) It really has been a valuable experience, and I believe it has changed me, virtually and really. I’ll be fascinated to see where it all leads.

Do you like to “IM”? Is your cognitive processing faster than mine, so that it feels natural and right to you? If so, perhaps you can give me lessons? :)

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