Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Usually I want to read the book, but...

...I guess I'm time-challenged enough (since I got old, jeez, when did that happen?) that it's just easier to get my pop-culture fare from movies. There's no way I'd have the time (or inclination) to read the twilight series (been there, done that, remember Anne Rice? Still writing -- who knew? -- and... well, nevermind, you clicked the link or you didn't, I won't judge), but I'd like to see the movie if Angelina and her friends could get it together enough to pick a flipping day already.

In the meantime, there's current TV to explain why I even want to spend my cash on this:

As for Anne Rice, I liked Lasher better than Lestat (and if I ever had much cared for Lestat, seeing Tom Cruise play him in the movie would have ruined it for me anyway).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Balance and Groovin'

[this image ripped off of some random German myspace page that ripped it off from somewhere else]

I haven't posted lately due largely to feeling weirdly off-balance since just before T-Day. However, I finished my final paper for the Public Health Surveillance course I was taking at UNC Chapel Hill's School of Public Health, and although the wait to learn my fate grade-wise is excruciating, I am feeling more myself again and ready and able to start yowling in my room full of rocking chairs. Not that it was the paper that had me off-balance, I don't think, but absent a major stressor, it's easier to re-stabilize.

I finally finished a book I've been slogging through all summer (and it's winter now, hmmm), and took it off the current reading list, and looking at the list, it looks, well, off-balance. Great Dharma reading, sure, but that's it. So I'm going through my list on Amazon of books I've been meaning to buy, but don't have room (or $) for:

Friends of Interpretable Objects was a recommendation from Will, the guy who writes Not too expensive; definitely a contender.

I'm interested in Epidemiology of Aging, but it's a textbook, so quite expensive, and probably better combined with other readings in a class than as recreational reading.

I've deleted a couple things from the list, as just "nah."

Despite being a few years old, Six Modern Plagues and How We Are Causing Them looks pretty good, but I'm feeling a little plagued-out for the time being.

Amazon recommends for me The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (along with a bunch of other stuff that they apparently just had a quota to push), and I think I'd really like it, but it just makes me really want a Kindle so I can buy and read it without having to store it forever after or donate it somewhere and pray it finds a good home.

Made to Stick looks interesting and fun, but again I get that wish-I-had-a-kindle feeling. (I am so getting one when I have a real job and the 2.0 becomes available in February or whenever)

Mind Beyond Death looks awesome, but would not help my balance problem much.

Of course I have those tomes by Pynchon I've lost enthusiasm for. I started Mason & Dixon and it was just such a man's book. It's great that there is such a thing, why should chick-lit have all the fun, but seriously I thought, "Yeah, this is great, but still no."

The Amazon recommendations are disappointing really, which I suppose is to be expected. You buy or wish-list one book and they come up with other books like it for you to read. So they're basically encouraging people to read only within their already-established grooves, when for me and probably a lot of other people the whole point of recreational reading is to get out of my usual groove. I call it a groove rather than a rut because I don't think it's all bad to have a groove, a groove is groovy, yo, and groovin' is what we all want from life, at least most of the time. But of course it's a matter of balance, because too much groovin' makes a rut.

So here's hoping we're all groovin' just enough, not too much, as we head into the solstice and the longest night of the year. Just a couple weeks away now and then the light starts coming back.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I only made it to 43,000 this week

May all beings benefit anyway. I guess I have to do 50,000 this week, just to show myself I can.

Don't these flowers look happy? (I swiped them from here.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Om Mani Peme Hung

Tuesday total is 7,000 and running total is 21,000.

Wednesday total is 7,000 and running total is now 28,000 as of 9pm.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday Total: 7,000; Running Total: 7,000

(Thanks, again, to wuhwuh)

UPDATE [7:30pm]: I've got 7,000 today (running total 14k), and may get more if I finish my homework in time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Khenpo Tsultrim's Thanksgiving Project

This letter is from Khenpo Tsultrim about his suggestion for how we can use the Thanksgiving holiday to reflect on the plight of other beings and direct our attention to wishing them happier futures:

Dear Dharma sisters and brothers,

Next Thursday, we in the US will be celebrating the traditional Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition in this culture where families and friends gather together to express their gratitude and appreciation for each other and for the blessings that we have enjoyed over the past year. It is a time to reflect, to count our blessings and to be thankful. The heart of Bodhisattva-practice is the repaying of the kindness of others and if reflect deeply we will realize that we are here and alive today due to the kindness of all mother sentient beings.

In this regard, we should also be aware that during this holiday season, an incredible number of turkeys has been or will be killed for the purposes of our celebration. Furthermore, most of these birds have been raised in very poor and inhumane circumstances. In order to more fully integrate our Dharma-practice with our everyday life, I hope we will each do what we can to lessen the unintended suffering that we have caused during this holiday season. To that end, please consider practicing any of the following to whatever degree that you can:

1) Celebrate this Thanksgiving differently - think of other creative ways that do not have to involve the taking of animal lives for this holiday's feast. If this is not completely possible, then minimize the taking of life. Do what we can.

2) Recite as many Mani-mantras (om mani peme hung) or Amitabha mantras (om amideva hrih) as you can and dedicate it to the alleviation of suffering of these unfortunate turkeys and other animals. The TMC will begin this recitation this Sunday (11/23) and we encourage you and your centers to do so until next Sunday (11/30). Please email us at
by next Saturday midnight to let us know how many mantras you have accumulated over the week. We will include that total number at our group dedication prayers conducted at TMC on Sunday 11/30.

3) Make a donation to any no-kill, animal-rescue/shelter that you know of and dedicate the virtue of the donation to the alleviation of suffering of animals killed for food.

Please share this humble suggestion that I have with your family and friends whom you think might be interested.

Yours in the Dharma,
Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin
TMC Spiritual Director

I've got 3,333 accumulated so far, and I'm going for 50,000 by Saturday night. He suggested today we could do mantras in the car instead of listening to music. I do about 1,000 in ten minutes, and I commute about 30 minutes each way, so that's 6,000 per day (or thereabouts) just in the car. So working a 4 day week, that's half of it right there. I think 50,000 is very do-able. I'll post my progress.

My imaginary readers are encouraged to participate in this effort. You can post your progress here and either email TMC yourselves or I can note your contributions when I email Khenpo-La. And if at all possible, join us next Sunday for the dedication. May all beings benefit!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Redheads on a Roll

Well, Carol, anyway. I think Julie's a blonde.

Laugh out loud. It's good for you!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Speaking of adorable, musical redheads...

Here's more joy for your heart:

If you have the time, you might want to also check out An Evening with Danny Kaye (in 17 parts!).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just because Shlomo Mintz is such a cutie...

I thought I'd post some more:

The Mendelssohn pieces are great, too, of course, but I'm partial to Sibelius. The Paganini Caprices are just for showing off, IMO, not as much for lay appreciation.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Joyful Music

WebMD says joyful music helps the heart by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow, while music that makes people feel anxious constricts blood vessels. Given that yesterday's selection may have been of the kind to produce anxiety, I feel I ought to post some joyful music today, so here's to your heart:

How's that for joyful? Want more?

Sweet! And in conclusion....

J.S. Bach knew his way around some joy, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Repo! the Genetic Opera

How the Rocky Horror potential of this film has been missed is a mystery, but I so wish I could see this in a movie theater instead of having to wait for a DVD in January:

I don't care if it's bad. It could be greatly bad. Paris Hilton and Sarah Brightman in the same movie, c'mon!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

No One Sleeps

This post is the apology I owe to the glorious art of opera for my impatience with it yesterday when I was trying to find classical music to listen to online while I worked and came up against station after station after station with "Saturday Afternoon at the Opera" programming. While I can watch broadcasts or recordings of opera, listening to an entire opera is not my idea of a pleasant background distraction. I finally found WCPE, which suited nicely.

So to apologize to Opera, I post for your listening and viewing pleasure Placido Domingo's performance of Nessun Dorma from Turandot (with Spanish subtitles, even). In English, it's:

No one sleeps!
No one sleeps!
Even you, oh princess,
in your cold room,
look at the stars
that tremble with love
and hope!

But my mystery
it is locked in me.
And my name,
no one will know!
No, no!

On your mouth
I will say it,
when the light
will shine!

And my kiss will break the silence,
that makes you mine!

His name no one will know...
And we shall have, alas, to die, to die...!

Disperse, o night!
Vanish, oh stars!
Vanish, oh stars!

At daybreak, I will win!
I will win!
I will win!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment

Starting tomorrow morning, Khenpo Tsultrim will be teaching from A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, Sunday mornings at 10am all month.

Here is a pdf with a brief (9 pg) biography of Atisha, author of the above.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Balance, or The Center Must Hold

Angelina, her BFF, JMax & I saw The Jones Benally Family as Blackfire at the American Indian museum in DC in August 2007. Clayson Benally did the hoop dance with his brother and sister drumming and singing, and Jones Benally also sang/chanted. I was very impressed by the hoop dance and how precise and graceful Clayson Benally's dancing was. (And only someone as skinny as a Navajo could even dance through those hoops, I swear.) This video doesn't really do the dancing justice, but I felt it was the one that showed the most, blurry as it is.

Jones Benally speaks in the first video about how we are the injured people and the hoop dance is a healing dance to bring us back to the center. We are still as we were when Yeats wrote his famous The Second Coming nigh on 90 years ago. Not enough dancing, maybe, or not mindful dancing, anyway...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Try this:

Open two windows. In one window, listen to this. (Start that one first)

Then also play this video in another window:

Or the video from yesterday, or both.

The Gongyo chanting is quieter than the music (and longer), but I think they go well together.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I can't help myself

I don't like to make fun of people, really, and especially not for poor command of the language, but I have to laugh at this.

Sedentary people may sit like rocks, but they are not sedimentary.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I don't know the artist, but this Kuanyin I found through Jayarava is exquisite.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nothing to See Here

The "video" is nothing to look at, but I liked this version I came across cruising the wayback machine. If I start posting old clips from Moonlighting, somebody please just shoot me already...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What It's About

Gaiamuse put this "Commercial for Compassion" together from Flicker photos:

I highly recommend taking the time to view her other videos also.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not another video...

No, actually, not another video. I just came across a darling poem, here (scroll down to September 25th). It was written by Maitreyabandhu, pictured right. Here it is:

The Bond

Now that we are here again in this dark place
we must find something – a scratch of light,
an oval pebble. And we must sit here quietly
till he comes, wait patiently, not look
too often out of the window, not peep,
but know that he is coming, yes, and make
a clean place – like having clipped nails
and washed hands and a sharp pencil at the ready.
No crumbs. No digressions. We should say
gentle now and gentleness, like someone calming
a horse, or helping a child hold a kitten.
But not sweetly, not gingerly – hair pulled back,
buttons and a smock – he wouldn’t want that.
Just the air blowing through us. Just the air.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Excellent Birds!

So I looked at a few variations before selecting this one. Although I really like it with Peter Gabriel (and there are several videos, including this one that is oddly/scarily reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite), ultimately, I selected the classic:

I saw her once at Lisner (Strange Angels tour). Awesome.

Something peculiar occurred to me watching this: big boobs didn't used to be mandatory. It's so nice to see that again. Although I've never felt deficient in that aspect or considered it a big deal (unavoidable pun, sorry), there used to be a time when it was not unusual to see women on even a TV or movie screen who were flat-chested and it was just normal. Superman's girlfriend did not have to have giant boobs. (And Superman did not have to look "ripped".) And Indiana Jones' woman, not flat-chested, but the boobs were so not the point. (And on the man's side again, check out Harrison Ford, hotter'n'hell without looking artificially enhanced.) How often do we see images now of women with less than a C-cup? When, exactly, did big boobs become mandatory? And "sculpting" for male and female physiques? I mean The Plastics were a joke, right?

OK, rant over, just watch Laurie Anderson and it'll all be good...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!

OK, so he's not a baby. (lawdy lawdy, look who's fawdy) And I wouldn't dare call him "Tedlet." But when I searched youtube with the string "happy birthday Ted" I found this sweet video, so I'm posting it here in honor of my baby brother Ted's 40-th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Ted!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Call It a Wash

I peeked today, after talking to Abi. I'm not exactly sure why talking to Abi made me peek. I said to him we should be thankful for the blessings in our lives every day, so that they don't leave us. I think it was something to do with that. I peeked. I wish I had something like a grip. (Of course, I'm always noting that there's a huge difference between wishing for something and deciding to have it... What I really need to do is decide to have a grip.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008



Saturday, October 4, 2008

The The Beat(en) Generation

I thought this was timely (again). The retro look of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show is a nice touch. I tried 3 times to upload the video so it could be embedded, and Blogger is just not cooperative this evening, darnit. Of course, Matt Johnson's a Brit, but considering how he feels about that:
(Wow, and he's still so hot, too!)...I can hope he'll forgive me for considering the song to be about US, too.

And here's another old fave that's still timely: Sweet Bird of Truth

This bird is sinking!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Low-Fat vs. Low-Carb

So WebMD has another article about the relationship between a high-fat diet and inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome, this time pointing to the hypothalamus as the mediating organ. While the suggestion that a high-fat diet causes inflammation that worsens obesity/metabolic syndrome is not new, low-carb diet furvor edged out low-fat diet dogma years ago, and the low-carb promoters still have hegemony.

Now while I maintain the view that oversimplification breeds extremism and failure in diets just as in everything else, I do need to sort this out, since genetics and industrial disease put me at high risk for developing metabolic syndrome soon myself if I don't get my BMI below 25. My smart-but-no-bedside-manner physician persistently reminds me of that, which works as well as an apple-a-day, apparently, only in reverse. ;)

Data-phile that I am, one of the things I love about FitDay is that I can look at, or experiment if you will, with which approach works best for me. After a Summer of this, I think that the low-fat approach works better for me. I supplement with 3g of DHA daily and although I have to have butter and dislike margerine, I use olive oil rather than canola or other vegetable oils. So understand that I'm not talking about anything remotely like ultra-low-fat craziness. But while I understand that carbs hold water and that affects weight, too, from my own observation of my own body's response to diet, weight loss is more likely when I limit fat than when I limit carbs. Of course the primary thing I need to curb is my stupid sweet tooth, but I try to take in more grams of protein than of fat, and I think when I succeed at that, my diet improves. So I guess I'm a believer in the too-much-fat-causes-inflammation-causes-metabolic-disorder-and-obesity theory. (But it's not a Grand Unification Theory, ferpetesakes.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

The CDC Plays Hardball - with a piano

The CDC has expanded its recommendations for children getting the flu shot to all children up to age 18 (who aren't otherwise ineligible due to egg allergy or other serious health complication). IMO, being vaccinated is a civic responsibility, like learning CPR and first aid, donating blood if eligible, frequent handwashing, voting, or serving on a jury. It is part of being a lawful and responsible citizen.
The captioning describes the music as "somber", and most of the parents talking about having lost a child to the flu remain composed, but the CDC is not fooling around about the need to get kids vaccinated. A talking head points out that even though "only" 100 children a year dies from flu, each death is a tragedy, and the video makes this fact more than a statistic.

Angelina was vaccinated for menningitis in August, and I'll be calling Dr. Sharma today to find out when her office will have the flu vaccine available for her to get her flu shot.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

(Re)Introduction to Meditation

I'm so glad I went to this program last night. Don't be fooled by the blurb. This "introduction" to meditation techniques was not the for-dummies version, it was a methodical and detailed presentation of the reasons meditation is necessary, the obstacles to meditation or to effective meditation, and the benefits of increasing practice. (The Tibetans are so methodical and they count everything, I love that! It reminds me of pre-school when the teachers would tell us "this is blue" or how to draw and "A", could it have been that long ago that I felt "taught"?)

This re-introduction to meditation was sorely needed by me personally, and I liked this Lama. Here's his picture:


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cowboy Junkies cover "One" (U2)

I came across this the other day and really liked it, so I decided to upload it as my first video to RFoRC. (Man, these things take way longer to upload than download...) I don't really approve, since I think the song's bigger than some squeeze-y love story, but the shots are all from Ridley Scott's Tristan and Isolde, which I haven't seen even though it's Ridley Scott. I'll see if I can get Angelina to watch it with me sometime. I'm a mystery/thriller kind of gal (I'll be watching We Own the Night tonight), not much into historical drama, disappointed my Sainted Mommy by flat-out refusing to see Brideshead Revisited with her (sorry, Mom), but this is Ridley Scott, so there's fighting at least. ;)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Joseph Petcka, @5540!3

In this, the Inaugural Post of The "@5540!3" Report, I introduce one Joseph Petcka, whose notoriety as an @5540!3 has elevated him to the rank of Forever Undateable. To summarize briefly, said @5540!3 got drunk in the apartment of his girlfriend of 6 weeks, picked a fight with the girlfriend which she tried to end by going to sleep, picked a fight with his girlfriend of 6 weeks' 7 pound cat (Norman), got himself bitten by the 7 pound cat, assaulted the girlfriend of 6 weeks at 3am in her bed where she had been asleep, accused her of loving the cat more than him [gee, yathink?], and then beat the cat to death "in self defense" after she fled the apartment. Not to put too fine a point on things, but the 7 pound cat was declawed. Any woman who would knowingly date this creep, for the rest of his life, a) deserves what she gets, poor twit, and b) had better not have pets or children, because they would not deserve it.

Where have all the cowboys gone?


We don't need no stinkin' cowboys!

Kitties just want love...

I'm so sorry, Norman. Om bo la mo ling to ning so ha

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Baby Brother was reportedly surprised that I went to Babylon AD with Angelina Sunday. I can't imagine why. I may be over the hill, but I'm still heterosexual, jeez.

Vin was in my dream this morning. It was wonderful. We were in a crowded restaurant for breakfast and I couldn't stop hugging him and he looked at me with a message and I understood something very important that I can't quite remember now, but it was something profound about love and how wonderful and easy and perfect it is when you just don't make it complicated, but it was more than that, very significant, and I was happy and humbled and surprised and deeply grateful (through and through my bones and deeper than I even knew my heart was) all at once.

Thanks, Vin. Wow.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Om Bo La Mo Ling To Ning So Ha

When I looked down from my bedroom window this evening after putting on my pj's (the blue fleece teddy bear pj's that are giant and warm and comfortable and I love them even though I look ridiculous), I saw a dead baby bunny lying by the walk. I went down to see what had happened, and I don't know what happened to him (or her, I can't tell). He (or she) was so pretty, such beautiful fur and so tiny and perfect, but there were bees in his (or her) mouth, I guess for the moisture(?), and there was this very pronounced a-dead-bunny-how-sad-ness in the sunset air. I buried the bunny under the japanese magnolia beside the driveway, because I thought it was a pretty place and the ground is soft enough there. I covered the grave with rocks and said some mantras (in my blue fleece teddy bear pj's, but the neighbors know me here). Dad thought maybe I should have left it for the fox, but I figured Boo-kitty or the dogs might get to it first, and it's just nicer to give a little being a little burial, isn't it?

I found this lovely image of Earth Store Boddhisattva:

...which I hereby dedicate to the baby bunny buried under the japanese magnolia beside the driveway, and for the benefit of all beings, may the lower realms all be emptied.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Detective Stories

The Medical Detectives was as good as I'd hoped. It included a story that was the final assignment in my intro to epidemiology class this summer. I think part of the story from the book was excerpted in the assignment. The assignment was to track down the source of a Hepatitis A outbreak that occurred in Michigan in 1968. It's a classic case.

I've always loved detective stories. Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, Sue Grafton, Tony Hillerman, Umberto Eco, PD James, Elizabeth George... I even read Keene's Nancy Drew books (probably 40 or 50 of them). I used to love to spend all day curled up with a mystery novel, a box of chocolates, and my cat(s). I still would, if I thought I could get away with it. Perhaps if I live to retirement...

Alas, my eye has already been caught by another book: Making up the Mind, mentioned on one of the Buddhist blogs I read. I plan to sneak out to a bookstore after work one day soon. I hope the Kindle takes off, so I can stop stacking books two deep on my bookshelves. I'm afraid the ones in the storage unit all these years are mostly a loss...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

20 minutes in a bookstore....

...and I'm a goner. I was only there to wait for Angelina. I didn't want to buy a book, I didn't need to buy a book, and yet I came home with a book because once I saw it, I had to have it. It's an illness, I suppose.

The book is The Medical Detectives by Berton Roueche. He wrote articles for The New Yorker about tracking down the causes of medical problems from 1947 to 1988. Twenty-five stories! Of epidemiological investigations! Aaaaaahhhhhh... :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Still Here...

Not that you'd notice from this blog unless you're clicking through to my pouting on the FitDay Journal. I've hit a plateau, and the only thing for it, so I've read, is to exercise more and cut back my carb intake. And there was much rejoicing. [not!]

In good news, I got an "H" in my first epidemiology class (equivalent to an "A") and I'll start class 2 (Fundamentals of Public Health Surveillance) on Tuesday. No books to buy, everything's online, thank you UNC School of Public Health! Another piece of good news is that UMUC corrected the name on my degree, so that someone looking at it would know it was mine, not my grandmother's or my daughter's.

I'm teaching at Red Cross Silver Spring a few times coming up, this coming Tuesday, possibly the next Tuesday, and a date in September and a two-nighter in October. As if I don't already have enough stuff with "Red Cross" all over it, I've decided I want a fleece jacket. But mostly, I don't want to get out of practice or let them forget about me. And I really enjoy meeting the people who take the classes, even though I'm not likely to ever see most of them again. If anyone reading this hasn't been trained and certified in CPR or First Aid, well, for goodness sakes, why not?! Get trained! Be prepared! The barbarians aren't at the gates, they are us!

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming...

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Question for the Dalai Lama

His Holiness took questions today before the afternoon's teachings. Some of them were to be answered in that afternoon's teachings, and so they were deferred. (One I thought was really inappropriate, and I'm trying to have some compassion for the person's confusion. His Holiness did, of course, and I think ducked the question very gracefully.) The procedure for asking a question was apparently to write it and put it in a basket somewhere. I don't know if they'll do this again tomorrow, but I know what my question is if they do.

His Holiness talked today about the 3 levels of capacity:
- initial capacity, persons who seek to have pleasureable lives and are motivated to take refuge and study dharma to learn how to avoid rebirth into the suffering in lower realms, for them the goal is to avoid the 10 negative actions and attain a precious human rebirth in the next life
- medium capacity, persons who recognize mundane suffering and seek enlightenment to escape samsara
- superior, persons who seek complete and precious perfect enlightenment in order to help all beings escape suffering, for them the goal is omniscience, HH said today

Wouldn't we all like to think we're of the superior kind? I know I would, but honestly, I'm probably still hanging out in the initial zone. But this led me to a question I wondered about after seeing the movie Hotel Rwanda about the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 (the year my daughter was born).

Karma is the consequences of action with intent, and there were conditions present that accumulated over time that led to the terrible things that happened. I get that. And somehow those unfortunate 800,000 people who were murdered and the people who murdered them and all the other survivors were involved in the horror by other conditions that put them in that place at that time.

So my question is, would someone of superior capacity seek an unfortunate human rebirth (like for example as one of the people in Rwanda) in order to spare another sentient being that horror? Or on the flip side, if you're just one of the initial capacity folks trying to avoid an unfortunate rebirth, does someone else get stuck with an unfortunate life when you get a good one, or are you taking someone else's place when you get a precious rebirth?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Mind as Pancake

This essay in this month's Atlantic Monthly was linked to in a comment on, which appears to be written by an ethics prof in the UK. It seemed a bit long for what it said, and I wondered if that was part of the author's point, that expectations for how pithily we can view content have been dramatically changed by the internet. I did enjoy the essay.

I also thought it was a bit presumptious for the author to speculate that this phenomena is happening to our culture as a whole, rather than just people who have their heads up their data ports. A quick and lazy Google search of "percentage of people with internet access" yields the information that 75% of people in the United States have home internet access and 694 million people worldwide use the internet. (Clearly I have my head up my data port. I stuck it up in there getting a Master's degree online, and I've just never bothered to pull it back out. I think about it sometimes, but then I get distra-- oh, look, a bunny!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Warrior One

OK, I don't want to give anyone the impression I actually practice yoga. So not the case, alas. But seeing how long it's been since I felt like saying anything on the blog, I thought I'd take a suggestion from a book I reading right now Downward Dogs and Warriors, to give the blog a little boost. (Also, JMax delivered the beer last night, so I have to give him the blog address and I figure I ought to post something, y'know, current.)

OK, so here's a suggestion for journaling related to the Warrior poses that Zo Newell writes in the book:

Reflect and journal on a time that you came to the defense of a righteous cause or an innocent person. Invite the emotional qualities of that experience into your practice of the warrior poses. Keep the experience in mind while practicing with softness in the eyes and openness in the heart.

Where, for you, is the line between laziness and intelligent inaction? Where is the line between intelligent action and thoughtless rage?

This is harder than it looks! (the journaling, I mean, not the pose) What I come up against is the difficulty of finding recent examples of coming to someone's defense, which is quite disheartening, really. When I was younger, I was quite the crusader, but of late, I've sidelined myself, and I definitely do not seek opportunities to be righteous. Apart from taking the dog to task for snapping at the cat (or the cat for taking a swat at the dog), I just don't do a lot of this on a routine basis.

I'm ambivalent about whether it would be good to develop this more or not. I suppose if it were always done with soft eyes and an open heart, I'd be more trusting of it, but look at the media folks who are making a living from "righteousness." [I'll spare y'all my "Lou Dobbs is an idiot" rant for the time being, but be warned that from time to time I find myself in a waiting room or lobby or someplace where he's on the TV, and you're likely to hear about it then.] And don't we TV-addicts get our righteousness-fixes from watching programs like Medium or Heroes or Bones or even CSI? (TMI, again, this time about my TV habits, but, hey, it's a blog ferpetesakes.) Dedicated professionals investigating wrongs in pursuit of justice, that's our defense of the weak.

And reality just isn't so simple. I have yet to think of a single thing I can do or say to "defend" Rachel (or her mom). And the best example of my coming to someone's defense I can think of just wasn't this sort of thing. Here it is anyway:

I'm "in charge" (ha) of an assisted living with a kindv lame actitivies program and to try to kick a little life into it and lead by example (not that the activities director was going to see it that way, but whatever), I set up a trip to Montgomery College to see Maryland Youth Ballet's Nutcracker. The Son of one of my very elderly and disabled residents calls me and asks if it would be OK or if I think his mom would even be able to enjoy it if he went with her to this event. The lady requires 24/7 one-to-one care and he'll have the caregiver come, too, but he'd like for her to be able to go unless I think it's a bad idea. I said I think it's a wonderful idea and that even if she can't really see the dancers all that well, she'll hear the music, and she'll be out to the ballet with her son and the time spent with him doing something special will mean a lot to her.

This lady doesn't have a lot of energy left to expend interacting with people in the ways they're most used to, but she's still sharp enough, and she loves to be around other people and experience what's going on. It's one of the unfairnesses of the assisted living world that such people tend to be excluded from things by staff who think they don't contribute enough to the milieu and "aren't really getting anything out of it anyway", supported by marketing people who want to make sure potential residents' families don't see "too many wheelchairs." This was the kind of treatment this lady and her family had come to expect. Coming to her "defense" just consisted of affirming the rightness of her being supported and encouraged in participating in an activity in her community.

Writing about that does give me that strong feeling to work with in the pose, but interestingly, it also gives me a feeling of needing to be cautious. I'm aware of some pretty strong negative feelings toward individuals who disregarded what this lady may have wanted, as well as toward the industry (for lack of a better word) and how for-profit so often in practice turns into against-resident, but we're all supposed to just play along with the way it is, because it's how we make our own livings, after all, and if we don't market, market, market, we could wind up unemployed waiting for Westat to get that hospital's IT department's clearance for remote access to their medical records system. (sigh)

It's not really journal material, I guess, but the two questions about laziness vs intelligent inaction and intelligent action vs. thoughtless rage are valuable considerations when faced with a decision about rising to someone's defense.

I'm less keen on rising to the defense of a righteous cause or ideal, but culture change needs to happen. Bob invited me to a meeting on July 14th, but I'm hoping to be coming back from Bethelehem, PA that evening. More on that later....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The President's Fitness Challenge

I remember in public school that periodically, typically years apart, a gym class or so would be devoted to assessing the students for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. We had to do push-ups and pull-ups and sit-ups and run a little ways, and then in high school there was drama over the "body-fat percentage rating" where they took calipers to our arms. I recall being terrified of the calipers test, and then mystified to learn that my body fat percentage was a not-too-bad 17%, whereas a short athletic girl (I remember her name but won't mention it here) was measured as 24%. I think the cut-off at the time for OK vs not-OK was identified as 18%. So every time they did it, maybe 5% of the girls would actually qualify, be congratulated with a certificate, and then it would be forgotten for another few years.

Well, it's back, and this time it's for adults, too. And since there are no calipers involved and I've just resolved (again) to try to improve my health and fitness, I've registered (even thought the challenge officially ended in mid-May). Being quite sedentary, I've enrolled in the Active Lifestyle Program, in which I can track daily online whether I did my 30 minutes of exercise, and get a star :) for every week in which I do so 5 or more days in the week. There is also an Adult Fitness Test, and when I'm good and ready I can also enter my scores online and get comparisons between my own fitness and some vaguely comparable percentile-ranking scale.

The President's Fitness Challenge gives me a page of my own to track my progress, but don't worry, y'all won't see it. The link in the sidebar is just the main page, in case any of my imaginary readers wants to try it out.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Taking the blog way personal

WARNING: The following post is TMI

My dosha is very kapha, so I've tendencies for both laziness and being overweight, although on the plus-side, when properly nourished, excercised, and rested, I'm quite strong. How fat I am has always been a good indicator of how stressed and/or unhappy I am. For example, over the past few years, I started my nursing home social worker job at a high degree of fatness, having come off of several months of unemployment and a year of uncertain job security before that. Over the course of 2 years at the nursing home, I lost about 30 pounds, although toward the end we had an administrator who was a demented nightmare (may all beings benefit) and I regained about 10 pounds prior to my promotion to executive director of an assisted living, a job I had really wanted and had worked for years to get. Over the next 14 months in that position I gained an additional 35 pounds, a sure-fire indicator that it was not the job for me after all. My subsequent release from the fat-making job has not helped matters, and for the past few months of unemployment, I have remained fatter than I've been since 2001, when I lost 60 pounds of stress-weight to return to a close-to-healthy BMI.

Well, I start a part-time job Monday, and I'm encouraged to see that the folks there are normal-weight, since obesity is at least somewhat contagious. (At the fat-making job, my boss and all but one of my 7 peers were overweight-to-obese, whereas at the nursing home all but one of my peers was normal-weight. Hmmm.) To leverage this opportunity of a fresh start, I have signed up for a fitness journal, in which I can enter everything I eat and whatever exercise I get, and track my weight loss.

I took this step after reading this article on WebMD, which is disappointingly not linked to the study on which the claim is based, but what can you expect from Good Housekeeping after all, right? It seemed reasonable, so I decided to give it a try. (I wasn't vegetarian when I lost the weight in 2001, I did it by going high-protein and low-carb, which meant eating meat daily, not just a couple times a week which was my more natural tendency, so it's not an option this time, I have to come up with something else workable.)

Mostly for my own convenience, I'm making the fitness journal "public" so that I can link to it form here for ease of access. This will have the unfortunate side effect of inflicting on my imaginary readers way more infomation about the eating and non-exercising habits of a middle-aged suburban mom than anyone wants, and for this I apologize in advance.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another Good "Duh" Study

I can't get the JAMA article without a subscription, but there's a good summary at bright lights have (again) been shown to reduce symptoms of dementia, such as agitation, depression, and poor sleep. (I call these "duh" studies because the results should be fairly obvious, but it's good that these studies are being done to confirm and quantify the benefits of health interventions, to encourage investment in implementation.) I saw a good presentation on the importance of lighting design in senior care settings at the Pioneer Network conference in April, too.

I'm pretty passionate about the lighting issue, since managing a 27-bed dementia unit in an assisted living in 2001-2003 and gathering data from our QA meetings that over the course of a year -- in which the building (general AL and Special Care) switched over from yellow incandescent lighting to white lighting in our hallways and common areas -- demonstrated a decline in falls throughout the building. Then when we were bought by Another Assisted Living Company, their regional management team came in and the first thing they wanted to do was go back to yellow lighting because they thought the white lighting looked "institutional". I tried to show them the data and explained that the next project was to paint the dining room for more contrast so the residents weren't lost in a beige blur when we sat them down to eat (so they'd be better oriented and eat more), but I was just a peon manager who had issues with their Vision, so I was moved on.

I wonder how long it's going to take the senior living industry to catch up...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dream Snake

So I'm watching TV in the living room, sitting on the sofa by the window, only I'm not really watching TV because Britney Spears is posing semi-nude, a la Marilyn in a white sheet, in the open window for someone taking photos from next door, which strikes me as odd and silly, but hey, it's Britney, right? The photographer calls a warning to her and she scurries off into the house and a corn snake follows her inside. Well that won't do, and I'm the household Wildlife Removal Specialist (usually just spiders and the random squirrel), so I grab the poor thing just below the head and halfway down its body and take it out front under the trees. He's a little miffed with me, since it's wet out and he meant to be in the house, but I manage to let him go without being bitten, and then I answer my cellphone standing there in the front yard next to the snake, which doesn't move off, but waits for me to finish the conversation. I don't remember who I was talking to or why. Then I go back into the house, but he dashes after me, and I'm only barely able to shoo him back to close the storm door and keep him from getting back into the house. I tell the Fam about it so they know to be careful that the snakes want in because it's really wet out, but no one's interested, so we just have breakfast.

It rained good last night, but it's sunny-ish this morning. The road and the deck are starting to dry. My head hurts this morning and I'm sinus-y, so there must still be something going on with the air pressure. Doppler radar suggests there will be more rain, and there's a flash flood watch through this afternoon. No swim practice for Angelina anyway, since we missed the orthodontist last week and she has to go today.

No snakes in sight when I went to get the paper. I haven't seen a corn snake since Summerville (2004). I wonder where that came from....

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Policies and Options

OK, here's something to think about. Apparently this is CPR/AED Awareness Week (the very first one!), so the newspapers have an incentive (?) to publish stories about how unprepared we as a community are to help people in a cardiac emergency. According to Google, there seem to be plenty of Red Cross press releases, and some papers are carrying stories, like the AJC article above or this one in Frederick, but there are crickets chirping at the Washington Post, and my own Red Cross chapter -- you know, where I teach CPR and so forth to try to raise the community's preparedness? -- didn't think to mention it when scheduling classes this month or last month or list it on their training calendar. I know I should try harder not to be cynical, but looking at the Red Cross NCA page, it occurs to me that the Golf Tournament has top billing and there's no mention of the First Annual National CPR/AED Awareness Week because the Red Cross is pretty desperate for funds at this point and the Golf Tournament's a fund-raiser and the CPR classes, well, aren't. It might not have been a bad idea to advertise ahead of CPR/AED awareness week that CPR/AED classes this week or this month even would be free, to really kick-off and give people a little extra incentive to get involved, but hey, what do I know, I didn't even know we had a National CPR/AED Awareness Week, I just teach the stuff in exchange for t-shirts and such.

Here's where the policy and options part comes in. The AJC article mentions how many people don't even recognize an AED and how many fewer people are trained to use an AED than are trained in just CPR, and I know this is because the AED portion is optional. Every time I show up to teach a class, I have to check which version I'm teaching. Adult CPR? Adult CPR with AED? Adult, Infant and Child CPR? Adult, Infant, and Child CPR with AED? In a way all these distinctions make things easier. I know if I'm teaching Adult, Infant, and Child CPR, I've likely got a class full of camp counselors or in-home day care providers. If it's with AED, it's likely to be corporate-ish daycare or schools. Adult CPR with AED is probably fitness instructors and/or Nursing Assistants, although I get Nursing Assistants in the CPR without AED classes, too, because there's no consistency across their work-settings about whether the AED portion is a requirement. The policies where people are required to know CPR for their jobs all (or mostly, it'd just be wrong to generalize too much) require CPR without the additional specification of AED. The Red Cross could address this by just making it policy to teach AED whenever CPR is taught, but inexplicably that is not the case. Somehow it made more sense just to lobby for a CPR/AED awareness week during which it could be pointed out that most people wouldn't know an AED if it fell out of the wall at their feet. Is it the American Way that continuing to have obsolete options just for the sake of having options is preferable to phasing out the old options when better ones arise? (Looking at the heathcare system as a whole, I'm gonna have to say um, yeah.)

OK, so for the AED-uninitiated, I found a couple of links to introduce what is an AED? HowStuffWorks disappointed me by having a section on CPR that did not mention AED's at all, although they do mention defribrillators as part of the crash cart in and Emergency Room. (sigh) does have an article describing use of an AED. As noted, reading stuff on the internet is no substitute for getting training, so get trained. I'm teaching CPR/AED on the 24th in Silver Spring. I'm also teaching just CPR on the 10th, but it's full. It costs more to get AED with it. Policies and options...

Saturday, May 31, 2008


A few notes from yesterday...

But first, this morning, there's a marvelous picture of the Karmapa tasting his first cup of coffee on Chaplain Danny's blog, but the pic I like best is a portrait from the Boulder visit to Naropa U:

It makes me wonder about the quality we think of as "promise." When we look at someone and see something in them like kindness or intelligence (or impatience, yo!), it's not easy to say what exactly we see with our eyes that amounts to that impression. And here we have someone who consistently in photos I've seen, my impression is of so much promise. There is potential here that will be achieved. I could not break down, though, what particulars give me that impression. Monet could make waterlilies from snippets of color arranged just so. What has the Karmapa arranged just so to give this impression of promise, or he is not the arranger, just the medium, like the canvas dotted to reflect the waterlilies?

OK, and the oddities from yesterday, which aren't nearly as interesting:

There's this kid named Jesus, good looking young man, at the QuikLube, let me in within minutes of closing and then took on extra work above and beyond the oil change to keep my car running well this Summer (it was burning oil, ick). So it's not until Jesus asks me again if I'm "Buddha", do I worship Buddha -- because of the mala and the thing Khenpo-la gave me last year with Garchen on one side and Yama on the other, that he told me to hang from my rear-view mirror, so I did -- that's when I remember this kid Jesus has changed my oil before and asked me more or less the same thing. And this time he adds, so what do you do, do you worship that fat-bellied guy. So last time I just said um, yeah, but this time I tried to explain that practice is really more about improving qualities in oneself, and he said something quick about maybe being able to get into that, but immediately went to check under the hood again, so I didn't really have an opportunity to tell him where the center is or invite him or anything, but since he's noticed and commented on this twice now, maybe he's sincerely interested and maybe I should encourage him somehow. In two months when my car needs an oil change again, right? These things happen to me sometimes, where I notice too late that I might have helped someone if I'd been more alert to the possibility. I hate when that happens, but I suppose it's motivation to practice more, to be more alert.

The other thing just makes me feel silly: I get 3 DVD's at Blockbuster last night, Juno, The Savages, and 27 Dresses, thinking I've got a selection that's a range from fluff to seriousness for Mom & I to choose from, and she says OK for Juno and in it goes and the previews start, and the exact two previews before Juno are for 27 Dresses and The Savages. So it hits me, I'm a fricking target demographic! Not only has it been anticipated somewhere in marketing-land that someone who'd pick Juno would also pick The Savages and 27 Dresses, I've been able to remain brand-loyal myself even without the marketing messages. Wah! I'm a well-trained consumer.

On the plus side, Max called to remind me we're going to see Bill Kirchen next weekend. :) I told him I'd tell him where this new blog is when he delivered me some of his homebrew. He called that "blackmail," but to my mind it's more quid pro quo. (Granted, the homebrew's almost sure to be better than the blog. ;)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Things that make me go Hmm and other cliches

Since it turns out to be free and I've got way too much time on my hands that I'm not using for anything productive anyway (like stripping that wallpaper in the bathroom after how many years or fixing the deck light or staining the trim in the bathroom or hey, how about getting a job), I thought I'd start a blog.

Classic avoidance, right? My time would be better spent meditating on the four thoughts that turn the mind to dharma, and I know this, and yet here I am anyway.

OK, so I think my rant of the day and the auspcious inaugural rant, even, will be about the lack of recognition of universal access to healthcare as a public health matter, rather than just a healthcare financing issue. The Kaiser Weekly Health Policy report referenced a study about the health of children in various states being linked to their health insurance coverage. Turns out, children are healthier when they have health insurance coverage. I know this is one of those "duh" studies, but I am glad that someone is doing the research, since it's apparently necessary to validate the duh with numbers to get better healthcare access for the nation's children. And wow, guess what, when children are provided with healthcare insurance coverage so that they have access to healthcare, the per-child healthcare expense increases. (You know, like it costs more to feed them when you actually feed them rather than let them starve.)

I don't know how much political will it's going to take to get universal healthcare coverage in this country. There's just so much money being made from selling band-aids to people who can afford them, while the general health of the population continues to decline and the costs of that are spread out and subsidized in a way that makes it difficult to show how cost savings from having healthier people could be used to provide universal access to healthcare.

Goal 2 of Healthy People 2010 is to "eliminate health disparities". That's just not going to happen while 15% of the population has no health insurance. (I'm in the 15% right now, although fortunately and thanks to her father's state job and more stable work history, Angelina is covered.)

So one of my goals for this blog will be to gather information about how a shift in healthcare from for-profit-grab-fest to public health matter might become a reality. I'll also sprinkle in stuff about long-term care and epidemiology (my new toy) as the spirit moves me.