Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sitting in the Back of Your Own Classroom, Meditating

How to learn your life's path for today

Last night's episode of NUMB3RS mentioned the concept of sitting in the back of your own classroom. While I am aware that such a source is none too literary, I felt it deserved credit for this response.

How many times have you given good advice about interpersonal issues? We all do it. We urge lovers to leave unfaithful spouses; unfaithful spouses to fess up; grumpy coworkers to cheer up and do the best with their tasks, even when passed over for raises.

Likewise, how many times have you talked about ways to lower the fat in traditional dishes; get more exercise; train dogs properly; stay calm.

So, we're all great teachers. But can we be good students? Can we listen to our own advice?

This is where reflection comes in. A meditation practice can assist us in being truthful with ourselves, and in following our own best advice. Regardless of whether the meditation is active or silent, chanting or praying, religious or secular, it can help us focus and remember our own worth, our intuition, and our intrinsic value as spirits in this world.

Hint: I'm teaching you so I can get the reminder. Blessed be.

At last! A mint-free, licorice-free, fruit-free toothpaste

Picture (©Tom's of Maine)

My partner has a strange, yet passionate aversion to mint. This makes toothpaste an issue. No minty freshness is welcomed in our household. However much I like mint (and peppermint patties, and Junior Mints, and candy canes, and mint chocolate kisses, and creme de minthe) I eschew it at home for my sweetie. He is also displeased with anise/licorice. Life has been difficult in the toothpaste aisle.

Now he likes Close Up, since it is a gel that is cinnamony. However, it never really wowed me. Gels, perhaps, are not my favorite. So for years I've been hunting for a toothpaste that would make my mouth feel fresh, while not grossing out my partner. The fruit pastes just don't do it for me.

Now I have discovered Tom's of Maine Cinnamon-Clove Whole Care toothpaste. It tastes yummy (sweetened by xylitol) and is pleasantly, but not overwhelmingly, spicy. What's more, it is whitening, and adds almost a polished feel to the tooth. Unfortunately, it does have floride, which is much discussed as not healthful, but the amount is about half that in a standard toothpaste. It does have clove oil, which might actually have a mild numbing effect on the gums prior to flossing, although it is not billed as such by Tom's of Maine.

So, on behalf of those trying to avoid mint everywhere, Thank You Tom's of Maine!

Factoid: Recently I learned that nursing mothers try to avoid mint as it could have a lessening effect on milk production. Fascinating!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

No shit, Sherlock! (AKA: Scat got your tongue?)

Once in a great while we discover something so unusual, so undeniably logical, that we must spread the word. Say hello to the squat toilet, brand-named Nature's Platform.

Apparently, the way we poo is bad for our bodies. A western-style toilet is not ergonomic. It bends the colon in a way that increases the risk of many diseases and conditions, including cancer, sexual issues, and incontinence. Good grief! Check out the site for evidence of actual scientific studies on the subject, many, many shitty studies.

These folks in North Carolina have designed a platform from which one might, shall we say, do our duty for Gods, Goddesses, and Country, in a squatting position (only feet touch the floor). What's more, it folds up for people who'd rather risk a kinky colon than squat.

Many other counries have similar notions. Like Japan.

In any case, it could improve muscle tone. Check it out!

Monday, September 24, 2007

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

Writing a novel is a gruelling task. Creating characters that are multidimensional, a plot that is interesting, and conflicts that are meaningful is difficult. However, there is an easy way to write a novel in 30 days.

Just do it.

That's right. Quit complaining, procrastinating, outlining, and staring at the computer screen and write like your life depends on it for 30 days. Crap will emerge. However, from that crap you can craft your skillful epic, florid romance, experimental science fiction, or murder-mystery.

National Novel Writing Month gives you a good excuse to make it happen. When you sign up, you have extra impetus to write madly like a fiend for the entire month of November. You can get support and research assistance from other writers. At the end of the month, you emerge a novelist, having written 50,000+ words. Not only do you have a great manuscript to start editing, you also have removed any writer's block you may have experienced.

How is this possible?

  • Only writing is included in the month time frame (editing and fine tuning comes later)
  • Preparations can be made (you can come up with a plot and characters prior to writing)
  • Other writers locally and nationwide can help goad you into compliance

There are other ways to prepare yourself.

  • Learn about standard character development
  • Determine the genre of your work
  • Decide upon the main "take-aways" of your novel
  • Write a personal journal to warm up
  • Research any historical or geographical details
  • Think about the conflicts that guide the action in the novel

NaNoWriMo, as National Novel Writing Month is colloquially called, is becoming a phenomenon. Of the 79,000 participants in 2006, 13,000 completed their novels. Those are pretty good odds considering the number of times most of us have "decided to complete a novel" and then reneged.

Many thanks to the folks at NaNoWriMo for inspiring us to create, and fast!

Does the deodorant crystal work?

Please forgive the risque topic, but I must sing the praises of a product that I was dubious about: the armpit crystal. It works!

Not to give too much information, but as a demonstration:

I showered on Saturday night, applied the crystal. I didn't even have to wet it since my armpits were already moist from showering.
I proceded to geocache for four hours on Sunday, in the sun, clambering up hills and down trails.
In the evening I did 45 minutes on the treadmill, and did sweat.
And this morning, without a second application, I am still fresh as a daisy.

It is almost nicer than having antiperspirant, since that makes me feel kind of "air tight". I know that it isn't good for skin to be clogged up with chemicals.

Score one for Mother Earth, zero for stinky antiperspirants! Hurrah Nature! Yay me!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reading the Dictionary

Sometimes I think I write creatively just to have an opportunity to use big words. Their texture and history, their mouth-feel-- all in a package with high density and gravitational pull. Each word is embedded with meaning, an abracadabra.

Often I have been chid for using the wrong words, by those of many stripes. Some feel it is not democratic enough--or that I am waving my Ivory Tower education around like a pirate flag. Others think it is precocious; I am unseasoned, too wet behind the ears to grasp such concepts at a visceral level.

As a child, I used words like dearth and mercurial, not because I wanted abject alienation, but because they were the best words I knew for the circumstance. Eventually, I learned that talking like a thesaurus was not the best way to win friends and influence people, so I allowed the ubiquitous "like" and "man" to enter my spoken vocabulary.

Now, as a technical writer, I have started using computing terms in daily life. These are the terms that just come to the surface quickly, always at hand. So instead of saying "think before you act" I say "consider the number of variables".

Words are like little treats to me, tapas, dim sum, petits four. The inexaustible supply is an invitation. I either horde them away, using "defenestration" only when absolutely necessary, or consume them like teenage boys at a Roman orgy.

Guess my strategy for the next millenium?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I am a nature-centric, tree-lovin, spirit-belivin, chant intonin, bona fide, Wiccan. I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I would like to find a mentor in this path who lives nearby and is not too into hierarchical relationships (as in, I do not want to "do your bidding"--I'm looking for someone who wants to celebrate with me and teach me).

If you are an experienced (white or neutral magic) witch who practices the craft on a regular basis in the Ypsilanti area and would like to share, please contact me by commenting on this blog entry.

Blessed be,


By the way, bonus points for understanding the pun in the title.

Why is Yogurt Good for You?

Yogurt, especially organic, probiotic yogurt is EXCELLENT for your health. From what I have read, it seems there is nothing important it can't do.

  • It is nourishing.
  • It is high in calcium.
  • It protects your immunity.
  • It improves your digestion.
  • It is tasty.
  • It mixes with savory and sweet items.
  • It helps dieters lose tummy fat. (yes, keep the bosoms, lose the tire!)
  • It improves the percentage of fat you burn in relation to other calories.
  • It improves the absorbtion of vitamins and minerals.
  • It improves your LDL/HDL ratio.
  • It helps prevent or reduce ulcers and osteoporosis.

You don't need to buy Danactive or Activia-- stick with Stonyfield, plain, whole-fat. It has calories, sure, but the taste is divine. Replace a couple handfuls of chips with a cup of yogurt. Your body will sing your praises like Handel's Messiah!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Big is Beautiful

This isn't like me, but I'm posting another uTube video. Thank you Mika.


(Big Girl)

Grace Kelly (I can be anything I like) Mika

I adore this song. I thought it was an archeological find of a missing Queen song. What a lovely boy.

The song makes me feel fantastic. Tripping the geek fantastic.

The Village: An alternative movie review

*Spoiler alert: Herein lies information that will surely spoil the suspense.*

The Village was panned by some critics, praised by others. Starting as a quaint tale of an isolated 19th century town in wholesome America, we quickly learn of an ineffable force, alien and powerful, that lives in the forest surrounding the townspeople. A council of male and female elders (none very old) leads the group through some tragedies, including some sickness, and an emerging conflict with the others in the woods.

Still, the villagers continue their idyll, singing songs, eating together, asking for the parental hand in sweet loving marriages, and working side by side in gardens and craft pursuits-- very gentile and almost Amish. When freakish skinned carcasses of wild and farm animals begin appearring, a coyote is blamed, and all are asked to be careful. When a local is mauled, a young man of the village decides to venture forth to the evil world to fetch medicine and assistance.

Now here's the big suprise: this perfect little village is a creation of world-weary city dwellers who banded together to artifically create a little community free of crime, trans fat, and electronic equipment--namely, The Elders. These creative people were all wounded individuals going to group grief therapy. They bought a large plot of land, educated themselves about the past, and even decided to speak in a decidedly poetic version of English. And the magical creatures in the woods? Just a construct to keep people from wanting to roam away from the village.

So the children of the village are imprisoned by their fear and their programming, of an evil outside world, and violent creatures in the woods. By creating these boundaries, The Elders seek to control the community and protect it from modernity--the age they had to suffer. They believed they could do it better, protecting all the citizens. However, when a psychopath is raised among them, they cannot blame it on modernity or child just happened.

An analogy can be made between any sheltered populace and this village. Not knowing the truth of the world "outside" can create irrational fear of the other. How many times do our own decisions shelter us from the truth of other people and other things? I have a few examples.

A person who lives outside of organized religion can be afraid of it. Afraid of the power that religious organizations can have on all our lives, afraid of spiritual/magical thinking, afraid of blind faith and its implications. Some fears are founded. However, the most fearful aspect is that outsiders can make assuptions about groups that run their whole lives and cause them to disregard the members of the religion as their own people. Why be afraid and isolated?

I see people spending hours discussing "how not to be". What religious beliefs NOT to have. What politicians NOT to trust. What stories NOT to believe. What topics NOT to broach. Why can't we discuss who we are, and what we believe, instead of defining outselves as Opposition?

When we shelter ourselves, we are not able to even comprehend other people's lives.

When I first moved to Ypsilanti, MI, I admit I was a little spooked. I saw young guys drive around in cars blasting their 'urban' music. Young ladies walked around the sidewalks, pregnant with another baby on the way. Teens walked along the highway, or tossed a ball across the street. Paint jobs were neglected, here and there. The grocery store had narrow aisles and weird merchandise, and people seemed to holler at their kids more. Some guy drove his motorized wheelchair around downtown in the streets. It looked POOR. It looked UNEDUCATED. It looked INTIMIDATING.

My reaction was a carryover from my sheltered, white, middle class, small-town, Alaskan youth. I'm embarassed for being afraid, but it was (and still is to some extent) the truth. I don't understand what it is to be without a college education, and to fight tooth and nail for an Associate's degree over a ten-year time period. I don't understand buying all generic and giving up a pound of beef for a pack of cigarettes. I don't understand young mothers. And I certainly don't understand what it is to be African American in this country.

But being sheltered didn't help me, and it didn't help the villagers. We all have the same problems eventually, no wall can keep them out. Its corny, but the best way to mediate problems of life is to love one another, and seek to understand even the things we are tempted to hide from and judge.

Why am I such a cornball? Sorry.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Psychic Synchronicity

I've developed a recent psychic talent for synchronicity. This morning, a song started running through my head, I want to hear it, so I press the preset button for one of two radio stations I listen to for music (NPR is the standard). Immediately I hear the first few chords of that exact song: "Shut Your Eyes" by Snow Patrol.

Gratified, I listen to the song and am smiling because the song is so hypnotic and soothing. Very meditative. At the end of the song, I switch to NPR for a while. When a story comes on that I am not too interested in, I switch the station...this time to my other preset. There is a song on that I'm not very fond of, kind of an oldie, but I listen to it since it seems to be almost over. The next song is, you guessed it: "Shut Your Eyes" by Snow Patrol.

Experiencing synchronicity is one of the signs that you are lifting the veil, touching the collective unconscious, jiving with universal harmony. So, though song synchronicity may not be a marketable talent, it sure is hopeful, magical, and handy.

Friday, September 7, 2007

"The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, "We're up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay."
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, "It's Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,"
She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it's been a while."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, you're cousin's not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic's in the learning,
'Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother."
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year,
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here."
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, "Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.

-- by Dar Williams

I was impressed at the lighthearted way in which this song discusses conflicts of religion at the holidays, and every day. As a pagan, I'm really moved. I'm not sure what Christians think--let me know! There is an audio file hosted on the web. Of course, if you really like the song please buy it from somewhere so that the singer/songwriter can get royalties (it's only fair).


Frozen on walls and ceilings, subjects pose still. There's the outlandish symmetry of the historical painter's eye. The different angle on physics. In this place, the modern teen enters as a sacrilege wearing an iPod garland around his neck.

Caught, but not restful, the subjects tumble forth in spirit: Napoleons and Marie Curies, legionnaires and milkmaids, knights and peasants and virgins holler at the noisy tour group familiarly, like their mothers would do were they present.

"Tuck that shirt in!"
"Pay attention!"
"Speak clearly, don't slouch."
"Live, explore, collide!"

Without noticing, the teens stumble around listening to audio tours: this tapestry, that jewel, this scupture, that javelin. Yeah.

Would they had a medium to channel the outrage of history ignored. She could give voice to the terrible message of captive time.

Would they had different ears than their fathers and mothers, and their parents fathers and mothers. But still they do not improve upon anything, each learning the same lessons again and again and again while history sighs.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Recent Email Corn-versation

PJ: What ya want for din din?????
Rion: If you want to just stop by McD's or BK, I'd take a salad with low fat dressing.
PJ: Kind of salad???? one with chicken on it?
Rion: Yep. Just avoid grilled and you should be fine:-) Thank you!
PJ: You mean, avoid fried, right?
Rion: Oops, yes, I mean I want grilled. Must have been a fried-ian slip.
PJ: I agrease.
Rion: I'm tempura-arily avoiding too much fat.
PJ: It's bad for you, that's a fat!
Rion: Yes, my chow-lesterol has been too high.
PJ: Ok....I give up!

Ah, how he humors me!

Scatological Sunrise

Since the last blog was urine-related, let me wax poetic for a moment about shit.

Driving home on Monday, I encountered behavior that was truly shitty. During my one potty stop, I pulled off on the Holly, Michigan exit (or thereabouts), seeing that there were gas stations. Surely there were bathrooms available!

Michigan does not have rest stops like they have on the Thruway. Nope, you look for gas stations. Because of the lack of rest stops (there are a few) most gas stations offer facilities. So, in desparate need of powdering my nose I stopped at a BP. The green places. They always have bathrooms.
However, I had forgotten that it is Renaissance Fest season. There was a sign up: "No Public Restrooms" scrawled in pen and taped on the glass door. Hmm, suspiciously looks like some gas station owners or employees don't want to clean up after extra visitors. But, my saving grace was a big overhead billboard that advertised Liquor Beer and Wine at the Citgo gas station one mile down the road. Already in great need, I dashed to my car and drove off to the other gas station.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but another crappy sign. It did point out a Porta Potty, around the side. Again, this is a major chain that should have had restrooms. However, I bit the bullet and went into the plastic box, only to be dismayed by the gigantic and horrid pile of human waste in the pit. These things are supposed to be cleaned out, people!


To make matters worse, there was no toilet paper.

Now this is the darnedest thing: The gas stations make more money due to extra travellers, but don't want to pay the expense of providing facilities for the extra travellers.

Now that is truly shitty.