Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What's all this about meditation?

I missed an opportunity the other day, when I bumped into Amy, whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in about ten years. She looked exactly the same, seemed so familiar that it felt like we’d just finished a conversation ten minutes ago, not ten years.
Amy is having headaches, she says, moreso since she started home schooling her kid. There was no reason to state the obvious, so we didn’t. But Amy asked me if I knew a meditation teacher. I’ve been asked that question before and it always throws me. I never have a good answer. A good answer might be, “I can teach you meditation”. But that’s never the answer that I have at the ready because when somebody tells me they need to be taught to meditate, I don’t get that. I don’t understand it. Like if somebody asked me to teach them to walk-- I’d start out saying, “Well, make sure you’re standing up first, then put one foot in front of the other.”

I might know full well that bipedal locomotion is actually a pretty complicated way to get around, and that if one were to count the muscles actually used to simply walk, the tally would probably include most of the muscles in the body all working in a perfectly orchestrated symphony of movement. But most of the people I know do it all the time without thinking.
So to start out teaching somebody how to meditate, I think I’d first have to say:

“Do it without thinking.”

Aha. That’s the part which stops most people dead in their tracks. That’s the excuse anyway. “How am I supposed to meditate, when my mind keeps thinking thoughts?”
I say it’s an excuse, because most people I’ve known who are going to start meditating just as soon as they find a teacher are lying. Maybe that’s another reason I don’t have an answer for people who are looking to learn how to meditate: they aren’t really looking. "I'm going to start meditating" is right up there with "I'm going to lose weight this year." and "The check is in the mail" for things people say but don't mean.

Why would a person who isn’t actually looking to learn to meditate ask me if I know of a good teacher? There’s exactly the crux of why people find meditation difficult to learn:
A part of them knows there is great value in it, unfortunately that’s not the part currently in charge of walking, talking, finding meditation teachers, having conversations with old acquaintances, home schooling and getting mysterious headaches. The Brain does all that. I know I said a minute ago, “my mind keeps thinking thoughts” but at the moment I’m going to say “brain” and not “mind”. A few minutes from now I’m going to call that entity something else. Wait for it, but be patient. All in good time. There is no need to anticipate, and no need to reflect upon the previous paragraphs. All is as it should be. Be in the moment. There, now you’ve meditated.

Meditation is one of the simplest things to do, but people have all kinds of reasons not to do it. The Mind (capital M: MIND) knows it’s important, the brain wants nothing to do with it. As long as the brain has appropriately small bits of free space upon which to cram thoughts, the brain is happy. The brain likes to be excited, generally stays that way all day, gets tired and then goes into sleep mode wherein it still can’t keep still but generally gets rested enough to get up for another day of being excited and busy cramming thoughts into small bits of free space. That’s the brain’s job. Most people who want to meditate get interested in it because they’re stressed out and meditation has been sold as something to help you to relax. As a tool, meditation is so much more than that-- selling like you’d sell a barcolounger is doing a tremendous disservice.

Back to the brain: brains do cool stuff, no need to pick on the brain. The brain doesn’t know what it is, except through self awareness generated by subject/object interaction which we start learning from birth-- some say before birth. Picture a subject (you) picking up and holding and object in your hand, say, an apple. We start life with similarly simple interactions necessary to survive and thrive, and our brains grow in this environment to believe that everything there is to know is all about subject/object-- a dichotomy. In meditation it’s possible for the brain to relax enough for long enough to recognize a different reality: one where there is no separation between subject and object. But the brain isn’t really used to this concept and can resist going there.

When the brain gets together with self awareness we call that the ego. The ego is good. Ego’s do cool things. Don’t knock the ego. Without the ego there is no self awareness, which makes it really difficult to do subject/object interactions. Subject object interactions are, in a common sense, everything which impacts a person, or upon which a person impacts. A buddhist might describe the whole of reality as a complex of interaction between causes and conditions, or Dukha, which roughly translates as “suffering”. It would take too long to explain that in this article: don’t get too hung up on this because the nature of reality isn’t all that important really. It’s only important to the ego because the ego suffers under a very popular and persistent misconception. The ego, which is a very small, specific and specialized part of you, thinks in fact that it is the all of you. Worse yet, because the ego exists solely through habitual subject/object interactions, this self awareness called the ego has a sense that if or when these subject/object interactions cease, all hell will break loose: heaven and earth will part, fire will rain from the sky and death will result.

Well now I’m just being dramatic. Let me simplify. Subject/object interactions are “noise” the cessation of which results in “peace”, but unfortunately the ego interprets this as “Rest In Peace”. There's a good reason for this. From the standpoint of the ego, which considers itself to be the totality of you and sometimes even further than that the totality of everything (much like a small child thinks his parents are masters of the universe) too much peace will reveal to the ego an essential truth: that it only exists as a byproduct of this modulated noise. When it gets too quiet the ego realizes that it has no reason to exist. If it stays quiet for very long the ego realizes several more things in rapid succession: that maybe it isn’t the all of you, isn’t the all of everything, and oops, now wait a second: the ego realizes that it does not exist at all when isolated from it’s environment (noise) which probably means ... it doesn’t really exist at all anyway. The ego realizes it’s own nothingness when it enters the quiet environment of meditation. That’s why the ego, the brain (which thinks pretty highly of itself and prefers to be called “the mind” even though it’s not the MIND) all conspire to fill up with thoughts, run around interacting with with other egos and things-- overworking themselves and getting headaches when all they really need to do much of the time is sit down and shut up. Phew.

But you can’t really blame the ego, the brain and such for acting they way they do. They have a good sense of self preservation, and depending on the degree of self delusion, they may strongly believe that if they let down their guard the whole of the universe will wink out of existence. That’s a heavy load to bear.

Contrary to the popular opinions of human egos everywhere-- annihilation of the ego isn’t so bad. If you’re in a safe place when it happens and not much is being required of you, most people find it a very enjoyable experience. Some call it the experience of non-local consciousness, also called an experience of the numinous, or many people call it an enlightening experience.

Also, in healthy people the ego has an amazingly resilient ability to regenerate itself. It pops back to the surface like a beach ball released from the bottom of the pool. “Pow! Splash! I’m Baaaaack.” In fact, somewhat ironically, the ego often identifies itself with the enlightening experience and then there’s hell to pay. Your average meditation teacher probably fits this category. Maybe that’s another reason why I never have a teacher to recommend when I’m asked. Anyway, the ego which once thought it was everything, or in the very least the whole of you, and yet feared it’s own annihilation, now knows that it is indeed everything, is still in charge of you, and despite it’s recent annihilation it has reincarnated at will.

The enlightened ego has just opened a yoga center in your neighborhood. She has a habit of smiling beatifically, staring into your eyes a little too much and she hugs everybody. When she talks she sounds like Madonna for some reason, and even her closest friends sometimes wish that she would fall into a mud puddle in the middle of discussing “the Akashic records”.
But I digress, again. Quite possibly my ego doesn’t want your ego to meditate. But I think some part of me does, if some part of you wants to. It’s not about how it’s done or whether or not a teacher is needed or if it’s too boring to sit still for. Ever heard of Sufi dancing? There are all kinds of ways to get there. Before you start it’s better if you have some idea why you’re doing it. The rest is easy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paul's Evil Twin?

This blogging thing has caused such an uproar. More precisely, a tempest in a tea cup, between Sheryl and I. I had not written anything of note in a long time, and hadn't published since last year when I was pushing, and being pushed by outside forces (my editor) to write several scandalous news articles per week. All my previous training as a fiction writer, a creative non fiction writer, and then as a poet was to let my first draft fly with no self censorship. As I progressed in my writing career I discovered that getting published involves a certain amount of controversial or conflict oriented angles on things. That, and I suffer from testosterone poisoning. So between my chronic lifelong affliction, and all the attention and compliments I've received over the years-- "I am what I am." At least in print. For those of you who know that I was accepted into an MFA program last year at the prestigious (?) University of British Columbia at Vancouver should also know that it was the only application to Grad School that I sent out, and that I got in with submissions which in part, made a lot of fun of Canadians. After they totally gakked my financial aid application, I am far more inclined today to poke fun at Canadians. It's quite safe. What are they going to do, invade and sack the White House? Again? Where's the fun in that? They already did it once. One thing Canadians don't do is repeat themselves, eh? I said one thing Canadians don't do is repeat themselves, eh? I said one thing. . .

But be that as it may. I repeat myself a lot because I figure very few people actually listen even 75% of the time. Especially me. So if I repeat myself I might get an idea myself, sooner or later, of what I am actually getting at. The 75% listening factor gives me 25% free space to replay minor variations on a theme. Then I find out who is really listening because they tell me to shut the hell up for a second, or at least try to get to my point. And I do. Because they got my attention; by means of making some strident noise.

By the way, we met very few Canadians who actually say eh, eh? But many Vancouverites over stress their vowels which is really quite charming. Also, instead of asking where you're from they say, "Where's home?" which I took rhetorically and tried to answer in the abstract realm every single time. As a result many Canadians are now convinced that Californians:
1. Can't answer a simple question.
2. Talk too much.
3. Have little or no idea where they are from.

Like the Evil Twin issue: here I am still trying to explain, again, why it's OK for me to be who I am. One of our clients says to me, "You're such a GUY." And she's right. But it's not really evil to be a guy. Just mildly unpleasant at times. Here's a great example, Mary Daly. She's my all time favorite feminist, as radical as they come. Why do I love her so much? She's such a GUY. She out-guys me so much of the time. I like even more that she'd probably really hate to hear me say that. She got fired from a tenured university professorship for refusing to teach one of her classes as a coed class (it was all women). Know why?
She said that she could not teach a class on feminism which included men because women are (by cultural conditioning) too prone to self censoring their true feelings in the presence of men. She's right I think-- my partner is in the next room self censoring as I write. Mary Daly was once asked if her Ph'd in Theology wasn't still useful to her and she answered, "Yes, as compost." My god the woman has guts.

So lets all be "such a guy" for one day and then the next day we can all be. . . something else, before the rivers run with blood and the atmosphere burns off in a nuclear conflagration. There's a place for polarization and theres a place for integration of the opposing sides of ourselves. I'm still considering doing and "Evil Twin" blog and then another blog of more useful, calm and healing intent, but I still don't really want to do that. I'd rather be whole.

Yours in pure unrestricted unconditional Love,

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"I'm not that kind of Angel"

Questioning whether it's OK to blog what I happen to think at any given time. I am in business as a spiritual healer, and what happens to my public image if I get upset one day and write about it? Am I supposed to be a perfect being? Does that mean I lack emotions? Even Jesus lost his temper. Guatama Buddha ate bad meat and died from acute food poisoning (that's right, he wasn't a vegetarian). The Hindus have a tremendously large pantheon of dieties with multiple aspects to each. Kali-ma is the most popular personal diety in India: she drinks the blood of demons. Her likeness is often seen dancing on the corpse of her lover. I think it's safe to say that she is a bad-ass, but in a good way. She weilds tremendous power. Moses broke the tablets, and Mohammed pressed islam all over his territory where it became a predominant social order. He was no wimp. (PS, i am not defending monotheism or institutionalized religion and I'm not condemning it either).

There is such a thing as resistance-- I'm not on a crusade other than trying to do what I do and help people. It doesn't matter to me what the person holds as religious beleifs, or if they don't have any. And I don't think it serves anybody, really, for me to pretend to be an amorphous blob of pure spiritual love without any OTHER human qualities.

At the same time I'm embarassed for ranting that we had to cancel a display ad. Big deal. Same goes for a bulletin board with contradictory qualities, jeez, who the hell cares. And I've been talking about my espresso machine-- which is damn close to being my only vice. I don't smoke, rarely drink, no drugs, am not sex crazed but not celibate either. One day a few years back I decided that I wanted my one cup of coffee in the morning to taste good. Then I decided it should be really good. Then I decided it should be as good as it can possibly be. But I'm embarrased by that. A lot of human experience can be seen as profound, but on some level maybe a lot of human experience is trivial to me. I see it most in my own interests: when I realize I simply like good coffee, therefore I roast it myself and maintain a pretty elaborate espresso machine. And every once in a while I look over at it and just laugh. I used to be in a band, I used to design and build custom speakers, I used to ride and sometimes race motorcycles, I've been an obsessed newspaper reporter and photo journalist, wildlife photographer, published several works of fiction and non-fiction. I've been a literary editor. I've had loves whom I have considered central to my existence. Who cares. I look over at all that stuff and laugh. What matters-- kindness, giving of oneself, honesty, a lot of those amorphous yet definitive moments in time as they arise and then pass into obscurity. A part of me has been wholly fascinated with the integration of the transcendant and the immanent ever since I was a little kid. I've accepted the spiritual life and trained myself for it; I'm still in training of course. But I'm spiritual, not dead. Even after I'm dead I figure I'll show a little spirit, a little spice. At the risk of being trite I quote the movie "Michael" when I say, Inner light? Halo? Yeah sometimes, but otherwise "I'm not that kind of Angel."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Old friend Patti, dead-band settings, letting go of the reins

Spent almost three hours on the phone with my old friend, Patti, who is quite near and dear to me. She's gone through some rough times with relationships, and finally reached the point where she decided, "hey this is it, I am at rock bottom and do not know what to do or how to handle this. Are you listening universe? Give me some guidance." And she got it. The words came into her mind immediately. It seems to involve letting go of something that isn't working, but I'm not willing to say more than that because I am already paraphrasing and making it look like an exact quote. Gratifying to know that when you're really open to it, solutions come. She sounds so much better now than she did when I spoke with her last, and it's really a pleasure to talk with her when she's on her game.

My new pressure stat arrived yesterday for my broken espresso machine: an Isomac Tea for those who care. Easy install and it works. I followed the basic instructions for setting it up, and then was afraid to do a "fine tune" of the deadband adjustment. The "dead band" adjustment was not in the instructions, and when I adjusted the old pressure-stat, including the dead-band, I got "dead espresso machine." That was when I ordered the upgrade pressure stat; for about $62.00 versus a direct replacement for $37.00 and had to go a whole week without espresso (the horror). Blah de blah, other details may follow but most people won't care unless they are a total coffee nut like myself. So anyway I was pretty scared to twiddle too much with the new part for fear of breaking it. I had sent an email to the part supplier but hadn't heard back yet. So Sheryl was asking me all evening what was the matter with me and I kept saying "I don't know." Because I really didn't know. At some point in the evening I said to Sheryl, "I really want to fine tune that thing." She encouraged me to go ahead and do it and even told me that if I broke it we'd buy another part. Wow. How many women will support her man's right to break stuff?
So I went ahead and adjusted the dead band and also fine tuned the general p-stat adjustment until it was where I wanted it. In the middle of it Sheryl told me that the discord she'd been sensing all evening in me was gone. Wow again, that means I'm even crazier than I thought.

A few hours later I got an email reply from the part supplier: "Don't mess with the dead band. If you break the stat please do not call me looking for a free replacement." Yikes. I had already messed with it. It didn't break. Today I "messed" it back slightly towards the direction it was set to when I got it. I also went to "coffee geek" website and posted a question about p-stats. Coffee geek, as you may have guessed, is where we can all be crazy about coffee together and nobody laughs at anybody. We encourage each other to be mentally ill.

All last night, in the back of my head somewhere, was the fact that I had a big stainless steel machine in the next room diligently holding 1.7 liters of water in a sealed boiler at my exact pre-set pressure. That means every forty seconds the 1400 watt heating element turns on for five seconds, then off for 40 seconds, then on again. The boiler pressure varying only one tenth of a BAR. All this so I can get up in the morning and steam about 6 ounces of milk in about 60 seconds, and brew about 2 ounces of espresso to add to the steamed milk. Typically, that's all I'll have in a day: one double capuccino.

Now I don't know what to say, quite. If you leave the machine off, it takes a good thirty minutes to warm up again. We do drink tea and sometimes hot chocoloate at night. I've also used the steamer to heat up other beverages or even soup. I've even used the steamer to take the chill off red wine and bring it to room temperature. I think it takes about 135 watts on average to run the machine on all the time like I do. I also think that's wishful thinking and it really wastes more electricity than that. Turning the machine off will save electricity, but then it won't be "ready" whenever we want it's magical heating powers.

Here is what the dead-band adjustment does: it sets the pressure interval between something happening, and waiting for something to happen. If it gets set too tightly, something happening and waiting for something to happen occurs simultaneously. There is a red light and a green light on the machine whose functions indicate when the water in the sealed boiler is heating (something happening), and when it is cooling down to the point where it will be heated again (waiting for something to happen). A dial indicator shows pressure. This morning the red light and green light were on at the same time. The red light was functioning normally, (on for five seconds, off for forty seconds) but the green light never went out. It kept waiting for something to happen, not realizing that it was happening. The pressure gauge told the real story: the pressure was right where I set it to be: kind of high and too tightly controlled for reasons which I have come to question.

I backed off the dead-band a bit. All is as it should be now.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Finding new solutions, and finishing up a few things.

What’s new in the last five days: More good healing work which again I can’t talk about. I can say that I’m very grateful to be doing the work that we do. And Sheryl and I are always bringing each other along as well.

Again, through the magic of editing, I am once again not bitching about the ad we placed in the Good Times and then had to remove. I only edit myself when I think I should. And right now I think I should.

On another front, I got a nice email or two from Clytia Fuller who works for Bookshop Santa Cruz. She’s in charge of the bulletin board postings there, and I had requested to know why my flier had been consistently turned down, and why the bulletin boards are labeled “nonprofit only” when there are tons of for profit ads there.
I looked Clytia up online: she also does a Folk Music radio program on a local public radio station. I hear it’s a good program but I don’t remember the specifics or I’d give her a plug here.
Anyway she very politely answered my questions-- she said she thought our “events” were too expensive and also that they might not be of interest to “the most public.” So, that hurt. We’re not totally mainstream but then neither is folk music; and that’s worth promoting in my opinion. If a concert is too expensive maybe you just don’t go, but you might still want to hear about it. I wonder how many folk music fliers hit that bulletin board?
As to being expensive; we work on a sliding scale, we’ve also worked purely by donation for two months last year and in addition we gave away fourteen sessions for free. I don’t know how she got the impression we’re too expensive. “Events” aren’t currently our specialty: we only did one last year and it was a free talk. Our fliers do look professional, maybe we just look expensive.
All that is besides the point though-- they get too many fliers to post them all so they have to make judgments. I’m told I’m not the only person upset about being rejected. Clytia concluded that if the bulletin boards at Bookshop Santa Cruz didn’t say “for non-profits only” when there are quite a few for profit ads up there, that they might avoid so many hard feelings. That was indeed my original complaint. Apparently the real criteria is that non-profits get posted first, then the rest of the space is filled in with lower cost services and events; but it’s all according to what Clytia can determine by looking at the fliers and it’s also subject to what she thinks is a good or popular thing to post. I very much appreciate the feedback from Clytia, and none of this is personal. The gist of my complaint there was that the “nonprofit” thing wasn’t true, so what was the real deal? Was there one person in the back room choosing fliers based on their personal preference? There was and there still is. Bookshop Santa Cruz may have already updated the criteria but I don’t know how they are going to do it without indicating the obvious, which is:
“We post whatever we feel like posting.” Maybe they could follow that with “no whiners.”
Ironically we have submitted fliers elsewhere where the criteria was just that upfront: if the business owner likes it, they post it. If they don’t, they won’t. And I never ever had a problem with that. For some reason I seem to get, um, just plain nuts sometimes when a thing strikes me as not true, not fair, or hypocritical. That still doesn’t mean I’m right and somebody else is wrong, it just means that something got my attention and I decided to speak up about it.
PS, calling one’s business “nonprofit” doesn’t automatically make it more worthy as a public service, sometimes the opposite is true. Bookshop Santa Cruz is a for profit institution, does that make them bad?
When I get a chance I’ll go by there and see if they put better criteria on the bulletin boards. I’m curious now to see how they handle it even though we aren’t doing any fliers right now.
I don’t want to be one of those people who just bitches but then doesn’t have a good solution to a problem. Actually, I’d rather be a person who doesn’t bitch a whole lot but just jumps straight to the solution. I’m working on that. Lately I’m bitching a lot and something is wrong there.
In the meantime Sheryl and I are about to launch into better ways of doing our work.
Sheryl has published two books and has at least one more in process. I’ve published a lot of fiction and several articles and I kind of miss publishing. When it comes to the spiritual work theres a lot to be said rather than simply waiting for a client to ask the right questions.
I figure that I’m on the verge of a more proactive approach to getting things done. All that stuff with the Good Times, again, I'm not talking about it. Things change and heal and get better. I don’t know why I tripped out so much about a bulletin board-- except to say that marketing ones business can sometimes be a frustrating thing.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Prickly things and the beauty of the barb

I like the way the thorns on this cactus-type plant radiate in a spiral pattern. Do they radiate out or do they radiate inward?
I planted a few barbs in my blog and I think they got stepped on. I don't know which way they're radiating.

Through the magic of editing I am no longer complaining here about how an ad we did in the Good Times didn't go the way we wanted and eventually we cancelled it. That's one barb, removed. And I'm good with that for my own reasons.

The other barb was about Bookshop Santa Cruz in regards to the non-profit bulletin board which clearly isn't non-profit. A nice woman named Clytia from the Bookshop posted a comment, she offered to look over my flier and tell me why it wasn't posted. I responded with a rant. Sorry Clytia. I can't really take back everything I said, but I probably stepped over the line and I am sorry for that.

Friday, January 19, 2007

woe is me, the espresso machine broke

Yes, it broke and the culprit is apparently the pressure stat as shown above. I think it's a C.E.M.E, and I suppose I should be happy that it lasted for over two years of being on all the time, 24/7. Why would a person leave the espresso machine on all the time, you might ask. Why in the world would a person post a photo of a pressure stat, you might also ask. I have to go and eat now, but I'll answer some of these burning coffee questions later.

Ok, I'm back. We had waffles from Trader Joe's with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, also two eggs over easy. As usual we ate on the front porch and as usual I was in my bathrobe. Amazing to be able to do that in mid January, especially when it's snowing in Los Angeles. Global warming I think-- there were 100mph gale force winds knocking people down in the streets of London this week. But back to the really important stuff: my espresso machine.

I had to drink my freshly roasted ( I roasted it yesterday) coffee from my french press today. No instant hot water from my Isomac Tea, but at least I got to use my commercial grade grinder. The horror. Can't remember what variety of single origin coffee I'm drinking, because I've got eight varieties of beans ready to roast at all times and I don't always note which one I'm currently drinking. I'm not bragging: I'm confessing. I don't have many vices but being a coffee geek is one of them. Sheryl's eyes glaze over when I start talking about BAR, heat exchangers, PID temperature controllers and the like. And she's right to shy away from this stuff I think but in my defense before she met me, she hated coffee, espresso was out of the question. Now she hits me up for big gulps of my double cappucino every morning. If you do it right, a cappucino tastes like a hot chocolate, and she does love hot chocolate. But now we're in mourning until my magic machine is resurrected. Ok she's not in mourning. I'm taking the opportunity to question my attachment to a hot drink, and the massive and complex machinery it takes to produce it.

Why leave the espresso machine on at all times: so that it's warmed up and ready to go whenever you want a hot drink. How wasteful is that: it's about like running a 100 watt bulb all the time. Some say it's more like 135 watts on average for my particular machine. The truth: it depends on a lot of factors-- is my boiler insulated? No. What is the ambient room temperature? Pretty low at night, this time of year, results in more heat transfer from the machine to the air surrounding it. How hot is the machine set to run? Pretty hot in my case, as of the last few days when I descaled it and found rather easy access to the two little screws which control boiler pressure (equates to temperature) and I forget what they call it, drift? It's the dead zone wherein the heating element turns on, turns off and waits a bit before it goes back on. Has to do with maintaining a constant temperature. I set the temp higher and I tweaked the dead zone pretty tight to where I was getting only about one-tenth bar of variation. Somewhere on the web a guy claims that's about one degree celcius of variation but I haven't confirmed. In the middle of tweaking, the pressure stat freaked and wouldn't turn off the heating element until twiddled one of the screws again, that was a warning sign. For a couple of days I was really really happy with my renewed machine, then it broke. In all likelihood, what I did broke the pressure stat. In my defense (again I'm defending myself?) the pressure stat was old, was already acting up and as it turns out, is a weak point of the "pro-sumer" home espresso machine. You see why my girlfriend wants to run for cover when I start to talk about this stuff? It's insane. It's coffee, it's only coffee. Get a grip, Paul.

So anyway, back to the insanity. Last night I ordered a "yaeger" pressure stat. It costs twice as much as the OEM replacement part, but the ad copy assures that it's amuch more reliable part. Of course it says that. What else would it say? The OEM part was $37.00, I opted for the $65.00 part, but did not buy the top of the line Sirai pressure stat which costs about a hundred bucks and is too big to fit into the machine anyway. A top of the line commercial grade pressure stat. The sad part is that a part of me ( broken part most likely, a part that needs replacing) actually wanted the Sirai. The even sadder part involve an even more broken part of my brain which wants to install a PID controller to the tune of about $200. Where online do I shop for brain tissue? The OEM variety will probably suit me just fine. PS, you might want to know that $65.00 clears out my bank account. It's all I have. No budget for new brain parts. This situation is what you might call a cascade failure, thermal runaway-- I'm too hot for coffee and my circuits got fried. Some time I'll talk about my previous life as an "audiophile." That's another techno-addiction.

Before anybody judges me too harshly, here's my little reminder that coffee done well isn't just good coffee-- it's a quantum leap away from what any (normal) person thinks of as coffee. It's a whole different drink. And yet, is all that expensive equipment really necessary to produce it? Or do guys just fall in love too easily with overly complex and expensive machinery? (Don't knock it, we fall in love with women too, and there may be some common features there).

Some lucky business man had his product featured in the Sentinel a while back: it was a coffee maker. I saw one at a fancy culinary arts store on the Pacific Garden Mall. Sorry I can't think of the name of the product or even the store. It's basically a clear plastic tube with a piston-type plunger and probably a filter in the bottom. It's kind of a low rent espresso machine, maybe a cross between a french press and an espresso machine. Actually, I don't really see the point in it, it being too close to a french press and too far from espresso. HOWEVER: the review he got in the paper was pretty intriguing. The inventor became quite concerned with brew temperature, brew time, and the use of pressure to enhance brewing. These are some of the same considerations for good espresso. His little coffee maker is damn cheap compared to a lot of things which combine hot water and ground coffee, so, more power to him. I probably won't buy it, because I blew all my money on a single pressure stat: enough money to buy two or three coffee makers, enough money to buy a psuedo-espresso machine from Longs Drugs. Enough money to buy something I might actually need or get real enjoyment out of. Enough money to pay for all kinds of good things in the world that have nothing to do with hold-out addictions to food or drink. Coffee insanity. I reserve the right to be a little insane about little things that don't matter much. I think it keeps me sane.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I Just woke up in the morning and scribbled this in my journal

I really did just wake up this morning and scribble this in my blog. After coffee and an english muffin and a couple other things. Decided it was about time to upload a photo and see if I like the way it looks. Chose an "audience reaction" shot of a very attractive young woman looking like she doesn't like what she sees. Or something like that, I've always liked this photo and so maybe it makes up for me having approximately nothing to say. I don't plan an making a habit of posting nothing-of-interest-to-anyone-but- me. But I'm new to blogging and it will take a few tries to get me up to speed. Sorry, sometimes I just have to test a thing or two. If Blogspot becomes my main blog (my only blog?) I have to make sure that I'm satisfied with it first.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

why do a web page, and what to put on it.

an edit for the blog

Sheryl just redesigned the page for Mama Love Products as a stand alone site and it looks pretty good. She’s going to redo her page as “Sheryl Karas, author” as well. Actually, she’s already well into that one. At some point the home page for a our practice will be redone too. As it stands that website is all hand written in old HTML by Sheryl, and it’s wonderful how fast all the pages load, even on a modem account like my mother has. But it bothers Sheryl that it’s hard to change or edit it, and bothers her too that the code isn’t up to date with the times. What can I say, she’s a designer and has high standards. We both just dove into Mac’s iWeb, and love the program, but I feel pretty sure that Sheryl will upgrade to Dreamweaver by Adobe, in order to have more controlover the final product. Oh yeah, Sheryl's web site is and I'm on that too. My own web page isn't quite ready for public consumption, but it's "around." Oh, all right, if you must know, the web address is but don't all crowd onto it at once now.

I did a rudimentary version of a home page for myself, by myself, and it looks pretty good because it’s a template. I’m not very web-page savvy, it lacks things like “buy now” buttons. And while I got very excited about making my own web-page; in only a couple hours including uploading it, I soon realized that it only does some good if somebody reads it, and it only does me some good if I know people are reading it ( a hit counter would be nice). I also need to have some clue that it will all result in me making a living in a way that I enjoy, ultimately. Otherwise, to be blunt, “I’m too old for this shit.” My ego doesn’t need the satisfaction of having a web page just so that I can say I have a web page.

I’m figuring that the key to a ‘successful’ web page is: content. As I check out those web pages that I’ve visited over the years, they’ve all got content that I’m interested in, so I go there, and go back, and back again sometimes. In some cases (in many cases) web research has influenced me to purchase a particular thing. In fact, almost everything I buy is first meticulously researched via google, and lately I generally buy directly over the internet. So... I’m a customer, and I know what I like. If I Make my web pages attractive/interesting to me, then likely they’ll be attractive and interesting to others.
Further, the concept of having an online resume which demonstrates one’s talents, knowledge, skills and abilities is a good thing, even if it’s just an indirect outcome.

But like I just told Sheryl, I haven’t bridged the gap between “old-school” where one didn’t just give content away (articles, fiction, poetry, photos) and this new thing where people simply self publish web pages with whatever content they want to put out there. Furthermore as a writer there is a huge stigma over self publishing. it can even be a career ender. They call it “Vanity Publishing” if you pay to have your own book published, and yet that doesn’t seem to count if you’re writing a blog or self publishing web pages. I wonder why that isn’t a stigma? Not all publishing conventions have kept up with the times. look at print journalism: it’s dying, devouring it’s own carcass. And photojournalists just keep getting beaten down by the big newspaper publishers. In 2005 the photo pulitzers in journalism were won by a bunch of Iraqi citizens whom the big newspapers had gifted with digital cameras-- that was no accident, that was a message. No slight to the Iraqi citizens who had the guts and grit to shoot those photos, but that's like firing the pro wedding photographer and giving a camera to your uncle jimmy-bob and calling it good.
Here’s something interesting: If a person wants to look at photos on the web of naked women: there’s more out there than can be imagined. Large digital stills of naked women, and I do mean high quality photography in every respect: that content is given away for free. But there is so much of it out there that who would bother to download (steal) it? Just access the internet, see all the naked women you want for free. Or men, whatever rings your chimes. What’s ironic to me about that, is that all those sites are commercial sites-- there to make money, with big sharp photos, easy to steal-- and they don’t seem to care. But visit a fine art photographer's website and all these niggling little photos pop up: you can barely see the “fine art” photos because they’re so petrified that somebody will grab it right from the web page and they’ll never get paid. I hate that. I hate that artists have to be that way. I’ve hear that the big internet money makers are porn and gambling. Like they make so much money that it falls from their websites like gold coins they’re too busy to bend over and pick up.

PS: I can’t find my own web page on Google right now, and I don’t know how to make it appear there. Ah, just went looking for again, and didn’t find it, again. Sheryl is too busy with her own web stuff to stop and help me, and I wouldn’t really want her to drop what she’s doing to help me anyway. Getting your page found on google is only one topic, I have other issues to work through besides that one.

Um, the general idea has been for Paul to work up a web page as a resume, as an online representation of a business interest (or more than one business) But... what happened when I started to publish a web-site? It got really interesting really fast, because I can’t seem to hold back my creativity once I get started. That means I want to write in a blog every day, uncensored, that’s a biggy, self censoring. Same goes for my photos, I’d rather display them nice and big but am afraid they’ll get stolen. (Yes, I’m one of those petrified artists, but I have an excuse*) And I’d prefer to work exclusively in iweb, with my own dot.mac account because at least i know how to use it, it’s so dang simple!

Some things change and some compromises have to be made- like I do indeed prefer my web address to be ( and pretty soon it will be) because sheryl purchased me a domain name for a year. Otherwise my web address would be that silly dot.mac thing which is hard to remember and embarrasing to tell people.

What else got complicated: I didn’t like the fact that the dotmac blog page had nothing on the template about user comments--- means I’ll never know if anybody reads it and wants to comment. So today i signed up for blogger also known as blogspot on google. I’ve got an acct and one post so far, there is a space for user comments and I even like the domain address (whatever it is, forgot it at the moment) but guess what, it looks awkward to post photos on there. Ugh. And this (posting photos) was exceedingly easy with iweb-- plus, the whole web page is integrated in that program, isn’t it? one button publishing. . . or as close to it as I can get. Not sure Sheryl understood the importance of that, and of her not having to be involved in the process of my web page.

But when it comes to “blogging” I can’t really put my stuff out there uncensored-- just read back over what i just wrote. It’s like opening up your journal for everyone to see, could ruin a professional image, can hurt friendships and relationships, and I definitely would have to be careful about talking about inappropriate things, can’t talk about clients, even abstractly, it’s dangerous to the privacy of the client. So by way of closing out this post, I reveal 2 things:
1. I edited the hell out of this post, for personal reasons.
2. my little asterisk about why I’m a paranoid artist when it comes to sharing my work, ready? Here it is. . . * I’ve had my creative work ripped off multiple times already: photos, a song I wrote, and a work of fiction was rather badly plagiarized.

Migrating my blog

Howdy, Migrating my blog from a .mac account. It's a "free trial" that I just started, with a handful of posts. I'll move them over here if it works out, in the meantime this first post is mainly to get a feel for the new service. Readers can comment can't they? Oh, Ok, answered that question. Didn't seem to be that option at dot-mac and it just didn't seem fair.