Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I know... I'm a bad blogger. Not updating in three months and promising in that post that I would post more regularly. So here's a quick update on what's been happening.

As far as Buddhism goes, I've been struggling a little. The more I learn about the Tibetian traditions, the more interested I am from a sociological standpoint, but the more turned off I am from a spiritual perspective. It's very very interesting, but I'm finding that it's not really for me. So I've been leaning more toward Zen or certain Theravadan traditions, but am feeling a little lost. Thus the lack of posts on these topics. I have too many thoughts swirling around my head to post anything coherent that would still make sense to me in a few months time.

As for my handful of technology posts, I'm realizing that there are a thousand blogs that do a better job of it than I. So if I solve a problem that is under-reported online, I may post it here, as I do see a few folks winding up here from Google searches for the Reporting Services kill-bit issue, but on the whole, I'll not be posting much along those lines.

On other fronts, I've not been hiking too much lately. Partly due to weather, partly due to schedule conflicts and such, but I miss it terribly. Winter is officially here and I'm hoping to get out and winter camp and showshoe a bunch. I'd also like to pick up cross-country skiing again. It's been a long time since I've done it, but I like the idea of backcountry cross-country skiing. We'll see how it shapes up.

Anyhow, that's the state of things. I'm not going to promise more regular updates, as I'd be sure to break that promise. So, for the handful of people who may read this, so long for now.

Posted at 10:42:43 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
As I posted early in the summer, the number of updates has diminished as life got busy during the warm weather. It's still warm out, but life is settling down a little and I wanted to take a few minutes to post some random stuff that's been floating around my head lately.

To begin with, my first ever gardening attempt was a modest success! I started several varieties of peppers and tomatoes from seed this spring. I went back and forth on whether or not to give it a try this year, and as a result, I started a little later than I should have. As a result I rushed the construction of the beds and didn't get the soil conditioned right, and my yields suffered. I chose to try the "Square Foot Gardening" method and built two raised beds in the back yard, each about 2'x6', with removable chicken-wire fence around each as I have lots of bunnies and chipmunks in my yard that would have a feast otherwise. Early on, my cat knocked the seedlings off the windowsill when they were a couple of weeks old. Many didn't make it and the ones that did were all mixed up so I lost track of what was what. I planted the heartiest looking seedlings and I wound up with nothing but tomatoes, but two different varieties: an heirloom "Yellow Perfection" and a red beefsteak (such an unfortunate name). Of those 16 plants, about half are producing tomatoes and I've been getting 4-5 every couple days for a few weeks now. Between that and the huge boxes I've been getting from my CSA every week, I'm swimming in vegetables. I want to learn how to preserve/can vegetables, but for now I've been cooking up a lot of stews and chilis, eating what I can and freezing the extras. I'm also using my dehydrator to dry a lot of the herbs and tomatoes. Next year, I hope to get serious about food preservation and want to use the local farmers market, my garden and the CSA to stock up my pantry for the winter, so I'm not eating so many 'imported' fresh food and commercially canned foods. I've eaten better this season than I probably ever have and it feels great to know that I'm both doing it myself and supporting local agriculture.

On another note, I've been hiking. I spent four days in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore over Labor Day weekend. It was my second time there, but this time we hiked the full length of the park and I'm just as in love with the place now as I was last year when I first laid eyes on it. It is a place of such supreme beauty, it defies description. Here's a few samples:
From 2009 - 9/4-9/7 Pictured Rocks

From 2009 - 9/4-9/7 Pictured Rocks

From 2009 - 9/4-9/7 Pictured Rocks


I'm working on some new posts and hope to get back into the swing of weekly+ postings soon.

Thanks for reading!

Posted at 21:02:19 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I've been very busy lately enjoying the nice spring weather we've been having. Going for long walks, biking to and from work, working in the yard and garden and generally being outside every chance I get. As much as I love living in the frozen north, I do love spring. I think what I love about living here is that all four seasons are here in all their glory. The summers are hot, the winters are cold and spring and fall are beautifully in-between.

Between all this being outdoors and preparing for my upcoming backpacking trip, I haven't had much time to write. I'm new to this blogging thing, and I suspect this will be typical, where regular posts will be a wintertime activity. I don't expect to cease entirely during the warmer months, just that I'll find time less often. But seeing as how days can go by between visitors here, I don't suspect I'm disappointing anyone besides myself :-)

Posted at 21:04:39 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I've been selected to be filmed for a series of documentary short profiles on vegans around the country. I'm nervous as heck about the whole thing, but figure it's worth it if I can help inspire other folks to consider a cruelty-free lifestyle. I'm not sure why I was selected. In fact, originally I wasn't. I didn't make the final round of selection, but apparently, the guy they were going to interview in Milwaukee is no longer vegan and is just vegetarian now, so he was 'disqualified', so since I'm in the area and was a 'runner-up', I guess, I'm on deck. Perhaps it was the fact that I used to hunt that piqued their curiosity about me? I dunno. Anyhow, click the logo below to learn more.

Vegan Documentary

Posted at 21:05:35 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
"Creating your own blog is about as easy as creating your own urine, and you're about as likely to find someone else interested in it." -- Lore Sjöberg

Posted at 18:16:15 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
So, I have a reputation for having a "black thumb". Every plant I've ever touched seems to die and horrible lingering death. But I want to do the right thing by eating mostly locally grown food and even though I've signed up for a local CSA program, I like the idea of growing my own food. My ex-wife has a talent for plants and we did some gardening years ago. I did all the heavy lifting, she did all the plant care and knowing my propensity for killing green things, she never taught me anything and discouraged me from getting too chummy with the plants. So, when I decided to start a vegetable garden on my own this year, I'm pretty much starting from scratch. I bought a copy of "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew and attended a neat gardening seminar last weekend and I'm feeling a little less intimidated. I bought some wood and constructed some frames for raised beds and am pulling together everything I need for the soil (peat moss, compost, vermiculite, worm castings) even started buying some non-hybrid seeds (organically grown of course :-) ). I'm going to have three beds, one 4x4, and two 2 1/2 x 5 1/2. Not too ambitious, I hope. I'm planning to get my leafy greens in the ground by Friday and start some peppers and tomatoes inside (a little late, I know...) tonight. As things progress, I'll post some photos and updates here.

Posted at 07:21:00 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
As promised back in January, I'll be soon starting a series on the Eight-fold path. It may be slow in coming as most of what I've been writing lately has been too personal to post here. My apologies to my half-dozen or so readers for the slow down in post frequency. Not everything is for public consumption. Sorry!

Posted at 17:08:48 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I've had the chorus from Collarbone by Poi Dog Pondering stuck in my head for more than a day now. Wonderful song, lyrically beautiful. Thought I'd share...

Desire hangs on for dear life
on the window sill of the collarbone
of the one I love
And a glimmering shimmer
of sweat gathers into a pool in her palm
from a well in her wrist

chorus:
And the only thing that speaks the truth
is the eloquence of passing time
the spoken word is a jacket too tight.

There's a shimmering vision
by the window pane
a cellophane figure speaking in
tounges from above

Theres the curve of a stone
and the crest of a wave
here are the lips that cracked
and the sound that they made

(chorus)

Desire hangs on for dear life
on the window sill of the collarbone
of the one I love.
The grass spills out and catches a flame
the trees stand up and scream their blissfullness.

(chorus)

Posted at 07:15:50 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I finally finished the book(trilogy?) tonight and have to say I'm left impressed if a little baffled. Now that I've read it, I googled the book a little and the Wikipedia entry for it is, well, illuminating. The article says of the narrative style "The plot meanders between the thoughts, hallucinations and inner voices (both real and imagined) of its many characters, as well as through time (past, present and future)—sometimes in mid-sentence. Much of the back story is explained via dialogue between characters, who recount unreliable, often mutually contradictory, versions of their supposed histories. There are even parts in the book where it actually reviews and jokingly deconstructs itself." It makes it mesmerizing and maddeningly difficult to follow. Forget 1st person and 3rd person narrative, the book briefly uses the 2nd person, which I hadn't even thought possible. For all my griping, though, there are some real gems in the book. Here's one last one I'll share:

A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely than the celebrated Marxian formula of "monopoly of the means of production." Since man extends his nervous system through channels of communication like the written word, the telephone, radio, etc., he who controls these media controls part of the nervous system of every member of society. The contents of these media become part of the contents of every individuals brain.

Thus, in pre-literate societies taboos on the spoken word are more numerous and more Draconic than at any more complex level of social organization. With the invention of written speech - hieroglyphic, ideographic, or alphabetical - the taboos are shifted to this medium; there is less concern with what people say and more concern with what they write. (Some of the first societies to achieve literacy, such as Egypt and the Mayan culture of ancient Mexico, evidently kept a knowledge of their hieroglyphs a religious secret which only the higher orders of the priestly and royal families were allowed to share.) The same process repeats endlessly: Each step forward in the technology of communication is more heavily taboo'd than the earlier steps. Thus, in America today (post-Lenny Bruce), one seldom hears of convictions for spoken blasphemy or obscenity; prosecution of books still continues, but higher courts increasingly interpret the laws in a liberal fashion, and most writers feel fairly confident that they can publish virtually anything; movies are growing almost as desacralized as books, although the fight is still heated in this area; television, the newest medium, remains encased in neolithic taboo. (When the TV pundits committed lčse majesté after an address by the then Dominant Male, a certain Richard Nixon, one of his lieutenants quickly informed them they had overstepped, and the whole tribe - except for the dissident minority - cheered for the reassertion of tradition.) When a more efficient medium arrives, the taboos on television will decrease.


Considering the book was first published in 1975, this is remarkably prescient. TV has indeed become less taboo'd. Pay cable and now even basic cable have few content restrictions left and the 'more efficient medium', the Internet, is the primary cause of concern for moralists, fear-mongers and statists. Amazing how well this has held up over nearly 35 years.

Posted at 20:45:17 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I believe Bright Green Environmentalism is the way toward a sustainable future. But what does that term mean? We all have some idea of what it means to be "Green", but what in the hell does it mean to be "Bright Green"? The term was first coined by Alex Steffen in 2003 and is "a belief that sustainable innovation is the best path to lasting prosperity, and that any vision of sustainability which does not offer prosperity and well-being will not succeed. In short, it's the belief that for the future to be green, it must also be bright." In a sense, it means that we don't have to entirely give up our standard of living to be sustainable. Properly applied, technology can be part of the solution. I'm a geek, and I've read a lot of science fiction, so I may be biased, but I fully believe that while we're not looking at a Star Trek version of an ideal future, we can promote an ideal future that includes local agriculture, sustainable building practices, distributed and local energy production and other practices, driven by appropriate technology, to build a future that works for everyone.

What's your idea of environmentalism? What does it mean to you?

Posted at 21:29:29 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I'm still slogging through The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. Non-linear timelines in books drive me batty and this one takes it to an extreme. Still, there have been some great moments in the reading and I wanted to share a few.

"You're not some sort of mystic, are you? I must tell you that I don't intend to convert to anything heathen."
"Conversion, as you understand it," the aged figure told him placidly, "consists of pounding one's own words into a man's ears until they start coming out of his mouth."


Ha! I love this little exchange. On the one level, conversion to a new religion is just as he describes it. It's about indoctrination, not assimilation of truth. It gets me thinking about the conversion of Native Americans or the inquisition or any of countless other historical accounts. Or, even on a more personal level, the raising of children. I was just talking about this last night with a friend. Kids have such a sweet innocence about them that at some level, is a purer form of compassion, fairness and openness. It is often the conversion and indoctrination to societal norms, religion and belief in the associated expectations that stomps these traits right out of them. I'm not a parent, myself, so I could be totally talking out of my ass, but I'm fond of the way my own parents raised me in this regard. They made me go to a local church every week, but they made it known to my sister and I that it wasn't because they identified with being Lutheran themselves, it was so that my sister and I would know what it meant to be Christian and would have that as a basis of comparison as we made our own choices. So, as soon as we were confirmed, the choice was ours. They encouraged me to visit other churches, learn about other religions, and find my own path. They raised me similarly in other respects too. I guess I was a 'free range' kid. If you're not familiar with the term, I encourage you to check out this blog at freerangekids.wordpress.com.

Another great moment in the book today was this little gem:

"Reincarnation works backwards in time," Hagbard went on, as the narcs opened drawers and peered under chairs. "You always get reborn into an earlier historical period. Mussolini is a witch in the 14th century now, catching hell from the Inquisitors for his bum karma in this age. People who 'remember' the past are all deluded. The only ones who really remember past incarnations remember the future, and they become science-fiction writers.

I laughed so hard I had to get up and make some tea to gather myself. Total bull, of course, but funny.

Posted at 11:08:52 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
Well, I've been vegan for nearly two months now and I've been taking stock of how it's been going. Nothing like a good old Pro-n-Con list to lay it all out there, so here we go:

Pros:
• I've lost about 5 pounds, though this is mostly from just eating better and drinking only water and unsweetened tea
• My blood pressure continues to drop. Had it measured Thursday and I don't remember the last time it was that low. I guess I'm officially healthy!
• I'm more ... how to say ... ummmm .. regular. Very much so. Amazingly so. I suspect dairy was the culprit in my previous, ummm...condition.
• I'm healing faster. I had a big heel blister from hiking about a year and a half ago that took THREE WEEKS to heal. Last September I had another one that took over two weeks to heal. I had one last Sunday from the walk across the lake that is already mostly healed.
• I'm learning to cook and finding that I enjoy it! I just wish I had more people to share with. Now I cook and I'm eating leftovers for 2-3 days before I can cook again! I need to organize a dinner party or something.
• I just plain feel better. More rested, less twitchy, clearer-headed, etc.

Cons:
• Eating out is a royal pain in the ass. Helps with the weight loss, though.
• Can't eat most of the 'treats' people bring in to work for special occasions. Again, though, it helps with the weight loss
• All the stupid questions and comments. Word got out at work and aside from a few supportive people, I'm catching a lot of flack.
• I'm really craving a grilled cheese sandwich.

That's about it, I guess. All in all, I'm very happy with the decision and don't forsee it being a problem to commit to this new lifestyle. I just wish it was more common! It would be nice to know more people who feel the same way I do about the issues around animal mis-use. If more people were vegan, most of my 'cons' would go away.

Posted at 11:36:51 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I was reading an article over at worldchanging.com today. The premise of the article is that when people work less, are under less stress and have time for the important things in life, they tend to make better decisions on matters that affect their physical health and the environment. I agree with the premise, but I'd love to see some real data to back it up. The statistics given tie these quality of life measures to incidence of anxiety and depression. This is well-proven and his anecdotal comment along these lines resonates with me personally.

What I've found over the years, is that I can manage my predisposition to the blues if I rest enough and if I take care of myself. I've found that if I take time to meditate, exercise, sleep sufficiently and joke around with friends, then my tendency to over-think and get down about life actually can transform into an asset: with space, digested worry can become some kind of worthwhile introspection.

But what I don't see in the article are studies that tie lower incidence of anxiety and depression to better health choices and, particularly, environmental decision-making. I can see, conceptually how there could be a relation (or even causation), and I'd like to believe it's true, but show me the numbers!

Posted at 13:57:45 central time.

Posted at 20:36:05 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
via the MonkeyMind blog

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. but in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."
C. S. Lewis in his Four Loves

A wonderful quote. After all my talk about how non-grasping love is so difficult to pull off, this speaks well to the consequences of not trying, of walling ones self off. Well said, Mr Lewis.

Posted at 20:30:51 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
A strange coincidence, now that I'm reading The Illuminatus! that in a blog post on BoingBoing.net, there is a blurb about Robert Anton Wilson as a sort of saint. Here's the explanation:

Robert Anton Wilson - In the CD interview series with Bob Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything, the interviewer states that RAW had spent a career collecting, trading in, and writing about conspiracy theories, the paranormal, and the like, but he doesn't appear to buy into much of it. So why does he spend so much time exploring such things? "It keeps my mind supple" is Wilson's reply. That elevates him to sainthood in my pantheon. Wilson also embodied the virtue of hilaritas to me. And he remind me to embrace the absurd. Wilson was also "open to anything, but skeptical of everything."

"open to anything, but skeptical of everything." That pretty well describes my attitude. Not that I'm a saint or anything. Still, it's comforting to know that RAW didn't buy into all the crazy theories in his books.

Posted at 08:42:01 central time.

01/18: Television

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I've been thinking lately about my relationship with television. A couple of things got me to thinking about this.

First, over the holidays, we had a number of ice and snow storms come through that left a lot of ice built up on the satellite dish, killing my reception. And I didn't miss it a bit. In fact, knowing that I couldn't watch TV felt somewhat liberating. I was able to focus on my transition from vegetarian to vegan, fast, and work on things around the house without the temptation to 'zone out' for a few hours. I was disappointed when I glanced at the satellite receiver one day a couple of weeks ago after we had some melting and saw the light on indicating it was recording a program. The temptation had returned.

The second thing that happened was a brief talk I had last night with a visiting friend. She mentioned how reading a book, or listening to a book on tape, is an effective, though primitive way of turning off the thinking mind. Very much like some forms of meditation where focus is brought onto a single subject. She then said that even TV was somewhat like that. It temporarily destroys the ego, in some ways. She was then quick to point out that this isn't a true spiritual experience, but it's mimics it closely enough that it explains why so many people watch so much TV. People watch TV to escape, in a not-so-healthy way.

That discussion and my recent TV-less weeks got my to thinking about my relationship with TV over the years, and one thing is clear to me. At the times I've been most happy, most comfortable with who I am and what I'm doing in life, I've watched very little TV. Conversely, at those times I've struggled with depression, anxiety, marital problems, etc. I've generally watched a lot of TV. Knowing that I've been in a pretty 'good place' lately, it was no surprise, then, that I didn't miss it when it stopped working. I can remember back when my ex and I were first married. For a number of years we'd have the cable turned off in the summer-time, since we were so busy entertaining, traveling, and just being outside enjoying ourselves, that we couldn't justify the money spent on TV that we didn't watch! And now, over the last year, I've seen my interest in TV dwindle to the point where I watch it for no more than a couple of hours a week. I'm seriously contemplating having the service turned off. I can't justify $75/month for the maybe 8-10 hours of TV I watch in a month. I can Netflix the couple of programs I do watch when they come out on DVD (namely the Mythbusters, Adam and Jamie are my heroes.)

Also, I've committed to try to read at least one book a week during 2009. So far I'm ahead of schedule having read 3 and a half books already. It feels good to be reading so much again, though I do hear my friends' voice in my head saying that movies and books aren't that far removed from the escapism that TV presents. It's still better than the boob-tube, though. So, I'll be looking at the papers I signed with DirecTV last April to see if I have any kind of commitment to them. If I don't, it's getting turned off. If I do, I'll wait out the contract first. I may, however, get myself a BluRay player, though, as I do like to watch movies now and then and high-def is the way to go...

Posted at 19:10:07 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
2008 wasn't the best year for music, but there were definitely a few gems. The following is a list of my favorite 5 albums released in 2008.

5. Međ suđ I eyrum viđ spilum endalaust by Sigur Rós

Somehow, this band escaped my radar until this past year, so I'm still playing catch-up on their back catalog. I really enjoyed this new disc, though. Divided into rough halves, with the first half being poppy songs (for them) and the second half being much more mellow, featuring primarily Jonsi's falsetto and Piano. Many reviews I've read loved the first half and didn't know what to do with the second. Frankly, I prefer the quieter numbers such as Illgresi and Ára bátur. All in all, not my favorite of their albums, but still miles above most everything else out there.

No Embedded YouTube video for this one as there's nudity in the video... but you can download the video for Gobbledigook here at http://www.sigurros.com/dvd3.asp

4. Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie

A great album by a band that just seems to get better and better with time. Ben's an amazing songwriter with a voice that is distinctive without being annoying. Some of my favorite tracks are "Cath...", "Grapevine Fires" and "I Will Possess Your Heart".



3. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes

The unforgettable full-length debut by this Seattle-based 5-piece is unlike anything I've heard lately. They aptly describe their music as "baroque harmonic pop jams". I hope to see more, much more, from them in the future. Favorites include "White Winter Hymnal", "tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and "Blue Ridge Mountains"



2. Fate by Dr. Dog

Another band that I just 'discovered' this year. I've yet to delve into their back catalog, but I can't wait to. This album blew me away. Such fun! "The Old Days", "The Ark" and "Hang On" are some favorites.



1. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver

Lastly is my #1 favorite from 2008. Another debut album from Wisconsin natives Bon Iver. Recorded solo by front-man Justin Vernon over three months in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin, this is the most hauntingly beautiful music I've heard a long time. Do yourself a favor and go buy this album right now! "Flume", "Skinny Love", "The Wolves" and "re:Stacks" will be staying in my playlists for a long time to come.


Posted at 15:13:46 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
I've been wanting to post something about the recent events in Palestine, but couldn't find the proper words. However, I found a blog post elsewhere today that says perfectly what I've failed to:

Link to Heartless in Gaza @ Bhikkhu's Blog

Posted at 12:18:16 central time.

Category: General
Posted by: khanti
"What is it, dad?"
"Your cat died...."

Sorry for the obscure Phish reference, but this news just in, the First Cat, George and Laura's 18 year old cat, 'India', died. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have no love for George W's presidency. However, given his miserable poll ratings, the lack of respect shown to him by other world leaders, and just how dejected he looks lately... to then have your cat die on top of it... I actually feel genuinely sorry for the guy, and I'm not being facetious, honestly. It's not the cat's fault its owner almost single-handedly drove our country into the ground.

My own cat's name is China, so they're ... like ... neighbors or something.

R.I.P. India

Posted at 20:35:29 central time.