Sunfell's Earth Walk
Reality-Based Brain Food for Gourmet Geeks
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6th-Jun-2014 10:54 am - Purpose
BW Spock

I like this image- it is an excellent illustration of elements of motivation, and how to live a good life without being dragged down by ennui. Ennui, depression, and boredom are the enemies of purpose, although if you properly utilize their energies in the Current and Pattern, they can be useful.

I've always distinguished between profession and vocation: my profession is computers and communication technology of all sorts, and my vocation is being a 21st Century Mage- the cumulation of all my occult and metaphysical training. I am a TechMage, if you want to get precise.

But what are my passion and mission? I have a passion for writing and learning, and I love collecting and curating music. I am now in a place where I prefer gaining experiences to accumulating physical things. And as I grow older, those passions are deepening.

My mission? I think I've expressed this in becoming the Teacher Who Appears (and Disappears). It's difficult to pin down- am I a Lightbringer? A healer? A 21st Century shaman? Some of all of these? I do know that I wasn't sent here to consume and breed. I am a bundle of incarnated sunlight- an avatar. I came to this place with pre-loaded cues for me to access at a certain age and stage of my life- if I survived to that point. I did- barely. (Avatars aren't given any physical privilege when they incarnate- they're subject to the same hazards as all beings.) But my cues guided me in a different direction from most people. My express disinterest in being DNA driven was evident from some of my earliest lucid (post age 7) memories. That disinterest and in consumption and breeding only grew as I matured, and continues to be a major driving force in how I live my life today.

These four elements- my profession, vocation, passion and mission answer the four questions:

'That which I love' combines my passion and mission: learning, and teaching the Pattern and Current through Light and Sound, and Appearing and Disappearing when necessary.

'That which the world needs' combines my mission and vocation: Using my understanding of Current and Pattern as a Mage to bring the awakening Light to others, so they can also apprehend their real purpose, and break free of the traps of consuming and breeding.

'That which you can be paid for' combines profession and vocation. Happily, I do get paid for being a techie, and I have a very portable and in-depth skillset. And I am gradually sanding away my distaste for asking for recompense for magic(k)al favors- readings, insights, and the like. I prefer barter in that realm, though. And I do have an idea for a book in my mind, which might bring me a few bucks if I am prudent about how it is published.

'That which you are good at': I am a computer whisperer. I can mind-meld with any tech, and fix nearly anything that isn't broken beyond my means to repair it. And I am an excellent writer and curator- I have accumulated a wonderful treasure chest of experiences, and have good ears, good taste in food, books, and environment (albeit a bit quirky at times- but who cares?), and younger people seem to like me. When someone says they want to be me when they grow up, that's a high compliment.

Now we are at the Venn center: Purpose. What is my purpose? I am a TechMage with deep experience in both the physical and spiritual realms. I have a tuneable noise filter, and can see through the often-deliberately crafted noise-smog to the kernel of a matter. I can reveal it, understand it, and make it real to those around me. I use my craft and skills to poke people Awake and discern Current and Pattern through light and sound. My professional skills keep me alive, and my vocational skills save lives.
16th-Nov-2013 12:11 pm - Stop Suffering
BW Spock
Sometimes letting go means creating the space to receive something better.

Change is a difficult thing for us to embrace. It can create anxiety, fear, and apprehension. When we get accustomed to something, we will endure it--even if it makes us miserable.

We will stay in a toxic relationship because it's familiar.

We'll hold on to a way of thinking, because the alternative is questioning what we've always thought to be true. We'll remain at a job that doesn't inspire or motivate us because the prospect of landing our dream job seems too out of reach.

We might even continue to use ineffective workout programs or nutritional strategies, because the idea of trying something new is just terrifying.

But what we're doing by holding on, is actually causing our own suffering. We have the power to let go of suffering, to embrace positive change. The choice is ours.

Letting go is absolutely frightening. It takes courage, but it also takes trust. Trust in the process. Trust in yourself. Trust that when you let go of something that isn't working for you, you're not losing anything--you're creating space for something extraordinary. You're simply carving and molding the life you want, and something that means having to discard things that don't add positively to your vision. It's challenging at first, I know. But once you do let go, it's downright liberating.

Let go.

Stop suffering.

Create space.

Whatever you do, don't settle.

-- Neghar Fonooni
25th-Aug-2013 04:35 pm - Quinto Quote
BW Spock
"I believe that you get back what you put out in the world. I'm a big believer in treating people with compassion and respect and that's the only way to treat people unless they treat you differently. I believe in striving for authenticity and journeying within to understand myself, and know myself on as many levels as possible. I truly believe that the universe will support you if you're specific about what you want. I believe in a spiritual interconnectivity ... that has been proven to me, based on my own experience, time and time again.

The world offers things that you're open to, so the more open you are to the world, the more will come your way. Specificity, in terms of what you want in your life, will help yield it more. I believe in living as hard as I work and not taking anything for granted, ever. I try to stay aware of how lucky I am all the time in all that I'm experiencing because it can go like that for any of us."

--Zachary Quinto
7th-Apr-2013 12:14 pm - The great "What If?"
BW Spock
Here's a thought experiment for you to try, if you dare. Imagine for a minute, a day, or even the rest of your life, that 'fact' and 'fiction' were actually the opposite of what you are meant to perceive. And that all the tropes you take as your life-frame were total rubbish and you could rebuild your mind-frame from scratch.

Would you do it? Most people could not, to be honest. And even those who dared to try this would quickly find themselves stymied by the sheer amount of precious things they'd have to shed. Like, for instance, the concept of 'forever' or that the soul is immortal.

This universe is not immortal, so why should its contents be? Including us? Sure, we might buy some time by universe-hopping, but entropy always ends in the win. (yes, that was deliberate.) Then we start all over again.

But imagine if all those books you read- especially fiction- were the truer aspect of reality, and that all those endless 'non-fiction' things you've had to slog through are (including religious books), were actually fictional. Or at least, mostly the opinion of the writer(s). The only exception to this particular flipped rule is the technical manual, which is a (mostly) accurate reflection of the object it attempts to explain. Your mileage may vary, of course.

"Nothing is true, everything is permitted" is a radical notion. So much so that the Assassins ended up being hoist by their own petard because of it. But it is a radical restatement of reality, if you can learn to trust your own judgement and intuition. It doesn't mean that you have license to create chaos, but instead, it permits the understanding to take out popular concepts that underpin a rotting edifice.

Start with your own mind. You will be surprised at what you discover.
23rd-Feb-2013 09:48 am - The element of change
BW Spock

I love this poster. Spock just adds to the wonderful goodness of it.

This is a basic tenet of metaphysical understanding, and the foundation upon which any magical operation must reside. That change is generally created within the magician hirself, a realization that tends to escape many who wish to practice the art, because they come in thinking that magic means they can change things around them. No. They first must initiate change within themselves. Then they will be capable of being the right tool for the job.

Today, I am going to reboot a part of my life that has been closed for quite a while. I am going to accept who I am, what I am, and what I believe in, and am not going to let anyone belittle, bully, intimidate or otherwise diminish me.
6th-Jan-2013 12:57 pm - The death of the "New Age"
BW Spock
The Death of the New Age is a provocative and insightful article written by the provocative and insightful folks over on the Scarlet Imprint, an occult publisher that is making a real mark on the industry.

Solstice 2012 should be pinioned with this obsidian knife. The new age has ended, huddling under stripy blankets with a chillum at dawn on the precincts of Tikhal, the steps of Chichen Itza. The children of Cortez, the Quetzacoatl who brought death to a continent, a world, now camp out in the picturesque ruins and make their final abasement a shambling ritual event.

Welcome to the new dawn, and no it has not brought the aliens, the jesus, the evolution, the rapture to save the helpless, the credulous, the menopausal, the adrift. The garrulous adorable rap of St McKenna of Soma has reached its omega point. This date must bring death to this delusion.

As a magician, this is my stated intent.

And as a fellow magician, all I can say is, 'It's about damn time!'

Don't get me wrong- I fell for the New Age thing back in the 80s when it was a phenom. But I mostly liked the music, because it was one of the few things I could afford. The books, crystals, courses, 'insta-shaman' weekend courses, retreats, classes, etc- were all way out of my price range. The "New Age" became an elite, consumer-driven money sink for lost souls.

They're still lost. For my part, the high cost barrier that New Age participation insisted upon forced me to find my own authentic Way, which I have done. I'm not totally immune to some of the egocentric silliness that is the hallmark of the New Age, but I'd like to think that I'm at least being true to myself- and those who are interested in what parts of my Way I reveal in the digital realm.

So, now what?

In celebrating, no, insisting on the death of the New Age on this pivotal date we can take stock rather than being part of another bahktun of empty platitudes and future promises. Let us understand that the New Age is spiritual froth, the scum on the surface of a toxic industrial culture. It is a warning sign, not a new life-form. Yes, there are well meaning people involved. Yes, it is easy to parody the New Agers, but at the very least they know that something is very badly wrong. So too does our culture, shifting uneasily as the storm fronts smash into the coasts, the rivers burst, the crops fail. People will ask magicians to explain what is wrong, and our answers better make more sense than cheap talk about ‘an awakening,’ or suggestions to cultivate our own sense of power in the grip of growing powerlessness.

So are we any different?

Where we differ from the New Age is that magic and witchcraft must be grounded in our relationship with the land, with community, with nature. Stating this has been ‘unfashionable’ for those who wish to exist in a bubble where the spirits that they talk with are not embedded in the physical world but are fragments of their psyches. This is not a position that our ancestors would recognise, we are part of a continuum, a continuum which is being raped and destroyed. This must be our focus.

The idea that personal work has no wider context or connection is a vain, alienated and ineffective way to approach magic and witchcraft. We have responsibilities, and it is time that we grew into them. Any other approach is as deluded as any crystal healing dolphinology, it just chooses a darker wardrobe and accessory set.

I would add that our particular Ways are grounded in practical reality- the Here and the Now, but with knowledge of the multiversal nature of life. "Spirit" exists, but as a still, small Voice often buried in the noise-floor of Ego and delusion. It's even a kind of Silence, one that we often tend to run from.

What can we Mages do? One commenter, Tom Bombadil, says this:

For a very long time, I have had a keen interest in the thoughts of Joseph Campbell on mythology, the lack of it and necessity for it in our society. as an observer of trends, I believe that mythic times are upon us, a great turbulence, and that those among us who identify ourselves as wizards and magi will be called step enchant and influence the current of events unfolding. An uneasiness that I apprehend is that as I look to the left and the right at my brothers and sisters, and yeh, within myself, I see a great deal of fluff, insubstantial, ephemeral new age mumbo-jumbo. I know that any time that I've seen true magick, great energy has been expended, a certain kind of focused ferocity....not the kind gleaned from contemplating one's navel. This article crystallizes what I've been thinking and fearing for some time. Are my brothers and sisters up for the challenge of what is to I? [emphasis mine]

Are we fierce and focused enough to take on the challenge of seeing our way through some very real changes that are now happening? Are we Awake enough to keep our eyes and ears open to see and hear- and comprehend the Patterns inherent within these events, and remain able to act and react? Do we have the right kind of grounded connection to this planet, its spiritual denizens and the things around it? Can we truly interact with each other without too much ego-driven sturm und drang, conflict, or difficulty, and understand that we're all in this together?

For me, my Path was -and is- a calling- a genuine Vocation, a requirement. When I've willfully turned away from its parameters and guidance, it has kicked my ass, when I've ignored that inside Voice, it's deafened me. I don't do what I do for any kind of fame or attention- I do what I do because I have to. I've turned away from the trap of the "big-nosed Pagan/guru", because it would take away from my studies and require me to deal with the public. I am a private Mage. I have my Profession, but it serves my Vocation, not the other way around. I earn money to keep myself fed, clothed, and sheltered, I spend money to create a place where I can study, listen, and write. I share some of this because I know that there are fellow Sojourners on this same Path- perhaps with different names, tools and trappings, but who are also called to this life.

For my part, I am going to set out this year to cull through and review the things I've studied for the last 37 years, from my Rosicrucian monographs to the latest book in my library. I'm going to keep a notebook and write about what resonates with me, and share what insights I get. Sometimes the dust must be blown off, the House cleaned and refurbished- and since this is Year Zero (at least for the Maya), now is as good a time as any to restart, review, refresh, and renew.

As a Magician, this is my Stated Intent.

What is yours? Do you feel that pull to bone up, enforce, sew up the holes and fortify the weak spots? Do you want to share thoughts and ideas? Let's do so. We may be fierce individuals, or independent Working Lodges, Circles, Covens etc, but that doesn't mean we can't share ideas. Plus, it's nice to have outside insight.

Let's be fierce. So say we all, so mote it be.
6th-Dec-2012 10:05 pm - Today, this happened
BW Spock

I am so happy to see this- it looks like JJ replaced all the lens flares with explodies. And messy-headed running Spock. This Japanese release has 18 seconds more than the US version.

6th-Dec-2012 09:24 pm - Kickass Christmas music
BW Spock
Forget the usual cauterwauling. This version of "Feliz Navidad" kicks serious ass.

8th-Oct-2012 09:25 pm - Hybrid Soundsystem
BW Spock
8th-Oct-2012 08:13 pm - Fudging it
BW Spock
I decided to make a batch of pumpkin fudge yesterday. The recipe I had was very simple, and pretty much bare of detail. I followed it exactly- and the fudge failed. Not spectacularly, but it never set up. I'm trying to correct that this evening, but I fear it might fail again. If so, I guess I'll use it as a spread or something.

Of course, I had to figure out what happened- and in doing so ran into that strange but wonderful world that is food alchemy. Why do certain mixtures behave the way they do? I ran into explanations about how sugar crystals always want to return to their natural state- especially in a supersaturated mixture like fudge. One drop of water- poof. Disaster. Stir it too much? Sand. But add a different kind of sugar, and you 'confuse' it, and it does your bidding. Creating fudge- or any other kind of real candy- is an intriguing mixture of art and science.

I learned that there are two kinds of fudge- the old-fashioned traditional kind (which needs a special pan to properly make), and the newfangled 'quick' fudge that uses marshmallow creme (or plain marshmallows) and generally does not fail. The fudge I attempted last night was an interesting collision of these two styles.

From what I discovered, and figured out- you can make fudge out of anything. But some ingredients are more intractable than others- and that included pumpkin. It has a lot of liquid in it, thus requiring a much longer cooking time than regular fudge. Water is the enemy of good fudge, which is why cream or condensed milk are better than plain fresh milk. More solids.

One of my fatal errors was that I didn't cook it long enough, or at a high enough temperature. I also had the 'wrong' kind of pot- you really need a tallish one to permit the 'full' boil that is needed (the milk and sugar mixture climbs quite high and pops incredibly hot bubbles in the cooking). Neither did I use a candy thermometer, which is vital to the success of such an endeavor. Simple 'cheater' fudge does not need such a thing- it's boiled and done as soon as the chocolate chips are melted and mixed in. My hybrid fudge needed one- but the recipe didn't even mention it. Other recipes I found did- and NeverLasting Fudge, Batch No. 2 will utilize both the thermometer and some other things. Like, for instance, I might drain the pumpkin a bit more. Or I will cook it longer- or at least until the thermometer says 'OK' (or 237 degrees F).

Candy making is an alchemy of its own. I need to find that salted caramel recipe and give it a shot- it involved some pretty intense work, including laying it out, placing pieces in little squares of wax paper, and wrapping them individually. I might make some for certain special people for the holidays. But I might go ahead and become a fudge specialist. It might involve a trip to the restaurant supply store to get the right pan at the right price (no over-priced W&S foofery, please!) and building working techniques. I love pumpkin, but I expect that I'll create some chocolate or cocoa-mocha treats which will also inherit my "NeverLasting" moniker. I need to sort out how to create a really good coffee syrup.

Life should be sweet- literally and figuratively.
20th-Sep-2012 09:54 pm - Dead Can Dance
BW Spock
15th-Sep-2012 08:55 am - Doing it right
BW Spock
As many of my readers here know, back in 2009, I embarked on a quest to lose weight and become fit. And by 'fit', I meant having the ability to go from the basement to the top floor of the State Capitol without getting winded. That is a climb equivalent to about 6 or 7 stories in a regular building. I realized that hauling around the extra 50 pounds I gained by eating crap food during my impoverished period wasn't helping, so I also decided to see how much of that weight I could lose as well.

As you know, I succeeded- I read up on diet and nutrition and created an eating plan, had my Vitamin D checked (it was low), and enrolled in a 30-day trial of "Curves"- a nearby ladies-only gym that has a unique circuit training program.

I lost 30 of the 50 pounds, and have maintained that weight within 5 pounds for the last two years- that includes 3 holiday seasons. I go to Curves 3 times a week unless I am ill, or the gym is closed. I can go up the stairs from the basement to the top of fourth floor without any difficulty, although I am always breathing a bit hard by the time I reach the visitors gallery level.

In other words, I started a program, stuck with it- and continue to stick with it.

I've been revisiting my books and studies of nutrition and fitness, looking for a way to kickstart my body and up the game a bit- if only to lose another 20 pounds. When I started out, I was on the BMI borderline between overweight and obese. Now I am on the borderline between normal and overweight. I want to be firmly inside the 'normal' BMI category. I know that the charts are inaccurate, though- they still give women too little weight, and do not compensate for bone mass. I have a large frame. "Large" for a woman is a wrist diameter of 6 inches or more. Mine is 7. My wrists are massive next to my sister's. The charts still keep women very underweight- which was really horrible when I was in the USAF.

I've been reading a book called "The Cure for Everything", by Timothy Caulfield. It's an interesting book that closely examines the diet and fitness world, and does some major debunking of currently faddish and popular diets and fitness beliefs. This book has an index, which generally gives it a leg up- but it also has a lot of footnotes. I might get its electronic version (this is a library book) so I can pull out quotes and talk about it in depth. It is one of the few books on the subject that would be worth purchasing.

In it, I learned that my success- especially my continued success- at maintaining my weight is rare. Only 5% of people keep the weight off that they lose on diets. This is because the human body is tuned to maintain whatever weight we've built it up to. And if we've over fed it and ballooned it up to 300 pounds, then by gum, that is where it wants to go to after what it sees as a 'famine' (your diet). That five percent keep the weight off by continual vigilence and portion control. In other words, they make a permanent change to their eating habits. They will always struggle with nature- I know that I do. It's a constant battle. And I want to lose more!

But I took a trip to California last month and lost one pound. LOST weight- in spite of enjoying great meals. Even there, though- my focus was on what I ate, and how much. I did not feel bad about leaving food on my plate, or ignoring the bread. I picked foods I could handle, and did a lot of walking. And I wasn't focused on food. I ate when I was hungry, but did not let hunger destroy my discipline.

And I am going to have to do this for the rest of my life. That's going to be a while. I had to 'hack' my mind to get it to adhere to my New Normal. I do not eat fast food AT ALL. In fact, I do not even see the restaurants- they are 'grayed out' in my mind. I can drink the coffee at McDonalds (which is cheaper than Starbucks at LAX and served without that burned flavor), and maybe have a salad- but that's it. If there is wheat involved in any form- be it gravy, pasta, bread, or evil coatings to make flavors stick- it is inedible. It is not food, no matter how delicious it might look or smell. It is toxic, in fact, and I will not put it in my body. Same with foods that have fake fats in them -any fat besides olive oil, coconut oil, occasionally peanut, ghee, butter or (omg!) lard. Yes, I have allowed bacon drippings and lard back into my diet- not in large quantities (my bacon allowance is 3 strips a week, including condiments), but in amounts that will enhance a dish I am using it in, like potato or corn chowder. I do not deep fry foods, so I do not have any of the artificial vegetable oils, including corn, canola, soy or 'vegetable'. And Crisco is banned from the house. I no longer bake, so it is off the menu.

Doing those things has turned me into an avid reader of labels, questioner of waitstaff, and a Michael Pollan fan. His little mantra of "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" has been my guideline these past few years.

"The Cure for Everything" also gave me some satisfaction and confirmed my hunches about certain activities that are touted as 'healthy', but really aren't. Or, at least, not as healthy as they want to be. Yoga, for instance. I've always viewed it with a bit of a skeptical eye- partially for its pretense, and its excessive (and expensive) accessories. I was told that I needed 'proper' yoga attire at one studio I was auditing- apparently regular sweat pants and a t-shirt was not good enough. Looking at the half-starved, over-exercised, expensively dressed (lululemon?!?), pampered and polished women who were nose-to-butt in this popular studio, I realized that no matter what I wore, I was not welcome. I can get my spiritual inputs in plain English without the humming platitudes and overt hypocracy of some of these 'masters' (Anusana yoga, I am looking at you...). And I don't have to be in a crowded room getting into pretzels to do it.

And jogging, biking and aerobics aren't a cure, either. Yes, it is good to put some cardio into your workout, but cardio alone won't give you that uptick in metabolism, or that reworking of your muscles and stress on your bones required to truly be fit. What does?

Lifting weights. Resistance training. And not with cute little 'barbie' weights, either. Real weights. Real effort, real work- at least 3 times a week. And guess what- I've been doing that at Curves. Those wimpy looking machines actually work- the harder you press them the more resistance they give. I'm not having to change out weights- I get on, put all the effort into them I can for thirty seconds, and get off- and recover aerobically for 30 seconds. This seems to be what has kept me fit- and is slowly reshaping me- for the last 3 years. I am going to add kettlebells to the routine, purchasing them one at a time, in increasing weights- and guarding my shoulder.

One of the reasons I've maintained the same weight is that the fat has been converted to muscle. My BMI is lower, although my weight is the same, according to the Curves metrics. I am going to have to reduce my food portions and increase my workouts to 4 a week in order to whittle off that next ten pounds. And I will have to keep those portions low.

I am again paying attention to calories after a long time of ignoring them. Specifically, calories that come from sugars. By snipping out sweet things- substituting plain yogurt for flavored, and measuring my own sweet additives (strawberry or apricot preserves) into a portion, I can trim off more calories but maintain the size of the portion with a better protien and carb ratio. Keeping my food simple and relatively un-messed with also helps. I've become adept at cooking from scratch over these last few years- the wheat allergy has seen to that. And I am careful about what I buy at the grocery store- there is one deli takeaway I love- 'naked' (unbreaded) buffalo chicken nuggets. I am going to start making them at home. But they are simple, high protein, and very good. I am also going to start measuring portion sizes by weight- while using my smaller lunch-sized dishes and fruit bowls has been good, I want a more precise measurement.

But my purchasing habits at the grocery store are finally being reflected in their little 'loyalty' coupons I'm getting- now I get coupons that give me a discount on fresh produce and salad fixings, as well as my favorite yogurt.

Drinks are another major thing to consider. I drink water, coffee, milk, tea, and red wine. I also like sparkling water with a packet of 'true lemon' in it. This is just the essence of the fruit- there is no fake sugar in it. I do not drink sodas of any sort, nor energy drinks (except for the occasional 'Brain TonIQ'), fruit juices, or such. I don't keep them in the house. I like my coffee plain, with one spoon of sugar in it (1.5 for my tall mug), and nothing else. No creamers, milk, whiteners, flavors- nothing. When I have a treat, it might be a green tea frappuchio at the B&N cafe twice a month. Or a hot chocolate when its cold. Simplicity and size are the key. Keep it small, keep the ingredient count- especially the sugar- low.

I often thing that the obesity epidemic could be solved by simply reverting back to the portion sizes of 30 or 40 years ago. They still sell a 'regular' hamburger at McDonalds. Sure, that wouldn't stop someone from buying a bagful of them, but if they were priced at the current mega-whomp burger prices, it might make people think twice. The extra money could go towards funding preventive health care and abating obesity.

I am glad that I wasn't obese enough to require surgery, although I have noted that some procedures now target people who are 30 to 50 pounds overweight- not 100. Long term studies are starting to show that while the weight has vanished, the underlying psychological causes often do not. Addictive people remain addicted- and often add other, worse addictions to their plate- like alcohol and some drugs. I won't ever tinker with what I was born with. I'll just take better care of it. That includes no drugs (even 'prescribed' drugs) or cosmetic procedures (liposuction, fat reduction). The body will always find a way to subvert whatever you do to it surgically or pharmaceutically. It's far better to use your mind, and your will, and keep changing things up.

And that- at the end- seems to be the key. The body easily falls into routine. Cheating is par for the course. If you keep it guessing- by changing up the diet- maybe having a huge meal every so often, or changing up the exercise plan, upping the number or type of workouts, and giving it a chance to work the way it's supposed to- it will repay you by being healthy, fit, and happy.

Links to interesting articles:

Low and slow may be the key to successful dieting

Refrigerator Oatmeal

Modern wheat a 'perfect, chronic poison'

Gastric bypass surgery may cause alcoholism
29th-Apr-2012 08:22 am - Yard sale prep
BW Spock
Next Saturday, I'm going to have a yard sale- the first I've had since forever. A friend of mine is going to pool her stuff with mine, and she's pretty practical minded, so maybe I'll have more success with this one than I did with my last one. Since I have a carport, I won't worry about rain, for one thing. And having someone for moral support won't be a bad thing, either.

But I have to get things out and stage them, which means chaos in my home for a few days. I'll admit that I dislike this particular stage more than anything, but if I sell most of the stuff, it'll be worth it. What is left will probably find its way to GoodWill. I'll have lots of books, kitchen stuff, clothing, and some electronics available.

I hope to make a few dollars- and get rid of stuff that I do not need or want. I gave away tons of stuff when I moved, these are things that I wanted to try to sell. Wish me luck.
20th-Mar-2012 08:59 pm - Red
BW Spock
10th-Mar-2012 08:12 am - "I'm A Slut"
BW Spock

Yep, women who think for themselves, are educated, practice thoughtful family planning and live within their means are sluts, according to that radio bloviator.

heh. We'll show him! Share this widely, please.
22nd-Jan-2012 05:34 pm - Zachary Quinto on being gay
BW Spock
This is an excerpt from an interview Zachary Quinto recently gave for the Sunday Times, which, sadly, is behind a paywall...Here, he talks about coming out, and why he did it.

“The torment those people feel - and I know it because I´ve seen it, I know it in people - is so heavy, so painful,” Quinto says. “Things need to change. This is just bullshit at a certain point. I´m not going to live my life based on fear of other peoples judgements. If somebody doesn´t want to work with me because I´m gay, then I don´t want to work with them anyway.”

“Gay or straight, my trajectory has never been conventional. My journey has never been conventional. I´m not interested in that. That´s not what I´m about. But if I was playing Kirk, if I was more of a traditional leading man, I still don´t think it would make a difference. I certainly don´t think it should.”

Margin Call director JC Chandor added:

“Zach is a fairly humble guy,” Chandor says. “He had not thought through the scope of it, for sure. To find out it was such a big issue for people was, I think, exciting and invigorating. I gave him a hug right there on the street. It felt like a weight had been lifted off him.”

Sunday Times, January 2012

Zach's coming out was huge- and he did it his way, which made it so classy, and so much his own event. I know that his friends didn't know he was going to do this- the one I spoke to was totally stunned when he found out- he'd been on a cross country flight when the news broke.

Every time he gives an interview, he says something that increases my admiration for him that much more. I always knew he was an unconventional man, intelligent, articulate, and deeply insightful. I really hope that he will write a book someday. I started out liking him because he played Spock- now I like- no, deeply admire him- for who he is. I really hope to meet him someday.
14th-Jan-2012 05:27 pm - Thriver guilt
BW Spock
I had an interesting encounter today: While returning to my car, a lady pulled up behind me, and asked me for money to get food for her kids. I don't carry cash anymore, so I did not have anything. I told her so, and she drove off.

I felt a bit bad- in retrospect, I could have offered her the bag of quick-cooking grits I'd purchased, but I wondered if she had a kitchen. Or cooking tools. She would probably have gone through a drive-through and purchased the usual corporate coffin-filling crap-food that poor people are forced to eat.

We live in a strange, upside down world. Beggars drive cars. Poor people here are the richest poor people in the world. Instead of starving into sticks, they starve into obese balloons on dollar meals.

All around me, the signs of hard times are impossible to miss. Empty homes, empty storefronts. People crowding the back racks of shops, digging for bargains. The SUVS purchased during the boom times still ply the road, but more and more of them are parked in those 'buy here, pay here' lots, replaced by 90s and 00s bangers. Boats have disappeared- I used to find myself behind them all the time. Same with ATVs. Gone. I went cruising through one newish neighborhood- one that had those cookie-cutter McMansions that were way beyond my price range. I counted nearly a dozen for sale signs.

It's a really strange thing- during the 'boom' times- including the dotcom and the housing flare, I was impoverished. 20 years ago, I spent 6 weeks technically homeless- couch surfing with friends until I could scrape together the means to get me and my cats back to the US. Then, it took 2.5 years after that to claw my way out of crushing depression to the point that I could get a job that was actually complementary to my skills, and another decade to climb out of the fiscal hole my father's 'tough love' stunt placed me into.

I knew what it was like skipping meals so I could make the rent. Or gas the car. I knew the humility of asking to borrow money from family and friends- always paying it back- to tide myself over until the next meager paycheck came through. I knew what it was like to have to hustle for every dollar, every sale, doing what I could to 'accessorize' it to put a dollar or three more into that pay packet.

When I found myself overwhelmed and defeated after trying to purchase a home in 2002, I went to the Community Credit Counseling Service to straighten myself out. It was either that- or go through bankruptcy. I had to go through their program before I could declare bankruptcy. I did, and two years later, I emerged with tools and tactics I used to put myself back on my feet.

All the while, the housing boom continued. Prices soared, and people were given extravagant amounts of mortgage money, as well as equity money. I was surrounded by shiny huge new cars and trucks, watched swarms of contractors build even more neighborhoods, and wondered if I would ever afford a home of my own. And I resigned myself to renting- forever. I was saving money, though. Being a good tenant meant that the landlord did not jack the rent on me like he did the neighbors. And while I appreciated that, it would have been nice to have known about the damn meth lab in the neighbor's house. Yes, moving would have been a pain in the ass, but my health would have not suffered. Even now, when I pull things out of boxes, I have to wipe off a nasty sheen of contaminated dust or run them through the wash. Some things I've simply thrown out.

The crash of '08 happened, and I lost 40% of my savings. All that money- gone. I was devastated- that was going to be a down payment on a house. But it slowly came back- and housing prices started to drop. I kept up my fiscal discipline- and decided to purchase a home.

But for a long time, I was technically poor. In fact, for the first 20 years of my adult life, I lived below the poverty line- but I never drew any sort of dole- somehow I always made about $1 more than what it took to qualify for foodstamps. I made errors- and learned from them. The decade of poverty I got through taught me how to shop, how to spend, how to make things stretch, and how to save money. I gradually got promoted. I found myself in the middle class.

I worked hard to get to this place in my life. It's a great place, too- with money left over after paying bills, some savings, and a car and home of my own. I took no handouts- government or family. I had no spouse to share expenses with. I did this all on my own- with the support and encouragement of my friends. I learned how to do the math- to calculate the real cost of something. I learned that preparing food from scratch- while time consuming and perhaps a bit inconvenient- was the best bang for the buck. I learned to separate want from need. Even now, I ask myself if I actually need something. And every so often, I get stuff I don't need.

I learned not to let people rush me- especially with the 'buy it now, before it disappears' ruse. I avoid being caught up in frenzies. I have learned that she who hesitates pays less. I research every major purchase almost to death. I get value for money. I've learned the two sides of 'perfectly good'- perfectly good things that I can use, and perfectly good things that are for other people. Flea markets, yard sales, and thrift shops are my favorite places. My mantra has become, "There will always be another sale" along with "If you really need it, you'll find it".

It's strange to be on the flip side of hard times. The same people who gleefully filled my rear-view mirror with their giant SUVs have downsized. Apartments have waiting lists, rental homes get snapped up within a week of posting the sign, while for sale homes on the same street languish - often for years. One around the corner I saw last year still has a sign in their yard. (It was quite cramped- and its back yard had been flooded out.)

I do have compassion for those who have fallen on hard times. But I also know that many of them got herded into the situations they find themselves in. I find myself split between feeling a bit guilty about my modest success, and perhaps a sense of relief for keeping my head.

And that's the key. Keeping one's head. This appears to be the crucial element that divides success from failure, power from panic. When I find myself in a situation, my logical Vulcan side takes over, assesses the problem, and comes up with a stack of solutions. I roll up my sleeves and get it taken care of. I shift my priorities in seconds. It's like I become another person.

If it is any comfort, I have a feeling that the tide is finally turning. Good things will return, but not in the measures we were used to. Prices are not going to drop, packages of food will not get back to their old sizes. The new paradigm of over-qualification for an under-served workforce is the new paradigm, and the resulting poverty will sadly hang around for decades until we get our education back level with our actual jobs. Parents are still flogging college to their kids like it's the 90s. It isn't. If I were to give a young person advice for continuing education after high school, I'd tell him or her: LEARN A TRADE. Learn something that is essential and hands-on. Something that requires a physically present person that cannot be fobbed off on a robot or computer. Or- learn to design, build, install, repair, and maintain those robots and computers. And I would also tell them that they need to learn to do the math. Doing the math is the other key to making it through hard times. Dispassionate weighing of elements isn't fun, but it keeps the lights and heat on.

I hope that lady found someone who still carried cash and could get her some food. And I hope that she learns to do her own math and climb out of that situation. It's a situation far too many of us are in- or near.
20th-Dec-2011 09:52 pm - A blast from the past
BW Spock

Think about this: we have at our fingertips one of the most awesome things ever- the Internet. With a few clicks of the mouse, a command or two and a powerful search engine, you can dig up pretty much any song or show your heart desires. This was one of the things the jet-pack and flying car gang totally overlooked when, back when I was a kid, they created "EPCOT" at Disneyland. We knew the days of videophones and instant everything would come- but look at the treasure we have.

And it's about to be totally destroyed. If SOPA passes, you can kiss the ability to dig out old Ray Conniff albums and ancient commercials goodbye.

If you're old enough to have heard this as a kid, and remember all the cool stuff of a 20th Century Christmas- including the Pong game- make sure your Congressman knows what you think of their Grinching the Internet for the benefit of the very few.
13th-Dec-2011 06:40 pm - Carol "Karaoke"
Cunning Plan
I work in a public space that becomes "Christmas Central" this time of year. It's beautifully decorated, and swarms of schoolkids come from all over the state to look at the decorations, and sing in the rotunda. There's a piano and karaoke playback system set up for this, along with choir risers. Kids of all ages, from kindergarteners to local universities come and sing carols.

Or, mostly sing. I noticed a change this year, and not a good one, either.

The kids- particularly the younger ones- are no longer singing. They get on the risers, music plays, but what is coming out of their mouths is as far from musical as July 4 is from Christmas. The best way I can describe it is like a toneless sing-talking. No unison singing. No harmony. Just this awful, heartbreaking, non-musical noise- being conducted with the same enthusiastic prompting for gestures by the teacher as before. The older choirs still sing- a-capella, harmonic, musical. But with the younger kids, I had to listen for the words and the carol-karaoke music to figure out what they were attempting to convey.

And this wasn't just one appalling, tone deaf choir from some underfunded boondock school. I listened as choir after choir came and 'sang' in the same non-musical, nearly chanting way. I could hear one or two kids actually singing, but these were rare, and stood out. The parents swarmed and took photos and video, and pretended not to notice.

But I did. What the hell is happening in our schools? What has happened to the music programs? Is this a demonstration of the outermost limits and excesses of the egocentric 'everyone is a winner' and overweening self-esteem primping of today's schools? Is it important to just make noise as to not hurt the feelings of the non-musical members? Is it so bad that everyone has to now come down to the lowest common denominator of the most tone-deaf and monotonous mumbler in the choir? That is exactly what it sounds like to my ears. And if this is so, and this rot is perpetrated in other parts of our public schools, we're done for. In making everyone a 'winner' they are actually perpetrating a truly devastating future of high expectations and low actual ability for these kids- and the culture they will serve.

It wasn't always this way. There were winners and losers. Sure, losers would cry, then they'd get over it and try harder. I remember my own elementary school days- where we would sing along to special recordings, and start practicing Christmas songs in November, and we'd sing in harmony- even in elementary and middle schools. The monotones would be drowned out by the surrounding harmony, and we'd all have tons of fun.

And in high school, we had to audition for choir. I did not make the cut because I could not sight read music. I had an eidectic ear for it, but could not (and still can't) read it. I was a 'loser', and yes, I grieved over not getting in. But then, I got past it. But the memory is still painful. It taught me that I could not get away with not meeting the standards stated- even if I had actual talent and ability beyond what was the rule. That was what the choir teacher told me, years later when we ran into each other. She wanted me to get in, but rules were rules.

I wish they'd change them for these poor kids of today.
27th-Nov-2011 10:50 am - "Coming to my faith"
[Author's note: this is the body of an email I sent in reply to a request to tell the story of 'coming to my faith'. Technically I have no faith, only a constantly changing understanding. This was my reply, with some minor editing. I use "Pagan" to delineate the majority of non-Christian, Western/European earth-based or tribal religions.]

In my travels, I've come to learn that many Christians believe that Pagans come to their faith or beliefs in a manner similar to their own. This is generally not true.

For most Pagans, there isn't a 'snapping' moment, or a conversion moment like there are in many of the evangelical Christian sects. I've noted that for these Christians, the conversion moment often happens under duress or extreme difficulty, and it is an act of surrender.

This is not so for most modern Pagans. For many of us, it is a gradual process of awakening, and questing. It is a process of stepping outside the cultural 'boxes' we inherit, and seeing the world in a different way. Magic, which is an element common to many (but not all!) Pagan sects, is not the property of an elect few- it is ubiquitous, and anyone can learn how it operates if they have both an open mind and an open heart. And the understanding and utilization of magic is not a religious process, although some would try to make you believe it is. Magic is real enough that many ancient peoples and religious sects made its knowledge and practice forbidden to the non-elect, because it was more effective than their own systems. (The Roman Catholics did not permit their laypeople to have Bibles for a very long time, because it was (and sometimes still is) considered a magical book meant for very few eyes.)

I speak from my own experience as a former Catholic. I tell people that the religion of my childhood never really 'took'. For one thing, we moved a lot, so I was fortunate to remain out of the grasp of the Catholic schools and my very religious grandmother- who did succeed in getting me into a Catholic school when we were stationed in Texas. I lasted a single semester.

I was a questioning child. And a prodigy. The combination of that- and being female- was not a good one for a very traditional religion. In catechism (Catholic Sunday school), I was often told to stop asking questions, or given busy work to keep me from 'disrupting' the class. I asked questions like why I couldn't serve at the altar, or be a priest, and other troubling questions. I was told to learn my place, and run the mill like a good little girl. I didn't. Finally, I was asked to leave, and was permanently pulled out of the classes.

Leaving home broke my ties with the Church permanently, and I gave Catholicism (and Christianity in general) up for Lent in 1980. I never looked back.

I had always been interested in psychic and paranormal subjects, even while I was a child at home. I had certain sensitivities that revealed to me that the world was not what people taught me -or wanted me to believe- it was. We are not in a universe- we are in a multiverse- with cross-talk and bleedover from neighboring 'verses. These manifest as many mythical creatures, beings, stories, phenomena and encounters across all humanity and history. Some people are more attuned to these than others. Everyone is capable of sensing and interacting with them if they learn what to watch for.

Being the curious and questing person I was, I learned about other systems of belief and religious faith. I can still whip seminarians with one hand tied behind my back- I know more about Christianity than most Christians. I had to learn it in self-defense! My seeking brought me to the Rosicrucian Order, who laid the foundation of my metaphysical understanding, in a way that was comfortable for the person I was at that time. From there, I progressed to British Traditional Wicca, and was trained and initiated by people with direct ties to both Gardener and Alex Sanders. From there, I learned from a Native American elder, and some of the members of the neo-Gnostic Church and New Golden Dawn, and finally from the Chaos Magicians of the late 90s. I then had a major belief-crash and went through a period of atheistic abstinence from any belief or faith at all. That helped me to shed most of the fluff and nonsense, and pick up the bones of what was the right fit for my mind. I learned that having no gods was as absurd as having only one. Both positions were untenable. What was the actual situation? This was the closest thing to a 'crisis of faith' I had.

What was the reality? If there are no gods, and there is no one god, are there gods at all? What lies between zero and one?

Infinity. +1

Terry Pratchett had the right idea with his "Small Gods". I amplified and advanced that idea of myriad addressable god-motes, and my own understanding of Small Gods was created. I maintain it to this day.

I have no pantheon, no fixed sets of god-personalities that I work with. As a TechMage, my understanding of the magical Current (akin to the Force) is the mainstay of my mindset. Instead of a fixed pantheon and a fixed system of ritual and worship, I have an addressable, flexible, as-needed understanding of this multiverse. This permits me to address and acknowledge the myriad Small Gods that populate it, but not fix them into this universe with scripture, dogma, and worship. This is toxic to them- and to us. Religion is the byproduct of the mistaken belief that (captured) gods need to be praised, appeased, and worshipped. This is actually just a means for an elect few to gain power. It does nothing for the gods involved, except to trap them in this universe, radically harm them, and drive them to madness. Consider example #1: BibleGod. He made the mistake of revealing himself to a human. The human worshipped him, and the being became addicted to it, and was entrapped. He's stuck. Probably forever. And we're cursed with dogma, 'sin' and other man-made precepts that they apply to the worship of this being. He did his best to try to get free, and instead, his tantrums and madness are recorded in scripture. Kind of changes the whole perception of the Bible- it's a bell-jar for a captured god. He is forever trapped in that web of scripture.

So, instead of having a fixed scripture and accompanying belief system and dogmatic traps, mine is a 'catch-and-release' of acknowledgement, energy exchange, and interaction with the Small Gods. Most of the time, I do not require their assistance- nor they mine. Yes, this is a two-way street. These beings benefit from our benevolent interaction. This is not worship. Belief is not required. Some of the ancient Mages understood this, which was why their lab-books -their grimoires- were destroyed at their death. (The surviving ones are full of deliberate errors. Use them with care- treat them like a historical document rather than an instruction manual.)

There's a phrase that acknowledges the understanding of this multiversal reality: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."

I’m sure you already realize that it’s not being literal. The road, the killing, and even the Buddha are symbolic.

The road is generally taken to mean the path to Enlightenment; that might be through meditation, study, prayer, or just some aspect of your way of life. Your life is your road. That’s fairly straightforward as far as metaphors go.

But how do you meet the Buddha on this road? Imagine meeting some symbolic Buddha. Would he be a great teacher that you might actually meet and follow in the real world? Could that Buddha be you yourself, having reached Enlightenment? Or maybe you have some idealized image of perfection that equates to your concept of the Buddha or Enlightenment.
Whatever your conception is of the Buddha, it’s WRONG! Now kill that image and keep practicing. This all has to do with the idea that reality is an impermanent illusion. If you believe that you have a correct image of what it means to be Enlightened, then you need to throw out (kill) that image and keep meditating.

Most people have heard the first chapter of the Tao, The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao. (So if you think you see the real Tao, kill it and move on).

This applies to all belief systems. If anyone says they have the 'truth', run away from them. That includes me. There is no 'truth'- only understanding. And even that is fleeting- like the small gods and the Current itself. Nothing is true; everything is permitted. And Light is just as blinding and binding as Darkness. The Center exists, but is always changing. You must change along with it.

This sort of religious freedom is not for everyone. And I do not encourage- or discourage- anyone to follow my own particular Path- I have no students, only readers. They have to follow their own paths. You might find comfort with a certain pantheon or tradition within the Pagan umbrella- from the myriad subsects of Wicca to the Celtic faiths. I have found fellowship with them myself, and they accept me as the Seeker that I am.

Best wishes with your quest.
10th-Nov-2011 09:29 pm - 11-11-11
BW Spock
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. I wish I had a shirt that says, "You're looking at a Cold War/Desert Storm veteran", because folks like me are pretty much invisible. Not that I really want- or need- to be kissed up to. I served, it was interesting, but it wasn't a bed of roses. It was both the best- and the worst of times. I got myself a hat that states my feelings. It says "Disgruntled Veteran" and beneath that, "Leave me alone."

I have mixed feelings about that last phrase, because far too often, female veterans are left alone- overlooked, or ignored, especially if they do not have children.

I keep reading scary statistics about female veterans having a high probability of becoming homeless. I was briefly one of those statistics, with the additional thrill of being homeless in a foreign country. (After I got out of the USAF, I tried and failed to get a DOD job, and ran out of money.) I couch surfed for a while, got a ride back to the US, then had to move back in with my parents. Moving in with your parents in your thirties is a very humiliating thing. I'm just glad they took me in. I did manage to move out again, once I got a job that paid a decent wage. And while my circumstances right now are much better than they were 18 years ago, I still have nightmares, and spells of horror about it from time to time. For a while, I hoarded food so I could feel secure.

I managed to claw my way out of homelessness, poverty, and depression. I did this without the assistance of the VA, because the VA still has a very poor record of outreach and treatment of women vets. I had to drag myself- 18 years after the fact- to the VA to get assistance. Their outreach for female veterans has a lot of room for improvement. Being paged as "Mr." (only once) was typical of my experience.

If you know a female veteran- thank her. And make sure to keep her in your life and your thoughts. She might act tough and independent, and may not say 'boo' about any problems she might be having. We're taught to put up and shut up. Because of this culture that survives our service, far too many of us slip through the cracks- too proud- or scared- to ask for help.
8th-Nov-2011 10:06 pm - Dog Eat dog
BW Spock
5th-Nov-2011 10:03 am - Holiday Recipe Roundup
BW Spock
Every year, I post an entry here that has some of my holiday recipes. This year, I am modifying it a bit- because I have gone gluten-free, and so some of the items need to be adapted for gluten-free bread and flour. This is true for the Oatmeal cookies. I will post these in the original, but please remember that these are not yet adapted to gluten free flours.

I'm cutting the post so as not to clog up my friends list.

Eggnog of Doooo0mCollapse )

Oatmeal Chocolate-Cherry CookiesCollapse )

Sweet & Sour Braised CabbageCollapse )

Shrimp Cheese GritsCollapse )

Old Fashioned Sweet Potato CasseroleCollapse )

Cottage Cheese PestoCollapse )
5th-Nov-2011 09:44 am - Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
BW Spock
I saw the original version of this in a magazine somewhere, and to be honest, wasn't really impressed with it. For one, it used Stevia, and I avoid ALL artificial sweeteners. It also used white chocolate chips, and my rule is that food should never have candy in it unless it is a dessert. Plus, white chocolate isn't chocolate. So, the next batch got doctored into something that is absolutely wonderful.

In making the recipe, I discovered that 1 can of pumpkin and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk can be split between two 2-3 serving batches, or used whole to make about 6 servings. The milk might seem to make it too sweet if you taste it before adding the pumpkin, but the pumpkin and the spices moderate the sweetness, and it tastes like the actual pie- including the texture. The recipe that follows uses 1/2 cup (approx 1/2 of the 14 oz. can) of pumpkin and 1/2 cup (again, approximately 1/2 can) of sweetened condensed milk. Generally, if you follow the ratio of 2:1 liquid to dry oats when you cook them, it'll come out OK.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (adjust to taste)
Ground cinnamon for garnish
1/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans (optional)

Makes approx 2 large or 3 moderate servings.

Blend water, condensed milk, and vanilla together, bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the milk does not caramelize or stick to the pot. Add oatmeal, and cook according to the package directions. When done, stir in the pumpkin, and spice, and let sit for a few moments. Garnish with cinnamon & pecans and serve. The flavors really bloom overnight, and it heats up fine in the microwave. So, you can make a batch and eat off it for your breakfasts (or a nice snack) all week.
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