Schrodinger’s Cat

August 1st, 2013

We’ve had a cat living with us for the last couple of years. A wonderful orange tabby that we named “Sparky”. He found us one day when we were walking on the nearby Creek Trail, and followed us home, and set up camp at our house. So we fed him – at first he’d only eat dry food, but gradually developed a taste for canned tuna – to the extent that he’d often ignore the dry food.

He caused a certain amount of trouble over the time he’s been with us – wounds from fights, wounds from walking on something hot that burned all four paws, knocking things off of high shelves (and a certain amount of breakage), and all the other things that cat owners know about.

He really wanted to be an indoor/outdoor cat from the beginning. He was long and lean, and could open cupboard doors and bureau drawers to find places to nap. He would leap to the top of a seven-foot high armoire like he was floating. Then, after about six months, he began to spray. Fortunately, his spray was nearly odorless, but it became more and more annoying. Eventually he “crossed the line” and became an outdoor-only cat. He’s been that way for the last six months or so. He did have access to the garage, so he could get out of the rain. At one point the raccoons managed to defeat the “chipped cat only” latch on the cat door to the garage, so we began to take up his food at night.

He would take walks with us – not long walks, because of Anne’s situation, but he’d follow right along, like an untrained dog. He’d camp out in front of the garage waiting for us to come home. He’d hop into a lap if he found one – like when I’d sit in the morning in the garden with my cup of coffee.

Then last Saturday (July 27) he disappeared – between when Anne came home and when I came home. And there has been no trace of him since.

So, did he find another family to live with? A family that is happy to have him as an indoor cat? Did a raccoon eat him? Was he run over by a car? Munched by a pit bull? (He wasn’t afraid of dogs.)

Here’s where Schrodinger’s cat comes in. Could Sparky be in both states at once, since we don’t know? Both dead and happily in charge of someone else’s house? If the former, we feel great sadness, and mourn his passing. If the latter, we feel annoyed or irritated – the two-timer! If he is in both states at once, like an unresolved photon passing through both slits of an interferometer at the same time, do we feel both emotions at once, a superposition of assessments as to his fate?

Sparky: phone home!



Sparky, June 2011

Quiet Sunday

May 19th, 2013

Well, this is how it is. I’m laid up with a sprained foot. It’s a beautiful day but I’m inside, keeping the foot elevated. I’ve been plowing through a pile of unread Scientific American magazines, only vaguely remembering what I’ve read.
Anne is upstairs previewing videos for our shamanic gatherings. Some of them sound pretty violent. But it’s quiet now.
The foot is swollen somewhat and red on the medial and across the top of the foot. It feels OK to walk a little, but more than that doesn’t work. From time to time I massage it with an ice cube, or rub arnica gel into it. We’ll see how things are tomorrow – I have a massage to do…

Gurus and Teachers

February 17th, 2013

Recently someone posted on Facebook about a well known spiritual guru who was exposed as having sexually abused some of his disciples. This by itself is not news – we’ve become inured to reports of similar transgressions by spiritual leaders of all stripes, for many years.

There were several comments to the post disparaging gurus. I posted a comment that “guru yoga is one of the hardest paths”. By this I mean that the classical path of becoming a disciple to a guru as a means to spiritual progress is fraught with peril – for both the disciple and the guru. In some situations it can be extraordinarily effective – when the student is right, and the guru is right. But this is unfortunately not always the case.

There is a distinction between “guru” and “teacher” here – at least as I see it. A teacher could be anyone a little further along the path that’s willing to share tips and give feedback in a somewhat formal relationship. This is popular these days – the teacher and the student.

On the other hand, the guru-disciple relationship is very different. The idea is that enlightenment (or whatever you call the ultimate spiritual goal) is so difficult to attain, so precious, so desirable, that any means, any cost is justified, and that a true guru, having attained that goal, knows how to guide you there, and that this path calls for the utter destruction of the ego. It is the ego, the idea of a separate self, that separates us from the divine – when this is gone we become united with the divine.

Traditionally, the guru assumes that – as in love and war – that all is fair. Any and all means are acceptable if they lead to the eradication of the ego. From the outside this can appear abusive and frightfully immoral – though usually gurus are gentle and considerate.

What it all boils down to is the overarching desire for the ultimate goal, for illumination, enlightenment, nirvana. Once all your desires are unified, you are willing to simply do whatever it takes, including giving your guru your “power of attorney”, as Sri Ramakrishna advised. My thinking here is that once you have that level of desire, of passion, of focus – then whatever path you choose will work – including guru yoga.

I have been close to this path – I lived with a guru as a disciple for many years. I remember when a cabal of disgruntled students came to me with rumors of unethical behavior on the guru’s part. I was angry – to me the behavior was fine so long as a disciple was brought closer to the goal – the true crime was that the disciple wasn’t. And the rumors turned out to be completely false – he was always deeply ethical and compassionate.

Later I was grateful to find that there were other paths that can lead beyond the trecherous mountains of the separate ego. And I have taken one of those paths.

Testing iPhone version

February 17th, 2013

I’m just testing out the iPhone version of WordPress. Seems to work OK. Usual issues that it’s a slow way to enter text, but I’m getting faster with my poor old thumbs. I’ve seen some kids thumb faster than I can type on a nice keyboard.

Home today taking care of Anne, who is down with a flu-like thing.

I’ll delete this post when I have something intelligent to write.

I really don’t get to writing here very often. Maybe now I will!

The River

June 28th, 2012

This is “A Dramatic Talk” I gave for a Toastmasters project in late 2010.

I have been down many rivers in my life, and daydream about them. I have woven those dreams together with the braids of the rivers and streams themselves into the fabric of a journey:

All winter I have been preparing. All winter long I have been working, preparing and tanning the pelts. The bundles are now ready for the voyage.

All winter I have been building my canoe. It is good. I have used the best wood for the keel, ribs, and thwarts. I have used only the finest birch bark for the skin, carefully sewn onto the ribs, carefully sealed with the clearest pitch. It is the best canoe I have made.

I have all my supplies ready for the long voyage down the streams and rivers, the long voyage to the sea where I will trade my pelts. Then sailors will take them on ships across the ocean, where fine ladies and gentlemen will enjoy their softness and warmth.

I will fish and forage and trade on my journey – I can live off the land. I am a hunter, and the land is rich with game. I can barter some of my pelts as I go. I am skilled with my heavily loaded canoe. I have great strength in my arms and my paddle is strong and sound. I am excited and hardly sleep.

The old woman up the valley, the trapper’s Indian widow, looks and doesn’t say anything.

This morning I gently push off into the tiny stream, carefully negotiating the rocks and shallows.

Today I passed through the narrows at the end of the valley with great difficulty – it’s been several days of struggle. I fear there is more damage than I expected.

The stream now plunges off the slopes of the Mayacamas, and joins the upper reaches of Santa Rosa Creek. It is full with the spring rains. Even in the backyards there are egrets and night herons. I camp for a few days at the confluence of Brush Creek, and think about the old ones who danced here, on the big flat rocks. In a dream I join them in the round house, singing the old songs. It gets smoky, then I awake, douse the fire, and move on.

The stream goes underground, in endless long dark tunnels. Overhead, storm drains rumble with traffic. I start to see visions in the dark – the old trapper’s wife, or maybe my own grandmother. I can’t tell if paddling makes any difference or not.

I am in daylight again. I cross the still waters and rapids below Santa Rosa Avenue.

As the day draws towards evening I find a place to pull my canoe ashore, hiding it in the bushes, and make camp. Tonight I go into town. I spend some of my cargo of pelts for a few drinks, then get into a fight. Maybe it was more than a few. I don’t remember. I must have lost some more pelts – I can’t find them, but I get back to camp and try to sleep. A woman with a shopping cart camped nearby is hollering all night long, and my head hurts. She reminds me of the trapper’s widow, only louder.

These days I think I’m starting to hear the surf. I hear it in the early morning when I’m waking from my dreams. I hear it when I’m paddling in the quiet reaches. No, it’s getting louder too quickly. Too soon to hear the surf.

Today I reach Stony Point Road. The rapids are roaring, and I fear for my tiny canoe in such big water. A woman came into my dream last night, and told me I needed to keep to the right when I came to the rapids, and I’d probably make it. Suddenly it’s too late to pull out and portage around the falls. I keep to the right. I plunge through the thick brown turbulence. I make it. I realize I’ve lost another of my bundles of pelts. I search all day and don’t find it. Not much left.

I awake, not sure what time it is. My campfire has gone out. It is very dark, but I become aware of large forms passing slowly overhead, silhouetted against filtered starlight. I look around – I don’t see my canoe or my camp, only gently rolling white sand. It is as though I am on the seabed, looking up through a hundred feet of clear midnight water, seeing the circle of starlight through gently rolling waves.

There are forms, dark forms, moving between me and the light. They are seals – hundreds of them, their fins like little wings. They are undulating slowly, all slowly moving towards the west, a primordial migration. They ignore me – maybe I am not even here. Maybe this is a vision of the distant past, maybe a vision of the distant future, maybe a dream. I fall into wondrous sleep.

In the morning my campfire is cold. I break camp quickly, and enter the slow waters of the Laguna. There is not much time.

I dream more now. My dreams at night are vivid, and I begin to dream during the day too, as I paddle. I dream of the sea, where I see a woman, like the trapper’s wife, watching me, peering at me from under her thick gray locks. I am afraid of the surf, that violent barrier that separates my river from the sea. It is still and deep in the sea. Like the clear night sky.

After many tiring days of paddling, of dead ends, of thick summer weeds and slow waters, I reach the Russian River. There are otters playing in the water, osprey patrolling the sky. Now I travel by night and stay hidden by day. There are willow thickets to camp in. I sleep while it’s light, aware of insects and frogs. I dream more, of the still dark depths, and the woman, who has become my grandmother. She looks younger now, with dark locks, gently smiling.

These nights it’s usually foggy when I’m travelling, but I know what way to go. I’m dreaming more, and my canoe is fragile and leaky. I am tired. My hands and arms are thin. I can’t tell if any of my cargo is intact or not – my eyes have gone funny.

I see the first seal. I know I’m near the sea. When the seal swims under my frail canoe, it looks like a strange dark angel. The waters are quiet, deep, and dark. I really do hear the surf now – it rises and falls. Now there are more seals, more visits from the dark angels.

An early autumn storm has raised the river, and it flows stronger. Today I reach the last stretch. I sure I’m in the lagoon behind the dunes. My mind is full of the roar of the ocean, calling and drawing me. I can’t tell if I’m dreaming any more or not. Under the gray dense fog of dawn, I line my canoe up with the channel that crosses the bar, into the blinding surf. There are seals all around. The water accelerates me down across the long wide beach, into the white maelstrom of the surf.

Suddenly it is still. I’m surrounded by darkness, and stars. I reach out and touch a hand. A strong, young hand.

The Ramayana and Shamanism

April 8th, 2012

During the many years I lived in Ramagiri Ashram, and listened to Eknath Easwaran tell the many Hindu epics, and reading them in several versions, I never warmed up to the Ramayana. It seemed like it was anti-woman, and that Rama was way over-the-top straight arrow. I attributed it to being a hold-over from a less enlightened time, an ancient tale that came from a male-dominated culture of very different morality and ethics – interesting in that light, but otherwise not something I’d really want to internalize.

True, there were amazing threads of loyalty and devotion. Not to mention more plot twists and complications than an Italian Opera. But when I learned that the Ramayana is told very differently in Sri Lanka (that Sita left Rama on her own to be with the dashing handsome Ravana, rather than being kidnapped), I soured even more. That, and Rama insisting that Sita had to go through the fire before he’d accept her as his wife again, after having rescued her, struck me as the worst kind of male behavior.

Yesterday I was musing on things in general during my morning practice, and it occurred to me that the Ramayana has a very different interpretation that opens thing up in a new depth to the story. It’s really a metaphor for a shamanic soul retrieval.

It can be viewed on several levels – but the essence is that Sita’s abduction is soul theft. Sita can represent either her own soul (I see this in a few clients, where their soul has been stolen), the soul of the earth (she is the daughter of King Janaka and the earth itself), or even part of Rama’s soul. Or all three.

Since in this view this happens outside of ordinary reality, Rama (the shaman) cannot raise a regular army, or even some special forces, to recover Sita – he has to rely on an army of Power Animals – led by none other than the magical Hanuman. Many bears are involved too. Eventually the spirit army reaches the redoubt of Sri Lanka, probably only associated with the geographic island by later bards. A bridge needs to be built, which the spirit animals do, and the siege begins. Eventually Sita is found and rescued, and the demon Ravana vanquished – or in some tellings transmuted into the light – and Sita and the spirit army return to the forest.

The “trial by fire” is really a spirit cleansing by the elements – shamans often do this in some soul retrieval ceremonies – here with Sita’s friend the fire god Agni – and she is then restored to Rama’s side – or reintegrated with Rama, or herself, or the earth.

(In some soul abductions the captured soul part develops a codependent relationship with the captor, just as in ordinary real-life abductions. This needs to be healed before successful reintegration can take place, and the shaman may do this through the power of the elements in some way.)

Then it all makes sense.

I hope to be able to examine the epic more closely and see if this theory, this interpretation, holds up – or even goes deeper, or not…

If any of you have thoughts on this I’d love to see them!



Class Schedule for 2011

December 23rd, 2010

If you read this regularly, or at all, you may have noticed that Anne and I have posted our class schedule for 2011, and information about the Shamanic Healing Clinic. Check out

Happy trails,

Trying out Windows 7

December 23rd, 2010

Hi – just trying the features of Windows 7. It’s been a little rocky getting off the ground – lots of things no longer work, or still don’t work, and some things work really well.

What I like:

1. Speed – new machine goes really fast.

2. Interface is pretty. I like the really big display.

What I don’t like:

1. iPhone calendar still won’t sync. At all. All the other Outlook stuff syncs OK.

2. Palm TX won’t sync – and Palm has cut loose all tech support. Rumor has it that it will still sync over bluetooth, and I’m ordering a bluetooth dongle to try it out – the idea is that the Palm can fill in for the not-working iPhone calendar. If the iPhone ever syncs I won’t need the Palm (though the Palm calendar is much prettier and more useful than the iPhone calendar).

3. Wacom tablet drivers don’t exist – my tablet is too old. Again, rumors of a work-around, but haven’t tried it yet.

4. Networking is funky – has trouble seeing our network drive.

5. Goes to sleep really often – and when it does, it stops streaming audio. iTunes can’t keep it awake. I don’t know if WMP works.


More updates later…

Happy trails.


November 26th, 2010

Hi. I finally got overwhelmed by the comment spam and activated Akismet. Of the 843 pending comments, none were legitimate; all were spam. I had been simply deleting the emails notifying me of the comments, letting them build up in WordPress. So, all you comment spamming robots out there, so sorry, get a life.

Installing an AmVent AX12 “mini split” ductless room air conditioner

July 26th, 2010

I just succeeded in installing a one-room “mini split” A/C. I’d seen systems like this at high end B&Bs we’ve stayed at, and I found this one on Amazon, and since I needed the 25′ hose kit I ordered it from the distributor.

It came as three large boxes – the outside unit, the inside unit, and the hoses. I opened the boxes and took off the plastic and let everything sit in the garage a few days to outgas – the plastic really stinks. After a while the smell wore off.

I put the outside unit on a couple of 12″x12″ pavers from Home Depot, with about 6″ of gravel as a bed. One of the plastic covers (for the plumbing) was damaged, but it still works well enough that I’m not worried.

I mounted the mounting bracket for the inside unit high on the wall of the second story room we need cooled – it was a little tricky to get the screws (I used sheetrock screws) into studs and still use the holes in the bracket. It’s supposed to be accurately level so the condensation from the coils will flow out of the collecting pan and out the drain through the wall.

Then I cut the 2-3/4 hole in the wall for the plumbing and wiring – I had to get a hole saw for this. It’s a little scary to cut a hole like that in your wall! I lucked out in that it came out right next to the downspout so I could tie the pipes to the downspout.

Then I bent the pipes attached to the inside unit so they’d go straight out the hole when the unit was mounted, fed the attached cable out the hole, and carefully mounted it (takes two people). The pipes indeed went out the hole just fine, and the cables draped all the way to the ground and were long enough.

I attached the 25′ hose set (actually copper pipes with styrofoam sleeves) to the stubs sticking out of the wall, and carefully unwound them so both pipes, the cable, and the drain hose all came straight down the wall, and over to the outside unit. There was about 5′ more pipe than I needed, so I just made a little loop – rather than get tools to cut and flare the ends. The drain hose I left ending at the ground where it can just drip.

I had to wire up the outside unit – you really need an outside weather-proof disconnect box, and that was the hardest part for me – installing the conduit through the wall, making sure the wiring to the breaker box was good, and installing a dedicated 15 amp breaker. The cable from the outside unit to the disconnect box is fat – about 15mm, and I had to bore out the strain relief fitting to accommodate it. The cable from the inside unit, since it already had a Molex connector on it, would not fit in the strain relief fitting on the outside unit, so I installed it without. It just plugs together and supplies power to the inside unit, and control signals from inside to outside.

Connecting the refrigerant pipes is simple – I didn’t need the torque wrenches the instructions advised – just used a regular adjustable wrench, and you can feel pretty well when you have it tight enough. You pressure test the system by opening one of the valves (using a metric hex wrench) for a few seconds just 1/4 turn, then closing it, and checking each connection with soapy water. I had to cinch a few of them down a bit to get the bubbles to stop.

Here’s how you blow the air out of the system. Read the instructions, open the “liquid side” valve a few turns, then firmly press the Schrader valve on the “vacuum side” valve for 3-4 seconds. The air will blast out, and enough will be gone that it will work well. Then open both valves all the way (until the stops) for operation.

They supply two rolls of “tape” to wrap the hoses and cables with – but it’s really just like thin shower curtain vinyl, and if you drop the roll while you’re wrapping it, it completely unwinds all the way to the shrubbery below, and you have to wind it all up by hand. Just be prepared to be exasperated. I still have a second layer to go…

When I powered the whole thing up, nothing happened. I finally managed to open up the inside unit – you open the outer casing (to expose the filters), then remove five screws and pop off the middle casing (easier said than done, while standing on a step ladder!). The electronics is under a metal cover on the right, and after another screw I got that exposed. You can’t really get at the circuit board (it’s edgewise in the metal box, with no easy removal I could figure out), but I found that apparently the cable to the outside unit had pulled an inch or two, and one of the power connectors was pulled out of the circuit board. I couldn’t get any slack from the cable, so I made an extension and plugged it in. Replacing the middle casing is hard – it interferes with the vanes that direct the air and you still need to get it to hook at the top.

Then it worked!

It’s noisier than advertised, but it seems to cool (and heat) very nicely! Much of the noise seems to be from the slightly unbalanced squirrel cage fan, and various plastic things rattle a bit. It is a lot quieter than the old window air conditioner it’s replacing.

I’ll update more as I have some experience with it.