Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Oops, I did it again...

Playing on the iPod: Jonn Serrie, "And the Stars Go With You"
Meters swum today: 1600

...I missed a Significant Anniversary (TM). No, not mine and Joan's, that's next month (I think--oh geez, is it the 15th or the 25th?) No, I think sometime this month, or maybe last month, I've been in OA for a year. It was before I got laid off, anyway, and I think my last day with the Feds was early March. So, okay, late February, early March-ish.

It happened like so: Sometime in January (this would be 2007, or maybe it was late December 2006?) I went to the gym. I try to avoid that place in January, what with all the New Years Resolution folks and so on, but I think this was a Sunday evening. I hopped on the scale, as I'm wont to do, went out to the car, and was just gripping the steering wheel to drive home when it suddenly occurred to me that this wasn't getting any better. My weight, I mean. I wasn't upset by it, that I recall, and it wasn't like the old "hitting rock bottom" of alcoholic lore, but it was kind of a reality check. It sort of hit me that I weighed 160-ish in high school, 190-ish in college, around 220 when I moved to California about 15 years ago, and at that moment, I weighed--well, let's just say a lot more than that last figure.

I'm not sure what else to say about that except that this time line kind of strung out in my head, and I realized that I wasn't going to lose weight by myself. If that were possible I'd have done it already. Trust me, I've been fat since I was roughly nine, and my folks were hauling me around to specialists before I hit the double digits. If you look at photos of me at that time, I'm definitely on the heavy side, but not out of line, really, for a kid of that age who's just hit puberty at about 3000 miles an hour. Still, there've been tests and more tests, doctors and more doctors, stern lectures from medical professionals (one of whom was wont to grope me under the table, but never mind that), Weight Watchers, behavioral therapy at the local hospital, predictions of death before I turned 20 and, far worse, the prospect that no man would ever want me (which, as it turned out, was just fine), psychotherapy, physical therapy, dieticians, everything but stomach surgery. And what have we learned, Grasshopper? Well, that I'm anemic, which makes a lot of sense, and hypoglycemic, which also makes a lot of sense. And that whatever was thrown at me, I gained weight. Steadily. For close on 40 years.

And here I was at the gym (my dad is an exercise freak; I seem to have picked that up from him because I've always done something--soccer, skiing, walking, hiking, swimming, cycling, karate, racquetball, weightlifting and now swimming again) and I realized that it had all been a huge waste of time, money and energy. Except for the exercise, which was and is fun. I was still fat. Fatter than ever, in fact. And either I needed to just get over it, be fat, and enjoy life, or I needed to Get Some Help, because it was glaringly obvious that I couldn't do anything about it myself.

Here's another irony. If I'd come to this conclusion when I was around 160, or 190, or even 220, I'd have been okay with that. Just being fat and not worrying about it, I mean. I'd probably try not to gain any MORE weight, but I wouldn't have worried about losing. Unfortunately that was quite a few pounds ago. I've now arrived at a body size that is flat-out uncomfortable, not to mention inconvenient. Despite dire warnings to the contrary I'm not gonna drop dead at any moment; my blood sugar, pressure, glycoids and whatever the hell are all pretty good (see above re: constant exercise--it's a lot healthier to be fat and work out, than to be skinny and a couch potato.) Still, to heck with fitting into a size twelve. I wanna fit in an airline seat.

So over the next few days, I looked up cheap weight-loss help on the Internet (because I was pretty sure I was going to get laid off pretty soon; fancy doctors, dieticians and all that were Right Out) and there were basically two options: TOPS, which is like $40 a year, and OA, which is basically free except they pass the hat and you toss in your spare change, like at church. OA had more convenient meeting times. So I went. I am still there.

I have lost 30 pounds. BUT: that's not the important reason for showing up. The important reason is all the other stuff that happens. Meeting lots of other people that are just like you. Getting cozy with God, or Buddha, in my case. Realizing you're sick, not weak or rebellious or a jerk, and that it's not your fault you have this disease. You just do, is all. Some people have diabetes. Some people have osteogenesis imperfecta (hi, Mike!) Some people have this thing. It doesn't have a name but the major symptom is compulsive overeating. (Or alcoholism. Or drug addiction. Or or or.) It can be managed but it can't be cured. There are coping strategies. There are meetings. There's hope. Things can change. The end result doesn't have to be dropping dead.

So there we are. And here I am. And I have to get back to work now, so, cheers, y'all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dva Vodkii, Pajalsta

Playing on the iPod: David Arkenstone, "Spirit of Tibet"
Meters swum today: None. I was busy driving around town picking up expert witnesses at the airport. No, really.

World travel: I does it. Or I would do it if I had any money, which I do, but it keeps getting chewed away by stuff like mortgage payments and groceries and IRAs and cat food. It sucks being a responsible adult sometimes. However, Joan and I have managed to break the surly bonds of this continent a few times. We've been to London. We've been to--no, not France. Ireland. Twice, in fact, the first time getting cut a bit short when Joan got deathly ill and spent a week in a hospital in this little town called Ennis. Sans Joan, I've also been to El Salvador, Guatemala, parts of Mexico, Canada and Sweden. Yeah, I know Sweden doesn't fit on that list, but where else am I gonna put it? I am dying to see Iceland, India, Tibet (or maybe just northern India--the Himalayas, anyway), southern Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Japan, maybe China, and Thailand.

So with summer coming and north Texas pausing for breath between the deep freeze and the blast furnace, talk turns of where to go next. For some reason I was stuck on Spain. Joan was stuck on Scotland. Scotland: I've been there. Three times. It's cold. It's wet. It's occupied territory. Yeah, it's very pretty and all that. I couldn't seem to sell Joan on Spain, either, except that I wanted to see the running of the bulls in Pamplona on July 7. (I think Joan's afraid I'd jump in there and run, too. Can't imagine why she'd suspect me of such a thing.) Then suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, Joan said, "How about Russia?"

BLING!! That was the sound of my brain converting to Cyrillic letters.

People don't know this about me, but I took a semester of Russian in college. That foreign language requirement thing. I already spoke Spanish, they didn't offer Arabic, and I've already tried once to learn German, thankewverymuch. (Joan speaks German. Joan is also a member of Mensa.) So I took Russian, and everything was fine until the nouns started changing their endings. Somehow this messed with my brain, and I barely scraped through with a C. So back to Spanish, for the easy A. But I always liked Russian. The alphabet, especially. Besides looking totally cool, all the letters sound like exactly what they are. If you're dyslexic (and I am; I words spell order in wrong the), this is the perfect alphabet for you. No guessing required, except the hard sign versus the soft sign, and most Russians are pretty much over the hard sign by now, so if you guess the soft sign, you're right, unless you're in the Ukraine.

And so, as we ponder Volga River cruises and excursions to the Hermitage (in 2009, realistically speaking; this won't be a cheap trip) yours truly and Joan will be attempting to learn some Russian in our copious spare time. I've already remembered the sixteen words I learned and am adding a few more. Joan's worried about the alphabet but she shouldn't be; the Queen of Pattern Recognition will be fine once she knows the basic sounds. So if anybody out there has the Rosetta Stone software in Russian, buzz me, okay? I'll give you a good price. Pravda. Spaciba.

Now, if we can just get those pesky nouns to stop changing their endings...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Big fan of fishies, me... I'm gonna share this from the ol' Zen calendar:

One day Chuang-tzu and a friend were walking along a riverbank. "How delightfully the fishes are enjoying themselves in the water!" Chuang-tzu exclaimed.

"You are not a fish," his friend said. "How do you know whether or not the fishes are enjoying themselves?"

"You are not me," Chuang-tzu said. "How do you know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cheap Plug for David Moody

Why have a blog if you can't spout off about your favorite writers, am I right? This came out of a discussion at, but I won't get into that. This is the best horror writer you've never heard of: David Moody.

I just saw I Am Legend. Twice. In one day. It's frickin' awesome. Okay, it gets kind of corny toward the end but who the hell cares? Deer hunting in New York City in a sportscar with a shotgun!! Need I say more? Well, Will Smith is in it. That's more. Anyway, this got me to thinking about how the "plague wipes out most of humanity and one guy tries to survive while fighting off monsters" thing has been done a few times. The Stand, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Comet, etc. etc. No two writers ever do it the same way, but it's still an amazing concept. But, as I've said a few times, a concept is not a story. Tell a good story and you can use any concept you want.

Back to David Moody. Mr. Moody wrote the Autumn series, available for download at his Web site above. I think the first ep is free. Read them in order, because one thing begets another begets another. What are they about? Well, about the "plague that wipes out humanity," of course. Everyone you've ever known is suddenly dead. And then things get much worse.

Seriously, check out Mr. Moody. Tell 'em Aunt Jen sent ya.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roger Hodgson might be God.

Playing on the iPod: "In Jeopardy" by Roger Hogdson
Meters swum today: Zilch. Took the day off.

Yeah, I know, I said Stuart Adamson was God, but gods don't drink themselves to death in cheap motel rooms in Hawaii a week before Christmas after disappearing for six weeks and scaring hell out of their wives and kids. Not that I'm bitter or anything. Seriously, though, I think Roger Hodgson may be God. My sister sent me In The Eye Of The Storm for Christmas and it's been riding around in my car CD player ever since. I've got a few of his other ones--Hai Hai was the follow up to Storm and it isn't near as good--but just for recording Storm, Roger has achieved deity status. Hi, Roger! Please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket!

In case you don't know Roger, he was the lead singer of Supertramp for years and years before striking out on his own. Storm was his first solo album. If you want a serious head trip, get onto YouTube and look for the video, "Had a Dream." I love that whole marching-band-turning-int0-Nazis thing. Or maybe Russians. As an ex marching bander myself, I can relate.

My hyperfertility is dying down, but I have figured out how the bad guy in the second book knew the good guy's father from the first book by way of the go-between dude from the Cafe El Rincon who trades in information, which has something to do with money laundering and a missing three or four million and the blowing up of things. Plot turns to counterplot turns to scheme turns to sinister goings on and sooner or later even I get confused so I'm fine with things settling down again. It's just that I like this stuff. It makes me feel high. It's like ol' "Bod" Stewart said, "I've got lightning in my veins." I'm not leaning on a slot machine, but it doesn't work that way, anyway. If it did I'd be rich. I am not rich. But I have Enough and that is a lot.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Watch out! She's hyperfertile again!!

Playing on the iPod: More of the Most Soporific, er, Relaxing New Age Music in the Universe
Meters swum today: 1600

And I fought for every single one of those 1600, let me tell you. For some reason the pool was really crowded. There are usually two, sometimes four people in my lane. Today there were seven. The guy in the lead was way too fast for our lane, but the next lane up also had seven humans and beyond seven I'm not sure you could manage. I spent the whole swim trying to keep up or clinging to the side hoping not to get run over. Geez. Getting to 1600 was almost a miracle. At least I think it was 1600. I lost count.

I'm back in hyperfertile mode, folks. I wrote most of a chapter yesterday between loads of laundry and raking the yard, and I've got most of the next two mapped out. Good thing I don't sleep with men because I think I'd quicken if one of them so much as breathed on me right about now. Contrary to popular belief, being fat has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to get knocked up. Nor does being lesbian, and get this, most of us do it the old fashioned way.

That aside, however, Spellbinder is once again going great guns after about a week off. I've just written the Best Chapter Ever, and the way I know that is, coming to the end of it, I said to myself, "My writers group is just going to hate this." The more I think they'll hate it, the more they usually like it. I'm not sure why that is.

Anyway, I'm wrestling with the big issue of Revealing Too Much Too Soon. Yesterday my hero, twelve-year-old Cameron, found out that somebody he cared for quite a bit in the last book isn't quite as dead as he appeared to be at the end of Mindbender. Now the big question is, what's he going to do with this piece of information? Cameron that is, not the dead guy who isn't dead anymore. (Hey, I never said he was dead. You can look it up. Well, you could if it was published, which it's not.) Probably nothing until he verifies it; he's an analytical guy. But then what? Is he going to tell anybody? Or is he going to keep this to himself? This could change everything. This could be huge.

If I could give him advice (which I can't; like most twelve-year-olds, he pretty much does what he wants most of the time) I'd tell him he has to Tell Someone Immediately. I've been after one of my other characters to tell Cameron something important for a month now, and she's shown no sign of doing it. Obstreperous wench. What's she trying to do, create suspense or something?

Luckily for me, I've got at least a week and a half to figure this out. After which I'll stop being hyperfertile again, and all bets are off. Meantime, nobody breathe on me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Saga of the Speckled Moth.

Playing in the background: some serious rock en espanol from the gardeners working on the house across the way. My floors are vibrating.
Meters swum today: 1900. Whoo-HOO!

Meditation: I does it. What is meditation, you ask? Well, it's sitting around, doing nothing, looking at the floor and thinking as little as possible. (Thanks, Mel.) Seriously, there are books on the subject. Check 'em out at your local library. Stop by ours and Joan will give you a hand. What do I think meditation is? Twenty minutes a day when everyone has to leave you the hell alone. (Except cats in search of warm laps.)

I tend to meditate right after I get up in the morning. With luck, my brain isn't awake enough to make a lot of noise. I also do it on the way to bed, so if I miss a session someplace I don't miss a whole day. And for the most part everyone does leave me alone, but a couple days ago, I was peacefully counting breaths when Joan suddenly called from the shower, "JEN!!! A fellow being needs your help!!!" (Yep. Three exclamation points. It's pretty soundproof, is our bathroom.)

Grumbling, I got up and made my way to the bathroom. See above re: everybody leaving you the hell alone. What, oh what, could be happening in there? Could a cat have gotten into a predicament? Could there be a spider hanging out in the shower? Doubt that; scream wasn't loud enough. Maybe she just couldn't reach her frick'n towel. Possibilities abounded...

Anyway: I got there and Joan says, "There's a speckled moth in here, and I'm afraid if I start splashing around he'll drown." I got closer and sure enough, a white speckled moth was hanging around on the white speckled tile in our white speckled bathroom. Pretty sharp guy, finding the one place in the house that was safe from marauding cats. His wings were wet. He was flapping em but he wasn't going anywhere.

I fetched a glass from the kitchen, trapped the moth under it and coaxed it up onto the glassy surface so I could put a piece of paper between himself and the wall. As he crawled around he left a little trail of white scales--I think they have scales--from his wings. So I took the glass outside, and after a while he crawled to the edge of the glass, fluttered his wings a few times and took off. When last I saw him, he was hanging around near the porch light.

Over the next few days I found and similarly dispatched either the same moth three more times, or three of its friends, hanging around on the ceiling or the bathroom tile or, in one instance, the front of the oven door (!). While I was at it, I caught a few long black wingy ant-looking things and sent them outside, too. In the same time frame, however, I spotted, and stomped hell out of, a cockroach in the kitchen.

Okay, the questions are obvious. What did the speckled moth have that the li'l cockroach did not? Why would I go to a lot of trouble to save one form of life and stomp on another form of life the same day? I guess speckled moths are kind of cute, whereas cockroaches are ugly and creepy. Plus, they spread disease. Plus, they're a sign that you're a lousy housekeeper (I wouldn't say Martha Stewart lives here, but the house is pretty clean, actually.) Plus, and perhaps here's the point, they scare me.

Pay attention, there's a lesson here. Things that scare us need stomping on. Things that are kind of cute, and happen to be in trouble and have wet wings and so on, just need a hand getting back to their natural environments. Might this not apply also to humans? Humans that are kind of cute--disabled youngsters, little African babies, hard-luck white kids from inner city schools, honest bright hardworking Asian immigrants--get our support and so on. Humans that scare us, like homeless people, little African insurgents, hard-luck black kids from inner city schools, and honest bright hardworking immigrants who speak Spanish as their first language--get stomped on. Yet, we are all made of the same stuff, from the hard-luck black kids to the Asian immigrants to the speckled moths. To stomp on one of us is, in effect, to stomp on ourselves. Sooner or later our feet get sore.

I wish cockroaches wouldn't come out where I can see them. Then I'd never stomp on them. Maybe a border fence would keep them out. My south Texas friends tell me that wouldn't work, though. They would just fly right over. They're gonna keep coming as long as I have something they want, so I might as well learn to live with them.

Besides, I'd miss the sunshine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mayor Anita Massengil Resigns After Call-Boy Sex Scandal

Playing on the iPod: Ray Lynch

Just kidding, of course. I'm sure the mayor of Malibu, Adjacent is still lording it over 'Notch' Johnson and his elite team of lifeguards. (Son of the Beach, people. Find it. Watch it. Love it.) However, this makes for my question of the day: What is it about men, when they get into a position of power, that they can't keep their pants on? And do women have the same problem? Okay, that's two questions. Oh, look! A cloud!

In case you've been hiding under a rock lately, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned this morning after admitting to spending $80 grand on prostitutes at a swank Washington hotel. The latest in a long line of sordid tales. Probably the most famous example is Bill "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" Clinton, but examples abound. Gary Hart (presidential candidate, 1984 race). Jim Bakker (infamous televangelist). Franklin Roosevelt (his wife Eleanor moved out of their bedroom after she caught him having an affair with his secretary, Lucy, whom he apparently carried on with for the rest of his life).

Stay with me a second here. You're the President of the free world, or of some major Christian outfit that has more money than God (oops), or the Governor of New York. You have money. Power. People who scurry around every time you raise an eyebrow. You probably have a loving family, a wife, kids. You're probably held in high regard by your followers, whoever they are. So what is it about being in this position that makes you say, "I feel like throwing it all away and banging the next teenaged hooker who walks in the door and lying about it under oath"?

Honestly. I don't get it. Is it because I'm not male? Does that half of the planet really have something other than a brain making most of its decisions? It can't just be the power thing because women in similar positions don't do this stuff. They do other stupid things, like embezzling large quantities of money and then forging letters from the IRS to cover it up. But not the sex thing. The pantyhose stay on. Even Anita Massengil didn't fool around. Well, she tried to, but Chip Rommel kept shutting her down. Which, let's face it, is probably for the best.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Snowbird Misadventures

Playing in the background: Anthony Bourdain, "No Reservations"
Meters swum today: 1700

Every now and then I get this feeling maybe my family shouldn't go skiing. People with my genetic lineage tend to share a similar thing with forgetting what they're doing and getting fascinated by, oh, say, a cloud, and speculating on the structure of a developing cumulus in the outer stratosphere while the light turns green behind us and somebody starts to honk. Hey, that cloud looks just like President Reagan! Oh. Sorry...

Anyway, this tendency combined with high altitude, bad weather, and of course the sheer drama of hurtling down a mountain strapped to a pair of pointy plastic structures and no brakes can kind of be dangerous. I've had any number of spectacular wrecks, usually because I decided to do something amazingly stupid like go over a five-foot jump with no clue what was on the other side (a cliff? A tree? The mind boggles...) However, the only serious injury I ever took, a knee sprain that still bothers me and lets me know whenever it's gonna rain--took place on the bunny slope when I was doing nothing more interesting than trying to crawl under a rope tow. Okay, so it was moving. Did I notice that? No, I did not. Oh look! A cloud!

So my mom and dad, and his older brother and some other friends and family members, were up in Snowbird, Utah this week, hotdogging down the double diamonds. Incidentally, my dad is 70, and I think his brother is five years older. I wasn't there due to a collision of circumstances, but I could have been and then this would be funnier. Some kid skiing very fast plowed right into my dad, who plowed into his brother, who plowed into the kid. The whole mess rolled downhill about a hundred yards, one of the kid's skis came off and hit my uncle in the knee, my dad fell over and hit his head, and the kid was...completely unharmed. Not a scratch.

My uncle managed to limp away, though his ski vacation was over at that point. My dad told my mom that everything was fine until this morning, when she noticed he was slurring his words and couldn't hold a pencil. So she schlepped him off to the hospital. They think he has either a concussion or possibly had a small stroke. This is cause for concern because he had an aneurysm a few years ago. He had a CT scan that showed a reassuring "no abnormalities" and might have a MRI later, but my sister just talked to him and he seems to be fine. He has a hard head. He had to raise me, after all.

Am I annoyed at him for saying he was fine for two or three days when he had a headache and double vision? Not really, I did the same thing after being knocked cold during a barroom fight in Birmingham, England (long story, that.) After the incident with the moving rope tow I kept insisting to the ski patrol that I was fine and if they'd just help me up I'd be on my way. I remember being flat-out mortified when they called an ambulance. Course I was fourteen, the prime year for being flat-out mortified by practically anything. After another spill and a sprained ankle off the coast of La Jolla, California, I told the ER docs that "No, really, I don't need any pain meds." Joan, being a lot smarter than me, said, "Don't listen to her. Bring everything you got."

There's a peculiar Scandinavian thing about needing to have everything Fine At All Times. Even if the Nazis are bombing hell out of Oslo, you tell the kids that you're sleeping in the basement just for fun and not to worry about the loud noises. (Did the Nazis bomb Oslo? I have no idea.) My sister calls it The Tyranny of Fine.

Case in point: Having not heard from my folks since the ski trip began, my sister called their cell phone and a friend of theirs, Steve, answered. This is halfway normal; you're as likely to find Steve and Norma hanging out at my folks' place than you are to find a gang of cats around my place. Steve's people are from Norway. Ours are from Iceland. That's the frozen hunk of rock off the coast of Norway. But I digress. Steve wished her a happy birthday and asked her how she was. What was the weather like down Vegas way. How her husband was (having married into this family, he's now as accident-prone as the rest of us and broke his hip about six weeks ago. He's already back at work, scooting around in his wheelchair, telling everybody he's fine.) After some chitchat, Steve said, "Well, I'd put your mother on the phone but she just took your dad to the hospital." Uh, what was wrong? "Oh, nothing, he's fine, he just hit his head." Uh, how? "Oh, no big deal, just a high-speed collision on the double-diamond off the Gad II chairlift."

Oy vey. Or should I say uff da?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dharma Dough

Playing in the background: The dulcet, soporific tones of the dryer
Meters swum today: I take Sundays off. Anyway, there's lots of laundry to heft.

One of the downsides of subscribing to Tricycle is that the 'zine seems to forward its mailing list to every do-gooder organization on the planet. Every week I get solicitations from people like FINCA, the Tibetan Buddhist Nuns Project, the Sierra Club and much stranger things. Most of 'em get tossed into the recycle bin (yes, I do recycle; I eat meat, but I'm not beyond hope) and once in a while I send money (Center for Victims of Torture, your check is in the mail). Yes, I know, that only encourages them. Most of 'em are good causes, though, and even if I can't afford to feed all of them, I'm okay with them hanging out at my place between sojourns at the bulk mail factory and the recycling shredders.

On the other hand, we have the DharmaCrafts catalog.

Look, I'm sure Buddhists need cool merchandise just as much as anybody else, but my God, have you seen this thing? Seems like there's no item too hokey, glitzy or overpriced to show up in its fine pages. I know a lot of em are handmade out of used construction nails by native craftspersons who make three cents an hour and have to sell their children for food and so on, and I realize the goods have to be trucked out of Nowhere, Tibet on yakback before they can be sold on the open market, but seriously, there is something wrong with this catalog. You spose those Buddhist monks we saw getting the snot pounded out of them in Myanmar were carrying Heart Sutra Alms Bowls, engraved by a master calligrapher, an heirloom quality treasure ($149.99US)? I did see a couple of them wearing fine lapis lazuli stretchy wrist malas ($39.99), but not too many of them had Golden Lotus Necklaces ($129.99 plus $8.95 flat rate shipping.)

Here in the States, of course, it gets much colder than it does in Myanmar, and we can buy a nice hooded meditation cloak for only $159.99. Hold it together with a Namaste pin for $49.99. Underneath it, you can wear a Mobius-strip metta bracelet in 14 karat gold, a bargain for only $1,699.99. The lotus pond wedding screen ($429.99) makes a fine backdrop for your meditation space, and you can add a tea house fountain ($199.99) and perhaps a copper water bowl (marked down! Only $329.99 for the month of March!) And who can possibly hope to achieve enlightenment without a relaxed Quan Yin garden statue for a mere $4,000? I mean, excuse the snarkitude, but come on, now.

I am not rich. My parents are rich, but that's another post. I make somewhere below that magical threshold of $50,000 a year, beyond which money starts making you unhappy. I am not rich, nor am I poor. Could I afford the $89.99 black onyx mala? Yes, probably, if I wanted to set aside some money from a few pay checks. But why do I need one? I made one myself out of spare beads I have around the house and it works fine. I could probably make you one in your choice of colors for less than $10. I do have stretchy wrist malas (in ten eye-catching colors, no less) but I got 'em from Fire Mountain Gems for a quarter apiece in one of their warehouse sales. I have a pendant of Buddha and the eight auspicious symbols pressed into a copper disk. I think I got it for $20.

I realize necessity isn't the only reason for buying things. If you're going to spend a chunk of change on something, you might as well spend a bit more and get a really good version of whatever it is, or so my dad always said. If I did have, say, $4 grand I didn't know what to do with, would it be a crime for me to buy a relaxed Quan Yin for my garden? Well, no, but geez, the Tibetan Nuns Project would be falling all over themselves if somebody gave them $4 grand. And I don't wanna get on my high horse and start calling other people irresponsible for their purchase decisions, because it's their money and not mine and how they spend it is none of my business, but seriously, doesn't the $1,699 Mobius metta bracelet seem just a little--I dunno--un-Buddhist-y?

(Says the carnivore.)

Well, anyway, I'm done with this month's issue of the DharmaCrafts catalog. Now I'm giving it to Joan, who will promptly chop it to bits with a scissors for all those cool pictures of Buddha to use in some future decoupage project. Finally, a really good application of the $4,000 Quan Yin statue. And it didn't cost us a dime.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Back in the water again!

Playing on the iPod: "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin (
Meters swum today: 1600 - a mighty mile!

Thank God. I was afraid my skin would start sloughing off from lack of exposure to chlorine. Luckily there was lots. Chlorine, I mean. While I was driving to the pool at 6:30 am, and the temperature here in Dallas was a balmy 26 degrees (that's -3 for you Canucks) I had decided to be happy if I managed 1200 meters. 1400 would be excellent. But 1600? That I did not expect. I wasn't as tired as I thought I'd be, either, which means I'm in better shape than I thought. Or else that I'm delusional and in a few hours I'll wake up minus all of my limbs.

I drove over to Starbucks after the pool and I guess they were having a bad day or something. They must have asked me about my order four or five times. "Now, was that a double half-caf espresso mocha with a twist of lemon?" "No, it was a grande skinny cinnamon dolce latte." "Was that a caramel macchiato chai tea whack-a-mole fanny banger?" "No, it was a grande skinny cinnamon..." You get the idea. I was at the drive-up for like 15 minutes. Well, actually I did not keep track, but it was long enough that I broke out my issue of Tricycle and made it through most of an article on happiness.

One thing about Tricycle, it's one of the few lofty intellectual zines that can make me feel like I don't know what I'm talking about. I sometimes have to look up stuff in the dictionary. I'm serious. Anyway, when I did get to the front the flustered-looking lady at the cash register gave me my double half-caf espresso caramel cinnamon chai tea whack-a-mole dolce latte fanny-banger for free. About which I felt bad. I tried to pay her anyway and she wouldn't hear of it. One of the Big Five Precepts is to take nothing that is not freely given, the reverse of which being, I guess, that you take something that someone is insisting on giving you. So I quit arguing with her and took the coffee thing (it was good, whatever it was--still can't tell you) and drove to the mechanic's for an oil change. And to check out my ignition cylinder, which keeps sticking when I try to turn my key.

While I was there, I read the rest of the article on happiness. People actually study what makes people happy. Isn't that kind of like studying what makes humor funny? Anyway, this guy traveled to the supposed happiest places in the world, which were as diverse as Iceland and Bhutan. The United States is only the sixteenth-happiest place on earth, and Disney World didn't even make the list. Sooner or later, those dark tales about a rash of suicides among the Seven Dwarfs are going to come out. I can feel it.

Back to the article, though. Iceland is a wealthy, highly developed, very clean, technologically savvy society that's cold and dark for six months of the year. Bhutan is a beautiful, mountainous, semi-tropical but very poor country, where the per capita income is about $840 US and they just got phones a few years ago. Totally dissimilar societies, but most folks who live there are very happy. Again, I don't know how you measure happiness but it must be true. It was in Tricycle, after all.

There was a little statistical blurb about how money not only doesn't equate happiness, but after a certain point, more money actually makes you less happy. The tipping point seems to be about $50 grand a year. That's probably for an individual, not a family, but anyway, above that level people report being less happy. I guess you start worrying about investments and stuff.

About this time the mechanic came in and told me that the sticking ignition key problem was actually a bad ignition cylinder and they were going to have to change it out, as well as make me a new key. I said fine (I always say fine) and then I started wondering how much that's going to cost. I mean, a new ignition cylinder sounds kind of pricey. I just got my tax refund so I knew I had a little money but I was kind of hoping to stick it in savings.

A while later the mechanic came back and told me he was done. I went up the cash register, bracing myself. $400? $500? Good God, might it be four figures? Then the cashier said, "That'll be $36.50, ma'am" and my jaw about hit the floor. Turned out the ignition thingy was covered by the extended warranty that I'd forgotten I had. The only thing I was paying for was the oil change.

If I ever make over $50 grand a year, I'll let you know about that getting-less-happy thing, but for now let me say this. Today I got back in the pool after over a week away and swam a mile. I got a free coffee thing, whatever it was, and my new ignition cylinder cost $36.50. If you can't be happy about things like that, then all the money in the world won't help you.

Oh, and Saturn of Mesquite like totally rocks!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Well, Slap Me Upside the Haid...

Playing on the iPod: Soundtrack to "Winged Migration"
Meters swum today. Zilch. (As Cartman:) DAMMITT!!

...I just got a nibble from an editor! She requested the first three chapters of No Accounting for Reality, my saga of Norse gods, giant house cats, evil City Council members and the end of the world. I sent the package a few minutes ago. Wow. This was from the letter I sent last week so's I wouldn't have to kiss and tell with all nine of my past romantic whatevers. Which, yes, was my own idea, but it worked, didn't it?

Typing with crossed fingers...

Forgot to add this yesterday.

Playing on the iPod: "Wind Dance" by David Blonski and Synchestra
Meters swum today: Zilch. Still grounded. Maybe tomorrow.

Walking along a mountain path
I find a sandal-print in the moss,
a billowy cloud low on the lake,
grasses growing up to a door,
a pine tree shimmering green,
a brook gurgling along from the mountain,
and as I mingle with Truth among the flowers
I have forgotten what to say.
--Liu Chiang-Ch'ing

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The meat of the whole thing.

Playing in the background: An episode of "South Park"
Meters swum today: Zilch. I'm banned from the pool until Friday, or until I get over this cold, whichever comes first.

Okay, let's not beat around the bush here. Let's just have out with it. I eat meat.

Yep. Chickens, too. Even fish.

Yeah, well, so what? I live in the United States with the rest of the carnivores, right? Well, so, most Buddhists are vegetarians, that's what. One of the Big Five Precepts us lay folk take involves not killing anything. It's kind of hard to eat meat without killing anything, unless you're at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe with Douglas Adams and the cow of the evening is coming by to ask what part of him you'd like to devour. Even so, I think the cow gets killed sooner or later. Doug doesn't tell us. He's a keeper of secrets, is Doug.

In my case, I have a Sanctioned Medical Excuse; I have both pernicious anemia and hypoglycemia, and there's nothing that'll make that combination worse, than eating lots of plants. And what the hell are they? (Not the plants, the two lofty-sounding medical conditions.) Well, anemia is not having enough iron in your blood, and hypoglycemia is like diabetes only not so much. You get the lows of blood sugar without the highs, which is great for long term survival but lousy if you, I dunno, wanna stay conscious while driving. I'm just kidding, I've never lost consciousness while driving. I have, however, lost my temper.

Yes, I take iron supplements. Yes, I also eat lots of green leafy vegetables. Raw spinach is a particular favorite. But the best thing for keeping anemia in check is eating red meat. Yes, I eat every couple of hours. Yes, I try to avoid stuff with lots of sugar in it so as to avoid all those wild fluctuations in blood sugar that are so much fun for the people around me. But the best thing for keeping my blood sugar from zooming around is eating...lean meat. It doesn't have to be red, though. White will do. (Cat: The other white meat.)

Do I feel bad about eating aminals? Well, yeah, sometimes. Back when I had an aquarium, I used to hate having to eat fish. Fish are friends, after all. I've always felt sort of mildly bad about eating chickens. Chickens are cute and intelligent, come when they're called, like having their ears skritched (if they had ears). I think the big regret, though, is that these animals I chow down on lead such wretched lives before they show up on my dinner plate.

Back a hundred or so years ago, many people raised their own animals. They saw them through their life cycle, cared for them, and when they did get around to killing them, they did it pretty quick with an ax. Nobody on a 1900s era farm would think stuffing a chicken in a cage with a hundred other chickens was a good idea. Or that cows should be fed a weird mix of meat that included, among other things, cows. Cows ate grass. Everybody knew that. Chickens ran around and kept your yard free of bugs. Why would you stick them in a cage? That would be stupid. And mean. And bad for the chicken. Which would be bad for the meat. Which would be bad for you, the eventual diner. Injecting them with antibiotics? Forget it. They hadn't been invented yet, for one thing. Antibiotics, I mean.

So that's my dilemma. I'm more or less over the fact that I have to eat meat, especially after ending up in the hospital and having my periods stop for most of a year during my wild flings at "I'm going to be a vegetarian if it kills me" (clearly it might). But I think the animals I'm eventually gonna eat deserve a decent life before they get the ax. Short of raising them myself, which is kind of not an option inside the Dallas city limits, how do I do this? How do I find chickens that ran around eating insects while they were alive and cows that would never think that cow-containing "protein cakes" were a nice tasty snack?

One of the options we're investigating: An outfit in Denton that buys locally-grown meat. I gotta tell you, though, the 45-mile drive to and from will completely negate the whole "locally grown" part. But I might be able to live with that.

Confidential to Mike: Please don't fall down the stairs. Please oh please.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Still sick, kids.

We canceled WriteClub this week cuz Sally is sick too, and Kellum was up to something or other (he's sneaky, that one) and Jackie is--well, fine, as far as I know. (Hi Jackie!)

Nothing scintillating to report at this time, really. Except that it's blasting cold out.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Surely This Is Symbolic Of Something or Other.

I hab a code. At least I thig I hab a code. Sobetibes I thig I hab a code whed I actually hab pneumonia but I thig this is just a code. I'b sleepig on the couch a lot and I had this dreab where I was hangig around a hotel roob in Los Angeles with Joad. She wanted to buy a house there and I was tryig to convince her anythig over $300,000 was Right Out. Of course everythig in Los Angeles is butch bore than that so id was startig to look like we would be stuck id the hotel roob for all eternity. Beanwhile, id the real world, Joad got her tax refund. Yay! You spose there's any coincidence or anythig?