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November 30, 2004

A concerted effort

In studying the art and architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, I find a common current flowing through it all. It is the concerted effort he made on every project he worked on. The effort went way beyond the design. He tried to integrate the wishes of the client into his designs. He tried to design in functionality that was also beautiful. He tried to use natural materials. He tried to simplify and open up confined spaces. He paid attention to the details. Every project combined creative design, utility, the natural environment, the clientís needs and art into one cohesive unit.
Even when working in Tokyo on a hotel, Frank Lloyd Wright worked tirelessly with contractors and clients in the United States to get his projects built according to the design. His efforts during the design and building phases of his projects were detailed and persistent, and thorough. He even went so far as to design clothing for his staff at gatherings so they would match the decor. He even designed clothing for his wife that fit in with the design of their home. Many of his designs included matching furniture and carpeting. He really went all out in his work. He put in a concerted effort to put his ideals into form.
In school we have to put in a concerted effort in each of our courses. We cannot expect to get by without studying or doing our work. Educating ourselves does not happen without effort.
In life it seems that very little comes for free. No matter what we are involved in, it seems that we have to work at it. Frank Lloyd Wright did not get things done by luck or chance. He practiced his designs on his own home. He worked many hours to achieve his goals.
In our spiritual lives we donít get to our goal for nothing either. We have to work at it. We must make a concerted effort to apply our spiritual principles and ideals to our lives. Many people like to label themselves. They like to be called Buddhist or Christian or Muslim or whatever, without applying the principals of those religions to their lives. Most religions at their core offer a way to transform a person into more loving, more compassionate, more giving, more caring, more complete, happy, whole beings. But transformation requires work. We canít expect overnight transformation, and we canít expect instant enlightenment, free from all suffering. Transformation requires a concerted effort on our parts.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:23 PM

November 29, 2004

Live in a better way

In his book, Live in a better way, Reflections on Truth, Love and Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives candid guidance on living fully and responsibly. One thing he said that I really liked, and that is good advice for all lifelong learners like me is,
"Pay attention not only to the cultivation of knowledge but to the cultivation of qualities of the heart, so that at the end of education, not only will you be knowledgeable, but also you will be a warm-hearted and compassionate person."

Posted by carl1236 at 10:01 PM

November 28, 2004

Par

Well, the long weekend is winding down and in golfing terms, I hit par. Everything turned out exactly as it should have. We had a good dinner with family, and I worked Saturday and Sunday at the group home, and now it's Sunday night. It's back to work in the morning and class at night.
On Satuday night I saw a band perform in a Cafe, and it also was Par. Literally, his name is Par. He's not too bad. I got lucky though, because I didn't see him selling CD's so I thought I'd ask, and he happened to have one with him that he gave to me for free. I like bringing the music I see and hear home with me. I liked his CD also. Very nicely done.
Now, I hope this week will be below Par (better). It will be tough after a four-day weekend, but maybe it won't be so bad, because everyone will be in the same position. On Monday we'll be lucky to hit par.
So to start things off right, Have a great week everyone!

Posted by carl1236 at 9:32 PM

November 27, 2004

Who are we supposed to love?

Someone tried to tell me today that we are supposed to love only those that believe exactly like they did. And then they proceeded to tell me that God loves only those that believe exactly like they did. Then the proceeded to tell me that God would punish those that did not believe exactly like they did. In arrogance and a certain amount of self-righteousness this person had plenty to say about their own safety because of their Ďrightí way of thinking. Furthermore, unless others came around to their way of thinking, they were doomed.
One person I met a few years ago started attending a hard-core fundamentalist church. At this church he learned that couples should not be unequally joined, believers with non-believers. He learned that this was a recipe for disaster and that it would only lead to ruin. Before that he loved his wife. They both had been attending a modern spirituality church before this and they were starting to deepen their spiritual lives. Then he was introduced to another church. Then their relationship started changing, because this man was changing and he discovered that he could not love someone who did not believe like he did. He divorced his wife on the grounds that she was going to hell and he wasnít about to go there. In his mind, her un-belief was the cause of all of their problems. At the time he told me about this he was in anguish about doing this, but he felt it was his only choice. She didnít stop loving him though, and she begged him to stay. He could not.
I donít want to condemn his choices, because everyone makes their own choices and faces the consequences of them. Thatís the way it should be. Life goes on no matter what our choices are and we make mistakes, we have successes and failures, and hopefully we learn from them. We often suffer, but we can also have great joys in life. Iím sure she will get on with her life too, although it is tragic that it came to divorce, it will all work out for both of them, because there is no other choice but to work out. Life has a way of working out.
Now Iím going to point out a fundamental misconception about the nature of love and whom we should love. Many people get the wrong idea about whom we are supposed to love. And they have ammunition to justify it. The person I talked to today had similar beliefs as the man who divorced his wife because of their new differences in religious beliefs. Today, basically I was told that we could only love those who believe exactly like this person. But unfortunately the truth is that we are supposed to love everyone, not just those that are in our own inner circle.
God tells us clearly that she loves EVERYONE. There are no exceptions. ďFor God so loved the world...,Ē means everyone. And we have been told, in very simple language, ďlet us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.Ē ďThis is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.Ē We are also told that ďGod IS love.Ē
Love overcomes a lot of things. Love overcomes fear. Think of any bad situation in our world. Wouldnít it have been made better by love? Love is a powerful thing. It brings powerful, ruthless people to their knees and it lifts those that suffer up off the ground. It does it by transforming our hearts. Love transforms. This is how the world is going to change for the better. We need to apply our love toward everyone else. Anything less is, well, less than love, and is not solving the problems we have.
Part of the problem with truly loving others, is sometimes there is an element of self-sacrifice. We sometimes just donít like the idea of self-sacrifice. The other problem is that we like to place conditions on our love. For instance, that we can only love those that believe exactly like we do or that we will love only those that first love us.
I have children. I know what itís like to love them, more than I love myself even. There is almost nothing that I wouldnít do for them if I thought it would benefit them. I would never wish evil on them or take anything from them. I try my best to help them succeed. Sometimes in the past they did not always think highly of me, especially when I had to punish them for something they did wrong. Speaking of wrongdoing, I know in my heart, that I never loved them any less no matter what they did. My love for them doesnít contain any conditions of reciprocation. They donít have to love me in order for me to love them.
This is a model for how we are supposed to love other human beings. All other human beings, not just those within our inner-circle of family, friends, and like-minded. Lacking the wisdom to know whom we are supposed to love, we exclude certain individuals or groups of people from our love and then justify it. It is sometimes easier that way. Anyone can love only those who they want to love, but to love someone who has wronged us in some way or those that do not believe as we do is often too much to ask and seems way beyond what we are supposed to do. Yet thatís exactly what will heal the pain and suffering. Jesus clearly told us to love even our enemies when he said, ďyouíve heard it said Ďlove your neighbor and hate your enemy,í but I say to you love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.Ē We are told basically that if we only love those that love us, then our love is not yet perfect love. Itís still conditional.
This is pretty radical thinking, I know. Itís hard to swallow if we think about the implications. It means we have no excuses or justification for not loving EVERYONE. Much of the problems of our world would very simply go away if this were the kind of thinking we all had. It seems kind of impossible in todayís world, but consider again, what problem in our world would not benefit from love? What can love do to peopleís hearts?

Posted by carl1236 at 11:46 PM

November 26, 2004

Attacking others

Why do people attack others to justify their own positions? Canít people BE who they are without denouncing who others are? We saw enough of this during our elections this year. Weíve also seen it in our youth as an immature view on the world. For us at a young age, it was insecurity. We might have needed to cut others down to build ourselves up. I see it in the Anti-Religion crowd. They get very defensive and often do exactly what they hate, attack someone for their beliefs. The Anti-Religion crowd doesnít offer any alternatives, just that they hate organized religion. I always wondered where this hatred came from. People in churches and other religious organizations have abused some people, but for the most part, from the people Iíve met, itís just an attitude.
I know a lot of people who are gaining a lot from the fellowship and worship in church. They also participate and organize many wonderful volunteer programs that make a difference in our communities. Within organizations, these people can pool their time and resources to help others, where alone, they could only do things on a smaller scale. Most people I know who go to church are good people just like the rest of us, just trying to make it in this world the best way they know how. It works for many people and helps them.
We all have to right to reject or accept whatever we want. We have the right to believe in whatever we want. But canít we be it without the need to attack others? In our society this is something we need to work on. Itís a real problem. But of course none of us see that we are doing anything wrong. We all try to justify our positions and who we are and why we do the things we do. But isnít it better to be the things we are and show the world?
Whether we believe in Jesus or God or Allah, Muhammad, the Buddha, the Tao or the Sun God Re, we can all understand this concept and use it. Iíll borrow from something in the bible but the idea is universal:

ďIf I have all the eloquence of men or of angels but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries and knowing everything, and if I have the faith to move mountains, but I have not love, then I am nothing at all.Ē
ďLove is always patient and kind. It is never jealous. Love is never boastful or conceited. It is never rude or selfish. It does not take offense and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other peopleís sins (or problems); it delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.Ē
Jesus said, ďYou are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a candle and hide it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your God.Ē

We can all go out and attack others, but what we really want is to live our lives the way we want, to the best of our abilities, and to be who we are. If we disagree with someone, we can attack them or we can show the world a better way by doing and being that better way. People will see the light of truth where it shines. Letís work together to lift people up when they fall and to be more mature than the others by living what we are, letting our light shine in this world and contributing something lasting.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:59 PM

November 25, 2004

Born into Bondage

In the year of 1963, I was born into bondage. As I grew up, I willingly cooperated and colluded in my own submission. I was like a puppet on a stage, in a play that was already written, cheerfully acting out my part. I wanted nothing more than to live the part, acting out my fate. When I was little I was given a mirror. It wasnít just any mirror though. It was like magic. When I looked into it, I saw what everyone else wanted me to see. I saw what everyone else expected of me. As I played my part in the play I looked at the mirror frequently to make sure I was getting it right. I didnít even know that other mirrors existed.
Several times throughout my life the play ended. I didnít understand why. I just looked around helplessly to see if there was another stage to play on. Of course there always was, and it was just like the previous one. The play was the same too. While I was lying on the floor between plays, my strings in a pile, the masters of the play looked at me with disgust, ďWe canít have this!Ē they sang in unison. And soon enough I was back in action and I was happy to be playing my role.
However when I was lying on the floor, looking at the other stages and puppets, I saw other plays that were unlike mine. I saw other stages. I saw other puppet masters. But each time, I looked into the magic mirror. Then I was back up on the stage and life went on. I was happy again.
Over the course of my life something else happened. Not only did I see other stages and plays, the other puppets started acting in my play, and other puppet masters started pulling my strings and others around me. One day I looked at my magic mirror to see who I really was, and remember thinking, ďoh crap, this mirror is cracked!Ē I saw strings attached to my arms and with my eyes opened, I followed them upwards to discover the means and motivation for my movements. Thatís when I had the heretical thoughts, ďWhat if I got a new mirror? What if I chose a different puppet master? Could I do that? Man, for an unconscious puppet I sure have some ideas.Ē
Of course, I couldnít stop there. I wondered about which play I would like to act in. I also wondered to what extent I had a choice in which play I could be in. My old mirror was no help here. It always told me to keep acting. I was in new territory. I determined that indeed, the only way to be in another play was to find another mirror. One that showed me for who I really am, that allowed me to be in another play. Then, I determined that yes, I also need to find the master of the play I want to be in. I need to have my strings pulled by the right puppet master.
Ok, not easy, but it can be done. The first step is knowing how we are animated, that there are other mirrors and other plays. The second step is to wonder what it would be like to be in those plays. The third step is to willingly change mirrors and to accept a new master. Then our freedom from bondage is on its way from one stage to another until we find the ultimate truth beyond our socially constructed reality.

In the year of 1963, as I was being born into bondage, Peter L. Berger declared, ďthe individual locates himself in society within systems of social control, and every one of these contains an identity-generating apparatus. Insofar as he is able the individual will try to manipulate his affiliations in such a way as to fortify the identities that have given him satisfaction in the past.Ē

Posted by carl1236 at 11:39 PM

November 24, 2004

Ammit the gobbler

According to the book, "Ancient Egypt, an illutstrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the pharaohs," the ancient Egyptians believed that, when they died, they would be judged on their behaviour during their lifetime before they could be granted a place in the Afterlife. There was a judgement ceremony that took place before Osiris, the chief god of the dead and Afterlife, and a tribunal of 42 deities right after death.
The heart was placed on a scale and weighed against the principle of truth and justice (maat) represented by a feather, the symbol of the goddess of truth, order and justice, Maat. If a deceased person's heart was heavy with wrongdoings, the heart would weigh down the scale and sink. Sitting at the base of the scale was the beast Ammit, 'the gobbler' Ammit was a composite animal with the head of a crocodile, the front legs and body of a lion or leopard, and the back legs of a hippopotamus. The Egyptians did not believe in hell. If a person't heart was found to be too heavy, Ammit would gobble it up and the person would cease to exist. (pg. 394)
I think some people cease to exist before they die when their hearts are gobbled up by the beasts of this world. Much of the joy in life comes from giving to others and doing what is good and right. Otherwise it seems kind of empty. We don't have to fear Ammit when we die, we have to fear it while we are alive.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:28 PM

November 23, 2004

2004 Korean Thanksgiving Event

Tonight I went to the 2004 Korean Thanksgiving Event at Coffman Union. There were a few highlights of the evening for me. One was just being able to practice some phrases in Korean with so many willing Korean native speakers. Even though I got a few things wrong, it was still fun trying. One person told me I was addressing her too formally. haha. It will take me a lifetime to negotiate just the right amount of formality and respect in my interactions with Koreans. But Iím working on it. Itís built into the language, so the more I learn, the better I get.
The second highlight for me was the food of course! I love Korean food. Give me Kim-chee over Sauer Kraut any day! Although Iíll eat that too. And they had another one of my favorites: Kim-Bap.
Then for something completely new to me, and an experience I wonít forget very soon, they had traditional Korean drumming. It was nice to see and hear in person. Basically itís a combination of dancing and drumming by a group of performers all in sync with each other. Very well done and interesting. I especially loved how the drummers turned themselves upside down as they followed the edge of the drum around, beating on it.
There was also some great music performed on Cello, Violin and Piano, and a Tae Kwon Do demonstration. I thought that was too long, but it was interesting.
Tonight was an interesting night and I waffled back and forth about a decision I was struggling with regarding taking another semester of Korean. This semester has been really tough so far, and after tonight I decided it would be better if I continued. Learning any language is difficult. Learning it well takes dedication and patience. Leonardo da Vinci said, ďImpatience, the mother of stupidity, lauds brevity. Impatient people lack the time for gaining complete knowledge of a particular thing, such as a human body, yet they try to embrace the mind of God, which contains the universe...Ē
He goes on to comment on how we live with ourselves our entire life and are still ignorant about who we are.
His words are a little harsh I think, but he was a master of observation, especially of physical phenomenon. I still want to master Korean and Russian, and German and several other languages and some that I havenít dreamed of yet. So I have to patiently persist, knowing that itís a lifelong process and the rewards are part of the process. Tonight proved that. I have a greater appreciation for the world around me.
We cannot predict how much time we actually have on this earth, since if we donít die from old age or sickness, we could still die of a freak accident tomorrow, or 10 minutes from now. With Thanksgiving as the theme for the week, Iím thankful for every moment I have here. This is really a beautiful gift to be alive. Take advantage of it and be alive while living!

With the renewal of my trumpet playing, my artistic creativity is kicking up some dust. I was inspired by Leonardo de Vinci, and have the needed piece now to complete a painting I started last year. Then, my wife and I stopped at a bookstore and I found another a book on Ancient Egypt and was inspired for my next project; a relief carving depicting a special story.
Life is always worth living and worth fighting for. Donít give up, have patience and donít live in fear. Be alive, be thankful for right now. Peace.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:39 PM

November 22, 2004

Natural Law of Variety

In the times of Plastic Surgery, reality show make-overs, modeling ourselves after Supermodels and the dawn of cloning, this is a good time to remind ourselves of a reason for Variety: To make it possible to distinguish one person from another. Throughout history human beings have changed their ideas about what is beautiful many times. For instance, at one time, robust was the in-thing. Now, skinny seems to be the model of beauty. Many people go to extreme measures to look and feel beautiful. Often they want this attribute overnight, without the agony and discipline of getting there. This could be a sign of a pervasive need in our society for instant gratification, or simply a really strong desire to be accepted, no matter what the cost, maybe driven by low self-esteem. Of course, our ideas of what it takes to be accepted are all different and change with the times also.
Leonardo da Vinci observed the laws of nature and came to the conclusion that there is a reason for everything in nature. He said, ďThere is no effect in nature without a cause.Ē Tied with another quote written in a separate volume, he elaborates on what that cause will look like, ďNecessity is the mistress and guardian of nature. Necessity is the theme and inventor of nature, the brake and eternal rule.Ē So the cause of an effect in nature is driven by some need. When it comes to our appearance Leonardo da Vinci comes to a conclusion about what the cause is for the infinite variety of our appearance: ďIf nature had laid down a single rule for the character of numbers, the faces of all men would have been so similar that it would be impossible to know one from the other. But she varied the five members of the face; though she followed an almost universal rule with respect to their size, she did not observe the same rule with respect to quality and thereby made it possible to distinguish clearly one face from another.Ē
Part of learning to love ourselves, and learning to live free of fear, is to accept who we are. This can be difficult sometimes. There are all kinds of voices telling us who or what we should look like. Variety is the spice of life, itís beautiful and itís all natural.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:25 PM

November 21, 2004

Hearing the Voice of God

Today I heard God speaking to me again. I listened intently as she spoke about relationships. It came to me that in relationships with other people, for instance in marriages, both parties have to want to be there. It happens often in marriages that one person will ask for a divorce and the other one couldnít see it coming. Only in retrospect, after having lost someone does that person really see or take any responsibility for the decay and disintegration of the relationship. Itís happened to me before, so I totally understand this. Fortunately for me, I woke up and changed. Our relationship changed slowly for the better. But itís never clear-cut and often things get better and then worse, then better again. Relationships can and do go in and out of sync. People can fall in and out of love also. Relationships can be repaired. But both people really have to want to be there. And itís an ongoing thing.
Sometimes one person wants to be there in name, but is miles away in spirit. Jackson Browne sang a song about this,
ďI got my head down between my knees
I got my back against this bedroom wall
I hear my voice saying baby please
But I know that you donít hear me call

Youíre staring at that far horizon
I donít even know why you stay
Itís like youíre already miles and miles away.

We got this life so far turned around
We only talk about what happened last
We try to move ahead but weíre losing ground
To the heartache and the pain of the past

Staring at that far horizon
I donít even know why I stay
Youíre already miles and miles away...Ē

As I sat there listening to God she reminded me to think about my relationships and how I interact with those I love. She asked me a tough question, ďWhat ever happened to Ďand the two shall become one?íĒ When I think about my relationship with my wife, I canít say that I have always been Ďoneí with her. At times yes, but at other times Iíve been staring at that far horizon, already miles and miles away. Thatís not being Ďoneí with my wife; itís like not really being there.
In every relationship it takes two people to have that relationship. When itís not working for one of them itís not working the way it was intended. So even now after 20+ years of marriage I still have to work on our relationship. I still have to be present and be Ďoneí with my wife. I love her and Iím thankful to God for this reminder. Tonight after work I spent some time talking with my wife and listening to her. I took away some of her chores and did them myself so she didnít have to. It came at a good time, because sheís really stressed out about a meeting she has with a client tomorrow and she appreciated having someone to listen to her.
God spoke clearly to me today through my coworker who is going through a separation and divorce. She was explaining to me the problems she was having and the fears she has about how her children are handling this. She talked about her husband and how it was like he was there, but not really with her. She talked about a lot of things that Iíve experienced and can relate to. She didnít ask for any advice and I didnít give her any, but I did listen to her. I told her some of my experiences in the past with my marriage and relationships. I think she was thankful just to be able to get some of what was bottled up inside her out in the open. Itís difficult to go through life alone. Itís funny how we can be surrounded by people and still feel alone.
Iíve asked before, ďHow does God talk to us?Ē And the answer was, ďUsing any means possible for God.Ē Which is really through anything or anyone. Some people hear the voice of God through religious texts, some through books, music, or nature. God is always talking to us, but the real question is ďDo we hear God?Ē And then if we hear God, do we act on what we hear? To me there was an awareness that came over me as I was listening to my co-worker of specific examples in my life that were not working. This is a kind of Ďknowingí thatís hard to explain. It wasnít one specific thing that my coworker said in a deep voice or anything like in the exorcist movie, but in my awareness it was the voice of God touching my heart, revealing something I needed help with, and prompting me into action. I know that with every relationship, we have to want to be there. And we have to want to listen; that's part of being there.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:14 PM

November 20, 2004

Spiritual Journey

Tonight I was browsing blogs on UThink and found this one:
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/shawx001/SpirJour/
This is a blog that supports a class on Spirituality, and is aimed at the acedemic study of Spirituality. The author does not limit the references to one Religion and has some good commentary and thoughts regarding some books and historical figures in various religions.
I added this to my links list on the sidebar because I read a lot and haven't read some of these listed here. I'll be able to refer back to this site as I'm reading the books and studying.
We are Spirits on a Human Journey...

Posted by carl1236 at 11:21 PM

Where is God?

I was talking with some friends yesterday about exercise and being healthy, aging and changing lifestyles. As we were talking, one of them brought up the subject of being religious. Thatís one of those words that kind of has a negative connotation now days. It seems restrictive and controlling. In many cases people who attend church or go to their temple or meditate are labeled as religious. I guess following a specific religion makes a person religious.
But people are being much more than religious when they are practicing their religion. They are attempting to touch their souls. They are attempting to realize their connection with the source of life. Sometimes itís easy to forget why we are here and get wrapped up in our own little worlds, but overall I believe that people know intuitively that there is much more to life than our physical existence.
No matter what religion we are, or if we prefer not to be labeled as religious, underlying our practice and belief system is a desire to be happy and a desire to know and express our purpose for being. Our labels are actually inadequate to describe our relationship to the divine. Our existence cannot be separated from it. We donít really know how to put into words something like life. Where do we begin? We can easily define who we are by labeling ourselves as Architects or Doctors or Lawyers, or Christians or Buddhists, or Muslims, but these words are also inadequate, because we are much more than that. We are alive. We are sustained by the universe around us. We belong to it; we are it.
Throughout the centuries human beings have been trying to understand our connection to everything around us, and deeply desiring there be a connection. Native Americans know that everything is alive with spirit so everything is connected and sacred. Therefore, our walk on earth is a sacred spiritual journey. But often in our limited sight we see God as existing outside of her creation. Yet in our universe all of creation is an expression of God. We can see and know God by looking at life around us and in us. We are part of the whole. We fit and belong to it. Our physical and spiritual worlds are not separate.
It has been said that God lives at the center of the universe and the center of the universe is everywhere, it is inside of each of us. God has told us that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, all that was, that is and that will be.
Now we know where God is. Everywhere we look we see Godís face. Where does God live? God lives in all of creation. God is the spirit in everything. God is the one energy that all energy comes from. Without God we would not exist. God is closer to us than our own breath. This is why Jesus said to us, ďWhen I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, when I was a stranger you made me your friend and took me in, when I was naked you clothed me, when I was sick or in prison you came to me. Whatever you have done to the least of your brothers or sisters, you have done to me.Ē
Our connection with God is much closer than we often make it. We donít have to look very far; we just have to be able to see God where we look. If we see God, we know how to love God with all our hearts and we know how to love others as our self. We intuitively know how to live our lives. One could say this is being religious, but itís really much more than that, itís being alive and being aware. And itís not something to be ashamed of or afraid of, because we cannot separate life from God. Itís just the way it is.
Does knowing this effect the way I live my life? Yes, because now Iím going to work at the group home to take care of God. Iím helping God correct her paper for a presentation at an upcoming conference. Iím tutoring God in English to help him survive in America, Iím teaching God how to drive, Iím planting God for a better environment, Iím reducing the toxins in the air and water that God is breathing and drinking. I am thanking God for helping me and giving me life. I am not stealing from God or Cheating God out of something. I am not harming God for my own gain, pleasure or greed. At least I am trying my best to treat life as respectfully as I am able to. I am learning and changing because before I was blind and could not see God. The more I become aware of God the more I am thankful I am alive. Whatever I am doing, I am doing to God.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:33 AM

November 19, 2004

Listening Comprehension

Today I decided that whatever time I thought was enough listening comprehension practice for language learning, I have to quadruple it! I found that when listening to normal conversational speed Korean, I often cannot even hear things that I do know and understand. Itís because the words and phrases I know sound different in my head than what I am hearing. So I intend to spend more time on listening comprehension practice until the end of this semester.
On a deeper level, listening comprehension of the heart is a skill that also needs to be practiced. Sometimes we do not really understand what people are really saying because we are often not as observant as we think we are. Tonight my daughter and I had a really good discussion about her computer needs and the problems she has been having. She brought it to my attention that I wasnít really listening to her before. She What she was really saying to me was that she tried to communicate with me that she needed my help but what I was hearing was that it wasnít a big deal. She ended up taking her computer to a friend to fix. I can handle troubleshooting and resolving many computer problems, but truly understanding another human being escaped me. Now I have to work harder on listening comprehension. To fully understand another person, we have to practice looking beyond the spoken words. My daughter needed her fatherís attention and needed me to place a high priority or importance on her. Instead what I was hearing in my head did not match what her heart was saying. Whatever I thought was enough practice truly hearing and understanding another human being, I need to quadruple it. Itís a lesson in awareness.
After our conversation tonight we both agreed weíd work harder together at our communication skills and at the same time, set some priorities for fixing her computer problems. I wondered how much I have missed in the past because what I was hearing was not the same as what was being said.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:35 PM

November 18, 2004

A Reprieve

I'm very thankful because a lot of great things happened this week. Even when things are tough, like they were this week, some bright lights were shining and the stars aligned in just the right way it seems.
First of all, there was no class on Tuesday night, but I went to school anyway. Then on my way home, I was able to help that nice woman. Then tonight at class, we were supposed to have a large test, but the teacher took pity on us and postponed the test until Tuesday. So our whole class has been granted a reprieve! I was happy about that, because it gives me a few more days to study.
Then tonight I talked with an old friend I haven't chatted with in a long time. That was really nice. Sometimes things have a way of working out to be really good even when things look dark. Have patience and things will change. Be observent and see the possibilities, and above all that be thankful for small miracles and postponed tests!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:51 PM

November 17, 2004

Proportion

Leonardo Da Vinci in his notebooks, (pg.622) talks about proportion in all things. He was a master of studying physical proportions for his artwork and illustrations, but also for other things.
He said, "Proportion is not only found in numbers and measurements but also in sounds, weights, times, positions, and in whatsoever power there may be."
I wonder how that applies to language learning. I know the number of hours I spend studying is proportional to the grade I get on my exams. haha.
Also I wonder what proportion of words for instance of a total vocabulary are used in daily communications.
Also I wonder how proportion is present in our spiritual lives. If we think about Karma, there is proportion and direct correlation between actions and consequences. If we think about sin, there is a direct correlation between sin and the consequences of sin. It's difficult to measure unless we are very observant and unless we experience it I think.
This morning on the bus there was a proportion of 17:3 of Women riders to men riders. I found that interesting.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:49 PM

November 16, 2004

Hold my hand, walk with me

Tonight I walked with a homeless person two blocks to her bus stop to help steady her. She was pretty wabbly. When we got to the bus stop she looked me in the eyes and said, "I love you." I said, "I love you too."
She said, "Thank you," and then I went on my way. But for two blocks she had a hand to hold and someone to talk to.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:45 PM

November 15, 2004

Life is a process

Tonight after work I rode 26 miles in the dark. Since the weather was nice I decided to take advantage of it and get some extra riding in. So with that I only have 4 miles to go to reach 3000 miles, which Iíll pass tomorrow. Itís hard to believe that itís been so many miles! But I did it. Of course I did not do it all at once. Just like everything major in life, we donít do it instantly. Usually itís a process of doing something consistently over a period of time that creates a grand accomplishment. To me this is grand, especially since last year I basically sat in front of a computer all day and did only occasional exercise by walking.
I was talking with my friend Dan about aging and sports. He was saying how his greatest speed in races did not come when he rode the most miles, but when he did the most speed training. Then he said that his best speed is not what it used to be, because heís older now. Heís still bike racing and has over 400 races behind him. He has record of all of his miles, and all of his race times. Looking back over the years, he can see when he peaked athletically. But, Dan is still going. He still races and still rides nearly every day. Many top athletes in High School just drop out of their sport and donít accumulate a record like Dan has. There was a time when he was really hard on himself when he started slowing down on his race times (Heís still really fast compared to most people and still wins some races) because doing it for so long, he knows what he was capable of when he was at his peak athletically. I thought about that and shared my perspective with him, being a newcomer to this sport at the age of 41. I donít have a record to compare my times to and plan on starting cycle racing this Spring. I donít have the same expectations on myself as someone who has been there since his early high-school days and has competed professionally, but I do know that whatever I do will be a great accomplishment for me. I can compare the process of what Iím doing now, to the process of what I was doing before. I can compare my experiences with the non-experience I had before trying this. Then later on in life I may look back and see the thousands of miles Iíve put on and say wow, was that a great ride!
Iíve heard the phrase, ďLife is a processĒ many times before. Itís a liberating phrase. We can accomplish things in life, but to me they are not the end. The accomplishments are milestones along the way. They are part of the big picture of life in this human form, which keeps on living after we ride 3000 miles or 100000 miles. During the ride I see and experience new things, and meet new people. I contribute who I am to whatever I am doing and that touches other peopleís lives, sometimes in ways I donít know. Dan has touched my life by encouraging me and mentoring me in cycling. Thatís been a great accomplishment along his path and he might not even realize what he has done. To me, this is a real example of how life is a process. Everything we do is part of the process of living and experiencing life. And it's not over yet!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM

November 14, 2004

Compassion

The Lakota people have an old story about the re-creation of the two-leggeds, human beings. The story goes that there was only one human woman left alive on the planet and she was friends with an Eagle, who kept her company and kept her from becoming too lonely. But in the end her greatest wish was to be with other two-leggeds. The Eagle asked the Great Father if he could change into a human man to dispel her great sadness and loneliness. The Great Father told him that he could do that, but it was irreversible and that he would never be able to fly the skies again. The eagle gave up his life as he knew it to be with the woman. In this story about compassion the eagle cared more for this woman than his own life. He was willing to do whatever it took to relieve her sadness. He was a true friend.
Compassion is really caring about other people, enough to change ourselves in order to reach them. There is nothing like love for this kind of transformation. Often in our society our compassion for others is half-hearted at best, for one because we donít want to become too deeply involved. We donít want Ďtoo much information.í We want to remain inside of our comfort zones. Another reason is because we are afraid of being taken advantage of or being lied to or worse. Yes, there are a lot of problems in our society and we might think itís much cleaner to just not deal with them. And sometimes the cost to us is too high.
But the eagle didnít ask what the woman did to become the only human left on the planet. He devised a plan and asked, can I be the one to help her? Just as the eagle changed the world by his caring, we can all change the world by caring about another person as much as or more than we care about ourselves.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:55 PM

November 13, 2004

The Unintentional Plan

Have you ever had such a perfect day that you could not have planned it any better? No matter what I planned tonight, it did not work out as I planned, but turned out even better. After work I was planning on doing work on a project. But when I got home my son had a bunch of friends over and they were all playing a game called, ďCatch Phrase,Ē and they invited me to play. So I played one game with them. That was fun! Itís like a cross between charades and hot potato. Then I was planning on eating a bowl of leftover Chile, but my wife said she brought a frozen pizza up for me, so I threw that in and it was great. Next, I intended on getting back to my project, but my wife got called into work at the coffee shop, so I decided to go see what all the commotion was. As soon as I finished my pizza, I was having second thoughts about going, but my daughter talked me into it. She said there was a good musician playing tonight that I had wanted to hear. But I was feeling reluctant to give up that much time tonight. I took her advice though and went. But when I got there, they were just setting up and the place was extremely crowded and hot. I got a coffee and stepped outside. I saw two people I knew there, one of them I had not seen in a long time. That was cool. Then I ended up talking with the other guy for a while outside. As we were talking he brought up another band he had seen play there that used a clarinet in their music. He said they played it in a way he had never heard one played before. So we went to his apartment so I could check it out. We got into a discussion about playing music, which brought me back to my CALL OF THE TRUMPET, haha.
He plays guitar and I listened to him talk and enthusiastically explain all of his guitar paraphernalia. He was really excited about it. It kind of rubbed off on me.
I brought the CD back home with me, and never did hear the band I went to see in the first place. Instead I listened to the CD I borrowed and loved it. (Rick Risch http://www.rickrisch.com)
Then because I was inspired by my friend and his music, I pulled out my trumpet and started warming up. My daughter heard me playing ĎAmericaĒ and she comes running in with her clarinet and started playing along with me. We ended up doing an impromptu jam session! That was too cool for words. Now, you must understand, I havenít played my trumpet in at least 6 months and I never was a pro at it, and my daughter had a broken reed, so my wife was snickering a little at that scene.
I PLAYED MY TRUMPET TONIGHT!!! :-) Do you recall me talking about it on August 11th? I discovered I needed a music break tonight. I played it Ďtil my lips were numb but inside I felt great!
Some days, no matter what we plan, listening to our hearts is a better plan. Two weeks from now my friend and I are planning to get together at my house for our first ever Electric Guitar / Trumpet jam session. Plug your ears!


Posted by carl1236 at 10:52 PM

November 12, 2004

Up on a Pedestal

We often put people up on pedestals and have expectations about how they should behave. Itís not just with people in highly visible positions of responsibility, we also do it with our friends and family. As I was growing up Iíve seen people rise to sainthood only to be brought crashing down in scandalous affairs or bottles of booze. Most families know about problems.
Usually the problem of putting someone up on a pedestal has little to do with who they are or what position they hold, but more commonly our expectations of someone put them there. When they donít live up to our expectations, we lose our respect for them. Sometimes people do put themselves up on a pedestal by condemning others. But being human is part of life and even if we want to hold people to their claims of sainthood, they may disappoint us. What is it that is disappointing to us? Is it disappointing because somehow it feels like they have lied to us? Yet, it should come as no surprise to us that all human beings are still human beings. But when someone doesnít live up to our expectations is it truthful to say that they are lying to us, or is it our expectations that are lying to us?
Our expectations of other people often make them into Superman. Each of us come into this world in the same way and we leave the world by death. During out lives we all have to choose how to best live. Life is a series of choices and a process of growing. We learn from teachers, examples, experience, failures, successes and circumstances. Each person has to live their own life and have experiences.
Jesus talked about condemning others. He often confronted attitudes of self-righteousness with a mirror. He said something like, ďHey buddy, look into this mirror. What you are condemning is your own heart.Ē During his life on earth Jesus confronted the attitudes of the Pharisees and Sadducees and hypocrites who held others accountable to their high standards, but did not live it themselves. Some would condemn others for being lustful toward women at the same time they were being greedy with money or wallowing in self-pride. Jesus tells us to first hold the mirror up to ourselves and see if we can change what is revealed to us.
How do we bring people down from their pedestals? Mainly by not expecting them to be up so high in the first place. Doesnít it make sense that they will find out on their own what works for them and what doesnít.? In the case of my friends, I try not to hold them accountable for my expectations. Just as I hope that my friends let me live my life and experience what I need to. But thatís not saying I donít want my friends to help look out for my well-being. Iíd just prefer that they donít have false expectations of me.
Another way we bring people down from their pedestals is by getting to know them really well. Some of our expectations of people dissolve when we know them better. We often realize that they are human just like us. Really getting to know someone is a process. Can we really know someone without going through that process?
John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting has a song called Superman (Itís not easy) that talks about the problem of expectations of others. In the song heís saying something like, ďman, donít put me up on this pedestal! Life is hard enough without you making me feel like I have to live up to your expectations!Ē And in another superman song the Spin Doctors ask, ďwill you still love me if I have a pocket full of Kryptonite?Ē I think the answer to both of those songs is the same, in order to truly love someone we first have to get past our own expectations of them. Then instead of condemning others we can help each other in the process of living life.
When I first wrote this I started to list examples Iíve seen of people that have been brought crashing down from pedestals of expectations and then pushed out of sight, but there were too many examples. We can try to keep people on their pedestals but sometimes life can be messy. Those people I was referring to all went on with their lives and made other friends and got into other circles and had other successes and failures; All according to their own choices, just as we are choosing our own lives.

So here is my new anti-pedestal credo:
I hope you know that I will not hold you up to any set of standards. You define your own standards. I will not be your judge and jury but I will encourage you to be the best you can, to do your best, to exceed your known limits. And at the same time I will continue to get myself into situations where I can truly see other people and discover how I can best help them. Itís part of my definition of who I am. Life is too short for all of us to play games with each other. True love looks beyond my expectations of others and takes action where there is need.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:53 PM

November 11, 2004

A definitive slice of pie

I didnít eat any pie, but I used this expression because life is sometimes like a pie; many pieces and oh so flavorful. And in the same manner as one song written by Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie, these posts were written in one sitting with the speed that the Beatles often worked. According to the story Paul gives in his Flaming Pie album, the name of the Beatles came from a vision that John had of a man on a flaming pie coming to them saying, ďyou are Beatles with an A.Ē
From the song that came to Paul while riding along on a horse, I say to you, ďEverything I do has a simple explanationĒ ... ďGo ahead, have a vision, Iím the man on the flaming pie.Ē

You are a soul with purpose and meaning and something to give to this world.

Index to the slices of pie:
The fish come in and other pieces of pie
The Fish come in
Learning Vocabulary
Learning Chin Falam
Drafting
The loss of an hour
VocabuLearn
Leonardo da Vinci
The music Iím listening to
A gift for my brother
Visiting Thailand
The call of the trumpet
Technical Support
Love Letters
A walk in the park
A definitive slice of pie

Posted by carl1236 at 6:52 AM

A walk in the park

Every day I walk several times with my co-workers through the park. It doesnít matter if we are busy or if itís cold out, within reason, haha. We walk because we sit in front of the computer all day and the fresh air and exercise is refreshing and because itís a chance to bond with each other. Over the last five years that Iíve been working there, I feel like itís made us a better team and more tolerant of each otherís mistakes. Really knowing people helps us to relate to them and to appreciate them. Walking alone helps us get fresh air. Walking together accomplishes the same thing. Even though several walks a day is beneficial to me, sometimes I give up my walk when itís just me, but rarely pass up a walk with the group. That tells me itís much more than just a walk in the park.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:46 AM

Love letters

Tonight I wrote a letter to a young college student I am helping in India. She is working on her bachelors degree. She sent me an email recently that was very heartwarming and thoughtful. I was thinking about how we effect other people in life. I hope that other people are effected in a positive way by my presence in their life. I donít want to leave a legacy or make a name for myself, I just want to write love letters. Love letters, not in the sense of romance, but in the sense of loving everyone I speak to in a way that positively effects their lives. I would like to be a person who does not damage or destroy what is in my path through life, but instead leaves people better off for having known me. So with love, I wrote back to this girl with encouragement on writing her thesis, thankfulness to her for sharing her life with me, money to help her through the rest of her school this year (she graduates in February), and I shared our family life with her, as if she were my own daughter. She has no parents and one of the ways I can positively effect her life is by giving her however much love I am capable of. Today was another good day for writing love letters.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:41 AM

Technical Support

One of my primary job responsibilities at work is technical support for CAD/Engineering software. This is also one of my favorite parts of my job. It comes from the pure joy of solving problems. In doing so it helps people dispel their misery. Most people donít turn to help until they absolutely have to and by that time are already frustrated. This is one way I can make a difference in life. Itís a way I can use my gifts, talents and resources to benefit others. I treat technical support like training, which when approached this way is empowering to the user. Today I helped someone refresh their memory on some software they havenít used in a long time and she was happy to be able to do these tasks. It also helped make this day a great day for me.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:35 AM

The call of the trumpet

Over the last 6 months Iíve been hearing my trumpet call to me from inside itís case, from inside the box I keep all of my music in. I put the trumpet aside last year for a break, and somehow never got back to playing. Busy life, other priorities. But the call is getting stronger to dust it off. Maybe since I have a couple days off from work, Iíll pull it out and see if my lips can still blow a tune. Once a long time ago, in another lifetime, when I was in Junior High School I played the drums. But unfortunately I gave it up after one year of band. I used to think my older brother inherited the musical talent in our family, but now I realize that I inherited a love of music that transcends any lack of talent. I may never perform anywhere but I will certainly enjoy making music. To that end, my family doesnít always appreciate it when I get into a mood to practice the trumpet in the house. Thatís why I have an electronic mute, hehe. When the call gets loud enough Iíll call back.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:28 AM

Visiting Thailand

Tomorrow Iím having lunch with my friend again at Sawatdee. Iím excited not only because of the good company and the good food, but also because I get to use the first Thai language phrase I learned and the new phrase I added to my vocabulary since last Sunday: Sawatdee kraíp, Hello, and Ko`rp kuhn ma^hk kraíp, Thank you very much. One thing I find interesting in Thai is their politeness and levels of formality which is indicated in one way by adding the words Kraíp or Ka^ at the end of the sentence. In Korean honor and formality is appended to nouns and verbs as suffixes and infixes. There are also honorific forms of some words. Like the word for name, i-rum and song-ham. I think as an exercise in multiple language acquisition I will try to pick up Thai in the background by learning one new phrase before each visit to a Thai restaurant and trying to use them. There is no goal in mind for being fluent, just being able to use what I can learn.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:22 AM

A gift for my brother

Speaking of local music, Iím rounding up CDís from local artists and Iím going to make a package of them to send to my brother in New Mexico. It will be something he hasnít heard before. My brother is a good musician himself and had a band, plays several instruments, recorded his own demo tape, and still loves music. If anyone has some suggestions for me on good local artists, that have CDís for sale, please let me know. Hmm. I hope heís not reading this. haha, itíll spoil the surprise. Or itíll increase the anticipation. My plan is beautiful. I get to enjoy them first and then pass them on. At the same time, these local artists get to have their music go on a journey to the other side of the United States. Spread the joy.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:17 AM

The music Iím listening to

Tonight I was listening to Justin Bell & Lazy Suzan, a local band. Their bass player works at my company and sold me both of their CDís for 10 dollars. What a deal! And I enjoy their music! Now Iím going to have to try to find them playing somewhere so I can see them live. I like live music and local artists. Iíve been finding there are many very down to earth, real people around here with a lot of talent.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:12 AM

Leonardo DaVinci

Iím still looking at my new books about Leonardo Da Vinci. Very fascinating person. Leonardo was born in a little Tuscan hill-town of Vinci on April 15th, 1452. He lived there until he was about 13 to 17 years old, then later went to Florence. One quote I found interesting is, ďHe is a poor disciple who does not excel his master.Ē referring to his Florentine mentor, the famous sculptor and artist del Verrocchio. It appears he did not say this in boastfulness, but in a humble way that reflected his underlying attitude toward learning. This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes, ďOne is taught in accordance with oneís ability to learn.Ē Some people have said that the pupil can never exceed the master, but I think history has proven that wrong. Much of it might be the difference in attitude between the Master and the Pupil. A pupil doesnít think they have mastered the art and continues to learn, while the Master by definition thinks they have arrived so may slow down or discontinue seeking after mastery. Excelling our masters in life has nothing to do with the skill level of our master but everything to do with our own attitude and willingness to observe and learn and grow.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:06 AM

VocabuLearn

Iím finally listening to my VocabuLearn CDís I bought last Friday night. All they are is a bunch of random words spoken first in English then in Korean. Before I did not think this was a good way to learn, but now I think this is a great way to review. Since my vocabulary knowledge is greater now than when I first started I recognize many of the words and when I hear a word I canít remember how to say, when they speak it I think, ďoh yes, thatís it!Ē and it sinks in a little deeper

Posted by carl1236 at 6:01 AM

The loss of an hour

Daylight savings time. Sure we have more light in the morning but itís dark when I get off work! Iíve heard many people say they are affected by this darkness. Shorter days, less light, a little depression. I donít think Iím really effected by that too much, otherwise I wouldnít have so much fun riding my bike in the dark, but itís a serious thing for some people. If you find yourself a little blue lately, maybe get some grow lights or try a tanning booth (not overcooking yourself).
The other loss of an hour that happened to me tonight was in writing this blog. I made the mistake of typing it right into the editing form instead of in Microsoft Word like I usually do. After an hour of typing, my browser crashed and I lost it all. At least with Word, if the computer crashes, word saves the text that you were typing. But the good news is that I was able to rewrite everything much more efficiently the second time around, haha.

Posted by carl1236 at 5:55 AM

Drafting

Tonight I rode my bike with Dan again. Dan is a super athlete and a great guy. I talked about the concept of drafting in cycling before. The literal meaning of that term is to follow closely behind someone so they block the wind and you get pulled along in their draft. Itís easier riding for sure. Iíve tested it many times and it works. To me there is a metaphorical meaning also. When I was riding tonight with Dan I was reminded of this again. Dan is a very encouraging person. He always has a good attitude about cycling and is encouraging to those around him. Looking back over the past 8 months, I see Iíve been drafting behind Dan in this sport. And now itís fun riding 23 miles with a friend. Hanging out with someone who is encouraging to others is like drafting in life. It can make the rough spots a lot easier to handle. This is something thatís within our immediate capability and can make a difference in someone elseís life. Want to make a difference in this world? Be encouraging to others.

Posted by carl1236 at 5:48 AM

Learning Chin Falam

Did I ever mention the other languages Iím studying? One of the most interesting is the Chin Falam language, from the western side of Myanmar (Burma). Itís interesting because very few people speak it compared to the rest of the world. Someone once asked me why learn such an obscure language when a language like Chinese or Spanish would be more practical in this world. My answer is that to me, Chin people are not obscure. I see them clearly with my heart. Iím learning it because I have friends that speak it. They are living in India because they had to flee their own country. Will Myanmar find democracy some day? The country is run my a military junta. Why does a country that small need one of the largest militaries in the world? Anyway, itís nice to be able to ask my friends in their own language, ďhow are you?Ē Na dam maw?

Posted by carl1236 at 5:43 AM

Learning Vocabulary

Why is it that some days itís easier to remember the vocabulary Iím studying and some days itís nearly impossible. Iíd like it to be easy every day, haha. Today I memorized about 20 words in about an hour, and can still recall them several hours later. Yesterday, I had trouble with half as many and could only recall them for about 15 minutes after I learned them, and I had trouble with the quiz also. Iím pretty sure there is a technical reason for this. The night before I did not get very much sleep. Last night I got enough sleep. I woke up this morning without an alarm and I felt good. See my post about memory a couple of days ago? This is worth studying more. When we talk about life and how to live a satisfying and fulfilling life, it sure helps if we are physically functioning as effectively as we can. In retrospect itís easy to see how my choices have actually been counterproductive to really living life. For instance the self-destruction of smoking cigarettes. Thatís not a practice that enhances our mental capacity and detracts from our physical well-being. Now I think about this idea: Smoking is actually cutting off the oxygen to our brains. I would never set out to cut off the oxygen to my brain. But thatís what I was doing to myself. That alone canít be good for efficient functioning of the gift weíve been given. Thatís why I quit smoking a long time ago. Haha, but tonight Iím staying up late again. The difference is, I have the day off tomorrow and can sleep in! Then Iíll study my words some more just to make sure I donít ever forget them.

Posted by carl1236 at 5:37 AM

The Fish come in

Tonight my wife and daughter brought the goldfish in from the backyard pond. Wow, they are huge! Each one is about 4 inches long! When we bought them last Spring they were about the size of a nickel. There were two missing though, which I call a contribution to the neighborhood backyard buffet. Why eat cat food when you can have fresh fish? haha. The fish all have names. There is Jack, Breve, Skid and Sushi. Yes, there is a story behind those names. My wife was happy to have them inside for the winter. The pond isnít really deep enough to leave them out all winter since it will freeze solid. Even goldfish canít handle that. They look happy now swimming around our 20 gallon aquarium, even though itís a much smaller space than they are used to. We placed the aquarium in a central spot between our dining room and living room and our catís seem to like watching the fish too. They probably think itís a buffet also, but havenít figured out how to open the lid on top yet. haha.

Posted by carl1236 at 5:31 AM

The Fish come in and other pieces of Pie

Tonight Iím writing a little differently. Instead of one story picked out of the events of my day, Iím writing many small pieces. Together they will form some kind of a picture. To me just living is a very beautiful thing. No matter what happens in life, Iím thankful for the brief time Iím allotted. All the pieces add up to life. We all do the best we can in life and have joys and sorrows. We all look for happiness. Sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are not. But overall Life is a beautiful gift and we are designed to live it. Go ahead, have a vision...

Index to the slices of pie:
The fish come in and other pieces of pie
The Fish come in
Learning Vocabulary
Learning Chin Falam
Drafting
The loss of an hour
VocabuLearn
Leonardo da Vinci
The music Iím listening to
A gift for my brother
Visiting Thailand
The call of the trumpet
Technical Support
Love Letters
A walk in the park
A definitive slice of pie

Posted by carl1236 at 5:26 AM

November 9, 2004

I don't want to discourage you

Today my instructor told me that I should hold my serious questions for during a break or after class. She said that because I am viewed by other students as an A student, I'm discouraging them when I'm stuck on one issue. ???? wow, I thought that when we have questions, that's the appropriate time to ask them. I tried to tell her that if I'm frustrated, then think what it's like for the rest of the students. Anyway, what's discouraging is a teacher who discourages questions.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:54 PM

November 8, 2004

Memory

I met with my Korean language partner tonight and had a great dinner at Phoí 79. I love that soup! In Korean Style, we ate the soup contents with chopsticks and used a spoon for the broth. After dinner we went back near the University Campus to a nice coffee shop on Washington Avenue. We stayed there until about 9:00pm and talked about the Korean Language and learning problems. One of the subjects that came up was memorization. In Korea the main style of education was based on rote memorization of facts and words and expressions. Now things are changing. A broader context and getting students to think and problem solve in learning is stressed more. My language partner said that memorization has itís limits. Often we memorize things for tests but then promptly forget them. Then when it comes time for the final exams we have to learn everything all over again. I have experienced this myself. Pure memorization of words in foreign languages is great for adding items to our short term memory. But if not practiced and used in different contexts, words that we memorize are lost after a short time.
My memory is challenged. I really have to work hard at remembering things anyway and working with languages Iíve had to come up with better methods of learning or it just wasnít working.
In any case, there are a couple of things that Iím discovering about memory that are highlighted in some of the articles listed here. First, memory is a physical, electrical, chemical function of our brain. Information is not only stored in our brain, but also processed and organized and recalled on demand. So, proper functioning of our brain for memory is important. Treating our brain properly is therefore a good strategy to improve our memory. This includes the fuel for our brains and the proper rest.
Secondly, we can change and improve our memory. Attitude makes a big difference in our memory capability.
So, along these lines of thought, below are some articles I found very informative and useful. To read the full article, please click on the link at the end of each excerpt. Also on the website that these articles came from, you can do a search for specific topics, like ďMemory Retention.Ē This kind of search will result in many articles that are related to ĎmemoryĒ or ďmemory retention.Ē The oneís listed here are just a sampling from this wonderful database:

Emotions Affect Memory Retention
NEW YORK, Feb 22 (Reuters Health) -- The emotional impact of a particular image or event appears to have a profound influence on its place in long-term memory, researchers conclude.
The amygdala -- a part of the brain that plays a role in emotion -- "is important in modulating memory for events according to their emotional importance, regardless of whether the nature of the emotion is pleasant or aversive," conclude Dr. Stephen Hamann and colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Their findings are published in the March issue of Nature Neuroscience...
http://www.personalmd.com/news/a1999022213.shtml

Testosterone Tied to Memory
Prostate cancer patients who were deprived of it forgot things faster than healthy men

THURSDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDayNews) -- Men who are given testosterone-deprivation treatment for prostate cancer forget things faster than healthy men, says a study by Oregon Health & Science University researchers.
The researchers found that word retention among men undergoing testosterone deprivation decreased rapidly only two minutes after they learned words, even though they were able to initially learn words as well as healthy men.
This rapid decline in memory suggests that the lack of testosterone impacts the function of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls learning and memory...
http://www.personalmd.com/news.jsp?nid=522002


Sleep Replenishes the Memory Bank
Studies find a good night's shut-eye revives verbal, motor skills

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDayNews) -- If you want to improve your recall, try getting more shut-eye at night.
Two studies appearing in the Oct. 9 issue of Nature found human memory improves after sleeping.
Each study looked at memory for different tasks -- one tested participants on motor skills and the other on speech memory -- but participants performed better after sleeping in both studies.
"A full night of sleep is critical to enhancing learning," says an author of one of the studies, Matthew Walker, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "It's almost as though at night an editor comes in while you're sleeping and reorganizes and enhances your memories to prepare them for the next day."... http://www.personalmd.com/news.jsp?nid=515450

Research confirms the virtues of 'sleeping on it'
Recent studies show that both slow-wave and REM sleep are important for consolidating learning and memory--and perhaps even for solving intractable problems.

Researchers have increasingly recognized, in recent years, that sleep serves many functions, including providing an opportunity for the body to rest, facilitating metabolic and endocrine function, and enabling "offline" memory processing...
...In the case of sleep's effect on learning and memory, for example, studies have produced conflicting results over the years, with some linking REM sleep, in particular, to improved memory, and others failing to find such effects. But recent investigations have yielded new insight into sleep's role in memory and learning. The research confirms what some sleep experts have long theorized: that sleep is critical for firming up the learning that took place during the day--a process known as memory consolidation...
http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct01/sleeponit.html


Brain Boosters
How to exercise your mind

(HealthDayNews) -- If you've been lamenting that your memory isn't what it used to be, take heart. Memory is a skill that can be sharpened and improved at any age, according to Connecticut College.
Give your brain a regular workout by:
http://www.personalmd.com/news.jsp?nid=518259

Want a Better Memory? Practice, Practice, Practice
Mnemonic techniques the tool of choice for memory masters

MONDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthScoutNews) -- Ever been envious of a friend who knows everyone's telephone number by heart? Or of your partner's ability to never forget a name?
Having an excellent memory may not be as elusive as you think.
People with superior memories don't have brains different from those less successful at remembering, a new study by British researchers has found. Rather, people renown for their memory have trained certain parts of their brain to store and retrieve information, a feat that others with less proficient memories have not yet mastered...
http://www.personalmd.com/news.jsp?nid=510793

Posted by carl1236 at 11:34 PM

November 7, 2004

Time together

What do Cycling, Mongolian food, Speaking German, Enya, Leonardo DaVinci, VocabuLearn, Monet, and Annie have in common? They were all part of my weekend getaway with my wife. The last couple of days have been refreshing and really romantic!
Friday after work I took off on my bicycle and rode 23 miles to meet my wife at a hotel. That was really strange not going home, but it added to the mood of the getaway. After I showered and changed, we went out to one of our favorite restaurants, Kahnís Mongolian Barbeque, in Bloomington. The food there is great and the service is also very good. Tip the cooks and they all stop what they are doing, bow and say, ďThank you, thank you!Ē My wife and I shared a pot of really flavorful orange, ginger and mint tea. And we ate, talked and enjoyed just being out together.
After dinner we did another one of our favorite activities together; going to a bookstore. We went to Borders Books and looked around for a while. As I was looking over the books I overheard some older ladies talking in german about some of the books on the table by me. I was just standing there and it dawned on me that I had just understood a conversation in another language. If you are a language learner you probably know that sensation. All of the women left except one who was still intent on looking at those books, so I struck up a conversation in german with her. She was thrilled that an American was speaking german with her and I found out that they were here visiting their daughterís friend who comes to stay with them in Germany frequently. After about ten minutes of talking, she excused herself to rejoin her company. I had a definite glow after that interaction. Communicating with someone in their native language is not the same as hearing it in our language. I think there are things are lost in the translation. I then walked around the store feeling great inside as I picked out some more reading material and other things.
As is our custom together, my wife and I pick out things to buy then go to the coffee shop and show each other what we found and enjoy hearing about them. I picked out an Enya CD with a few really nice songs on it. Though I didnít get a chance to listen to it before buying it, it turned out to be really good. I also found some new Korean language material for enhancing and supplementing my language learning. Then came Leonardo DaVinci. I found the Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci, Definitive Edition in one Volume, Edited by Edward MacCurdy. This is a fascinating book! Itís 1180 pages of insight into the life of Leonardo DaVinci. I had no idea what kind of a scholar he was not to mention his artwork.
We drank our coffee and talked, then it was time to go back to the hotel for the night. We tried the whirlpool but there was too much chlorine in it and it was burning our eyes just being in the room. Then soon enough, the day was over and we rested. In the morning we talked, laid around and enjoyed the continental breakfast. Our plans for the day were taking shape and it looked like it was going to be great!
Our first stop for Saturday was the Minneapolis Institute of Art. That place is always amazing to me. I can always find something that inspires me there. We looked around the first floor until we were tired and hungry and decided that we needed to eat some lunch. Their sign in the restaurant didnít specify what kind, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was handed a bowl of Tomato Basil soup. It was really flavorful, thick and creamy like my wife usually makes it. I loved it.
After lunch we determined that we had about two more hours to look around so we headed to the third floor. There they had an excellent photography display. They were all black and white photos, which I like anyway. Also on the third floor they have a few Rodin sculptures and a painting by Van Gogh and a few by Monet. I love seeing these paintings in person because you can see the texture and the actual brush strokes. And the colors are more vibrant in person.
After looking at the art, we stopped in the gift shop. They have an interesting gift shop, with some great art-related things. It was along those isles that a book jumped out at me. It was related to my earlier purchase so I bought it: Leonardo DaVinci on the Human Body, The most complete collection of the Anatomical, Physiological, and Embryological drawings Ė More than 1200 illustrations. This combined with his notebooks, provides me with a greater picture of who Leonardo DaVinci is. When it was time to go we went outside and realized what a beautiful day it was. It was nice walking hand in hand along the street talking about what we saw and liked in the museum. This is when we started to think about the end of our little vacation.
But there was one more event for the day. We went to a musical, Annie that was being put on by Woodbury High School. The acting and singing were very good and we were happy to see it. It was amazing. The auditorium was sold out and they are doing 12 performances! That seems like a lot more than when I was in high school. But it was quite an elaborate production. This version had about 94 parts in it, but several people played multiple parts. The play was good. We really enjoyed it.
As we were sitting there though, an odd sensation crept over me. I became aware of something. There were only a couple minorities in the cast. Then I looked around the auditorium and I could only see two families that were not Caucasian. One was Asian, and another was African American. I think I became aware of this because both of my children went to school in St. Paul where Caucasian students actually numbered fewer than the other ethnic groups combined. I was used to seeing plays that were much more mixed. Here it was like looking at those black and white photos; there was a big contrast between this school and other schools Iíve seen. So during intermission I looked around more to see if I wasnít just making a big deal in my head over nothing. But I saw the same thing. 1 African American and one Asian Family, and one family that looked like they were Hispanic. The rest were Caucasian. There were about 500 people there I think.
Is that weird of me to think like this? To notice this? Then to drive this into my head deeper, I saw a big poster on the wall of the school cafeteria (which was right outside of the auditorium) that read, ďWoodbury High School Students Appreciate Diversity.Ē I pointed that out to my wife and she joked, ďYeah, the students appreciate diversity, they just havenít seen it.Ē I wondered then if people can really appreciate diversity without being diverse.
Today I went to work at the group home and it was a very nice day. I enjoyed talking to them and helping them. I took one of the guys out to Kmart for a little shopping and exercise. He was excited to go and was cooperative and in a good mood. So we had a good day!
After work tonight we had our discussion group meeting, which I had just found out was being held at Sawatdee! I was just there with my friend this week! To my great joy, I was able to say hello in proper Thai language! The food was absolutely fabulous. I had chicken in a curry paste and rice and we all shared a number of different appetizers. Our discussion for the evening was mostly focused on food from different nationalities and cultures. We discovered that we all love to try new things and most of us enjoy Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese food.
Now Iím here typing my blog. I know for sure my adventure is over for the weekend and tomorrow I go back to work. I have a quiz Tuesday night, and I have most of my words memorized. Tomorrow night Iím meeting with my language partner to practice more Korean. So itís back to being busy. haha. But itís ok, Iím recharged. Iím ready for it.
One thing I was reminded of from this whole experience is that relationships with other people require time together. Not just saying hello, good morning, good night, how was your day, etc, but also really connecting and spending time together. Many people call this ďQuality Time.Ē I know that in our marriage over the last 21 years, this is a proven necessity for our relationships with ourselves and others.

Now for a quote from the Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci:
ďMan has great power of speech, but the greater part thereof is empty and deceitful. The animals have little, but that little is useful and true; and better is a small and certain thing than a great falsehood.Ē

I do not know yet whether this quote applies to Woodbury High School diversity or not. But thatís what I thought of first when I read this. In fairness to the students of that school though, they did not create the level of diversity in their school by their own free will. They only receive the consequences of it.
Don't all relationships benefit from spending Quality Time together?

Posted by carl1236 at 11:09 PM

November 4, 2004

The way we complicate things

I live a very busy life. It wasnít always like this, but sometimes it gets like this when I over-commit myself. It creeps up on me. It seems that I am a person that will fill up any and all available time. I do like to be active.
So it starts like this. I work all day, sitting in front of a computer so I decided I need to exercise more. So I get into cycling and pretty soon Iím committed to cycling. Physical exercise is kind of addicting and the better shape I get into, the more miles I can handle and the more fun it gets. This leads to greater commitments in order to challenge myself. Thatís about 5 hours per week.
Then it continues to creep up on me. I start looking at a project to see if I can help someone edit their manuscript, and itís fun, so I commit to doing the whole book. I start by spending one half hour per day on it, but it ends up being a major rewrite and I end up spending many more hours than planned. I decide that I canít let the errors in the manuscript go and try harder to make it work. This adds about 5 hours per week to my schedule.
I start a class at the University at nights. Itís two nights per week, but the way the class is structured, itís a huge amount of work. It requires a lot of my free time to study and do homework. Thatís about 10 hours per week.
All of these are commitments I made, but it gets worse. So far, beyond my day job, I have added about 20 hours of work to my schedule. If I divide that between available evenings per week, thatís about 3 hours per night. Letís say I get home from work at about 6pm, that makes it 9:00pm before Iím done. That doesnít leave much time for other things, but there is a lot more.
All of these things are important to me, but there comes an overflowing point when I have too many things to do and not enough time. This is the way I complicate things. Then I have to start digging out of my commitment hole. To do so, Iíve had to cut back on some things to allow adequate time for others. Iíve also had to learn how to say no and how to schedule some things for another time. As much as I want to do some things, in the interests of maintaining a healthy balance in life, I just have to let some things go.
Itís really easy to over-commit and to fill up all of our available time. It all adds up. The difficult thing is to find that balance between work and rest. We do need both and we discover that finding balance is a recurring challenge in our lives.
Friday night and Saturday Iím taking a break from my normally busy schedule. You might catch me at the bookstore, going to a play and just laying around. :-)

Posted by carl1236 at 11:09 PM

November 3, 2004

Sa-wŗt dee

The Thai Language

http://www.into-asia.com/thai_language/

Sa-wŗt dee is the general all purpose greeting in Thailand, the English distinctions of "Good morning", "Good afternoon" etc.. do exist but are almost never used. It's also almost always followed by krŠp (for a man) or k‚ (for a woman) to be polite.

Today I ate with my friend in the Thai restaurant Sa-wŗt dee, downtown Saint Paul. It was very good. I enjoyed it. The soup was very good! I have never looked at the Thai Language before, and I was curious about the name of the restaurant so I searched the internet and found this great link. I think Sa-wŗt dee is a beautiful welcoming name for a restaurant. If I know what it means when I go there.
While we were there my friend struck up a conversation with the waitress in the Thai language. He is Hmong, but also speaks a little Thai. It was really nice, because she was really happy to speak with him and we all enjoyed talking about Thailand and where she was from. In the process we gained a new friend and enjoyed our food.
I think languages are a beautiful way to connect with other people also. Sometimes it just takes a friendly, all-purpose greeting.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:03 PM

November 2, 2004

Concession?

With Election coverage on TV, I'm a little distracted from writing tonight. I liked Patty Wetterlings concession speach. She is a good person.
I think it's good to keep life in perspective and remember that no matter what the result of this election, we need to have hope and keep working for the values we believe in. If our favored candidate is not elected, it doesn't mean we change our values and what we believe in. Keep hope. Keep what you believe in and keep working toward that.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:54 PM

November 1, 2004

For a Good Cause

Iíve seen this over and over and over: Those with good hearts are the same ones giving again and again. This is why we see the same people volunteering for the majority of work in our churches and organizations. Those with good hearts often the first ones involved and the last ones to leave. I believe itís because when they see a problem itís hard for them to ignore it, just as if an off-duty paramedic comes across an accident where someone is in need of critical care. Itís in the good personís heart to do so regardless of the personal cost. They do it just because itís the best thing to do at the time.
Today I find myself reflecting on the meaning of life again and why we are here. I know that all of our time here is limited. We age quickly and we leave these bodies. I know we cannot stop this process yet. In the mean-time, each person has to choose how to best live their brief moment of life in this body. Here are a few scenarios to think about:
1. We blow through life grabbing what we can, enjoying what we can, then losing it all to the ravages of old age and death. Then what are we left with? Maybe the knowledge that yes, we did make it through life and wore a nice Rolex, drove a fast car, and had the biggest house on the block. We remember that it was a darn good party while it lasted. But then our eyes are opened and we see all of the suffering that went on in the world and we missed an opportunity to do something. We passed right by the accident and didnít see the injured.
2. We each have been giving gifts, talents and resources in life and itís ours to choose what to do with. There is purpose to being here. We know itís a short life so our time is limited. We have to do what we can with what weíve been given before itís our time to go, which could be tomorrow. When the lights go off for the night we ask ourselves if today weíve done all that we could. This is a mindset and heart set on giving.
3. We are undecided. We come into life not knowing why we are here. We think we know, but then are confused and wandering. We get to the end of our lifetime and wonder where the time went and what we did with it.

I am happy to know at least one person who is here with a purpose. She is one of those that we see giving and volunteering over and over and over again. She is one who asks not what life can give her, but what she can contribute to life. Today she chose to give when she could have walked by. This is a person with a good heart. If no-one else sees her contribution to life, I do and I appreciate it.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:52 PM