my life

what would Spock do?

Somewhere in my parents' house is an old elementary school photo of me in a Spock shirt. I don't mean a t-shirt with a picture of Mr. Spock on it (I've got one of those now), I mean a dark blue tunic with a black collar and a silver patch in the shape of the swooshy stylized rocketship of the Enterprise (later, Star Fleet) logo, with the Science department symbol (an oval inside a circle, that always looks like a basketball to me).

When I was in high school, my physics teacher dubbed me with the nickname "Spock".

Clearly, as you can tell by the beard, I grew up to be the Evil Spock; nevertheless, this article at io9, "How You Can Live Like A Vulcan Without Bleeding Green", is right up my alley.

Vulcans have something most made-up races can only dream of: a central contradiction that's ultra-compelling. They're overflowing cauldrons of passion, who have mastered their emotions to such a high degree they appear almost robotic. No matter how pissed off or freaked out you might ever get, you can't be as hot-blooded as a Vulcan. And you'll have to work pretty hard to be half as cool.

Vulcans have a philosophy, a way of life, and a spiritual discipline. And they get things done. Best of all, you don't really need alien physiology and fancy powers to embrace the Vulcan way of life.

...

So here are ten ways you can live like a Vulcan, starting today.

Their advice is pretty good, including items such as: wish other people long life and prosperity, celebrate diversity, become a vegetarian (Spock was, as best I can recall, my only example when I stopped eating meat in the early 80s -- vegetarians were not yet everywhere!), and learn to meditate.

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still snow on the ground (I called it!)

Yes, there is still snow from Snowmageddon on the ground here in the Baltimore area: a pile behind a BWI parking garage has persisted since mid-February.

Shortly after the storm I predicted that there would still be a pile of snow somewhere in the area as late as April; so to my friends who thought I was crazy for that, ha! :-) But I wouldn't have guessed it would last through to Beltane.

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Che at the anti-war march

So Che Guevera is certainly a complex and controversial historical figure, and people's interpretation of his actions and legacy vary widely. But I have to wonder how many of the folks I saw at the anti-war march last Saturday carrying signs from the PSL bearing his face even gave a thought to the irony of carrying a picture of a guerrilla leader at an anti-war march?

(And I wonder how many people with Che's face on their t-shirt or bag are against the death penalty, while Guevera ordered the execution of dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of people, without any sort of due process.)

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"Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass"

This lab report from a frustrated physics major reminds me all too much of my own lab work, before I gave up on my foolish notions of attempting a double physics/CS degree and decided to just major in hacking. (I especially remember optics lab. My data disproved every principle of the field...)

Abstract: The exponential dependence of resistivity on temperature in germanium is found to be a great big lie. My careful theoretical modeling and painstaking experimentation reveal 1) that my equipment is crap, as are all the available texts on the subject and 2) that this whole exercise was a complete waste of my time.

...

Results

Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That's bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself over the course of two weeks. And this was not a leisurely two weeks, either; I busted my ass day and night in order to provide you with nothing but the best data possible. Now, let's look a bit more closely at this data, remembering that it is absolutely first-rate. Do you see the exponential dependence? I sure don't. I see a bunch of crap.

However, his conclusion that "I should've declared CS. I still wouldn't have any women, but at least I'd be rolling in cash." might have been true in the dot-com boom, but sadly not so much any more, with more and more software jobs being sent overseas.

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would you like to go to the prom?

So I just bought a tailcoat on eBay. Why? Because I'm going to the prom! The Nationwide Equality Prom, "Dress You Up In My Love," that is.

Constance McMillen just wanted to go to the prom with her girlfriend. Rather than let this happen, the big-minded folks at her Fulton, Mississippi school district canceled the prom.

So on April 2nd (the scheduled prom date), people all over the country are going to put on the ritz to show solidarity with Constance and other LGBT teens.

Wanna play along? You don't even need a date. Here's the Facebook page for this event, and you can watch for updates here on Tumblr.

And here's an eBay search for cheap tuxedo jackets, for those who prefer the yang clothing option. (I wouldn't even try to give advice or links to those looking for a prom gown!)

(Yes, tails are a little extra for a prom, perhaps, but I'll get more use of them as ridiculous regalia than I would an ordinary tux jacket.)

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the poetry of Alan Reese

Came out to the "Speak Your Piece" reading at New Age Dine and Dance tonight, to see Alan Reese do his poetry thing. Alan, a fine and formidable poet, was my middle school English teacher, and the man responsible for my introductions to Mark Twain, zazen, Howard the Duck, and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

A few years after I moved back to Baltimore, I was doing an open mic reading at the original Minas Gallery in Fells Point. They had a shelf of local poets, and I found a chapbook, Reports From Shadowland, written by some guy named Alan Reese. Huh, that's funny, I thought, I had a teacher named Alan Reese, ain't that a coincidence. Then I read the author bio, and saw he used to be a teacher in the Baltimore County school system...so I sent him a quick note and got back in touch, and we see each other around in the poetry scene from time to time. (He runs a small press these days, and I'm hoping to get some advice on the book from him.)

Hanging out now at the comedy hour that follows the poetry reading. It's interesting to try to figure out the structure of a comedy routine, the relationship between poetry/spoken word and comedy.

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Starwood at Wisteria July 6-12

At long last, the decision is in: after being (rudely, IMHO) booted out of its long-term home at the Brushwood Folklore Center, this year's Starwood Festival will be held at Wisteria in Pomeroy, Ohio, July 6-12.

That's pretty much due west of Baltimore, so hopefully should be warmer than Sherman, NY, where nighttime temperatures can drop into the 40s in July! It's about the same drive time, if Google Maps can be believed.

(I had a conflict in the that my karate school has a retreat scheduled that weekend, but I've learned that that event has already filled up. So it's looking good for me to be at Starwood.)

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on love, death, and pain

As I tweeted about a week ago, the first draft of the book is done. (Except for checking one footnote, for which I await an amazon.com order...and given the snow I don't expect a mail delivery until next week!)

A few weeks ago, Elissa asked me if I had done any writing about Piccolo's passing, and I told her I planned to work something into the book. So here's that. Not including the copious appendix, these are the closing words, following on a discussion of life and death and reincarnation and anatman:

It’s now January 2010, a few years after the trip to Japan that started this book. As I have been concluding work on it in the past few months, death has come and paid me a visit, taking the two dogs who were my close companions for over twelve years.

People are much more forthcoming with questions and advice when you lose a dog than when you lose a parent or a spouse or a child. And so friends have been asking me, “Will you get another dog?” (Compare the questions “Will you marry again?” or “Will you have another child?”, which we often wonder about but seldom ask the bereaved spouse or parent.) Many have suggested that I do so – some even to the point of implying that grief is something to avoid, that I should fill the void as soon as possible.

Another advisor, though, pointed out that taking another dog into my life will just have me back in this same place of grief some years down the road. And this is true – but it is also true for any relationship. Every connection we make eventually ends with us saying good-bye, from one side of the grave or the other.

The only way to avoid that grief would be to never love – an even greater tragedy. I am reminded of an aphorism attributed to author John A. Shedd: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Just so, a heart that never loves is safe from the pangs of grief; but that’s not what hearts are for.

And so the death of a loved one (two-footed or four-footed) is a reminder of the grief that is common to us all, a call to tenderness, a call to open the heart and let the whole Cosmos in.
As I knew that my second dog, Piccolo, was in failing health and likely to pass on soon, I wrote this prose poem:

The snow is gone. Where did it go to? There were billions of snowflakes, in my backyard, each perfectly detailed, dazzling faceted. Now they have gone, and my yard is mud.

Did they go to snowflake heaven? Did they reincarnate as packed powder on some ski slope?

Each snowflake was a nexus of conditions, of water and temperatures and altitudes of clouds. Each snowflake was a mass of Arctic air, plus an ocean breeze, plus a low pressure system. Each snowflake contained the cycle of seasons, the tilt of the Earth's axis, the deep ocean currents that make the climate, the Milankovitch cycles that make the Ice Ages. And more: the formation of the Earth itself, the Sun, the element of oxygen born in a dying star, the hydrogen that condensed out of the Big Bang, the whole universe in each snowflake.

And then those elements move apart, no longer overlap and the snowflake cannot be seen. But it is not gone, because the seasons, the Earth, the Sun, the Universe, remain.

And what is true for a snowflake, is no less true for a dog or a human. We are the snow that appears when conditions are just so, and then melts and goes into the soil, and is taken up by trees and grasses, and rises to become the cloud skittering across the sky, and then falls to become the stream and the ocean and the puddle, part of other sets of conditions, each glorious and beautiful. We melt into the world, and our oneness with it – which never went away – is again revealed.

And this oneness is also revealed when we open our hearts, remove the boundaries, and let death remind us of our own tender Buddha nature.

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"we are playing games"

we are playing games

across the miles, Scrabble on the computer
building on each others words
a sort of improv two-author poem

in person, chess
we sit over her board, hand-carved wooded pieces
we both play slowly, carefully
considering each move

but as I steal glances at her
I am considering another game

where I win if I keep the spark of a possibility alive
in a space and time where circumstances aren't right for the fire

and no guarantee they ever will be

but with every single beat
every strand of muscle on the left side of my heart
the stronger side
says "love her...love her...love her"

but the right side
connecting to the lungs, to the breath, to the moment
whispers, regretfully, "not now...not now...not now"

so I try to wind between the tight boundaries
of too much said, and too little
how much can I say without saying?
a look, a smile

we finish the game
this chess game at least
and time to go

an embrace
that
I want
to last forever...

but
"not now...not now...not now"
and so I say farewell
and, with both sides of my heart, drive off into the night

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