Monthly Archives: February 2009

Camera advice

So, I’m looking to get a new digital SLR camera (unless someone has one they want to give/sell me… would love to pick up a used Rebel or something if you’ve bought a more recent version…) I want something pretty light, easy to use, not a lot of features but fast, and not too terribly expensive….

Suggestions/advice/comments/ideas, anyone??

Speech (repost from 2004)

speech

“Great minds discuss ideas,
Average minds discuss events,
Small minds discuss people.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

“No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.” — Bertrand Russell

“It is just as cowardly to judge an absent person as it is wicked to strike a defenseless one. Only the ignorant and narrow-minded gossip, for they speak of persons instead of things.” — Lawrence G. Lovasik

“The only gossip I’m interested in is things from the Weekly World News – ‘Woman’s bra bursts, 11 injured’. That kind of thing.”
— Johnny Depp

The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business. ~Wendell Phillips

It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people’s business. ~Dolley Madison

There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly becomes any of us
To talk about the rest of us.
~Edward Wallis Hoch

If an American was condemned to confine his activity to his own affairs, he would be robbed of one half of his existence. ~Alexis de Tocqueville

Yen. Speech, words.

Without speech and words, there would be little communication and learning.

In ancient times, people so revered words and paper that they tried never to throw them away. When they could no longer write on a piece of paper, they carefully gathered it up and burned it reverently, so that the words and the paper could be recycled into the great process of life. There were even people who patrolled the streets to pick up the paper and take it to be recycled or burned in honored places. Such was the respect people had for words.

Before the ancients spoke, they stopped to consider what they were about to say. They washed their mouths with clean water, they inhaled the air of Tao, they paused once more for contemplation. For them, words were sacred, the hard-won repositories of knowledge. They were not to be devalued by gossip or thoughtlessness.

It is natural, then, that we learn neither to waste words, nor to use them with malicious intent. If we want to be pure of spirit, we must be pure of speech. If we acquire the habit of always meaning what we say, then we have the possibility of being pure not just in speech but in character as well.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I try to mean what I say more of the time. Sometimes, I say what people want to hear, because they need to hear it to feel reassured. For things that really matter, though, my words matter a lot to me.

I’ve come to really be annoyed by gossip. I had a good friendship pretty much destroyed by her gossiping behind my back, and my confronting her about it. I was very sad to lose her friendship but maybe it’s better not to be around that kind of destructive speech. I didn’t really want to know the things she told me about other people when she was my friend, but never told her she shouldn’t do it. But by not confronting her earlier when were still good friends, I think it cost me in the long run, and her as well. She’s probably still a big gossip.

Idle chatter often bothers me as well. The need some people have to constantly be on their cell phones, talking about nothing of any importance, can be annoying. Especially when they drive stupidly because of it or bother other customers in restaurants or other public areas. Even at parties, I tend to gravitate to the people who are actually discussing something interesting or important, rather than those just chit chatting to fill the time or hear themselves talk. We had a party at our house last night, and since we know so many professional smart people, the conversations were lively and interesting. Those are the great parties to be at.

Mostly these days, I am silent a lot of the time, just listening to what goes on around me. I tend to be very aware of my surroundings, and now try to get in tune with the people I come into contact with as well. I can usually know someone’s mood and feelings within a couple of seconds, even without their words. Then I try to listen closely to what they have to say. Once in a while you run into someone who has a lot to say with only a few words. Those are the fascinating people to meet, and a treasure to find.

Bring Everything With You

Bring everything with you —
Leave nothing behind.
All that baggage, those things
You are afraid of, and afraid for.
All the tears of the past, all the laughter,
All the things that make you who you are.

What good is an empty spirituality,
One that only wants only the best of you
That tells you those other things are sins?
That tells you heaven
Is a place that only comes after death.
That peace cannot be found here and now?

What good a religion that makes you forget things
You don’t want to remember,
That have scarred you and left you on the ground.
Things you’ve poisoned your own well with
Things you’ve thrown at others,
The ones you’ve walked away from?

This Tao, it takes in everything
It cares not what you think
Or who you love or hate
Or how much you deny
All those secret places inside of you.
The places nobody can know.

How can anyone explain how great it is,
How insignificant,
How high it rises, how far it falls.
Why do we follow Tao?
Because it accepts it all —
All the secrets, all the mysteries,

All the things we hide from the world.
We can bring them all here.
And Tao takes them in,
Uses what is useful
Loves more what is most useless.
Loves everything we hate and fear.

It all comes in and Tao takes it all.
What do we walk away with?
Peace, joy, love, happiness.
Because all that baggage,
All those cares, all those pains
Are dropped into the void.

They are recycled and reused.
To become someone else’s burden,
Or no burden at all.
We have paid our price
We have carried our share.
And we leave it all here.

We take back the light.
Return is the way of the Tao.
So we return from the void
With an empty heart,
An open mind,
A new way of being in the world.

Flowing like water
Spreading Life everywhere
Not asking for anything back
Not holding anything back
It all pours out and finds a way though
A way around and forward to the sea.

Bring everything with you
Leave it all behind and walk away renewed.
Isn’t that what we all want
from our religions
From our friends and our lives…
But who dares to walk the path to the void?

Risk

risk_700

“What we see as risk and foolhardiness on the outside can seem more like a constant cohesive drive on the inside that holds to priorities that cannot be discerned by others because they reside in a far too private chamber of personal experience to be shared easily. To dare everything is not necessarily to travel off, but often the opposite, to have faith in a foundation you have discovered in life and which, though it is difficult to describe, even to yourself, you refuse to relinquish.” — David Whyte, The Three Marriaages

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
— T.S. Eliot

“Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.” — Vaclav Havel

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” — E. E. Cummings

“There are no little events in life, those we think of no consequence may be full of fate, and it is at our own risk if we neglect the acquaintances and opportunities that seem to be casually offered, and of small importance.” — Amelia E. Barr

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

“One of the reasons mature people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.”
— John W. Gardner

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin

“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” — Annie Dillard

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” — Pablo Picasso

“What leaders have to remember is that somewhere under the somnolent surface is the creature that builds civilizations, the dreamer of dreams, the risk taker. And remembering that, the leader must reach down to the springs that never dry up, the ever-fresh springs of the human spirit.”
— John W. Gardner

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” — G.K. Chesterton

After 25 years of marriage, I certainly know that it’s much more risky to stay in a relationship at times than to walk away from it. There have been days it would be far easier simply to travel off somewhere by myself. I often don’t know what holds me here, what it is that this foundation is that I believe in so strongly that I’m willing to risk so much for it. And yet, even though I certainly do refuse to relinquish it, I still have my dreams of simply traveling off, and even have acted out on that urge at times.

The largest risk of all seems to be in our relationship to ourselves, in truly trusting ourselves to know what it is we want most deeply and to go after it. Sometimes that is another person, sometimes it is to pursue what it is you see most deeply in that person and to try to get them to acknowledge it, even at the risk of destroying the friendship, of burning the bridges that connect you to them. It’s when I’ve taken those risks that I’ve been most badly hurt, and yet, somehow, the most proud of myself for taking the risk to give them even that brief glimpse so deeply inside themselves. No one ever appreciates it, or at least if they do, they don’t tell me. I never know if that is just my imagined justification for what I’ve done, or if there is some reality to it. It was just a glimpse in their eyes, the last look they gave me, the one that said somehow “I see what you see”, whether the thank you was also there, or just the blank stare that sadly implied they would never be that person I saw, that they would never do the great things I saw them capable of doing.

I hope I never see myself in the mirror, giving myself that look. I hope I know myself well enough, and listen to what I want well enough, to follow through and take the risks that will never make that look necessary in my own eyes.

Deliberate Flaws

45. CHANGES
In retrospect, even those accomplishments
which seemed perfect when accomplished,
may seem imperfect and ill formed,
but this does not mean that such accomplishments
have outlived their usefulness.
That which once seemed full,
may later empty seem,
yet still be unexhausted.
That which once seemed straight
may seem twisted when seen once more;
intelligence can seem stupid,
and eloquence seem awkward;
movement may overcome the cold,
and stillness, heat,
but stillness in movement
is the way of the Tao.

Trying to make your work perfect is a sure way to drive yourself crazy. Part of my initial attraction to computers and programming was it played to my perfectionistic bent, but I quickly learned that total perfection was an impossible goal, and the way to success was to anticipate and plan for failures, to deliberately build your program to handle the flaws in the data that was entered.

Our financial system today failed to plan for failure. Our economy as a whole fails to plan for failure. We leave people without a system of support when things go wrong. Our entire health care system is built around failure. We try to heal sick people instead of trying to keep people well and strong. We look for symptoms instead of systemic wholeness, and treat weaknesses instead of strengths. We focus on what people cannot do instead of on what they can do. We look at ourselves, and see our flaws, but don’t realize that they are deliberate, that we focus on how they make us weak instead of the ways they can make us stronger. We indulge our weaknesses, rather than nurturing our growing strengths.

We shouldn’t be propping up the old system that is failing, dying. We should be looking around for ways to encourage new things to grow. Not perfect new things, but ones that can be strong enough to overcome their flaws.

Higher Ground

I know the truth
But I can’t say
And I have to turn my head
And look the other way

I’m not afraid
And I won’t lie
As long as I see no wrong
I won’t need to testify

I see the world
And I’m looking
from a high place
Way above it all
Standing on higher ground

I breathe the air
While they’re running
in a rat race
Way above it all
Standing on higher ground

I feel the blow
But I don’t speak
And I have to close my eyes
Pretending I’m asleep

Well I see the tears
But I don’t cry
As long as I do no wrong
I don’t need an alibi

I see the world
And I’m looking
from a high place
Way above it all
Standing on higher ground

I breathe the air
While they’re running
in a rat race
Way above it all
Standing on higher ground

Standing on Higher Ground
Alan Parsons Project

All (repost from 2004)

Jin. All, exhausted, completely, entirely, end. At the bottom of the symbol for all is an elevated dish or vessel. Above it, a hand is shown with a lid to the vessel. Nothing more is to be put in, so the task is complete and at an end.

Always complete your actions.

When you do something, don’t hold back. Shoot it all, go for it all. Don’t wait for “a better time,” because the better times are built on what you do today. Don’t be selfish with your skills, because the skills of tomorrow are built upon the performances of today.

It’s so tempting to say, “I’ll keep it for myself and build it up to something really big later.” Only later never comes. By waiting too long, the end catches up with you. You willl then be covered like the lid in Jin, ans you will never have had a chance to act.

To be with Tao is to live a creative life. To live a creative life always means that you express who you are. And expression is never helped by suppression. Expression always benefits from coming out. Then more inspiration will come from that source.

When you act, act completely. Follow through. Do everything that has to be done. Be like the fire that burns completely clean: only from that pure stage can you then take the next step.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

One of the things that bothers me the most about my husband is he rarely finishes things. He will do about 90% of the task, then leave the rest. Tihs is far better than when I used to call him “Mr. 80 percent” though. (I was a meaner person then). A lot of the time it is not finishing up or cleaning up or putting tools away. The reason it bothers me is because it is one of the things that bothers me most in myself, of course. I remember to finish fully when I’m aware of it, but when I’m tired or not feeling well I tend to just leave things undone.

My dad always talked about what he would do when he retired — build a workshop and do woodworking and such. Except he never got to retire, he died of cancer before ever getting the chance. My mom used to talk about selling the house and living in a small apartment, maybe in Hawaii, but never did. She passed away in the same house, leaving me all the mess of the house and her papers and finances to clean up, and matters unsettled for my disabled sister and nephew. It’s been a year now and I’m still dealing with this mess of her estate. I’ve pretty much vowed not to do this to my own children.

I think it is hard for people to fully finish things or give their all to a task because they figure there will always be time to do things later. “Never enough time to do it right, always time to do it later” seems to be our motto. No wonder we admire fine craftsmanship so much — as long as others do the hard work.

I see this a lot right now in our disposable culture — people get something cheap because if it doesn’t work or breaks, they can always get another one. There isn’t the appreciation of fine work anymore. I recently spent my time to repaint several plastic chairs (yes, you can get paint for plastic) rather than buy new ones, because I wanted a certain color and I wanted to save the faded, scratched chairs. It would have been easy to just buy new chairs, but they wouldn’t have been the color I wanted and it would have been wasteful.

We value stuff over time, then complain because we spend all our time working to get cheap stuff we don’t even appreciate or enjoy. It seems crazy, but that is what Americans value. And then don’t understand when someone doesn’t want to buy into this culture, doesn’t want the bigger house or fancier car, but perhaps a smaller, more personal house and older car. People admire my garden, but don’t want to take the time to create one of their own. Little do they know it hardly takes any time at all, because they simply don’t want to find out. They don’t want to invest in learning what plants work well in their area and then plant those that take little maintenance, They would rather get what looks pretty now, and then complain about maintaining it later.

I spend a lot of time to do the things I do. It’s just that I look at that time as an investment, to make time for myself later to do other things. Not when I retire, or when I’m older, but when I want to do something else. Or, as W. S. Gilbert said, and the quote on my board here reminds me, “I do nothing in particular, but I do it very well!”

Genius

Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. –Plato

To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” – C.S. Lewis

I used to say to my auntie, ‘You throw my fu*kin’ poetry out, and you’ll regret it when I’m famous,’ and she threw the bast*rd stuff out. I never forgave her for not treating me like a fu*kin’ genius or whatever I was when I was a child. — John Lennon

I have never encountered any children in any group who are not geniuses. There is no mystery on how to teach them. The first thing you do is treat them like human beings and the second thing you do is love them.– Dr. Asa Hilliard

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm. — Thomas Huxley

Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man’s physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed. — Charles Baudelaire

All of us, you, your children, your neighbors and their children are everyday geniuses, even though the fact is unnoticed and unremembered by everyone. That’s probably because school hasn’t encouraged us to notice what’s hidden inside us waiting for the right environment to express itself. — Peter Kline

If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. — Isaac Newton

Genius is, to be sure, not a matter of arbitrariness, but rather of freedom, just as wit, love, and faith, which once shall become arts and disciplines. We should demand genius from everybody, without, however, expecting it. — Friedrich Schlegel

True genius sees with the eyes of a child and thinks with the brain of a genius.
— Puzant Kevork Thomajan

The great man is he who does not lose his child’s-heart. — Mencius

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. — Pablo Picasso

The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius. — Rebecca Pepper Sinkler

Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence. — Norman Podhoretz

“What is genius?- It is the power to be a boy again at will” — James Matthew Barrie

“A boy has a natural genius for combining business with pleasure” — Charles Dudley Warner

Perhaps what we sometimes call “genius” is simply a refusal to altogether let go of childhood imagination.
— Michael Cibenko

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. — Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth – boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either – not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination. — Robert Fulghum

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.