Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Self-improvement Update

What has become of my three self-improvement goals, mentioned earlier this month, that of, running, pranayama, and plant identification?

The running program hasn't really happened, although I ran a few times a quarter mile to the store, and also on the way back from the recycle dumpster, but other than that, my only cardio has been from cycling at least ten miles, two or three times a week, and walking at least a mile every day. The allergies have been killing me. I must have sneezed 50 times today, the worst allergy day ever.

The pranayama, or any yoga for that matter, also hasn't happened. Just haven't felt up to it. I'm feeling really out of balance, sneezing all the time, feeling like shit.

Oh, but I'm still doing the pushups, though it's tapered off a bit, I still remind myself to do at least two or three sets every other day of five to ten pushups. I won't be satisfied until I have the strength to do 50 or more in one set. I know it's possible. Just as I know I have the ability to run 1.5 miles in ten minutes. I'm not there yet, far from it, in fact running 1.5 miles at all without stopping, is in itself still not something I'm able to do, but that's only because I haven't been putting the time into it. Haven't been feeling up to it. I know what I can do. Know when it is a mistake to push myself, know that when I'm feeling like this, it would probably kill me.

What I have been having success with is the plant identification. I've been spending a lot of time with that, checked out a couple of southwest plant identification field guides, and bookmarked several websites devoted to the matter, learning about desert trees, shrubs, cacti, weeds, and flowers. I haven't made a whole day of it yet, but it's been something I've been focusing intensely on for over a month now, looking through my guidebooks, paying attention to the plants around me a little at a time, and today I finally, as in what the hell took me so long?, identified the tree next to my patio, the one that had been damaged on new year's day by a winter storm. I had misidentified it before, going by someone else's opinion of what it was, which turned out to be wrong.

Well, I identified it conclusively, and it is what is called a Gooding's Willow, also known as Western Black Willow, native to the Southwest, found only in some parts of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, a tiny section of Colorado, and all over Arizona. Like most, maybe all?, willow trees, the inner bark is edible, used as a pain reliever, and is the source for the discovery of the active ingredient in aspirin. It's known as a riparian tree, which means it usually grows near rivers, and is found at an elevation between 2000 and 8000 feet. Its flowers are also a major allergen, could it be why I'm sneezing all the time? Not sure, but I think it's probably a variety of causes.

For some reason I was having a hard time remembering its name of Gooding's Willow, but I've developed a mnemonic device, that of associating the tree with the actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Seems to have done the trick.

I'm thinking I'm going to photograph all the plants I identify, and even though that information is already out there, and I probably wouldn't be contributing anything new to it, for my own purposes, that of helping me retain what I learn, I think I'm going to create a blog to document my plant identification education. Taking photos of the plants, and copying most of the scientific information about it from the guidebook.

The whole point is to get out there, learn these things, and keep a record of it. I'll put a link up eventually. The blog doesn't even exist yet. Though can't see it being of much interest to the readers of this blog, but if by chance there is a huge gap between posts, where it may be weeks before an update, it gives you something, let's you know something about what I've been up to, still having some kind of online presence. Also, feel free to lurk on my goodreads profile, for checking out some of the latest books I've read. I don't write reviews there, but it still might point you in the direction of some new reading material, and maybe you'll find something you like.

As much as I hate the hot summer's here, in a way I'm also looking forward to the monsoon season, looking forward to the rain, the lightning storms, and all the lush vegetation and exotic creatures that surface that time of year. Really eager to get outside and explore, and looking forward to documenting this project.

That's all for now.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Idea of Equality

A had a random insight about equality this evening. In remembering my past experiences debating the naysayers who are against equality, I realized that a good way of presenting the idea of equality, the liberal theory that all people are equal, is to use a family as an example.

Does a mother and father love one of their children more than the other? It is my assumption that it doesn't matter if one child is stronger or more intelligent or more gifted than the other, a parent loves them equally.

I'm not a parent, but I have parents, and I would say that, despite certain disagreements I have with my parents, I would say that I love them equally. My dad has different skills than my mother. They are not the same. Far from it. But when it comes to my love for them, it doesn't matter if one is more skilled than the other in a certain area, it doesn't diminish the others worth to me. Even if they are not the same, if I were put in a position to risk my life to save them, I would without hesitation.

So equality is fundamentally about love. Without love there is no real equality. And where do you find love? Mostly among family. And if you do not feel a sense of kinship with your neighbors, if you do not see your fellow man, humankind, as family, it is probably very difficult to see beyond their flaws, to see their essential worth, to see their equality in love, as being not an enemy, as not a weakness, or liability, but as a friend.

That's probably the biggest problem with the theory of equality, that it is pretty much impossible to view someone you don't love, respect, or even like, as being your equal.

A lot of people like the "idea" of equality, but when they encounter someone acting like a total asshole, doing everything that they oppose, someone that you, in all honesty, neither like or feel any kinship for, how can you see them as your equal? Maybe it works on paper, but not in real life. 

Well anyway, for equality to be real, you must love everyone as family, and not just say it, but really feel it in your heart, but without that, you're living a lie, and equality is nothing but a word.

Friday, April 17, 2015

15 Mile Bike Ride

Been nearly a year since I've been to one of my favorite oasis's in the desert. The water had been retreating, the water tables have been low, due to over development of new subdivisions in the area, but it's slowly coming back. Though not too much wildlife this time, just a few ducks, two or three baby turtles, some small fish, a few lizards, and lot's of dragon flies. But the vibes were nice and peaceful, and temps were a comfortable 78 degrees and sunny. I spent about an hour and half here, and about an hour and twenty minutes riding my bike just under 15 miles round trip.

Most of the roads looked like this:

And when I arrived at the park, it looked like this:

This is the kind of scenery I like, water, any kind of water, a pond, a river, a lake, an ocean. I'm a water person all the way. In fact, I took this online trivia survey about what state you should live in, and based on my answers I got Hawaii. Now I actually don't want to move to Hawaii, although, if a good opportunity came up, I may be inclined to change my mind, but actually, I see it like this: I'd like to live somewhere that has some of the features of a place like Hawaii, but not Hawaii. Hawaii is too isolated for me.

Anyway, I love water, and it benefits me to surround myself by it as much as possible, because it makes me feel so much better. It's like my favorite place to meditate, where I feel most at peace.

More pictures:

Like a scene out of a Monet painting, if you look closely you'll see a turtle:

I find this picture very peaceful, in a zen sort of way:

Ducks floating serenely on the pond, and if you look closely you may see some fish:

Getting ready to leave:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Free Will Freak Show

I shouldn't lurk on Facebook, finding out things about people from my past that I wouldn't know otherwise. I don't even have a Facebook page, and refuse to get one, but some of my family members are on there, and some of my family members attended the same high school as I did, and so via their friends list, I've found people I used to know, friends, classmates, teachers, neighbors, acquaintances, and coworkers from my hometown.

I shouldn't lurk, I've found out things about people I don't want to know. And once you know it, you can't un-know it. It's with you always. Sometimes I just want to pull the plug. No more Facebook. No more blogs. I enjoy writing, so I can't entirely pull the plug from this blog, not yet, but in some ways lurking seems a bit unhealthy. You find out things sometimes that don't really concern you, that you have no business knowing. It's like, you get to know people without really knowing them, and then maybe you make judgements about them behind their back. Well, whatever, don't feel bad lurkers, without you, hardly anyone would be reading my blog, and then maybe I would be less inclined to write.

Anyway, while lurking on Facebook, the big shock of the day is that my old high school homeroom teacher, the one who has a PhD in physics, one of my favorite teachers in high school, has become a woman. Okay, I don't know if he actually had the surgery, but he's been dressing as a woman now for a few months, and when I say woman, I mean in an over the top "Tootsie" sort of way, with padded bra, wig, skirt and blouse, high heeled shoes, lipstick, goes by another female name, and has also been attending gay pride rally's and posting the pictures on Facebook. Okay, this person is pushing 70, was married to a woman, has adult children, and as far as I know wasn't gay at the time that I knew him.

Not that I have a problem with it, I mean a person can dress however they want, even if they want to walk around wearing a gorilla suit, and play out that role, doesn't really effect me in any way. I mean, I do find it strange, but I can accept it, and am not going to stand in their way, but in my own personal opinion I would say that I am opposed to gender reassignment surgery, think it is a crazy thing to do, because regardless of what a person looks like on the outside or feels like on the inside, a man who thinks they should have been born a woman, a woman who thinks they should have been born a man, and undergoes a sex change operation, physiologically speaking, they will always be the sex they were born; no amount of genital modification is going to change that, and it is foolish to think otherwise.

What's next, racial modification surgery? White people who wish to be black. Chinese people who wish to become Scandinavian? A black man, who believes he is a blond haired, blue eyed Swedish woman trapped inside? I mean really, what's to stop it from going there? Absolutely nothing. It's crazy.

Like I said, I'm not going to stand in a person's way from doing that. I'm not going to discriminate against them or be mean to them, or reject their friendship because of it, but it is just my personal belief that when it comes to matters of biology, people should just accept themselves for who they are, and not try to artificially change their body into something it was never meant to be. Which means, so what if you are a feminine man or a masculine woman; a man wants to dress like a woman, or a woman wants to dress like a man, fine, but thinking that changing your genitals is really going to change you into the other sex, when that change is only cosmetic, is insane.

Plus there's health problems associated with it, with the medication they take, for men to grow breasts, and women to grow beards. Because the surgery itself is not enough. These people have to be on medication for life, otherwise they'll start reverting back to looking like their old selves. And when that happens, the jig is up, they find themselves faced with the very unpleasant reality that their body has been irreversibly butchered. Maybe things can be put back to some extent, but there will always be scars, they'll never be the same, it's like a tattoo that can never be removed. I haven't researched the matter, but I wonder if there has ever been anyone whose had a sex change operation who regretted it, who wanted to go back. Wonder how that worked out for them.

Well, don't know if my teacher actually had the operation, or if he's just a cross dresser, but let's just say it was one of the biggest shocks. Never saw that one coming. Never. I mean, never in a million years. I wonder if he would think I am narrow minded for my opinion of sex change operations? Well, anyway, regardless of that, regardless of opinions, or issues of morality, I think the health concerns speak for themselves, of why it's not a good idea. But, just as a person is free to smoke cigarettes, a man is free to become a woman, even if it kills em. And that's just the way it is.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cosmic Trigger

Just finished two books by Robert Anton Wilson which I had been eagerly wanting to read for years, Prometheus Rising and Cosmic Trigger.

I was really excited about these books, more excited then I had been to read a book in a long while. These are what you would call cult classics, counter cultural, subversive material, which I had been eagerly anticipating having the opportunity to read for years. Well, unfortunately, once again, it turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. They aren't bad, nor are they great, though I'm sure as the thousands of book reviews out there suggest, there are many who would disagree. Overall, I would say that some of it was beneficial, but mostly not.

The thing is about these books, much like William S. Burroughs, they're really trippy, reading them alters your perception somewhat, like being mildly high, where there is some uncertainty in your mind whether this person is a genius or insane. But overall, much like Burroughs, I found it all to be just a bit too unfocused, jumps around a lot, explores some interesting ideas, but doesn't really get very deep into any of it. It's more like a bunch of magazine articles, or the old web zines, randomly pieced together into a book. I found the stuff about telepathic communication with extraterrestrials, particularly the Sirius connection, fascinating, and will probably read up more about it, checking out The Sirius Mystery by Robert Temple. Apparently there have been many scientists who have had this experience, notably Nikola Tesla, and whether they were mentally ill I don't know, but it's worth investigating and maybe putting together a list.

I may investigate reading some of Timothy Leary's stuff, too, particularly his Eight Neurological Circuits theory, my mom owns a few of his books, and would probably loan them to me, but I'm not really a fan of using hallucinogenic drugs, something that Leary advocated as a means of opening the higher circuits, have no plans of ever using LSD again, if in fact that is what I actually used, because unbeknownst to me at the time, which was about twenty years ago, much of the underground LSD sold as such wasn't/isn't actually LSD, but a hodgepodge of different poisons. You just have no idea what you're getting, could be speed, could be rat poison, could be anything. Unless you know for sure what you are getting, you should probably stay away from it. Or stick to plant based substances, something that you could grow yourself, marijuana is probably your safest bet. I'm not a drug user, by the way, but just saying for your information.

Okay, there's eight circuits of consciousness, but most people are only operating on levels one and two, which are associated with the reptilian brain and the mammalian brain. The first circuit is also called the oral stage, has to do with basic survival. The second circuit is the anal stage, it has to do with issues of power and territory. The third stage could be called the human brain, and is associated with language and reason.

Anyway, here's a quote from Cosmic Trigger that I liked, which gives further insight into the symbolic meaning of the Tarot and the four suits of the ordinary playing cards. (See my post: Playing Cards Astrology). It's in reference to a person exploring the outer reaches of inner space, either through drugs, or shamanic trance, or basically anything that triggers what you would call an out-of-body experience:

"If you go into that realm without the sword of reason, you will lose your mind, but at the same time, if you only take the sword of reason without the cup of sympathy, you will lose your heart. Even more remarkably, if you approach without the wand of intuition, you can stand at the door for decades never realizing you have arrived."
And he also mentions not to forget to bring "the pentacle of valor", for courage.

So you've got the pentacles of tarot, and the diamonds of the playing cards, associated with valor. The swords of tarot, and the spades of playing cards, associated with reason. The cups of tarot, and the hearts of playing cards, associated with feelings. The wands of tarot, and the clubs of playing cards, associated with intuition. All are needed, valor, reason, feeling, and intuition, to be integrated as a whole. Hey, it's kind of like the Wizard of Oz. You've got the lion, associated with courage, the tin man, the heart, the scarecrow, reason, and Dorothy, intuition.

Anyway, these two books have a lot of interesting ideas in them, though at the same time, are kind of difficult to read because much of it comes out like the author was tripping on acid while he wrote them. But if you want to read something that stimulates weird nonconformist thinking, that is, thinking in ways that may have never occurred to you without having used psychedelic drugs, or if you are simply a fan of science fiction, conspiracy theory, and the occult, these books are probably for you.

Three Self-improvement Goals

Ask a landscaper to name a tree they're trimming. What kind of tree is that? I don't know. Look at that plant, what is it called? I don't know.

That's a bad sign. I've got nothing against the landscaping profession, but I'm annoyed at the ignorant fools routinely employed at landscaping companies in this city. I don't get this war against the weeds. What is wrong with weeds? Apparently in Arizona, it's a fire hazard. Is it really? No alternatives to poison? No natural removal ideas? Funny not a single story on the local or national mainstream television news about Roundup causing cancer.

Before World War II, most of what we know of as weeds were known as wild edibles, medicinal plants, or wildflowers. Yeah, not saying all wild plants are desirable, but a perfect example of the manufactured disinformation campaign created by the pesticide companies is the war against dandelions.

What's wrong with dandelions? Somehow people have been convinced (brainwashed) that they are an ugly blight on the landscape that must be eradicated. But they actually have nutritional and medicinal value, and their also pretty, like baby sunflowers. I just don't get it. They see weeds, I see beautiful wildflowers. It's like the southern Arizona look is going more and more for that barren nuclear missile test site look. You know, where there's nothing but barren rocks and sand, no greenery, no color.

The pesticide companies spent a lot of money convincing people that weeds are the enemy, so as to sell their weed killer products, big money there, which has also been found to kill animals and people, some studies suggest that it causes cancer. Monsanto claims it doesn't, but I'm willing to bet big that something intended to kill, its sole purpose being death and destruction, probably does kill more than the weeds. The weed killers and pesticide companies share much in common with the military defense contractors. They make a living off of death and destruction, the end of war would put them out of business. I live in this military town, where the Air Force and the Raytheon missile makers are the life blood of the city. If war stopped, it would put a lot of people out of work. Trillions of dollars are at stake. It's not going to stop.

I've been under a great deal of stress. I think and feel too much. I'm also not inclined to servitude. Being a robot whore doesn't much appeal to me. So we won't talk about money or jobs, we'll talk about self-improvement. Some self-improvement goals I have for myself. 

My new goals for myself for 2015 are as follows:

1. Master pranayama.

Learn to breath, sitting still in meditation, in a way that relaxes me and improves my thinking.

2. Run.

I need to run. Sinus problems, being hungover, being too hot, whatever, has caused me to delay this goal for too long. This year I will run three miles. Not once. Not twice. But regularly.

3. Plant identification. I need to learn to identify every tree and plant and insect and animal of the Sonoran Desert by sight, knowing not only its name, but everything known about it. I've attempted this before, but I need to get back to it.

There's more, but we'll start with these three.