Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Kingdom

I finally got around to watching "The Kingdom" last night.

That is one very incredible movie.

This is the first movie in a very long time that had me on the edge of my seat. It was extremely suspenseful.

There was one scene that was particularly difficult for me to watch. But that's because long ago I was stupid enough to watch a video on the internet of terrorists doing for real what they were acting out in the movie.

But what really got me was the part at the very end which transformed it from a very good action flick into a "kick-me-in-the-teeth-with-the-truth" movie that brought me to tears.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kathryn Budig Interview

I like what she has to say quite a bit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


1st shift work Saturday MANDATORY!

He knocked lightly on the door of the manager’s office.

“Yes?” the manager said.

“I’m not going to be in on Saturday.”

“Why not?”

“I have plans.”

“Like what?”

“Like not being here.”

“It must be nice not having to worry about keeping a job.”

“It is, everyone should live this way.”

“So, what … are you ridiculously rich or something?”


“Then why work at all?”

“Because money is nice sometimes too.”

“But I thought you said you were rich?”

“I am. Not all riches are dollars.”


When I was growing up, it was said that the only thing to fear is fear itself.

But recently I have heard and read multiple comments stating that it is okay to be afraid, that it is healthy and normal.

I vehemently reject this idea.

It is not normal and healthy to be afraid.

While I was thinking about this subject, a recent experience came to memory.

When I was installing the wood stove in our house in Kansas I had to make multiple trips to the roof. I’ve never been fond of ladders, especially using them to get on and off roofs.

I had gone up and down several times that day, each time negotiating the gap between ladder and roof with much trepidation. It was taking me longer to get up and down the thing than the work I needed to do.

Finally at one point a lightbulb went on and I said “What am I doing?”

I realized that there was absolutely no point in being afraid. I realized that if I fell that there would be little I could do about it, it was either going to happen or not. And I realized that fretting about it might actually cause it to occur.

It felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. From that time on I scampered up and down that ladder like a squirrel.

And I have not been afraid of anything — and I really mean anything — since.

That is not to say that I have been inconsiderate of the consequences of my actions or of events surrounding me. But I am no longer afraid of anything that might happen. It will happen or not regardless of my emotional state. And should something bad ever occur, being afraid will certainly not help matters and could very well make them worse.

The Fisherman

One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.

About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman to the fisherman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”

The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?” “Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer. “And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling. The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!” “And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again. The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.

“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman. The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!” Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?” The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”

~author unknown


The past decade of my life has been dedicated, more or less, to the pursuit of the answer to one question: What do I want out of life, and how do I get it?

I believe I have a fairly good idea of what it is that I want. But I have been struggling with the second part of my question, how do I get it?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about balance between the various aspects of life. I have begun to suspect the answer to that troublesome part B lay in that direction.

I have swung between the extremes. Working so much I have no time for anything else, working so little I have no money for what I desire. And I've been thinking very hard about how to find my middle road.

Recently I received the February issue of Yoga Journal in the mail. In which is printed an article titled "Aim High," by Hillary Dowdle. The focus of the article is the yoga principles known as purusharthas.

The purusharthas divide all the aspects of life into four categories, which according to the article, "offer a yogic perspective on how to engage skillfully with the world."

The four categories, or "aims of life," are: dharma (duty), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (the pursuit of liberation).

At first I was a little unsure what I thought of the four aims, but I have come to think that they are a wise division of life. I had only been making two distinctions in life, I was treating dharma and artha as one and the same with kama and moksha.

I have yet to grasp all of what the extra divisions mean, but the breaking up of dharma and artha will have an impact in how I approach life.

The article in Yoga Journal was a well-timed breath of fresh air.


I was captivated last January when a commercial airline pilot managed to safely land an incapacitated jet in the Hudson river saving every single life on board. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger became an instant sensation. The news media was all over him. And he is very reluctant to use the label they've bestowed upon him ... hero.

I recently read his book, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters," in which he wrote about his experiences as a pilot, in particular the day he ended up in the river. He demurs from the title of hero saying heroes are the people who see a burning building and choose to risk their lives in order to save others. He says that he was just doing his job. But he fails to see that he made his choice when he sat down behind the controls of that aircraft and put the fate of more than 150 people in his hands.

The story of Captain Sully stirs strong emotions in me and many others. And it isn't hard to figure out why. We live in a world where we are constantly barraged by the news media. And the news media apparently thinks that the great majority of the news we need to know is bad news.

Wars, murder, crime, corruption, greed, accidents.

It is depressing.

We need good news. But good news doesn't sell as many papers. Good news doesn't pull in the viewers. Good news doesn't win pulitzers. At least, so the popular thinking goes.

And we need heroes. In these bleak times we need to hear about them. We need to know that there are still people out there doing extraordinary things for the benefit of others.

Captain Sully does not want to be known as a hero. What hero does? But I think we can find at least 150 folks that disagree with him.

Sizing a bike

If you only want to ride a bike every so often around the neighborhood, then by all means go out and buy any bike you like. My grandparents recently found an old three speed at a garage sale for me that cost $5. I love it ... for riding around the block.

But if you're going to be serious about your riding, or think there's even the slightest possibility you'll want to get serious. I have one piece of advice for you: Spend the money to buy a bike that fits you.

When I got serious about bicycling I went to the local bike store and explained what I wanted and they helped me pick a bike. But I made a mistake. When I tried the bike on for size, the only measurement that I knew to check was the height of the top tube.

And from what I understand that will get a reasonable fit for folks with average body proportions. The problem is that I do not have average proportions.

I am relatively tall, measuring in right at 6-feet. But I have short legs. The only reason I buy 30-inch inseam pants is because most stores do not carry shorter lengths in my waist size.

So what I ended up with was a bike that was the right size for my legs, in other words I wouldn't bust my balls if I slipped off the saddle; but did not fit my upper body at all.

Riding long distances on the thing was not as comfortable as it should have been. I was constantly playing with the handlebars trying to make for better posture for my back, but I never could find that Goldilocks "just right." And the front wheel would often hit my foot while making a turn.

I'm not really certain what this means as far as my next "serious bike" is concerned. I've talked with some more folks and it seems to be the consensus that I need a frame with a longer top tube, to give my upper body more space to spread out in.

So when you're out looking for a bike, please go to a real bike shop and ask all the questions you can think of. And get a bike that really fits you. It'll really make all the difference in the world.


I love bicycles.

I think that bicycles are a nearly perfect synthesis of human and machine. When I think of how to make our lives on this planet more ecologically sound, the bicycle is my mascot.

There exists no more efficient means to move people from one place to another than the bicycle.

I have to admit that I have not been riding my bike very much lately. That is due to the abnormal sub-freezing temperatures that we have been experiencing. Not that you can't ride a bike in cold, icy weather; I was car-free all last winter, I assure you that it is possible. Even pretty nice when you do it right.

But I'm currently living outside of town, and an 8-mile ride through snow on these back country roads is not something I'm willing to risk my life for at this point in time. Not to mention that my current ride needs a bit of work before it'll be running as smoothly as it should.

But as the weather warms up, you can expect to see more bicycle-related posts from me. And not just bicycles either, I'm a major fan of any human-powered tool.

How fundamentalism sabotaged my life

I recently picked up the book "I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing," by Kyria Abrahams, from the library.

It's a story about a girl growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, later to be "disfellowshipped." I'm not particularly interested in reading about JWs but a snippet from the cover jacket caught my eye ...
"... explores the ironic absurdity of growing up believing that nothing matters because everything's about to be destroyed."
And that resonated with me, because that's pretty much what I grew up believing.

I wasn't taken to particularly extreme churches as a child, but the groundwork was laid. And when I found myself cast out of my mother's house after turning 18, newly married and out in the real world on my own for the first time in my life, that early conditioning took control.

I never finished high school. I was failed my senior year for handing out "Chick tracts," and I didn't go back. College was out of the question because the rapture would happen any minute, why waste time in class when I could be out "winning souls." Not that -- to my knowledge -- I ever actually won any souls. Funny how constantly arguing with people about how wrong they are tends to turn them away.

Eventually I realized how insane I was being and quit. Quit everything to do with Christianity. In fact, I declared myself pagan. But by that time the damage was done. I was too busy earning a living to go back to school. I'd found myself a career that I was good at that didn't require schooling (photojournalism) and I coasted on that for nearly 10 years.

Now here I am 31 years old, working on finishing that high school diploma and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. One thing I will be doing ... living.


Christianity today is a religion of exclusion, i.e. what we don’t do, who we exclude.

But reading the words of Christ it seems to me that he intended to create a faith of people who were inclusive. He said “Love one another,” and he lived it while hanging out with the “dregs” of society.

Christ came not to condemn (John 3:17) and told us frankly not to judge (Matthew 7:1), and yet Sunday after Sunday so-called men of God thunder messages of condemnation and judgement from their pulpits.

I think it is very important to note that Christ’s only recorded words of condemnation were aimed squarely at the religious leadership.

How have we as followers of this man fallen so far from the ideals that he taught?

I was impressed by a monologue found at the end of the movie “Chocolat;”
“I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we create and who we include.”

Faith and fundamentalism

The early years of my adulthood were consumed by fundamentalist Christianity.

I eventually ended up quitting the religion and becoming pagan.

The funny thing was, I spent just as much time arguing with people as a pagan as I had as a Christian. And I had just exactly the same results; nobody listened, it just pissed everyone off. (Debate rule number one: You will never convince someone who doesn't already want to be convinced.) I had in essence made myself into a pagan fundamentalist.

It took a few years -- okay several years -- but eventually I realized that it wasn't the faith that I had a problem with, it was the fundamentalism. In other words, it was the "I'm right, you're wrong" attitude that has infected every religion to one extent or another. You could even argue that this attitude has infected nearly every aspect of life (Ever meet anyone devoted to a particular brand of product? Yes, I'm guilty of that as well ... Made on a Mac).

I recently saw the movie "Religulous," by Bill Maher, and he makes many good points. But I see two problems, both of which are implied by this quote from the movie:
"Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do." - Bill Maher
The first problem I see is that he is making the same mistake that I did, Maher has become a fundamentalist of his own point of view. He goes to length to explain that his philosophy is of the "I don't know" variety. But there is apparently one thing that he does know: People of faith are wrong.

Which leads into the second problem, which isn't a problem with the movie so much as it is with those people of faith. The Bible says in the book of Hebrews that faith is the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for.

But modern people of faith seem to have forgotten this in their rush to declare that they "know." And just "knowing" a thing isn't so bad either. The problems begin when a person that "knows" something finds out that other people don't necessarily "know" the same thing, and in fact some of these other people might even "know" something entirely different.

Faith is really not the problem, what people "know" is.

Bill Maher "knows" that people of faith are wrong and made an entire movie dedicated to proving his point and making those people look like fools. And what are the results? People who agree with Maher will get to sit back and chuckle at the comedian's cleverness, and people of faith will be insulted and not hear a word of the message that Maher was trying to convey. A message that I believe, despite it's poor presentation, is very important. A message that I believe Maher himself has missed entirely.

The message being that people should be free to believe whatever they like. And until we all realize this and quit trying to force everyone to believe like we do ... we will never have peace.


The older man was a devout church-goer. He had inquired many times about the faith of the younger man, only to be met with vague, deflecting answers.

The two met again one day and the older man again invited the younger to attend church.

"I don't think I will," said the younger.

"In my experience," said the older, "the people with the most successful spiritual walk are at church every time the doors are open."

"In my experience," replied the younger, "the people with the most successful spiritual walk are those that realize that 'church' has nothing to do with buildings."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cheap cameras

Cameras are a necessary part of photography. And most photographers (at least most of the ones I know) enjoy discussing and acquiring that equipment. Myself included.

In fact I've recently found myself lusting after cameras such as Canon's SD780, the Canon S90 and Olympus' E-P1 (with the 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens). The problem is that these cameras cost money; $200, $400 and $800 respectively. Okay, the real problem is that I do not have the funds to cover any of those purchases, and it will be some time before I do.

But I got to thinking, do I really need to spend that kind of money on a camera to be happy? And I realized the answer is a resounding no!

I've always liked having a compact digicam. Primarily for my Beloved's use, family photos and the like. But also to have with us at all times, in case I saw something I needed to make a photo of when I didn't have my "pro" gear with me.

About three years ago, after shutting our previous compact in the door of the car, we purchased an 8 megapixel Fuji point-and-shoot from Wal-Mart. It came with a little kit including batteries, charger and nice leather-like case. The cost was under $80.

It is just about the most basic camera you can get. You can not set the ISO. There are no aperture, shutter speed or exposure compensation controls. There are some funky "scene modes" but we never use them. The camera is either on "green" or video mode.

And for the kind of photography I tend to enjoy most, it makes excellent pictures. A good majority of my favorite photos were taken with this little camera (Drink Coke in Bottles, Luna, Pirate ship of the Prairie, Fall Color, Christmas tree).

So I realized that I would be much happier -- having saved up that $800 -- spending it going some place I've never been and shooting pictures with my sub-$100 camera, rather than sitting home-bound with my expensive toy.

PS- If I had to choose another cheap camera today, it would be the Canon A480.

Hairy guys

For the longest time now popular culture has had it in for hairy guys.

Any time we've seen men in movies or magazines or on the television, their torsos, legs and arms have been completely and utterly devoid of hair. Unless, of course, they're being portrayed in a negative way.

So color me very surprised while watching a recent episode of Heroes on Hulu to see an attractive woman running her fingers through one of the lead character's very hairy chest.

Granted said character is evil, but still. He is portrayed as an attractive person.

So does this signal a change of tide in public opinion?

Instead of slick skin will we soon be seeing men with fuzzy figures in ads?

Speaking as a hairy guy, I say it's about time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tree pose

The opening pose of ExerciseTV's PM Yoga video is the tree pose.

To start with I could not bring my foot all the way to the inside of my thigh, but lately I've really been getting the hang of it. And I'm getting pretty good at this balance.

Speaking of "hanging" though, there is only one small problem. When I'm bringing my foot up to the thigh, I find that I have to move my man-bits out of the way or they tend to get pinched. Not very fun.

A change from boxers to briefs when practicing yoga should take care of that though.

Forward Fold Fear

I have to admit to a little bit of dismay when -- perusing yoga literature, magazines and Web sites -- I come across a photograph of some yogi performing a forward fold in which it appears as though their body has a hinge built into the waist.

Here's an example of the kind of photo I'm talking about. It looks unnatural such a perfect forward fold, legs and back straight as arrows.

It goes without saying that my early experimentations with this yoga pose leave much to be desired.

It seems I can only get my head somewhere between half and three-quarters of the way to my feet. And that is only possible by rounding my back quite a bit.

No other pose has (yet) given me as much discouragement as those deceptively-simple looking forward folds.

Then I was blessed to see one of Tara Stiles' podcasts, in which she performs a forward fold. And lo and behold! While her head is properly in the vicinity of her feet, her back is also rounded. (PS- I also found this photo which makes me feel better too!)

And so I am reminded that these yogis really are human after all and not gifted with trick hinged waists.

The absurdity of the necktie

My grandfather thinks that whoever invented the necktie should have been hanged with the first one. And I am inclined to agree.

Before hanging the poor fellow though, I would have sure wanted to know what was going through his mind. Because as far as I can tell, a necktie serves no purpose whatsoever.

It is a leftover strip of fabric that you tie in a knot around your neck then let the ends dangle down the front of your shirt. What is the point?

And even more bizarre to me than the fashion itself, is how in the world it came to be regarded as essential to professional attire?

I just don't get it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Patience with God

I've been reading the book "Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)," by Frank Schaeffer, recently.

I like it very much. Here is a quote I think sums it up very nicely:
"In the context of our necessarily subjective perception, an atheist telling religious people that they the atheists have the facts and that the rest of us are deluded is a sign of hubris. It's just as arrogantly insane as ... telling atheists that the Creator wants to keep them alive for eternity in order to burn them, just because the atheist believed the 'wrong' words or didn't pray the so-called sinner's prayer."
Very good book, you should read it.

Portion size

One thing I recognized early in the fight against my expanding waistline was that I ate way too much at meals.

How could I not? Have you seen the size of the portions you get at restaurants? And that's not even talking about that unique American contribution to cuisine, the "all-you-can-eat buffet."

Then take into account that it is rather difficult to make a meal for only two people (they have entire cookbooks dedicated to the problem). And it's really no wonder I find myself gorging until I'm so far past full it hurts.

It's fairly common knowledge that Americans stand pretty well alone in this habit of eating till it hurts, and that many other cultures do just fine with much smaller portions.

I recently read Michael Pollan's book, "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto." And he refers to a couple very interesting studies dealing with this problem.

When the folks performing the first study asked people in France how they knew when to stop eating, they replied "when we're full."

When they asked Americans the same question, the reply they received was "when the plate is empty."

In another study some participants were given soup bowls that automatically refilled themselves from the bottom. The diners with the bottomless bowls ate substantially more.

These studies are not all that surprising. Our culture has long demanded that we "clean our plates." And in the feast-or-famine agrarian society that formed the code, it was logical.

But in our wondrous modern world where a never-ending supply of empty calories which go straight to our bellies are only a snack machine away, the rule doesn't make as much sense.

I have been making a concerted effort to eat less at meals. But it is a struggle.

Not only do I have to deal with the external forces of plate size, and the looks from meaningful family members who wonder if I'm starving myself. But I also have to deal with my inner demons, I'm one of those people who eat to comfort myself. If I'm stressed out, I want to eat.

I was surprised to find that I was sitting down to eat meals when I didn't feel hungry. And it came as quite a shock to realize I didn't know how to tell if I was really hungry or if it was just an emotional craving.

How could I learn to stop eating when full, if I couldn't even recognize when I got there?

My first step was to master the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Not to say that I never give in to the emotional hunger; I do, and much too often. But at least now I can usually recognize which is which.

The second move I've made is to reduce how much I eat. I take less and I try not to go for seconds.

Thirdly, I take longer to eat. Another interesting fact in Pollan's book is that it takes your stomach 20 minutes to signal your brain that you are full. So no more wolfing down a McDonald's combo meal (make it large) in 5 minutes.

My Beloved and I are trying to make our meals more of the social occasion they used to be. We talk. And we really try to savor the food. Really, what's the point in eating if you knock it back so fast you don't taste a thing? Might as well just hook yourself up intravenously.

It is a constant struggle, but I am making headway. Hopefully I will continue to have to punch new holes in my belt!

Spam boy

The mother moved into the checkout lane and began unloading her cart.

As the items inched towards me on the conveyor belt I noticed her surreptitiously slip a couple cans of behind another product out of view of the young boy sitting happily in the cart.

It piqued my interest as it was obvious she did not want her son to see those cans. And her plan almost worked. They were almost to the scanner when he saw them.

And he let out the most heart-wrenching sobs I've ever heard from a kid. These were not your standard "I'm a brat and don't want that" cries either.

He wailed: "No, mom! Please! No! Not SPAM! Please don't get SPAM!"

You'd have thought she was buying some kind of torture device.


Trying to
beat it as
it’s coming.

Getting caught
in it as
it comes.

Dripping on
the floor
of the store
waiting for it to go.


Heads hunched over,
as they walk,
fingers flying furiously,
oblivious of the world around them.

Is yoga Hindu worship? Doesn't matter

Someone asked me recently, in response to all I've been writing about yoga: Isn't yoga really Hindu worship?

I replied that it wasn't. That, as I understood it, the practice of yoga outdated Hinduism by many centuries. That yoga was just an ancient way to exercise.

But I got to thinking about the subject and had a revelation. If it so happened that yoga was indeed a form of Hindu worship, it wouldn't matter.

Yoga philosophy teaches that the most important thing is love. And the Bible says in 1 John 4:7 that everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.

Christian fundamentalists like to think that they have the direct line to the One True God. But anyone who knows love knows God; no matter what name they call him (or her) by, or even if they acknowledge the existence of god at all.

The reason that this is so is also found in 1 John 4, "God is love." You hear folks often say that God is "a god of love," but that isn't what the scripture says. He isn't a god of love, he is love. Makes for a very big difference.

Christian fundamentalists cannot accept that a Hindu may very well be worshipping the same god as they are because they do not serve the god that is love.

The Christian fundamentalist god is a jealous god (Exodus 20:5), but 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is not jealous. The Christian fundamentalist god condemns people to an eternity of the most horrible punishment imaginable because of a crime committed by a man 7,000 years ago, yet 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs.

First Corinthians 13 gives a detailed description of what love is, and since God is love anything we think about God that doesn't match up should be done away with.

Yoga diary entry #2

Weeks 2 and 3 - Jan 19, 2010:

My yoga practice was pretty well sidetracked during the second week of January.

Average temperatures for this region this time of year range from highs of 40s to lows of 20s. That second week we saw highs not reaching double digits and lows in the negatives, and I'm not talking about wind chill either. Suffice to say it was cold.

The problem being that the camper we're living in was not designed to handle such cold temperatures and we were caught unprepared. And doing yoga on a floor hovering around 50 degrees (at most -- with our heaters cranked to max) was not something high on my to-do list.

But thankfully the temperatures have warmed back up (above normal now, we got to 60 today!) and I have returned gratefully to the mat.

I'm still working on the downward dog position. And I think I'm still making progress. In the last post I wrote that I found a more natural position taking up the full length of the mat. But lately I find myself bringing my feet closer to my hands and only using maybe three-quarters. The only reason I can say is that this feels more right to me the longer I practice.

One thing that really surprises me about down dog is how much that pose works the hamstrings. And one thing that yoga has definitely taught me about my body is that I have extremely tight hamstrings.

When I first started working on down dog it was a struggle to get my heels anywhere close to the mat. I'm getting better, and I can almost keep my feet flat now. But I really feel the burn in those particular muscles.

Another thing that working on this has really made me realize is that I need a teacher. I'm doing my best to learn these poses from the books, and trying to judge by feel when I'm doing it right. But I really can't see myself. My Beloved and I have tried the video thing some more, but what I need is real-time correction while I'm in the pose so that I can get a more direct sense of what I'm doing.

Luckily there is a local yoga teacher. Samantha Gillmore of Life Yoga in Nevada, Mo., offers classes all the time. And she's also offering a beginner's course at the local continuing education center starting the middle of February.

I've been putting off going to a class mainly because of budget reasons, but if I'm serious about this (and I am) I need to take a class. And that beginner's course is probably just what I'm looking for.

So in addition to working on down dog this week. I've also started the second pose in Yoga Journal's "Yoga for Beginners," Utthita Trikonasana, or Extended Triangle Pose.

I worked myself into that pose (or something similar anyway) for the first time today. And I am amazed at the feeling it creates in the chest. I am very excited about continuing to explore the new pose.

Again though I find myself frustrated by my sticky mat that is not sticky. The Extended Triangle Pose calls for a wide stance and I found my feet slipping while trying to hold the posture. Maybe a more sticky mat should be moved higher on my shopping list ... along with that class, oh and some blocks. I made-do tonight with a square pillow we have, but it wasn't quite the same thing as a solid block.

Ice crystals

ice crystals
Originally uploaded by Nick David Wright

The second week of January got VERY cold here. I really liked the patterns formed by the frost on the inside of my grandparent's window.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Downward facing dog

As part of my resolution to really start exploring the individual yoga poses, I also decided that I would start keeping a diary of my thoughts and experiences regarding my workouts. So here's my first entry.

Week 1 - Jan. 1, 2010:

I started work yesterday really exploring the pose downward facing dog. It is the first listed in the Yoga for Beginners Mastering the Basics, and it seems like you can hardly find a yoga sequence that does not mention this pose in some fashion or another. I figured it was as good a place as any to start.

The AM Yoga video from ExerciseTV utilizes down dog quite a bit, so I figured I could do a little work on this one and move on to the other poses rather quickly. I was wrong.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the ExerciseTV videos are great but they do move pretty quickly. So when I sat down to learn down dog "for real" I found that I didn't have quite the grip on it I thought.

Firstly, I found that the back of my calves are extremely tight. I discovered this when I realized that in the past I had been performing down dog on my toes, when according to the magazine the correct position for the feet is flat on the mat. The second indication that I was doing something wrong was that it hurt quite a bit between my shoulder blades.

I was having a very hard time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, so I asked my Beloved to help me, she'd watch and compare with the photos in the magazine. That didn't work as well as I'd hoped so she pulled out our little digital camera and took some video of me in the pose so I could see what I looked like for myself. She thought the process was quite funny.

The first thing I noticed on the video was that for some reason I was only using about half my mat. The photo in the magazine depicts a guy with the tips of his fingers near one edge of the mat and the heels of his feet at the other. And here I was scrunched up in the middle of mine. My first thought was "no way I can stretch out that far, he must be taller or have a shorter mat."

Wrong again. I tried again this time making sure I was using the whole mat. And wouldn't you know it? I could do it. And it felt much better this way. Imagine that. And here's where I discovered another problem, my $9 Wal-Mart mat is not nearly as sticky as I thought. Trying to hold downward dog became pretty difficult because my hands kept slipping forward. I suppose I will have to invest in a better mat sooner than I had thought.

Getting myself spread out was a big improvement, but I was still experiencing some pretty intense pain between my shoulders. So I took a short break, read through the article again then worked a little more in the puppy dog variation described by the author. In the puppy dog I paid very close attention to the alignment of my hands, arms and shoulders; I just knew that the problem lay in that area somewhere.

Then when I got back down to try the full downward facing dog, I noticed something about my hands. The text of the article says to make sure that the crease lines in your wrists form a straight line. I had figured that if my fingers were pointing straight ahead, those lines would be straight too. I was -- again -- wrong. To make the creases of my wrists form a straight line, I had to angle my fingers outwards just a tiny bit. And so far that seems to have done the trick.

All told I practiced down dog for about 40 minutes. By the time I had finished I felt I had made really good progress with this pose. And after finishing I was very surprised to find that my entire body felt very good. I think I had been working under the assumption that to get the "yoga-glow" feeling you had to do a complete set with several different poses. I was not expecting to find that working on just one pose left me feeling so good.

I am very encouraged by last night's effort and cannot wait to continue working on these exercises.

Yoga 2

For some time I have been looking for a simple form of exercise that I could practice on my own that did not require a large investment in equipment.

I've been learning Tai Chi on-again-off-again for the last two or three years. Tai Chi though is rather complex, the basic form has 24 different moves that you must learn to complete the sequence. And the entire set requires quite a bit of space to move.

Around about this past October I finally got around to looking at yoga (I'll explain a little more about why it took me so long later). I got on the iTunes Store looking for instructional videos and quickly found ExerciseTV's "Anytime Yoga" series of which they were giving the "PM Yoga" video away for free.

Since Halloween I have done the 10-minute PM set nearly every night before going to bed. The effect on my rest at night were noticeable immediately. However what surprised me most was that the near constant back and neck pain along with numbness and tingling in my hands and fingers that I had been experiencing since late summer and which was beginning to interfere at work was gone by Thanksgiving, a mere four weeks later.

Yoga is exactly what I've been looking for. There isn't a lot to learn in order to start. There isn't a lot of equipment to purchase, I bought a $9 mat from Wal-Mart because I found myself slipping on the carpet when trying to hold some of the poses. And it doesn't require a lot of space. There is just enough space in the living room of our camper for me to do the exercises, though I am already dreaming of the time we finish our house and can have more room to stretch out in.

The past three months I have been very happy keeping to the videos, but now I feel the need to really learn the poses on my own. The videos are good but they go rather quickly, and I'm looking to slow down and really plumb the depths of these exercises.

So for the coming new year I will be making a concerted effort to learn the individual poses by themselves and in depth. I will utilize the "Yoga for Beginners" special issue put out by Yoga Journal along with the many resources online as well as hopefully finding a local teacher to spend some time with.

Scientific reductionism

If I went in to an auto parts store and came out with only a steering wheel and announced that I was going to drive somewhere you'd think that I had gone insane. Obviously, you need much more than just a steering wheel in order to go places.

Yet that is exactly how scientists treat food. They see that folks who eat food X have less disease Y. Upon examining the food and discovering it has high levels of nutrient Z, they'll announce that taking a supplement of nutrient Z will lower a person's risk of disease Y.

But they are making two grave errors. First they are ignoring the fact that food X is not just nutrient Z, it is a whole host of other things that work together to make food X what it is. Secondly, they are assuming that they know everything there is to know about what makes up food in the first place. And if you take a look at the history of nutrition science you'll see how often scientists find new players in the game of food.

Scientific reductionism, as the practice is known, may make sense in certain circumstances. But it leads to sloppy decisions regarding a subject much too important to be playing chemistry with ... our food.

For more information see Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto."