Monday, December 18, 2006
Updated April 3 2012 with a link to a google document version of the text. Use at will, and let me know how it works out for you.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Ad mortem festinamus
Scribere proposui de contemptu mundano
ut degentes seculi non mulcentur in vano
iam est hora surgere
a sompno mortis pravo
a sompno mortis pravo.
Ad mortem festinamus
Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur
mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur
omnia mors perimit
et nulli miseretur
et nulli miseretur.
Ad mortem festinamus
Ni conversus fueris et sicut puer factus
et vitam mutaveris in meliores actus
intrare non poteris
regnum Dei beatus
regnum Dei beatus.
Ad mortem festinamus
Tuba cum sonuerit dies erit extrema
et iudex advenerit vocabit sempiterna
electos in patria
prescitos ad inferna
prescitos ad inferna.
Ad mortem festinamus
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Friday, October 13, 2006
me: Hey look! That shop sells ancient Mediterranean seaports.
Dad: And coastal gun emplacements.
Mom: It's a bit ambiguous, though, about whether it also sells evening purses or groups of eggs.
me: Either way, that's quite a diverse product line.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
And then I came back to the retreat centre and attended a Wish-Fulfilling Jewel Puja.
--okay, maybe that last part wasn't so typically English.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Friday, July 21, 2006
Friday, June 16, 2006
The only reason my French teachers aren't all rolling in their graves is that none of them are dead.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Friday, June 02, 2006
- the chagrin of realizing that you have once again left the house wearing your underwear inside-out.
- the half-smug, half-abashed feeling that comes when you realize that your mother would disapprove of everything that you have eaten in the past twenty-four hours.
- gloating over your secret plans to take revenge on someone by publishing a paper that invalidates an experiment they're doing.
Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions about the German equivalents?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
"Who on earth is Habbakuk?"
"I'm pretty sure he's, like, a prophet, or something."
"Wow, you're, like, a biblical scholar, or something."
"Come on, girls, be serious. What about Samuel?"
"That would be perfect if you had twins."
"Yeah. You could call them First Samuel and Second Samuel."
"You can't name your kids after books of the bible."
"Why not? You said you wanted Old Testament names. How much more Old Testament do you get than that?"
"Well, there's Genesis..."
"True. You could go in order. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua...actually Joshua's a nice name."
"Wait, you know the books of the bible in order?"
"I'm, like, a biblical scholar, or something, remember?"
"You girls aren't helping at all."
"Sorry, yes. Baby names. Biblical....Well, for girls there's always Jezebel."
"Oh, now you're just being silly."
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
You'll notice that I don't ask for warm, pleasant weather. I wouldn't want anyone here to die of shock. But the hail thing--it's getting old. I suppose I should have been warned when, after a few days of pleasant weather a couple of weeks ago, people would say to me, "So, did you enjoy summer?" and I would laugh--and I would be the only one laughing.
I mean, honestly. It's nice to have a bit of foul weather, so that you have a ready-made topic of conversation and can bond with your fellow-sufferers...but enough is enough. So no more hail, okay? At least not until...July.
thanking you for your kind attention to this matter...
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
[09:35] Rachel: no, no pinching
[09:35] Corey: Maybe little pinch?
[09:35] Rachel: get away from me
[09:35] Corey: I pinch.
[09:36] Corey: *reaching for your ankle
[09:36] Rachel: I'm getting the tongs.
[09:36] Corey: !!!!!
[09:36] Corey: No pinch... no pinch...
[09:36] Rachel: you're just lucky I didn't have to tell your girlfriend
[09:36] Corey: What? That I pinch? She knows I pinch. She lets me pinch her.
[09:37] Rachel: that you pinch other people
[09:38] Corey: We have a very modern relationship. If I occasionally sink my sharp claws into someone else's ankle, she's mature enough to accept that.
[09:38] Corey: If I ever told her, that is.
[09:38] Rachel: I see.
[09:38] Corey: Don't tell her.
[09:38] Corey: Or I pinch you.
[09:38] Rachel: hey, I don't want to get pinched
[09:39] Corey: And yet I want to pinch.
[09:39] Corey: Such is life.
[09:39] Rachel: the perpetual problem:
[09:40] Rachel: how does any given pair of people (or indeed crabs) negotiate pinching frequency, given different levels of interest in pinching or being pinched?
[09:40] Corey: Basically, I don't tell you I intend to pinch. I just pinch.
[09:41] Rachel: ah. the stealth-pinch strategy
[09:41] Rachel: But then see I don't tell you I'm getting the hammer and tongs, and maybe a bit of dipping sauce.
[09:41] Corey: By that time I'm gone, pinching someone else.
[09:41] Rachel: typical.
[09:41] Corey: It's a perfect plan, really.
[09:42] Rachel: except for one thing:
[09:42] Rachel: my lightning-quick tempura skills.
[09:42] Corey: Uh oh.
[09:42] Corey: No pinch... no pinch...
[09:43] Rachel: --are you blogging this or shall I?
(watch this and then read this again. it'll make more sense.)
Saturday, May 13, 2006
(some people say he'll hit the Canary Islands first, but this seems more plausible.)
We were going to go out with another colleague yesterday evening, and since I still hadn't dried off after my wetting and I didn't have time to go all the way home to change, we stopped off at her place so she could lend me some dry clothes. We were walking down the street afterwards and she said, "You look better in my clothes than I do."
The list of things I never expected to hear from a boss just gets longer and longer.
What else did I expect, really? But it was truly amazing: on Friday the thunder-and-hail storm lasted only about half an hour, but it coincided exactly with the only half-hour of the day when I actually had to be outside. (It was kind of fun. I very quickly realized that there was no way to avoid getting drenched--no evasive ducking-under-awnings moves I could make, no speedy sprints that would save me a wetting--and so there was no point in resisting it. I ended up feeling like a kid splashing in mud puddles.) And then this morning it started chucking down again right when I started walking to the bus stop (again sans umbrella) .
I must e-mail my friend who wanted to have a barbecue this afternoon and give him my sincere apologies.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
...although not perhaps in the way my mother feared I would end up doing back when I was eight and showing a marked preference for barbies and dress-up over trucks and lego.
Friday, April 14, 2006
The name comes from an Eddie Izzard sketch, about how he doesn't have techno-fear, he has technoJOY!!! and will recklessly install computer hardware without ever cracking open the manual. Similarly, I've got simulation JOY and will simulate breakfast cereal, given half a chance.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Monday, April 03, 2006
(a) Discussing current events and our own personal theories of politics, economics, and literature.
(b) Recounting stories of our many and diverse travels.
(c) Making animal noises.
While watching the boat race, the right sort of picnic is
(a) Kir and brie.
(b) Diet coke and Doritos.
(c) Kir and Doritos.
(I think that last option must be an example of what Annene-of-Orkut calls Dada food.)
And a personal question: I like to wear my hair in braids
(a) for the convenience of having it out of my face.
(b) for the alternative-skater-Lolita effect.
(c) so that I can hold the ends above my head and pretend to have antennae, or in front of my face and pretend to have a moustache.
The answers should be obvious.
It was a good weekend.
Friday, March 31, 2006
Dog: Dog food! Again! They know what I like! I feel so loved! I dance now! Joy joy joy joy joy!
Cat: Cat food. Again. They hate me.
--methinks there's a teaching in there on contentment and how our lives create the world, but I mostly just liked the way the dog was zipping around in the background all full of glee while the cat was glaring sulkily at the food.
Friday, March 10, 2006
...so if you don't hear much from me for a while, that's why.
Question: How silly is it that I'm leaving my home at a retreat centre to go on retreat?
Answer: Very. Which is typical.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Friday, March 03, 2006
Getting ordained doesn't mean you stop being a smart-ass, apparently.
Monday, February 27, 2006
A shorter-term technique that I've accidentally found is to tell myself that first thing in the morning I'm going to go to the bank/gym/whatever, but first I'll just do this one little thing. What inevitably happens is that I get so interested in what I'm doing that I end up working in a quite focussed and productive manner for hours, all the while saying to myself, "just five minutes more and I'll leave."
Right now I'm doing both of these things. I'm supposed to be working on data analysis for an experiment we did last summer, but there's a couple of interesting simulation problems that need my attention too, so I'm working on those instead, AND I meant to leave to go to the bank an hour and a half ago but I just can't tear myself away. There has to be a name for this, and it has to be less awkward-sounding than "double structured procrastination". Any thoughts?
Monday, February 20, 2006
Then again, I was doing the chewing without really meaning to, so the consequences probably won't be too severe. The question I really should be asking is: what is the karmic consequence of shoving a pen up the Buddha's butt?
Saturday, February 18, 2006
I've changed my mind again, and now I think I will actually post some of my experiences from the autumn retreat at IMS. Let's start at the beginning...
Before the retreat I got an e-mail asking if I'd participate in an experiment designed to measure the physical and mental effects of intensive meditation practice. I do like being a guinea pig--so much more relaxing than analysing the experiments oneself--so of course I said yes.
The experiment is actually a bunch of parts: saliva tests to measure stress levels before, during, and after the retreat--see the physical effect of the practice, and how long it persists in "everyday life"; blood tests before and at 3 and 9 months after, to measure telomere shortening, a measure of aging: since stress hormones increase the rate of telomere shortening, thereby hastening cell death, meditation might decrease the rate and extend the body's lifespan (might--there's no evidence yet, as far as I know, but it does seem reasonable); and EEG experiments to measure the brain's ability to concentrate for long periods of time on boring, repetitive, and even annoying tasks. The EEG part was done at the beginning and end of the retreat; the picture is from the first session, with me looking pale and stressed-out. (I think it's really neat that EEG equipment is compact enough now that it's possible to pack it up in a briefcase and set up an experiment wherever.)
The blood tests ended up being quite entertaining: apparently my veins are small and floppy or easily torn (or something like that) and it's hard to get a needle in securely to get blood out; and when they were taking the needles out the blood level in them would actually go down: my veins were sucking the blood back into my body. "No! My blood! You can't have it!" Greedy veins. They clearly haven't listened to the teachings on generosity, or on non-self for that matter.
The EEG tests were fascinating. One of the tasks involved listening to tones (mostly 500 and 1000 Hz, with the occasional "different" one: 475 or 1050 Hz) and pressing a button whenever one of the "different" ones came along. At the beginning of the retreat, this task was extremely frustrating for me, because 475 and 1050 Hz are almost but not quite semitones away from 500 and 1000 Hz, and also the tones came at almost but not quite rhythmic intervals. By the end of an hour and a half of this my brain was having a temper tantrum. "Don't these people know that's NOT RIGHT?" I came out of the experiment madder than a wet hen. Doing the exact same thing at the end of the retreat was downright enjoyable. I'd just spent 3 months listening to sounds as sounds, and getting into intensely pleasurable altered states of consciousness listening to the rattle of the radiator, so I was able to hear the tones as tones, instead of as musical sounds that weren't correctly musical. Plus, the mind likes to concentrate, and here was a concentration exercise, oh joy! So instead of the test being a boring, taxing, ordeal, it was quite a pleasant interlude.
The experiments are overseen by Dr. Richard "Richie" Davidson, from the University of Wisconsin. He has been meditating himself since the 70s, and when he was just starting out in psychology research wanted to find a way to measure the effects of meditation on the brain; but at that point the tools available were just too primitive. Since the advent of fMRI, however, a lot more has become possible. Several years ago, he received a personal invitation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to come to Dharamsala to start doing research on Tibetan monks who were experienced meditators. The first trip was only partially successful. They brought over all their equipment, but although all the monks were very gracious about talking about their practice, none of them would consent to participate in experiments. It became clear that this refusal was just because the monks didn't know anything about science. When His Holiness heard about this, his response was to start a program called Science for Monks-- a yearly seminar for Tibetan monks, taught by Western scientists. Richie told us about this program during the talk he gave on one of the last nights of the retreat. When I first heard about it, I started hyperventilating. I had just that day been wondering how to combine my training in physics with something that is of actual benefit to humanity, and presto! here it is. I've sent out some e-mails asking for more information and am still waiting to hear back, but who knows? Maybe in December I'll be in India teaching monks how to do physics.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Prisoner #2: Yeah. I wish there were some way to escape.
Prisoner #1: Well, that's a stupid thing to wish for. We're chained to the wall hand and foot, there are bars on the window--there's no escape.
Prisoner #2: Yeah, there are bars on the window, alright--but hey, check it out: there's sunshine coming through the window...and a breeze too! There must be another opening somewhere. (looks around) Would you look at that! Not only is the door not locked--there IS no door. There just HAS to be a way out of here.
Prisoner #1: You're living in a fool's paradise. Look at these chains!
Prisoner #2: Yeah, they're pretty heavy...I wish I could be rid of them. (looks down) Wow! The shackles on our ankles--those chains don't lead anywhere: the other ends are just hanging loose.
Prisoner #1: Fat lot of good that does us if our hands are still chained to the wall.
Prisoner #2: ...but they're not, really. The chains wrapped around our wrists? We're holding them there. We can just let them go, see? (drops his chains, stretches his stiff fingers)
Prisoner #1: You're never going to get anywhere with this kind of thinking.
Prisoner #2: (isn't listening, but instead is walking towards the doorway, trailing the chains of his supposed captivity behind him)
Prisoner #1: ESCAPIST!
Saturday, January 21, 2006
This is a picture I took last week, the first time I saw the place. (Note the flawless blue sky, most unusual for Yorkshire.) My room is hidden by the trees on the left. It's in one of the old stables, overlooking a cobblestone courtyard.
I'm still settling in. I've met most of my flatmates. They're from all over, and among them is a Chinese monk. How cool is that?
This is a very different Buddhist tradition than I'm used to, and I feel rather like a Lutheran in a Russian Orthodox church. The chanting sessions in particular will take me a while to get used to. Nevertheless, whee! This is exactly where I want to be.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
He nodded, in his inscrutable Chinese way, and said, "Good. I chop."
The next morning he went to the local hardware store and bought a hatchet. One of his neighbours came by and saw him chopping away at the biiiiig tree with the little weeny hatchet, and said, "Don't do it that way. It'll take ages. I'll go get my chainsaw and have the tree down in half an hour."
But the old man shook his head and said, "I chop."
His neighbour rolled his eyes, but left him alone, figuring that after a few hours of this futile chopping, the old man would have had enough and would come asking to borrow his chainsaw.
Instead, every morning at 9 am, for exactly an hour, the whole neighbourhood would hear a steady chop chop chop from the old man's front yard. It got so that if he missed a morning they'd come over to see if he was okay. He went from being "that crazy Chinaman" to being part of the community.
Eventually he explained to some of his new friends that this is how he taught meditation: every day you chop away just a little more, and sooner or later a great tree falls.
Well, after months of this it became clear that the great tree was due to fall. On the last morning the neighbours all gathered around to witness the last few hatchet chops. (I visualize a neighbourhood jamboree, with the womenfolk bringing sandwiches and jello molds, and the menfolk leaning on the fences and offering advice, but that's pure invention.) At last, with a mighty creak and splintering noise, the tree crashed to the ground.
After the cheering died down, someone asked the teacher what he would do now.
"Make firewood" was his reply.
Monday, January 16, 2006
(a collection of quotations illustrating the traditional list of the Pāramis, assembled by Steve Armstrong and other teachers)
If beings knew, as I know, the benefit of generosity, they would not let an opportunity go by without sharing.
Virtue has non-remorse as its benefit and reward.
Non-remorse has gladness as its benefit and reward.
Gladness has joy as its benefit and reward.
Joy has serenity as its benefit and reward.
Serenity has happiness as its benefit and reward.
Happiness has concentration as its benefit and reward.
Concentration has insightful understanding as its benefit and reward.
Insightful understanding has non-attachment as its benefit and reward.
Non-attachment has liberation as its benefit and reward.
In this way, virtue leads step by step to the highest.
True renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but in knowing they go away.
All conditioned things arise and pass away. Understanding this deeply brings the greatest happiness, which is peace.
No-one succeeds without effort. Mind at peace is not your birthright. Those who succeed owe their liberation to perseverance.
Patience is the supreme virtue.
Better than a thousand useless words is one simple word that brings peace.
Let only my skin, sinews, and bones remain and let the flesh and blood in my body dry up; but not until I attain Supreme Enlightenment will I give up this meditation seat.”
Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone. This is the eternal law.
The mind is like space. There is room in it for everything or nothing. We always have a perspective once we know that space of the mind, its emptiness. Armies can come into the mind and leave, butterflies, rain-clouds—or nothing. All things can come and go through without us being caught in reaction or resistance.