Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Footprints in the snow

December 30, 2022

We all know how footprints work — how indentations are imprinted into soft surfaces like dirt or sand or snow. But how does one arrive at the situation above, where the footprints rise ABOVE an otherwise smooth surface?

Here’s a hint: we had snow and unseasonably cold weather for a few days (with occasional trips across the driveway on foot), and then the snow was melted and washed away by warmer rains. The photo above was taken most of the way through the washing-away process.


A good one on which to end the year?

December 24, 2019

Amidst her usual quips, Rev. Debra Jarvis (who officiated my second wedding) has some good advice (for herself and others) about coexisting with people we don’t like.

We walked in silence for a while until I said, “I’ve always believed that Jesus meant it when he said, ‘Love one another,’ but he never said we had to like one another. So now I have to figure out a way to love her in spite of not liking her.”

I already knew how to do this because I had done it many times with patients. If you can’t be compassionate, at least be curious because many times curiosity opens the door to compassion which can open the door to love.

So I sat next to her at dinner that night and forced myself to talk with her. It turned out that her husband of two years was supposed to walk the Camino with her but he pulled out. Then he said he would walk the last sixty miles with her but changed his mind about that too. Her voice got low and thick as she talked. For the first time I felt she was being real.

I felt no satisfaction in being right about her cheerful veneer. I felt compassion for her. When her eyes filled with tears, mine did too.

…Curiosity almost always opens the door to compassion which leads to love.

I love the simplicity and practicality of this advice. No need to launch directly from a standing start into heroic levels of empathy; just try a little curiosity and see where that takes you.


As the Whirled Greens Turn: a soap opera

November 1, 2016

the salad spinner, clean at last

Last night I finished giving our salad spinner a long-overdue cleaning. It took about two weeks.

To be honest, the first week consisted of me keeping it next to the sink as a reminder to deal with it later. Then there was a day of putting it in the dishwasher, discovering that the dishwasher didn’t do a lick of good, and returning it to its spot next to the sink. After a couple more days of psyching myself up, I spent small portions of three days poking moistened paper towels into each of the spinner’s 696 tiny orifices. (That’s not an exaggeration. It’s a 24-by-29 array.)

Once I actually began the manual cleaning, a certain satisfaction took hold. The positive side of waiting to clean something until it’s completely filthy is that you can really see the improvement.

For a while, I lost myself in the simple algorithm of the work, as my wife seems to do when she’s quilting.

Eventually, I grew tired of the task, but persisted with a grim determination to finish. And finish I did. Now that sucker is glistening like a freshly washed car.

You may ask: why am I reporting these thoughts as if they were profound, hard-won insights from a campaign to eradicate smallpox?

Well, obviously, the salad spinner is a metaphor for life’s grandest challenges.

Beyond that, my friends, I can’t explain. Each of you must turn, turn, turn until you, too, have discovered the salad spinner’s revolving, relentless truth.


Message in a bottle, #2

May 8, 2012




January 2, 2012

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend less time on this blog and to focus more on really essential tasks.

So far so good.


The allure of astrology

December 6, 2011

When an acquaintance offered for a second time to generate an astrological profile for me free of charge, I couldn’t resist.

Now let me be clear: astrology is not a science. There’s no reason to think that one’s personality or life can be predicted according to one’s time and place of birth by the positions of heavenly bodies relative to one’s place of birth at one’s time of birth. But I thought it would be interesting to compare an astrologer’s view of me with my view of myself.

My first impression was that the flavor of astrology practiced by my acquaintance — she described it as a Western tropical geocentric system — made a LOT of predictions. Some of them seemed sort of consistent with my self-image, others seemed contrary, and still others seemed so generic as to be almost meaningless. For example, in terms of my “Balance of Elements,” I’m rated as strong in Air and weak in Water.

Scores: Fire 7, Earth 5, Air 9, Water 2

You are objective and philosophical, preferring to view life from an intellectual perspective. Your rational mind will outweigh your feelings every time, as you consider the world of emotions to be irrational. You have a high sense of fairness, and a logical thought process. Your weakness lies in the fact that you view emotions in a disparaging light.

You are out of kilter with your emotions. Crying or losing your cool in front of other people would be a horrifying thought, let alone action, for you. You often lack compassion for others in your human relationships, and need to learn to honor both your own and other people’s feelings.

I acknowledge that I place a high value on rationality, logic, and fairness, but I don’t think that I am out of touch with my emotions or discount their significance.

As another example, here’s what my “Balance of Rays” says about me.

Scores: 1st Ray 0, 2nd Ray 5, 3rd Ray 5, 4th Ray 12, 5th Ray 8, 6th Ray 9, 7th Ray 0

You can be spontaneous, imaginative and conciliating. You have a love of beauty and music, and the ability to reconcile opposites. However, you may have a tendency to worry, be moody, combative and indecisive.

You can be enthusiastic, loyal and devoted. You have strong idealism and humility the ability to inspire others [sic]. However, you may have a tendency towards fanaticism, gullibility, rigid idealism and over-emotionalism.

Again, I can pick out certain words that fit well (e.g., “loyal and devoted”) and others that do not (e.g., “fanaticism” — unless the stars are referring specifically to my interest in ultramarathons).

So why is this stuff so appealing to so many people? I have a couple of guesses. First, people hear what they want to hear, approvingly noting the items that make sense to them and kind of forgetting about the rest. Second, when an astrologer meets clients in person, he/she can get a read on what they’re like and tweak the predictions accordingly.

I’d say more, but the moon is about to enter my 7th house, and that means I need to prioritize extra sleep and personal grooming for the next 9.5 hours.


Message in a bottle

November 12, 2011



Unpacking diversity

November 11, 2011

When my friend Ethan headed off to grad school at UC-Berkeley in 1997 or so, he sent me what he described as a Left Winger Starter Kit. It included a rainbow-colored “Celebrate Diversity” bumper sticker.

I didn’t have a car at the time, so I put it on a bulletin board. When the bulletin board eventually got relegated to the basement, so did the bumper sticker.

In sorting through and disposing of items from the basement, I came across the bumper sticker and thought, “This thing has never had a chance to adorn a motor vehicle. Maybe its time has come.”

I hope it enjoys the ride.


Still funny after all these years

October 22, 2011

Last night I saw Jet City Improv for the first time since 2005 or so. They were as good as ever.

As explained in an excellent Seattle Times article on JCI cast member Kyle Kizzier, improv is truly a team activity. Most of the humor comes from interactions between actors, and thus is hard to capture in print. But certain lines remain memorable a day later.

For one skit the theme specified by the audience was “Catholic schoolgirl.” The cast had ten seconds to ponder this theme and then the skit began. BRRRING! went the phone. “Hello?” the Catholic schoolgirl answered. A voice at the other end: “Hey, wanna come over to Atheist School later?”

For another skit the audience’s suggestion was “astronauts,” and suddenly a woman in training was getting bawled out by a NASA staffer for being out of shape and overweight. A supervising physician strolled in. “In space, this will not be a problem,” he observed. “She’ll be weightless.”

My favorite skit was one billed as so serious that any actor causing the audience to laugh would be replaced. The audience suggested “eagles” as a theme, causing a couple to appear mid-hike, birdwatching. The husband started getting philosophical: “After 15 years of marriage, I wanted to bring you out here because –” “SSSHHHHHHHH!” the wife hissed. Soon the eagles got a bit too close, scaring them. “Sometimes I think of our marriage as being like a bird,” the husband offered, eliciting laughter and being forced to leave the stage. Not missing a beat, his replacement continued, “…It’s best when it’s far away.”

Not a perfectly crafted analogy, but awfully funny as a spontaneous musing.


Movin’ on

October 14, 2011

Anyone want to buy a cute house in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood for $300,000?

3204 19th Avenue South