Monday, October 31, 2011

The Secular Buddhist






Recently I found a ready-to-go media source to fill the "silence" when my mind has bad breath and needs to freshen up. It's an archive of podcasts on The Secular Buddhist. There’s a timely interview for Halloween featuring David Chapman.


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Addendum: Since posting this I've listened to several more podcasts and I find these podcasts quite worthwhile.

I am very glad to have discovered this archive of interviews on Atheism and Buddhism. I find the host, Ted Meissner, to be remarkably warm and open-hearted while also exhibiting his discerning intellect.

I find that his overall approach to Buddhism—and the path he's travelled from Zen to Theravadin practice combined with scholarly study and a healthy degree of skepticism—to be similar to and resonant with my own.
Check these podcasts out. The Secular Buddhist Podcasts.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Steve Jobs and Me




Steve Jobs and I had the same Buddhist teacher, Kobun Chino Otogawa. Kobun was my first Buddhist teacher. I have come to increasingly appreciate Kobun. Kobun was my teacher in the mid-1970’s. In about that same time period, Steve studied with Kobun too. Kobun.
Steve gave the commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. This excerpt from Steve’s remarks reveals Kobun's teachings. Kobun taught me a similar thing:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
If you wish to read more about Steve Jobs and his connections to Buddhist teachings,  visit NeuroTribes where this excerpt appears in a post by Steve Silberman.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Voice From the 1%

Here is something worth pondering... some thoughts from one of the richest Americans about our tax system.

Here's an excerpt:

...I am not part of the yacht and private jet set, which represents an even smaller subset of incomes than mine. The threshold for inclusion in the top 1% of income earners in 2008, the most recent year for which published data is available from the IRS, was $380,354, enough for an extraordinary life but nowhere near enough for a harbor berth in St. Moritz. Nevertheless, I am - for now - comfortably ensconced in that demographic. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan would save me roughly $400,000 a year in taxes, and President Obama's tax proposals would cost me more than $100,000, yet I support the latter and consider the former laughable.

Thus you can imagine my amazement this summer when I watched the Republicans in Congress push the United States to the brink of default - and the world to the brink of ruin - over whether to repeal a portion of the Bush tax cuts and raise my taxes by 3.5%. I know a lot of people with high incomes and even the conservatives among them were confused by that sequence of events. Here is a secret about rich people: we wouldn't have noticed a 3.5% tax increase. That is not only because there isn't a material difference between having $1 million and $965,000, which is obvious, but also because most of us don't actually know how much money we are going to make in a given year. Most income at that level is the result of profits rather than salary, whether it comes in the form of bonuses, stock options, partnership distributions, dividends or capital gains. Profits are unpredictable and they tend to vary wildly. At my own firm, the general rule of thumb is that if we are within 5% of our budget for the year, everyone is happy and no one complains. A variation of 3.5% is merely a random blip.

I was not amazed but disgusted when John Boehner and his crew tried to justify the extremity of their position by rebranding the wealthy as "job creators." While true in a very basic sense, it obscures the fact that jobs are a cost that is voluntarily incurred only as a result of demand. Hiring has no correlation at all to profits or to income - none. Let me keep more of my money without increasing customer demand and I will do just that - keep it. Perhaps I will spend a little more of it, though probably not, but even if I do it won't help the economy very much. Here is another secret of the well-to-do: we don't really buy much more stuff than everyone else. It may be more expensive stuff, sure, but I don't buy cars, or appliances, or furniture, or anything else more frequently than the average consumer. The things I do spend more money on are services such as travel, entertainment, restaurants and landscaping, none of which generate well-paying middle class jobs. There, in a nutshell, is the sad explanation of what has happened to the American economy over the last 25 years of "trickle down" economics.

Better yet, read all of this thoughts.

A Voice From the 1%

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tomales Bay Paddle, October 23

Heart’s Desire Beach offers plenty to a paddler. It is a lovely sandy beach in a cliff-protected cove on the western shore of Tomales Bay. Bishop Pines—rare this far north—look down from the cliffs above the beach and add a hint of mountain spice to salty estuarine air. 

Getting ready to paddle
Because Heart’s Desire is set near the middle of the bay, a paddler may choose to venture as far as five miles either north towards the mouth or south towards Lagunitas Creek. About a score of Petaluma Paddlers met this morning and paddled south towards Inverness into a rare southerly headwind. Our muscles warmed, the headwind faltered, and the autumn sun shone with summery vigor. We decided to stop along the way at Teacher’s Beach to strip off the extra layers of clothing some of us put on at the start. 

Heading south towards Inverness
As we continued south to Millerton Point the wind disappeared entirely leaving a glassy water of almost Tahoe clarity. Looking down we could see waving eelgrass, pulsing jellyfish, sandy areas scattered with shells, leopard sharks, and bat rays. 

Sarah looking into the pellucid waters

Some of us paddled far enough south to visit the dilapidated remnants of the North Pacific Coast Railway that ran through here from 1874 to 1930’s. Ray, Dick, Joe, and Tom told about the engineering of the railroad grade along the eastern shore of Tomales Bay. They were bringing history to life. Had my stomach not growled so much, I might have been able to imagine the sound of the train’s steam whistle.

Dick, Joe, Tom, and Ray at the railroad grade

The morning was wearing on, and we decided to head back to Heart’s Desire for lunch. The winds we enountered as we came south seemed to still be blowing across the middle reaches of Tomales Bay. They made for some fun small waves right at the end of the trip.
The Petaluma Paddlers are deservedly noted for their not-to-be-missed potlucks. Today’s was like that. Many people—more than the score of paddlers we started out with— shared dishes special enough to evoke contented gasps of pleasure. Either the food was really good or I was really hungry, but oh, man. It can be hard to know whether it's the paddling in paradise or the ambrosia we eat that keeps us coming back. 

Soon some ukuleles appeared and, well, maybe it was too much of a good thing—or maybe just too much wine. In any event there was singing, smiling, and eating good food and sharing good company—exactly what our hearts desire.

A Dreamy Place to Live

An Amiot sculpture in Sebastopol


I just ran across this New York Times travel feature about a cool-sounding town in Northern California. A little town in California Wine Country where the vineyards meet the forested hills along the Pacific. A place that feels a little Berkeley, maybe because so many Berkeley grads live here.

I went to Berkeley. I dream of living there.

Check it out: SEBASTOPOL

Wait a minute! Wake up! I do live there, I mean here—and have for 32 years.

I've married to the former Mayor and current City Council member of Sebastopol.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Saturday Paddle


October 22, 2011
Lake Hennessey Report

Bald Eagle (click to embiggen)
Phil and Marilyn suggested a Saturday paddle on 800 acre Lake Hennessey which lies behind Conn Dam along Highway 128 east of the town of St. Helena. Conditions today proved ideal for paddling, bird watching, and outdoor dining.
Tim, Flo, and I wondered where Phil and Marilyn were at our 9:30 launch time and, after waiting briefly by the ramp, we took off to explore the eastern arm of the lake near the boat ramp. Soon we were back to the ramp and found that Phil and Marilyn had already launched their Lincoln tandem and were paddling out to join us on the main part of the lake.
We learned that they had gotten stuck in traffic as a result of stopping too long at the Oakville Grocery to buy a fresh baguette to accompany the gourmet cheese and sliced meat that they brought along to complement the fresh melon, dark chocolate, and homemade muffins that Marilyn got out of bed at 5:00 AM to bake for us just so we could have just the best “snack” imaginable. Their stop at the market meant that they got caught in a construction delay as a road crew laid new asphalt down on their already luscious highway—it’s not by magic that Napa’s roads are as smooth as their chardonnays. 


We paddled across smooth waters around the whole lake seeing many birds: common ones including American Coots, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Mallards, Western Grebes, Double-Crested Cormorants; and more special ones including Green Herons, White Pelicans, and a Bald Eagle.
Our snack stop was more of a gourmet lunch, at least I've had lesser "gourmet" lunches. I couldn't get Phil to admit that he hired live music to accompany the birdsong, but you cannot believe everything Phil says. I can say for sure there was live music—good guitar music—right by us as we dined. 

Live music at lunch


It was such a special paddle that I thought that we ought perhaps to update that tired definition of insanity, you know, the one that talks about “doing the same thing expecting different results.”
For PP’ers perhaps a good working definition might be: “not showing up when Phil and Marilyn suggest a paddle.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Paddle to the Moon

Waiting for the moon to rise.

Photos just don't do it justice....

Near sunset on the eve of my sixtieth birthday, Sarah, Joe, Dawn, and I paddled north along the western shore of Tomales Bay. From our boats we watched the full moon appear on the eastern horizon and sail silently into the night sky.

The thinnest whisper of wind sighed across almost calm waters and enhanced our feelings of serenity. The moon lit up the sky so brightly that, try as best we could, we were unable to see any bioluminescence in the water.

We paddled about two hours from Chicken Ranch Beach almost to Hearts' Desire Beach and back. Most pleasant!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Drake's Estero

Sunday, October 9 some Petaluma Paddlers ventured out on Drakes Bay.

Conditions were calm as we set off from the oyster farm.

We headed towards Drake's Bay

Ray at the entrance to Berrie's Bay

Berrie's Bay

Yours truly on his "new" kayak

My second outing on this boat

Inside Berries Bay

Joe and Ray

Near the mouth of Drakes Estero, about 5 miles from our launch

Here comes the rest of the group

A memorial to the privateer, Drake.


Yakkin' on the beach


Heading towards Home Bay


Laura in her new boat.


Phil and Marilyn

Potluck lunch spread. Good food.

We celebrated Ellen's 50th birthday.

A tiramisu cake!

Life is good




On her birthday paddle, Ellen's mom, her dog, and husband Larry

Happy trails!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bioluminescence

This summer I've been paddling on Tomales Bay at night when the moon is not in the sky. It is very dark. Except for the water which explodes in blue green bioluminescent light with every paddle stroke. It's a mesmerizing experience that leaves me in speechless wonder.

I've found no way to adequately convey the miracle of paddling in dark waters that light up. My photography skills are not up to the task.

I just ran across this video on Boing Boing that shows surfing in bioluminescent waters south of where I live. If you watch it, you'll have some idea of what's been keeping me away from blogging this summer.




Red Tide Surfing San Diego 2011 Bioluminescence from Loghan Call on Vimeo.


More on biolume from Maggie Koerth-Baker's Boing Boing post:


Phytoplankton are tiny, plant-like organisms that live in the ocean and are, basically, at the very bottom of the food chain. But, sometimes, they get their revenge. When lots and lots and lots of phytoplankton get together, they can form what we call a "red tide," a discoloration of the water at a particular point where the plankton have become densely concentrated.
Some red tides are natural. Others happen when nutrient runoff from farm fertilizers creates a massive buffet for plankton. Some red tides can kill, as the plankton can produce toxins and their deaths reduce the oxygen content of the water. And sometimes, red tidesglow in the dark.
The phytoplankton in this red tide off a California beach are bioluminescent. Their cells produce a chemical reaction that creates a soft, blue-green glow. It's basically the same thing that makes lightning bugs light. In this video by Loghan Call and Man's Best Media, you can see plankton light up in the beach (and a few surfers).