Confidence in yourself

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In today’s Daily Dharma from the Tricycle: Buddhist Review:

People who are attached to sutras and a scriptural teaching of words can lack faith in the living, mysterious experience of meditation that leads to a sudden insight. They are . . . attached to the stubborn habit of distinguishing between “true” and “not true.” Believing only what is written in holy texts, they are conceptually mesmerized by the treasures of others, instead of digging inside to discover the priceless gems of their own, lying deep within. —So Sahn

This applies to many experiences and beliefs, across many areas of human endeavor. Confidence is the key word here,  as many people lack personal confidence to basically think for themselves. We’ve been beaten down over the centuries to blindly accept religious beliefs, medical “facts,” health issues, politics, economics, etc, so as to take away our ability to think for ourselves. It’s not easy, but it is achievable. Mindfulness training, guided meditation, and basically taking the time to realize your beliefs and from whence they stem.


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The State of Pure Awakening

Dismiss all the thoughts which bother your mind. Train yourself during many days, many months, many years, to retain this pure mind. One day, when your empty mind has become crystallized, suddenly it will be illumined by its own intrinsic wisdom. At that instant you will realize the state of pure awakening. 

– Sokei-an, “Return to Your Original State!

An important realization

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“Nobody is going to save you from your own mind. Nobody can get into the heart of your experience and fix anything for you. If you want to make your own internal experience more hospitable, only you can do that work. Others can always support and guide you and spark insights, but ultimately you are your own boss and the agent of understanding your mind and opening your heart.”

– Ethan Nichtern, “Awake with Others”

The smell of rain – petrichor

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It is clearly one of those most distinct smells. From

What is the smell of rain?

The word for it is “petrichor.” It’s the name of an oil that’s released from Earth into the air before rain begins to fall.

You can tell when rain is coming just by the smell. ‘Rain is Coming’ by Taylor Dingess via

By Howard Poynton, CSIRO

Australia’s national science agency – the CSIRO – has come up with some pretty amazing inventions over the past 86 years of research, from polymer banknotes to insect repellent and the world-changing Wi-Fi. But we can also lay claim to something a little more esoteric – we actually invented a whole new word. And no, we’re not talking about one of these new-fangled internet words like “YOLO”, “selfie” or “totes”.

The word is “petrichor,” and it’s used to describe the distinct scent of rain in the air. Or, to be more precise, it’s the name of an oil that’s released from the Earth into the air before rain begins to fall.

This heady smell of oncoming wet weather is something most people are familiar with – in fact, some scientists now suggest that humans inherited an affection for the smell from ancestors who relied on rainy weather for their survival.


Even the word itself has ancient origins. It’s derived from the Greek “petra” (stone) and “ichor” which, in Greek mythology, is the ethereal blood of the gods.

But the story behind its scientific discovery is a lesser known tale. So, how is it that we came to find this heavenly blood in the stone?

Nature of Argillaceous Odour might be a mouthful, but this was the name of the paper published in the Nature journal of March 7, 1964, by CSIRO scientists Isabel (Joy) Bear and Richard Thomas, that first described petrichor.

Thomas had for years been trying to identify the cause for what was a long-known and widespread phenomena. As the paper opened:

That many natural dry clays and soils evolve a peculiar and characteristic odor when breathed on, or moistened with water, is recognized by all the earlier text books of mineralogy.

The odor was particularly prevalent in arid regions and was widely recognised and associated with the first rains after a period of drought. The paper went on to say:

There is some evidence that drought-stricken cattle respond in a restless matter to this “smell of rain.”

The smell had actually been described already by a small perfumery industry operating out of India, which had successfully captured and absorbed the scent in sandalwood oil. They called it “matti ka attar” or “Earth perfume”. But its source was still unknown to science.

Joy and Richard, working at what was then our Division of Mineral Chemistry in Melbourne, were determined to identify and describe its origin.

By steam distilling rocks that had been exposed to warm, dry conditions in the open, they discovered a yellowish oil – trapped in rocks and soil but released by moisture – that was responsible for the smell.

The diverse nature of the host materials has led us to propose the name “petrichor” for this apparently unique odor which can be regarded as an “ichor” or “tenuous essence” derived from rock or stone.

The oil itself was thus named petrichor – the blood of the stone.

Bring on the humidity

The smell itself comes about when increased humidity – a pre-cursor to rain – fills the pores of stones (rocks, soil, etc) with tiny amounts of water.

While it’s only a minuscule amount, it is enough to flush the oil from the stone and release petrichor into the air. This is further accelerated when actual rain arrives and makes contact with the Earth, spreading the scent into the wind.

According to the Nature Paper:

In general, materials in which silica or various metallic silicates predominated were outstanding in their capacity to yield the odor. It was also noted that the odor could be obtained from freshly ignited materials rich in iron oxide, with or without silica.

It’s a beautiful sequence of events, but one that may be hard to visualise.

Thankfully, in a testament to the ongoing scientific fascination with this finding, a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have just this year released a super slow motion video of the petrichor process in motion.

Using high-speed cameras, the researchers observed that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, it traps tiny air bubbles at the point of contact. As in a glass of champagne, the bubbles then shoot upward, ultimately bursting from the drop in a fizz of aerosols.

The team was also able to predict the amount of aerosols released, based on the velocity of the raindrop and the permeability of the contact surface which may explain how certain soil-based diseases spread.

Lasting legacy

There’s a small body of research and literature on petrichor that’s fascinating in its own right, including Thomas and Bear’s subsequent paper Petrichor and Plant Growth a year after they first named the smell.

So what happened to Joy Bear and Richard Thomas?

Richard had actually retired from CSIRO in 1961 when he was First Chief of the Division of Minerals Chemistry. He died in 1974, aged 73.

Joy, aged 88, a true innovator and pioneer in her field, retired from CSIRO only in January this year, after a career spanning more than 70 years.

The joint discovery of petrichor was just part of a truly remarkable and inspiring career which culminated in 1986, with Joy’s appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia for services to science.

We are thankful to both for the lasting legacy on giving a name to the smell of rain and to Joy for the role model she has been to so many women in science.


Venus and Mars are all right tonight… along with the moon.

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Venus and Mars and the waxing moon near the sunrise. Amazing sight. Tried to catch it with my Pentax and a 300mm zoom. Needed a bit of a time exposure, thus the trails in second one. And ambient neighborhood light didn’t help either. IMGP1303 IMGP1301


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Some people either fantasize about or actually do those kind of trips where they will visit all the baseball parks, ride the largest roller coasters, etc. If that’s a sort of bucket list, then the one that would be at the top of my list would be drive on all of the craziest roads in the world. crazyroad1 crazyroad2

Bad Luck? Knocking On Wood Can Undo Perceived Jinx, Study Suggests

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I love that someone is working on this type of thing in order to get a mainstream level buy in that we actually do create and manipulate our own reality – through many means.

Oct. 1, 2013 — Knocking on wood is the most common superstition in Western culture used to reverse bad fortune or undo a “jinx.” Other cultures maintain similar practices, like spitting or throwing salt, after someone has tempted fate. Even people who aren’t particularly superstitious often participate in these practices.

A new study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that these superstitions actually do “reverse” perceived bad fortune.

“Our findings suggest that not all actions to undo a jinx are equally effective. Instead, we find that avoidant actions that exert force away from one’s representation of self are especially effective for reducing the anticipated negative consequences following a jinx” says Jane Risen, associate professor of behavioral science at Chicago Booth. Risen conducts research in the areas of judgment and decision-making, intuitive belief formation, magical thinking, stereotyping and managing emotion.

The entire article is here

My labyrinth

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Your life is a sacred journey. And it is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path… exactly where you are meant to be right now… And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.”  
Caroline Adams

We are all on the path… exactly where we need to be. The labyrinth is a model of that path.

Thus began my journey of building my labyrinth. I’ve always believed in the inner journey, meditation, and also how angles, such as those in astrology, are significant in the channeling of energies. I felt I had no choice but to build one. I was being drawn, almost obsessively, to do this. I didn’t feel like I was giving in – I went with the energy to build it.

There are companies that specialize in providing the actual labyrinths, or at lest the templates to build them. I considered a template, but at ~$350, I thought I could do it myself. Well, I over estimated my geometry skills, because what I fast realized was that it was all about angles, and they were different with each of the layers. My head hurt while trying to figure them out, but as I got into it, I realized that the figuring was obviously part of my journey. The entire design and construction of my labyrinth was what I believe the major part of the journey, kind of like a birth – painful – but the growth afterwards is rewarding.

Sacred geometry is the contemplation and utilization of the archetypal geometric patterns of Nature for the purposes of spiritual communion and healing. By studying nature, we find that the basic building blocks of creation are geometric. Since a divine hand is responsible for originating the numbers and proportions of the manifest universe, that geometry is sacred. Studying sacred geometry leads us to truth and self-understanding.

The area that I chose was one that I had already transformed from grass (or more often weeds because it was a difficult growing area) to a more peaceful rock garden:


My initial trials were fraught with bad angle measuring, cutting incorrect angles, and when I completed the first try at the outer circuit, I was dismally off.


So, back to the drawing board – literally. I found that a compass-like tool that metal workers use, that was given to my by my father, proved to be the solution I needed to make the angles correctly. But that was not without a lot of templates for each and every cut of the 220+ blocks. I grew to love my Dewalt grinder very much :)

IMG_20130901_142125_316 IMG_20130901_142216_722

The design that I chose is the Chelsea Octagonal 5 circuit design. The striking design incorporates the powerful rebirth and renewal medieval symbology of the number 8. Adapting the dimensions to my space was a challenge and required many calculations.

IMG_20130901_142507_161 IMG_20130901_142521_212


So, after many hours of figuring cutting, re-cutting, placing the stones, picking the stone up because they didn’t meet, establishing more ways of determining the angles, and many gallons of sweat, my labyrinth was finished.



From the original angle in the first picture, and other views from the yard.

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Let the journey continue!

Bob’s Twitter Rule

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How many times have you been in a situation where someone wants to tell you something, and it takes him so long, through such a round-about way, to get to the point, if indeed,he ever does? How many times have you wanted to pull his tongue to get to the point and over with? Well, with Bob’s Twitter Rule in your repertoire, you won’t have to suffer that again. Here’s how it works: let’s say you ask someone how the weather is, and the response goes something like, “well, funny you ask Bob is over here sitting by the pool and he grew up in Pittsburgh and never saw the sun but how about the Penguins hope they win the Stanley cup but Big Ben was just honored with something but that bar where he got in trouble is opening and his sister is helping him and she lives near my cousin……… etc., etc.” never getting to the question. So, you say, “I am invoking Bob’s Twitter Rule – you now have 144 characters to finish!” I guarantee this will cause a pause, or your money back. And for habitual offenders, you might consider starting the conversation with Bob’s Twitter Rule.

Coffee, How much do I love thee?

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graphic-coffee-cup-thumb3380699Since 11th grade, I’ve been in love with coffee. College provided a few nice coffee shops to get a different, good cup, but it wasn’t until my move to New York City that my love blossomed. In Brooklyn Heights where I lived, there were at least 2 stores to buy beans or sit and sip. I purchased a hand grinder back on those days, and used those grinds in my first Chemex Pot. Since then, I have gone through many iterations of grinders and brewers, and with my present setup, I feel like the proverbial very lucky guy. I have a very nice Cuisinart Brewer as well as a Chemex pot, and a burr grinder (the only way to grind). I found Speciality Java and have not looked back. I like a variety on hand, so my present stash includes:

Organic and Fair Trade

  • Sumatran
  • New York New York
  • Bali Kintamani
  • Hibrido de Timor
  • Layer Cake Melange
  • Espresso Organico Dark
  • Rainforest Rhythms
  • Decadent Decaf
  • Constant Cravings
  • New World Breakfast Blend
  • Rainforest Rhythms
  • Kenya Muiri Estate
  • Paradise Blend
  • Ethiopian Oronia Sidamo
  • Rwanda Peaberry Bourbon

Not so organic or fair traded:

  • Natural Toast Coffee of Santa Cruz Galapagos
  • Cafe De Monde Coffee and Chicory – no beignets, though :(

Join me for a cup?