Archive for the ‘Whassup’ Category.

“O Great Spirit” Record Released

Michael Stillwater, recording artist and music healer (amongst many other amazing gifts), has released a recording, “O Great Spirit,” from his November 2, 2007 Chantwave concert at The Center for Spiritual Living in Seattle. I had the oh-so-yummy pleasure of joining Michael on stage for this show, as did friends Erin Mcgaughan, Sean Bendickson, and Rick Bakken.

All my music-making with Michael, whether live or in recording sessions, has been loose and flowing, and the evening of this recording was no exception. This is not a rehearsed set. As musicians supporting Michael, we take in the feel of the song in the moment and contribute whatever feels juicy vocally and instrumentally. In some cases, we’re doing a song we’ve never heard before.

Working this way is something that I love and at the same time pushes my boundaries and scares the poop out of me. There is no safety net. There is all the room in the world for weirdness, and also the most sublime harmonic moments. Michael is teaching me about letting go of judgment of the voice, stretching and taking risks. He himself makes up songs for people–on the spot–for healing and connection to Spirit. Talk about trusting in the Divine Flow! I’m grateful for his modeling that deep trust, as well as his treasured friendship. Through his example, I’m getting to a deepening sense of trust in my own ability to tap into that divine energy of inspiration.

O Great Spirit is available for download here. Listening samples are also available. Be sure to check out Michael’s other recordings while you’re visiting his site, Inner Harmony, and I certainly recommend seeing him live if you get the chance. Hey, you never know, I might be up there singing, too.

Weather Forecast: Egg Yolks All Week

Yay, California. As near as I can figure, early February in San Andreas = late April in Seattle. Sweet! Not that I don’t miss my beloved Seattle, but I get a kick out of seeing the following forecast on my iGoogle page today:

weather for 2/8/07

Wait–what the heck is up with the 100% humidity reading, though? My handy dandy weather station (birthday present–or was it Christmas?– from Mom) tells me the relative humidity here at my desk is 32%. So, huh. Weird. There is so much I don’t know about the world.

Anyway, yay for egg yolks!

Lolcats, Meow-tzart, and Tessa Leone Croydon

Cats have been on my mind lately. Firstly, I’m completely addicted to lolcats. Srsly. I mean, come on! Also, people keep sending me pointers to assorted ridiculously adorable cats online. Check out this delightful video of Nora, the piano playing cat.

Tess at Tasha's

All this inescapable feline cuteness has me missing our family kitteh, Tess. Full name, Tessa Leone Croydon. I didn’t think she’d long survive country life. There are plenty of predators in these foothills who might make a quick snack of a city cat. So Tess went to live with my daughter, Tasha, when I moved to California. This picture was taken by Tasha in the spring of 2007 just after Tess had moved in with her.

Tess came unexpectedly into our family as a teensy kitten. It was an accident, on my part. A coworker brought her into the office to find a home for her. I had already been asked if I wanted a kitten and declined. However, when I opened the door to the office where she was visiting with a crowd of admirers (hey, I was trying to get work done!), Tess immediately dashed over to me and climbed me like a tree in about a half a second. I didn’t even have time to squeak. Once she’d made it to my shoulder, she proceeded to purr loudly while nosing around my ear with her cold wet nose. There was a general chorus of “Ooooh, she’s found her new mama!” and “Sold!” and things like that. I was pretty much sunk. She’d claimed me. Needless to say, she came home with me that day and became a full-fledged family member, growing up side-by-side with Tasha. My memory is filled with moments of excruciating cuteness between them, the little monsters.

Now she’s getting to be an elderly lady (Tess, not Tasha), hanging out with the kids and having a relaxing life free of cougars and rattlesnakes, lounging around on pillows or warm laundry, getting underfoot in the kitchen, and begging to be swept.

I enjoy the freedom that comes with not having responsibility for a pet. Heck, we don’t even have a houseplant. We can decide to hit the road anytime, lock the house behind us, and have no worries about leaving the place uninhabited.

But le sigh. I sure miss having a purr-baby around.

Home office remodel

Conal and I began fixing up our home office. We spent a day painting it a couple of shades of gold with white trim and a white ceiling.

Then our friend Bill came out and laid down a wonderful new floor. We choose super durable Pergo flooring so that we can zoom around in our office chairs without worrying about scratching it up. Here is Bill laying the first board.

And here is the floor all laid down. Purty, eh? I’m very impressed with the new Pergo products. They have managed to make the texture line up with the wood pattern, making for a very realistic look. We love it.

Tasks remaining to complete the project include more coats of gold on the walls, touching up boo boos, repairing the moldings (which had to be removed to lay the floor), filling nail holes, and figuring out what kind of lighting to put in. We are looking forward to setting up our new L-shaped desks from Ikea, hanging pictures, and making it a lovely, cozy work space. For comparison’s sake, here’s what it looked like before.

Big Freaking Trees

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is about an hour’s drive from our place further up into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Where the snow is, this time of year. When my mom visited earlier this month, we took a trek on up to see the “vegetable monsters,” as the early 1800’s advertisers of the park called these living giants. Words and pictures certainly can’t do them the slightest justice, but here’s a couple of pictures anyway.

Here’s me with one of the little ones:

Holly and a Big Tree

And my mom with a truly ginormous one:

Mom and some Big Trees

The Meeting of the Moms

Mom came to stay with us at Murray Creek earlier this month. I enjoyed her visit very much. Among the highlights were a labyrinth walk (including playing and toning with the family temple bowl when we reached the center), a trip to Angels Camp and Big Trees, Christmas tree decorating, and general merriment. From here, Mom flew to San Diego to visit her new grandboy, Graham. Mom is the first of my family to visit.

Here’s me, my mom, Conal’s mom, and Conal:

Us and our Mommas

Labyrinth walkers:

Labyrinth Walkers

Mom and Ann walking along Murraydale Lane near the labyrinth:

Mom and Ann walking

Solar Dreams

Today is the rainiest day I remember here at Murray Creek since April. It is more like a Seattle day than a California day. I smiled to notice that the Google weather forecast icons and temperatures for here and for Seattle are almost identical for this week. It has been raining non-stop since last night, including one period of extra heavy rainfall today that resulted in new baby creeks forming all of a sudden on the hill behind our house. Thankfully, our erosion control efforts are paying off and the chocolate-colored water is being diverted past the house with no harm done, other than a muddy driveway.

I’m snuggled up near the wood stove with the lappy. Being able to heat the house using wood we salvage from the property is pretty awesome, and gets me thinking about other ways to go “off the grid.” Conal and I are interested in solar power, and had heard from a friend that there were technological advances afoot. Turns out, they are afoot practically in our back yard.

When we not-very-seriously considered installing a solar system at our house last summer, the price was much higher than we had hoped it would be. Our considerings were quickly downgraded to never mind. But perhaps the cost of solar is about to get a lot less prohibitive.

I’ve just been reading about Nanosolar, a company based in Silicon Valley that today made its first commercial shipments of thin-film solar cells, according to a press release. I’m excited and inspired by this company’s story, and by what the future may hold for them and us. The new solar cells are no thicker than a layer of paint, and could be built into lots of surfaces. Home roofing materials, sure, but how about the roofs of trucks and cars? Neat!

I came across this wonderful quote a few days ago, and I just love it. It seems apt here:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

The folks at Nanosolar aren’t spending time grumbling about our addiction to fossil fuels or the high cost of alternative energy. They mapped out a daring path to make the old model obsolete, and seem to be well on their way to doing just that.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying listening to the rain and imagining what the world might look like if - I guess I should say when - affordable thin-film solar cells are readily available and in wide use.

Celebrating New Life

Graham ScottMy brother and sister-in-law, Scott and Kimberly, had their first child on December 4th. I’m an Auntie, for reals! Baby Croydon’s name is Graham Scott, and he weighed 6 lb, 14 oz, at birth. All is well with Graham and his adoring parents.New Family

No Meat No Mo’

“If you gave me a million, zillion dollars and said give me a plant that doesn’t have E. coli, I couldn’t do it,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It’s not about the will. It’s about the ability.”

The quote above from this New York Times article (user account may be required), illustrates just one of the reasons for my shift away from a meat-centric diet. Mr. Osterholm is referring to the difficulty of preventing disease from entering the beef production system due to the bacteria-ridden, utterly icky process of high volume, factory farm butchery. Even if I didn’t get the shivers over the cruelty of factory farming, the yuck factor regarding the mud and poop that can’t help but be part of the process would scare me off steak anyway.

I’ve eliminated all beef and chicken, and nearly all dairy, from my diet. I have eaten an eensy bit of shrimp, halibut, and salmon in the last month or two, although I’m sticking almost entirely to fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and legumes. This evening for dinner, for example, I made a lovely green salad with nuts and dried fruits, steamed baby peas, and sweet potatoes with vegan buttery spread (Earth Balance — so awesomely deelish, non-GMO, and organic). I don’t miss cow one bit.

Veggie BrainI’ve read that the amount of plant energy and water required to raise a cow is many times that required to sustain me directly. I like knowing that by choosing a vegetarian diet I’m consuming substantially less resources. Once raised, the cow of course then has to be butchered and shipped to me, consuming still more resources, including fossil fuels. And ultimately, the end product may be contaminated with poop! Ay carumba.

I adore animals and have enjoyed my friendships with a wide variety of pets including horses, rabbits, dogs, cats, turkeys, chickens, sheep, doves, pigeons, and goldfish. Although I’ve never owned a cow or a pig, I got to hang around those species as well through friends and as part of 4-H activities and fairs and such. I enjoyed them all. As a kid, a friend and I once scared the pants off our parents by running away from home because we were mad about my friend’s cow being butchered. My family dabbled in raising chickens, turkeys, and rabbits for meat. I ate the meat, and remember feeling unsettled and weird about it, aside from the unpleasantness of the butchering process itself.

When I think of the animal that a piece of meat came from, I really have no desire to eat it. It’s important to me to make conscious decisions in my life, and I think I’ve just been choosing to remain unconscious about eating meat. I don’t envision myself as militant about it, just more in touch with my own compassion for other creatures and my concern for making choices that result in a decreased environmental impact.

And back to the poop thing, I’m struck by how industrial farming encourages disease. Consider this excerpt from the Vegetarianism article on Wikipedia:

In 2003, an article in the Journal of Dairy Science found that between 30 and 80 percent of cattle carry E. coli O157:H7.[47] In that same journal article, a quick fix was pointed out: Cows that are switched from a grain diet to a forage diet saw, within 5 days, a 1,000 fold decrease in the abundance of strain O157. But until changes like this are made, the source of many E. coli outbreaks will continue to be high-yield (industrial) meat and dairy farms.[48]

More likely, rather than change the way cattle are fed or raised on industrial farms there will instead be pressure to find technological solutions like food irradiation, plans for HACCP, or simply cooking burgers longer. Suggestions like this have led some experts, like Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley, Michael Pollan, to suggest that “All of these solutions treat E. coli O157:H7 as an unavoidable fact of life rather than what it is: a fact of industrial agriculture.”[49]

So, the meat industry apparently recognizes that, as part of the industrial model of production, poop happens–especially when frightened animals face horrific death and in some cases torture. Allowing animals to forage isn’t profitable, so hey, how about irradiating meat? Just get over it and cook my meat longer? Yikes.

How about instead I just say, “No meat no mo’!”



Conal’s Tech Talks

My beloved Conal recently gave talks at Google, Apple, and Intel in the Bay Area. I tagged along for the Google gig, ’cause, you know, who wouldn’t want to visit Googleland if they got the chance? Plus, I loved getting to see Conal do his thing. I had never been able to before, so it was a real treat for me. The venue for tech talks at Google was a really cool, high-tech arrangement of screens, cameras, and projection equipment in this spiffy mezzanine area. The talk was broadcast to other Google locations, as well.

Google gives its engineers 20% of their time to pursue their own projects. The Engineering Education (EngEdu) division brings in people from all over to speak about a huge range of topics. These “tech talks” are recorded and posted online. Google staff handles all the production details, editing and posting. Very cool. You can watch Conal’s talk here.

I enjoyed getting a peek at Google HQ. The campus surrounds a park-like main commons with a sand-filled volleyball court watched over by a FULL SIZE tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. There are grassy areas for hanging out and various patios outside the several cafes and restaurants surrounding the park. All the food is free for employees and guests. There is food and drink everywhere for whoever wants it. Lots of healthy and trendy stuff as well as standards. The Google primary colors are prominently in evidence, and the architecture is open and modern in feel, with white beams and glass, and is techie without feeling cold.

I had fun people-watching. My overall impression was of smart, bright, young (the crowd definitely tended toward youth) folks getting a chance to shake things up with their ideas and skill. I was fascinated by the feel of the place, which was, oh, kind of like a self-satisfied buzz of excited energy. These folks work at the center of the internet-verse, and they pretty much know they rock everybody’s world. At least, that is the underlying story I was making up about it.

When Conal spoke at Apple and Intel the next two days, I chose to goof off on my own since those were all-day engagements and I thought it likely I’d get rather bored. I had a great time exploring Palo Alto and visiting the Stanford shopping attractions.

Here is a photo of Conal speaking at Apple:

Conal speaking at Apple HQ

Conal at the podium was totally in his element. He seemed to be inspired and engaged and loving the interaction, welcoming challenges and questions, answering with grace and a depth of knowledge that confirmed my absolute awe of his amazing brain and heart. Ah, my sweetheart. ::melt::