Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Tale of Three Puddles, or, A Christmas Carol

On Christmas morning, I was visited by three separate puddles that formed on three separate occasions on my kitchen floor.  Each puddle had its own separate message.

The holidays are famously hard on single people, especially on single introverts.  It's not that we mind spending time alone - hell, a day to sleep in late, catch up on our reading, and binge watch some television sounds like paradise to us.  The problem is that certain other people want to insist that we celebrate the holidays with friends and family, and appear bitterly disappointed that we didn't spend our time in the exact same way that they did. They even feel compelled sometimes to extend invitations to people they don't really want to have over to engage in activities we don't really want to share, creating an awkward situation for all involved.  

As a result, we single introverts are either forced to become defensive, saying "No, really, we're fine, thank you," or to outright lie about our plans ("I'm meeting with some friends later on") just to satisfy the demands and expectations of society.  The implication is that if we don't celebrate certain holidays in the exact same way that others do, our lives are somehow incomplete or lacking, and those without a strong sense of self esteem may find themselves agreeing with that social assessment, resulting in depression or anxiety.  Alternately, we might find ourselves masquerading as "normals" and then feel worse about ourselves for being phonies and for worrying about the opinion of others.

Personally, I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day home alone and I'm fine.  Really.  To be quite honest, it's exactly what I wanted to do.  The day before the holidays, I had stocked up on food and drink, stuffing my refrigerator with some frozen meals and ice cream, with fresh berries and yogurt to make parfaits, with beer for watching sports on t.v., with frozen burritos and fresh salsa, and with tortellini and marinara sauce.  Enough food to last me a week, and I was looking forward to watching the NBA, the NFL, and, most especially, college bowl games on television, as well as re-watching drama series like HBO's The Leftovers and Fox's Fargo, and continuing to work my way through Don DeLillo's massive, 800-page novel Underworld (I'm about half-way through).

After a day of indulging in much of the above on a particularly wet and rainy Christmas Eve, I got up Christmas morning and found a puddle on the kitchen floor next to the sink.  This has happened before, and I'm not completely sure why, but it seems there's some sort of periodic and very slow leak under the sink, and I've found that if I just run the garbage disposal for a long minute, the leak stops. Earlier this year, I had a plumber look for the problem, but it wasn't leaking right then and he couldn't find anything wrong.  But that morning, I ran the disposal as per my custom and sopped up the water with an old t-shirt I use as a rag for just this situation, and that, it seemed, was that.  

An hour or so later, when I went back in the kitchen to refill my coffee, I saw there was another puddle on the kitchen floor, but not in the same location as the usual one I had seen earlier.  A moment later, I noticed that the countertop was wet, too.  This was different - I wasn't sure what this leak was from, but after a minute or so, I saw the water dripping from a brand-new seam that had formed in the ceiling.  Apparently, the torrential rain of the night before had found a hole in the roof and was just now trickling through the ceiling and into my kitchen.

Great, more expenses.  Dealing with this and fixing holes in the roof were most decidedly not in my holiday plans, such as they were, and not particularly in my skill set either, and how does one get a roofer to fix a leak on Christmas Day?  Fortunately, the rain had stopped and after drying off the floor and countertop, twice, no more water came through.  Also, since I had some roof repair work done earlier this year, I was able to leave a voice-mail message with a contractor, stating that I had another job for him after the holiday.  He even called me back later in the day, and we set up an appointment for him to come by and look at the situation next Monday.  So this is something I didn't want to deal with (who does?) and an expense I didn't want to pay (what is?), but it's at least manageable and under control, at least as long as the torrential rains don't return before Monday. 

So after convincing myself that the leaking roof was at least a stable situation for the time being, I was disappointed to find a third puddle on the kitchen floor still later that morning. It was close to but not quite the same location as the prior two puddles, and there was no evidence of leakage from the ceiling or from under the sink.  This one had me perplexed, but I mopped it up, attributing it to some remnant of the first two leaks, and forgot about it. 

All of that had kind of knocked me off my rhythm for the morning, but later that day I settled in to catch up on some of those television series mentioned above.  Unfortunately, I got an error message saying the cable service, Xfinity, that lets me watch programs "On Demand" wasn't working and that I needed to call customer service.  I didn't want that headache and hassle on top of everything else, so I switched back over to the basketball game in progress and went to the refrigerator to get some of that ice cream I had bought.  That's when I found out what had caused the third puddle.    

The pint of ice cream had completely melted and was in totally liquid form.  The inside of both my freezer and the refrigerator were just slightly cooler than room temperature.  I checked the controls on the appliance and, no, I hadn't somnolently reset the temperature to 65 degrees the night before. Apparently, after living here with the refrigerator for 11 years (it came with the house when I bought it), it died on Christmas morning, and the third puddle that I saw was the condensate from the melting ice.

So, more hassle and more expenses.  Worse, all of the food I had stocked up on was going to spoil, because let's face it, I wasn't going to go out and buy a new refrigerator on Christmas and have it installed that same day.  White hair was already growing on the blackberries and strawberries that I had bought, and I don't trust dairy products like yogurt after they've been at room temperature for long periods of time.

"Oh boy," I sarcastically consoled myself, "I get to get a new refrigerator!"  I made the best of it, though, watching what I could on t.v. without the On Demand feature, and drinking the beer before it got too warm (interestingly, since heat rises and the beer is stored at the bottom of the 'fridge, the beer stayed cold the longest). The next day, I refused to go shopping with the "day after" crowds, and stayed home and watched college football and drank the remainder of the beer (still reasonably cool - thanks, physics!), but today I finally went out and bought a new and impressively upgraded refrigerator to replace the dead unit ("Oh boy, I'm getting a new refrigerator!").  I cleaned out the old 'fridge and stored what I could on ice in a cooler, and the new unit is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow, about the same time as the roofer is coming over to look at the leak.

Two problems solved, but I still don't know what I'm going to do about the sink, other than run the disposal more often.  Also, now that Christmas is over and my entertainment options aren't as limited, the Xfinity On Demand is mysteriously back to working again.  It was only down when I had wanted it the most. 

In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who teach him the true meaning of Christmas.  Were my three Christmas puddles trying to teach me something about spending Christmas home alone?             

Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's flooding in Georgia.  Many roads are either inundated or washed out altogether, trees are falling and damaging homes and power lines and blocking the roads that aren't underwater or eroded away, and creeks and streams are overtopping their banks and spilling out into residential neighborhoods. 

One of the very few things that I like about this is how the flooding doesn't discriminate between wealthy and poor parts of town - everyone's getting wet and everybody's suffering.

I'm safe and unaffected so far, and fortunately I don't have any travel plans for the holidays that could be impacted by the challenges to mobility posed by these storms.

For the record, the warm temperatures across the eastern U.S. and the flooding down South have little to do with the phenomenon of climate change.  The weather in this case seems to be the result of an El Nino in the Pacific, a natural event, although one could argue that the severity of the impacts from the El Nino and the frequency of El Nino events are affected by anthropogenic climate change.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Not original photography, but a pretty impressive selection of stunt, extreme sport and parkour videos for your enjoyment.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Oh Solstice!  You always arrive when the days are most out of balance with the night, when everything's all lop-sided, leaning too far either toward the dark or toward the light.

Today is the shortest day of the year and the longest night, and each successive day inclines a little more toward the light than the one before it. Each passing day moves us a little bit closer to balance, to equanimity, toward equal measures of day and night.

The cold night air of the winter solstice is perhaps the clearest of the year, an opportunity to view the moon and the stars without the blinding glare of the sun.  Ironically, when it's darkest, we can see the most.  Go observe, before the break of day blinds you with its brightness.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

After a long, unseasonably warm stretch, we finally had a cold December evening here in Atlanta (cold by Georgia standards, meaning in the mid 30s), and of course that's the morning the batteries in my thermostat die and when I woke up this morning, there was no heat running and the whole house was frigid cold until I took some batteries out of the DVD remote (naturally, I was out of fresh batteries when I needed them the most) and put them in the thermostat, and it still took several hours before the house warmed back up into the comfortable range.

We always want things to be different than they are, and we rarely appreciate what we have when we have it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


As frequently noted herein, for about a year-and-a-half now I've been exclusively using my own, original photography to illustrate this blog.  Before that time, though, I used whatever images floated their way into my little corner of cyberspace, often posting the pictures without regard to or knowledge of their origin.

Yesterday, it was pointed out to me by the creator of one such piece that back in early 2011 I had posted his original artwork without attribution or credit, a violation of his copyright to the photograph.  He was polite enough about his request, but asked me to either list him as the copyright holder or to take the post down.  I intended to comply with his request, of course, and caption the photograph as © the artist, but as I tried, I inadvertently erased the content of the post and before I could Ctrl-Z back to undo my erasure, Blogger automatically saved the blank version of the post, and the photograph and the accompanying text were lost forever.

For the record, my intention in using other people's pictures was never to pass it off as my own, but instead to create a kind of pastiche of words and vision, my thoughts and internal monologue presented against a kind of collage of internet imagery, and to be honest, my decision to only use original artwork was not due to a sensitivity over copyright infringement as much as a realization one day that I had amassed enough digital imagery of my own to post a new pic per day of my own stuff, at least for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, sorry if I've stepped on anyone's toes or violated anyone's rights, copy- or otherwise. However, if anyone wants to use any of my pictures for whatever reason, have at it, anything I've released to the internet in my opinion belongs to the virtual cosmos and no longer to me. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Easter Island

Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.  - Annette Funicello

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A visit from my daughter Britney to brighten my holiday weekend.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holiday Season

One of the warning signs of the approaching holidays is apparently elves on stilts appearing in your grocery store.

This, too:

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Water Above, Sky Below

In the fifth hexagram of the I Ching, Xu, water is up above the sky.  Even when clouds are full of rain, we cannon make the rain fall, and this hexagram, Xu, is sometimes translated as "Waiting."

Furthermore, heaven, meaning strength, is combined with water, meaning danger.  When one is faced with danger, one carefully times one's actions and while waiting, seeks nourishment in preparation of the work ahead.  

Youth requires nourishment and time to grow, and that requires patience and waiting.  But patience is usually an asset of old age, not of youth, and it may take a lifetime to master the art of waiting.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Time travel is possible, but only in one direction (forward into the future) and only at a fixed speed of 60 seconds per minute.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

If the halftime show at this year's Superbowl doesn't feature Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was playing at Paris' Bataclan when the terrorists attacked, then the terrorists win.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Prayer For the Recently Departed

To our two great, abiding friends who died in Sacramento
To our three great, abiding friends who died in Colorado Springs
To our one great, abiding friend who died in Savannah
To our fourteen great, abiding friends who died in San Bernardino
And to all those who have passed beyond this life into the heart of Buddha: 

You have passed from this world to the next.
You have taken a great leap.
The light of this world has faded for you and
You have entered solitude with your karmic forces.
You have gone to a vast silence and
Are borne away by the great ocean of birth and death.

May they, together with all beings, realize the end of suffering
And the complete unfolding of the Buddha’s Way.

Friday, December 04, 2015

"Water, not unlike religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people. Since the very birth of human civilization, people have moved to settle close to water. People move when there is too little of it; people move when there is too much of it. People move on it. People write and sing and dance and dream about it. People fight over it. And everybody, everywhere and every day, needs it. We need water for drinking, for cooking, for washing, for food, for industry, for energy, for transport, for rituals, for fun, for life. And it is not only we humans who need it; all life is dependent upon water for its very survival." Mikhail Gorbachev (2003)
According to the World Wildlife Fund, many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feed a growing human population have become stressed. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. More than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agriculture consumes more water than any other source and wastes much of that through inefficiencies. Climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others.  At the current consumption rate, this situation will only get worse. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages, and ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

According to the Buddha's teaching, the self is a phenomenon that arises when several causes, or aggregates, come together, namely form, sensation, perception, "impulse" (samskara), and consciousness.  Without all five causes, there is no self and there is no person. 

A fertilized ovum has form, and it may even have sensation (feeling), but I doubt that many people believe it also has perception (awareness of the feeling) and consciousness.  At some later point in development, the fetus undoubtedly does, and can properly be called a "self" or a "person."

Applying this to the abortion controversy, it could be said that terminating a pregnancy in it's earliest stages is not "murder," as there's no "person" yet there.  There may still be "killing," as one is rendering living tissue non-living, but in the absence of all five aggregates, it's not a "person" that's being killed but just some of the underlying aggregates before a person is formed.

One needs to be careful here, though:  by the same argument, if consciousness is absent, then there is no "self" or "person" either, even if all the other aggregates are present, but I doubt many Buddhists would not consider it to be murder to kill an unconscious person. 

However, as pointed out earlier, in Buddhism it's left to the individual how to observe the precepts and how to interpret the dharma.     

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain."