Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year end musings

It's been awhile since I posted online. I got distracted by life again. I still plan on completing the Anthropology of Religion OpenCourseWare course, but must admit to getting side tracked by other books pertaining to Native American belief systems. I've piled up Native Religions and Cultures of North America: Anthropology of the Sacred by my bedside along with Vine Deloria, Jr.'s God is Red. can be very dangerous!

And, as if I hadn't purchased enough books to keep me distracted, my husband game me three more for Christmas: How Dogs Think: What the World Looks Like to Them and Why They Act the Way They Do by Stanley, Coren; a book on women's spirituality, Sexy Witch by LaSara Firefox; and Physics Demystified by Stan Gibilisco. Talk about an ecletic mix of reading material!

It's 6:04 pm on New Year's Eve, always a time to ponder the past and make numerous resolutions for the future. I've been to Jennifer Louden's website earlier this week and downloaded her Inner Organizer. Part of its design is to help one focus on one's intention for the week. So, perhaps instead of making grand resolutions to last all year long, I'll try to come up with a weekly intention. Stay tuned.

We're going out to be with friends to welcome in the new year. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Still plugging away...

I'm still plugging away at my OpenCourseWare course, the Anthropology of Religion. I continue to read the books I mentioned previously (Emile Durkhelim's The Elementary Forms of the Relgious Life and Benson Saler's Conceptualizing Religion). I couldn't find any of the recommended texts within the two library systems that I frequent, so I requested what I could find, The Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginal Myths in Paintings by Ainslie Roberts with text by Charles P. Mountford and The Spirit World (The American Indians) from Time-Life Books. I'm finding much that resonates within me when I read about Native American beliefs and their values of balance/imbalance or harmony/disharmony as opposed to the good/evil dichotomy found in western religions that I have known.

Tonight I found time to listen to Dr. Crapo's lecture on Chapter 2 of his book: Diversity and Unity in the World's Religions. And, lest anyone think that I'm not giving my brain some much neede downttime, I've also taken out a Tony Hillerman mystery involving retired Navajo tribal policeman, Joe Leaphorn. His writing was a gentle introduction to shamanic practices.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More to follow

I watched Dr. Richley H. Crapo's lecture on "Religion: A multi-Faced Phenomenon" on my tiny, little QuickTime screen. It looked like he was taped while sitting in his office with his back to his bookcases. I think it will take me a little while to get used to multiple QuickTime downloads as a lecture, but, truly, I shouldn't complain about its quality for twice the price (free).

I received the last of my books order from - Children of the Forest: Life with the Mbuti Pygmies by Kevin Duffy. He writes well. I found the part about the "molimo" referred to in Dr. Crapo's text as the most important Pygmy ceremony that is carried out so casually it doesn't look like a religious ritual.

I'm getting ready to dive into Chapter 2: Diversity and Unity in the World's Religions. More to follow.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

OpenCourseWare - Books, books and more books

I continue to be enthusiastic over my OpenCourseWare course, the Anthropology of Religion. I'm still working on all the resource material listed in the first chapter, Anthropological Viewpoints about Religion. (Question: How does a college student find the time to do all this and take other courses and indulge in all else that collegiate life has to offer? Answer: I suspect that they don't if they are anything like I was back in the late sixties and early seventies.) Now in my mid-fifties, I'm having a terrific time getting back into academia. I've listened to about a third of the videotaped lectures, trying out Quicktime versus Windows Media Player.

I learned more about the NoteTaker program last night and can now link directly to URLs from various internet sites that lend depth to any notes I take. It's a fascinating way to take notes - non-linear as need be. Much remains terra incognita in the various pull down menus, however.

Today the big excitement was our mail delivery which brought two packages courtesy of Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of the Relgious Life and Benson Saler's Conceptualizing Religion. I'll be dipping into these tomes along with one received earlier this week: The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure by Victor Turner. Depending on how that goes, it might be a little awhile before I blog again!

Friday, November 04, 2005

OpenCourseWare - A New Enthusiam

Well, the mindful blogging was a big bust. I simply cannot write that way (on or off the internet). I have to edit, refine, rethink, retool, cogitate and then some before anything goes out under my name. I didn't blog for over three months which was more than enough time to come up with a new enthusiasm: OpenCourseWare! The BOCES GED teacher at the jail where I work mentioned it while we were discussing Macintosh iBooks. He said that MIT had started it in a big way by putting all their courses online so people could audit by internet to obtain cultural enrichment. I checked it out and discovered that it wasn't just MIT. John Hopkins, Tufts University and a handful of others have decided to make some of their courses available online. I found one at Utah State University entitled Anthropology of Religion. The syllabus includes the text name, video lectures by Dr. Crapo (the text's author), other images and quizzes.

So, in the intervening blogless period, I've explored the online used textbooks store (I can't believe how much textbooks have gone up in price since I was in college!!). After securing the text, Anthropology of Religion: The Unity and Diversity of religions, I jumped into Chapter 1. Things have changed a great deal since I went to Eisenhower College in 1969. Besides giving a host of recommended readings, there is a list of recommended websites to peruse. I've been busy checking them out while trying to locate some of the recommended readings in the two public library systems I have access to. I could only find Carl Sagan's book, A Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. I went back to and found books by Emile Durkheim, Benson Saler and Victor Turner. Although I couldn't find the exact book by Bronislaw Malinowski, I was able to locate another appropriate book at the Internet Sacred Text Archive.

There's nothing like letting enthusiam rip. I decided to see how students now are taking notes and found NoteTaker by Aquaminds Software Corporation. There's a bit of a steep learning curve that comes along with the month-long demo. The interface isn't as intuitive as I would expect. But, anyway, I'm happily taking notes, listening to the lecture and reading my eyes raw - all for not a lick of credit, just the joy of learning.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Your start-up disk is almost full

That's the message I've been getting ever since I somehow managed to sqeeeezzzee OS X Panther into my very old (circa 1999) iMac. Besides giving me a real incentive to think about buying a new laptop, that phrase, in another setting, gives me a visual of my mind being full of stuff. So much stuff. Busily thinking about other stuff. Other stuff in the past. Other stuff that hasn't happened yet - but might. As Yoda might have said, "...never your mind being where you are..."

What this seems to be leading to is a way to use this blog as a form of Writing Practice ala Natalie Goldberg's book, Writing Down the Bones. Since I threw out my back and haven't been going to Curves thrice weekly, I seem to have time to restart my mindfulness meditation practice. At the minimum these postings will serve to encourage me to continue with daily sitting practice (by noting when I have done same) and, at the sky's the limit, perhaps allowing me to finally write real truths as I experience them in writing practice.

I've found myself listening to podcasts by Zencast and have done 15 minutes of sitting both yesterday and today. I've been listening to Writing Down the Bones on my iPod and consider this a first attempt at writing practice.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Women's Rights

Photo credit: Women's Rights Historical Park

Today's blog is in honor of the Women's Rights Convention which took place on July 19-20, 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, not far from where I grew up. I attended the now defunct Eisenhower College in Seneca Falls, which served as the repository for Women's Rights historical items until Congress authorized the Women's Rights Historical Park in 1980. A Report of the Convention can be found here and a link to the National Historical Park website here.

For those that like their history fictional, Miriam Grace Monfredo has written a mystery entitled The Seneca Falls Inheritance which deals with life just prior to the Convention in 1848 and blends historical figures, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with the mystery's main character, spinster librarian Glynis Tryon.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sharing good gazebo fortune

It's still hot and muggy here in rural, upstate New York. I'm grateful that we have a window air conditioner in the bedroom, but that can be so confining. (And, there are only so many things one can do in a bedroom!) Consequently, I've been spending time in our shady gazebo. It's nestled into apple, cherry and pine trees, with honeysuckle and raspberry plants behind. There are large trees further behind that shade it from the sun for much of the day. If there's a breeze, it catches it and the windchimes play. I've frequently found myself going out there with a good book to escape the heat in the house. There are wetlands a little further behind, but it's screened from mosquitoes. I've found myself being very grateful to have such a book nook at the far end of our property.
I've been sharing my good fortune with a fat and feisty woodchuck. You can see the hole he insists on keeping right below the door to the gazebo. I spent some time tossing all the stone back down that he had worked so hard to throw up, but each day I returned to the gazebo, he had cleared his tunnel all back out. My husband said that the woodchuck had chosen a highly defensible spot - no predator can sneak up on him there. It's also very dry. So, as long as he doesn't expand the hole to human size, we have a truce and peace reigns in the back lot.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A different kind of Cat

It's been hot and humid, sweltering, stick to your chair weather for some time in upstate New York. Not at all conducive to cogitation with a computer keyboard in my library/computer room. (The only room in the house with air-conditioning is the bedroom - more information than you asked for, I know.) Tonight I've plugged in a portable fan, turned it on high and am basking in the baking breeze while I blog.

I've been remiss with my blogging. I started out so well, with such good intentions. Now days, even weeks, have passed between postings. Mea culpa. Life happened in the interim with good days and bad and those in between.

June 30th was one of the exciting times. My husband and I were passengers on the second "maiden" voyage of the Cat, the Rochester to Toronto fast ferry. From what I later read, there were 358 aboard including Rochester luminaries and, apparently, at least 20 members of the media. Everyone aboard had a chance to be interviewed. My husband spoke to WHAM and in the excitement of the interview, we forgot to say that it was our wedding anniversary. (Awwww!) The accommodations were delightful; the food the nautical equivalent of airplane fare.

As we were a bit late in leaving, the Captain cranked the engine speed up to 55 miles per hour. The resulting wake was amazing. We made excellent time, arriving in Toronto nearly on schedule. And yes, we plan to ride the ferry again.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Anyone for dream interpretation?

Zeke, the oh so perfect appearing basset hound shown in my first blog posting, woke me up at 5:30 today, barking and scratching to be let into our bedroom. After I opened the door, I was able to fall back asleep - but the dream that then ensued was very vivid!

The dream: For some reason I found myself at a college reunion where I knew no one. I was sitting at a table for four and the pleasant looking professor in tweed next to me intoduced himself and then asked my name. When I told my name was La Vaughn Rynearson, he said, "Rynearson, like the flea soap?" Before I had a chance to respond, an officious gray-haired lady appeared and said the reunion was over and the tables were needed elsewhere. She immediately picked up our table and walked off with it, leaving us to put away our folding chairs. With little or no transition, I found myself leading my long-departed red Honda CRX on a leash up a steep, slippery, snow-covered hill. It took some coaxing, but eventually the car crested the hill. The next thing I knew, I was in a resort hotel and had knocked down a portion of a display of items for sale in the hotel store. I wandered around and quickly found myself lost. (It didn't help that the hotel layout seemed to resemble a spiral snail shell.) I suddenly discovered that I had misplaced my purse and thus my keys to home, car and work. I found a friendly face (one of the correction officers I work with in jail) and she directed me to the lost and found department. After locating my purse, I went about my business only to discover that I had somehow, again, misplaced my purse. This time, I explained the siutation to my supervisor at work, but she didn't seem to think it was a real problem. As soon as I could, I got away and determined I had left my purse in a building that could be seen across a muddy field. I slogged through mud past my ankles that spattered my clothing until I reached my destination. I must have looked like a something the cat dragged in, because the hotel employees didn't seem to want me in their lobby. That's when I woke up very grateful to discover that my purse was safe and sound on my bedroom bureau.

WHAT on earth could this mean (aside from an indication that I have a more than slightly over-active brain)? If you'd care to offer an interpretation, please feel free!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Solstice questions

The summer solstice seems to have come and gone. I wanted to make note of it, but wasn't sure if it was yesterday or today even after checking numerous online sources. That's a sad commentary on a day that was once one of humankind's most important celebrations. As the longest day of the year, that amount of daylight was truly meaningful in our ancestors' struggle against the encroaching cold and darkness.

I keep track of the increasing hours and minutes of sunlight on my start-up webpage. I'm not sure why I do this since I can easily have light whenever I flick a switch. Perhaps it's an atavistic response to a need to be aware of natural light. Or the recognition of small increments of something both positive and pleasant. I find myself watching and appreciating every minute of sunlight that is added to each new day's accumulation. Today's total: 15 hours and 26 minutes. You'd think this should be a time to rejoice and sing, but my mind inverts its meaning. It's all downhill from here. Less and less light until December 22nd. Why am I seeing an ending in what is actually an on-going cycle?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Mindful purring

Since I've blogged about our basset, Zeke, I need to give our cat, Zak (short for Zachariah Tailchaser) a blog debut as well. Zak can be very affectionate, especially when it gets close to "time to wake up and feed me" early in the morning. You'd be surprised how quickly one can move when eighteen pounds of purring cat lands on a full bladder. After eating catfood and drinking milk, Zak's next most favorite activity is sleeping on top of me while I'm trying to read. He also enjoys sitting on a meditation cushion with me. He's probably closer to enlightenment than I am, if his mindful purring is any indication.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Well, wadda ya know?

I've been spending some time getting to know myself a little better by sporadically filling out my profile page. You know - stuff like "favorite movies", "interests", "favorite music". When I finally decided to look at my partially completed user profile, I discovered that those interests, movies and types of music that I had entered were clickable and actually would take me to the profiles of fellow afficianados. Much to my suprise, there were numerous individuals who had listed the operas Carmen and Aida. Even more amazingly, there was one person who had also listed Tanglefoot as a favorite group and one who had likewise listed the Sons of the Neverwrong. I first heard both of these musical groups at the Oswego Music Hall several years ago. Both are from the sub-genre of folk music which meant to me that it was likely no one on Blogger had heard of them. Well, wadda ya know? I was wrong!

Not only that, but I discovered blogger profiles for such classic movies as Duel in the Sun and The African Queen. It looks like I've found a host of compatriot spirits online. I'll try and contact some and see where we go from here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The pressure's on

And I thought writing my first post was hard. It's not. It's the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 99th or 1,300th! What to write about? Eloquent epitaphs or edifying editorials have never been my style. I tend toward a more light and easy humor and try to see something daily along those lines. So, without further ado, today's posting: how does one choose one's favorite movies for a blog profile? Should I choose movies that I've seen repeatedly (bought the DVD, taped for future viewing)? Or should I choose movies that have made an emotional impact (guaranteed to make me cry)? Should I choose movies that are associated with an occasion of importance? Or movies that I've seen every multiple episode of? And what constitutes a "favorite" anyway? I've been watching movies for over a half-century. The 1st movie I ever saw - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was my favorite when I was four. Now I'd say that Shrek is more to my taste! And how do people remember the names of all those movies? I clearly remember Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in a movie pitting her memory/researching ability against a computer, but I can't retrieve the title for love nor money.

In any case, I've made an effort and have come up with a list of favorites for my profile and, coincidentally, completed my second blog posting!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

With a basset beneath my feet

As I write this first post, my basset hound, Zeke, is at my feet wagging his tail, not knowing that he is about to become immortalized in my blog. It's been a tough day for him so far. Every time he's gone outside he gets his big bassett paws wet because of the much needed rain that's falling. When he comes back inside the house, he's quarantined until his paws dry off. And, like many of us, he wants to be where he's not: in/out, out/in. Consequently, he's had a number of "time-outs" today. I'm just grateful not to find myself similarly quarantined for my vacillations.