blog entry list
Getting Democracy (back?) Online

If you're a cynic you'll find's commentary on democracy today to be dead-on, and if you're not a cynic you may still find it amusing:

Yeah — we own democracy, so we're responsible for fixing any problems or shortcomings we see. I am not a cynic, in fact I am compiling a directory of directories of resources on democracy. Stay tuned for more...

#   on: June 25, 2013       tagged: 
Aaron's Raw Nerve

David Weinberger wrote a blog post recently on the lack of coverage of the scale and maturity of Aaron Swartz' accomplishments in his too-short life. I commented, sharing that I also saw this missing, and pointed to a Matt Stoller article that I said decently covered the breadth and depth of Aaron's non-tech work.

Actually, there is at least one major area of his non-tech work that Stoller's article does not cover. (To be fair, Stoller claims only to be writing about Aaron political work, not all of his non-tech work.) What I'm referring to is his almost stillborn project to work on his own personal development. I haven't seen anyone write about this, but it is completely explicit on his blog, in fact he had named it and even added a separate web page linking to the relevant articles all together: Raw Nerve. Of course Aaron was a self-reflective guy and had in some sense been working to improve himself in many ways for much of his life, but this was different, with a significantly greater sense of stepping back and really looking at his inner dynamics and how they could improve. As he puts it in his inaugural post, "I realized I’ve never stopped to ask whether I could get better at life."

This is one of the most heartbreaking things for me about Aaron's suicide (how to choose? - there are so many heartbreaks in it). He accomplished as much as he did despite his obvious personal challenges, and here he was starting to explicitly and seriously address them. Given his track record on other projects, one can have little doubt that he would have accomplished a lot in this regard, and very quickly. In my mind, all of his public work was done with one hand tied behind his back. What would he have accomplished in the decades ahead with both hands free?

Update: Remembering Aaron Swartz — memorial website full of stories from the people who's lives he touched

#   on: March 18, 2013       tagged: 
What to bring to Occupy

I haven't looked at any committee lists of suggestions yet, but I've already started making a list of things I'm thinking of bringing to tomorrow's


Watch me if you like [there was a link here to an EtherPad] - you can even start a section for your own list (or start your own separate pad).

#   on: October 14, 2011       tagged: 
Biscuits & Gravy - Eugene cafe face-off

Keystone Cafe vs. Cornbread Cafe


In a rare display of eating out for me these days, I satisfied a months-long desire for biscuits & gravy, not once, but twice yesterday. Lunch was biscuits & gravy (and some blueberry pancake) at Keystone Cafe. Dinner was seitan (a la chicken-fried steak) and gravy, with biscuit, greens and fries at Cornbread Cafe.


Keystone Cafe wins the biscuits & gravy competition hands-down. This was their sausage gravy (I'll have to go back and try their mushroom some time, but I trust it will be about as good). Even on the biscuit itself Keystone would have won, but to be fair, the competition in this case is called the Cornbread Cafe (I'll have to go back and try the cornbread). As a whole, both meals were fantastic, and well worth the cost.

#   on: October 14, 2011       tagged: 
Starting with something simple
I keep telling people that many of the same patterns apply across individual, group, community, network, regionially, globally, etc. It would probably be helpful to offer more examples once in a while:

I woke up today, discovered that I did not have any morning meetings, and went about getting breakfast, doing some cleaning, feeding the chickens, etc. At some point in that process I became aware of a time-critical item that really "should" be my highest priority, regarding my health. It won't take long, but because of its importance and my fear of it somehow going poorly (though that's honestly unlikely) I was feeling anxious about it, and I noticed I continued to do "home" things instead of starting my "desk" work. Realizing I was avoiding, I sat down to really do it.

Suddenly I realized I had picked up some other small desk-work thing to do, and started to again think that I was avoiding this important health item. Maybe I was, but I was also picking something less anxiety-provoking to start with in the new context of sitting at my desk. This can actually be a helpful pattern, as it can be in meetings. For a meeting example, any group has items that are very important, or are likely to be long, complicated and/or difficult. Before such items, it often helps to do a simpler or less important item that the group can handle quickly and easily. This gives the group an experience of accomplishment and progress that can reduce anxiety before diving into the more challenging item.

Then I stopped for 20 minutes to write this blog entry. :-)

We see a similar process between warring nations, or nations that are just beginning or trying to improve relationships — they often start with small gestures, involving little risk or effort. Sometimes they get stuck at this level of relationship, but often it serves to ease the way for more significant conversation and action.

Okay, on to my harder item...
#   on: October 12, 2011       tagged: 
Watch out world, I'm back

Haven't loved life this much in a looong time.


My biggest life challenge is that my very existence can seem threatened by someone being angry with me, or any sense that someone has negative feelings toward me, or even if they're just not giving me "enough" attention. The less connected I am, the less aware I am of having these thoughts, and the more likely I am to believe them. And the more I believe them, the more likely I am to desperately avoid or try to "fix" such situations.


Yesterday I had the enlightening realization — on a gut level, not just as an idea — that the strength of my fear, every time I experience it, comes directly from how much I love life. I've spent enough time in fear that this was earth-shifting, bumping my hope and trust to levels I haven't felt for years.


Update (a day later): Oh, right, all of my emotions and impulses are some manifestation of loving life!


Update (a month later, now): The initial surge of energy and trust has faded some, which is just a reminder that maintaining it takes continued awareness and attention from myself, and from those in my support network. I've been investing in that, and it's paying off.

#   on: October 6, 2011       tagged: 
We are actively co-creating our powers

Jon Udell is always worth quoting, and in this article on augmentation and memory (starting with phones), he gives us:

As our relationship to devices and the cloud reorganizes our brains, those [mental] powers are changing. But we’re not just passively experiencing these changes. We are actively co-creating the powers of our individual brains and of the collective brain we’re becoming.

#   on: August 14, 2011       tagged: 
Two kinds of silence

Such a long silence from me is usually a bad sign, and indeed I let myself down into a particularly bad withdrawal/alienation dynamic, more intentionally than usual giving up on life. This lasted all of October and into November, until my parents got me to go visit them in Massachusetts, where the change of context — not least of all waking up in a brightly lit room every morning — eventually had me reaching out and responding to life again, willing to take at least some responsibility for myself. (Thanks mom & dad!) Now I'm back home, picking up some pieces and moving along.


Fortunately, I can never seem to shake curiosity — whenever I do seriously contemplate suicide, I can't bring myself to take a step that may mean I don't get to see as much as possible of what happens! Versus hope, faith, trust and awe, all of which I shake off more easily. :-P


I've done and learned many things to support myself and my learning and growth. They've been things that are primarily psychologically framed, and have helped a great deal, but have so far at least not been "enough". In my awareness that a, if not the, root of my challenges is losing basic trust, I have been interested to explore more spiritually framed things. To that end, I just attended a Quaker Friends Meeting (my second, the first was 30 years ago), and loved it! The hour-long silence in community leaves so much space for me to be where I am, while inviting deep attention to things that matter. I was surprised that I ended up being one of the very few people to say anything, but something insistent did pop out. I then took the opportunity to be with my fear ("How will a first-timer's speaking up be received?"), and had fully processed it and moved on when the next person spoke, ten+ minutes later. She had obviously been sitting with what I had said. This touched me, that I can make a difference for others.


I've also listened to a couple of sermons from the local Religious Science church, and may go sing kirtan tonight. Most intimately, I've been talking with my soul (!), perhaps more on that later...


(This is all a fairly Big Deal to me, having grown up atheist. My full spiritual background could be summed up as Jewish by birth, atheist by upbringing, Christian by culture, agnostic by reason, Hindu by marriage, Buddhist by practice.)


Update: biked to kirtan, but discovered they stopped doing it months ago! A housemate is interested, we may start something ourselves...

#   on: December 5, 2010       tagged: 
Evening routine, part one

One of the only things I did with the inquiry of instituting an evening routine was set an alarm to go off every night at 9pm. Then I just ignored it. Until it went off tonight — now what?


Made a todo list for tomorrow. That's good. A big part of my resistance to going to bed is often anxiety about all of the things I think I ought to do, and having a list helps me worry less. Spent longer than I intended making a playlist of quiet, gentle music. Funny that a lot of songs about dream or sleep are so loud (Aerosmith's Dream On, Supertramp's Dreamer), but I picked one to kick things off (The Police's Bring On The Night) before going into the quieter stuff. Copied to iPod, now will shut off computer, put on music, and do something quiet and offline in bed and maybe even sleep!


Also celebrating that my room has been top thing on my mind some. Cleaned a bit more today, feels good to walk into it being nicer than it has been. More spacious, peaceful.

#   on: September 21, 2010       tagged: 
Celebrating celebration

Woke up with attention on things other than me (Uniwar, great little iOS strategy game). When I noticed, my thoughts went to what I could do to make my room nicer. Then it suddenly struck me that another aspect of attending is simply to celebrate — I have a room! It's pretty big, and already nicer than it was 24 hours ago — I put a little work into it, as planned yesterday.


More today...

#   on: September 21, 2010       tagged: 
Back to me

So...I have not been the uppermost thing on my mind lately. At all. :-P I have still been meditating and walking most mornings with Tom. When I haven't been otherwise looping in unhappy patterns, I've put some attention into the co-op where I live, regular house stuff, and exploring replacing our half-busted oil heat with a super-efficient ground source heat pump.


Would I like to be the top-most thing on my mind again? I'm a bit nervous, I don't want to fail at it again, okay that melts as soon as I notice it. More substantially, what exactly to focus on? Is the idea of establishing an evening routine too hard (I do have a lot of resistance to it), or just not the right thing right now? In any case, a weekly review of what's on my mind seems like a good idea, so whatever I settle on I'll check in with myself next Monday morning to see how it's going and decide about setting a new focus or not.


The inquiry of what to focus on stirs things up — you mean I'm responsible for my own life? :-) I didn't start the day in a mood that would have included any amusement at that, but an unexpected call from a loved one first thing in the morning helped turn that around. Very grateful.


Just looked around my room and it is an absolute pit (laughing at the immediate obviousness of it). So, that is now my inquiry — how would I like my room to be? The easy general answer is warm, but spare, a large clear space on the floor, with lots of cushions. No computer. A corresponding inquiry is, what would I like to do right now toward my vision? Let's start with some easy picking-things-up, taking the computer out, and laundry...

#   on: September 20, 2010       tagged: 
It's my blog

It's my blog, and what matters to me most about it is that it invites me to write.


When I wrote about power, etc. a few days ago I noticed that I hadn't written for about a month. I may decide that it would be helpful to start a practice of daily writing, but for now what flows most is not having any rules for myself around it.


I've been writing mostly about myself, fairly intimately/vulnerably, and have so far resisted urges to write about other things (process and geeky stuff, and semi-random other things), but will probably start doing so again soon. Some people may prefer to only read about my personal explorations, or only about process stuff or geeky stuff, but these things are often deeply interrelated, so it's just much easier for me if I can publish it all in one place. I tags posts with what they're about, and you can generally click on those tags to see a list of all blog entries (and other pages and links) on that subject. Not as pretty as the main blog page, but functional.

#   on: September 17, 2010       tagged: 
Celebrating my power

At a random moment in the past few months, it struck me that alienation and addiction are simply flip sides of the same coin, just really nasty ways we experience a pull away from, or a pull toward, something. Any time I or you are addicted to something, we are equally alienated from something (perhaps the exact same thing!). So if we want to get out of the nastiness, we always have a choice of where to put our attention — on the addiction, or the alienation?

When I woke up a few minutes ago, I chose to focus on my alienation, and while writing this, realized that what I am alienated from is my power. In other words, I have been believing that I have no power.

I want more power.

That feels thrilling to write, a rush of movement. And that is part of why I started writing this. In this moment, I have transcended the alienation enough to acknowledge and even celebrate my desire for power. The vicious cycles of addiction and alienation depend deeply on self-judgement of my behaviors or thoughts. The virtuous circle of — let's call it grace — depends equally on celebration.

I also started writing to be clearer with myself about what is going on in me. Seeing things as they are is another powerful part of shifting from alienation and addiction to grace.

As I wrote I intended to publish it here, because writing publicly gives my writing more power. It invites me to write clearly enough to be understood by others — which makes it clearer to me. And it invites me to check more deeply, to stand more firmly in what I'm writing. Am I willing to declare to the world that this is what I experience and believe? I am.

#   on: September 14, 2010       tagged: 
Re-declaring focus on sleep and rest

The last few days sleep hasn't really been the first thing on my mind, and I stayed up through enough of last night that I missed morning meditation today for the first time. It's very clear to me how helpful meditation has been, so this is not a good thing. I have still generally had a fair amount of attention on myself in general, but it will probably help anchor the inquiry in my mind to declare/explore it a bit publicly here.


How to get enough sleep and rest? More specifically, how to go to bed, lay down and turn out the lights early enough to get a good night's sleep before morning meditation? I often have resistance to going to sleep, but that inquiry would only be theoretical right now, so, at 10:30pm tonight I will check if I would like to explore it right then (assuming there is any resistance tonight, but that seems pretty likely).


I know it's helpful to go to sleep at the same time each night, to wake up at the same time each morning, and to have a clear intention about when to get up. This has been an indirect benefit of the morning meditation with Tom, and I have woken up several times just minutes before my alarm went off, which is nice. Some evening routine around going to bed sounds good, so that's a very specific inquiry I can live into.


I'm also a firm believer, from experience, in the value of taking short rest breaks in between things. In addition, I want to notice whenever I am tired and stop what I'm doing to rest or nap. I actually was doing this more before the last few days. It will certainly be relevant today as I've been running on five-six hours of sleep for a few nights. If I do notice tiredness and don't stop to rest, that will be another opportunity to sit down with pen & paper or laptop and explore what's going on in my twisted mind :-).

#   on: August 17, 2010       tagged: 
Noticing tension and breath

Don't know if it's the morning meditation or what, but I've noticed a number of times yesterday and today that I am holding my shoulders tensely (and then relaxed). And just now I was able to simply notice my breathing. A good sign, though I still feel rather anxious gearing up to do any of the many things I still want to catch up on from recent times letting things go. :-P

#   on: August 12, 2010       tagged: 
Meditation and Dancing

Tom and I just agreed to meditate together every morning at 7:15am — w00t! This is great not only for the meditation itself, but also toward getting enough sleep I know that if I get up the same time every day that will establish a rhythm, and create a natural pressure to get to sleep early enough to get a full night's sleep.


This was while we were walking together to a new farmer's market near our co-op, where a friend (the one working on women's empowerment I wrote about earlier) and her marimba band were playing fantastic Zimbabwean music. I loved dancing even though I was almost the only one doing so, and was reminded that's another great bodily thing I can do more often.

#   on: August 8, 2010       tagged: 
Sleep for now

Waking up thinking about the game or other non-me things sometimes, but usually noticing quickly and shifting fairly easily to me/body. Struggling to get enough sleep. I took a lot of naps yesterday when I was sleepy, which was good, but I think for now at least I will narrow the topmost question further to how do I get enough sleep?

#   on: August 8, 2010       tagged: 
Death in the flow

One of the things I've been doing recently to avoid the rest of my life is playing a very involving online game. Some days it's been almost the only thing I've done from waking up to going to sleep. Waking up today, I came to an inquiry of what it would be like if I put the same intensity of time and attention I was putting into the game into myself.


Life is not offering me a straightforward way to try this out right now. My friend Karen Mercer was cremated today, in fact I interrupted writing this to go, and am very glad I did. I went because it matters to me to be part of her passing into whatever is next for her, and to be with her partner Tom Atlee, who is my housemate, colleague and a good friend. In a sense I did it for me. In a sense everything we do is for ourselves, but I've generally meant something narrower when writing here about making myself the top thing on my mind. How to be with myself first thing in the morning and last thing at night? How to be present in the moment more of the time, be more mindful about what I am doing and what I choose to do next? How to notice sooner when i'm struggling with some choice, do what will help me make it and move on? And what about all those body-related questions which have been on my mind since I chose to focus on that? Those are some of the inquiries I want to live into more.


But what's more alive right now is noticing that I can and did bring some of the attention to myself that I want into going out today. I bicycled to the cemetery and back, four miles each way which for me is a good workout. Also body-related, I took a shower, trimmed my beard, and put on a nice shirt. (If you don't know me it helps to know that I'm pretty relaxed about such things.) There were also unexpected work-ish connections there which may have a big impact on my life. We got to talking about a women's empowerment project one of us was organizing, and I offered to connect her with the communications director at the largest private foundation in Oregon. Another person is starting a non-profit supporting the natural burial movement and is looking for people to work with. I need an income and imagine that we would work together really well and have fun doing it, so I offered myself and we will explore that.


Women's empowerment was a life-long central issue for Karen, and we have all been dealing with the process of her death, so these connections seemed very appropriate to the occasion, and not tangential at all. Tom particularly appreciated this. (He'll probably write about it very shortly on his new blog, Death Matters.) Death has had some additional meaning for me recently, as I just turned 45 and the approach to and passing of that milestone has brought my attention to my own mortality — have I done enough, will I be able to do enough in the time left? As if I need to justify my existence. :-P


That brings up a lot more to say about death, but enough sitting and writing for now! Time to get up and live into my inquiries...


(laughter) ...and before I even posted this I was interrupted with house responsibilities, then dinner. Life keeps throwing things that I allow to take me away from what I'm saying I'd like to focus on. It's important to remember that it is always my choice, and to notice as I have here the ways that whatever I'm doing is also about me, even when it may not seem so at first.

#   on: August 6, 2010       tagged: 
Just the body

Too many questions. Starting with how to be in my body, not that I"ll ignore the other questions i wrote up earlier.


Stretched this morning a bit, will re-ask a housemate who does yoga about teaching me. Other possibilities include meditation (I do a body-scanning variety), walking, biking, and of course food. Personal grooming and clothes(!). Long hot baths. Ooh, massage! (Not affordable, but if I stay aware of it perhaps it will emerge.)


What else?


I have a vague sense of wanting a broader inquiry than just a list of things to do.

#   on: July 29, 2010       tagged: 
What's the question?

So, I've had "me" as the top thing on my mind some, but it's kind of broad. What are the more specific topics or question I would like to focus on? I don't have all of the questions I'd like yet, so that itself is one of the inquiries.


Another is how to stop doing (for more than, say, 24 hours) the life-avoidance thing in the all-consuming way I've often done. I generally prefer to focus on things to move toward rather than away from, but this feels right, though I'd also like some complementary questions that invite exploration in the positive direction.


How to have more trust? In support of that:

How to spend more time with people i love who love me?

How to be in my body more?

How to have a better sense of humor about myself?


Where to put my primary meaningful work attention?


How to make enough $ income?


That's actually more complete than I'd thought I could come up with so quickly, but I imagine there are still some good ones to come, and besides I can never pass up the opportunity to talk about recursion a bit — when you don't know what the question is, the question is, "What's the question?"

#   on: July 27, 2010       tagged: