Friday, December 11, 2009

Miss you Noriko

At about 8:50 this morning, Nori passed away due to congenital heart failure. She started showing symptoms late Wednesday evening (heavy/difficulty breathing), so when she was still showing signs Thursday morning, I made an appointment at the vet for Friday morning at 9:30 am to see what we could do for her. Well she got worse Thursday night, so Elaine and I slept on the floor by her while she slept under the tree, which we kept lit for her.

She woke us up this morning around 6:00 am crying a cry I hadn’t heard from her before, so it was obvious things were not good. I left her with Elaine while I went to go put gas in the car, and to get the car at least a bit warm so it wouldn’t take too long later on. It was quite something. Yesterday I was thinking the vet trip would be to see if we could give here something to keep her comfortable and doing ok. By late last night, I was figuring I would have to be bringing her in to have her put to sleep. Early this morning, I found myself facing the fact that I would be having to say goodbye.

At around 8:45 I went out to start the car and get it warmed up. A bit earlier, I had set up the carrier, just the bottom half with a blanket in it so it would be easier to move her. At around 8:50 I picked her up and moved her to the carrier. When I picked her up she started crying again. I put her in the carrier and tucked her in. She stretched out and her breathing became quite shallow. I knew what was happening and I stroked her head as she passed.

Since she had to go, I’m glad that she passed at home. It did happen very quick, as of Tuesday she was ripping around the house and having a good old time on the TurboScratcher. In the early spring after the ground thaws her ashes will join Hashiimoto’s in the garden at the . One of these days, I’ll be with them there too…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Return of the Hakama

Well, as of yesterday, I finally put on a hakama and wore my rank for the first time since my return to Aikido. After being away from the mat for years, I figured it would be best for me to return as a white belt until I felt comfortable with my technique, still some rust there, but I felt good enough to put the rank back on. Everyone at the Kenosha Aikikai has been awesome and patient with me getting back into the swing of things. With several of the upper ranks making hints that it would be fine by them to put the rank back on, I placed the order for the new hakama and belt and then got down to business.

One thing that I did just so I could have some fun was that I did not tell Elaine that I had gotten my hakama and belt. If fact, she did not notice it until Miller Sensei mentioned the fact that there was a ‘new’ black belt on the mat. It should help with some confusion on the mat, some of the actual white belts did not know that I was a black belt, so they did not understand why I was doing things so well while they were having so much trouble. Now of course, it will be reversed to “Isn’t this guy a black belt? Why is he having so much trouble with this technique!!”

To be honest, it felt good, really good, to be wearing that stuff again. This was also the first time I really took more time with the beginners I was working with to help them with their technique. That’s not to say that I was not helping before, but since I was not wearing my rank, I only really helped with the gross errors and would call over Sensei to help with the finer points. Kind of funny how things get ingrained, tie a different colored piece of cloth around your waist and change how you interact with others around you.  At least the training helped to keep Ego at bay and allowed me to focus on helping, but it was still there and will be for awhile—more training is necessary.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One Last Reminder…

This Saturday (tomorrow actually) October 24th is the all day class at the up in Racine. The class is being taught by our Master Teachers Tony & Linda Somlai and will run from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. This is actually a somewhat uncommon approach to how classes are done up in the , typically, a class like this would be a total of four two-hour classes done one per week for four weeks. I kind of like this format because my mother has wanted to check out some of this stuff, and having to come up from Grayslake, a day trip works much better for her.

Now, of course, the real issue for Saturdays class is brewing. Which coffee to roast and bring to class? So far the Guatemalan has a slight edge over the Indonesian, with the stuff from Panama still sitting on the shelf. Sadly, I can’t wait too much longer for results, as I need to getting it roasting within the hour to give it a minimum set-up time. At least most of the votes thus far are for my favorite coffee of the mix, though one of the Indonesians is very nice and gave me a bit of a surprise.

CoffeeBuddha Image property of Linda Somlai, used and modified with her permission.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finding Peace in a Time of Chaos and Uncertainty: Intensive Peace Workshop

Coming soon (Saturday, October 24th) to a near you () Master Teachers Tony and Linda Somlai will be holding a class based on Tony’s book, . This will be a one day class that will help us realize things that we can all do in our day-to-day lives to bring peace to people, places, and situations around us through our actions.

Master Teachers Linda and Tony Somlai will lead a one-day workshop, "Finding Peace in a Time of Chaos and Uncertainty: Intensive Peace Workshop Retreat" on Oct. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Original Root Zen Center in Racine, Wisconsin. The workshop will cost $75 and includes lunch, break treats, a copy of Tony Somlai’s book, Peace Vigil and learning materials.
The Master Teachers, who have each taught contemplative peace practices for more than 30 years, start with this simple teaching: Peace is not a big idea. Peace is like a small pebble dropped into a suffering pond; the waves will touch all beings. The Peace Retreat Workshop is intended to provide participants with concrete skills they can use in their everyday lives to help themselves and others. The key elements of the retreat are broadly based on basic Buddhist principals of non-violence, peaceful coexistence, and loving-kindness. What makes the workshop unique is that the theory and skills are based on action and active ways of responding to the problems we are facing today.
ORZC is located on the historic DeKoven Center campus on Lake Michigan in Racine. Overnight accomodations are available. Single rooms are $55 per night; double rooms are $60.
If you are interested in class, please contact Dustin Block at: or (262) 488-3419.

So stop on by if you can, it will be an excellent class, and I can vouch for the coffee that will be served!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And a Fun Time…

Well I can say that Elaine and I had a great time at Aikido on Saturday and Tuesday. Saturday was a bit on the slow side for me, as we were in class two of a beginners class, and most of the more advance people were helping the two (I think it’s just two) who have a test coming up at the end of the month. So I pretty much just played with all the new people for the class. That was probably a good thing as it let me (make that forced me) to pay attention to some of the subtle differences that exist between our schools. I get the feeling that is going to be the most difficult aspect for me, blending the two styles together so I can still feel comfortable doing the techniques while not messing up my partner by doing things a bit different.

Tuesday night was much more fun for me. I had plenty of time with the upper ranks, so it gave me a chance to work on my technique, and realize I still need to get my ukemi back up to par. I have to admit, it makes me anxious to put back on my rank and hakama, but I told my self that I would not until I was taking break falls from shihonage and kotegaeshi. Well, that and I need to order replacements. All those years in storage did not serve them well.

I did remember one very important fact, at least important to me. I managed to remember how easy it is that my poor little toe breaks. That’s right, two classes into my triumphant return to Aikido, and I have already broken a toe. Ah, well, note to self, Carlos has pointy hips so use caution when kicking him. With some luck, it will not be too bad on Saturday, and with it being a weapons day, hopefully no need for suwariwaza.

As for tonight, we have some chanting and some sitting. The walking meditation should be fun! In fact, the sitting may be fun too, I’ll know by the end of chanting if I will be needing a chair for tonight's session. Excited for Elaine this coming Monday as she will be giving her first Dharma talk. I already have the basic subject of mine the following week floating around in my head. Odds are something new will replace it by the time we get there, but still it’s nice to have a subject so early. I usually feel I have it good if I have the subject two hours before I’m to give the talk, so this is something new for me!!

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Return to Aikido

Well, after seven long years, I’m finally making my return to the mat. I wish I could have gone last night, but alas, I had a meeting to run, not that it was a bad thing, it was a pretty good meeting last night. But back to the subject at hand. As of Saturday, I will be joining up with the Kenosha Aikikai and be practicing Aikido for the first time in waaaay to long. Not only that, but my sweetie Elaine will be joining me as she starts Aikido for the first time. Poor thing, since she has been with me I have managed to get her into Aikido, Buddhism, and cats. Which reminds me, I have much fur to vacuum up off of the floor…

Elaine is quite excited to taking Aikido with me. I am excited to be getting back into it and having a girlfriend actually joining me in it. That means no nagging about me being off training several times a week. My main concern (other than endurance) is my ukemi skills. The actual techniques I have been practicing in my head all these years, so I think the body will remember the motions pretty quickly. The basic ukemi; forward, back, break-falls, I am not worried about, it’s more the advanced falls from kotegaeshi and shihonage that will take some time to get back. We will find out for sure on Saturday, expect an update sometime after class ;-)

I’ve also managed to get Elaine to sign-up to give her first Dharma Talk at Zen in about a week and a half. That’s right, on Monday, October 19th 2009 at 7:00 PM your are invited to hear her give her first talk at the . I am excited for her, it will be a good learning experience for her. Of course, she insisted that I give one on the following Monday, so I obliged and took the spot. You can also catch me there on Wednesday nights, typically on the bell at 6:30 PM with the Evening Bell Chant to begin the evenings chanting session before meditation at 7:00 PM.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be sure to put something up about Aikido this weekend, Monday at the latest (depending upon how busy this weekend turns out to be). As for now, I’m gonna roast some coffee. I think a nice Full City roast on some Guatemalan Antigua Los Volcanes. Guatemalan Antigua coffees are still my favorite, try some today!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Opening the Earths Eye Retreat


Got back yesterday from the Retreat up in Sand Bay, WI. Let me just say, this has got to be one of the most difficult retreats anywhere. I mean, look where they had us staying! I mean really, how can anyone expect to relax and get into the retreat mood in a place like this?


But seriously, it was a truly wonderful time. The weather was perfect, low 70’s during the day, mid 50’s for the early morning and evenings. The sunrise over the bay was incredible, probably a good thing that morning bows were kept until after full sunrise to keep us all from staring at the sunrise rather then brining our attention to our bows, chanting, and meditation in the morning.


Saturday afternoon we had a coffee tasting of the four coffees I am preparing for sale at Compassion Fest on Sunday, October 4th. You will want to be there for everything that will be going on, plus you will want to buy a bag of coffee or two. Two regular coffees and two decafs, so there is something for everyone. Just for fun, I will have the ‘Professional’ reviews of the coffees, as well as the ‘Man on the Street’ reviews of them.


It really was a wonderful trip, and the first time for me to attend this retreat. As a result of hearing so many wonderful things about it, I was quite looking forward to go. As a bonus, it also served as my and Elaine’s first vacation together. I for one, can’t think of a better group to share the experience with.


Now back to roasting coffee for next weekend!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


“Space……The Final Frontier, these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, it’s continuing mission, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before…” start Star Trek: The Next Generation theme music.

For those of you who have been fans of the Star Trek franchise, and in particular to those of you who loved ST:TNG, Wil Wheaton, the infamous Wesley Crusher, has been putting together a Star Trek book called Memories of the Future. For those of you who are not aware, Wil has done a good deal of voice acting on various animate shows, and most recently has had characters in the shows Criminal Minds “Paradise” and Leverage “The Two Live Crew Job” (not to mention a NUMB3RS episode a few years ago). Other than that, he is prolific blogger and writer. Well, a prolific blogger and becoming prolific on the writing front.

To that end, it seems Wil has picked up on a project he started years ago for the TV Squad blog and didn’t get a chance to finish due to their budget getting cut. Very soon now you will be able to pick up a copy of his first Star Trek book titled Memories of the Future: Volume One. Volumes one and two will cover the first season of the show (presumably, that is as far as he wrote/started his notes) with future volumes to follow the same general structure.

I read the reviews he did way back when, and let me tell you, they are hilarious. Here was Wil’s Christmas present to us in 2006, his review of ST:TNG’s “Justice.” This review had me cracking up for days. Here is a quick little snippet from the review.

After beaming down to the planet, the away team quickly learn three important facts:

  1. The planet's inhabitants, called the Edo, like to jog everywhere.
  2. They are all beautiful blond models, possibly descended from some sort of Maxim/FHM breeding program in the late 22nd century.
  3. The entire planet is clothed in about 6 yards of fabric.

The Edo's leaders jog up and meet the away team, greeting them in the traditional Edo manner: lingering glances and inappropriately long hugs. Troi says, "I'm sensing a lot of boners, Commander."

The general format for the reviews is:

Synopsis: A very snarky take on the episode, with many points that may not have been obvious, along with personal comments and observations.

Quotable Dialogue: Pretty obvious.

Obligatory Technobabble: Also obvious.

Behind the Scenes Memory: Here you can learn how it was for him on the sets. Interesting bits on things were shot, how things came together, etc. Also many a great comment on working with the other actors on the show and guests for the episodes. This is the serious and sincere section.

The Bottom Line: Here we find out where the parts that worked were discovered and carried on, and the many, many things that did not work and would (eventually) be left in the bin.

It is important to keep in mind just how silly much of the first two or three seasons were. Personally, when I go back and watch the old ones, I am amazed that the show managed to stay on-air past the first two seasons. I’m sure we are all glad that it did, as it finally began to find its footing in season three and became the Star Trek that we all know and love.

So if you are a ST:TNG fan, read that entire review for Justice to get a taste of what will be coming in the books.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!!!

This Sunday, Master Teacher Anton (Tony) Somlai will be holding a book signing at Sheepish in Racine. Both he and his wife, Master Teacher Linda Somlai will be doing readings from his book, , and following it up with taking questions. This book takes the unique approach of helping us look at our own daily lives and apply it teachings to bring peace into your life and with whom you interact. The goal of the book is not ‘world peace’ per se, but rather peace with your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your colleagues. After all, how can we hope to bring peace to the world if we can’t even bring it to our homes, our jobs, or our neighborhoods?

Map to Sheepish

Think I’m Gonna Be a Little Sick

I learned recently that Elaine has not read either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. For me, this is a cardinal sin that must be corrected (I love The Silmarillion as well, but it tends to be a tough first read). One day I will take her up to Marquette to view the original Tolkien manuscripts in all their glory.

So as I am getting my books together, I look at my Millennium Edition of The Lord of the Rings, published as seven books. If you are unaware, The Lord of the Rings is Six books plus an index, traditionally published as three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King). Well, as it turns out I was doing my traditional annual autumn/winter reading of the books (been a tradition of mine since I was 13) when I helped rescue a lost puppy. During that time, she got a hold of book two and used it as a chew toy. The corners are all mangled and four pages midway through had about a quarter of their pages torn out. Well, since I want my girlfriend to read a good copy without any words missing I looked up the replacement on the set.

As it turns out, this particular edition (which cost me $50 at the time) is currently going for anywhere between $150 and $600. I nearly puked when I saw that. At least now we know that she is the $600 dollar stray. Would I do it again had I known the outcome, well, yes, in a heartbeat. She is a great dog (now lol). I can get a replacement seven book set, soft cover from the UK for about US$60-ish with shipping, so not too bad after all. Takes me back to the grad-school days when one of the roomies dogs though my brand new Molecular Evolution textbook was a chew toy, two days before classes started.

Keep your eyes peeled here folks. It seems that dogs only eat my books if their current or future value is at least US$100. The next time a book is used as a chew toy, the book, edition, publisher, and other pertinent information will be published here first. You can then check your inventory and see if you want to seal it up an maximize its condition to maximize its resale value!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Saturday Morning, With Special Teaching by Henry

Janine and Scot frequently bring Henry, their son, with them to . Henry is about 18 months old now, so he loves to run around, pick stuff up, and make lots of sounds including his limited vocabulary. During the past few weeks, he has shown that he is pretty good with a moktak, and keeps the beat pretty good with the chanting, odds are he will be the first three year old moktak master at .

At the end of chanting and meditation on Saturdays, there is a reading from one of several books. On this particular Saturday, the reading was taken from Master Teacher Tony Somlai’s  book from Dragon Mountain Press.



Teaching peace to our children

and each other

is the purest form of love.

There are many ways to bring peace to the community – pick one.

Teaching peace has an infinite number of conduits. It can be in a classroom setting or at a picnic. It can appear in a scholarly journal or at a slam poetry contest. You can teach peace while cooking or cleaning the house. If your life is peace, every moment is an opportunity to teach peace. The generosity of teaching peace helps build a cultural norm that “peace” is not a naive or antisocial activity. If peace is to be sustainable and of service to the next generation, we need effective and gentle methods to educate each other.

Childlike: My goodness, we have become crusty and cynical as adults. We have been fighting wars for so long that we have forgotten what it is like to be a child. We have repressed the purity of that early love in our consciousness. Watch children over the next few days and see what they teach about peace. Also look closely at what adults are teaching them about peace.


As soon as Janine had finished the reading, Henry chimed in by saying “Peace…..Peace.” As far as any of us know, that is the first time that Henry has ever uttered those words. After he had said that, everyone in the Dharma room just busted up laughing. Henry’s timing was impeccable, and the joy he brought to the community is without value. An 18 month old child taught the community a thing or two about peace, joy, and love by just being a child, and connecting to the child in all of us.

In that one moment, Henry reminded all of us that teachings come in all shapes and sizes, and frequently unexpected. If you are not paying attention to the moment, the teaching is lost. I know that I have missed many an opportunity to learn in my lifetime. But never before has that realization been so clear, nor a teaching so powerful, as that of a child, just learning to walk and to speak, that teachings are all around us if we just pay attention.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another Wonderful Garden Retreat

On Sunday another Garden Retreat at the came to a close. It started out with a brief Dharma talk on Friday night with the Guiding Teacher giving us the rules for this years Garden Retreat, basically, be present, help each other, get out of the ‘me, my, mine’ mind, and bring joy to all that you do. The Abbot followed up with basically, ‘Don’t be a dick, focus on the task at hand and help each other, it’s not about you.’

Saturday started at 7 am with bows, chanting, and some sitting, followed up by breakfast. For this retreat, I had my first pass as Assistant Kitchen Master, so I did get to learn a thing or two about cooking for a large group keeping special dietary requirements in mind. One of my highlights was getting to prepare Master Teacher Linda’s Olive Oil for her pasta. While the menu called for Pasta with Olive Oil, I just could not do that while the rest of us were eating a BBQ-chili pasta. So after breakfast, I got to go out to the herb garden and picked some herbs. They soaked in the oil until dinner time, so about six or seven hours in total. They imparted a wonderful, subtle flavor to the oil which the Master Teacher was quite pleased with.

So for Saturday and Sunday, many a weed was pulled, many a tree was trimmed, and many a new feature was added to the garden.




A new stupa was put in place.





A new rock garden was put in place.










Stones were put in the ground front and center.






Some paths were cleared and weeded.










And pretty much everything is in bloom.



Other additions include a new sitting area, a spiral cut topiary, and some additions to the trellis. A great deal of work was done in a fairly short amount of time.

In all, everyone enjoyed themselves. We got a lot done, without too many things left on the continuing projects list. Pretty soon we’ll get that table done for our elevated herb garden, and things will be looking really good there!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

‘Twas A Good Night at Zen

I would like to give a big thanks to Mathew, Janine and Henry, and Anne. With the start of ‘summer,’ I’ve found myself helping out by covering other meetings and missing out on my time this month. By next week things should be more or less back to normal, but this particular night seemed to be full of teachings for me.

First off, let me apologize to Janine, I was unable to keep Henry entertained/distracted, and I assume that you did not even get your interview started, or if you did, it went on for all of 30 seconds before you realized I was not up to the task of caring for the mini-humans. I do fear that this is largely my fault. Some of you may have noticed that I tend to be a bit on the quite side. In general, this does not seem to work well with the mini-humans, they tend to gravitate towards the more boisterous ones in the crowd. A notable exception has been Adi, who has actually spoken to me and addressed me by name. Let’s be honest, this is still difficult for me, so Mat, for our next interview, the question has appeared.

This evening, I did learn that some formalities have changed. I had never ‘led’ a meditation practice before with more than one other person present, and learned some formalities that have changed since my return. I think I was also extended the opportunity to get some moktak coaching, thus far, I have only done it twice, with only me in the room, so some coaching would be nice so I don’t butcher it if there is more than one.

And finally, in my mind (hahaha, lol) the biggest thing was the kung-an (koan) I was given. I have to admit, it has been a long ass time since one has stumped me as good as this one has. This actually makes me wonder, does this particular kung-an reflect a ‘major’ karma for me? Hell, it’s probably just a regular karma for me. I guess I’ve become used to ‘seeing/feeling’ the ‘proper’ answer, or at least close enough to it that it can be worked out in a couple more interviews (of course when you don’t request them, you typically have plenty of time to meditate on them). This one, from the outset, has been like staring at a blank wall. It is always interesting when someone offers you something you did knot know about yourself, along with the challenge to figure it out. The funny thing about kung-an’s, is that the ‘answer’ is always so simple and obvious, I think the term “Face Palm” fits quite nicely.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

L-Day is nearing…

I think that next weekend I may well make the full conversion to Linux. I’ve been playing around with a dual boot for a couple weeks now and am pretty comfortable with most everything. Just need to get a couple things working properly in the virtual machine and all will be good. It will be good to finally do this, deep down, I’ve been wanting to for awhile, but have always held back because Sue does not like change. Since she is now on her laptop 100% of the time, there should be no issues. Actually, since Christmas (when she got it), she has been on here once to order a pizza when she let a friend a work borrow her laptop. I think she can live with suffering through Linux once every six months at most.

Just this past Saturday, I went down to the folks house, took care of a few computer issues, then we all went down to Chicago for dinner. Oh, and as it happens, by sheer coincidence, cousin Dave was in town on business, so we picked him up and went on out. Traffic was typical for heading into the city on a Saturday night so we got to his hotel around seven. Then is was a fairly short ride to Kuma’s Corner for dinner. The wait was only 1.5 hours, so we got to sit out back in the open on the picnic tables. I am glad for that, because that place is both small and loud!

We started out with two orders of the Buffalo Strips chicken (oh, did I mention there were six of us). Let me tell you, that was some damn good chicken. I personally would have liked the sauce to be a bit hotter (I loves me some spicy food), but that chicken was very well prepared, moist, tender, perfect. If you are not familiar with Kuma’s Corner, virtually every item on the menu has the name of a heavy metal band, which goes with the music that is played there.

All the burgers are one size, 1/2 pound. You have your choice of roll, as long as it is a pretzel roll. For a side, you can pick waffle fries, homemade chips, or a salad. I had the chips and I can state for a fact that they were made there and that they blew me away. For my burger, I opted for the BLACK SABBATH Blackening Spice, Chili, Pepper Jack, Red Onion. I dare say those things are 1/2 pound after cooking, not before. Their reputation is well earned, and the wait is worth it.

As much as I hate to admit it, just the day before we had a massive thunderstorm. A roads closed, emergency vehicles traveling about type of massive storm, complete with county sirens blazing and emergency broadcast system alters on. During said storm, I have 100+ pounds of Rottweiler on my lap. During one particularly loud thunder crash, he flung his head around, which happened to catch my chin, and drive my lower jaw into my upper one. Let’s just say my lower jaw still hurts, and when I bite, the front two bottom teeth still report that they are not pleased. If I’m ever back down there with a jaw and teeth that actually work, I’ll be a bit more adventurous with my selection. I’m thinking the Pantera Burger…

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Red Bench

Spent most of the day with fellow folk out at Kim’s River Sand Studio. He does a lot of excellent work out there, mostly woodworking and calligraphy, go figure the odds on those two combining.

Anyhow, we had a number of people throughout the day, many thanks go out to Mathew, Darin, and Jay for all of their contributions to the work that was done throughout the day. The work on the six benches kind of exceeded what was planned, and we did not get to start on the table for the herb garden. To keep the energy and excitement for the project going we have the following press release:

Red Bench

As part of a community art work project, the first phase ‘Red Bench’ has been completed. As part of as of yet unnamed art installation, ‘Red Bench’ is a significant milestone of this work.

‘Red Bench’ is part of a neoclassical interactive display. This work is not meant to be merely observed, but to be touched, even sat upon, so that the “observer” not only feels the art, but actually becomes a part of it.


We hope to have the art completed by late July and have the project installed at the so that the general public may enjoy the interaction with this art installation as much as we have had in producing it.

So keep your eyes peeled. this is a very exciting addition to the garden that has been brought to you by the blood, sweat, and tears of the community. We do this simply wishing to bring you happiness, peace, and compassion while you are in the garden. And if you see someone there tending the garden, please feel free to say hi!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Class is over

Well last night marked the end of the six-week class at the for Tony’s latest book, .  Not surprisingly, the class consisted mainly of regular practitioners, but we also had four who stop by for classes and the occasional practice session or two. One has been testing the waters much more as of late, and one has become much more interested so he may well start exploring a bit more, I feel he may try out the Sunday evening classes for a bit.

Anyhow, back to the subject at hand, the class. It was an excellent class that pretty much challenges the conventional notions of peace, and challenged us to actually do something other than contemplate peace. The most involved of the homework assignments occurred on week four. The homework was to create a “Peace Network.” Some things were simple, such as sending the following text message to three people, “I Wish You Happiness” (better know as IWUH for those of us who do this frequently with each other). Others involved finding a space to sit quietly and observe, the idea being not the couch, rather someplace else, a park, a museum, a waiting room, someplace with some energy going. The most difficult one to arrange, but by far the favorite was the ‘Peace Picnic.” This involved finding three people will to get together for a meal. Each person would bring one dish that has a story behind it. During the meal, each person would take their turn to tell the story behind the dish. While this was the most involved of the homework's, I think it was also the favorite.

During the class, several of the passages were reviewed and discussed. One that I quite enjoyed was given yesterday:



The truth is hidden

because we refuse to admit

it isn’t about us.

Peace is not a secret teaching.

The only reason peace appears hidden is because we try to think our way to peace. That idea is an obstacle based on a faulty assumption that loving-kindness is logical when it isn’t. Look at all the great teachers. Each one of them seems a little daft in their rational mind, and the reason for that is because their lives defy logic. Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed would find themselves locked up today with their “crazy” talk about peace and love. Peace is concealed because we are addicted to violence. It is in our movies, entertainment, sports, and politics. peace is boring, conflict is exciting. Would you stay up all night watching CNN’s coverage of peace? Of course not, your violently habituated mind would be bored. And yet, when we invaded Iraq, for the second time, you stayed up all night being entertained by the death created at the hand of “shock and awe.” Peace is hidden because you are selfish and that is no longer a secret.


I enjoyed this one because it points out so many things. Typically, we are the reason that peace does not appear. We get in the way with what we want, try to superimpose our personal ideas of what peace should be on any situation. Peace is not about be, it is about us, about community. I also love the bit about Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed, mostly because I had that argument when I was a teen living in Texas. My friend, who was very devout, said that there was no way that Jesus would be committed and put on Thorazine because he would know, heck, everybody would know, after all, it’s in the bible. Ah, the childhood memories.

Crossing the street

So when did it become unfashionable for parents to teach their children to look both ways before crossing the fucking street? Not ten minutes ago I nearly hit some high school kid, backpack slung over his shoulder, headphones on, thinks that walking into the street from behind a parked mail truck without looking, type of kid. He of course shot me a dirty look when I had to slam on the breaks to keep from making him one with the pavement, as his obvious coolness obviates his need to look for vehicles, the vehicles should be looking for him.

As the weather has begun to warm, it has been insane. So far, I have seen one child actually look and stop when he saw a car in the road. Every other time, not so much as a thought before dashing out into the street. The kids on bikes are probably worse as they just tend to weave in and out. You think they are getting out of the way, when all of a sudden they just weave back in front of you. It has been far worse this year than last. As of right now, assuming things do not improve, I think there is a good 15% percent chance that some kid will get hit by a car on the two blocks north of my house by the end of September.

Maybe I should stop by the local church and have the minister mention the issue to his congregation. I know a fair number of the local people attend it, and with a bit of networking it may well work.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Time for a totally scattered post. First off, congrats to my friend @Walker25Film for getting over 1.5 milliWheatons in followers on Twitter. Went to see him earlier in the week to give him a hand with some website development, but I must admit, our html kung-fu is about the same level, so I wasn’t much help. Fun to do the basic layout and get the direction going, plus a cool toy or two.

On the Zen front, the garden is looking very nice. The trellis looks good in its new home, the paths all have at least a small covering of pine needles. All of the Spring flowers are in bloom, the trees have leaves again, all is green once more. I even had the chance to rake the Zen rock garden for the first time. It was nice to get some pointers from Master Teacher Tony on some of the finer points of raking the garden.

It also looks like our guy Paul is finally in his final location in Iraq. He will be spending his tour at the lovely Camp Slayer, which is reputedly quite nice. I’ll have to head over to Zen one of these days for a few extra hours to crank out another dozen or so malas to get out to him. We still have that two or three dozen we made for him a few weeks ago and I would like to get a dozen or so more ready for when we ship him his first care package.

And finally, straddling the border between coffee and Zen, I have been roasting up a special batch of coffees for Janine and Scott to give to one of their sibblings/cousins/relative-of-some-nature for some type of special occasion. This is my first time doing a “special order.” Technically, it was just a request for some fresh roasted coffee for another coffee connoisseur, so I have decided on roasting up some Java and Mocha separately, so they can be sampled individually and then mixed together for the classic Mocha-Java if desired.

I hate to admit it, but I did one batch of the Java a bit longer than I had wanted, so that batch was dumped into my grinder for personal use. I whipped up a small pot earlier in the evening, and let me tell you, that was a damned good cup. If the over-roasted batch was that good, I can only imagine how good the properly roasted stuff will be.

Tomorrow (well, technically later on today now) I will roast several batches of the Mocha for them for delivery on Saturday. By the time they are consumed (assuming they don’t wait a week of course) they should be properly degassed and just at the peak of flavor. Maybe I will steal a scoop or two for myself….

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sounds like Wheaton’s new book will be out soon…

In a Twitter post from earlier today, Wil Wheaton let it be known that he is entering the final stages of editing on his book, Memories of the Future. For those of you who don’t know, this book is based on the write ups he did for TV Squad several years ago about the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Let me just say, these things are hilarious, do yourself a favor and read one or two of them (assuming you are a Trek fan). I do hope that this book continues on where he left off on TV Squad, and it’s bound to have more in the reviews.

As for tonight, we get to go play Zen and if Wednesday holds true to form, I will be leading Wednesday night meditation practice. I am actually planning on trying my hand at the moktak during chanting practice since for this one time per month, I’m typically the only one there for evening chanting practice.

I should point out that the first Wednesday of the month is the Teachers meeting at the Zen Center so they tend to do the morning practice. The evening meditation does not have as big a draw as the morning practice, so that tends to leave me heading the practice once a month. Add to the fact that fewer do the chanting practice that precedes the meditation practice and I find myself chanting solo most of the time. Due to that, it seems ideal to learn the moktak in a “live” setting without messing anyone up should I mess up.

Oh, and before I forget, Happy Jedi Day to everyone!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

After a couple of long weeks…

First, the bad news was the total crash of the computer that required a reinstall of the OS and all of the Program Files. It was actually a bit more of a pain in the ass than that because I keep the OS, applications, and user files all on separate hard drives, and, well let’s just say that Windows does not make it easy to do that. So reinstalling all of the applications, then making Windows aware, that there are, in fact, files on one of the hard drives, plus the 100+ updates, well, let’s just say it took awhile to get everything close to being done. Still have a few apps to get reinstalled, but everything that is necessary is good to go.

This past weekend was good, had a nice retreat at Zen, and also had the AA tri-county conference. Did the Zen thing on Friday and Sunday and the AA thing on Saturday. I don’t think my head hit the pillow any of those days before 1:00 AM and had to be at the locations by 7:00AM each day. Exhausting, but well worth the effort.

Speaking of effort, we will be making mala’s at Zen this Friday. Jay and I will be there at 2:00PM to start cranking them out, we know that Paul has made a request, so we will have the opportunity to send him some while he is deployed to Iraq for his tour. I’m thinking a nice hematite one for him, maybe with some obsidian, have to give that a bit of thought. The poor boy never got to see any of my mala creations, so he should be in for a treat, I do have the ability to put together some very nice pieces.

Oh, and did I mention that I will be roasting up some coffee for the mala fest? Can't spend all those hours making mala's without some fresh roasted coffee now can we?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Peace Vigil Class Starts Tuesday

On Tuesday, April 21 Master Teachers Tony and Linda Somlai will be holding a class covering Tony’s latest book, Peace Vigil: Living Without Hesitation. The class is being held at the Original Root Zen Center in Racine, WI. Doors will open at 6:30 PM with the class starting at 7:00PM.

The goal of this book is simple, to achieve a state of world peace within our lifetimes. Ok, once you stop laughing and catch your breath, the real focus of the class and book is simple, to give us the tools to live simply and peacefully with those around us.

The book itself is 108 passages and exercises. Each one starts with a single word that is the focus. It is followed by the concept, presented as a poem or verse. This is followed by the heart of the teaching, typically only one or two sentences. Then comes a more verbose description of the problem and solution with everyday examples that illustrate the topic. Finally there is the exercise. The exercises will ask you to do something on your own or with someone else. They may ask to think about things that have happened and have you take a different look at them. They may ask you to pay attention to something during the day or bring focus to certain actions.

The class itself will go more into discussions on the concepts and expand on how we can apply what is in the book in our everyday lives. If you enjoyed the book, then you owe it to yourself to check out the class.

I remember a teaching that Tony gave years ago, I’m pretty sure that I am butchering it, but this is more or less the idea behind it:

Most people mistakenly say that the opposite of war is peace. This is incorrect. The opposite of war is “not war.” It is incorrect to think that not fighting is peace. Not fighting is just that, not fighting.

Peace is action. It is making the effort to understand, to love, to hope, to help, and to work together. Peace is about building community with all of these. This effort starts at home, with your neighbors, your block, your street, your city. Very few people can even achieve the first two. World peace? Ha! I will be happy with world at “not war” and strive for peace on my block. If enough people get together and start from here, eventually those blocks will connect…a person can dream, right?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Peace Pantry

Opening of the Original Root Zen Center’s Peace Pantry

The Peace Pantry, Racine’s newest food bank, will officially open with a blessing ceremony on Thursday, April 16 at 7 PM. The Peace Pantry is located at the Original Root Zen Center on the DeKoven grounds in the East Building. The entrance is on Wisconsin Avenue.

The ORZC’s Master Teachers Tony and Linda Somlai and Elder Reverend Senior Teacher Sue Jaimes will take part in the blessing of the new pantry. While the ceremony is free and open to the public, donations of a non-perishable item would be gratefully accepted. A shared, simple meal will be provided by the ORZC at 5:30 PM preceding the ceremony.

The Peace Pantry is available to help our Racine community not just during these troubling economic times, but whenever help is needed. In addition to non-perishable food items we will also have a limited supply of perishable items (cheese, butter, meats for example) as well as household and personal items that will be made available to people in need of these items.

Please contact Bethany Zimpel at 262-939-7861 or email to request more details, if you plan on attending Thursday, April 16th or if you or someone you know is in need of help.

The Peace Pantry is part of ORZC’s effort to help members of the community as a whole. Since we do not get too many strangers at our doors, when the shelves get too full, items will be added to our regular donations to other food pantries that exist in community.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Buddha’s Birthday Celebration

Wednesday was fortunate for Doug. Doug is a fairly new guy at Zen and I don’t think he knows about chanting practice at 6:30 PM before the 7:00PM meditation practice. I say he is lucky because this was the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it was teachers meeting night. That leads to me chanting by myself. For those of you who (fortunately) don’t know, my voice sounds like a cat in a blender. We did the hour of meditation practice then went downstairs to help fold newsletters.

Jump forward to Sunday and we had our Buddha’s Birthday celebration. Doug did show up, so it was nice to see a fairly new person show up. The abbot performed his poem, with his brother accompanying him on a drum. One of the funniest things I have heard in quite some time. After that it was downstairs for some grazing.

The community room was pretty full of people laughing, grazing, and sipping coffee, Papua New Guinea in fact. Everyone brought in birthday presents for the Zen Center, so the place is stocked for awhile. Heck, I brought weather stripping for the door. Not good when the door is closed and you can see daylight! Especially in Wisconsin where we had a light snowfall today!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Soon To Be Underwater….

Well the late season snowfall over the weekend has mostly melted away, allowing the dogs to track in a ton of mud all over the house, yeah! And now it looks as if we are getting rain for the next four days, so with a small bit of luck, we will not all be floating away.

Lot of anniversaries at AA last night. One of the new guys, Jim, had thirty days, so good for him. I think I’ll pick up a mala from Zen this evening and give it to him. I think if he uses it with a little mantra, whenever that urge comes on he’ll have something to grab hold of to help focus the mind. I know it has helped me and it sure can’t help to make the offer after all.

It’s about time for me to get my ass in my car and head on up to the Zen Center. Also time to see how this new Windows Live Writer thing works with blogger. I guess I’ll just have to push the Publish button and find out!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Peace Vigil Class Announced!

The Master Teachers Tony and Linda will be holding a class for Tony's new book, Peace Vigil: Living Without Hesitation. This class will meet for six Tuesday nights from 6:30-9:00 starting on April 21st. For more information, you can call the Zen Center at 1-262-638-8580.

If you feel like stopping by, here is a map for you. Check out the ORZC website to keep up to date with everything that's going on there!

Getting the Calendars Up

OK, testing out the linking and embedding of Google Calendars in a web page. With a bit of luck, the calendars will all populate as they should. After we test them out here and we get the thumbs up, we should be able to get them up on the Zen Centers web site. Personally, with everyone having their calendars on their phones, laptops, iPod's, etc., I think it is useful and helpful to have a standardized digital calendar format for quick and easy checks and updates without forcing everyone to do it manually. After all with dozens of people making dozens of calendar entries, eventually someone is gonna make an entry in the wrong date. At least this way, if the main calendar gets screwed up, everyone will be screwed up together so the event can still go on!!

This morning I finally got a hold of my sister on the phone so I could help her set up her laptop so she could access the wireless router in the house. I sent her an email with all of the stuff I usually have the family load on their computers, so hopefully she will have most of it loaded up by the time I get there for Easter. I think I've talked her into preparing lamb for dinner, now I just have to decide what I will be making. Maybe some type of coconut curry. Humm, lamb, onion, red potato, coconut milk, red or yellow curry over rice....just made that up I did, sounds pretty damn good to me.

On the coffee front, I did screw up a batch of New Guinea Peaberry. Set it on cool too early so it was mostly fruity/herby and the coffee flavors were not well developed at all. Oh well, such things happen upon occasion. Followed that up with some Guatemalan 50/50. That turned out quite nice. I think I like this one just a bit darker than normal.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dharma Talk

Well tonight Amanda gave her first Dharma talk in quite some time (damn close to a year). It was both excellent and hilarious at the same time. I can only hope to do 1/2 as well when I get up there.

Anyways, I met her at the Zen center about an hour and a half before she had to give her talk. We made mala's and chit-chatted for some time, listed to music on the iPod. She told me she was very nervous and wanted to throw-up. I told her just to get up there and talk about what she had in mind and not to give a rat's ass about it, as it was a bit late to do much about it now.

She really did an amazing job. There is a slight possibility that my 'don't give a rat's ass' speech may have taken just a bit of the edge off of it. Oh who am I kidding, she knew she was good to go and delivered a stand-up Dharma talk!

I guess that means that come Wednesday I'll need to throw my name up in a square and do one myself sometime soon. Maybe if I do it on April 13th, just two days before taxes are due the place will be near empty...yeah, right!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

So after a year....

So a year has come and gone since I last made a post here. Not too much different, still playing poker, though not nearly as much as I was. We lost a critter or two, and gained a couple. I started going to local AA meetings after realizing I had a problem (sober around five months or so). Made my return to Zen a few months ago, didn't realize how much I missed it until I returned. Oh, and I also started roasting my own coffee at home.

So Zen has been good. A couple of people have moved along, but several more new people have appeared. The temple has expanded so we now have an actual community room and a full kitchen. That kitchen makes retreats run much smoother, no more running next door for the food relay.

Also, Tony has a new book coming out on 3/15 with a release party the following Thursday (3/19). The book is titled Peace Vigil: Living Without Hesitation and is going for $19.95. The book also got a nice write-up by the Racine Journal Times. Tony will be talking about the book and how you can use it to help bring peace into your life and to those around you. It will be held at the Original Root Zen Center from 5:30 to 7:30 P.M.

And on that note, I'll be roasting up the coffee the day before so it will be nice and fresh, just for you!! The current plan is to do a Full City Roast on some Guatemalan Antigua, which, in my opinion, is one of the best coffees on the planet. If for no other reason, show up for the coffee and the snacks, they will both be worth your time.

I also just started to use Twitter. So far, so good, let's just hope I can make myself hop on for about 15 minutes a day to throw a few updates per day there. Just the other day I stumbled upon a FireFox add-on called Power Twitter. I love that extension, especially for expanding the tiny url's that most Twitter feeds use. If you Tweet, it's defiantly worth the download.