Xen Living 3: Harnessed Habits

key-to-success.jpgI came across an article a few days ago, entitled “What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?”

That set me to thinking about the changing of habits, as it applies specifically to losing weight.

Typically, when you think of something like losing weight, you see it as requiring a very large effort of will, an ongoing tooth-gritting, fist-clenching determination.

You prepare yourself for losing weight. You set a date. You build up to it. You plan strategies. The herculean task looms, and you fear another failure. Then you get into it. You hold yourself back. You deny yourself. You agonize over how badly you want to eat, how badly you want to just give in and rest from this awful, horrible chore.

And yet …

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Letters to the Future: 1

lttf.jpgHello to the year 3008!

I was thinking about my life a few days ago, the things I’ve lived through, and I’m writing to tell you some of what I was thinking.

In my time, we have the musical scores of greats such as Ludwig von Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – I do hope you still remember them – but we don’t have any actual recordings of their own original performances.

On the other hand, musicians such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Bob Dylan were all alive in my lifetime, and I can listen to their actual performances any day.

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When Coyotes Danced

coyotes.jpgIt was hot, the day the coyotes danced.

It was about 1990, and I was ranch-sitting at the Schober Ranch in Bishop, California. The owner was up in the mountains all summer, but there were cattle at the ranch, and somebody needed to be there to look after them.

In this particular case, ranch-sitting was a minimalist job. The cattle were out in a pasture with plenty of water and grass, and cattle don’t need much more than that. Really, all I had to do was walk the pastures once a day and make sure nobody was sick or injured or dead.

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Is John McCain (Maxwell) Smart?

cone.jpgI don’t know why I haven’t heard more about the “Cone of Silence.” I chuckle every time I think of John McCain sitting under it in a room by himself. 

It brings to mind THIS.

I can just all-too-easily picture McCain under there when the hostess comes in to tell him it’s his turn to go on stage for his interview. He sits there going “What? … What?” in a bewildered Maxwell Smart voice.

In fact the more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that John McCain IS Maxwell Smart.

Let the meme go forth.

Strokes of the Brush

mach.jpgI was at a Revolutionary War re-enactor event just a couple of weeks back, and I had a … well, call it a re-epiphany.

Some years back, while watching my friend Carl Buell, a natural history illustrator, paint a prehistoric scene, I had the original epiphany. I compared what Carl was doing with a brush with what I did with a camera, and I realized this: No matter how good I am with a camera, there are things in my photos that get there by accident.

A picture of a trail through a bower of fall colors might contain a bright red leaf lying in the leaf-strewn duff on a forest floor, and yet that particular leaf might never catch my attention, either before or after I took the picture. I might have the picture printed and framed for 30 years over my desk, and never notice that specific leaf.

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Letter to a Dying Grandmother

old-hands.jpgIf you’ve been an unbeliever for any length of time at all, you’ve probably heard this one: “If your grandmother was on her deathbed, would you tell her there’s no Heaven?”

It’s a nasty dilemma for an atheist.

On the one hand, you want to be true to your own principles, which probably includes a great deal of honesty. (I don’t think you can become an independent-minded atheist if you aren’t immensely honest. If you find lies easy and are willing to toss out glib, convenient fibs at a moment’s notice, the path simply isn’t there for you.)

But on the other hand, this is your grandmother, dying, and she has this comforting fairy tale foremost in her mind about the eternal life she has to look forward to. How could you dash her hopes in her final moments? Sure, if she was 50 and healthy, it might be worth it. If she was somebody else’s grandmother-to-be, and only 30, or 22, or 15, that might be a good time to intervene with the no-gods, no-heaven message.

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Invasion of the Buddy Snatchers

crab.jpgThere’s a parasite that eats crabs from the inside. (I read about it in a book called Parasite Rex, by Carl Zimmer.)

It enters the crab by penetrating a weak spot, then spreads long rootlike tendrils through the crab’s interior. The crab’s immune system fails completely to recognize it, and it soon takes over the hapless crustacean, body and brain. The crab continues to eat, to feed the thing, but it can no longer molt and grow, regrow severed claws, or mate and produce offspring. In time, the parasite produces eggs, and the crab nurtures and spreads them as if they were its own.

It looks like a crab. It moves like a crab. For all I know, it tastes like a crab. But it isn’t a crab anymore. It’s no more a crab than if a toymaker were to snatch one out of the ocean, core out its shell and throw the guts and brain away, and replace it all with a battery-driven mechanism that simulated crab motions.

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