End of Heat chù shǔ 处暑 (Aug 23 HK)

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An Eclipse, a Sick Cat, and an Internship

PPlane flyingacross partial solar eclipse surronded by darknesThe eclipse was a big deal all over, it seems, and for this I am happy. Maybe some children will get interested in science. Maybe some people will decide to look at more in the natural world and learn to love it and help keep so much of it from being destroyed. If nothing else it got people to pull their noses out of their electronics for a change and get outside, people who would not normally do so. Back in 2016 there was a solar eclipse only visible in Africa. Regretful  I could not get to see it I did a post all about the cultural and historical impact of eclipses, because as I said then, I love everything astronomical. Eclipses are a really fascinating subject too.

Sigh for veterinary hospital with left pointing arrowI almost didn’t get to see this one, either. Some time late Saturday night, little Charli, my foster kitty (this foster will probably fail) developed very runny diarrhea. Yuck. But I wasn’t sure it was her. Her territory is the kitchen, but both Simba and Cloud like to hang out there as well and she has learned to tolerate them. By the middle of Sunday I knew it was her since she also was losing her appetite. Thankfully when I called the vet first thing Monday they had several openings that afternoon. I guess I can thank the eclipse for that, too. She was feral and although now she is very affectionate and wants petting and attention, Dr Jekyll disappears when it is time to get in the carrier and Cat Hyde comes out. I finally caught her when she went under the futon bed and I surrounded it with open carries (yes, I have that many). After playing whack a mole for almost an hour through the bed slats she paused in front of a carrier which contained  one of the catnip kicker toys I bought from an Etsy store. To my amazement and relief she went in of her own accord and I quickly shut the door.  By this time we were very late but I had warned the front desk this might happen. They took her in as a drop off and on my way out two of the techs were looking at the eclipse. One loaned me her glasses so I actually got to see it after all.

When I came back to pick up Charli later in the afternoon the diagnosis was clostridium of some kind. It’s everywhere, naturally occurring in the human body and the soil, but it’s an anaerobic bacteria so it’s not like she picked it up off the surface of something. Determined to figure out the cause I  read a stack of studies on the darned bugs but there is a lot that’s still not well understood. In any event I used enough bleach on the kitchen for a level 5 bio-lab so hopefully we will get no more.

She has a pill to take each evening and special sensitive stomach food to eat for a while. This pill can be crushed and slipped in the wet food and that night I anxiously watched to see if she would eat it. She did, but not all of it. Her appetite was not back to normal. Tuesday she ate more at breakfast but I found it worked best if I let her eat a little, then took the food away moistened it with water and waited to present it again, whereupon she would eat more. She doesn’t like it from the refrigerator, most cats don’t, but small amounts warm up quickly so it works. I am bacteria conscious now.

Sketch of Canada geese on 1st Eedition front cover A Sand County AlmanacOn a happier note, my friend Melita announced she’s gotten an internship at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monoma Wisconsin. When  I got really got excited at her good fortune she admitted she did not know much about it at first but now was getting more and more enthused. Aldo Leopold was a conservationist and  pioneering environmentalist. After working many years for the Forest Service he bought eighty acres in the sand country of central Wisconsin, an area that had been logged, swept by repeated fires, overgrazed by dairy cows, and left barren. He turned this land into a test area for his theories and eventually wrote his best-selling A Sand County Almanac (1949), about it, finishing just prior to his death.  I have read almost all his writing, truly wonderful works about conservation with balance and use of natural resources without needless destruction. This will be wonderful for Melita. She at one time lived in an RV and traveled the country picking up trash because she hated how people abused the land. This is not to say she is an angry person, she is one of the gentlest souls I know. She justs cares about our world very intensely.


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Caturday Thoughts – Feline Feng Shui Part 1

As I clean up and pack up I am discovering some things. One of them is that I really dislike American house designs. My current dwelling is far from a McMansion, which I despise. The room in square footage is more than adequate but the layout is a royal pain. I remember a friend’s house I spent a lot of time at. It was a split level, a very common common design in the U.S., which I never liked. That house and others like it I’ve been in always made me feel very uncomfortable, no right in a way I couldn’t explain until I learned feng shui. Part of the reason my friend’s house might have had bad energy was that she and her partner were at odds, but even when I was alone in the house it felt bad. Maybe their relationship was being worsened by the house. In the world of feng shui that is a definite consideration.

Flags blowing against background of snowy hill and skyMost westerners are familiar with feng shui in it’s modern adaption. They know it means wind and water and that you have to use “remedies” and clear clutter. While excessive clutter can negatively impact the flow of qi, focusing on this level is what I refer to as “surface stuff”. It doesn’t address the heart of the problem. That problem is most often design.

Even back in 1948 when this house was built and the lust for volume had not overrun taste houses were designed to maximize builder profits with ostensibly “prestige” design features. I enjoy having a fireplace but the whole house footprint is only 900 sq ft and sticking it in the middle of the living room takes a big chunk out of the useable space. In my aunt’s little Cape Code in Connecticut the fireplace was set in an outside wall and this could have been done in mine. Instead, this was apparently designed to create a dining room on the opposite side. There once was a door from the kitchen to this space which has since been taken down. However, in order to create a place for a hot water heater, since there is no basement, a wall was built next to the door creating an ell in the kitchen and making the “dining room” useless. I couldn’t even fit my small kitchen table in there without moving the chairs every time I wanted to pass. Even the home appraiser commented on what a lousy arrangement it was. There is a tiny central hall from which you enter the bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. Too small for even a hall table it is useless except for the cleaner, who earns more by spending time moping it.

So in thinking of a new home for myself and the cats I am seriously looking at a place I could tear up. I wouldn’t matter if I had millions, builders don’t speak my language. I worked for a big builder and developer for a couple of years and I know more than I want to about it because in my opinion it’s not a great picture. They always say to define your goals in positive terms but right now I am at the I don’t want stage. I don’t want a barren mass development house. I don’t want ugly design like “snout” houses and split levels. I don’t want a McMansion. I have no need to impress anyone and those impressed by material wealth are not even on my radar. I can’t wait to start talking to realtors from a feng shui perspective and then through in my engineering background when they try to impress me with “surface stuff”. You can see why this is taking more than one post and how when I start actively shopping it will probably make for some amusing reading in even more posts.

Castle surrounded by moat lake

On the other hand if I had millions I’d consider this seriously

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Juggling the Demands of Life

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I have always admired jugglers because I have never had the hand eye co-ordination for juggling. One ball or plate is my limit. Still, even a skilled juggler has a limit to how many items can be successfully handled. One ball, plate or Indian club too many and the act is spoiled with a good chance the juggler will get smacked.

Yet I’ve discovered we are all  jugglers. It’s just that we don’t juggle those balls, plates and Indian clubs. What we are all trying to juggle are the days and hours of our lives and things are dropping, bouncing and smacking us in the forehead like crazy. As with anything some are more skilled than others. Some people never seem to “drop the ball”.  I am not one of them. Fortunately, once I really realized I was going to have to juggle whether I liked it or not I decided to got at it positively. Otherwise I’d just be putting stress on myself, as if the world doesn’t do that enough.

When you have goals you have to plan. You have to break the big tasks into manageable segments or you’ll wind up like a jack-lighted deer, frozen in place, overwhelmed by the size of the undertaking.  And you have to be willing to make adjustments. If I have to move with my cats I may have to either write my blog posts ahead of time or take a brief hiatus. I may have to skip attending the IAAHPC conference this year. Finally you have to be able to focus. The external demands must be cleared quickly and your own, internally generated goals and tasks must be the ones getting your concentration and energy. Focus is the same thing that makes a great juggler of objects and it makes for a great juggler of life’s demands.

Over the next few months I will be juggling a lot: finishing my schoolwork, packing and sorting possessions, cleaning up the yard and the house, writing my blog posts, and all the routine tasks, like getting the truck serviced and doing the shopping. I’ll be hunting up a new place for myself and the cats and getting ready for a new chapter. So I may not be as frequent a poster as I have been. Or maybe I be posting even more. When you start out on your goals looking at it as an adventure is a better to to keep up enthusiasm and enthusiasm fuels focus. You never know for sure what you’ll encounter and you may be surprised at where you wind up.

View of snow cap on Mt. Rainier over trees


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Caturday Thoughts – Simba’s New Diet

Simba “Why me? I eat the same as everybody else. I’m not even overweight any more!!”

About six months ago the vet did a blood panel on Simba. She had an elevated BUN level. BUN is an acronym for blood urea nitrogen. A BUN test as its name implies, measures amount of urea nitrogen in the blood. Urea nitrogen is a waste product that’s created in the liver when the body breaks down proteins. Normally, the kidneys filter it out, and urinating removes it from the body. When you are having problems with your kidneys or liver BUN levels tend to rise. Everything else looked fine on Simba’s exam so the vet said to bring her back in three months to run another test. When I did tt had gone down to normal levels. The most recent re-check showed it back up, sightly higher than the first high reading. So the vet put Simba on a special diet.

Here’s where we run into difficulties. Cats are obligate carnivores. The definition in the Merriam Webster online dictionary is: 1. Restricted to one particularly characteristic mode of life. 2. Biologically essential for survival. Cats must eat meat, it is an absolute biological necessity.  Cats do not have the ability to synthesize many essential vitamins and amino acids, such as niacin, vitamin A, taurine and arginine, all of which are found in meat in quantity. Not only that, but obligate carnivores need h high level of protein in their diet. Cats obtain the glucose fuel to run their bodies by gluconeogenesis. This is a simply a different metabolic pathway that uses protein rather than breaking down carbohydrates to obtain the glucose. Without sufficient protein in the diet a cat’s body will begin to break down it’s own muscle and organs to do it.

The typical feline urinary diet is low in protein. Maintaining sufficient protein for health while protecting the kidneys is a delicate balance. Increased water intake also really helps kidney function, but cats normally get their water from their food. This is hard to do when the food is a dry kibble. The kidney diet prescribed by the vet is dry kibble. So once again I am on an odyssey, navigating the conflicting opinions and theories on the best diet for my cat.

I found that keeping levels of phosphorus low is very beneficial and may be more important than lowering protein. Of course, wading through dozens of studies, many of which conflict, often leaves you with your head spinning. In many cases you can only access the abstract if you are affiliated with a university or pay forty or fifty dollars to an overpriced journal. Then some are based on such limited  test samples I refuse to accept their statistical validity. One test sample was four cats. Sorry, but I aced my statistics classes and with millions of cats in the United States alone, a test sample of four doesn’t add up, even if I liked the conclusion. Don’t even try to Google this. All you get is marketing stuff and it will just give you a headache and make you very cynical, like me.

Still I did find some good and  detailed information on cat nutrition and cat food contents. This was gathered by people struggling to get it from the manufacturers. Now we are going on another search mission to find suppliers for some nice wet food brands that have sufficient protein and low phosphorus. I am just glad my chemistry professor Dr. Lin was so demanding. I really remember the stuff and understand what I’m reading and looking for. All this work is for someone very special. A wonderful orange cat, my friend and companion, my Simba.

Simba's Safe Place

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I Ching

Diagram of I Ching Hexagrams

The hexagrams of the I Ching in a diagram belonging to the German mathematician philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I used to work with the I Ching before I fell into the black hole of corporate overtime. I decided with all the potential changes in the wind, the Book of Changes was the perfect tool to assess and plan. It was something I wanted to return to anyway and now it seem s so practical. It is also fun to play with mathematically, as it’s based on probability. I have to make it clear, pretty much all the way though school I hated math, culminating with a dreadful instructor and algebra in high school. When I started my engineering curriculum, though, I had to face the dragon. I broke my math phobia with the help of a hypnotist, to the amazement of my trigonometry professor. I still hate some kinds of math. Later on I only survived calculus with the help of a visiting professor who observed me muttering darkly while doing homework and took pity on me. Yet when I went to his office I thought the topology he was teaching his graduate students was magical and beautiful. And when I had to take statistics I did really well and got interested in probability theory.

Once you fall down the mathematical rabbit hole you meet characters as eccentric and fascinating as any Alice met in Wonderland. Then again Lewis Carroll was a mathematician, as well as a writer. My favorite character down this rabbit hole is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz. He preceded Einstein in supposing the relativity of space and time. In addition to inventing a working calculator, he devised the modern binary system. Which brings us back to the I Ching.  Leibnitz was as fascinated with it as I am, he being focused on it’s binary nature. He noted the I Ching hexagrams correspond to the binary numbers from 000000 to 111111. A student of law, philosophy and metaphysics he was one of the very first westerners  to take a serious interest in Chinese culture. He read books by and corresponded with early missionaries there and found much to admire in the works of Confucius, which he read in the year of their first translation, 1687. How can I not like him when we have so many common interests?

Which brings us back to the I Ching. It is often referred to as a method of fortune-telling and of course it can be used superficially in this way. I, on the other hand, prefer using it as a tool to explore deeper things. Over the course of over the course of the Warring States and early imperial periods (500–200 BC) the basic divination text was augmented by a series of philosophical commentaries known as the “Ten Wings” originally attributed to Confucius. In the 2nd century BCE it was declared one of the “Five Classics” and received even more scholarly commentary. It is in studying the hexagrams with their commentary you can derive great insight from the I Ching into many aspects of life and a deeper understanding of the constantly changing world described by Yin Yang theory and Wu Xing (Five Phases). In addition to myself, others have found in the I Ching sound advice on how to proceed in life. Carl Jung wrote, “Even to the most biased eye, it is obvious that this book represents one long admonition to careful scrutiny of one’s own character, attitude, and motives.”, something I feel a lot of people could benefit from these days.


I Ching page Song Dynasty print

By Song era print artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Caturday Thoughts – It’s Not Adding Up

Giant abacus held up between pillarsAfter having a plumber in just a couple of weeks ago. The toilet is now not flushing properly. It’s draining down all right, but the water is not flowing into the bowl except in a trickle, with not enough force to flush. Strangely, while the toilet is not backing up the tub and sink drains are slooowww. I think the entire plumbing system needs to be ripped out from the connection to the city mains to the faucet. More and more problems are surfacing and the cost of bringing the house up to a saleable state is escalating. And the repairs are the invisible ones buyers don’t think about like the plumbing and electrics. More than one person in the real estate industry has told me people care more about appearance than anything else. This is why there are hundred of houses all over the country, very expensive  houses, with heating systems that cost a fortune to run, plumbing with serious issues and walls built of toxic Chinese drywall. A realtor I knew in California told me she never wanted someone like me as a client when she found out I studied civil engineering for two years.  Even though the cost of relocation is high, the cost of staying doesn’t add up. And there are other factors.

I have checked with friends. Service businesses like computer and auto repair are open on Saturday in Washington. Once outside the ring of counties bordering Washington DC that’s not true here. I am sure the work ethic has deteriorated in many parts of Washington as it has all over the United States but at least businesses serving people act like they might have a regular job and need to come on Saturday. I can’t find decent office services, either.

Stileto Peak WA in sunThen there are lifestyle considerations. In Virginia there are so called mountains. I don’t consider anything a mountain without year round snow at the top, although I make exception for places like Kilimanjaro, an equatorial mountain robbed of it’s famous snows by global warming. After all, it hasn’t shrunk. But as someone who used to ski and rock climb I miss views like the one at left. Looking at all that rock makes my palms tingle.

Big Sur north toward Bixby Creek BridgeThere is another kind of view I miss. I used to live on the California coast in Monterey and Santa Cruz.  Virginia has coastline but nothing like that. Washington, however has some really impressive “Mountains meet the Sea” shoreline. I guess that is the real thing I miss. The ocean, the sound of foghorns and surf, the smell of salt water and the seaweed and lovely, cool fog, kind to my skin and my plants.  I feel even after all this time Virginia is a foreign  country. The only time I come close to feeling at home is when I run into one of my former students and have tea or a snack with them when I make one of my runs up to the city to get the Indian,Chinese and Korean groceries I need.

Even sitting here on a Friday night wanting to have a place to go I am vexed, There are only a couple of places and even if I drag myself out I will sit watching the inevitable television. There is no one to go with me and no one to interact with if I go. No matter where I have gone in Virginia people are not sociable. When I lived close to the city I spent most of my time in the Korean community. Koreans are very social. I spent a lot of time going back to visit friends in Maryland. Now the drive is too long for that. This is the first time in my life I have had a social circle of zero. I made friends in San Antonio when I was only there for basic training and barely got off base at all. I find it strange.

Years ago I might have said it was on to me and felt terrible. I am older and wiser. It’s not just the problem house that makes life awkward here. It’s just about fit and culture. This is not my culture and I don’t fit. Many people, even incomers are happy here.  I am not, in great part because I long for what is missing. A siren song is growing louder and stronger, calling me back, back to the big ocean, the big mountains and the big trees, I want to go home. Any other alternative just doesn’t add up.

Cliffs above rocks and sea northern Pacific Coast US

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