International Tiger Day

Just so beautiful!

Vikas Khair Photography

Tiger drinking water.

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Global Tiger Day is this Saturday, July 29

Anybody who reads my blog know I love cats. Not just the small ones either. My favorite really big cat is the tiger and to day my Caturday Thoughts are on that big cat.

The Jaguar

Amur Tiger by S.Brickman. CC BY-SA 2.0

This Saturday, July 29, is Global Tiger Day. Tigers (Panthera tigris) are not doing well. There are only about 3,900 of them left in the wild, and they have lost 96% of their historic range (Panthera, 2015d). The primary threats to tigers are habitat loss/fragmentation, livestock-related conflicts, and rampant poaching for the traditional Asian medicine (TAM) trade. This latter threat is the most severe, and is primarily responsible for the tiger’s precipitous decline. As tigers become more scarce, other large cats (such as jaguars and snow leopards) are increasingly being targeted for the TAM trade. Thus the fate of multiple cat species is tied to that of tigers’.

The NGO Panthera has launched a new fundraiser to help reverse the tiger’s decline. Panthera is committed to conserving all 38 of the world’s wild cat species, and they do…

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Greater Heat dà shǔ 大暑 Jul 22rd .

White hot sun over black treetopsOn July  22nd we entered the period of Greater or Major Heat, In China it is the time of year when the amount of sunshine is highest, average temperature is the highest, rainfall is the greatest, and the thunderstorms are the most frequent. at least in the north. This pretty well describes  the case where I live as well, except possibily the thunderstorms. They seem to pass to the north or the south, avoiding the town as though it is undeserving of cooling relief. This is the time of year when I adapt the custom of Meditteranean cultures and avoid going out during the middle of the day as much as possible and eating after sunset. Trying to cook when the sun is up creates heat far more like a commercial kitchen, I am dripping with sweat just cutting up the vegetables, racing to get everything done so I can escape the heat. The only thing missing is Gordon Ramsey cursing at me.

People are aghast when I tell them I’ve no air conditioning but how many people live in much hotter and more humid climates without that benefit. And the world is just growing hotter. The cats sleep all day long. I can gage the temperature and humidity by both where they choose to nap and in what position. As the temperature rises they move from the futon or the various cat beds to the floor or a carrier with no bedding. In extreme heat they uncurl and stretch out like maturing fern fiddleheads and at the top of the thermometer they are on their back paws in the air.Red setting sun over dark ocean

This is ruining summer, which I used to enjoy. It’s not just me. I rarely see the kids who live behind me outside. My neighbors who have a nice deck are only out there early in the morning or after sunset even though they have a big umbrella to sit under. An umbrella is no protection from the humidity and not really all that much protection from the sun.

I am looking long and hard at the parts of the country with fewer sunny days and more cloud cover. I attended university in Santa Cruz California. We had a rainy season but a nice summer, lots of fog from the Pacific Ocean. The only people who can afford it now are dotcom millionares but there are other cooler places. Even  here the time of greater heat will pass and we’ll have a period of comfort before we start to suffer in the oher direction, from the cold. Still, the same places that have cooler summers have warmer winters. That would be ideal for the cats and suit me too.

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Caturday Thoughts – Schroedinger’s Cat

Cat in Schroedinger's garden

Life-size cat figure in the garden where Erwin Schrödinger lived 1921–1926. Depending on the light conditions, the cat appears either alive or dead.By Koogid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Most people think the world they struggle with every day is a concrete reality. In truth behaving as though it is is the easier in the short term than thinking of things at a deeper level. It is the reason the rabbis used to say you couldn’t study the Kabbalah until you were a certain age and had acheived a certain state of mind. It is the reason Tantric practices are only released slowly, to the properly prepared initiate. There is a place where philosopy and physics intersect, a true Twilight Zone, where the solid and familiar physics of Sir Isaac Newton dissolve to reveal what lies beneath. Most people take great pains to avoid excursions in that direction but I like going there.

Which is good because someday I am going there entirely and the more I know about where I’m going the more comfortable I am. Scientific work rarely noticed by a public distracted by economic and political chaos is slowly inching toward a realization that more is affected by this than invisble particles with funny names. Take photosynthesis for example.

Close up of purplish leafThe basic process involves plants taking in sunlight and CO2 and turning them into energy. We tend not to think about how the photons of light that strike a plant’s leaves came from millions of  kilometres away with enough energy to knock an electron in one of those leaves aroud with a good smack. Like a well executed breaking shot on a cue ball in a game of pool the effect on the electron is the same. Energy is transferred and it begins to move around eventually passing it’s energy to the type of molecule that can fuel the plant. In the Newtonian view the electron should take a certain amount of time to trigger this molecule before continuing on it’s way. It also should loose energy as it bounces around and the impacts the molecule. But no, perversely, the electon takes far less time than expected and barely looses energy at all.

Then research showed indications of quatum effects in the molecular centers for photosysthesis. The work published in Nature is pretty technical but essentailly there were indications in the behavior of the electrons that indicated quantum effects, possibly superposition, the ability to exist in several places at once. Hypothetically, the electron could test several pathways to the correct molecule at once and practically instantaneously pick the most efficient.

This kind of reasearch is costly and doesn’t produce something someone can sell so it doesn’y get the publicity and backing other things do. It’s also hard to digest without some flexibility in your thinking. Still, I find the tiny windows it opens through the Newtonian curtain fascinating and reassuring. The Buddha and the Hindu sages taught what we think we see in daily life is illusion. Going down the quantum rabbit hole like a scientific Alice rather confirms this to me. I like diversity, change and complexity. And I can stay a lost more detached from all the myopic focus on the material that surrounds me. I like the idea of infinite possibilities. I like to think that Schroedinger’s cat is always alive and well in some universe or alternate reality and maybe I and my cats are as well.




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Yin and Yang and the Five Phases

Beyond the basic flow of yin and yang  we advance to the concepts of the Five Phases. I prefer the expression Five Phases to the more common apellation of Five Elements. To a western mind the word element connects to the ideas of the ancient Greeks and the periodic table. It conveys components which are static, unchanging and discrete. In yin and yang is the essence of constant change. The expression Five Phases better reflects the fluidity of nature in yin yang theory. The Five Phases are Wood ( mù), Fire ( huǒ), Earth ( ), Metal ( jīn), and Water ( shuǐ). This order of presentation is called the “mutual generation” (相生 xiāngshēng) sequence. There is also an order of “mutual overcoming” (相剋/相克 xiāngkè), which is Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.

Five Elements Cycle ChartThe Five Phases theory further expands the changing cycles of yin and yang into five stages of transformation. These phases represent the seasons of the earth, characterized as wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. All of the Five phases are apects of qi. They are applied to many aspects of life, among them the seasons. Wood is appplied to spring, a period of 72 days, as are all the seasons. It is the period of growth, which generates abundant wood and vitality. Fire is matched with summer, understanably, a period of heat, energy and in many parts of the world the outbreak of real fires. It is an expanding, flowering period. Earth is associated with a dual application, assigned to a fifth season know as late summer or long summer, which is one of leveling, moderating  and fruition. In some cases is is used with a set of in-between, transitional periods.  Metal is linked with the autumn period of harvesting and gathering. Finally, water is paired with winter,the period of contraction, retention and retreat.

The phases have relationships to each other. In the generating cycle, Wood feeds Fire; Fire creates Earth; Earth bears forth Metal, Metal collects Water; Water nourishes Wood. In the overcoming sequence, Wood parts Earth. Think of tree roots penetrating through the ground upheaving sidewalks and you have the idea. Earth dams,  absorbs and clouds Water. That water extinguishes fire is obvious, as is that fire melts metal. Finally, metal cuts wood. This is certainly true in the case of axes and saws.

One major area where the Five Phases are applied to human activity is Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Fives Phases are also said to  correspond with the stages of human life: birth, growth, maturation, death, and rebirth. In TCM the body is considered as a whole and the systems and organs analyzed in terms of yin and yang.  Some organs are considered basically yin in nature and others basically yang. The yin organs are the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. The yang organs are the gall bladder, stomach, large and small intestine and urinary bladder.  The organs are paired a yin to a yang which share meridians, tissues, muscles, and energetic functions and also correspond to one of the Five Phases: The liver/gallbladder pair is Wood; the heart/small intestinepair is Fire; the spleen/stomach pair is Earth; the lungs/large intestine pair is Metal; and the kidney/bladder pair is Water.

Chinese turtle back tomb

By User:Vmenkov (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Another area where the Five Phases are important is in feng shui. The origin of feng shui has it’s roots in locating a grave site that would ensure the happiness of the deceased. Unhappy ancestors were not a good thing for family well being as they would then not interceed with the gods in the spirit world. The practice spread to palaces and temples and then to the dwellings of ordinary people. Household harmony and business success were believed to be impacted by the way qi circulated. In feng shui the Five Phases correspond to this movement of energy or qi in the environment. Wood represents upward energy; fire represents a radiating energy; earth signifies an inward moving energy; metal is a contracting energy and water represents an expanding and penetrating energy.


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Caturday Thoughts – Cats Dislike their Environment and Schedule Disrupted

Toilet and sink stand with papers rolls

It was not neat and tidy like this!

Cats dislike their environment and schedule disrupted and so do I. Cats do not do trivial and useless things. I struggle to avoid them. The constant war with the plumbing put me totally off my schedule last week. The plumber spent the better part of the day strugglng to clear the sewer line. Major repairs are needed which I know the landlord will not do. I myself recoil at the though of dealing with the city functionaries and local contractors. I don’t know why people must be so clueless; it must have been the result of all the methyl mercury they let pollute the water around here. Slow on the uptake is the kindest thing I can say.

Fortunately I found a new yard man, a friend of one of my old lawn men, who I found out finally found full time work. So I can once again relegate that to someone else. Since it has begun to get truly warm there has been less rain and things are growing a tiny bit less frantically, but still the need to attend to it will not end until a hard frost this fall.

This is good primarily because taking care of the inside of the house requires far more work than it should. Triple filtering all the water takes time. Washing dishes in small batches because there is no counter available for a drying rack takes time, as does the hand drying. Having to rearrange all the small appliances every time I want to prepare food in different ways is also inconvenient.

Traditional hearth in Japanese houseEven as I pack more and more things ito the storage unit and have less in the house, I still find things getting misplaced. I still find there is not a good way to organize the things that are there to create space and keep things neat. I am beginning to wish I was living in a traditional Japanese house. It is not just the things that I have however, but the design of the house. It has very poor flow of design and qi. Most western houses do. I’m convinced it’s one reason I get low on energy. I was worried for a long time it was the cause of the cat’s illnesses but since everyne has been all right since Tony died, I think poor Tony and Mosby just lived in a toxic environment before I rescued them.

Meanwhile I am getting back on my schedule of writing and work. Sooner rather than later the house will be emptied to the bare functional minimum. Sooner rather than later I will no longer need to be constantly moving things out of the path of the cleaner, plumbers or handyman. The plumber figured the sewer pipe will take another year to back up again if it is not replaced but I will not wait for that. The cats and I do not need the trouble and disruption. We need a clean, organized and quiet home with routine and consistency and I will fnd a way to create it one way or another.

Room with floor to ceiling windows

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Minor Heat xiǎo shǔ 小暑 Jul 7th

Red setting sunWe have been fortunate that this year we have so far avoided the excessive heat of the last couple of years. The coolness continued until the farmers bagan to comment. On  July 7th we entered the solar term of Minor Heat 小暑(xiǎo shǔ).  It is the beginning of the hottest period of the the year. As it turned out, it finally got hot right on schedule. My house, not having air conditioning and getting the sun on the roof most of the day, gets very hot aftr midday. In late afternoon and early evening the cats sprawl on the floor in shady corners. I have fans directed at me as I work. Any physical activity is done in the morning, the afternoon is for writing, working on the computer, reading and running to the shops (they have air conditioning).

Fruit Smoothie in glassThis is one of the times I adjust my diet. Since by the time I get up, feed the cats and do the moring chores when this period of heatand high humidity  commences, I am dripping with sweat. It’s hardly when I want to cook something. Breakfast becomes a smoothie of fruit juice, plain Indian yogurt, frozen berries, instant meal or protein powder and spices, usually turmeric, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. It’s healthy, quick and deliciously cold. Adjusting diet to the seasons is a part of Indian Ayurvedic medicine and also TCM

Sincethe summer heat is very yang, TSM advocates that  to avoid excess yang,  consuming yin foods is useful.  Yang foods are considered “heating” or “warming”. Green leafy vegetables are considered yin and “cooling”. Instinctively, we gravitate to salads and cooling foods in summer heat. Watermelon is a very yin food. Of course there needs to be balance. No matter how hot it gets you can’t stay balanced eating just yin foods. If it’s that hot it’s always a safe bet to drink more water. But it’s not that hard to get balance. Tomatoes,  cucumbers and cilantro are yin and garlic, onions and any kind of peppers are yang, so combining them in a gazpacho gives you a nicely balanced summer dish.

So as the hot days build, enjoy summer activities and the chance to spend more ime outside. Balance your yang hamburgers with lettuce and tomato slices, have a a nice salad with your barbecues chicken and eat all the watermelon you want.

Open hamburger with lettuce, tomatom onion, mayonaise

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