Alvin Alexander | Java, Scala, Unix, Perl, Mac OS X

If you like dream stories, here you go ... this one is from January 25, 2019.

A dream sequence started this morning with me trying to follow some other people in a vehicle. I wasn’t lucid at this point, and all I remember is that we were trying to go somewhere for dinner. The people I was following had gotten way ahead of me so I decided that I needed to go very fast, and when I punched the accelerator things started to get weird.

There was a major “whoosh” of something ... time, space, whatever, so I decided I better come to a stop. When I did I looked around, and saw that I was in an area that was full of modern restaurants, one even looked a little like a Dunkin’ Donuts. But the problem was, the names of the restaurants weren’t in English. I had no idea what the language was, but it looked like something I had never seen before. Only half awake and 100% lost, for some reason it seemed like a good idea to hit the accelerator.

Once again there was a major whoosh of timespace/spacetime, and I thought I better stop and try to figure out where I was. The first thing I noticed was that my vehicle had transformed, and was now like a shuttle that you’d see on Star Trek, mostly metallic, with a lot of gauges to look at inside, and large, rectangular glass windows so I could see outside. When I looked outside all I saw was a large open range, with a few hills or very small mountains in the distance to the right. It reminded me of rural New Mexico, but it was dark outside so I couldn’t see any more details.

Dateline January 25, 2011, Palmer, Alaska: “Recent deaths here: Hitting a moose; Avoiding hitting a moose; Snowmobile (snowmachine) into telephone pole; Exposure walking home from school; Neighbor shoots neighbor. It's been a busy two days.”

The top five regrets of the dying:

1) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
2) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
3) I wish I had let myself be happier
4) I wish I had the courage to express my true self
5) I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected of me

I had to get away from it for a while, so I forgot how good the book Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas is. I tend to be more interested in the science behind mindfulness and meditation (as opposed to specific religions and their rituals), and as a result, from my own practice I can confirm the last sentence in this paragraph from that book. (See the attached image.)

Depending on the day, and especially the time of day, the first 5-10 minutes of any meditation session are the hardest for me, because it takes a while to get my mind to settle down. Since I learned this practice, I do settle down more quickly.

Gratitude helps shut down distractions during meditation

As you progress in your meditation practice, the use of mantra(s) is a powerful way to stay focused all day.

I recall reading that Ram Dass said that even when he is speaking or listening to others, that in the background his mantra is always running in his head: “Ram ... Ram ... Ram.”

In the excellent book, Practicing the Jhanas, I throughout your day that you constantly remember to bring your attention back to the Anapana spot, a spot just under your nose.

A short chapter on "metaphor", from the terrific book, Zen Master Raven.

There will be auditions again tonight. ;)

Metaphor, from Zen Master Raven

Once upon a time, a black bear walked into the Breeze Inn in Seward, Alaska and was enjoying the view of the big glass windows ... but was encouraged to leave.

Bear walks into the Breeze Inn, Seward, Alaska

[This is a chapter from a currently-unpublished book I’m writing on meditation and mindfulness.]

As a spiritual being, one possible way to think of life here on Earth is as a “game” that serves as a training ground for the soul. It’s a game like other games, so it has many levels, and they get harder and harder as you progress. So in this case, the better you become at the game of spirituality — the Soul Game — the harder the levels become.

To help set some rules for the game, let’s say that it has fifty levels. The first time you play the game you’re born here on Earth in Level 1. Hopefully you score some points and move up, so maybe by the time it’s “game over” for your first lifetime, you’ve passed Level 9 and you’re playing on Level 10. Maybe you get a brief break in between lifetimes, but the next time you’re born you start right where you left off, at Level 10.

This brings me to a very important rule: Once you start playing the Soul Game, you’re strapped in for eternity. (That was clearly mentioned on page 52 of the End User License Agreement.) Once you’re in the game there are only two ways out:

Here’s a photo from Virginia Beach at sunrise in late May, 2019. I used a dark black and white filter when taking the photo, but everything else is natural.

Sunrise at Virginia Beach, May, 2019

I haven’t been back to Alaska in a long time now, but this is what the movie theater in Homer, Alaska looked like the last time I was there.

The movie theater in Homer, Alaska

This is a cartoonize’d version of Yoda on Luke Skywalker’s back during Luke’s initial training in the swamp. To create it, I found the original movie image with a Google search, opened the image in Gimp, then worked back and forth with a Cartoonized plugin effect, the Beautify options, and the Artistic/Oilify effect. I can do a lot better than this, but for the purposes of this example, I created this cartoon image in less than five minutes. Given more time, I would clean up Yoda quite a bit before using the Cartoonize effect.

I’ve used Gimp to create almost 2,000 images that I use with the Mac screensaver “rotate images” feature, and this is the latest addition.

(Click the image to see the full-size, 1200x600 pixel image.)

Cartoon of Yoda on Luke Skywalker's back

In case you were worried about Luke falling in The Empire Strikes Back. (From this collection of 66 behind the scenes photos.)

In case you were worried about Luke Skywalker falling

I’ve been listening to the song Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb lately, and it reminds me that when you first start meditating there can be a lot of guilt associated with attempting to meditate. Various thoughts include:

  • This is dumb
  • This is a waste of time
  • I’m not getting anywhere
  • I should be doing [fill-in-the-blank]

These thoughts can last a long time, until that one day that your meditation finds your groove, all of the “mind noise” goes away, and you think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

So today’s thought is one of persistence: If some part of you finds yourself wanting to meditate, there might just be some voice hidden deep in your mind wanting this. So vow to keep working at it until that one day when you find the sweet spot and then think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

January 22, 2020: Good news, today is the first day I have been able to sit down without pain since December 23 of last year. For whatever reason it has taken the Angio-Seal in my leg this long to heal. But yesterday and today were the first days I have been almost 100% pain-free while standing, and so far I’ve been able to sit down for a little while, which is a very nice feeling. :)

When I left Alaska in 2011 I didn’t have enough room in my car for all of my books, so these are the ~104 books I left behind.

Books I sold when I left Alaska in 2011

The cabin I lived in, in Talkeetna, Alaska. This time of year — late winter — I always find myself wanting to move back to Alaska.

The cabin I lived in, in Talkeetna, Alaska.

Wednesday Zen:

One time an employee came into my office, closed my door, and said, “How are you so calm? I’m going nuts!” As I would learn, he had some stress from work, but even more from his personal life. I tried to help him slow down, breathe, and talk, but he was frantic and almost impossible to help.

The thing about meditation and stillness of mind is that you can’t just start it one day in the middle of a crisis, like when you feel a sudden twinge of chest pain or you’re laying in a hospital bed with a virus trying to suffocate your heart. By then it’s too late.

“Do not fall in love with people like me. I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments, and kiss you in every beautiful place, so that you can never go back to them without tasting me like blood in your mouth. I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible. And when I leave you will finally understand, why storms are named after people.”

~ Caitlyn Siehl

If you want to see a somewhat larger example of Dotty source code than I’ve shown before, I just took a little time to convert a small Scala 2 project over to the new/current Dotty syntax (i.e., the Dotty syntax supported by the Dotty 0.21 release, circa January, 2020).

This is a view of some mountains (whose official name I don’t know) from my apartment in Palmer, Alaska, in January, 2011.

Mountains from my apartment in Palmer, Alaska