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San Juan Mts. Snow/h20 equivalent ~~ 1/13/15 ~~ 12:10

                                                                                             HN / HNW (water equiv) 2 day total

Monument                                                                .5” / .05”                                   6.5″/.5″

RMP                                                                            5” / .45”                                      8″/.7″

Molas                                                                          7″ / .5”                                    9.5″/.65″

Coal Bank                                                                  7” / .7”                                       9″/.9″

Before They Went Bad ~~ ‘Better Call Saul’ Stars Bob Odenkirk of ‘Breaking Bad’

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Bryan Cranston and Mr. Odenkirk in a scene from the fourth season of “Breaking Bad.”

ALBUQUERQUE — We are back here, back in the place where mayhem lurks just a few steps beyond the cul-de-sac in the vast expanse of desert. With a downtown that has some teeth punched out, hotels that house only ghosts and strip malls short on commerce, time is fungible here. Is it 2014 or 1974? And where are all the people?

In this forest of billboards advertising quick-buck lawyers and tattoo removal, Walter White is nowhere in sight, having gone down in a hail of gunfire after five seasons of “Breaking Bad.” What remains is the impulse to tell the story of a fictional version of this place, of the hustlers, gangsters and losers who live like coyotes on the edge of this town.

For years, there had been jokes in the writing room and on the set of “Breaking Bad” about the Saul Goodman project, the one that would take the indelible lawyer inhabited by Bob Odenkirk and wrap an entire show around him once Walter had sold his last barrel of meth.

Then something funny happened. The joke came true.

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Jonathan Banks and Mr. Odenkirk in a scene from the show.

Sitting on the set in Albuquerque in September while filming the first season of “Better Call Saul,” which is to have its premiere on Feb. 8 on AMC, Mr. Odenkirk remembers that when the bluff had been called and the “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan and writer Peter Gould were actually writing the show, he still had his doubts.

“It was clear that Vince and Peter were setting the show in Albuquerque, and I would be away from my family for a long time,” he said in a trailer while having a quick lunch between scenes. “I was worried about what it would do to my family and worried about whether I would end up being the guy who” — um, screwed up — “the legacy of ‘Breaking Bad.’ ”

In the increasingly cluttered marketplace of television — at a time when Amazon and Netflix are winning Golden Globes, you can’t click a remote without bumping into some version of quality programming — there is a huge advantage in spinning off a storied franchise. But building on the embedded awareness of the character from “Breaking Bad” also means dealing with all the expectations that go with it. That tension informed everything about the execution of “Better Call Saul.”

For one thing, it is a prequel, set six years before Saul and Walter became known associates. Mr. Odenkirk is not playing exactly the same character. Instead, he is Jimmy McGill, a knock-around guy with a law degree who cannot catch a break or a decent case. The series is the story of how a guy who struggled to stay between the lines and above the belt became Saul, a criminal lawyer who is more criminal than lawyer. In the time frame of the new show, Walter is still teaching high school chemistry, perhaps to Jesse Pinkman, somewhere off screen, and Mr. Odenkirk’s character, rather than guiding the events around him as Saul did, is lost, blown about by forces beyond his control.

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Then again, it is about as far from a lawyer show as you can get, long on character and less concerned with classic plot lines or courtroom procedure. Without giving away (too many) spoilers, the show opens in the future, after Walter’s downfall and Saul’s dispossession of his greasy empire. Saul is in his own version of witness protection, tucked away in the kind of job no one sees in a place where everyone goes. He is a hunted shell of the smack-talking lawyer, who finds solace in running old tapes of his once ubiquitous commercials beckoning one and all to call Saul. It is grim and scary, but the vibe is as much “X-Files” (which Mr. Gilligan used to write for) as it is “Breaking Bad.”

And then the tape ends and we are back to where Saul started, as Jimmy McGill, a slip-and-fall shyster trying to walk back to more honorable pursuits by taking on public defender work. Short on real clients, he is looking after the interests of his brother, Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), a brilliant, successful lawyer who has lost his marbles and refuses to go outside. He also works hard at earning the interest of another lawyer, an icy beauty played by Rhea Seehorn, who sees right through Jimmy and still can’t stay away.

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San Juan Mts Snow/h20 update from Sunday weather…

Yesterday’s unsettled weather brought us a few inches on the Passes – just enough to cover the surface hoar we’ve all seen of late.

                                                        HN / HNW (water equiv)

 

Monument                                        6” / 0.45”
RMP                                                   3” / 0.25”
Molas                                                2.5 / 0.15”
Coal Bank                                           2” / 0.2”

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San Juan Mountains Weather Report ~~ Monday, January 12, 2015 ~~ 08:30

SJ-Weather_withJR_small-square_web-300x300The San Juans are currently between storms with partly cloudy skies and warming temperatures, but by this afternoon an upper level low pressure trough currently forming in the Great Basin will move into western Colorado and mix with moisture flowing into the 4-corners from the southwest. Looks like a good storm for the San Juans with potential of 10-15″ depending on location/elevation, with SW facing terrain being favored.

As the closed-low forms over the Gt. Basin the timing of a frontal passage early Tue. morning should cause good snow production. The closed-low will sink into Arizona, and depending upon how quickly and how far south it travels will tell the story of precip rates and snow totals.  This storm should be with us through Tuesday evening (but weakening by afternoon) as it exits our forecast area.

By Wednesday morning clearing skies, drier air and high pressure returns as the flow shifts to the northwest through the weekend. The first chance of another disturbance is Sunday, but it is too far out to be anything but science fiction right now..

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Robert Stone, Novelist Inspired by War, Dies at 77

 

obit-stone-articleLargeRobert Stone, the naturalist author whose satirical epics explored the underside of American life, died on Saturday at his winter home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.

His agent, Neil Olson, said the cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mr. Stone was previously given a diagnosis of emphysema.

Mr. Stone won the National Book Award for his second novel, “Dog Soldiers,” in 1975, was a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and received many other literary fellowships, prizes and recognitions.

“Dog Soldiers,” published soon after the conclusion of the Vietnam War, was about a war correspondent caught up in a heroin-smuggling operation.

Two decades later, The New York Times’s book critic William H. Pritchard wrote that its appeal was in the connections it made between folly and violence in Southeast Asia and American counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s.

Robert Stone during an interview in New York in 2013 to promote his book “Death of the Black-Haired Girl.”An Appraisal: In Robert Stone’s Books, Heroes, Hedonism and Old-Fashioned MoralismJAN. 11, 2015
“It spoke to American disenchantment,” Mr. Pritchard wrote. “It was a compellingly executed tale of action, and the witty brilliance of its prose created a dark comedy of disaster — of attempted heroic gestures that were also, as its unheroic hero, John Converse, observed, ‘peculiar and stupid.’ ”

The book shared the 1975 National Book Award with “The Hair of Harold Roux” by Thomas Williams, and was adapted as a film, “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” starring Nick Nolte in 1978.

Mr. Stone followed with several more novels, including “A Flag for Sunrise” in 1981, “Outerbridge Reach” in 1992, and “Damascus Gate” in 1998. He wrote a memoir in 2007, “Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties,” about his years in California as one of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters.

His last works were the dark-humored short-story collection “Fun With Problems” in 2010 and the 2013 novel “Death of the Black-Haired Girl.”

Mr. Stone was born on Aug. 21, 1937, in Brooklyn. He was raised by his mother, a New York City schoolteacher, until the age of 6, when she was institutionalized for schizophrenia. His father had abandoned the family soon after his son’s birth. Mr. Stone lived in a Catholic orphanage until the age of 10.

He was a rebellious teenager who was kicked out of a Marist high school during his senior year. He joined the Navy for four years, sailing to places like Antarctica and Egypt.

He drew on his hardscrabble upbringing in his work, where war served as a principal metaphor for human life. A two-month stint in Vietnam for a British journal in 1971 served as the inspiration for “Dog Soldiers,”and “A Flag for Sunrise” focused on characters whose lives collided in a Central American republic modeled on Nicaragua.

“It’s literally true that the world is seen by the superpowers as a grid of specific targets,” he told The Paris Review in 1985. “We’re all on military maps. There happens to be no action in those zones at present, but they’re there. And then there are the wars we fight with ourselves in our own cities. It is the simple truth that, wherever you are, there is an armed enemy present, not far away.”

In the same interview, he said he was inspired to begin writing novels in his 20s after rereading “The Great Gatsby.”

“I decided I knew a few meanings; I understood patterns in life,” he said. “I figured, I can’t sell this understanding, or smoke it, so I will write a novel.”

In 1966, he published his first novel, “A Hall of Mirrors.” Set in New Orleans in 1962, the book depicted a political scene dominated by racism. It won a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship and a William Faulkner Foundation Award for notable first novel, and was adapted as a film, “WUSA,” released in 1970.

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A Chronicler of Lost Souls and an America That Lost Its Way
In Robert Stone’s Books, Heroes, Hedonism and Old-Fashioned Moralism

Robert Stone was one of the few writers to capture the apocalyptic madness of America in the 1960s and ‘70s, as the country lurched deeper into the jungles of Vietnam and the counterculture party at home turned increasingly nihilistic, as Woodstock gave way to Altamont and as violence — propagated by the likes of both Charles Manson and the Weather Underground — rocked the home front.

“A Hall of Mirrors” gave us a picture of the American Dream turned nightmare, chronicling the downward spiral of several lost souls who have washed up in the city of New Orleans, while giving us a harrowing — and eerily prescient — portrait of right-wing demagogy and its pandering to racist fears through the mass media.

Robert Stone in December 2006, at one of many apartment buildings in Manhattan’s East Village where he lived as a youth.Robert Stone, Novelist Inspired by War, Dies at 77 JAN. 10, 2015
“Dog Soldiers” (1974) employed the story of a drug-smuggling plot gone horribly awry (the plan is to bring three kilos of pure heroin from Vietnam to the States) to create a sort of parable of America’s disastrous military engagement in Southeast Asia, one mistake snowballing into another and another, with untold casualties along the way.

And “A Flag for Sunrise” (1981), set in a fictional Central American country, continued Mr. Stone’s exploration of the moral costs of both American adventurism abroad and revolutionary zeal on the left.

There are echoes in Mr. Stone’s novels of Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad and Malcolm Lowry, but in his most powerful work, his voice is thoroughly his own — dense, philosophical, baroque, sometimes tipping over into excess, but capable of conjuring the emotional temperature of a time and place with extraordinary intensity and fervor.

In novels like “Dog Soldiers” and “Damascus Gate” (1998), he deftly uses his reportorial eye and gift for bravura action sequences to create thrillers that reverberate with remarkable political and psychological power.

Mr. Stone once said he believed that in fiction, “character is literally fate,” and the people in his books tend to be outsiders in love with danger or the edge, or some idea of themselves as seekers trying to follow their dreams. They are drawn to dangerous places (Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East) and dangerous activities (deep-sea diving, solo sea voyages). They take too many drugs and drink too much alcohol, and the men are given to macho “antler-rattling” and poor impulse control.

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Author Robert Stone, Known For ‘Dog Soldiers,’ Dies At 77 ~~INTERVIEW

National Book Award-winning author Robert Stone was on the fringes of the utopian counterculture of the 1960s — but he preferred to write about what happened when that dream went sour.

San Juan Mountains Weather Report ~~ Saturday, January 10, 2015 ~~ 10:36

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Clouds are beginning to move into the 4-corners this morning ahead of the next San Juan storm. By later tonight/Sunday morning scattered snow showers will increase as an upper level trough moves into the mountains. With a lack of strong storm dynamics don’t expect more than 3-6″ and maybe a little more for the higher terrain… rain/snow mix in the lower valleys.

This short lived disturbance will slowly come to an end by Sunday evening and replaced Monday by WSW flow from a stronger wave moving into the Great Basin. Two of the three models I look at share a positive world view of widespread snow for western Colorado Monday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon. Colder temperatures come with this storm so the valleys will see some snow but it’s too early to anticipate amounts because future models are surely to change as time goes by. Could see 2-4″ for the southern valleys and possible 6-10″ for the alpine regions especially on WSW aspects.

As the system exits Colorado west coast high pressure ridging with dry conditions will move back into the Rockies for the remainder of the week.

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RADAR UPDATE THIS MORNING (SUNDAY)

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NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA

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Cuba is the idiosyncratic sister of the Caribbean, and a large part of its idiosyncrasy stems from having watched as the last half-century passed it by. What was once a cultural hotbed moldered under Communism. Still, there is an embattled dignity in Havana’s dilapidated architecture, whether colonial style or Art Deco or even the midcentury classics; nowhere else does the traveler find this peculiar marriage between the contemporary and the antiquated, with its incongruous traces of the space age, of Spanish flair and Soviet flotsam. There is, too, a unique resilience among Cubans themselves, whose talent for improvisation, for making do with what’s at hand, is legendary. The feeling of living in frozen time is one of Cuba’s most frustrating realities and its most powerful allure. To imagine Cuba without it evokes an almost existential question.

The specter of a thaw is what motivated me, back in 2009, to press my father — an exile who arrived in the United States in 1962 at age 15, along with his younger brother — to see the island sooner rather than later. For more than 40 years, he refused to send a penny in its direction, either as remittance for his cousins (as it did many others, the revolution fractured our family) or as a tourist himself. That summer, he finally acquiesced, seeking to reconcile with his family and to discover what had become of his country.

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 9.33.56 AMMany of us — Cubans, exiles and second-generation Cuban-Americans — admire the anachronistic surfaces while also looking past them to see something else emerging. For years, Cuba has been much more than just jerry-built Chevys with Mitsubishi engines; Audis have been gliding through the streets of Havana for some time; mobile technology is increasingly common. A tourist economy fed by visitors from around the world has fueled a slow-motion modernization. Most of those hailing from the United States have been Cuban-Americans returning to see loved ones, but an increasing number are those with no familial connection to the island, just a fascination with its culture and contraband mystique.

 

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~~~  READ/MORE PHOTOS  ~~~

Telluride Helitrax in the older days…….

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Telluride Helitrax, but many years ago on a Visa commercial (late 80’s-early 90’s)…  L-R (top) Dave Bush, Tim Kudo, Mark Frankmann, Speed Miller, Tom Sharp (pilot), Jack Coffman. Bottom- Mike Friedman, Bert Adams.  Check out the typical “Heli-pose” with the guides kneeling/standing in front of the ship, the not-so-fat skis and dig those outfits…..

Telluride MountainFilm & dZi Foundation present VALLEY UPRISING ~~ Friday January 9th

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Presented by: MountainFilm of Telluride and dZi Foundation.
When – Friday January 9th
Time – 6:00PM doors open
Cost – $10.00 at the door
Where – Wright Opera House Ouray
What – Film- Valley Uprising – History of the rebellious roots of climbing the big walls of Yosemite.

‘Battling’ Up a Sheer Yosemite Face, Seizing a Dream, Not a Rope

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Tommy Caldwell, left, and Kevin Jorgeson on one of the most challenging pitches of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park. Credit Brett Lowell/Big UP Productions

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — The tip of El Capitan, 3,000 feet above its base, glowed in late-day sunlight while a full moon rose at the other end of the Yosemite Valley on Saturday. In the shadows halfway up the sheer granite face were a pair of dots, the latest to attempt one of rock climbing’s greatest challenges.

There are about 100 routes up El Capitan, first summited from the valley floor in 1958. But these dots, climbers named Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, were trying something that had never been done. They were scaling the Dawn Wall — as smooth as alabaster, as steep as the bedroom wall, more than half a mile tall — without the benefit of ropes, other than to catch their falls.

“If they get it completed, it will be the hardest completed rock climb in the world,” said Tom Evans, who first climbed El Capitan 48 years ago and has chronicled assaults on it for decades, through his camera lens and a blog. “This will be the climb of the first half of the 21st century.”

After a week of slow, steady progress, and with good weather forecast for the next week, optimism was building that Caldwell and Jorgeson would complete a task they had worked toward — studying, training and failing on a couple of prior pushes — for several years with single-minded obsession.

Through his lens, Evans watched Caldwell complete the precarious 15th of 32 pitches, or sections, of varying difficulty and length. In the chilled twilight of the meadow below stood a few other photographers, a couple of friends of the climbers, and several tourists who had ambled into the scene, craning their necks. Evans led them in a whooping cheer that reached the climbers 1,500 feet above.

“Things have been going unbelievably well,” Caldwell said during a phone interview on Sunday afternoon from a base camp, 1,200 feet up. “We worked on this so long, and it feels kind of like a different route this time. We’re just more prepared, the weather is working out great, and it’s been going super well. Having said that, this climb is never going to get done without some doubt and some moments like ‘oh, my God, are we going to be able to do this?’ ”

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There are about 100 routes up El Capitan, left, which was first summited from the valley floor in 1958. The tip of El Capitan is 3,000 feet above its base. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

 

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In old age, Wally Berg still on the move

 

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We got the word that Wally Berg is still “Grandfathered” in to go without certified Argentine guides. Wally second from right with his “Bolivia Boys”.

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A “Happy New Year!”

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Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center
Yesterday ·

This is a recent photo sent in to the avalanche center of a SUCCESSFUL avalanche recovery in Hatcher Pass. These snowmachiners were headed back to their vehicle when they noticed tracks leading into fresh avalanche debris, finding this Moose (triggered the avalanche) buried up to its neck. After some discussion they were able to successfully extricate the animal. Stunned but uninjured, the Moose took off under its own power earning these sledders some seriously good Karma come the 2015 hunting season!

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Meditation on the Art of Not Trying ~~~ NYT

Just be yourself.

The advice is as maddening as it is inescapable. It’s the default prescription for any tense situation: a blind date, a speech, a job interview, the first dinner with the potential in-laws. Relax. Act natural. Just be yourself.

But when you’re nervous, how can you be yourself? How you can force yourself to relax? How can you try not to try?

It makes no sense, but the paradox is essential to civilization, according to Edward Slingerland. He has developed, quite deliberately, a theory of spontaneity based on millenniums of Asian philosophy and decades of research by psychologists and neuroscientists.

16TIER-articleLargeHe calls it the paradox of wu wei, the Chinese term for “effortless action.” Pronounced “ooo-way,” it has similarities to the concept of flow, that state of effortless performance sought by athletes, but it applies to a lot more than sports. Wu wei is integral to romance, religion, politics and commerce. It’s why some leaders have charisma and why business executives insist on a drunken dinner before sealing a deal.

Dr. Slingerland, a professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, argues that the quest for wu wei has been going on ever since humans began living in groups larger than hunter-gathering clans. Unable to rely on the bonds of kinship, the first urban settlements survived by developing shared values, typically through religion, that enabled people to trust one another’s virtue and to cooperate for the common good.

But there was always the danger that someone was faking it and would make a perfectly rational decision to put his own interest first if he had a chance to shirk his duty. To be trusted, it wasn’t enough just to be a sensible, law-abiding citizen, and it wasn’t even enough to dutifully strive to be virtuous. You had to demonstrate that your virtue was so intrinsic that it came to you effortlessly.

Hence the preoccupation with wu wei, whose ancient significance has become clearer to scholars since the discovery in 1993 of bamboo strips in a tomb in the village of Guodian in central China. The texts on the bamboo, composed more than three centuries before Christ, emphasize that following rules and fulfilling obligations are not enough to maintain social order.

These texts tell aspiring politicians that they must have an instinctive sense of their duties to their superiors: “If you try to be filial, this not true filiality; if you try to be obedient, this is not true obedience. You cannot try, but you also cannot not try.”

That paradox has kept philosophers and theologians busy ever since, as Dr. Slingerland deftly explains in his new book, “Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity.” One school has favored the Confucian approach to effortless grace, which actually requires a great deal of initial effort.

Through willpower and the rigorous adherence to rules, traditions and rituals, the Confucian “gentleman” was supposed to learn proper behavior so thoroughly that it would eventually become second nature to him. He would behave virtuously and gracefully without any conscious effort, like an orator who knows his speech so well that it seems extemporaneous.

But is that authentic wu wei? Not according to the rival school of Taoists that arose around the same time as Confucianism, in the fifth century B.C. It was guided by the Tao Te Ching, “The Classic of the Way and Virtue,” which took a direct shot at Confucius: “The worst kind of Virtue never stops striving for Virtue, and so never achieves Virtue.”

Taoists did not strive. Instead of following the rigid training and rituals required by Confucius, they sought to liberate the natural virtue within. They went with the flow. They disdained traditional music in favor of a funkier new style with a beat. They emphasized personal meditation instead of formal scholarship.

Rejecting materialistic ambitions and the technology of their age, they fled to the countryside and practiced a primitive form of agriculture, pulling the plow themselves instead of using oxen. Dr. Slingerland calls them “the original hippies, dropping out, turning on, and stickin’ it to the Man more than 2,000 years before the invention of tie-dye and the Grateful Dead.”

Variations of this debate would take place among Zen Buddhist, Hindu and Christian philosophers, and continue today among psychologists and neuroscientists arguing how much of morality and behavior is guided by rational choices or by unconscious feelings.

“Psychological science suggests that the ancient Chinese philosophers were genuinely on to something,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Particularly when one has developed proficiency in an area, it is often better to simply go with the flow. Paralysis through analysis and overthinking are very real pitfalls that the art of wu wei was designed to avoid.”

However wu wei is attained, there’s no debate about the charismatic effect it creates. It conveys an authenticity that makes you attractive, whether you’re addressing a crowd or talking to one person. The way to impress someone on a first date is to not seem too desperate to impress.

Some people, like politicians and salespeople, can get pretty good at faking spontaneity, but we’re constantly looking for ways to expose them. We put presidential candidates through marathon campaigns looking for that one spontaneous moment that reveals their “true” character.

Before signing a big deal, businesspeople often insist on getting to know potential partners at a boozy meal because alcohol makes it difficult to fake feelings. Neuroscientists have achieved the same effect in brain scanners by applying magnetic fields that suppress cognitive-control ability and in this way make it harder for people to tell convincing lies.

“Getting drunk is essentially an act of mental disarmament,” Dr. Slingerland writes. “In the same way that shaking right hands with someone assures them that you’re not holding a weapon, downing a few tequila shots is like checking your prefrontal cortex at the door. ‘See? No cognitive control. You can trust me.’ ”

But if getting drunk is not an option, what’s the best strategy for wu wei — trying or not trying? Dr. Slingerland recommends a combination. Conscious effort is necessary to learn a skill, and the Confucian emphasis on following rituals is in accord with psychological research showing we have a limited amount of willpower. Training yourself to follow rules automatically can be liberating, because it conserves cognitive energy for other tasks.

But trying can become counterproductive, as the Taoists recognized and psychologists have demonstrated in an experiment with a pendulum. When someone holding the pendulum was instructed to keep it from moving, the effort caused it to move even more.

“Our culture is very good at pushing people to work hard or acquire particular technical skills,” Dr. Slingerland says. “But in many domains actual success requires the ability to transcend our training and relax completely into what we are doing, or simply forget ourselves as agents.”

He likes the compromise approach of Mencius, a Chinese philosopher in the fourth century B.C. who combined the Confucian and Taoist approaches: Try, but not too hard. Mencius told a parable about a grain farmer who returned one evening exhausted from his labors.

“I’ve been out in the fields helping the sprouts grow,” he explained, whereupon his worried sons rushed out to see the results. They found a bunch of shriveled sprouts that he’d yanked to death.

The sprouts were Mencius’ conception of wu wei: Something natural that requires gentle cultivation. You plant the seeds and water the sprouts, but at some point you need to let nature take its course. Just let the sprouts be themselves.

Real independence is the result of reflection and disciplined, honorable behavior. – Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano, “The Phone Rings” ~~ TRICYCLE ~~

Caught in the swirl of worldly affairs, we long for a freedom that eludes us.  Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano

Returning home from work or from a morning of household errands, we pause on the front porch, holding bags and packages in one arm while trying to work the door key, so absorbed in daydreams that we hardly know what the body is doing—when we hear the telephone ringing within. At once, our automatic motions are speeded up until, hopping and stumbling, we shove our way inside and drop our burdens on top of the table in the hall. There really is no time for reflection, but somehow, in the agitated moment before we seize the telephone on the table, we feel a worrisome sensation of coercion or dependence, as if we were not acting out of our own will at all but being pushed, being accelerated incomprehensibly through a series of habitual motions. Neither looking nor listening with any attentiveness, we have arrived home today just as a thousand times before, and now when the telephone signals us, we are not to any degree awakened but only stung to a quicker obedience. The ringing occurs and we lurch to answer. Why?

Let us allow ourselves a beat to consider. There is need; there is desire. We pace through weary, routine days, and any tiny irregularity, any promise of newness, is enough to make us start up, for under the surface dullness there runs the fiery stream of dissatisfaction, endlessly twisting and searching. We are always wishing, we dimly realize, for things to be different, to be better, to be fresh and free. This day and every day we go out and come back again with the old disquiet, looking for some long-desired message, for the urgent intelligence that will marvelously remake our lives and launch us into unguessable adventures. Blessings and opportunities might fall within our reach; answers to desperate inquiries might at last relieve our fears. Then, too, we have not entirely shaken off apprehension of troubles—the application turned down, the rejected request, the rebuff to our hopes, the new danger to our security and comfort. Will the universe not stop its fitful harshness toward us? Will we not at some definite culminating hour, if not this one, find our deserved fulfillment?

The telephone shrills, and even as we take hold of it, there runs through us this sense of the up-and-down, unappeased commotion of life, the surge and retreat of our longings, the inconclusiveness of our efforts, the happiness that laughs and disintegrates and will not stay. This telephone call, this communication about to happen, might be the beginning of certainty, of assurance of fortune without pain; and although, realistically, we doubt it, we cannot quell the twinges of hope and fear. What if we should be surprised with joyful new—a fabulous gift, an unlooked-for promotion—or with shocks and disasters? In either case, time rages on unchecked, and there will be no conclusion to our wandering. Across the imagined future, we see no place where change may not overtake us, where agitation must of necessity cease. We have, indeed, no justification for supposing that the world must ever conform to our preferences, however much we wish it would.

We have the telephone in our hands; we lift it eagerly. A voice comes through—and then we relax into another mode of habit. The telephone call is ordinary, and we summon up a sprightly tone, the one we all use to assure each other that we are cheerful and competent managers of our lives. “Ah, yes, just fine! It sounds wonderful. I look forward to it. Thanks. Fine, see you then!” And now, with the telephone down again, we look around, a little vaguely, for some new idea or promise from fate, as we feel hope and apprehension still alternating slowly within us.

Outside this unquiet mind, and apart from our subjective notions, is this world really a paradise, or a wreck? To properly evaluate any object, from a mosquito perched on our wrist to a whole flowering landscape, we surely need both descriptive facts and the skill to read through them to principle. We could sit down and tabulate abundant horrors of this human realm, certainly, and abundant beauties as well; but we do not know how far our personal view necessarily distorts our computation, and we do not even know whether anything really is to be gained by pronouncing the world lovely or hideous. Let us pause, then, and consider how the Buddha describes this ambivalent world.

In the largest terms, as we know, he sees it as dukkha, unsatisfactory, fundamentally untrustworthy. But this world is not, therefore, to be spurned as meaningless, for within it there can be found the means to liberation: the revealed dhamma and the innumerable signs and evidences, which we might use to awaken our understanding of this dhamma. What makes the world so maddeningly hard to measure is the prevalence here of eight “worldly phenomena” (lokadhammas): gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. These volatile phenomena upset our predictions and our longing for stability, bringing now happiness, now affliction, oblivious to our welfare; and amid their uproar we labor on wretchedly, trying to disentangle the desired from the undesired.

Why, we might inquire, should we not have gain and no loss, honor without loss of honor, timely praise and unbroken pleasure? This is the way the world should be, should it not? We rebel against an empty, unexplanatory sky, sharpen our craft, scheme for a fantastic fortune—while triumphs and calamities succeed one another, applause and jeers are heard, some speculators gain and some lose, and for all our urgency, no satisfactory end to anxious uncertainty appears. But are there not, we plaintively ask, some few who are especially favored—those sages free from bad luck and failure— and should we not be able, somehow, to share their luck?

We would have security and ease; but before we can claim them, we must have knowledge. Now let us look. Where exactly are the lucky enjoyers of one-sided fortune? Let us reflect over space and history until we can realize that, in fact, there are none at all. Sages, too, endure the same mundane circumstances as we—they fall sick, suffer injuries, meet with unwelcome changes—but their wisdom sees past the incidental to the universal, to the certainty of change that is best coped with by equanimity. Wisdom does not alter the world; it lets the sage transcend the world. Anxious pain strikes only those who cannot understand the impermanence of all these desired and feared states, and who cannot extricate themselves from the profitless flux of desire and aversion. Real independence is the result of reflection and disciplined, honorable behavior.

 

From Longing for Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life, © 2002 by Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications.

Xmas storm snow/h20 12-26-14 ~~ 11:12

Good Morning,

Following are snow amounts along Hwy 550 for our Christmas storm.
                                       HN / HNW
Monument                    1.5” / 0.1”
Red Mtn Pass                  6” / 0.6”
Molas                            4.5” / 0.4”
Coal Bank                       9” / 0.55”