Thursday, April 20, 2017

Poetry challenge, day 2

This time, I had my lovely wife Paddy pick 7 words, and I rhymed them and made this:

Sometimes we are called to do our duty,
Although it can be quite challenging.
Events may lead us to find some booty,
Or Good Fortune can leave us and take wing.
And as it is written in the Good Book
Thy skin's as fair as Tawny Antelope's.
African stories, comfortable nook,
Long bubble baths with soft silky soap,
The rain beats on window pane in rhythm,
The longing to travel no books can staunch.
Remembered airport announcement hymn,
Adventurous desire soon to launch.
Seeking new horizons I advocate,
The airplane is here, I'm at my gate.

The exercise has been wonderful. I'm enjoying the creative flow of being timed, forced, and restricted. I must admit though, that this one took longer, about 18 minutes. 1) I didn't have a rhyming dictionary, which I did for the first one. 2) I was interrupted by a cat demanding people time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Poetry Month and Easter

Andrew Watt of Wanderings in the Labyrinth issued a Poetry challenge for April. It went like this:
Exercise One: Master a form

In medieval and Renaissance Ireland, historical sources indicate that the surviving bardic schools would wrap a student in a blanket after giving the student a theme and a form. The theme would be a figure from Ireland’s myth or history; the form would be one of the traditional formats of Irish poetry. We can deduce three elements from this — subject matter (theme), limitation of distractions (blanket), and structure (form).

For this exercise, we’re going to use the Sonnet as our form. There are others — ballades, odes (one of my favorites), sestinas, haiku, and more. Sonnets are good for this, though because they’re longer than haiku and they’re governed by three core rules:

1. They have fourteen lines;

2. The last words of each line rhyme, in a specific pattern: ABABCDCDEFEFGG

3. Each line has ten syllables and a gentle rhythm called ‘Iambic Pentameter’.

You are going to write a sonnet in fifteen minutes. It will be terrible — and you may find that dismaying. But that’s the point. You’re in the school of the bards — not a teacher. Do the exercise. Turn away from all distractions, set a timer for fifteen minutes, and begin.

FIRST, on a clean sheet of lined paper, write out fifteen rhymes, each word at THE END of one line — Line one rhymes with line three, line two rhymes with line four, line five rhymes with line seven, line six rhymes with line eight, line nine rhymes with line eleven, line ten rhymes iwth line twelve, and lines thirteen and fourteen rhyme with each other.

SECOND, count how many syllables are in each end word. Subract that number from ten. Count on the fingers of both hands that many syllables, speaking words aloud until you find a sentence or phrase of language that fits that number of syllables. Write that down.

THIRD, write down the first phrase that fits for each line. You’re learning a form of poetry, and learning to master it. Don’t worry if the poem doesn’t make sense. Your goal should be to write the complete poem in fifteen minutes or less, even if it’s terrible.

FOURTH, even after the time has elapsed, read the poem aloud. Circle with a red (or differently-colored pen) whatever parts of the poem sound unnatural or weird to you. Don’t bother fixing them. In all, you should spend no more than 20 minutes doing the exercise up to this point.

FIFTH, do this exercise daily for seven days. At the end of seven days, you’ll have seven poems that you wrote ‘backwards’… on the eighth day, try writing a sonnet ‘frontwards’, that is, line-by-line from first line to last line, with the rhyme scheme and ten syllables per line, in fifteen minutes or less. More than 80% of those who write seven sonnets ‘backwards’ are able to write a sonnet front-ways within the week.
I decided I'd take the challenge. My first version is here, and it was written in 13 minutes, 55 seconds. It has not been edited, and remember it's supposed to be terrible. :)

The chicken's pain causes squawks and an egg.
The crowing cock causes sunrise and light.
In the garden you did not plead or beg,
Neither would you let your disciples fight
Neither would you flee or hide, scared rabbit
But to the slaughter went the sacred Lamb.
And on this day the reclusive abbot
Gives lie to the atheist screaming "Scam!"
All good Christians gather at rosy dawn
To welcome the harbinger of bless'd spring
Green and brightly colored eggs on the lawn
The children chase and seek throughout the ring
For we do not mourn the one sacrificed
But celebrate the risen Jesus Christ 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Reflections on Job Loss

It's been a while since I've written. This is a personal post, not a lot of deep gnostic thought here. Yet, the gnosticism is there, if you dig for it.

1) Anger: I knew something was wrong, as my manager had presented me with a 90 day plan to improve my skills. It was a panic inducing plan. Stuff I'd never heard of. Tools I hadn't used. I'm a developer, and a number of these tools seemed to be more on the engineering realm. 15 days into the plan, I'm let go.  It's not fair. I was working the plan.

2) Conflict: This is not the first time I've been let go because my skills were not where the employer needed to be. I'm angry, I feel upset that my professional skills have been disregarded, but at the same time I'm relieved.


I've never really liked programming. I like problem solving, I like helping folks and making their job easier, and I like building something. But programming was always just a tool, a means to an end. There are other people for whom it's an art form. For me, it was just a lucrative way to help people.

I've changed programming jobs about every two years. This was my clue by four that maybe I should do something different. I've spent the past 2+ weeks on meditating as to what that should be.

3) Opportunities: I have a lot of interests. I love to read, and to write. I love farming when it goes well, but I have to admit it's heartbreaking when it doesn't. I am concerned about farming on an industry level, as it's facing several crises in both method and worker shortages.

I'm exploring a lot of these different paths.


For two weeks, I've been a combination of panicked, relieved, and happy. Panicked, because the security I thought I'd found is gone. Relieved, because I don't have to get up and go to a windowless box to be bathed in artificial LCD light, doing things I don't care about. Happy, because I get up to be in the sun and the rain, facing the challenge of a new day with my intellect and my strength.

I love a challenge, and finding a new path is a big one. I am slowly carving my massive pile of unorganized thoughts into a plan, keeping what seems to work, discarding the dross. I haven't made a lot of decisions, but I have made one.

I don't want to program computers anymore.  I may do it for the occasional paycheck, but it is no longer my career.

Friday, January 13, 2017


A friend asked me to do a divination for him. It's been ages since I pulled out the runes or shuffled a deck, so I was a little rusty. I managed what I think was an adequate reading.

I rarely do divinations. It's not that I have an objection to them, it's simply that I don't really find I get a lot of benefit out of them. As I was doing this one, I was enjoying the various connections that were being made between disparate objects and their meanings, and trying to weave a coherent narrative out of the randomness provided by the runes/cards.

The ability to conceive of a coherent narrative out of randomness is at the heart of sortilege. I am not sure it's about telling the future so much as trying to correlate the contents of your subconscious.. Certain symbols and meanings will stand out to you as significant, while others will not resonate in the moment, but will do so in another moment, or when next to another randomly chosen object.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Magical Lodges

I've been reading "The Place of Mingled Powers: Spiritual Beings in the Magical Lodge" by John Michael Greer, and one of the parts that stood out to me was an offhand comment that the lodge system developed because Western Occultists, by and large, don't have dedicated spaces.

This strikes me as a significant lack. If you look at the history of modern occultism (starting probably with the Renaissance, because earlier it would have been called something different), we see that it generally did not favor large groups, large workings, or have any societal support whatsoever. Those three facts alone sort of necessitate against having a large or permanent space.

Mr. Greer also notes Occultism is, by and large, a part-time activity for most occultists. This is starting to change a bit, but for the most part, occultists have another profession or vocation, and occultism is sort of a side interest. This also does not lead one to having a permanent space.

I know there are older spiritual traditions that have large magical sites, especially where magic and religion blur: Tibetan Monasteries, Shinto shrines, Hindu temples. In the West, we've drawn a fairly stark line between magic and religion, and our closest would probably be the theurgic churches and monasteries of the older branches of Christianity: Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Coptic. Those sites can be useful to western occultists, but are far more geared toward religion than magic. Examples abound: Ladakh for instance, or Meteora.

Also in the past, we have the famous example of an attempt at an occult monastery is, of course, the Abbey of Thelema. Aleister Crowley famously envisioned a world-wide focus for magical practice and devotion in Cefalù, Sicily, Italy. It lasted only three years.

I've heard of at least two permanent spaces for occultists cropping up. One is the New Alexandrian Library, which I'm assuming may have already outgrown it's space, and its only been open this year. The other is the Pittsburgh Witch House, which I'm given to understand will have both study and ritual space, and act as sort of a 'monastery' for occultists. From their site: "Part art collective, part temple, and part clubhouse."

Do you know of any permanent magical spaces or monasteries cropping up around full-time occultists or magicians?


I cannot recommend Liber Spirituum enough. It's written by many people who are my friends and who are occultists of major import. The book is of high quality and a pleasure to read. Amazing stuff.

Friday, June 17, 2016


It has now been over a year since we've been in our new home.

I could not have done it without the people who helped us with our donations for the downpayment. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

I'm not going to acknowledge you all by name in public, but we will be having thank you notes coming out over the next few weeks. Thank you all.

Owning a home comes with it's own challenges that you don't have when you rent. The appliances are yours. So are the gutters. The walls. The carpets. If something goes wrong, you have to handle it. You can't leave it to the landlord. Pests on the property are all yours too, from noxious weeds to vermin.

I love that.

It has it's own wonderousness, too. It has beauty, and the ability to change the land and the structure as you like (within limits). You don't have to ask anyone to paint, or to put in new flooring, or redo all the plants.

It's all yours, with all the rights and attendant responsibilities. In my case, it's beautiful. I'll take it.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Most Intolerant, Wins.

N. N. Taleb likes outliers and minorities. He wrote an interesting book called 'Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable', which was a fascinating read that I highly recommend.

Recently, I read an article by him called "The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dominance of the Stubborn Minority". It's a fascinating study of the counterpoint to the majority rules rule, and shows how minority populations end up making decisions for the vast majority of the population, even changing the majority population's makeup.  Mr. Taleb gives the example of the Muslims and Christians, the examples of Rome and the Christians, the example of Kosher everything, the removal of peanuts from public life, and a current event in the general acceptance or rejection of GMO foods. I won't go into the details, the article is linked above, give it a look.

But it does provide an interesting formula: The population which requires x, will inevitably overcome the population that can accept x.

Think about that: The population which REQUIRES x will inevitably overcome the population that can accept x.

So, the population that REQUIRES gay marriage (gay folks) will inevitably overcome the population that can accept x (the majority of americans), because the activists will accept nothing less than total legal gay marriage, and the majority doesn't care that much.

The population that says #BlackLivesMatter will inevitably overcome the populations that says #alllivesmatter. For black populations, it's a matter of survival. For the rest of the population, it's an internet meme.

The population that says #gamergate is about corruption in journalism will inevitably overcome the population that doesn't care. For the gamergaters, it's a matter of journalistic integrity. For everyone else, it's a sideshow.

The apathetic majority always loses to the committed minority. It's how the bolsheviks and the Nazis took over. It's how we have codes of conduct, we have lax gun laws, it's how we have environmental controls, how we have kosher food. The one who doesn't give up, doesn't turn back, who cannot accept another outcome, who doesn't compromise: wins.

This has interesting implications. When two minority populations are equally committed and in conflict, what's the outcome?