Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Second Midlife Crisis

I remember an interesting time when Stephanie packed up and left for India.  I was impressed.  She went there all by herself.  I would never have had the guts to do such a thing.  She was always doing things that blew my mind.  Not that I WANTED to go to India.  I just wanted to have the GUTS to go to India if I did want to go.  Back then everything scared me.  I'm a much braver person now.
So anyway, I really wanted her to tell us the story about India.  This is her first installment just giving us the background of WHY she decided to go in the first place.  She will tell us more about what it was like later on.  I'm excited about this one.  

I had my second mid-life crisis when I was 27. My first one, at 24, was a bust and didn’t come off as planned. I was dating three non-committal guys at the time and was planning to leave them all, sell my condo, quit my job, and travel to an artist kibbutz in Israel for six months and then to a yoga commune in Canada for the next six months (no plans after that).
However, I couldn’t sell my 600 sq. foot, half-bedroom condo on Lake Shore Drive, and I started dating a fourth guy who wanted to commit. We bought a three-flat together, and after 2.5 years of living together with no marriage proposal, I decided to revisit my failed mid-life crisis.
I’d amassed a large sum of surplus cash as an IT consultant / 3-flat landlord – and had no problem swinging the adventure financially, so I quit my job and booked a flight on Gulf Air to Kerala (Thiruvananthapuram city), India for a month long program to become a certified Yoga instructor – after which I planned to travel to the bottom tip of India,Kanniyakumari, where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet, and then hang out on Kovalam beach by the Arabian sea for a week – then jet over to Rome to meet my boyfriend, my sister, and her boyfriend on a two week trek from Italy to Austria to Germany to the Czech republic to Switzerland. To return to Chicago and start my new career – Yoga instructor / Shiatsu practitioner (since I wasn’t certified yet – I’d have to work in Merrillville, Indiana - but that's another story).
Details about Yoga in India, the European leg of my mid-life crisis, and my return to Chicago in later posts…

Monday, July 23, 2012

You Enjoy Myself

As well as the Grateful Dead, Stephanie is a big fan of Phish.  She wrote a stream of consciousness post for me about the song You Enjoy Myself.  This is Stephanie's "Brain on YEM."

Just listening to You Enjoy Myself - Live Phish, Volume 7, Disc 3 – trying to pick out the bass parts – I’ve tried to figure out a bunch of Phish songs on bass, but have had very limited success, even after following along with the hacked out tab available online.  YEM is one of those songs that I’d never even think of attempting since songs like Suzy Greenberg  and Sample in a Jar (the ones I can sort of pull out of my ass just by knowing the chords) are more my speed, and because my memory is shit, and all of those different parts would drive me insane.
Anyway, I was listening to YEM on my way to the Metra after work and got to thinking how cool it would be if they would issue these live discs where you could isolate an instrument to bring up in the mix so that you could have a fighting chance at figuring out how to play it.  I know it’s possible to do it with Rock Band (which I could play all the live long day), but I don’t have an xbox gold membership, and even if I did, I couldn’t play on the train, and four colored buttons does not a bass player make – not by a long shot!
Sometimes I think that if I could just sing the bass parts (which seems much easier than figuring out the notes and strings and transitions and hand positions) and get those down perfectly, that I’d be in a better position to figure out the parts on the four strings (except I don’t have a 5-string bass like Mike, so should I tune down, if so how far – c#? just the e string? does he ever play a b on the open fifth string? How important is that fifth string anyway? Could I get by without it or does that string anchor the whole operation down? I need to watch some footage of him playing…)   
Back to thoughts of singing the bass lines…but I can’t sing as low as a bass, so I’d have to bring it up an octave. And I’d have to be alone, cuz I’d sound pretty funny at first, and I’d have to have the time… the car would be a good place…but I’d need to do a lot of rewinding to get parts just right…
Then, at around 17 minutes in to the song, they kicked off this wicked cool a cappella jazz odyssey thing.  I started thinking that it would be funny if there was a contest where Phish fan groups try to pull of all vocal versions of YEM (like that one TV show). Then I started pretending that I was in on the vocal jam and was playing air vocals in my head, coming up with cool counter harmonies and rhythms to augment their dissonant poly-chords…ticka ta flicka flicka fla...Aaaaaalice…. Aaaaaalice…doe be doe doe doe – cha cha bicca chow chow –eeeech  eeech – jacko jacko jacko jacko….didit didit …do do do do do….washa fla feet-sees ohhhhh… flicka fla flicka sees… mamma see feet sees…. eeehhhhhhhh…oohhhhhh… mmmmmmmm
Then I wondered, are there any groups of fans who would be interested (and remotely capable) of even attempting this feat(sees)? Who would sponsor this contest? Who would be the judges?  Would there be prizes?  Would everyone have to do YEM, or could they pick the song (Halley’s Comet, Simple) – and then be rated based on level of difficulty?
Want to know what I do sometimes?  I pretend that there’s a ‘Guess that Phish Song’ contest where you get a half a measure in a solo that has deviated very far from home (like in Reba where you forget what song it even is for a while). I like to fancy myself an expert song picker (although I imagine a contest would probably alter this assessment) .
Another contest that I think would be fun is where you listen to a live song and have to pick the next song in the show.  I love contests!  OK, almost home….  I like this ‘My Brain On – stream of consciousness thing’ – I may do more

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Interview on KNON Radio in Dallas

Friday night I received an email from Stephanie that she was going to be on a radio station in Dallas, TX for am interview about her book, Scarlet Begonias.  I was in a hotel in Birmingham, AL at the time but managed to stream it on line.  HOW EXCITING to hear my cosmic pal on the radio.

Unfortunately, they had difficulty with her call because she was calling on a cell phone and they couldn't transmit it without her sounding like a robot.  BUT, she sounded calm, cool and collected and I wish I could have heard much more.  I asked her to write about this experience with KNON.

Hey man - here is the post that I just put on Facebook to Eric Schultz. (and the questions that I emailed to him)  ---
Eric, thank you so much for having me on your KNON Lone Star Dead show last night. I really enjoyed talking to you about my novel, 'Scarlet Begonias' - High-brow sci-fi for hippies. Sorry the cell phone reception was so bad, I hope you'll have me on again during your pledge drive - I'll be sending over a few more books to give away.
I wanted to ask the listeners a few questions. I'm compiling a list of responses for a youtube talk show channel I'm working on to promote my book. I'll be posting the questions on my blog today, I'd love to hear your responses. Thanks again! SciFiSteph.com
Here are the questions that I wanted to ask for an interactive twitter exchange. Since I wasn’t able to ask them on the air – please offer your responses here. I can’t wait to read them!
1)    What are your favorite Grateful Dead songs? What are your favorite lines of lyrics? – I was lucky enough to get permission from Ice Nine Publishing & Robert Hunter to print my favorite line from Scarlet Begonias – “Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right” – Thank you to them again!
2)   Did you ever have a major epiphany at a GD show? If so, please describe – which show?  How were you transformed?  -- check out my post about my first show
3)   Do you think accelerated evolution is possible?  If so, describe what that would even mean and the possible ways to achieve it.  Have you ever had an unexpected gust of evolution?
4)   Do you think it’s possible to unravel your ego?  If so, why would you want to do it?  Is it good or bad to have an ego with a large gravitational pull?
5)   Have you ever read the Carlos Castaneda books? If so, which ones? How did they impact your belief system?
6)   Can you lucid dream?  Please share your experiences – even if you tried, but weren’t able to do it.
7)   What do you think about the new Higgs-Boson discovery?  -- read my made-up article (about a real scientific dilemma)  about the drifting mass of the International Prototype Kilogram on my website (book page) and give your thoughts – Can something exist if it can’t be measured?
8)   Do you ever have unusual levels of serendipity or coincidences?  Do you ever get affirmations or signs from the universe? Please share.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I asked Stephanie if she believed in God.  Here is her response.

Do I believe in God? - Part 1
Yes – but not in the sense that most people do. I consider ‘god’ (no need to capitalize since we don’t capitalize universe – although we do capitalize ‘I’, but that’s because of a grammar rule, otherwise we would capitalize all of the pronouns) to be all that is, is not, was, and could be – to include the measurable and immeasurable – detectible and invisible – virtual and real – potential and realized – fantasized and actualized.
My god = 100%. My god is the space-time-energy-matter-perception-probability continuum (including any other unit of measure that accurately defines the ratio of the whole) .
My god is a collection of the divided permutations of itself which is all that is, is not, was, and could be (which according to my definition - includes both my awareness and my physical body).
So, if I am part of god, then why aren’t I omniscient?  How, when, why, where, and into whom did the whole divide itself? Why has the whole forsaken part of itself?
(100% - me% = God with self-imposed amnesia of initiating the division)
How – Do a thought experiment - imagine that you are pure awareness – time, space, and matter do not exist. Energy (as we know it) does not exist - it is pulled taut, like a slingshot, into the center of The All - infinite potential - even our awareness is not as we currently know it – it is pure, unaltered by the filters of a physical form, not blurred by the filters of socialization and linear experience. Imagine that all you sense is that you exist – you are aware.  But you need a brain to be aware! – really?  Are you sure you do? This is thought experiment – and since you are performing it within the confines a brain, you have no other choice but to pretend that you don’t.
Why – If you were aware that you existed, but had no idea what you were, because you had nothing to compare yourself to – you might be curious. Am I alone? Am I all that there is? Is there nothing that I am not? If so, does nothing know that it is nothing – and not something – as I know myself to be something? Does nothing have a sense of its nothingness?  Wait, maybe I’m nothing – but if I can conceive of the state of nothingness, then isn’t nothing really something?  OK, I’m deciding that I’m something because nothing is just nonsense. Non-sense. I can’t sense what I am not. But I can wonder about what I am not.  Is nothing created by my wonderment of what I am not? How much nothing can I create? If I create nothing by wondering about it, will nothing wonder if it is alone? Will it be aware? Will nothing think it is something?
OK, that is the seed of why?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mail Order Tickets

Back in the day when Steph and I used to go to Dead shows we used to send in for our tickets via mail order.  There was a special and almost magical process to it.  In one chapter of her book, Stephanie writes about the mail order process. This is what she has to say about it.

The first chapter of ‘Scarlet Begonias’ introduces the protagonist, Suzi Greenberg, a directionless art student on the brink of graduation, and her college roommate, Eve Mendel.  They are sitting on the floor of their boarding house trying to figure out the mail-order instructions for the Grateful Dead spring tour of 1991 - the April 27-28 shows in Las Vegas to be exact and the setting for the pivotal nexus around which the story orbits.
Have any of you experienced the convoluted ricockulosity required to complete the paperwork for a Grateful Dead tickets lottery?  If you have, then you already know the pain involved. But if you’ve never had the pleasure, then here’s a peak into the mind of a Deadhead with order-form in hand.
Firstly, the name itself ‘ticket LOTTERY’ is daunting.  How many tickets are available through this process?  Do repeat buyers really have a better chance? Will I find out if I got the tickets before they go on sale at Ticketmaster? If not, will I have to go to Jewel that day to buy more just in case – how fast do the shows sell out – will there be a line – what time should I get there?  
If I have to buy the tickets twice, then why even bother with the lottery – are the seats better – do I even want seats when I like dancing in the lawn better? Do I have a better chance of getting tickets if I just select lawn? Maybe – but if I get really good tickets, then I will have better leverage when bartering for magical provisions in the lot before the show – we can trade our good seats for lawn tickets + goodies.
We only need two tickets, but should we order the max of six, in case our friends don’t get theirs?  Duh – that’s a no brainer!  If we get extra, we trade. That could be a lot of extra tickets – six mail order + six through Ticket master – 2 for us = 10. If the show doesn’t sell out, will we have to eat the 10?  Are you cracked in the ass – have you ever been to a show without loads of desperate hippies with cardboard signs around their necks and fingers in the air begging for a miracle?
How many postal money orders do I need? (one for the lawn price + the difference between seats and lawn (in case of a partial refund))x(the # of venues attending)……all of which need to be labeled correctly. And don’t forget a stamp for the self addressed stamped envelope.
What’s a #10 envelope? Do we have any 3x5 index cards? Did you spell San Rafael right? If we decorate the envelope with mushrooms and bright colors, and fold up the corners, will it get picked first? If we put it in the mailbox at the airport at midnight, will it get postmarked and put on a plane to California faster?
See what I mean – the thought and coordination involved in that transaction was maddening! And was required for every season they toured!!  
Just in case you are wondering – yes, Suzi and Eve got the tickets. In fact, so did Mannie, Driscol, and Rajesh of the Psycho-cartographers. And in Jerome, AZ, a record number of bong sales financed the tickets for the entire Heart of Gold Coven.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Higgs Boson

OK so it seems there's this thingy that was discovered yesterday.  Hooray we found God!!!  But really what did we find and what does it mean?  I am talking about this Higgs Boson aka The God Particle.  My husband wants to know  if it is the "God" particle why it did not discover itself.  Good point.  Ha!  I asked Steph what she thought about the whole thing.

The Higgs Boson was discovered yesterday (7/4/2012) – your birthday J  I spent a while figuring out exactly what this meant.  On numerous occasions (mostly on wiki while waiting for a program to run at work) I’ve tried exploring the whole particle accelerator / annihilator, the standard model and the various flavors of decay, but my physics background just doesn’t bridge the gap between interest and understanding.
So, there’s no point in talking about the ‘God Particle’ as if I have a clue about how it was actually discovered, the math behind it all, and why yesterday was the tipping point for the number of observations necessary to qualify for the Sigma 5 status of “Discovery”.
But I will ponder why the average Joe should even care, it’s not like they could ever prove it wrong, and if somebody did prove “it” wrong (where “it” = a data blip found among yotta-bytes of data by a super-computer signifying the existence of the theorized interaction necessary to validate… (I can’t say with more than Sigma 3 confidence, so I won’t even try))…
If somebody ever did prove “it” wrong, it’s not like mass, the standard unit of measure, would freak out or change somehow – nobody would even notice (unless the news was re-tweeted enough times to get enough energy to exist as a non-virtual entity) except for the people whose reputations depend on the validity of the data blip.
Or would the standard unit of mass care?  I think maybe it would since its definition is on very shaky ground – being the only SI still tied to a physical artifact and all. Maybe this is the break its been waiting for, the ultimate make over – to be defined in terms of decay.
OK, this is what I want to know – am I any closer to having a replicator that can make me some earl grey – hot? 
Are these Higgs Bosons the minds that give the ‘mass’ stem cells their identity?  Are there more than one Higgs Boson, or if you’ve found one – you’ve found them all?
I read on wiki today that there are some skeptics who doubt the foundation upon which the Higgs hypothesis was built. (However the top of the screen said that this entry may be too difficult to follow for non-technical readers, and to check back soon for the summarized version – I ignored the warning and read on). 
There was talk of Technicolor theories, models of physics beyond the standard model that address electro-weak symmetry breaking – the process by which particles acquire mass.  The Technicolor theory claims to be natural – with no need to ‘fine-tune’ parameters in order to get mathematically pleasing results.
I like any theory that goes against the grain, especially ones that go against grains of unknown varieties.  My most favorite theories are ones that can go against grains that it generates itself, spontaneously, right out of thin air – while streaking – au natural – through the dark music of phase cancelled space.
I’ve decided to come up with one of those types of theories in response to yesterday’s discovery to use in my next book.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Carlos Castaneda Part 2

Here is another installment of Stephanie's view of Carlos Castaneda.

Moving the Assemblage Point – Shifting your awareness away from the usual filters though which you view reality.
Don Juan described the assemblage point as the energetic nexus of awareness located between the shoulder blades. I understood this to be the anchor of my physical, earthly concept of reality. My identity is defined by the way I am programmed to view the world, and since birth, as each day passed, my anchor gained mass until my personality became so fixed that very few influences were capable of shifting my concept of existence. So much so, that any personal goals and desires which contradicted this fixed anchor of perception were very difficult to implement – as they required a vast amount of energy to alter my anchor.
I am speaking of myself in the past tense, as though I am now able to morph my identity with ease.  This is not the case.  I am very much ME – with ego intact. My filters of perception are fully fixed. However, I am keenly aware of them, and the hold they have over me.
But, I recognize that there is another ‘I’, a higher ‘I’, which is the seer – wearing my filters as goggles. And if my goggles change, that ‘I’ never stops being the seer – it just watches a new show.
I also recognize that there is another ‘I’, the ‘I’ which exists between the two planes of awareness, the ‘I’ that has the ability to alter the goggles – the programmer – the ‘I’ which can manipulate the filters of the mind – the ‘I’ which is continually aware of the fixed nature of the filters – and in that manner – somewhat free from their gravity – the ‘I’ that is self-aware.
By moving this fixed assemblage point of perception, the ‘I’ of self-awareness is shifted and becomes even more detached – closer the ‘I’ of the Seer.
Don Juan began his teachings with Carlos by trying to instill a level of command over his assemblage point. He did this with a variety of exercises to slowly erode the anchor of awareness, while occasionally shocking his assemblage point into abrupt shifts to convince Carlos that his reality could, in fact, be altered – drastically.
I’ll talk next about the methods, and my attempts, to slowly erode the dense anchor which holds my assemblage point fixed…