Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eleven years on...

Whatever story you accept about 9/11, what happened involved a conspiracy. The official conspiracy theory is that a small band of Middle-Eastern men with only minimal flight training successfully hijacked four jet airplanes relatively simulateously and managed to fly three of them into buildings without being brought down by military defense airplanes, and that the WTC I, WTC II, and WTC 7 structures somehow failed because of fire.

Since 9/11, a lot of research has been done and discussions have occurred among scientists, engineers, airline pilots, and firefighters actually at the scene who all question the official conspiracy theory and who would like to see a new investigation. After looking at this body of scientific evidence and opinion, it is no longer possible for me to find any truth in the official conspiracy theory. Below are some links for anyone who might want to explore other explanations.

This issue is important to me because the official conspiracy theory was used shamelessly to, among other things, justify two wars, to rationalize torture and limitless detention, to demonize the followers of one of the world's major religions, and to enact legislation (the Patriot Act, FISA) that has severely restricted the freedom and privacy of US citizens. More importantly, though, to allow the official conspiracy theory to stand when there is so much plausible evidence pointing to other possible explanations dishonors the victims of this atrocity - not only those who died on that day and their families and loved ones, but also all the victims of choices made by our government afterwards, not the least of which are the estimated 1.5 million Iraqi civilian casualties of the illegal war in Iraq, and the more recent civilian casualties of drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The true perpetrators of the crime of 9/11 must somehow be found and brought to justice. I hope that this will happen in my lifetime.

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth
Pilots for 9/11 Truth
Firefighters for 9/11 Truth
Journal of 9/11 Studies - Page for Beginners

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rethinking how things work here...

Recently, I was introduced to the work of Robert A. Monroe and his home-study program called Gateway Experience, "dedicated to developing, exploring and applying expanded states of awareness". The Gateway Experience utilizes special patented sounds proven to synchronize the hemispheres of the brain. I began this set of 18 CDs in early July, and will start the last CD tomorrow morning. So far, I have not experienced anything out of the ordinary as a result of doing the Gateway Experience, but I do find each session deeply relaxing and I think it is helping me to manage my stress better, so I will probably go through most of the tracks again and again in the months ahead, and maybe one day I will be surprised.

I had never heard of Robert Monroe before about two months ago, although the term he is very famous for, "out-of-body experience" (a.k.a. "OBE"), has been in my vocabulary for at least forty years. If you are interested, it is best if you read about his life here in his website, as I could only imperfectly rehash what has already been written there, and there are other things I want to tell you about now. There are many interesting things in the website, including some free downloads that would give you a taste of what the Gateway Experience is like.

After doing the first few tracks of the Gateway Experience, I felt I also wanted to read the three books that Robert Monroe had written during his lifetime about his OBEs, so I ordered them online, received his second book, Far Journeys, a few days later, and started to read it right away. The first chapter seemed pretty normal, but after that, I felt like I was reading science fiction! It was truly one of the strangest books I have read in a really long time, but I enjoyed it very much, and was very happy when his third book, Ultimate Journey, arrived a few days before I finished Far Journeys so that I didn't have to wait to find out what was going to happen next. His first book, Journeys Out Of The Body, arrived late last week, so I have only just started it, and it seems quite tame in comparison to the other two books, but I am sure it will probably fill in some gaps in my understanding so far. I think it is really useful to read these books as part of going through the Gateway Experience, but you could also read the books alone, without doing the Gateway Experience.

Far Journeys and Ultimate Journey have caused me to rethink entirely my philosphy of how things work here. I still think most things here are random, but I have abandoned the idea of "karma", and now believe it is possible to have just one life here, if that is all one really wants to have.

If you like science fiction, or if you think you might enjoy a really different reading experience that might possibly be mind-opening, read Robert Monroe's books.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The realization of randomness...

I have felt exasperated sometimes with people who might be categorized as "New Age" who think that the right belief system and good behaviour can save a person from the randomness of life on earth. These people believe that the good and bad experiences in their own and other people's lives can be explained by their positive or negative thinking and good or bad behaviour, whether in this life or in previous ones. They look at everything that happens to themselves and to others in this cause and effect way, without any regard for the fact of the randomness of life on earth.

I know a man who recently bought a car from a used car place. After about a week of driving it, a serious underlying problem with the car was revealed, and he was blaming himself for having bought a bad car. He seemed to think that if he had thought differently, or if he were more spiritually developed or a better person, he would not be in the situation of having a bad car. My reaction was "Maybe it has nothing to do with who you are as a person - maybe it's just a bad car", trying to open his mind to the randomness factor, but he didn’t seem to be able to consider it this way at all.  Of course, buying a used car from anyone entails a certain amount of risk and maybe he had been too trusting, which some might consider a character flaw. I could have argued that it might have been a good idea to have had the car thoroughly checked out by a mechanic before buying it - something practical like that. I didn't think of saying these things at the time, though, because his concern seemed to be deeper, as though it was some flaw in his essential nature beyond being simply too trusting or not careful enough that had resulted in him being in the situation of having a bad car.

I have tried to tell various New Age people that not everything that happens is orchestrated and fore-ordained, but they do not want to hear this and they even sometimes seem offended. When I start talking about randomness, most get quiet and take on a kind of superior attitude. One nice thing about New Age people is that they tend to be respectful and not very argumentative, so usually my statements about randomness are not challenged very forcefully, if at all, but I can tell they disagree and since continuing to talk about it tends to cause increasing discomfort, I usually back off and change the subject.

For me, the fact of randomness was a huge revelation that happened gradually over several years from observing or knowing about the severe pain being experienced by two close relatives. Fortunately for one of them, the periods of pain would come and go, with bouts of severe continual pain lasting anywhere from three weeks to four months and then subsiding for anywhere from several weeks to several months; in recent years, the periods of pain have become rather infrequent and of shorter duration, which has been a great relief. Unfortunately for the other person, the pain started five years before she passed on when she got shingles on her torso; for her, the pain never subsided, so that she lived out her remaining years in unimaginable agony. 

Some of the character traits of these two individuals include: kindness, optimism, helpfulness, loving actions, compassion, trust, and believing the best about others. These are two of the nicest individuals I have ever known, and I had not been able to explain their pain experiences inside of the belief system of reincarnation and karma, which in its simplest explanation is something like this: we live, we learn, we make mistakes, we die, we are born again, etc., and our future learning experiences are based upon some reckoning of the goodness and/or badness of our collective lifetimes, until we ultimately pay off all our debts and reach Nirvana/Heaven. I felt as though applying this understanding to these two dear relatives would be like blaming them for their pain and I could find no blame in them.  I refused to blame them, and I remember feeling angry when well-meaning friends would say things like, "Well, there must be some lesson that their soul needs to learn".

So I lived for some years with this conflict between my love for these people and this belief system that didn't really work in their cases, until I came to the realization of randomness. This realization allowed the ideas of karma and reincarnation to still exist, but in a new context, and it looks like this: Randomness is the only explanation of the random bad things that happen in the world: disaster, disease, accidents, death (not wars, or other intentional harm caused by humans). Of course there are things we can do to minimize risk such as eating well, getting enough sleep, observing safety precautions in dangerous activities, but random bad things happen here - it is the nature of life on Earth - and that is the karma of being here. The karma is coming back to this random place life after life to learn lessons. Maybe we have some choice about our initial circumstances, such as choosing to be born into a family where there is a reasonable likelihood that we will survive to adulthood and not be killed by war, famine, or disease - where we will have a chance of getting a reasonable education so that we can go on to contribute something to society - but randomness is always a factor. Nothing is really certain here.  As much as we try with our positive thoughts and good deeds, which probably do help to achieve certain things, or at least to feel better while we are trying and make life easier for ourselves and those around us, nothing is certain on this earth, and death is inevitable.  So the random bad things that happen to us and to our loved ones are not because of our own or anyone else's personal failure - they are not our fault - it's just what life is like here.

There may or may not be lessons for an individual who is suffering because of some random event, and as observers of their suffering, the only lessons that matter are the ones that exist for us  - whether or not we take advantage of the opportunity to exercise compassion and try to help them.  

If I would start a church, which is a fantasy I sometimes have, one of the central teachings would be the importance of the realization of randomness.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

French Fish Soup

Some years ago, I went with my family to Chamonix in France.  It was during the summer and we had a beautiful view of a lake and Mont Blanc from our apartment.  Each morning, we enjoyed warm croissants, both plain and chocolate, for breakfast.  We ate dinner out a few times at a nice restaurant we had found in the centre of Chamonix.  Their raclette was amazing, but I only had a taste of it because I was trying to cut back on bread at the time.  I ordered instead their fish soup and was really surprised at how good it was.  Recently, I found a fish soup recipe online and decided to try it with a few modifications.  I would say it is as good as what I had in Chamonix - rich and hearty.  Today I made it for the second time with a few further modifications and it is even better than my first attempt. 


450 grams fresh pangasius filet (frozen would probably work, too)
200 milliliters virgin olive oil
1/3 cup celery, minced
1/3 cup onion, minced
1/3 cup leek, minced
1/3 cup fennel, minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 orange, juice of
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon red chili pepper
1 bay leaf
a few springs of thyme, chopped
small bunch of parsley, chopped
small bunch of celery leaves, chopped
small amount of safron (crush it, if it is in threads rather than powdered)
1 pinch cayenne
120 grams cooked prawns, unpeeled
1 litre water or fish stock
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste (optional)


1) Heat the oil in a large pan, add the minced leeks, fennel, celery, and onions, and crush the garlic on top of these vegetables. Saute gently until soft (4-5 minutes), stirring occasionally.

This is what the leeks, fennel, celery and onions should look like when chopped:

2)  Add the tomatoes, fish, and prawns, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the fish looks white (3-4 minutes).

3)  Add the water or stock, red chili pepper, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, celery leaves, saffron, cayenne pepper, and orange juice, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for about 60 minutes.

I used water and the juice of a blood orange.  The bowl contains the chopped celery leaves, parsley and thyme ready to go into the soup.  You can see the powdered spices and the bay leaf in the soup pot to the left of the chopped herbs before the soup was stirred.  The next photo is what it looks like before covering it, turning the heat down and simmering for one hour.

4)  Remove the bay leaf.  Remove the prawns from the mixture to a small bowl and let them cool a little.  When cool enough to handle, peel them and discard the shells.  Return the peeled prawns to the soup.

I could not find any organic unshelled prawns.  The best I could find were these that had just their tails.  The shells are supposed to add a lot of flavor to the soup, so unshelled prawns are preferable.  The shells must be removed before blending.


5)  Purée the soup in a blender.  You will probably have to do this in at least two batches unless you have a very large blender, so you need to have a container ready to hold at least the first half of the puréed mixture.

The first photo shows the first one-half of the soup in the blender.  The second photo shows the first one-half of the soup blended and put into a container and the second one-half of the soup in the blender, ready to be blended.

6)  Return all of the puréed soup to the heat and heat it until hot enough to serve.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (I didn't use any black pepper - it seems fine with just the red chili pepper and cayenne).

7)  Serve with a tablespoon of creme fraiche in each soup bowl, or with a generous amount of grated Gruyère cheese.

8)  Cool and store in the fridge up to 3-4 days.

The soup looks more beautiful before it's puréed, but it is meant to be puréed.  In the recipe that I found online, the soup should also be strained after puréeing it, but I did not do that.  I like having some texture in it and straining it would take out a lot of the nourishment, to my way of thinking.

Friday, June 8, 2012

old friends found...

Recently, I reconnected with some old friends - people I knew from the mid-70's with whom I lived in a work-study programme.  We all got room and board and could attend free lectures for working at a hotel that housed people attending conferences across the street at a special institute.  We worked, meditated, and played together, some of us fell in and out of love with one another, some of us married.  We were young and idealistic, and reconnecting with those people and remembering our time together has reawakened in me a longing I'm having a hard time defining. 

Anyway, one of my newly-found fellow work-study mates recently posted in Facebook a song I had never heard before.  It has been running through my head for the last week and has become #68 in my list.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  Pat Metheny - First Circle - Live in Japan.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

our divided house...

I think we need to try to move beyond the ideologies of our respective political parties and unite against the corporations that are buying our government. Our political affiliations and loyaties divide us and weaken us against the forces of corporate rule. We've got Monsanto engineering corn that ends up as popcorn in all the movie theaters, not to mention being fed to all the animals in our food chain, so we're all going to get sick from that so that we go to doctors who prescribe medications being created by big pharma and insurance companies whose standard operating procedure is to reject every claim the first time around hoping that the claimants will be too tired or too sick to try again. We've got the big banks who got bailed out by taxpayer dollars with no payback plan, who still gave big bonuses to their CEOs while foreclosing on mortgaged homes instead of having compassion on struggling homeowners. There are also the extremely wealthy who have gotten tax breaks that they do not need and who have so many loopholes anyway that some pay less than the average middle-class working person. Let us not forget the media which is actually owned by corporations, so what we hear in the mainstream media is what they want us to hear and not necessarily what is true or complete. There is also the military-industrial complex that benefits from our continued presence in Afghanistan and from war in general. The government agencies that should be protecting us (e.g., the EPA, the FDA) have persons in decision-making positions who are former employees of the corporations, so that they are working on behalf of the corporations rather than on behalf of the people. Our government has become a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. There are so many things wrong and I don't know how to fix it, but I know that our political alliances divide us.  Unless we can overcome our differences, we will never be able to overcome corporate rule.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


There is this young man at work who has always been very friendly in the hallways. One day we happened to be in the elevator alone together, so I took the opportunity to finally ask him where he was from. He told me that he was from Iraq, and without even thinking about it, I said, "I am so sorry about what happened in your country", and then I burst into tears, and then I had to get out of the elevator because it was my floor. He kindly emailed me later in the day to say that he does not blame Americans and that I should not feel bad, and I thanked him for his kindness, and said that I felt that Americans should bear some collective shame for what has happened in Iraq, and that at least I, as an individual, could express my sorrow and regret when I have an opportunity. He didn't email back to me, but the friendliness in the hallways has continued, although perhaps tinged now with some awkwardness. The other other day, I read a recent interview with Dennis Kucinich that I felt compelled to send to this poor chap from the elevator. I had no reservations about sending it to him at the time, it seemed like what I absolutely had to do, but the result has been an intensification of the awkwardness on my side: I had forgotten that I had sent it to him, and then, there he was in the elevator when I left from work that same day, apologizing for not having read it yet, and I felt terrible! I really don't know what possessed me. I have always tried to follow my heart in my life, but sometimes it leads me in strange ways.