Tai Chi Y4D227: Ancestors

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This isn't actually a mathematical representation of pi; it's actually an archimedean spiral.

This isn’t actually a mathematical representation of pi; it’s actually an archimedean spiral.

Practice today consisted of druidry, two tai chi forms, thirty push-ups, thirty squats. I’m definitely in a time in my practice when I don’t care about doing quality work; I barely want to do the work at all. So doing it at all feels like a victory.

Of course, that was this morning.  Since then I’ve not been doing very much, and I feel like I’ve missed my window for writing about this morning’s practice.  And tomorrow, I hang my art show.  Here’s another piece from that art show to help you get a sense of what I’ve been working on, too.

The painting has this interesting spiral thing going on, and that reminds me that I want to mention that I’m continuing to work with the belt channel in my daily practice.  I’m finding that this is pretty valuable in my work, and I’m glad that I’m doing it.  Part of it requires opening up the energy centers along the central spine, and activating both the white and red energy channels alongside the spine.  Then, from the Tan Tien (pronounced “Dan Tee-en” but with a shorter second word), the belt or waist line is activated — partly by tensing the muscles in this section of the belly, but also by feeling the chi within it, and finally through tightening these muscles on the intake breath and relaxing them on the outtake breath.  It’s been highly beneficial to have this belt channel activated this week, and I’m trying to keep up with the practice.  In fact, though, I think that some of my reluctance to do quality work is connected to the belt channel work — I carry a lot of self-criticism and self-image-issues in the weight around my middle, and activating and energizing this tissue is bringing up those issues.  Huh, who knew?  Most everybody who’s sensitive to this stuff, I imagine, actually.  Anyway, doing the work is triggering the buried issues, but healing them too.  I think.  I hope.

Today I acknowledge the ancestors, too.  Here’s a poem, the Mighty Dead, to get you in the mood.  I am going to a halloween party, and I’m dressed up as a generic ‘steampunk character’. But in my pocket will be the railroad watch of my great-great-grandfather, who was a Trainman.  So maybe it’s the case that I’m going as my own grandpa…? Hmmm.

Autumn Maker School: Picture IDs

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I’m running a program on my blog from October 2 to December 21: Autumn Maker School. The goal is to make ten useful things this fall, with a fairly broad definition of ‘useful’: So far I’ve made a 1) Volvelle, a 2) disk for braiding friendship bracelets, a 3) computer program to calculate the area and perimeter of a hexagon, and a 4) digital image of the Egyptian deity Khonsu.  Today brings us to number five (5): a student ID card.

My school secured a fairly prestigious invitation to a major institution early this summer, and the time is rapidly approaching for us to take a group of students to go.  A snag arose — every student needs a picture ID.  We’re a middle school, and a small one at that; I know 97% of the students on sight.  We need picture ID cards?

Making one for every kid in the school, and every adult, doesn’t even begin to qualify for minimum orders for most such cards. We need seven, ten at most.

So over the last few days, I made them. Heavy cardstock paper from the Design Lab, our color printer, the photography software on the Macintosh computers in our computer lab, some digital layout software, a big sheet of paper and some cardboard to make the background for the photographs, the kids and adults that needed photo IDs, a laminating machine, and my boss’s signature.  Seven cards, two hours spread over three days.

Done.

Making twenty or twenty-five would have been almost as easy — another hour, tops. Making sixty? A hundred seventy-five? Not so easy.  I’ve found the right solution for the scale at which I must work, at which I am working — but scaling up would be challenging.

No picture of this project, of course — there’s no point in providing either pictures of the students at my school on a private blog; or in making it possible for anyone to duplicate the school’s ID cards exactly.

But then, how to prove that it’s done?

Well, provide a procedure, of course:

  • Measure an existing ID — wallet card, driver’s license, etc.
    • Many of them are about 2″ x 3″ in the US, to fit into a wallet slot-pocket
  • Produce a base template that is 2x that size in one direction — so it can be folded over.
  • Use color, text, contrasting elements and fonts/typography to include:
    • a blank space for the student picture
    • a blank space for the student’s name
      • a blank space for the student’s grade
      • and hometown
      • and other data
    • a place for the head of school to sign
    • emergency contact information
    • school contact information
    • school logo
  • Create a photo studio in front of a computer
    • extra lighting
    • background in relatively neutral color
    • photography software & web-cam
  • Take the photos
  • crop and lighten the photos
  • Paste the photos into the template
  • Print the templates/digital cards onto cardstock
  • cut out, score and fold the ID cards
  • laminate the ID cards
  • cut out the cards from the laminate

Done.

It was an elegant and interesting process, but it had some challenges, too.  I’m glad it’s over with.

It did lead me into some interesting awarenesses, though.  I was authorized to produce seven cards.  But I produced ten or so, in the process of learning how to make them.  Did I counterfeit them? No, because they were never signed — and I never pretended that they were anything other than experimental.  They were even marked “DRAFT” in large letters, and watermarked as such.  At what point did they become “legal IDs”? Are they legal ID cards before an authority figure looks at them and accepts them as valid?

It’s a complicated set of questions, really.  And in some ways being a magician doesn’t make answering them any easier.  I mean, in a very real way I just created the illusion of an ID card — and then through a combination of competence, confidence, persuasion and usefulness convinced a bunch of people to agree to the proposition that it was My School’s Official ID Card.  

Which, when you come right down to it and think about it carefully, is a bizarre and magical thing to achieve.

Tai Chi Y4D226: Done

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I did not try to match GD expectations of color

The art show consists of small paintings of geometry within roundels with some background.

Did tai chi today. Continued to work on the belt channel and related issues. Then did druidry. I usually do druidry before tai chi, but for technical reasons I did it the other way around.

The belt channel work is proving interesting and useful, but it’s also giving me pause.  I think that there’s a lot of stuff about self-image that’s being pulled up by this work, as I seem to be going through an emotional time right now. There’s a lot of crap stored in the belt channel — because it’s an energetic corridor associated in our etheric bodies with our self-image.  Are you fat?  There’s a tremendous amount of self-loathing and frustration stored in the belt channel as a result.  Work with this channel?  Guess what? You’re going to encounter that sense and experience, just as if you ran into an ex-lover on the subway system — if they take the same route as you, an encounter is likely sooner or later (I saw a play about this in Chicago a few weeks ago, Love and a Major Organ, which was good… but now it’s bubbling to the surface.)  At least, this is what I think at the moment.  I may change my mind tomorrow.  Don’t have time to write more, right now.

Have a great day, and a great Halloween/Samhain/All Saints’ Day/ Dia De (Los) Muertos.  There will probably be entries tomorrow and Saturday; Sunday is the day I hang my art show, and that’s still up in the air.

Latin: Accipiter et Lepinus

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I wrote a little story for my Latin students today, because I want them to have practice at reading and writing texts that aren’t from Ecce Romani 1A. That thing has gotten so boring to me after six years of reading from it. So I make up stories, and I use those stories to help encourage them to write and draw on their own.  This is, of course, preparation for the Bestiary, which is the major project of the fall term in my class.

The story reads, “Audite! Scribite! Dictite! Legite!”  Which is my classroom’s code for listening, writing, speaking and reading practice.

It then goes on:

Ecce! In pictura est accepter.  Accipiter in arbore sedet.  Etiam in pictura est cuniculus, nomine Lepidus.  Accipiter et LEpinus non sunt amici.  Accipiter cuniculum edere vult.  Accipiter videt Lepinum, et volat in horto.  Lepinus ex horto subito currit.  Curait in villam eius.  Iratus est accpiter, sed laetus est Lepidus.

(Note: I still need to add in macrons, which I’ll try to remember to do tomorrow).

I also taught students to draw a running rabbit or bunny and a hawk for their story, using the linked tutorials. Latin story: Lepinus et Acciptiter

Here’s the translation of the Latin story, with illustrations, says

“Hear, Write, Speak, Read!
Look! In the picture is a hawk! The hawks sits in a tree. Also in the picture is a bunny, named Lepin. Hawk and Lepin aren’t friends. Hawk wants to eat bunnies. Hawk sees Lepin and flies in the garden. Lepin runs out of the garden. He runs into his own house. Angry is the hawk, but happy is Lepin.”

Tai Chi Y4D225: re-wiring your success

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My morning practice today consisted of waking 15 minutes later than usual without benefit of alarm clock.  The thing didn’t go off because I didn’t set it. I fell asleep so rapidly last night because I have been prepping for the art show, that I couldn’t manage it. 

Yesterday was supposed to be a small gathering for some folks I do Druidic work with.  Didn’t happen. Nobody was able to come at the last minute.  So I did the work privately, and went to bed after some work on some paintings.   And then crashed into sleep. 

This morning: Druidry, thirty push-ups (pretty difficult today), thirty squats (no problem), Eight Pieces of Silk, one tai chi form. It has to be enough for today given how late the morning started. But more to the point, it has always been enough. Every day, one tai chi form has always been enough. Anything beyond that is a bonus. 

The last few days, following on my discussion of the subtle bodies, I’ve been trying to use the internal breathwork.  As I hinted, I’ve really been  working on the belt channel with this breathwork. We in the west  to relax the belly on the intake breath, and tighten it on the outgas breath. But n tai chi, the energizing of the belt channel in the subtle body’s chi flow appears to depend on changing the flow of breath. 

I used to feel the flow of chi in my body far more clearly than I do now. But I felt it in my fingers and toes, in my extremities. It took me along time to understand that I was feeling the expansion of my circulation, of my nervous system awareness, into parts of the body that I had hitherto not ruled well, where my circulation was poor, or where blood and life flowed sluggishly. 

But these last few days, I have felt energy flowing in my core. That is, I have the pleasant tingling sensation in my core body, my belly, my hips, instead of in my hands and feet (where I have not experienced chi sense in a good long while).. The only part of my practice that has changed significantly is the change to a tightening of the abdomen on an intake breath. 

In other words, the breathwork has brought the experience of chi flow into my core body. I have begun to sense the flow of chi within myself, not in the fingers where I found it as a tai chi beginner, but in my core — and mostly within the band of fat and muscle where a man like me carries his spare tire. The belt channel is coming alive. Nice. 

This isn’t the beginning of the end, I think. But it is, as Churchill said, the end of the beginning. 

Tai Chi Y4D225: re-wiring your success

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My morning practice today consisted of waking 15 minutes later than usual without benefit of alarm clock.  The thing didn’t go off because I didn’t set it. I fell asleep so rapidly last night because I have been prepping for the art show, that I couldn’t manage it. 

Yesterday was supposed to be a small gathering for some folks I do Druidic work with.  Didn’t happen. Nobody was able to come at the last minute.  So I did the work privately, and went to bed after some work on some paintings.   And then crashed into sleep. 

This morning: Druidry, thirty push-ups (pretty difficult today), thirty squats (no problem), Eight Pieces of Silk, one tai chi form. It has to be enough for today given how late the morning started. But more to the point, it has always been enough. Every day, one tai chi form has always been enough. Anything beyond that is a bonus. 

The last few days, following on my discussion of the subtle bodies, I’ve been trying to use the internal breathwork.  As I hinted, I’ve really been  working on the belt channel with this breathwork. We in the west  to relax the belly on the intake breath, and tighten it on the outgas breath. But n tai chi, the energizing of the belt channel in the subtle body’s chi flow appears to depend on changing the flow of breath. 

I used to feel the flow of chi in my body far more clearly than I do now. But I felt it in my fingers and toes, in my extremities. It took me along time to understand that I was feeling the expansion of my circulation, of my nervous system awareness, into parts of the body that I had hitherto not ruled well, where my circulation was poor, or where blood and life flowed sluggishly. 

But these last few days, I have felt energy flowing in my core. That is, I have the pleasant tingling sensation in my core body, my belly, my hips, instead of in my hands and feet (where I have not experienced chi sense in a good long while).. The only part of my practice that has changed significantly is the change to a tightening of the abdomen on an intake breath. 

In other words, the breathwork has brought the experience of chi flow into my core body. I have begun to sense the flow of chi within myself, not in the fingers where I found it as a tai chi beginner, but in my core — and mostly within the band of fat and muscle where a man like me carries his spare tire. The belt channel is coming alive. Nice. 

This isn’t the beginning of the end, I think. But it is, as Churchill said, the end of the beginning. 

Autumn Maker School: Braiding Disk

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I’m running this program called Autumn Maker School. The requirement is that you make ten things. Ideally they should be useful.  So far I’ve made a few things: a first-draft volvelle, and a computer program that calculates the area and perimeter of a hexagon or other polygons, and a little graphic design puzzle based on Khonsu the Egyptian god of the moon.  

Design lab//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsToday I made a braiding disk.  I made a 12-notch variant of this one, because third-graders learn about calculating time, and this way you can teach kids time movement at the same time that you teach them braiding.  It’s not a particularly complicated device.

But it meets one of my key criteria for success in the design lab: using our tools to make a tool that makes a thing.  I love it when a kid uses our carpentry tools to make a tool that makes something else — and the idea of using a tool-set to make a braiding tool which then allows kids to make friendship bracelets for one another, and maybe cord which can be attached to their clothing, and so on… that pleases me.

The third grade teacher seemed pleased too.  My tentative plan calls for making another twenty-five braiding disks over the next few weeks, so that then we can teach the third graders how to braid.  Those kids will then (hopefully) be more interested in working with cord, braid and similar materials in the future, and the weaving and dyeing and sewing programs I’ve worked on developing will make more sense.  It should be good.

The disc itself is not particularly complicated.  It’s simply a piece of poplar, cut in a circle, and then notched twelve times around the edges. The center hole is an artifact or side effect of the circular saw cutting through the wood.  The numbers are currently put in place with pencil; a final version would have wood-burned numbers, probably on both sides.  I think I’ll have to make a little guide with seven or eight patterns in it, as well, a booklet that kids can assemble — some with three strands (hour, minute, and second hands? Hah I’m on to something here!), some with four strands, some with five, six, seven, eight and maybe even eleven.

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