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One candle in the dark: this was 2 days ago, the first day

I’m quite proud of this fire. It’s taken me most of the winter to learn how to do this, but I finally managed it.

I kept the wood stove burning for several days without over-filling it with wood every two hours. I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to fuel it. I just kept it burning by damping it and slowing, but not closing, its supply of oxygen. And in the morning, for several days now, behold: coals flaring to life.

It’s much more efficient to run a wood stove this way, apparently. And it makes the room where I do morning meditation much warmer and more comfortable. So I’m very excited. This is going to be a huge improvement on my effectiveness in the coming months, I think.

Evening plans

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Pretty much nothing going on tonight.  Hanging around the front porch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up. 

Toastmasters Leadership Institute 2016

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This is the third year I’ve attended Toastmasters Leadership Institute in District 53.  I’ve been a Toastmaster for going on four years now; I was elected by my club to join my club’s Executive Committee as Vice President of Public Relations (running the website and handling the account and running our Facebook page) for the 2014-15 year; then in 2015-16, I was my club’s Vice-President of Education; this year I’m the club’s treasurer.

As part of the job, I get to attend two leadership training sessions a year.  The first, called the Toastmasters Leadership Institute, is held in a few central locations across the District (which includes Connecticut, eastern New York state, and parts of Massachusetts); the seven members of every club’s Executive Committee are asked to attend.  Not all of them can make it, but each club gets credit toward the overall Distinguished Club program by sending more than four officers to the two trainings a year.

This is, as I said, my third such session, and I’m perpetually pleased at the quality of the teaching and learning. The first time I came, I learned how to manage a social media program for a small organization.  The second time, I learned how to set up and manage an educational program. This time, I learned enough accounting principles to run the accounting and book-balancing for the same organization.  It feels good to know these things.

Top Ten Posts of 2015


These are the top ten posts of 2015.  I’m posting them a few days early.  Maybe this will be interesting to you, maybe not, but it’s a chance to see what I’ve done this year, and maybe remind yourself of what people thought of as my best writing in the past year.

  • Learning to Lucet — a lucet is a fork used for braiding string into thicker and stronger cord.  It’s a pretty interesting technique, and the braid can be used as rope or as ornamentation on a sewing project. I’ve used it both ways.
  • Design Lab: Finished workbench — I made four tables, and this three-part workbench for my school’s new Design Lab. In the process, I learned a great deal about basic carpentry, and taught my students and school a great deal about how Design Thinking is game-changing for schools.
  • Design Thinking: Paper Engineering — Want to start a maker-space in your school?  You should really think about starting with paper engineering.  You will learn a great deal about the tools and materials you want to work with, you’ll learn about what you should do yourself and what you should teach kids directly, and what you should make them learn for themselves.
  • Geomancy: A Technique for the Shield — Geomancy is a binary-based system of fortune-telling or divination, and this is a post on how to use geomancy in a way that I don’t think is attested to in the historical version of the system, but has nonetheless proved useful. (Like Geomancy? Check out my poem, Quatrains on Geomancy which explores some of the key meanings of the sixteen symbols or characters of geomancy.
  • Hymn to Juno, Queen of the Gods — I’m a student of Jason Miller’s.  In late April, as his students were getting ready to do an around-the-world ritual in honor of Juno, I composed this hymn as part of the effort to provide tools and resources to everybody.  A lot of people read it and used it, apparently. Very few people bothered to tell me. Pretty common, actually. (The other poem that people visited a lot was this one for the Mighty Dead).
  • Magic: the Book of Mars — Developing the right tech for magic is always a complicated process.  One of the things that I’ve done is turn to paper-engineering resources (see the post above) and the paper-craft community to borrow techniques for making books and albums and paper-craft machines.  This book follows a paper-craft album style, but its subject is less about family photos and more about the Lord of Might and Severity. Included in the book is the Neo-Orphic Hymn for Mars.
  • Magic: Neglect Not the Robe — Want to be a more effective magician? Learn to make your own robe.  There are good reasons (physical, intellectual, energetic, and spiritual) for doing so, and here’s both the reasons why and links to resources about how to (learn to) do it.
  • Go forth and Make: Summer Camp — Lots of people read about the Maker Summer Camp project I ran this summer; very few people participated.  No one participated in the Autumn Maker School either, though (and lots of people check out Seventeen Things, but no one has told me they’re following through).  Would you participate in a Spring Maker School? let me know in the comments.
  • Millennials Challenges — In this post from mid-December, I identified four major challenges that affected Millennial students in ways that haven’t really been significantly studied or confirmed.  But colleagues of mine to whom I’ve articulated this theory find it very compelling.  What do you think?  
  • Tidying Up — This is a review/put-into-practice of the book by Marie Kondo called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.  I’ve had difficulty keeping up with this practice, but I found it pretty compelling at the time that I read the book and performed her initial practices.  Quite useful.

I think it’s interesting that none of these are tai chi posts.  It’s interesting because that is, of course, the thing that I write about daily.  But the only post that even came close to being in the top ten was this one, about moving through water, and I think it’s because it contains a photograph. The other post about tai chi that got a lot of visits was this one, the Tai Chi Poem, but it wasn’t composed this year so maybe it doesn’t count.

What about the posts that receive the most visits generally?

  • The Tattwa Cards — Tattwa cards are used for training the mind to understand the five elements.  I can’t really say much more than that, but this appears to be one of the few sets available for download online. Composed March 2014.
  • The Memory Palace — Training the mind to use a memory palace is difficult; here’s some of the tools that I assembled to make that possible.
  • Pagan Days Calendar — I assembled one of the few (Greco-Roman-oriented) calendars on Google Calendar for pagan holy days; apparently there’s quite a few people who use it.
  • The Sun and Moon Sonnets — This is, again, one of the more popular posts: a links page to all the sonnets that I’ve written in celebration of the New and Full Moons over New England; and all the sonnets in celebration of the Sun over Connecticut at the Nones, Ides, and Kalends of each month.

So. There you have it. Some of the most popular posts on this website, and in particular the most popular posts of 2015.  Posts that I thought would get big, didn’t;  posts that I thought would be obscure, enjoyed fresh popularity.  Either way, if you’re a fan of my writing, you’ve got some things to check out and catch up on.  Enjoy your end-of-year reading, everyone.  Happy New Year.

Two Model Mechanisms

Two model mechanisms

Search Term Track Back June 2015

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I learned this from Sam at Digital Ambler, who is one of the most sophisticated modern writers about Geomancy that I know of. And “This” in this case, is the reconnection of the blog to its ten or twelve most popular posts in the last 30 days.

  • how to make tattwa cards, tattwa cards pdf, pics of tattwa cards — yep, all of these different searches found the same thing, my post where I provided a PDF you can print out of the design of the Tattwa cards, which are useful for elemental scrying work and other techniques.  Which is weird, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use these cards, only talk about them. 
  • pagan calendar — There’s a pagan calendar which I created and host through Google Calendar, and the links to add it to your own calendar are in this webpage. This particular calendar is strongly rooted in a Roman pagan tradition, since much of my ‘pagan poetry‘ revolves around Roman-ish spirits of various types, adapted to a modern American experience. 
  • libra 2nd decan, libra decan 2 month of july.— I made an astrological image for the second decan of Libra, which you can find here. The second decan’s traditional image is “the strong African returning from a voyage with the fruits and rewards of his labor,” which I’ve depicted as a man standing on a dock, surrounded by chests and boxes, dancing.  I did this image as a present for my father for his birthday several years ago.  Libra’s Decan 2 is not in the month of July, however.
  • the horse could talk, the horse may talk The story of Nasruddin teaching a horse to talk appeared on this blog in 2009.  The figure of Nasruddin is, depending on whom you ask, either a folk-tale character from the Middle East, or an important teaching persona in Sufi tradition, or just a character that you use when you want people to know it’s a joke when you start.  
  • first decan of virgo — 
  • magic to win lottery, how to use magic square for gambling?, use magic to win lottery, magic to win lotto, how to win lotto by spell blogYes, I did use magic to win the lottery.  And yes, I feel that I did win, although you may not agree.  I also learned that the powers that I worked with to win the lottery are either tricksters, or jerks, depending on how you look at it.
  • y4d88 — This code, Y4D88, led people to this particular post, the 88th day of year 4 of my tai chi practice.  I wonder what they were looking for? It’s not a solstice poem, nor a geomantic image, nor nothing particularly important.  Anyway, this is what they found.
  • geomancy love judge, larn geomantic – I assume these people want to be learning Geomancy, and hopefully they mean western-style geomancy rather than Chinese-style geomancy; because that’s what I know.  I imagine they’re after this post, which is adapted from one I originally posted on Tumblr, that lays out how to learn geomancy, but they might be interested to know that I’ve also taught geomancy. Both of these reference a poem I wrote, called Geomantic Quatrains or Quatrains on Geomancy.
  • historical trends in emotional intelligence — You’re probably after my notes from the lecture by Peter Salovey. I don’t know what’s useful to you there, but that’s why you got directed here.  I took these notes at a conference on learning and the brain in 2010, which I believe was held at Avon Old Farms School here in Connecticut.
  • visual aids in teaching ideas — I’ve written a great deal about this subject in my blog, because visual thinking is an important part of what and how I teach these days. But this is probably a good place to begin, or you could start here, with the idea of lenses, or with a sample of it in Latin class.
  • winter solstice poetry — Southern Hemisphere person?  I don’t know if my poetry is appropriate to the southern hemisphere, but this is what I’ve got about the Winter Solstice here and here.

Search Term Trackback: April


Digital Ambler does this thing at the start/end of each month, where he lists the most common search terms for people who come to his blog, and explains where on his blog to find that material.

  • tattwa cards — apparently there are a lot of people out there looking for Tattwa Cards, because this has rapidly overtaken the Tree of Life and the Palace of Memory as the most important thing people are looking for when they come to this site. They’re here — a set of Tattwa Cards as a PDF that you can print out on a color printer and then cut out.
  • pony cliffs ashfield Pony Mountain is in Ashfield, MA, near Chapel Brook, which is one of the Massachusetts Reservations. I’ve done work there, and I like climbing there from time to time.
  • how to draw tree of lifeStill a popular favorite.  It’s amazing to me that there are people who go through a magical curriculum and never learn this.  I mean, this is kinda basic, right? Right?
  • tai chi one step at a time — I don’t think it’s possible to learn Tai Chi one step at a time.  I think mostly you learn three or four steps at a time, practice them obsessively, and then maybe pick up a few more steps.  It took me eight or ten weeks to learn the form, and I’ve been at it, off and on, since 1998.  However, you can try following the Tai Chi Poem.
  • memory palace lesson plan — I wrote a great deal about how to introduce a Palace of Memory project to a group of middle school students; the core documents and links to them are assembled here.  I’ve moved away from this in recent years, because the needs of my students and school has changed; but I remain convinced that it has both power and relevance.
  • how to add google calendar wiccan holidays — I put together a Graeco-Roman-Wicca themed Google Calendar a long while ago, which appears to be still-functioning; there are instructions attached to the post.  THere’s also quite a lot of poetry on this website for use with those festal days.
  • St Patrick primary source — I gathered together a good deal of information about St. Patrick, once upon a time, who turned out to be far more interesting than his legends about driving out the snakes would indicate.  I don’t know how many of the links are still active.
  • Mandala compass — I like making Mandalas, and because of my interest in geometry and teaching I frequently use a compass to do so.  Here’s some work that’s relevant to that.
  • Memory palaces for learning music — I don’t have a memory palace for learning music, because I’m not that good at learning music.  However, I think that you should/could arrange it as two separate “halls” with seven radiating corridors for the Circle of Fifths.  I hope this provides the necessary clues to get you started, along with other materials about the Palace of Memory, as indicated above.

What I’m reading

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A few days ago, I tried penning a piece that explored what I’m writing about and thinking about as a teacher and a magician and a thinker, by giving you a taste of what I was reading.  And just yesterday I provided some links into the deep archive here on my site. Today, I’m going to delve into my current reading, and give you a taste of what’s on my mind.

First of all, I’m thinking about borders, in part because I’m soon to go to Montreal, and it turns out that you can to some extent monitor the crossing points from the US to Canada and back, and get a sense of how long the transit will take. Given that I’m returning from the North on the same day as I have / get to compete in a toastmasters competition, I’m more than a little interested in how long the crossing will take: ten minutes or two hours?

Nation of Change thinks that students have a shot of using usury in the Bible and Indiana’s newly restrictive laws to make a case that debt peonage for student loans is unfair. I’m not sure that I agree with this assessment, but it makes for an interesting idea.  More than that, it raises the real possibility that the October sky-is-falling that Greer hinted at a few weeks ago, and that Gordon indicated is on his mind, might have something to do with student debt default, which is past the 10% mark and holding steady at between 10-15%.

In this context, a friend of mine posted a couple of links, one about the Food App deciding to abandon Facebook because it wasn’t serving their interests very well (and the follow-up that nothing happened when they did). As a result of reading my friend’s note about Facebook, this 19-year-old’s comments about Facebook and other social media make perfect sense — the awkward social media network that they can’t quite let go of, but find really embarrassing.   The other link was a speech about how important it is to sell strawberries — a great speech from 1973, as it so happens, about how to get your whole organization to buy into the process of selling the corporate message, and how you have to create incentives across your organization to get results that make your whole team into a salesforce.  (I’m reminded of Gordon’s note in his recent column about how the shadow state has been using magic’s techniques against us for decades, actually).

At the same time, I see the state beginning this process of trying to figure out how to unravel the drug war. This is signaling behavior, the extension of clemency to life prisoners — and there’s a measure of throwing them back out to their families before their healthcare needs become expenses to the shadow state, right?  There’s also some question, though, of how long we’re going to have public schools, especially since their leadership can’t be expected to behave responsibly toward their charges (although why there’s a picture of the shamed children rather than the shamed principal in the story, I don’t know… connection to the school-to-prison pipeline, alive and well?). The problem, as any teacher can tell you, is that the business of teaching is complicated, and there’s a lot of stuff which defies measurement.

And there’s an interesting effort afoot to help Americans think about guns differently; I wonder if this will become a traveling show, or if it’s only intended to play in New York? How is this going to play in Montana or South Dakota or Arkansas, I wonder?  The audience in the video is probably quite different than the people who walked through the door; and why don’t we get to see who wasn’t dissuaded and bought a gun anyway? Hmm.

America is in the midst of the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the New York Times published a pretty god-awful editorial about it on the anniversary of the burning of Atlanta last November. I found the counterargument which I quite like: let’s face it, in modern warfare you do not let the enemy control the airport, or the hills around it, or the airspace that approaches it. Why would you do the same for the railroad center?

I hate the design of this next website, but it’s interesting how science and medicine is backpedaling from WHAT WE KNOW IS TRUE ABOUT FOOD AND HEALTH.  This is quite in tune with what Greer said about the View from Outside, and how science, in its recent workings, hasn’t really helped its own cause very much.

On the magical side, Sam has gotten around to publishing his discoveries about the Mansions of the Moon and geomancy, which I’m looking forward to playing around with.  There was this article about the problem of secrecy in a Panopticon sort of world, too, which I’m processing in accord with this new blog from Ivy (which I found through Gordon).  I appreciate the way that she’s bringing project management skills to bear on magical work, and vice-versa. This is very much like what I’m doing in the Design Lab, actually, and more or less how I brought the Design Lab makeover project to fruition — Backward Planning makes a difference, people: I saw this on the Wizard of Oz head, and on a number of props and projects that didn’t get finished for the show because of a lack of planning for perfection. Chris Schwarz has some good advice for woodworker on that kind of striving for perfection that applies to designers and magicians (is there a difference?), about equally. And how about magical notebooks that light up LEDs when you use them, or run power through the circuits of sigils? I’m also wondering how to use this device in magical work, even though I found it because I was looking for things to build in my Design Lab. And this would be a stupendously cool addition to my Design Lab’s electronics workshop projects:

But I’m also thinking about Dogger Bank, and Doggerland.  Something like 16,000 years ago, what we call the North Sea was dry land; then around 6000-ish years ago it flooded — possibly suddenly, possibly gradually over several decades (one wonders what will happen to Florida, all at once and in complete denial, or gradually). I read this story about the new discoveries on Orkney, and this ancient temple there, and I thought — people didn’t sail to Orkney and discover Orkney and make it a sacred site: it was already a sacred mountain BEFORE THE FLOODING OF DOGGERLAND.  If you look at the maps in the article about Doggerland, you can see it, set apart and lonely (almost a home for dragons, if you will).  The Storegga Slides would have drowned the lands all around the sacred mountain (makes you wonder if the temple was for giving thanks for safety from the flood; or if it was part of an effort to cause the seas to turn back — thanks, Canute). The Roman-era’s druidic eye-rolling at Roman coercion — “is the sky falling? Is the sea bursting its banks?” — makes more sense in this context, doesn’t it?  Why fear anything but the terrifying storm that drowned the world and made it new.

I started out as a world history teacher, lo these many moons ago, and it still fires my imagination, but every so often someone posts a comment on my YouTube channel which amounts to, “the f@&*k do you know about anything? You’re wrong!”  And those comments, and the discussions of Doggerland that are starting to fire me up, help me understand that in fact I know very little about the history of the world — that my timeline of the last 20,000 years or so is probably wrong, even leaving aside questions about whether dendrochronology or carbon-dating actually work.  But it is clear that hiring a professor who cares about democracy to run your corrupt country’s elections commission is probably a good way to lose power, and that the residents of the Doggerlandian province of the Orcades were probably not the last people to engage in building massive earthworks against the sea, and that the abilities of sea-power and air-power combined are not enough to stop construction of artificial islands.

Reviewing this text, I have to say that I can discern the thread of the narrative, but I’m not sure anyone else can. Maybe it’s obvious, maybe it isn’t.  But for those who follow the threads of what I’m trying to say, or choose to guess at it, you might say that I’m trying to discern how my work fits into a world where the powers-that-are, are threatened by the powers-that-will-be, and what Mother Nature might have to say about how one becomes the other.  What’s clear is that the knowledge base I had as a history teacher is becoming tattered by what I am learning now; what I am learning now is changing how I feel about the present, and what I want to learn is changing how I feel about the future.

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