Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone

by Isha Judd

In our society, people view comfort as king. Anything that makes life easier and requires less effort is prized. We have learned to refrain from speaking our truth for fear of conflict and to avoid confronting our fears whenever possible. We have come to value routine over the unknown, and security over spontaneity. Yet often the things that make us uncomfortable — the hard knocks, the disappointments, and the losses — are what challenge us most in our lives. We wish we did not have to weather these storms, yet they are what make us strong. They give us maturity and responsibility, and after all, what better teacher can we have than our own direct experience?

Life becomes stagnant when we remove or avoid its challenges. If a child is spoiled, her parents or servants doing everything for her, when she finally faces the world, she will find herself without the skills to function in society. Similarly, if we overprotect ourselves and try to avoid the inevitable conflicts of life, we may find comfort, but we will not build the skills that lead us toward growth. We may find distraction, but not self-realization.

The story of the Buddha is a perfect example of this. As the prince Siddhartha, he was protected from the world to the point of never seeing the aged or the sick. When he eventually discovered the things that had been hidden from him, he was unprepared for the shock he felt. He then went to the other extreme, committing himself to a life of penance and suffering, before finally finding the “middle path.” The extremes of the world are all part of life, and by exaggeratedly protecting our children from these realities, we are not doing them any favors.

How did you grow from a child into a responsible adult? Was it by not making any mistakes? Or was it through learn-ing from the consequences of your actions? Ultimately, we have to go through things ourselves before we fully understand. To flourish and grow as individuals, we must face the world head-on and embrace the losses and disappointments life brings us. Then, instead of perceiving difficult situations as obstacles in our way, we can utilize them as opportunities to grow, to push through our boundaries and expand our horizons.

It is natural to experience ups and downs in life. We are having a human experience, and that entails a wide range of feelings and situations. When we begin to nourish an internal space of security and unconditional love through the expansion of love-consciousness, we start to experience these extremes more freely. We begin to embrace the contrasts of life and find adventure in change and uncertainty. Self-realization is not about living in a permanent blissed-out state where you never feel any emotions. It is about embracing the contrasts of life fully, without fear. When we are rooted in internal freedom, the need to control our circumstances falls away and we can dance unfettered to the varying harmonies of the symphony of life.

Moving out of Your Comfort Zone

Comfort stems from fear of the unknown and fear of failure. We feel safe within its confines, but in reality comfort is a gilded cage barring us from our true greatness. When we’re not challenging ourselves to be more, we are settling for mediocrity. We lament what’s missing from our lives, but we don’t move into action in order to change it. The fear of failure clouds our perception of our full potential. The mind convinces us we are not capable of more, so we stay put.

We cling to comfort because we fear our greatness. It is safer to sit in the shadows than stand in the limelight: there we risk criticism and external judgment. Greatness requires the courage to stand alone and not compromise our truth. It provokes change and causes evolution. Greatness goes out on a limb; it doesn’t stick to the status quo. To trust ourselves, to stand in integrity without abandoning ourselves in order to please others — that’s greatness.

There is a certain level of collective complacency within society. To break with that and stand alone requires courage, but if we wish to be free from our own inertia, we must take the risk and stop worrying about what other people might think. We must be willing to make what we consider to be mistakes; to try new things and have new experiences; to dare to show ourselves and express ourselves.

If I stand out from the crowd, if I do something noteworthy, I put myself in a place of responsibility. It requires less effort just to sit back and blame my financial situation, my upbringing, or society for not fulfilling my dreams. Yet we are all capable of moving beyond our comfort zone and achieving greatness; in fact, some of the most inspiring and celebrated individuals in history have gone beyond all odds to realize spectacular achievements. They are the ones who said yes when the world said no, the ones who could have used their extreme circumstances as an excuse to achieve nothing, but chose not to.

Can a black man be president of the United States? Can an open lesbian host a top-rated talk show? Can a nonviolent ascetic liberate a nation from imperial reign? Can a man with severe paralysis inspire scientific minds more than anyone else since Einstein? Can a deaf man write a concerto? Of course they can. So why can’t you overcome your self-imposed limitations? We are surrounded by people who have gone beyond mediocrity, even though they had quite valid reasons not to. When we have passion in our hearts, when we are willing to challenge what we are accustomed to and push through our fears, nothing is insurmountable: everything seems possible, and our dreams start to become a reality. When we create our dreams, we become unlimited.

About Isha Judd:
Isha Judd is the author of “Love Has Wings” and “Why Walk When You Can Fly”. She travels the globe teaching a simple, yet powerful system that shows how to find the state of mind she calls “love-consciousness,” where every moment of life — even the most challenging and frustrating — can be filled with love, joy, peace, and self-acceptance. Visit her online at

Excerpted from the book “Love Has Wings: Free Yourself from Limiting Beliefs and Fall in Love with Life” 2012 by Isha Judd. Printed with permission from New World Library.

How Do I Want to Raise This Child?

I’m not entirely sure what kicked the whole thing off, it’s a little muddled in my mind, but I think it started with children’s books. One of our friends bought little Jacob (who you may remember from “A Love Letter to Froggy”) a couple of early reader Superman books, one of which featured Batman. Now I don’t know if I’ve covered this before, but the Elson household is a Batman household. Don’t get me wrong, we have other favorites (for instance Jim loves himself some Constantine, and I’ve already mentioned a fondness for Zatanna), but when push comes to shove we unite under the banner of Batman. So you can imagine the joy I felt when little Jacob would innocently ask “Aunt” Rebecca to read him the book where “Batman saves Superman”. (I suspect the book was written with the intention of showing teamwork, but obviously that wasn’t what a child got from it.)

Well I proudly flaunted Jacob’s obvious Batman preference to the giver of the books, who as you might suspect, is a fan of Superman. Jim and I were pretty smug about it. Not to ruffle anyone’s petticoats, but for me it’s kind of like Superman only exists to be in the “Justice League Unlimited” episode “Destroyer”. (“I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard. Always taking care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control, even for a moment, or someone could die. But you can take it, can’t you, big man?”) After a while the Superman fan decided to put a stop to this.

I can’t remember word for word what was said, but here was the general gist of the message; if I didn’t stop pitting Batman against Superman he would bring Spiderman into Jacob’s household and it would be all over because NO child can resist Spiderman. So I had to ask myself, in the end, how did I want this child to be raised? DC Universe or Marvel Universe?

And from that day forward, for every gift giving occasion that Jim and I bought Jacob a Batman gift, we would make sure other DC characters would also be represented (generally Superman). There have been many coloring and activity books, but this year for his birthday we tossed in the coolest little things ever!

Adorable right?

Of course when left unattended…..

Batman always beats Superman.

Meditation 101

by Tobin Blake

Imagine yourself walking along a garden path toward a brilliant light that brings warmth and nourishment to everything it shines upon. The path is open and the way gentle, flanked by gardens brimming with life. This is a peaceful, safe place, beautiful to gaze upon.

If you turn around and look behind you, however — back the way you came from — the light is no longer perceived directly. Instead, it is positioned at your back, and suddenly the change in your own positioning casts the world into shadow. Now, the shadows are nothing more than a play of light and darkness, but in them reality — and the beauty of your natural surroundings — is cloaked; and as you gaze upon the shifting darkness, you are left to the whim of your imagination. In a world of shadows, you could see anything, pleasant or ghoulish, but either way, it would not be real. It would be merely a reflection of your own thoughts, fears, and beliefs. In essence, it would be a projection of your mind.

When it comes to the world we perceive outside of us, this analogy is not far from the truth. When you look out and upon the external world, you are turning and facing away from the great Source of life. Life did not manifest from the outside in, but from the inside out. By focusing on the external, then, you put yourself in a position in which what you perceive is so heavily influenced by your own state of mind that the reality of the world is blotted out.

Meditation is the conscious act of turning around and facing the other way — inward. For just a little while each day, you sit down, close your eyes to the outside world, and turn your attention toward the inside world, where your core self, which is a direct extension of Source, still exists. The core self is the original creative spark from which grew everything in your life as you know it. To use an analogy, it is the foundation upon which your home is built. Everyone has a core self, although they may call it by other names, such as soul or spirit. I prefer to use the expression core self only because it is more descriptive, and also it does not have the negative connotations of more traditional terms. This is the same reason why I prefer to use the word Source more often than God, although these words are also interchangeable.

Your core self exists in a pure state of being, beyond every self-concept you hold, all beliefs, your individual thoughts and mind, your physical body, and even the passage of time. Consider the consciousness of infants before they have had time to develop biases; labels; self-concepts; ambitions; thoughts about what is right and wrong, large and small, pretty and ugly, good and bad, short and tall; and so on. They may quickly develop a weak ego, but they are far freer than most adults. Infants live in a world of purified existence, in which they fulfill the role of being an infant without question. As a result, most infants are more in tune with their core self than are adults. I believe this is the reason why Jesus told his followers that they must become “like little children” in order to enter Heaven. It is also the reason why infants can be so enchanting, why their eyes sparkle with life, and why their laughter fills the heart with joy. It is also the reason why their crying and their tears can be so incredibly painful for adults. When an infant cries, it is like the sound of God crying. We can barely stand it.

Most of the things, ideas, personality traits, and thoughts we think of as making up our lives are not really life at all. They are just stuff that has been added on to the core self — that bare, essential energy of life that infants are so in tune with. Every-thing else is ego, also known as the false self, which then becomes identified with the body and the external world. You are more than this.

Think of a deciduous tree with its roots, trunk, and branches. These are like the core self. Year after year, these parts of the tree do not change much. The flowers and leaves, on the other hand, may bloom and grow, but come autumn, they change color and spin to the ground, only to be replaced by a new generation of leaves and flowers when spring arrives. One of the problems with our lives is that we have become transfixed with the changing properties of life on earth — the changing states of ego and the physical body. When you reach down into your depths, you are attempting to release all this extra stuff, if only temporarily, so that you can come into direct, conscious contact with your core. Essentially, you are attempting to liberate your attention from the pattern of changing leaves and trying to sense your oneness with the Tree of Life itself.

While it may not seem to be this way at first, shifting your focus toward the core self is the most natural direction of your mind. It takes a great deal of energy to maintain an external focus — so much, in fact, that doing so exhausts us to the point that we are forced into a state of unconsciousness every night. The moment you lie down in your bed at night and free your attention, you go speeding inward into the realm of “sleep,” which is really nothing more than an unconscious sojourn into inner space and core self. This union with core self is what makes sleep so important for both mental and physical health, even though it lacks the full power of conscious contact with core self. It is still healing and refreshing. Meditation takes you into these same inner territories, except it does so while you are fully awake and aware.

About Tobin Blake:
Tobin Blake is the author of “Everyday Meditation: 100 Daily Meditations for Health, Stress Relief, and Everyday Joy”. He has taught meditation and spiritual awakening at Unity centers, private schools, and colleges. Visit him online at

Excerpted from the book Everyday Meditation ©2012 by Tobin Blake. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

Booze in Space!

Were you aware, that even as you’re reading this, Ardbeg Single Islay Malt Scotch Whisky is part of an experiment up in the International Space Station? Oh sweet futuristic distilleries it is true!

The BBC News site reports on April 9, 2011, “Compounds of unmatured malt were sent to the station in an unmanned cargo spacecraft in October last year, along with particles of charred oak.

Scientists want to understand how they interact at close to zero gravity.

NanoRacks LLC, the US company behind the research, has said understanding the influence of gravity could help a number of industries, including the whisky industry, to develop new products in the future.

The experiment, unveiled at the Edinburgh International Science Centre, will last for at least two years.

The molecules are tiny parts of the two substances known as terpenes – a set of chemicals which are often aromatic and flavour-active.

It is believed the experiment is the first time anyone has ever studied terpenes and other molecules in near-zero gravity.

The researchers are also measuring the molecules’ interaction at normal gravity on Earth so they can compare the way the particles mature.”

Obviously I think this is the coolest thing to happen in science since a bunch of dudes decided to sling particles around to go looking for the Higgs boson, or the people at Fage figured out how to make such damn tasty Greek yogurt with like, no calories, so I can dump fatty high calorie granola in it and still feel like a saint. Where was I?

Oh yeah, I thought this was really cool so I went to the International Space Station website to learn more, but when I found it listed in the experiments I got “Page Not Found” when I clicked the link. Thanks NASA, I’m sure the page was a victim of budget cuts.

Then I went to the NanoRacks website, the company stated as being behind the research in the BBC article. There I could find NOTHING about the experiment! Even using their site’s search engine!

Are these guys ashamed of their whisky endeavor? Obviously those who know me can guess what I’m going to say. As far as I’m concerned NASA and NanoRacks should be terribly ashamed of themselves and their experiment with Ardbeg Scotch Whisky. It should have been done with rum.

For those who want to learn more about Ardbeg Scotch Whisky, here is their website.

10 Questions Again with Alaric Albertsson

1. Holy crap! Do you realize it’s been over two years since we’ve talked? Seriously. Can you forgive me?

Of course. We should both be grateful that we have such busy, interesting lives. It is good to connect with you and the Magical Buffet again, though.

2. We first talked back in 2009 when “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan” came out and again in 2010 when you talked about your work with Taren Martin in creating The Martin Rune Deck. Since then there has been a whole other book, “Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer”. Can you tell my readers a little about it?

Just as “Travels Through Middle Earth” was my book on Saxon Pagan spirituality, “Wyrdworking” is a book about Anglo-Saxon magic. I had originally intended it to be two books – one discussing the Anglo-Saxon runes, and one discussing other magic modalities – but early on I realized the topics would be more salable if I combined them. Most of the first half of the book explores rune lore. Most of the rune sets sold today are the 24 symbols of the Elder Futhark, which were popularized by authors like Ralph Blum and Edred Thorsson. “Wyrdworking” examines early English runes, known as the Futhorc, which include nine additional symbols.

The second half of the book looks at other magical practices (including incantations, herb magic and divination) as these were practiced in England. We can reconstruct many of these practices from what we know of folk magic and Old English healing and fertility charms. But “Wyrdworking” is not an abstract study of Saxon sorcery; it is a practical guide. The book explains how to use runes both for divination and active magic, how to design effective chants, how to prepare herbal potions and how to choose the tools and supplies you would need for your own magic.

3. I asked this back in ’09, but for those just tuning in you follow the path of a Saxon Pagan. For my readers who may be curious, how does this differ from Celtic or Nordic paths?

The Celtic Britons had some influence on Saxon praxis due to their proximity, but for the most part they were an entirely different culture with their own gods, their own language, and so on. As for the Norse, there is much more similarity. The Saxons were, after all, Germanic people just as the Norse were. The Saxons had a goddess of the spring, Eostre or Eastre, who was unknown to the Norse. Conversely, the Norse had Loki. (I think we have the better deal here.) Saxons also tend to be VERY tribal. Ásatrúar often form kindreds, but it tends to be perceived as more of an option rather than a fundamental aspect of the religion. Obviously there are some solitary Saxon Pagans, but most of us feel there is something incomplete if we cannot worship with an inhíred (tribe or family).

4. Back in 2009 I asked, “What challenges do you see facing the Pagan community? How can the community resolve those issues?”

And you said, “I think the biggest challenge we face – and we have been challenged by this for as long as I’ve been Pagan – is a tendency to believe in One True Path. Face it, most of us are still first-generation Pagans, and part of our baggage is the One Way Syndrome. I believe the central defining quality of Paganism is, or should be, an acceptance that there are many gods and many paths. My way is the best way for me. It may not be the best way for you. Superficially we all seem to agree with this, but on other levels I constantly see people behaving towards others in ugly, judgmental ways.”

Do you still feel that way, or have other issues moved to the forefront?

No, I still think this is our most crippling challenge. Just this past year a woman who has contributed to her branch of Paganism for decades came under heavy fire because of who she would and would not allow into a ritual. I was not there when the incident occurred, and I do not dispute that it could have been handled more diplomatically, but I was very disappointed by the self-righteous zealots who screamed about how “wrong” this woman was for her choice of who she felt comfortable worshiping with.

In my own Saxon e-group, the most common problem that I or one of the other moderators must address is one person telling another that he or she is doing something “wrong”. I do not expect people to agree about everything, but sometimes it gets so negative.

5. On Facebook you occasionally talk about your chickens, and I generally find your chicken status updates so amusing. Can you share with us a little bit about deciding to have chickens, getting started, and now having them?

Oh, chickens are not new for us. We had a small flock when we lived in Missouri. Only then we were in a more rural area, so our flock was larger and always included a rooster. (Who I always named “Stu”, to keep in mind where he would eventually wind up.) Now, in Pennsylvania, we are suburbanites with a tiny flock of three Rhode Island Red hens. If you have never had a fresh egg, you have never really tasted an egg. The factory-farmed eggs you buy at the supermarket are not “fresh” by any rational definition of that word. I missed fresh eggs, and chickens are really so easy to keep. We have a parakeet in the living room, and three hens in a coop in the back garden, and caring for the hens is no more time consuming than caring for the parakeet.

You do want a sturdy coop, because EVERYBODY loves the taste of chicken. Dogs, hawks, opossums and raccoons will all cheerfully devour your birds. Otherwise there is not a lot of work involved, and most people would be surprised to know that a lot of cities allow a family to keep two or three hens. Sometimes there are specific rules, such as how far the coop has to be from other residences, so it is important to find out what the law says in your own city. Roosters are almost always illegal in urban areas. Because, you know, the pastoral sound of a rooster crowing is so much more annoying than ambulance sirens, gun shots and screaming children.

6. Speaking of Facebook, how do you feel about the rise of social media? A lot of authors I know love the access to readers it allows but curse it as a horrible time sink.

I like Facebook. It isn’t a time sink for me, but then I do not feel that I have to respond to everything. If somebody has a reasonable question I answer it succinctly, but I really don’t spend that much time on social networks. Also, a lot of the same questions are asked again and again, and do not take long to answer. I don’t “cut and paste”, but typing a response is very quick if I’ve answered the same question a dozen times before.

I do think we are living in a very exciting era. Not only can people connect more directly with me, but I have been able to connect with authors (like Paul Huson and Louise Huebner) whose books I read 35-40 years ago.

7. You present at and attend a lot of festivals and events, what are some of your favorites?

I’m going to have to say the Heartland Pagan Festival, but I’m extremely biased. Heartland is held every year in – well, in the heartland, of course – in Kansas. In the 90’s I was actively involved with the group that puts on the festival, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

In recent years I have been very impressed with the Earth Warriors Festival held every autumn in Ohio. Earth Warriors tends to have more of a focus than many festivals, which gives it a sense of purpose and direction that is often lacking. And they have the best meal plan ever.

8. Now that spring/summer season is gearing up, are there any events that you already know you’ll be attending and/or speaking at?

I plan to attend Heartland this May, although just as a participant this year. In June I will be speaking at the Steel Valley Pagan Festival in Ohio. It is a single day event, and this is their first year, but the organizer is very enthusiastic. In August I will be speaking at Summerland, an ADF festival held near Cincinnati. Then in September I’ll be speaking again at the Earth Warriors festival, also in Ohio.

It isn’t a festival as such, but I will be one of the speakers at Pittsburgh’s local Pagan Pride Day celebration.

9. What’s next? Do you have any projects my readers can look forward to?

I’m currently working on a book about living as a Pagan. “What to do after the ritual is over.” The book is filled with suggested activities to help a person live more fully with an earth-centered spirituality. And, yes, keeping chickens is among those many activities. I don’t want to say much more than this, because I’ve learned that I stop writing whenever I start talking about what I’m writing. It sort of dissipates my energy.

I’m hoping that Llewellyn will pick up this project. If they are not interested I will market it elsewhere, but the people I have worked with have been very respectful of my writing and helpful in promoting my books.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question!

How long is it going to be before we do this again? Two years is too long!

I don’t know, I hadn’t meant for it to be two years this time! We should definitely do this when your next book about living as a Pagan is coming out, or when you have some really good chicken stories.

About Alaric Albertsson:
Alaric is the author of “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan” and “Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer”, both published by Llewellyn Worldwide. Alaric first embraced polytheism in the summer of 1971, and has never looked back! Over the past four decades his personal spiritual practice has developed as a synthesis of Anglo-Saxon tradition, country beliefs, herbal studies and rune lore. For Alaric, a reverence for the earth and respect for ancestral and indigenous spirits are fundamental defining qualities of Pagan religion.

During the 70’s, living in the Ozark mountains, Alaric had the opportunity to talk with rural people with traditional customs – moon lore, weather lore, healing superstitions – passed on for generations. During this time he was also influenced by spiritist traditions. He eventually moved to Kansas City, where he served as Vice President and on the Board of Directors for the Heartland Spiritual Alliance during the 1990’s. In 2001, on the day of the winter solstice, Alaric left the Midwest and moved to Pennsylvania, where he currently resides.

Alaric and his partner Scott co-founded the Saxon inhíred Earendel in 2003. Like all inhírdas, Earendel is an extended family and not open to the public, but its members strive to foster a greater public awareness and appreciation of Pagan Saxon traditions in southwestern Pennsylvania. As an author, speaker and drýmann, Alaric himself travels around the United States giving presentations and classes throughout the year.

You can learn more at

Like an Orange

When discussing Judaism it’s generally broken down into three levels of adherence: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Technically, I’m Jewish. Having only been to a synagogue a few times in my life and never having had a Bat Mitzvah, I feel safe in saying technically. The overall level of observance and philosophy I adhere to puts me about three or four levels down from Reform. It’s sort of like that t-shirt, “I’m not Full-Blooded Jew, I’m Jew-ish”. That’s not exactly how this works, but you get the point; by technical religious law I’m Jewish but I suck out loud at it. Back in 2009 I wrote a little ditty about it that shared a comic strip from one of my favorite webcomics “Least I Could Do”.

Each year my husband and I would switch off with another couple, featuring another “bad Jew”, hosting a Passover seder (a special ritual dinner done for Passover with the word seder coming from the Hebrew word for order, referring to the order of the ritual). Now that my parents have moved back to the area they’ve joined into the rotation, and although not Orthodox they’re more experienced and polished with the seder observances, but they seemed to have decided to suffer us fools gladly.

As I said, the Passover meal is a ritual, to the point where you essentially use an instruction manual to guide you through the meal. It’s called a Haggadah. It helps you retell the story of Exodus, tell you what prayers to recite, sometimes they’ll suggest songs and activities, and more. There is no one Haggadah. The first year we decided to do a Passover dinner with our friends the only Haggadah he could find was some sort of “scholar’s” Haggadah, that seder took FOREVER! After that year I asked my family to get me copies of the ones we’d always used for the next gift giving occasion. And so the next year I was prepping our first year hosting Passover using “A Family Haggadah II” by Shoshana Silberman.

I had never actually sat and read the Haggadah’s commentary before, but when I did I stumbled across something that became an immediate tradition in our household and then our friend’s. The Passover table features a seder plate containing symbolic foods that are displayed and eaten during the course of the meal. (For example, bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery that the Jewish people endured in Egypt. That kind of thing.) When reading “The Seder Plate” section of Silberman’s Haggadah I found this:

Some families have adopted the custom of placing an orange on the seder plate. This originated from an incident that occurred when women were just beginning to become rabbis. Susannah Heschel, lecturing in Florida, spoke about the emerging equality of women in Jewish life. After her talk, an irate man rose and shouted, “A woman belongs on the bimah (pulpit) like an orange on the seder plate!” By placing an orange on the seder plate, we assert that women belong wherever Jews carry on a sacred life.

And so each year, despite having to look up what goes on the seder plate (Hey, I said I was a bad Jew!) I always remember I need an orange. I suppose it’s fun to feel like I’m flipping a citrusy middle finger to the narrow minded, and that’s why I liked it initially. However I think the reason it resonates with me this year, and perhaps why this year I felt compelled to share it with you (Considering this will be what, six Passovers since I’ve had this website?), is I think I needed a reminder that Judeo-Christian religions are capable of evolution and change.

In watching the news lately I have been so bombarded by religious politicians that appear to be absolutely intractable in beliefs that are growing more outdated by the minute. It is just nice to think that a religion as old as Judaism has a bunch of people putting oranges on seder plates, a ridiculous idea (If you own an actual formal seder plate there is no spot to even make an orange fit!), but they do it anyway because of what it means to them. In doing so, they share that belief with their friends and family and they carry that home with them to share with others.

In a bit of postscript, I stumbled across this info on Wikipedia:

Since the early 1980s, a custom has arisen (especially among more liberal and feminist Jews) to include an orange upon the Seder plate. This custom is often falsely explained as having arisen in response to a man who confronted a Jewish feminist who was giving a speech and opposed the right of women to become rabbis, supposedly declaring that women had as much place on the bimah as an orange had on the seder plate. However, Susannah Heschel, a Jewish scholar who began this custom, has explained it as a symbol of the fruitfulness of all Jews, including women and gay people. After hearing that some college students were placing crusts of bread on their seder plates as a protest against the exclusion of homosexuals from Judaism, Heschel substituted the fruit (originally a tangerine) on the plate instead.

If this is the true origin, it still works for me, because a person who doesn’t believe that a woman or homosexual is entitled to a fruitful life (including Jewish spirituality if they choose it) belongs at my seder dinner like an orange on the seder plate. And you can quote me on that.

Geek Month in Review: March 2012

By JB Sanders

Is winter over yet?

There is No Pink
Seriously — the color doesn’t actually exist. It’s not in the light spectrum. What we perceive as pink is actually a gap color. Watch the video in this article for the explanation. It’s Sciency!

Headless Cheetah Robot
It’s faster than you!

Icy Finger of Death
See ice descend into the ocean and freeze creatures in ice. Also, the word “brinecle” (that’s brine and icicle mushed together). This is real nature footage, not scifi.

Noah’s Ark Island
Floating island-city for the future.

Titanic Map
I didn’t realize this, but apparently there’s never been a full, comprehensive map of the full Titanic wreck site. Previous efforts concentrated on specific bits, like the bow or the stern. This all-new map shows everything, including what looks like debris from when it hit.

Las Vegas Sprawl
A time-lapse view of Las Vegas from 1972 to the present, from the perspective of an orbiting satellite. Watch the sprawl happen like it’s some kind of giant fungus.

Darth Vader Bagpipe Unicycle
You already clicked on the video link, didn’t you?

Let the Cloning Begin!
South Korean and Russian scientists are setting their sights on cloning the wooly mammoth.

Abandoned Places
Cities without people. These are places all over the world where humanity was once a vibrant presence, but now lie abandoned. Picture essay.

Connect It ALL!
It’s the “Free Universal Construction Kit”. This set of 82 pieces can connect any construction kit toy with any other construction kit toy. Want to make something out of Tinker Toys™ and an Erector Set™? No problem! LEGOs™ and Lincoln Logs™ ? Got it! Best of all, the “Free Universal Construction Kit” is a set of downloadable plans you can plug into your 3D printer — which doesn’t make them terribly free, since you have to have your own 3D printer, but hey — there you are.

The Jamesburg Earth Station
Long, fascinating article about the ground relay station that hooked up the Apollo 11 broadcast, countless other telephone calls and TV broadcasts, and is now for sale for $3M. It has a few amenities. It’s own backup batteries. It’s own giant satellite dish (90 fee across). Fourteen T-1 lines. Two-foot thick solid concrete walls. It’s own orchard. Oh, and it’s zombie-proof, of course.

Mysterious Booms
It’s never good when everyone in a town hears strange booming sounds, feels the ground shake and yet no one can figure out what’s causing the noise. Town officials are going to pay a company to put 4 seismometers around town to find the epicenter of the disturbances. It all sounds like the start of a great movie.

Behind the Scenes Photos: Metropolis
See some photos on the making of the first scifi movie.

It’s Dr Who Crochet!
You just can’t make up stuff like this. Some of it is even disgustingly cute.

I’ll Take Two
How would you like a bottle of Champagne from 1829? Sparkling wine goes bad after that much time you say? Not if it’s stored at a constant temperature of between 39 and 43 degrees Fahrenheit — 150 feet under the Baltic Sea. That’s right, it’s Shipwreck Champagne. And it’s going for around $40k a pop.

Wind Map
Want to see an active map of the current winds all across the lower 48 states? Got that. Also, it’s pretty.

Archaeology From Space
Scientists have come up with an analysis technique that looks at pictures of the ground taken by satellites, and figures out where there were ancient cities. So far they have about 14,000 sites covering over 8,000 years of human history.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

Very Practical Centering

Here’s the thing, I like “Practical Centering: Exercises to Energize Your Chakras for Relaxation, Vitality, and Health” by Larkin Barnett. Quest Books sent me a review copy well in advance of its April release, which I started reading almost immediately. Yet despite my affection for the book and ample time to reflect on it, every time I attempted to put my thoughts to paper (Okay, a Microsoft Word document.) it came out a horrible jumbled mess at best, at worst perhaps the ravings of a mad woman. Sure, ravings of a positive nature, but still not likely what Barnett and Quest Books would hope for when sending a review copy out into the world. So instead of giving a clutter of thoughts that may or may not cohesively flow together, I’m just going to bullet point this bad boy. A practical approach and solution I think.

It’s not all new age, touchy feely stuff. Don’t you worry, there is chakra talk aplenty. But as Kenny Rogers said in “The Gambler”, “There’ll be time enough for your affirmations, when your visual guided imagery is done.” (That’s how they sing it in Sedona, AZ.) The foreword features Dr. Gregory Loewen, a pulmonary oncology specialist, who reassures readers that Barnett is talking some sense.

And to that point, there is real work in here. Massage exercises, stretching, and breathing, lots of focus on your breathing. It’s not just sitting around “visualizing” yourself doing the work, you do the work.

That said, it’s amazingly manageable. “Practical Centering” is broken up into easy to digest sections, and the book itself is a fantastic size to carry in your purse, leave in your nightstand, or put pretty much where ever. Barnett says you can skip around from the start, but honestly I found it good to just sit down and read the book all the way through and then decide what to do. If you’re like me, you’ll soon find yourself at least taking the time to do a few really good full cleansing breaths when taking a break from your desk at work.

But yes, there is talk of chakras, visual imagery, and the mind/body connection….oh my! However you’re not going to feel overwhelmed by a whole new world to take in. Barnett does a great job of keeping things on a need to know basis, telling you what you need to know to get the job done. “Practical Centering” even offers “Recipe Cards” which function like all knowing chakra cheat sheets. If the idea of chakras and the like give you the wiggins (Well honestly I’m surprised to find you reading my website. But do stay, it’s not all chakras and breathing exercises here, I swear!), think of it all as thought exercises that you do in conjunction with the other work.

Larkin Barnett’s “Practical Centering” is truth in advertising. I can’t recall reading a more practical, accessible book on this sort of subject matter.

Here’s the author and Dr. Gregory Loewen, the pulmonary oncology specialist I mentioned earlier, discussing the book.