Meditation class tonight

I went to an evening meditation class organized by the local Buddhist center, it was very mellow, instructive and quite nice.

I guess this is kind of long but maybe it will help some folks to google ‘(local area) meditation class’ like I did:
There were just 3 other people plus a helper from the Buddhist center and an actual monk (in robes, etc.). After initial greetings from the helper everyone sat down and the lady went through some of the courses and things the center is doing soon, then the monk came in. A young woman, probably 30 or younger, which was a little surprising since ‘every Buddhist monk is Tibetan, of course’. She said hello and we went almost right into a nice breathing meditation which I want to write down because it was very useful. Basically we sat in our chairs (which were kind of uncomfortable, I’d rather sit on the ground) and she talked us through focusing on the room, then seeing ourselves in the room, then seeing ourselves floating and relaxing all the muscles from the top of your head to your toes. Then breathing out our bad thoughts and worries as black smoke, which dissipates to nothing. Then breathing in white light, then maybe doing both (light/smoke) at the same time instead of concentrating on just one or the other.

After this there was a talk from the monk. I was still getting used to the idea of the whole thing so I didn’t absorb it all and just checked out her shaved head, hand-knit robes, etc., but she used a book called The New Meditation Handbook, written by a Tibetan monk who’d moved to the UK some 30+ years ago, and read some passages from it to us between just talking about the feeling and purpose of meditation.

There wasn’t any evangelical ‘join Buddha’ talk but there were many references, but it certainly wasn’t a sermon in any way (I was raised Roman Catholic). There were some concepts such as meditation can cure or fix anything, and stuff like that (I may be remembering it wrong, forgive me). There were points I was thinking ‘if this person were older I’d feel more confident in this advice’ but basically I felt that was skepticism and tried to ignore it.

After the talk we had a focused meditation, I forget what she called it but it was about feeling love for everyone: we were told to concentrate on the breath coming into our nostrils and the breath going out, and then concentrated on someone who’d given us love and affection. After we concentrated on them we also concentrated on someone else and then tried to spread that love to everyone. I guess this is a ‘basic’ meditation but I got the idea. It was nice.

Afterwards we had tea & coffee and shared what we were trying to get out of meditation. One woman was trying it for the very first time and has an autistic teen son. Another woman is a stressed IT pro who’s tried all sorts of things from Daoism (sp?) to who knows what. The last guy had been to several classes previously and works as a home carer for autistic and sick people and was the most ‘experienced’ of us there, other than the monk. We all agreed that CDs and books are good but a ‘formal’ meditation with an actual person was great, and this one in particular. I think the main reason was because you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get with a meditation CD, whereas I was pretty sure with a Buddhist monk leading the way I wasn’t going to get some strange crap thrown at me.

Anyway, I quite liked it, will be going again next week.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to focus on something or anything like that, I’d recommend giving meditation a try!

The bike list

So a post on a bike thread over at the Something Awful forums asked how many bikes the regular posters have. I have three at the moment:

  1. a circa 1998  Giant hard tail mtb with good components that I got off eBay which I ride few times a year at the moment;
  2. an older steel frame Raliegh hybrid (I think) from Freecycle that is the exclusive commuter;
  3. an even older Criterium brand (I think) road bike from Freecycle that I want to do up as a road bike but it needs some tune-up work and tires. To give you an idea, it’s old enough it has double brake levers up front… Supposedly it’s a French bike but there are a ton of bike brands and models called ‘Criterium’, plus it doesn’t help that a criterium is a type of bike race!

I’m hoping to get a new road bike (for exercising) through a gov’t cycle commuting plan but that’ll probably take a while to work out. This would be one of those serious ‘starter’ road bikes that’s about $800 or £650.

I’ve had a couple other bikes off Freecycle that I’ve nicked parts off of (forks for truing mainly) or just looked at, and then given away again. There’s just not enough room to have more than one ‘project’ bike, so at the moment that will be the road bike (mainly just to get it rolling reliably) and any bikes I get will either be whole or used for parts.

My next project – the Barbour jacket

So I got this classic Barbour Border jacket from Freecycle and instead of paying £70 or more for repairs to a few tears on the sleeves and other fixes, I want to see about doing the repairs on my own and saving a bundle.

The style of the jacket is ‘vintage English country gentleman’ and comes from the Barbour ‘shooting’ range of clothing – it’s meant to be something you go out walking the countryside with, a shotgun under one arm and your sheepdog (or a selection of your well-heeled aristocratic mates) at your side.

This is an example of a waxed cotton jacket (just happens to be the same one I got), you can see it’s a fairly expensive jacket, they run from £160 to £200 new! Waxed cotton jackets have been popular since at least WW2, many retro motorcyclists use them for riding.

This is the official price list for patches, repairs and reproofing from the original company…£10 for a patch, damn

So there are two stages of things to deal with…

The first thing to deal with is a bunch of tears, this jacket has been well-used inside and out:

  • multiple tears on the lower sleeves (there is a full-length sleeve patch where it’s been repaired before, it must have been sent in at some point)
  • the lining has big tears in a few places
  • one of the handwarmer pocket flaps is starting to come off (there is another patch on the other handwarmer pocket)
  • the hang tab is torn
  • a few small holes elsewhere on the outer fabric
  • fraying around the sleeve cuffs

A few evenings of hand-sewing will take care of these I think, except for the cuffs, I’m not sure how to deal with those. If you send the jacket to the company they give you the option of adding cotton cuffs to cover up the fraying/holes, I don’t know how to add these at this point. The first step here is to get some matching fabric (tight-knit dark green cotton) and thread.

The other issue I have is reproofing the cotton with wax. As I understand it, each company that offers waxed cotton clothing uses their own blend of wax, so you’re meant to use their own. (If you’re just waxing a bag or pair of jeans, I understand beeswax works pretty well, although it might not be as long-wearing.) I’ve got my eye on an eBay auction of some Barbour ‘Thornproof Dressing’ so I hope I get them, then I can try reproofing the jacket after I’m done patching it up. Apparently reproofing involves warming up the jacket, heating up the tin of wax and using tightly rolled-up rags to apply the wax, then using a hair dryer to melt the wax in and let the cotton absorb it. With daily use you’re meant to reproof approximately once a year.

So, I’m not sure how long this project will take, but it’s something that can be done while watching TV or listening to music, which is pretty cool.

Latest & current hobbies

I change hobbies like other people change shoes or jackets, so I’m just curious with the weather/time change what hobbies people do regularly. I could list backpacking, writing and a whole host of things that I don’t actually have time for, but what I actually make time for are:

  • computer games (Fallout 3 at the moment, but also Call of Duty 5 online)
  • Formula 1 and Moto GP watching and discussing on the web
  • role-playing games (yep, Dungeons & Dragons, been doing it since I was 13)
  • just getting into gardening again with the warm weather, want to keep it up this year
  • reading

what I want to make time for include:

  • cycling
  • sewing projects (with that sewing machine I got last year)
  • trekking (multi-day walks like when I did Hadrian’s Wall)
  • writing (this is a very long-term goal)

I’ve tried to pare down the number of things I try to do because there’s not 36 hours in a day and I need to keep my job

Our super-massive black hole

So it’s been confirmed that there’s a gigantic black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

This has been speculated for years, so it’s not really a surprise, but scientists have confirmed it now.

Radio 4 (sort of an NPR equivalent in Britain) was broadcasting this bit of news as I was driving in to work, and I thought it pretty funny that the reporter felt the need to stress that we weren’t under any danger from the black hole, and our solar system is a bajillion miles away from the center of the galaxy…

I mean, this is Radio 4. Stupid people don’t listen to Radio 4. In general, smart, worldly people listen to Radio 4. Politicians and newsmakers do appearances on Radio 4, not vapid, worthless celebrities and morons. You don’t have to pretend that Radio 4 listeners think that people actually ride in drilling machines into the center of the Earth, or that aliens will be imminently invading from Mars, or that black holes roam the galaxy searching for intelligent life to suck up and deposit who knows where.

I just just thought it was an extraordinarily patronizing and stupid thing to say, that’s all.

I go forth to Battle!

Nah, not to fight or anything, just popping down south to the site of the Battle of Hasting (in Battle, East Sussex) for me birthday weekend! We’ll be camping down there in a big tent I got, doing a battlefield walk where someone from English Heritage will explain how the battle unfolded, checking out Battle Abbey which King William had built to commemorate his victory, plus checking out some other castles in the area including Bodiam Castle and Arundel Castle, both of which are very ‘fairy tale’ type castles.

(in case you’re not aware, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was THE major battle of the early Middle Ages, and decided the direction of Britain’s power and monarchy for hundreds of years – it’s worth reading about)

Formula One Singapore

Watching the live video stream of the second practice from Singapore, and OMG does this track look so much better than the Valencia street circuit. I never was much of a fan of street circuits for CART or Indy or sport cars in the US, but the Singapore street track looks great. I have always loved the way the lines go by super fast, and the drivers ignore the direction arrows, etc.

Should be an interesting race, it’s supposed to rain! F1 is always good for some big surprises in the rain.