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May 29, 2003

got one

Well, we got one rat. It went for the bait on the second day. We took in to a wilderness area in Seattle and let it go. Last night we heard another one in the walls. The trap has been reset.

Wish I woulda taken a picture. It was kinda cute.

Update: Last night a rat tripped the trap but managed to avoid being in it. Little bugger. Plus someone ransacked our cars but really didn't take anything. Guess they didn't like our groovy cassettes. Hehehehe.

May 28, 2003

happy birthday bill


May 26, 2003

quote of the day, by ben sodenkamp

Ben: But that's in the log files isn't it?

Daniel: Yeah, it's HTTP-Referrer.

Jessica: I'm going outside.

Daniel: You made Jessica go away!

Ben: Man, computers suck. They make girls go away.

May 25, 2003

sparing rats, eating sausage


In response to a comment on my last post:

Is the karma still there if you hire someone else to do it? Cause you're only indirectly causing the pain and suffering (which you do every time you eat meat)...I guess I have a hard time understanding that it's ok in your world to eat chicken or lamb but not to set a trap for a rat....but hey - we all have our hypocrisies. -- L. Beth 'Suki "Tsunami"' Yockey

Beth and I have gone back and forth on this. For the record, she does eat fish, but I'm sure she would have little problem killing vermin.

So the question before me is, what is the difference between eating meat and killing a rat.

Involvement with Death

Well, for one thing, it is quite impossible to be on this earth and be uninvolved with death. Our lives work to kill others in thousands of indirect ways. Even the vegan's food habits involve a harvesting process that kills an uncountable amount of small insects. I think there's a certain habit of even many people to value the life of a cow over the life of a rat or spider or even an aphid or tick.

One could arguably say that for sheer lethality, purchasing gasoline for your car has the most bang for your buck.

Yes, I Really Like Sausage

So when I go to the store am I hiring someone to kill the animals for me? I don't think so, exactly. Unfortunately, if I stopped eating meat tomorrow, the stockyards in Chicago would hardly grind to a halt. Would it have some influence? Probably, but that has to be weighed against some other factors. I do, at least, buy from vendors who support ethical treatment of animals (if slaughtering them can, on the whole, be considered ethical).

Traditionally, the Tibetans, who can't get much to grow up in the mountains of Tibet except for some hardy strains of barley, live off of yaks. They eat the butter, and they historically bought the meat from Muslim butchers. Tibetans also do seem to have some weird guidelines. They'll buy meat, but they won't eat an animal that was killed just for them. They prefer to eat larger animals like yaks and such, because you get a lot more meals out of a cow than a shrimp.

However, the Tibetans also have an incredible sense of reverence towards meat, and there are special prayers said when meat is present at a meal in order to make a positive spiritual connection with the animal. They have an attitude that on the whole, for them to eat meat and use that energy to benefit to benefit beings, that the eating of meat is of a sum benefit to beings.

They're Vermin!

So why the big deal about killing a rat, then? Just do it with the attitude that the sum benefit to beings will be greater than letting it live, and then it's easily justified, right?

Well, everyone has to make their own choices. The way my lama presented it to me was that it was a great deal more harm to one's cultivation of meditative stability and compassion to stalk and kill a being than it is to eat meat with compassion. No being wants to be killed, and in a sense you have to close your mind to a being in order to kill it.

And let me tell you about the process. It's been a difficult experience to let this rat live, when it only grows bolder by the day, and it's a lot of work and money to try and capture it. But I've had to take a hard look at what exactly the problem is with just coexisting with the rat. I've had to take its needs and desires into account in some way, and really face my knee-jerk revulsion.

That knee-jerk hatred towards another being is really an obstacle to compassion for all beings, I think. Now, I realize that I can't in good conscience allow the rat to continue to live here. It causes damage to property that I am renting, it is a health hazard, and it freaks out guests.

So today we bought tupperware containers, a securable kitchen garbage can, and a live trap. Wish us luck.

But tonight I am eating bacon. Is this hypocrisy? I guess so, but it's not just intentional blindness. I have thought about all sides of the issue and have tried to come to a reasonable decision. I hope I have.

May 22, 2003

silly rats, silly buddhists

The rat is so bold now. We are seeing it in the evenings traipsing through the hallways and finding little droppings on the couch. We don't like it. We want it to go away. But we're not going to kill it. What on earth could we be thinking?

It Sounds Like a Squirrel

At some point in the winter...many, many weeks ago, we started hearing some scurrying in the walls. It happened at night, little things running around behind the bathtub shell.

At first we had no idea what it could be. Was it a rat? A squirrel? A possum? How was it getting into the house? It's one of those things where you are just living your day to day life and you just don't think about it until you hear the scurrying. A friend told us that if it were a squirrel, it would explain why it hadn't tried to come in the house. It was just using the walls for shelter. A rat, we assumed, would have come in the house by then.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

We told the landlord. She dropped off three old-school wooden snap-traps for us to use. I angrily threw them in the garbage.

I know it's silly, but as a part of the way I think the universe works, I really try to refrain from being the direct cause of another being's death. The Buddha recommended this not in a "Thou Shalt Not Kill" sort of commandments way, but taught that it was a way to be gain freedom from worry and fear.

I guess it's silly to spare a rat's life. Rats are vile vermin. They shit indescriminately, they chew through walls, they bite babies and lick toothbrushes. Even the most compassionate of our friends, when asked for advice, exclaimed, "The only good rat is a dead rat!"

But yet I can't help thinking of this little being, seeking shelter and food in a relatively innocent way. It grabs for a particularly succulent morsel of food and then the metal bar swings up, impossibly fast and crushes its arm and body. It's a little less palatable if you think of it happening to your puppy, or your mom or something. Anyway, silly or not, I've kind of made an internal decision that I'm not going to try and kill it.

At the same time, it's definately in the house now. I've seen it scurrying away a few times and we've found droppings. It clearly has some pretty free access to this cush little rat situation.

Possible Solutions

Well, there's the possibility of just restricting access. There's a couple of places we know of where it could get into the house and we could physically block them. But we suspect that by now there's a great deal of points of entry.

We could try and live trap it and relocate it. This is not something commonly done with rats, for obvious reasons. Even when we called the wildlife commission in Washington State, which doesn't recommend killing any wildlife, they said they didn't have much advice to offer us, and seemed surprised that we were reluctant to just kill it.

Plus, live trapping a rat is not such an easy job. Rats are smart and don't want to get caught. They won't walk into a trap unless there's really no other food available. When you have kids, that's a very hard thing to do. Plus, it can get outside and raid the compost. Cutting off the rat's food supply completely would be a pretty hard job involving a lot more stringent housecleaning, and the purchase of a lot of tupperware and jars.

Maybe the best thing is to kill it. But I just can't help feeling like the karma of killing it is to end up in a situation of being trapped in a deadly trap myself. I believe pretty strongly in causality. But it's endangering the health of the kids at this point I think. I wish there was some easier solution.

May 14, 2003

the wappingers falls

I finally got back my pictures of Wappingers Falls themselves...I wonder if my sister has seen it yet.

the falls

I like that big rusty aquduct thing. I really like to take photos of the harmony of junk and nature.

hidden treasure!

May 13, 2003

if then else

Hey, I just went to the Clearwater school to see this guy give a speech about why he should get a diploma. It was pretty cool...he's learning how to use Lightwave 3D and Photoshop and stuff. I would have given him a harder time before I gave him a diploma if it were me, but his speech was really well written.

Anyway, while I was there I met his 14-year-old friend who runs a really damn funny online comic called if then else. This kid's got the skills, and it's pretty timely cause I've been doing a lot of linking to online comics lately.

May 11, 2003

sometimes it's so nice

winnie the pooh, winnie the pooh

May 7, 2003

back from wappingers falls

I'm back from my week at Kagyu Thubten Choling. It was some good mixture of fun and poignant. I even got to go see a movie with my sister (X2, which was surprisingly good.)

May 1, 2003

special wappingers falls edition

Thanks to Wappingers Falls' Grinell Public Library for helping my bring you this special tinyblog post from New York.

After a brief amount of time at JFK airport, I was transported to the magical land of upstate New York.

It's pretty here, first of all. It's just spring here, and the land is so green and hilly, kind of like I remember Tenessee being, only more...rocky I guess. There's a cool little health food store that's a lot like a PCC in Seattle, so I don't have to worry about being able to get good coffee or soap.

Wappingers Falls is actually quite a nice place. There is a little suburbian strip with gas stations, mini-malls, and K-Mart, but there's also a rustic part of town that has a bunch of pretty little shops and such. (People who know me know how I feel about pretty little shops.) My sister drove me through town when I arrived so I'd know where everything was.

People who know my sister often ask how she's doing, and I could never really answer. "Good, I guess," I'd say, since she never really gives such a succinct statement in her letters to me. But now I can say she is doing good. She's living a life I think a lot of people wish they could live. Or maybe without the consecutive hours of chanting in Tibetan.

The land is right on a river, and it's spacious and lovely. The main building where she stays has rooms, a kitchen and a dining room downstairs. Then, upstairs, is a big pretty shrine room that gets a lot of use. Most people don't know how elaborate Tibetans like to do their shrines. They are usually of the opinion that More Buddha Stuff = More Blessings. So it's not this austere zen sort of thing. Really vivid colors and many many buddha statues. They cover the upper walls in rows of glass cabinets.

The statues are called rupas. There must be about 100 or so 6" Buddha rupas, and then about 18 8" Tara rupas. Then there's a Guru Rinpoche one that's about 4 feet tall, and then there's a large buddha statue that's about...well...a little bigger than life size.

Every morning, there is a morning chant that starts at 6am and lasts a little over two hours. They chant into Tibetan so fast I can't even read the transliteration (the English pronunciation of the Tibetan, which I can actually read pretty well). The morning prayers are over 100 pages long. I'm used to doing only silent meditation on retreat, but really in Tibetan monestaries they don't do much silent meditation. I asked my Lama why once, he said, "Tibetans would just go to sleep."

During the chanting, one person is the chopon. They have a bunch of ritual jobs they do during the puja (chant), so they are always getting up and filling water bowls and lighting butter lamps and setting up little sybolic representations of the universe to offer to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. All this activity happens every day...seems like for about an average of 5 or 6 hours a day, and that's why they're all there.

About 15 people stay there, and they are all really nice. However there is the telltale neurosis of strangers living communally. There's a certain finicky low-grade tension about all the chores and things. Many of the people work a part-time job (like my sister) but some are able to make it work on almost no income. Some of them do seem very spiritually mature, and they are all there for the sole reason of practicing diligently and growing spiritually in a very humble way and so it all holds together very well.

I love my sister, and she really was not happy living in Seattle and trying to be some kind of worldly success at something or another. So even though I really miss her living near me, I'm really glad she's in a situation where she feels like her time is not wasted. And of course I myself know to some extant what it feels like...the blessing of practicing dharma in one's life is very noticeable. So I think it's healthy and sweet for her to be here.

Well, I guess I'll walk back to the monastary now. It's so pretty here in town, but I think it's time I went back and did some dharma practice myself.

I think I probably will come back and post again before I leave. Oh, a poem I wrote at the airport...this is mostly for Josh and Yoni, so someone tell them it's here:


I want to record all these people who sound so
New York Ish
I ordered a Kosher meal on the plane
To get in the spirit of things in New York
It was a corned beef and pastrami sandwich.
What, is this some kind of joke?

I couldn't resist, though...
milk in my coffee.