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Calling the Ashtanga police: Just who are all these horrible Ashtanga teachers?

I love this portrayal of teachers. Lots of good things to think about.

The Confluence Countdown

Every now and then, a person comments here about what I’d broadly call an Ashtanga myth. It’ll be about how the practice is totally regimented; how Ashtanga is a cult; or how it will invariable hurt you (OK, maybe that last one is true).

And there’s this repeated theme: Ashtanga teachers (and maybe the practice) are mean, judgmental and unbending in their approach to the practice. Perhaps we also can call this the “Ashtanga police” phenomena.

I wonder where this last myth comes from because, quite frankly, my experience has been anything but that. No surprise given I’m still practicing Ashtanga. If I’d encountered such a teacher, I’d probably be running and lifting weights and thinking Ashtanga was some horrible torture (OK, we all know I do think that).

Maybe I’ve just been lucky in my teacher experience. But it isn’t for lack of experience. I have studied with and…

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via Daily Prompt: Champion

I am a champion because I take full responsibility for my successes and defeats. I know I gamble when I venture into anything. If I take a trail, it may lead to a dead end, it may lead me to peril, or it may lead me to wonders no other person has ever seen. It could lead to the greatest joy and fulfillment I’ve ever witnessed.

I am a champion because I don’t blame my parents for all that is wrong. I don’t blame my politics for ills of the nation. I don’t blame my sex or color for all the prejudice that prevails. I am my own person. I am unique. I am strong.

I am a champion!

You are Wrong to Think Eating Healthy is More Costly

People are crazy who claim that it costs more to eat healthy than to eat unhealthy. This is wholly untrue. Now, if you’re buying hipster food from some yuppie health food store, you may be right. But if you’re buying basic needs of the common person from a bulk food store, it is a whole lot cheaper to eat healthy. Please note what I listed below is probably far below what an unhealthy person eats. In fact, they probably eat more like 3,000-4,000 calories on any given day spending a lot more money. And the healthy person diet below is probably way more than they usually eat (see chart at bottom).

Keys to eating Cheap & Healthy:

  • Buy in bulk
  • Buy generic
  • Invest in a deep freezer
  • Go for calories and nutrition, not flashy labeling or name brands
  • Beware of ends of shopping aisles and front of store gimmicks
  • Compare price per ounce or per-serving, not overall cost
  • Pre-plan & pre-make meals
  • Go big on left-overs – make in bulk and save
  • Drink lots of water
  • Never shop hungry
  • Beware of high markup places – convenience stores, street vendors, fast food
  • Beware of yuppy stuff – “Organic”, “Non-GMO”, … (not regulated–long story)
  • Plant your own home garden
Unhealthy Diet per person
calories cost
burger king cinnamon roll 300 $1.59
Starbucks Iced Caffe Mocha Grande 230  $          3.65
big mac meal 1350  $          5.99
small bag of Doritos 150  $          3.00
2 slices Little Caesars pepperoni pizza 248 $1.25
16 oz Coke 190  $          1.89
1 package Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup 87 $1.99
 Total 2025  $        19.36
One month $580.80
One year  $  7,066.40
Healthy Diet per person
2 cups of white rice 412  $          0.10
1 cup of sweet peas 70  $          0.61
chicken breast 8 oz 220  $          0.99
1 sweet potato 162  $          0.49
8 oz 2% milk 122  $          0.09
tilapia fish fillet 100  $          0.78
Quaker oats cereal 200  $          0.27
Ham 203  $          0.99
banana 105  $          0.13
peanuts one serving 180  $          0.13
one white potato 283  $          0.07
 Total 2057  $          4.65
One month  $     139.50
One year  $  1,697.25

Know What You Don’t Know

The people who claim to know it all, know less than most

When I was a kid, I suppose I knew that I didn’t know everything. But then again, I was a kid. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to do what my Mom & Dad did. I just didn’t care. I was too involved with myself at the time.

When I got into high school, I started to become aware that I knew things. I also started to find passion in certain areas more than others. I would come home and have this slight feeling that I knew more than my parents. I thought I knew higher levels of learning than my younger siblings just because of the fact that I was older.

When I got to college, classes were tough. But for classes that I excelled in, I felt I was really learning. I would come home with eloquent ideas from philosophy or whatever field that would flow off my tongue and into conversations that had nothing to do with my thoughts. The things that my parents did seemed a whole lot smaller. I felt like I knew something. I wasn’t quite aware of the things that I didn’t know. And, maybe I didn’t care about those things anyway. Biology to me was more important that English or Music or other sciences. So I had the opportunity to hold an elitist view of myself. I was on top of the world.

But when it came to getting  my Master’s degree, it wasn’t about biology. It was about a more specific field. I had to study something original that no other person in the world had done before. I started to pigeon hole myself into an expertise. I started to realize that my colleague, even though they were studying my specific field, knew a lot more than me about something else. I realized that there was a lot I didn’t know.

When I got my Ph.D., this became even more true. I might be a geneticist, but what kind of geneticist? I was a quantitative geneticist who studied disease resistance in field corn. I wouldn’t even pretend to have knowledge about anything else. If it were a similar disease in soybeans or rice, I would claim laissez faire. If you started talking about qualitative genetics of single genes in sweet corn, my eyes would blank over. I was pigeon holed to the nth degree. Sure, I don’t give myself credit to knowing other things. But I’m a lot more humble about it because I know what I don’t know.

The value of quality education is not in learning something deeply and then lording it over others. It is in appreciating the vast body of knowledge that exists. It is in knowing that you are not all knowing. It is looking at a complicated Mozart composition or the detailed Pointilism of Seurat and stand in wonder of the mind that can make such wonders. It is knowing the difference between a synonym and homonym; and knowing when to appropriately use your, you’re, their, there, they’re,….but not really caring if someone else screws it up. Its knowing you can go to your kid’s school teacher and see their written grammar is of a level to adequately educate your child. Its seeing a web site and that their writing gives them credibility enough that you’d pay money for their services. No, grammar and spelling aren’t that important in the scheme of life, but it gives credence to a modicum of knowledge that makes you appear worthy. Without a minimum education, it is difficult to make it in life.

I was listening to a rapper on a podcast who has multiple platinum albums and a lot of monetary worth. But his experiences of fighting in the streets and hard childhood, his form of pigeon English that is highly accented and dialected, and his travels abroad seeing notable world leaders and even infamous drug kingpins made his intellect intriguing. His street knowledge is just as credible as a Noble Laureate who lends understanding to some complex subject. They are complete equals in knowledge. But without bank statements or some credible resource to show your worth, it would be difficult to give a loan or hire you for a position if you are an (uneducated) rapper than the school educated person. Its just a fact of life. As for the rapper, yeah he is bringing his daughters up in ballet and the arts. He wants them to have what he didn’t have. That is, he wants them to feel love at home, safety, and a valuable education. He wouldn’t wish anyone to walk the hard path that he did.

Go to school kids. And grownups, its never too late to educate yourself. A good start is to read a book. Read books. Read many books of many subjects. Read the classics. And read a science textbook. Get online and follow the tangents down many roads. Learn about cultures and traditions. All the world is a stage for you to learn. Travel and experience things. Don’t sit in your bubble and expect osmosis to magically infuse you with knowledge. You have to engage yourself.

The smartest people in life are the humble who appreciates that someone knows more than you about many things

The Continuum of Life

I have a lot of feelings and beliefs about many things. But to keep things to a rational, biological, scientific level, I’d like to delicately approach a few subjects. Those are evolution, veganism, and abortion. Wow, did he just say those three? Yeah, I did. But hear me out.

As a scientist, its not hard for me to say that a creature is a wholly, new and different creature at a certain point in life. Its a creature that takes two organisms to create. Its not just one, mothering creature that is wholly responsible. It takes two to tango.

Humans give up half of each chromosome pair to make up gametes, that is sperm and eggs. What is so interesting is that these chromosomes are tightly bound into big bundles, like noodles twisted around each other. This folding is unique in that the specific DNA code physically causes the folding to happen in a certain way. In order to separate a pair of chromosomes, there are enzymes that allow the chromosome to unwind, and actually become cut and reunited again to help the unwinding. Similar things happen when they come together upon fertilization, aka after getting busy. This process undergoes recombination where not only reconfiguring of the DNA takes place, but actual mutation and crossing-over that shares traits with parents, but also makes the organism uniquely its own.

We see this take place in nearly all of life, eukaryotic life, where organisms have a double membrane around the nucleus. Basidiomycete fungi that become mushrooms and other such basidiocarps do this as well. Its really strange because fertilization is delayed. The two gametes (N) come together to form a temporary N + N structure. Eventually, the N’s unite and you have a unique creature. This is different from humans and most other organisms. But at the time the N + N forms a 2N, this act of recombination occurs making it a wholly new creature, different from its parents. That is when  “new” life begins. It is completely different and unique. It is a prime example of how this miracle of “new” life begins.

What gets twisted up in all of this biology are the sociological, cultural, and religious contexts where we all, as humans, have innate biases. One time, I was riding with coworkers to do corn research on the University South Farms. It was a very hot day and I noticed some black cows grazing in the pasture. I commented on how much hotter is must feel to them since they absorb more heat with their black color, whereas a white cow would reflect the rays. Its the same reason why a runner in an Ultramarathon in the middle of Summer in Death Valley is wise to wear pure white reflective clothing. Yet one lady coworker of mine was greatly offended with my comment. She said I was racist for saying that. Huh? I’m a Native American brown dude and I’m racist? OK. Sometimes, you can’t say anything that is totally scientific if it goes against the narrative that runs in another person’s mind. Even with facts thrown in their face, you still get called racist or sexist or whatever people like to call each other. I was just stating facts about the physics of light reflectance. Racial overtones was the furthest from my mind.

Believe me, I’m the biggest animal lover there is. Its why I became a biologist. Actually, my Ph.D. is in plant pathology, so I love plants too. Plants have feelings too. I love all of life. But there are also facts of life. When a male lion attacks and kills a weaker female gazelle, it isn’t because a lion is racist or xenophobic or misogynistic. Its because it was hungry. The lion is a carnivore and there isn’t anything wrong with that. It eats meat. Nobody is trying to convert a lion into vegetarianism. The lion isn’t hateful of gazelles; it doesn’t wish it to have a bad day; the lion just happens to have it as its natural prey. Just like the gazelle doesn’t hate the grass or other plants it eats. It isn’t eating plants for the fun of killing them. It is hungry.

But somehow, we’ve projected our own emotions and biases onto the animal kingdom. I had a debate with someone about this before. They said they won’t eat something because it has a soul? Huh? First of all, if we have evolved to be no better than the animals, then how do we get to decide which plant or animal has a soul or not. And if we don’t believe in God anyway, then why do we care about souls? She said, because animals with a central nervous system have a soul. Forgive me, but how do you know? When I look into my dog’s eyes, how do I know what it is really thinking? When my dog digs up a nest of bunnies and systematically kills every bunny, do I know what its thinking? My dog doesn’t “hate” bunnies. She doesn’t think that every bunny needs to be wiped from the Earth. Its in her innate nature to hunt and kill. It has nothing to do with racism or hate. My dog isn’t evil because she kills bunnies. Its her nature.

So how do I impose my beliefs and biases on the animal kingdom? And how do some animals, aka humans, get to decide what I believe and what my innate nature needs? How do they get to decide in the continuum of life when its OK to kill its own human life? Is it 3 weeks, 6 weeks, or 48 weeks in the womb? How do we get to decide that? We know its a new and unique creature. In the continuum of evolution, why do we get to decide where the cut-off is? So its OK to kill a human embryo or a spider or a weed in the yard, but its not OK to harvest a deer or a farm animal. Alaskan Natives, who happen to have very long Winters where they live, had and have an ability to process meat and fat in their bodies differently. They live off of a very low plant food diet. Its how they survive since they don’t have a long growing season for plants. If you were a subsistence dweller, you couldn’t go to them and tell them to be vegetarians. They would quickly die out because that food is not available to them. Its a matter of survival in those conditions. They aren’t evil because they live off of seals, whales, elk, caribou, and moose. It is how they survive. The same is true of any organism who has evolved to live in the arctic, hot deserts, jungles, and islands in the ocean. They can’t run to the corner store for chickpeas, kale, and kombucha. They adapt to the resources that are available. Otherwise, they die.

What gets so confused are the yuppies who live in big cities who have never had a garden or lived off the land who don’t have a clue where food comes from and how it is processed. They go to the grocery store and Starbucks, but don’t really have a clue. I completely believe these ideas were borne out of ignorance. And I don’t mean “ignorance” as a pejorative. I mean, they don’t know biology, other cultures, or things beyond their own protected lives. All they know is what celebrities on TV tell them. And because that is the cool thing to do, that’s what they do. They are stuck in fashion, the latest flavored water, and the coolest trends in hand bags. They can’t open a book and think for themselves. Because we cry “sexism” and “misogyny” and “F* the Patriarchy”, we no longer see an embryo as a new living creature. We see it as expendable as an appendix or a tonsil or a 2nd kidney. Its a throw away and unnecessary part of our own body and not a new living creature. Its our own biases that ruin what biology tells us.

The strings of life are long; like links in a very long chain. How does this animal, humans, get to decide where that chain is cut? Whether we are 2 weeks old in the womb or 100 years old walking the Earth, who are we to decide? How can we impose our non-scientific, social, religious, and cultural norms on all of life? We can’t. That is, unless we believe a certain way. And even my own beliefs condone what biology tells us. Whether we believe we are the stewards of the Earth or if we believe we a no better than the animals, the rule of life still holds true. Soul or no soul. Precedents lie in the plant and animal world. Biology doesn’t lie. Its up to you to decide where your own personal biases direct you.

Alpenglow on Teocalli

This lady is blessed with so much. Look at these photos!


Okay, okay it’s working now hooray! We have exceptionally high (holy) winds today and periods of heavy snowfall making the internet connection somewhat finicky.  I am so excited to share with you all my most recent winter photo-shoot. The winter season has been the most challenging for me to work with as the lighting is usually flat or incredibly bright but I’ve kept at it and I’m really, really pleased with this series of captures.


Teocalli Mountain (13,208) got its name in 1873 by famous Colorado photographer William Henry Jackson. He stated that ” ..the Aztec teocalli, or sacrificial mound, that were always built-in a pyramidal form, and which this mountain closely resembles…” is why he deemed this mountain Teocalli.  I have not made the trek up Teo yet but it is definitely on my bucket list.


White rock Mountain soaking up the sun on its evening descent. It is so…

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