Alvin Alexander | Java, Scala, Unix, Perl, Mac OS X

With a little downtime following the pericarditis and subsequent angiogram, I’ve been working on my Grandma’s cookies recipe. They’re not there yet, but they’re getting closer. :)

Grandma’s cookies

The last two nights — January 6 and 7, 2020 — the moon shine has woken me up during the middle of the night.

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes

And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low

And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance ...

Awakened by the moon shine

Back in the day, high school was boring for me, and probably even before my parents were separated I decided to take as many days off from school as I could. A few days ago when I was rearranging my furniture I ran across my high school yearbook, where I found several inscriptions like this one, alluding to the fact that I wasn’t there very often, but I made class interesting when I was there. ;)

January, 2020 update: I read that the girl who wrote this passed away a few weeks ago.

Had a little problem getting to school

This is a photo from the drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico north to Colorado, taking the back roads (Route 285) rather than the expressway. I took this photo in March, 2015.

Road from Santa Fe, New Mexico north to Colorado

February 24, 2018: After a long hiatus, during the last week I finally got back into a consistent meditation routine. As usual, this helps me remember my dreams better, and to also have lucid dreams. Last night that combined with something else I had thought about casually recently: Wouldn’t it be nice to be young again, and if I was young again, what would I do differently?

After falling asleep, I wake up in strange apartment. Looking around I can’t figure out what’s going on, but having been in this situation dozens of times before, I find the bathroom, turn on the light, and look in the mirror. I’m pleasantly surprised to see a much younger version of myself. My face is young again, and my hair is longer, soft, and as dark as ever, with no touches of gray. Realizing I’ve been given a second chance, I vow to make the most of it.

After I figure out the apartment situation, I decide to go for a walk and see what the neighborhood looks like. As I walk down the road and enjoy the new scenery, a speeding car comes around a turn. I try to get out of its way, but it hits me hard. My body flies through the air and crashes hard on someone’s lawn as the car speeds away. Lying on the ground, my face pushed into the lawn, I look at the blades of green grass in front of me. I try to hold onto it in my mind because I know that my second chance at living a younger life is coming to an abrupt halt. The green grass fades into darkness.

Back in 2008 I went on a meditation retreat where speaking was allowed. The teacher at the retreat was a psychotherapist, and as I learned during the week, one of the students was his patient.

The patient came from a wealthy family, and he went to see the therapist because he had always “lived from his wallet” as he told me, meaning that money was the primary concern in every decision he made in life. He was obsessed with making money and not spending money, and it was causing a lot of problems in his life, including creating stress and ruining relationships.

I noticed that from time to time he would tap himself on his chest, or otherwise place his hand on his chest in the area of his heart. One day at lunch I asked him about this, and he told me that the therapist taught him that every time he thought about money, he should tap himself on the chest as a reminder that he needed to learn to make decisions based on his heart rather than on his wallet. His slogan had become, “Live from the heart, not the wallet.”

I don't know much about rap/hip-hop, but thanks to Ghost Dog I do know about RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan.

From Ghost Dog:

“Our bodies are given life
from the midst of nothingness.

Existing where there is nothing
is the meaning of the phrase,
Form is emptiness.

That all things are provided for
by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase,
Emptiness is form.

One should not think that
these are two separate things.”

If you ever wondered what life was about, here you go. From Leo (Michael Clark Duncan) in The Finder.

Leo, on The Finder

Besides books on sports, the first book I remember reading that wasn’t assigned to me by a teacher is Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning

January 5, 2011, Wasilla, Alaska: This is a photo of our parking lot, a half-inch or more of ice, and black gravel they’ll sweep up and re-use come March or April.

A thick layer of ice in the parking lot, Wasilla, Alaska

One slip and down the hole we fall
It seems to take no time at all
A momentary lapse of reason
That binds a life for life
A small regret you won’t forget
There’ll be no sleep in here tonight.

(Was it love, or the idea of being in love?)

~ from the Pink Floyd song, One Slip

This is a good quote from the tv series, Hart of Dixie. I remember when I thought about selling my business I knew I might regret it, but I also knew that I was sick with something and doctors couldn’t figure out what it was. So I decided to sell the business and move to Alaska, and that was one of the best decisions of my life. I got to experience things that won’t even be possible to experience in the future because roads are being paved, civilization keeps encroaching on nature, and global warming is melting the glaciers and polar bears into extinction. In retrospect I’d make that decision 100 times out of 100.

A life without regret ain't worth living

I had to go to a physical therapy appointment early this morning in Louisville, Colorado, and one benefit of getting up early were some beautiful views of the overnight snow, clouds on one side of the sky, and sunshine on the other.

Overnight snow, Louisville, Colorado

“Learn to say, ‘I hope that works out for you’, rather than trying to ‘fix’ or change people.”

~ from Maryam Hasnaa, image by

(I see a lot of people who bring stress on themselves by trying to control friends, relatives, and partners. Unless you’re someone’s boss in a place of work, you should ask yourself, “Why do I feel the need to try to control other people?”)

I hope that works out for you

This image shows the symptoms of mast cell disease. I’ve had every one of those (except for that gynecological ones). For years I just assumed that everyone went through this. The image comes from The Mastocytosis Society website.

Update: I noticed that they missed a few things, including unusual/allergic reactions to medications and insect bites.

Symptoms of mast cell disease (image)

Once upon a time I came across same killer whales (orcas) in Alaska, off the coast of Seward.

Killer whales in Alaska

It looks like this statue in Santa Fe is saying, “Woo-hoo, it’s a new year.”

Happy New Year, 2020 (Santa Fe statue)

Legend has it that Bodhidharma sat facing a wall for nine years. I’m going to sit facing my faux fireplace on my new cushion (known as a zabuton, which was a Christmas gift this year).

New meditation cushion (zabuton)

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

~ possibly from Lao Tzu

For many years I struggled with how to combine two of my main interests, Zen and work. I have read that the Zen mind is the mind before thinking, so it seems like Zen and work must be totally unrelated. Over time I came to understand phrases like, “When working, just work.”

This article contains a collection of quotes that have been helpful to me in understanding the relationship between Zen and work. Please note that I don’t wrap each quote in double quotes, and I also try to attribute each quote to the correct author/speaker. If you’re interested in how to combine Zen and work, I hope you’ll find them helpful.