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

[This is a chapter from a currently-unpublished book I’m writing on meditation and mindfulness.]

As a spiritual being, one possible way to think of life here on Earth is as a “game” that serves as a training ground for the soul. It’s a game like other games, so it has many levels, and they get harder and harder as you progress. So in this case, the better you become at the game of spirituality — the Soul Game — the harder the levels become.

To help set some rules for the game, let’s say that it has fifty levels. The first time you play the game you’re born here on Earth in Level 1. Hopefully you score some points and move up, so maybe by the time it’s “game over” for your first lifetime, you’ve passed Level 9 and you’re playing on Level 10. Maybe you get a brief break in between lifetimes, but the next time you’re born you start right where you left off, at Level 10.

This brings me to a very important rule: Once you start playing the Soul Game, you’re strapped in for eternity. (That was clearly mentioned on page 52 of the End User License Agreement.) Once you’re in the game there are only two ways out:

Here’s a photo from Virginia Beach at sunrise in late May, 2019. I used a dark black and white filter when taking the photo, but everything else is natural.

Sunrise at Virginia Beach, May, 2019

I haven’t been back to Alaska in a long time now, but this is what the movie theater in Homer, Alaska looked like the last time I was there.

The movie theater in Homer, Alaska

This is a cartoonize’d version of Yoda on Luke Skywalker’s back during Luke’s initial training in the swamp. To create it, I found the original movie image with a Google search, opened the image in Gimp, then worked back and forth with a Cartoonized plugin effect, the Beautify options, and the Artistic/Oilify effect. I can do a lot better than this, but for the purposes of this example, I created this cartoon image in less than five minutes. Given more time, I would clean up Yoda quite a bit before using the Cartoonize effect.

I’ve used Gimp to create almost 2,000 images that I use with the Mac screensaver “rotate images” feature, and this is the latest addition.

(Click the image to see the full-size, 1200x600 pixel image.)

Cartoon of Yoda on Luke Skywalker's back

In case you were worried about Luke falling in The Empire Strikes Back. (From this collection of 66 behind the scenes photos.)

In case you were worried about Luke Skywalker falling

I’ve been listening to the song Guilty by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb lately, and it reminds me that when you first start meditating there can be a lot of guilt associated with attempting to meditate. Various thoughts include:

  • This is dumb
  • This is a waste of time
  • I’m not getting anywhere
  • I should be doing [fill-in-the-blank]

These thoughts can last a long time, until that one day that your meditation finds your groove, all of the “mind noise” goes away, and you think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

So today’s thought is one of persistence: If some part of you finds yourself wanting to meditate, there might just be some voice hidden deep in your mind wanting this. So vow to keep working at it until that one day when you find the sweet spot and then think, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

January 22, 2020: Good news, today is the first day I have been able to sit down without pain since December 23 of last year. For whatever reason it has taken the Angio-Seal in my leg this long to heal. But yesterday and today were the first days I have been almost 100% pain-free while standing, and so far I’ve been able to sit down for a little while, which is a very nice feeling. :)

When I left Alaska in 2011 I didn’t have enough room in my car for all of my books, so these are the ~104 books I left behind.

Books I sold when I left Alaska in 2011

The cabin I lived in, in Talkeetna, Alaska. This time of year — late winter — I always find myself wanting to move back to Alaska.

The cabin I lived in, in Talkeetna, Alaska.

Wednesday Zen:

One time an employee came into my office, closed my door, and said, “How are you so calm? I’m going nuts!” As I would learn, he had some stress from work, but even more from his personal life. I tried to help him slow down, breathe, and talk, but he was frantic and almost impossible to help.

The thing about meditation and stillness of mind is that you can’t just start it one day in the middle of a crisis, like when you feel a sudden twinge of chest pain or you’re laying in a hospital bed with a virus trying to suffocate your heart. By then it’s too late.

“Do not fall in love with people like me. I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments, and kiss you in every beautiful place, so that you can never go back to them without tasting me like blood in your mouth. I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible. And when I leave you will finally understand, why storms are named after people.”

~ Caitlyn Siehl

If you want to see a somewhat larger example of Dotty source code than I’ve shown before, I just took a little time to convert a small Scala 2 project over to the new/current Dotty syntax (i.e., the Dotty syntax supported by the Dotty 0.21 release, circa January, 2020).

This is a view of some mountains (whose official name I don’t know) from my apartment in Palmer, Alaska, in January, 2011.

Mountains from my apartment in Palmer, Alaska

Back on January, 20, 2011 I came across this moose statue inside Krazy Moose Subs, Wasilla, Alaska. Seems fitting to go along with my previous moose in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A moose statue inside Krazy Moose Subs, Wasilla, Alaska

The Washington Post has a touching story titled, What schizophrenia does to families.

What schizophrenia does to families

Now this mountain I must climb,
Feels like the world upon my shoulders.

Through the clouds I see love shine,
It keeps me warm as life grows colder.

~ from the song, I Want to Know What Love Is, by Foreigner

I don’t remember where I saw this photo — it may have been the Fireside Books account on Twitter or Facebook — but it shows that they don’t worry about cleaning the snow off the streets too much in the winter in Alaska. This photo was taken about three blocks from my old apartment in Palmer, Alaska. (My apartment was one block down this road in the direction shown, and one or two blocks to the right.)

They don’t clean the snow off the streets in Alaska (much)

If you’re into streaks and records, last night (January 17-18, 2020), was the first time I slept without pain since November 3, 2019 (thanks to the pericarditis and subsequent angiogram). I have no doubt that I snored a good snore. :)

In 2011 I was living in Palmer, Alaska, and I just started to look into renting this small brown building to be a home for my software-consulting business when some family issues came up and I moved back to the Lower-48.

There probably wasn’t enough work in the Palmer/Wasilla area — also known as the Mat-Su Valley — but I loved the area so much I wanted to give it a try.

Little office building in Palmer, Alaska

Back in March, 2010, I drove up to Alaska. This is the office of a little motel in Canada ... at the moment I can’t remember the name of the town, but I could find it again. :)

Cute motel in Canada in the winter