concentration vs. mindfulness




meditation is very important to me. most of the time when i meditate i simply sit still for 15 or 20 minutes and practice noticing and accepting whatever sensations i feel. this is mindfulness meditation, or at least as close as i get to it. mindfulness is the type of meditation that has been the most helpful to me. at times, i can be so unaware of what i feel and how it affects me that i don’t even realize that i’m physically sore or sick or extremely anxious about something in the future. mindfulness is the antidote to that lack of awareness and refusal to accept the facts of what i feel. but mindfulness isn’t everything when it comes to meditation.

this article talks about concentration meditation. after reading it, i can see why i’ve been stuck in my practice for a long time. i have steadily improved at mindfulness, but my ability to avoid getting distracted has stayed at a complete standstill. a year ago, i could meditate for around 20 minutes before i realized i was squirming and thinking so much that i was no longer really meditating. and today, i still can only sit for 20 minutes before the same thing happens.

concentration meditation, as taught by this helpful video, seems like the answer. the narrator describes this type of meditation as going to the gym for the brain, to make it stronger. the article i mentioned a minute ago even talks about concentration as a tool, which could be used for good or evil, but is powerful either way. this practice includes some approaches that i normally would avoid, because they don’t fit into mindfulness. for instance, in this concentration practice the narrator directs you to count your breaths and say the number in your head, while mindfulness rarely encourages naming, even at the beginning stages. both types of meditation seem to converge as they improve, so that, in the end, you might be able to sit still and accept sensation and avoid distraction and not name anything at all.

i’ve also found a lot of help in metta meditation, which is a whole different type of practice that involves a lot more naming and thinking. i like the idea of having a whole arsenal of practices, developed by people thousands of years ago who had no televisions or computers but just as much of an ability to sit still and notice, deeply, what it is really like to be human. i recommend the article and video for a practice akin to lifting weights, tough, intentional, driven by willpower, which will leave you calm and all the more able to find a deeper peace and acceptance with your mindfulness practice.

Vipassana meditation is something of a mental balancing act. You are going to be cultivating two separate qualities of the mind – mindfulness and concentration. Ideally these two work together as a team. They pull in tandem, so to speak. Therefore it is important to cultivate them side-by-side and in a balanced manner. If one of the factors is strengthened at the expense of the other, the balance of the mind is lost and meditation impossible.


Sum Greater – Get Managed on the Cheap


Sum Greater Entertainment had another beneficial meeting last week. Everyone involved has been busy making songs and websites, logos and business cards, legal work and paperwork, and generally coming up with ideas. It was good to come together to compare notes and see where we can take the organization.

Since we are just starting up, Sum Greater is still hashing out everything from our sale’s pitches to what basic services we offer. We all have some ideas of where we want to go, and how we want to get there, and so now we’ve been making strides in getting all of that down on paper so that people can actually use us as a service in the Hillsboro area. Here is some of what we talked about in last two meetings:


I wrote a song for future use by the charity. We listened to that, and inspected and edit new business cards, a mock up tour guide and drink coupons, and the new website that OC is finishing up. Lots of new stuff and things, which feels very professional. A graphic designer made us a few versions of a logo. And, with of this fun stuff there was, of course, a bunch of paperwork to go along with it.


Can’t say for sure, yet, but the rumor around town is that Influence might have just won a grant that will allow the Hall to put on a new series of concerts. Stay tuned for more on that; I’ll post about it when we know for sure. Evan, who founded the Hall and has been working with musical acts in Hillsboro for years, has agreed to give Sum Greater some pointers (a Supervisory External Coach, if such a thing exists).

Mock Tour!

Most of our meeting was taken up with discussing new ideas, and the idea that excited me the most is that of doing a tour around Hillsboro, Portland, and coast. We will get our name out there, and start to work out the nitty-gritties of how to make a tour happen for an act represented by Sum Greater. Some of our events will provide both music and live art – paintings inspired by the music by Al from ABPositive.

(P.S. If you also are excited about the idea of manageable beginner musician’s tour, organized for you by Sum Greater, then let me know. Personally, I’ve never tried it, and I expect it to be a real boost in exposure and experience.)


Thanks to Clark’s Bistro for hosting our meetings – they have great Moscow Mules, if you are in the market. Thanks to Cedar House Media, who has been doing some great work for us with the cards and flyers. And, as always, thanks to the Influence Music Hall for just being awesome.

Final Thoughts: What is Sum Greater, Exactly?

I’m not sure! We want to be what the music community in Hillsboro needs us to be. Here are our initial ideas:

Talent Management (We coordinate and book and manage tours)

Event Promotion (Posters and posts to increase your turnouts)

Openers (Providing talent to fill out the show, or even dancers and painters to back you up)

And, it is for a good cause: Social Impact, a public benefit workforce funded by Sum Greater.



Make sense? Ideas? Thoughts? Let us know on our facebook page or comment on this post.







new song:

sum greater:

cedar house:




the organized mind, and my unorganized wallet


the Organized Mind

a month or so back i borrowed an audiobook called The Organized Mind, by Daniel J. Levitin, but never got around to reading it before it expired. ironically. i tried it again, today, and it is interesting and highly applicable.

i was already thinking about optimization, because i listened to Tim Ferris talk about his new book on a podcast earlier. and that, mixed in with information systems theory and cognitive overload anecdotes, is helping me see the world in a different light.

for instance, i got several new items this evening. all of them are, broadly categorized, items that i will keep in my wallet. my wallet is a little thinking tool, a metaphor for my brain, at least a well organized wallet would be. and the more i look at the wallet and all the cards that i mean to put in it, i can understand how much data is being processed. minds are like rooms full of stuff, which are like computer desktops full of videos and documents, which are modeled off of actual desktops with actual physical folders full of files.

my wallet

about half of the items in my wallet have an undisputed, assigned location. for instance, my newest bus pass is always in the clear pocket, in front, and older bus passes are always in that same pocket in the back. cash is always in the outer fold, and, if i’ve been paying attention, organized by bill size going from ones on the inside to twenties, and beyond, on the perimeter.

those preassigned items could be seen in two different ways. on one hand, they are helpful and decrease superfluous decision making and processing: it may be better to always know where the key files are in the folder. on the other hand, if the way i keep my wallet has more importance that i realize – and so is worth more effort and consideration – then maybe these domains are a hinderance, and i’d be far better off with bills stuck in the clear pocket and cards lined up in the fold, and so on. but i can’t imagine a world in which a formerly unheard of shuffling of the contents of my wallet generate an important change, so i don’t worry about it.

the second pile of items to go in my wallet are more difficult because they are more diverse, and less related, and all of a lower tier of importance to me. i know exactly where i keep my driver’s license, because it is necessary for many things, but i don’t care so much about my safeway club card.

the wallet is also similar to a junk drawer. junk drawers come up a lot when i’m learning about how the mind works. Levitin mentions it early on in The Organized Mind. you fill junk drawers with odds and ends, often just to procrastinate making the decision to throw them away or to expend the effort of putting them in the proper place (three random screws at the back that could be stored in the toolbox, if the toolbox was just a little easier to get out from under the piles of boxes in the garage…and weren’t you meaning to pick up those boxes and organize those? so you can’t deal with the screws in the junk drawer until you go through the boxes in the garage, though of course if you organized it would only make sense to clean in there, too, because it has been a shamefully long time and there are cobwebs…)

in the case of my wallet, i had old versions of cards, like a work pass. i know i don’t want to have a wallet stuffed full of useless copies of the same tool. but can i really throw out the old one? what if i need it? should i file it away somewhere? should the card be recycled? does it need to be cut up so no one can use it? and don’t i vaguely remember the HR department collecting the old cards, last year, and won’t they be pissed if i throw it out?

incidentally, the card in question, which i did throw out, was actually for the 2015 year, not 2016, and that potential problem never once materialized. so, it stands to reason that i can dispense with giving a fuck about it and spend my cognitive calories elsewhere.

i had a pile of business cards from friend’s projects and my own side projects. individually, i had no qualms about accepting them and stowing them away. but now i have collected a pile, and it is too much, because the real estate is valuable.

some of the cards are easier, and lend themselves to sorting: a pile of giftcards, tj max, starbucks, and guitar center. christmas gifts. and a fourth, a visa gift card given as a holiday bonus. but that card has a place of in the first slot facing out. above that are three other slots, all open in rotation between a few key players, ID and debit and credit. the health card, rarely used but vaguely similar to the driver’s license for purposes of identification, gets to piggy back a special permanent slot behind it.

so what does that leave? half a dozen of my own business cards, bulky but worth keeping handy. a card with my banking number in case i forget it. a private security ID for the state of oregon, unarmed professional. these sundries will need to fight it out for space in the remaining pockets.

each decision (to store, or to discard) is a little victory, and i feel a satisfaction like an itch or a smoke. the work ID and work pass and old entry pass sort of fit together, both in that they relate to work and in that they are rarely used and only need to be in the wallet in case i need them. they can go in the least accessible pocket. of course, all my business cards go together (of course: “of course” means taking for granted, and taking for granted is the enemy of new ideas. fortunately, it is my wallet, which i’m analyzing for fun, so no loss).

cognitive-metaphysical theory of my wallet (jk)

in the end, i put the wallet away in my backpack. that is meta as shit, right? my backpack is another container that holds, stores, protects, hides, and secures different tools. one moment ago my wallet was an ecosystem filled with fauna, and now it is a singular object among many. in hand, stripped, the wallet is the sum total of cash and cards and coupons. now, it is part of the backpack, along with laptop and chapstick and papers. when i take the backpack home again it will become a singular object in a room full of bookshelves and dresser drawers and wastebaskets, all designed to hold different types of things.

but, like zooming in by powers of 10 to see galaxies and then planets and then people and then atoms, the whole process folds back onto itself depending on the nature of each item i have stored. a book, or a sock, could go missing and i might never even know. those items are relatively inconsequential, and to spend time worrying about each of them would cripple me. if a human head got smacked with a rock and the brain inside started to care equally about each possession, the person running in that brain would be as handicapped as someone who can no longer feel physical pain, or who no longer experience emotions.

but some of those items from the vast store of hundreds in my possession – more than a tribal chieftain in 1000 BCE, more than some kings in 1000 CE – enjoy special properties and responsibilities. in the apartment, in the room, in the backpack, in the wallet, is the debit card, which in itself is a system of organization for electronic numbers meant to reflect currency which is meant to reflect a gold standard. this unassuming piece of plastic pays for everything from the wall to the backpack to the room to the apartment.

tl;dr i wrote 1000 words about organizing my wallet. does this mean i’ll never have any friends ever again?

the book

so, in case i didn’t make myself clear, i recommend The Organized Mind. here is my favorite quote, so far:

The appearance of writing some 5,000 years ago was not met with unbridled enthusiasm; many contemporaries saw it as technology gone too far, a demonic invention that would rot the mind and needed to be stopped. Then, as now, printed words were promiscuous—it was impossible to control where they went or who would receive them, and they could circulate easily without the author’s knowledge or control. Lacking the opportunity to hear information directly from a speaker’s mouth, the antiwriting contingent complained that it would be impossible to verify the accuracy of the writer’s claims, or to ask follow-up questions. Plato was among those who voiced these fears; his King Thamus decried that the dependence on written words would “weaken men’s characters and create forgetfulness in their souls.” Such externalization of facts and stories meant people would no longer need to mentally retain large quantities of information themselves and would come to rely on stories and facts as conveyed, in written form, by others. Thamus, king of Egypt, argued that the written word would infect the Egyptian people with fake knowledge. The Greek poet Callimachus said books are “a great evil.” The Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger (tutor to Nero) complained that his peers were wasting time and money accumulating too many books, admonishing that “the abundance of books is a distraction.” Instead, Seneca recommended focusing on a limited number of good books, to be read thoroughly and repeatedly. Too much information could be harmful to your mental health.

The printing press was introduced in the mid 1400s, allowing for the more rapid proliferation of writing, replacing laborious (and error-prone) hand copying. Yet again, many complained that intellectual life as we knew it was done for. Erasmus, in 1525, went on a tirade against the “swarms of new books,” which he considered a serious impediment to learning. He blamed printers whose profit motive sought to fill the world with books that were “foolish, ignorant, malignant, libelous, mad, impious and subversive.” Leibniz complained about “that horrible mass of books that keeps on growing” and that would ultimately end in nothing less than a “return to barbarism.” Descartes famously recommended ignoring the accumulated stock of texts and instead relying on one’s own observations. Presaging what many say today, Descartes complained that “even if all knowledge could be found in books, where it is mixed in with so many useless things and confusingly heaped in such large volumes, it would take longer to read those books than we have to live in this life and more effort to select the useful things than to find them oneself.”

A steady flow of complaints about the proliferation of books reverberated into the late 1600s. Intellectuals warned that people would stop talking to each other, burying themselves in books, polluting their minds with useless, fatuous ideas.





new song, mostly finished, see the process:



my first song written for a paid assignment. i’m working with a new organization called Sum Greater Entertainment. we put on concerts in Hillsboro, just outside of Portland, Oregon. part of the proceeds go to a charity, and this song is for that charity.


i actually touched up the audio a bit, and added some backing instruments, but when i uploaded the .mov file to youtube it had, very oddly, stripped it of all the edits to the audio. i uploaded the file 3 times, and each time it uploaded quickly but didn’t have the edited audio. very strange. if i listen to the same file, from my desktop, it has the bass and drums. anyone know what is up with that?

i thought about writing this song for about 2 months, and i actually wrote it in 1 night. that is often how my creativity works. i picked at the idea of writing a song on such-and-such a topic and imagined how the tone of such a song should feel, for weeks, only thinking about it once every few days. 1 month in, after i had mulled a bit, i had the idea of using a riff and melody that i’d made up without the charity in mind at all, and then after a few more weeks of mulling i realized that i’d stopped imagining using any other tunes. at some point, without really realizing it, i had decided on this melody.

then, at around 2 am a few nights ago, i picked up the guitar. i didn’t think very hard or long about what i was going to write, in the same way that a boxer might study theory before the fight so that it becomes second nature and instinctive, during. once i had a mood and a free moment and the opportunity to play without anyone bothering me, i just slipped into it. i wrote the lyrics in about an hour. here is the first draft:

lend a hand in spring get one to lead you in the autumn

plant a seed and turn your back and it grows

i’ll teach you how to walk for an iou

then you can help me cross the road

spend a bit of time on it, take interest in the spinning

in the cycle as it comes back around

the best part about falling down

is getting back in touch with the ground

i don’t owe you nothing

and you don’t know me

something tells me

we’ve got more in common than not

we both know the bottom like a second home

on second thought

i guess i’d like to give it a shot

if “we’re” all “us” then we’ll always get to the top

if you shiver in the winter come inside or give the winner

nasty looks for playing king of the hill

applaud the upstart sneaking up to reign ’till they catch a chill

right now we are still designing our website, but i’ll post the relevant links we have so far:

Sum Greater’s facebook page:

my first blog post about our show at Clark’s:

buy my music:

mr. trump – 11/9/16



in this video, the narrator talks about how ideas catch on and infect people, very much like a virus. some of the most infectious ideas are one that make people angry, because they split into two groups that form an ecosystem of sorts, and they fight back and forth…pretty soon, they don’t even spend their time arguing against the ideas of the opposing side, but instead they just argue with each other about how much they hate them.

i was  very surprised when donald trump swept through the swing states and won the presidency, yesterday. i was part of the crowd that didn’t really like either of them but basically favored clinton. in my mind, she is was the devil we did know, and that was good. but enough other people, sewn with the same virus, sprouted red. (does this mean i am more conservative than those that voted for a republican? i think that anyone who wanted to throw a monkey wrench into the system, or wanted to trust a tv star instead of a politician, is much more desperate for change).

when i woke up today i watched clinton’s concession, obama’s statement, and then john green ‘s vlog post and read   ‘s piece from this morning. along with trump’s victory speech last night, and steven colbert’s live coverage, they all sounded very, very reasonable (all the same i couldn’t help staring too closely at clinton, while she spoke, trying to distinguish the sincerity from the effortless affectation. and then that made me feel cynical about everyone). in summary, compiled from all of them:

  • we have to accept the winner. trending #notmypresident won’t help anything. he is, unless you are planning on using your second amendment right to take up arms.
  • i really hope that trump doesn’t get a special prosecutor against clinton, because even you think it is justified for the email scandal, it still smacks too much of the political punishment of a rival. making an example.
  • we all have to get together and mend
  • society is too polarized and media is too politicized and we need to chill out a bit
  • the sun will come out tomorrow

so my question is this: am i taking the message from “this video will make you angry” too literally when i worry that some qualities – common sense and gracefully accepting disappointment and measured passions – can’t compete with the adaptive power of outrage and cynicism and conspiracy theory and martyr complexes. sure, john green and obama and these other people that seem reasonable, to me, they are being sensible and good, but if trump won then are “sensible and good” the qualities that define this moment? if it feels really good to have an enemy, someone to blame and hate, and usually those two sides have much more in common, anyway, what could happen to drain that pressure?

i would like things to calm down, a bit. perhaps cnn and msnbc and abc and so many other outlets can shake off the dirt and try to figure out why all the polls and our news was so fucking off. this cycle i listened to a lot of dave rubin, sam harris, joe rogan, and some salon and huff post, and listened to a bunch of steven crowder and milo yiannopoulos and ben shapiro. i was trying to get a nonpartisan, educated sense of what was going on. and i, like lots of people (especially people living in blue states), was totally off in my predilections. i thought that when it all came out in the wash most people would vote for the devil they did know, but instead they were a very progressive in that they wanted change.

god, this is so weird. it could turn out that he is a racist, narcissistic force that topples america, or it could be that anyone who didn’t figure out that he was all bark and beneath it he really cares about the country and is smart enough to govern it is an idiot.

sum greater entertainment


the saturday night before halloween this year saw Clark’s Pub in Hillsboro, Oregon packed to the brim with sweaty monsters and demons drinking microbrews. Clark’s was hosting their annual party, Boos, Booze, and Brews: Bayou, and this year i got to participate both on stage and behind the scenes as part of a new Hillsboro entertainment business, Sum Greater.


Clark’s has been a major part of my personal musical experience for the last year, as they do rock and roll shows several times a week and open mics and jams to boot. As for the acts they hired through Sum Greater Entertainment, none could claim that we have been unaffected by the open atmosphere, great stage, and opportunity to try out new sounds that Clark’s provides.


a few facebook pictures won’t quite do the evening justice, but take my word for it when i say the place was packed to the gills. i opened up the show early while people, decked out in their trick-or-treating finery, were just starting to trickle in, and by the time Brotherman played the stage had disappeared in the swaying – and shouting, and singing – crowd. in between our acts the pub shook like a subwoofer to the amazing talent of Loveless Root, Tied to a Grizzly, and Swampy V and the No Motives.


the show, with the musical talent and the energy and the positive atmosphere and the creepy sexualized dollar store dress-up, was a blast, but it meant even more for me because this was the first event that Sum Greater Entertainment helped organize. it was satisfying to see 100 people lining the walls around the bar, and it felt like it confirmed what i and a few friends had been hoping to find: that Hillsboro is excited about live music, and the people in the city love original art and rock n roll, and that Sum Greater just might have a shot at making a big impression on the music scene in Portland by organizing more shows, at more amazing local venues, with more amazing local talent.

the idea behind Sum Greater is to make an entertainment business to help connect musicians that want to play their music to venues that want to hear it. all of us who are involved with this fledgling pursuit are either artists or patrons ourselves, and we can see opportunity for downtown Hillsboro to keep expanding as an artistic hotspot. Sum Greater Entertainment is, for now, just an idea crystallizing into a real thing, but our foundation is solid:

  • we want to encourage the Hillsboro music scene and start-up artists by connecting them. we don’t want a single empty stage on a friday or saturday night at any bar or coffee shop, and we hope that we can fill those places to standing room only as our talent builds followings and ties with the community
  • we also know that we want to find a way to make Sum Greater profitable enough to use our business to generate income (51% of our proceeds) to a charity founded by one of our board members – more on that to come in another post.

i’ve never tried to start a company before, and i have to say that the process is confusing and exhilarating. already, we have a core group of Oregon musicians involved, along with visual artists, and we can boast years of combined experience in business and the music industry.

we have a lot of work to do: currently we have graphic designers whipping up our business cards, a twitter account and a website in the works, and, of course, a few piles of paperwork to file. i’m encouraged by the interest that i can already see from the community, and from the outstanding success of our first show, made possible by the fine people at Clark’s. and we are looking towards the next show: last friday i and a few other reps from Sum Greater met with the board of Influence Music Hall, a Hillsboro institution that has become synonymous with great music downtown, and in just a few minutes managed to come up with some exciting ideas for future shows (nothing set yet, but consider this a teaser of big things to come).

i’ll be writing about Sum Greater for the next few weeks as we keep working. consider this a cattle call for all music acts, visual artists, and performers of all kinds who want to be a part of a scene. we can make it, but we need you: Sum Greater needs board members, partners, and venues that are as passionate about live music and great shows as we are. if you are interested in helping or getting in on the ground floor, or if you have any questions, feel free to hit us up on the facebook page, and stay tuned to my blog for updates as we polish up our social media outreach. if the halloween show was any indication, this could be the start of something big.

Got Zeugma?



In this 2008 post, I pulled together several examples of zeugma involving the word make, and these involving the word get. Some of the get examples involved two somewhat similar meanings of get: the intransitive meaning of “become”, and the transitive meaning of “cause to become”:

  • …after you’ve gotten dressed, your bed made, and your teeth brushed.
  • [The karate lessons] make it tough for him to get his things done and to bed on time.

Others involved the “become” meaning with the more-distantly related meaning of “acquire”:

    A 17-year-old gets arrested and a $1,000 bond for failing to show at a court appearance for … a seatbelt violation.
  • These days there’s dudes gettin’ facials, manicured, waxed, and botoxed.
    (“I’m Still a Guy,” by John Kelley Lovelace, Lee Thomas Miller, and Brad Douglas Paisley)

Now, four years later, the latest addition to the “become/acquire” get-zeugma collection comes…

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