Archive for March, 2005

Sushi Buffet and Dim Sum

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

MM,

This week has so far been busy as usual, but I’ve still been thinking of the Sushi buffet I had on Saturday night.

It was YUM! Understatement. This buffet dinner took place 8 days after my Dedication and it was just so delicious. Now, normally I go ga-ga for sushi (or any seafood), but because it was the first nice dinner out since the Dedication, I was just melting. The star of the show that night was the teriyaki beef which was grilled to perfection. For me and my sweetie, perfection was a steak grilled to medium rare with just enough juice left in the beef. (Okay, if there are any vegetarians out there reading this, I would like to convey my apologies for any discomfort you may feel reading about my meat eating habits. I have my own beliefs, but being vegetarian is not one of them!) The beef was still nice and tender. If beef could melt in your mouth, this one nearly felt like it did. It was so tender and juicy that what chewing that was needed to eat the beef was painless. Nate and I had to order a second dish of the beef.

The supporting actor in this drama was the salmon sushi. I love sushi and it was awhile since I’ve had it. On top of fasting for Dedication, not having had sushi for awhile just made it all the yummier! The salmon sushi had a good texture – smooth and the taste was so delicate. I was basically “hm…” the whole time I was eating the salmon. The rest of the meal was just as yummy. For the sushi, in addition to the salmon, we had crab, red snapper and another fish. We also had some sashimi (just the raw fish, no rice or seaweed with it) and decided the rice added a nice flavour, so ordered more sushi. For the hot dishes, in addition to the teriyaki beef, we had teriyaki salmon, some breaded shrimps and chicken (don’t recall the Japanese name for these two dishes).

Now, the surprise of the dinner was the avocado roll. I normally don’t go to a sushi buffet and order vegetable, but the avocado roll was just as “meltilicious” as the teriyaki beef. I made the mistake of ordering the avocado and cucumber roll first and then the avocado roll, so I was too full to order another one. However, for a drink I ordered an avocado shake which is always yummy at that restaurant.

Finally, after having ordered a few times and letting my stomach digest some food, my sweetie and I decided we had better head home. Although, I’m sure if I stayed another half hour I might have ordered more food.

Hm… it just occurs to me the sushi buffet made up for my not being able to have a seafood smoothie during my fast!

In addition to the marvelous sushi buffet dinner the past Saturday, this upcoming Saturday is my mom’s birthday celebration. We are actually going to dim sum this year! For years, we used to go for dim sum for nearly all our little family get-togethers, but the past few years opted for a Chinese buffet. What a sudden switch back! Yay! I love dim sum. It is one of things I loved most about growing up in my culture. Dim sum is the best.

It consists of primarily little stuffed dumplings made with rice flour. They are usually stuffed with pork or shrimp. My favourites are “seiw mie” and “hak gao” (roughly the English spelling in order to pronouce the words). “Hak gao” is basically a shrimp dumpling. Yum! (See, I did say I was a seafood fanatic.) “Seiw mie” is a little pork dumpling. Other dim sum favourites of mine are the meatballs, cooked the way only the Chinese can, and the “cheng foon”. “Cheng foon” is a form of rice noodle. It is long and thick and rolled up inside is either beef, shrimp, or chicken. I usually prefer the beef and shrimp ones. These are eaten dipped in soy sauce. Additional dim sum foods can include rice porridge (also yum, the only thing better when I have a cold is Vietnamese beef noodle soup), BBQ pork ribs, some stuffed vegetables and of course some dessert items. Popular for dessert is a jello dessert that does not taste like your normal jello. It’s much smoother and creamier. For drinks, of course, there is the famous green tea!

So, looks like I get another yummy meal soon. I can’t wait, to tell the truth. I love dim sum and I love going out with Nate. Any excuse to get him out of the house with me! Hehe…

Well, gentle readers. Time for me to sign off. It’s getting late or early, depending on if you are sleeping or not.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

P.S. I just got hungry again writing this. Damn, that was a good buffet!

An Asatru Ritual

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

MM,

Asatru is a pagan tradition based on Norse culture as well as its mythology. This is evident in the ritual I attended recently.

My first impressions of it were in comparison to Odyssean Wicca. Creating a ritual space was done by forming a circle as is done in traditional Wicca. There did not appear to be a ritual cast or sweep (however, this may have been done previous to the entry of the participants). Few ritual tools were present. The notable difference was the use of fire and water (melted ice) instead of the traditional four elements of air, fire, water, and earth. The use of fire and water is congruent with Norse mythology where it states that fire and ice were used in the creation of the world. The fire and water was then used as a means of purifying the ritual space (and thereby, the participants in it). Another difference in comparison to Odyssean tradition was the laying down of weapons (even ritual blades) with the exception of the Summoner’s staff.

This ritual in particular was based on the idea of an open assembly in Norse tradition, called Thing (from “thingvalla” meaning “assembly place”)1. Adapting this ancient tradition, the ritual idea was to create sacred space so that people felt free to voice their opinions and views or air their grievances (or both) so that the leader of the community would know each individual’s views.

Overall, I thought the Priest performed the ritual well. The Norse tradition seemed to have been well researched. Providing a sacred space for people to discuss their opinions is a nice idea. However, I felt this would have been better done in a small group. As with any ritual where people are allowed to talk freely with no time limit, some people may take it upon themselves to dominate the discussion. In a ritual such as this one, one person may take it upon oneself to push one’s own opinion on everyone else. To a minority of individuals who may disagree, this might easily feel like “tyranny of the majority.”2

The energy of the ritual was different compared to some rituals that I am familiar with. Since the ritual idea was to remain open to individual views (even contentious and highly political ones), it was left open for both positive and negative energies to enter the ritual. For the most part, people had good intentions behind their thoughts and there was overall more positive energy than negative. However, when the negative energy was projected into the ritual, it was not easy to ignore.

If I were to rate this particular ritual based on the energy and feel of it, the scale would tip towards the low end. Unfortunately, by the nature of the ritual idea itself, the energy in the ritual is entirely dependent on the participants. If I were to rate this ritual based on performance of the Priesthood and the accuracy of the ritual to Norse tradition, the scale would swing over to the high end.

Endnotes
1. http://www.castletown.org.im/heritage/keys/first_tynwald.html
2. John Stuart Mill’s essay “On Liberty” (excerpt located at http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:CKnG_hyk6ggJ:www.serendipity.li/jsmill/
jsmill.htm+%22tyranny+of+the+majority%22&hl=en

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

Spring has sprung and Happy Birthday Nate!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

MM,

Finally, it’s spring!

I’m a summer child so I’m always looking forward to this time of year. The weather gets a little warmer each day while the sun begins to increase in strength. We get a little more sunlight each day.

The equinox was on Sunday, March 20th, the same day as Nathan‘s (my sweetie’s) birthday. So there was much to celebrate. We ended up heading out for a nice dessert at a good dessert restaurant. Yum! After not having food for a few days and still recovering, the ice cream crepe was a little too sugary for me, however, it was still yummy. Aside from that, much of Sunday was spent taking it easy and enjoying the day. A nice needed rest from the hectic schedule me and my sweetie keep.

I’m still in recovery mode, I’m afraid, so will have to say…

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

Post-Dedication

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

MM,

It has been a busy weekend starting with my Dedication ritual.

The ritual was an amazing experience. Though I was Handmaiden for three Dedication rituals previously, it is definitely different when it is your own. The answers to 3 of the 5 questions came to me a few nights ago before going to sleep. The other two questions were yes/no questions with the obvious answer being “yes” if one wanted to continue to be Dedicated. Towards the end of the ritual I received my craft name. While I will not reveal my name on here (my personal choice, I was not told to keep it hidden), I will say that it is strangely suitable. It’s from Ancient Greek and already it has given me much to think about, especially how things in my life are strangely falling into place.

After the ritual, I could finally eat! Yay! However, I had consumed quite a bit of alcohol in the ritual (it is part of the ritual actually that I finish drinking the remaining wine in the chalice after pouring a libation) and could only eat a little. I thought I had eaten just enough, however I was wrong. I was a little sick about an hour or two later. Not fun. Well, overall, it was too be expected.

For the most part, the ritual was amazing and the food was good to have again. I have a better appreciation for food, although right now I’m not eating that much yet. It has taken me a few days to recover from the experience as a whole (i.e, the fasting and the ritual). In addition, I have loads of work to catch up on.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

Dedication Night

Friday, March 18th, 2005

MM,

Okay, I’ve been on clear liquids since last night 7 p.m. and already I can’t wait for some nice food. I keep thinking of seafood pasta with tomato vodka sauce or souvlaki with tzatziki or pad thai noodles with peanut sauce or possibly shrimp and chicken teriyaki. Then there’s always a nice juicy steak or hamburger.

Well, for now I’m going to have some chicken broth. It’s mostly water really, but at least it’s hot and has some taste. I probably would get more nutrients out of some tea though. So, lots of herbal tea today.

Okay, well going to stop thinking about food for now.

Looking forward to tonight. I’ve got my robe. It’s pretty, to say the least, which makes me very happy. 😀

Still thinking about what my answers will be tonight. If I recall, there are 5 questions I have to answer. Been thinking about this for awhile, so I should be okay. Then there’s also the naming part. I get a craft name! Yay! Wondering what it will be? I’m definitely in for a big surprise. Whatever the name is, I hope I like it. And if not, hopefully it’s suitable in a good way.

Well, chicken broth is calling my name now and Buffy is almost on TV.

Later and BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

Dedication Fast

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

MM,

I’m onto the “no solids” part of my gradually fast. So far not so bad, I can still have soup. Yesterday, I had a tomato, feta, and olive salad, some hummus, and some pistachios. Damn tiring trying to fill up on nuts (don’t know how squirrels do it, but then again might be how they keep a figure… hehe). Soon enough it was 7 p.m. again and now I can only have liquids. Ended up being slightly hungry around 10-ish and dug into the cupboards. Found two packages of cup-a-soup – mushroom (yum!) Had that and drank some more tea.

Later last night, I had a sage tea and took a hot bath. Didn’t feel particularly sweaty as some people claim, but did wake up with a full bladder. Hm… instead of sweating out the toxins, my body decided to… well, you can guess. Not so bad though. I thought maybe the effect of sage might be worse. I only had two leaves though and didn’t ingest them. The effects might be alot stronger if the leaves were eaten or maybe I could have put more leaves in the tea.

Today is continuing with the liquids part of the fast. I can still have soup, so thinking of picking up some tomato soup and some chicken broth. Tonight, at 7 p.m., I drop down to clear liquids only which means no juice, no soy milk, no soup (except clear broth) . I can only have clear broth, herbal teas, and water – until tomorrow night. The ritual is scheduled for 7 p.m., but I won’t be able to eat until afterwards. So, I’m definitely fasting for longer than 24 hours.

Well, now, time to go get some soup. I guess I can fill up my stomach on liquids. So far, this isn’t so bad. Just wish I can make a smoothie with some seafood.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

Rite of Dedication

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

MM,

This Friday night I am going through a Rite of Dedication.

The Rite of Dedication is pegged by some to be one of the favourite and most beautiful rituals in our tradition (Odyssean). I have to agree with that. Along with some of the women’s rituals, the Rite of Dedication has special meaning to the Dedicant.

The major theme for this ritual is, of course, dedication. Dedicated to what? To whom? Well, for one thing, contrary to most Christian systems, it is not a dedication to any specific tradition of Wicca, which is why the Rite of Dedication is not really a private ritual. (It’s as private as the Dedicant wants it to be. I have specifically invited certain attendees who may bring guests. I guess it would be considered a semi-private event.) The Rite of Dedication in no way binds me to the Odyssean tradition as there is no making of oaths. (Being oathbound in this tradition occurs at Neophyte level, which still does not preclude one from joining another tradition if one chooses. There are people who are Gardnerian as well as Odyssean.) Rather, the Rite of Dedication is a formalized way for one to say hello to the deities and to acknowledge them and for the Dedicant to make a statement of faith to her peers. Basically, it’s a way to say “Hey, I’m Wiccan/Pagan. This is who I am and this is how dedicated I am to that path.” Ultimately, I think of my Dedication as a formalization of the path I have chosen and a dedication to being who I am.

A minor theme in the Dedication is one of community and support. It lets one know that no matter what may happen, there is always support from the community, the elements, and most of all, the deities.

Now, in preparation for my Dedication, I have opted for a 3-day gradual fast. First, I cut out meats, then all solid food substances and then thick liquids. The day before the ritual, I am only ingesting clear liquids (e.g., broth, herbal teas, water). There is a feast after the ritual, so the Dedicant can have some food shortly after having consumed alcohol. I am now in the vegetarian part of the fast. Not fun. I love seafood and am craving it lots! However, as I stated, I opted for this fast. I didn’t have to do it. At the bare minimum, I only had to do a one day fast of clear liquids. If I had any medical issues, I didn’t even have to do the fast at all. However, I consider myself to be fairly healthy, so a 3-day fast wouldn’t hurt. This is something I feel I need to do. Fasting usually helps clear out toxins from the body and leaves one feeling better overall. We’ll just have to wait and see. As of 7 p.m. tonight, I will be only ingesting liquids. Later tonight, I will be having sage tea and a hot bath to help clear out toxins. Sage needs to be ingested in small quantities, so anyone reading this should be careful if they are considering sage tea! It’s only used to to clear out toxins and not as a casual tea.

Now, I’m getting hungry which is probably good – need to eat what I can before 7 p.m. So, time for some nuts. Be back later (tomorrow) with a quick update.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

Update on Bell’s ad about the female body

Friday, March 11th, 2005

MM,

Nathan (see his link on my page) sent me the following article updating the issue of Bell’s ad on the female body. (Hey, cool, my blog is mentioned!) Is a public apology to be expected?

http://www.rabble.ca/news_full_story.shtml?x=37786

I have to agree totally that Bell needs to do more to compensate for the damage it has already done. The ads have gone out to thousands of homes and all Bell intends to do is just write letters to the people who complained to them? I’m sorry but I don’t have time to sit on hold on the phone all day waiting to complain to Bell so that they will apologize to me. A public apology is needed. Not just to satisfy those outraged at it’s ad, but to make a statement to others that what Bell did and portrayed in its ad was extremely wrong. Frankly, Bell just wants to get away with a slap on the hand and not totally own up to the consequences of its actions. So much for corporate accountability.

So here’s a message to Bell and all the readers out there. We’re not done yet with you Bell. We want a public apology and in the future more women friendly ads. Next, we’d like to see Bell support sex education.

Well, not yet patting myself on the back. We’ll just have to see what Bell does next.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/

Watch out for the brick and bottle swinging “fluff bunnies”!

Friday, March 11th, 2005

MM,

Well, I have been skimming the message boards again. This time I found a discussion about “The Tao of Combat (Martial Arts)” and had to interject.

First, it was a quick question and comment about someone else’s post saying that not only did he practice one martial art, but he has also studied (studied being the operative word here, I’m noting that he did not say TRAIN as one can study a martial art by reading about it, but to train means to physically practice the martial art) Wing Chun, karate, taekwondo, kickboxing, some grappling arts, and some street fighting along with Jeet Kune Do. So of course I ask “what levels have you achieved in each of the various martial arts?” and “How many years have you trained and practiced consistently in martial arts?” The rest of my message is as follows:

While comparing different martial arts can be quite
informative, it takes awhile to really master any one martial art (just as
it takes awhile to master any spiritual practice). It is my opinion that
one should have at least a firm grounding (i.e., 1st dan black belt) in one
art before jumping around too much. While Bruce Lee may have started his
own martial art, Jeet Kune Do, without having full mastership of one art, he
was remarkably talented and a rare gem. (There is a saying that one can do
a million kicks, or strikes, and still never master it, no matter how
powerful or good it is. So one keeps practicing.)

The response to my comments were not so surprisingly evasive about what levels the person has achieved. He also claims to have “over 20 years experience in the martial arts” which begs me to question “what kind of experience?” because I specifically asked for years of consistent training and practice. I suppose he expects me to assume that he’s trained for 20 years consistently. He then continues by talking about creating a new martial art to which someone else asks pointedly “With hundreds of different martial arts and styles, tested and certified for thousands of combats, WHY SOMEBODY NEED TO CREATE YOUR OWN???? Perhaps to become a “Master”… :-)” I say I must agree with that comment. Statistically, at my do jang, only 5% of students ever make it to black belt, 95% drop out before that time. Whatever happens to the remaining 95%? Perhaps running around trying to craft their own martial art in order to somehow gain the title of “Master” while they normally would not have achieved that status. While I do not think there is anything wrong with creating your own martial art (aside from the why bother as there’s so many out there), I have a problem with someone trying to pass themselves off as a “Master” of martial arts when obviously he would otherwise not have become a Master under formal training. I’d rather learn from someone who is certifiably experienced in martial arts, not just someone who claims to have the experience.

Another person responded to my post with the question about levels saying that the martial arts should not be practiced for what ranking can be achieved. He mentions he has not had the opportunity to go for a higher level and mentions that he “tests” himself against others of similar or higher skill level. He also mentions that he disagrees with martial arts tournaments or competitions for fear of reducing the martial art to a sport. The following will be my response:

Yes, I agree that martial arts should not be practiced SOLELY for the achievement of rank. If that is the sole reason for training, usually the person is hungry for power or superiority over others (and these people usually don’t last long in a formal training environment, only 5% of students at my do jang ever reach black belt level even though it only takes about 3 years). However, that is not to say that rank (levels of completion and/or belts) does not have a purpose. Frankly, if one is following a disciplined formal training schedule, one should be able to achieve a significant level of skill, ability, and knowledge (which was the point of my question and in case anyone else hasn’t notice, it was never answered.) Certificates and belts are used to recognize the accomplishment of skill, ability, and knowlege level (and often promote a sense of self-confidence). One other thing about belt colours, each colour actually has a significance which corresponds to the level the student has achieved. (Read my essay for more information, http://www.brigidsflame.com/taekwondoessay.html.) While I understand some people feel they don’t need nor want anymore formal training (or perhaps it’s a time and money issue, that does happen sometimes), honestly, martial arts is one thing in this world that NEEDS to be passed on from teacher to student. There is just too much that a book can’t teach a student of martial arts while a properly certified and experienced teacher/Master can. There are always nuances to a technique that you cannot learn on your own and little tips that only someone with more experience than the student can offer. This leads me to a point about traditions.

One of the things learned in martial arts is respect. One must earn respect and one must show proper respect. Teaching the martial art as it was taught to you is the ultimate way of showing respect to those who taught you and to those who created the martial art. This is not to say that one shouldn’t teach some of their own styles and techniques. I’m just saying that part of martial arts IS the tradition of it and the passing on of knowledge from teacher to student. It’s respectful of those who are ahead of us.

All martial arts should be used for self-defence only. In my opinion anyone who uses it otherwise has not learned what it means to be a martial artist. However, I disagree with you regarding tournaments and competition. In this society, where competition is serious and fierce (e.g., the corporate ladder), martial arts tournaments CAN provide a healthy environment of FRIENDLY competition where people learn that “winning isn’t everything”. Granted there are those who don’t learn that, but there are always those who “just don’t get it” anyway. My Master has pointed out one very important thing. There are fighters and there are martial artists. A fighter lasts about 5 years on average; a martial artist lasts a lifetime and forever. (This from someone who has competed, has trained people to National Champion status and 3rd in World Competition – he has ultimately chosen to be a martial artist.) The other important point about competition and tournament is that it is a good way to test out your skills in a safe environment. Someone who has never actually sparred before who suddenly needs to defend himself on the street won’t be as effective in responding as someone who already has experienced what it’s like to be under attack. When someone is under attack, no matter how good that person thinks he or she is, the adrenaline starts. Learning to deal with an attack before a real need for defensive action occurs helps one learn to control the adrenaline rush. With regard to martial arts being treated as a sport, I think it’s fine to teach a martial art as a sport as long as the ART is not lost.

One question: how do you judge if someone is of the same or better skill level than you if you do not have a system of rank? You’d likely have to compare your training with the other person. One’s training in a martial art can be significantly different depending on who taught it and where it was taught. I personally have met black belts who weren’t as skilled as me in some techniques (I don’t take it as me being talented so much as it is the training and the teaching I received).

For more information on my background in martial arts, please see http://www.taekwondo.ca. I think at this point that I should note that my striving to achieve levels in martial arts was never about the belts or rank, but rather about the training. I wanted to train hard and learn more advance techniques. As a white belt, I wanted to take the advance classes. I never signed on for martial arts training to get some sort of power (power comes from within), but just to learn something and be healthy while doing it. It just so happened I managed to get to black belt along the way. Part of it was my efforts, but mostly I think it was the fact that the Masters and Instructors always believed in me. Such is the reason they are named at the end of my essay.

Now, let’s get back to the first person who claims to have “20 years experience”. He responded to the “why create your own martial art?” with “The martial arts I try to develop, is a more down to earth realistic fighting style intended for street battle combat.” Okay, now who’s not getting the martial arts. Martial arts is not about the fight. It’s about avoiding the fight. (“A beginning student will block an attack. An advanced student will counterattack after blocking. A sabomnim (Master) does not need to block.” (Jon Gerrard and Yeon Hwan Park, Black Belt Taekwondo, page 9.) This means that a Master will avoid a fight and diffuse a confrontational situation. There’s nothing wrong with walking away.) This person isn’t interested in martial arts. He’s interested in street fighting. Read the rest of what he writes and you’ll see why I make that comment.

If I was to have a martial arts school, I would not
have too many traditional weapons, instead I would have bricks,
bottles, bats, chains, knives, clubs and yes even a staff, but only
because one is most likely to find these things in today’s world,
then say farm weapons or swords. Many schools train people in using
weapons that they will most likely not encounter around them in a
street fight.

Bricks, bottles, chains, knives? Okay, can anyone else see lawsuit coming up if this actually happened? Number one rule to running a successful martial arts school is safety. If everyone is getting hurt, it’ll quickly hit the rumour mill and you won’t have any students left. Seriously, what parent is going to want their son or daughter dodging bottles and knives. I wouldn’t even want to do that myself. There’s a safer, better way to teach people to defend and protect themselves from being hit by a brick or bottle and you don’t need those around to do it either. Frankly, this guy does not understand weapons training to begin with. The skills one learns with the traditional weapons (i.e., swords, staff, short sticks) are easily adapted to other weapons. In addition, there are open hand techniques designed to be used against a weapon attack. There is Escrima, a Phillipino martial art using short sticks. The other point I’d like to make about traditional weapons is that these were the weapons taught as part of martial arts. Forms were developed with these weapons as part of the art. Let us not forget one of the key words in the phrase “martial art” – ART. Eliminating the traditional weapons reduces the martial art to just combat skills and street fighting and loses the beautiful weapons forms that help to make a martial art, ART. Yes, I agree that people need to be able to defend themselves with modern objects, but that means applying things you learn with the traditional weapons to the modern object. An umbrella may not be a sword but it can be made to move like one and it can also become a spear. No, the traditional weapons training is not pointless or useless, it is adaptable if one is intelligent enough to see it.

I hate to say this but in the “20 years experience” this person has in martial arts, he still did not learn as much as I did in the almost 6 years experience I have in martial arts (and I didn’t need to run through all the different martial arts on the planet to do so, I just happened to pick a school with quality Instructors who provided quality training as well as teaching the philosophy).

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
http://www.brigidsflame.com/