Archive for April, 2011

Great Red Robe Time-Lapse Infusion

This is Great Red Robe Oolong from Tea So Divine (not to be confused with Red Rose from your local grocery store). This time lapse version of an infusion is interesting to observe; it tells us about colour saturation, leaf movement, and infusion release. This actually isn’t a great example because I should have chosen more leaves from the packaging and brewed the tea inside at room temperature, whereas I brewed it outside because the lighting was better and it was hovering around 5 degrees Celsius.

In any case, this tea is very bold, smooth, and lightly fruity. This tea is grown on WuYi mountain in China and brews a beautiful red-amber shade. It re-infuses more times than any Oolong I’ve ever worked with. It’s so soothing and well-balanced in flavour (at a high temperature), it relaxes the body and puts you right to sleep at night.

This is now one of my favourite Teas, I will be buying this again in the future.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To observe the time-lapse better, I suggest manually moving through the slideshow by clicking the “arrow” key at a faster rate than the slideshow itself. The arrow key appears when you hover your mouse over the bottom of the slideshow.

What’s in a Degree?

For those of you who have a University or College degree, surely you have encountered the question: “What are you going to do with your degree?” Ah, an interesting question…and one with an answer vastly changed from some years ago. In some cases it may be easy enough to say, “oh I’m doing such-and-such a direct application with my degree.” However, it would seem more often than not, this answer is not the case. The question needs a subtle alteration because as it stands, the answer can often be, “not much.”

The question addresses a large audience; prospective students, current students, graduating students, and very importantly: the parents of the former. Now-a-days, it can be quite common for a recently graduated student to return home lacking immediate employment or direct application of ones degree, whereas thirty-or-so years ago, having a degree meant having a job related to that degree. Oh how the times have changed; such are the laws of nature.

The fact is you can’t do a whole lot with an undergraduate degree these days (save engineering, nursing, and some arts degrees). The question people should be asking a recently graduated student is, “What are you going to do with your University experience?” The reformed question makes more sense when people understand two things; one, that University degrees hold less and less significance due to the large influx of academics; and two, that that’s OK. Here’s why:

University isn’t about getting a degree anymore – I think not. If treated in such a manner, students will be hard pressed when after 4 – 6 years they find themselves moving back home and not knowing what to do next, sound familiar? If we treat University as a means, we’re going to come to an end all right, a dead-end (insert drum sound here for corny joke). What I’m getting at is that University isn’t so much about the degree anymore as it is the foundation upon which we build our degree. It’s funny though, because you won’t learn in the lecture-hall how to build the very foundation upon which your degree gains significance. That’s kind of left up to you, which is a good thing.

That being said, University is now about taking advantage of the endless resources, outlets, and opportunities available. On-campus jobs to pay for tuition; personal connections made through faculty and staff; resources available through the array of support systems like councilors, advisors, committees, groups, and clubs; exchange opportunities around the world; varsity athletics; residence life – and the list goes on. University isn’t about a degree, it’s about resources, opportunities, connections, and experiences. These are what you are going to apply after you “finish.” You can take that degree and hang it on the highest wall, in the nicest frame, but it’s not going to do much for you, unless you built yourself a rich foundation upon which it can grow and bear fruit.

I said previously that this information is important for the parents of students because they build up expectations about what University is supposed to offer, and those expectations rarely align with the reality of our times. In no way am I trying to deter anyone from pursuing a degree, or suggesting that it’s okay for students to return home after achieving one, only to play video games while EI rolls in.

What I want to make clear is that currently society views NOT directly applying ones University degree as a waste of time and money, when REALLY, the nontraditional implicit application of a University experience is whats going to take us everywhere we want to go in life – assuming we understand the aforementioned shift in what University is all about.

One other thing to consider is that since there is such a large influx of academic degree holders, this forces a lot of students to continue with graduate studies, in hopes to increase career opportunity (and assuming they enjoy their line of research). At the same time, there’s now such a large number of students with Masters degrees, all of sudden you need to have your PhD just to guarantee yourself a job, that’s another 4 – 6 years of studies. BOOM! you’re 30+ years old. Again, nothing wrong if you love research and teaching, but as you can see, it’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of this academic rat-race. I recently declined my graduate program for just that reason.

So here I am now, and you know how I’m applying my degree? I’m not, it’s rolled up somewhere collecting dust and I’m 24, sitting at my parents house. But you know how I’ve applied my University experience? After taking advantage of as many University resources as possible – i.e. developing my foundation for life outside school – I’ve now lived and studied at a Shinto Shrine in Washington State for 4 months, gone tree planting around central British Columbia for 3 months, attended and served 10-day silent meditation retreats, volunteered on a farm in Costa Rica for 2 months, and now before going tree planting for one more season, I’m establishing connections in Hawaii to work on tea-farms and I’m learning about sustainable agriculture. Talk about widening the scope of how to apply ones pure Mathematics degree. All of these experiences are heavily influenced by the skills developed in University.

So, what does a degree get you these days? not much, except maybe that multiple thousand dollar student loan. Should that stop you from going to University and getting a degree or sending your young adults to University? Not if any of what I just said made sense. It’s just my opinion, but I think a lot of people out there need to hear this view on what’s in a degree these days. Feel free to offer your own opinion and feedback on the issue because I hear a lot of concerns about it when I don’t think there needs to be. With the right understanding of the University experience, students and their parents need not worry if a degree is directly applied or not.




As I mentioned above, I have now not only established those connections with Hawaiian tea farmers, but I’m living out my dream on a tea farm in the Garden Isle of Hawaii. I’m at the forefront of a burgeoning tea industry on Kaua’i spearheaded by the Hawaiian Tea Society; I’m networking and learning about all things Tea.

Quotes, Poetry, and Prose

“Nature Does Not Hurry, Yet, Everything Is Accomplished”
– Lao Tse

“I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis however much beloved, as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it. Indeed I have had no choice but to act in this manner.”
— Charles Darwin

“The body manifests what the mind harbours,
If the mind harbours but pure, harmonious, compassionate thoughts —
So let us purify our minds”

“You Must Become The Change You Want To See In The World,”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“No Written Word, No Spoken Plea
Can Teach Our Children What They Should Be,
Nor All The Books On All The Shelves, It’s What The Teachers Are Themselves”
– TEDTalk

“Apprentice yourself to nature.  Not a day will pass without her opening a new and wondrous world of experience to learn from and enjoy.”

– Richard W. Langer

“It’s not how many times your breath wanders, but how many times you bring it back. And it’s not how many retreats you attend, but what you do in between them.”
– Mark Y

“From the moment you enter the dewy path until
it is time to say your goodbye, you should esteem
your host with the utmost respect, in the true
spirit that this very encounter will occur but
once in your lives.”

“Advanced Techniques Are The Basics Mastered”
– Derek Hansen

“The ultimate measure of human beings is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

“Everything is unfolding as it has to unfold. We can’t control what is happening but we can choose how we will respond.”
– Kurt Spellmeyer

“We Cannot Do Great Things On This Earth. We Can Only Do Small Things With Great Love.”
– Mother Teresa

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead


A Cup of Tea

Nanin, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nanin served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nanin said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”


– Intelligent people can solve many different problems. Wise people know which of those problems to solve.
– Ajahn Sona

“Wisdom teaches me that I am nothing.
Love teachers me that I am everything.
And between the two, my life flows.
– Gil Fronsdal quoting a Tibetan Buddhist Teacher

“Every event that happens has small probability, but it happens. Physics tells us about the universe: it’s big, rare events happen all the time – including life – and that doesn’t’ mean it’s special.”
– Lawrence Krauss

What is Zen Anyway?

A Japanese corpse
serving tea
– Poetry by Natalie Goldberg

“Ultimately, meditation can allow us to have happiness independent of conditions and that is one heck of an awesome claim”
– Shinzen Young

Like the Earth’s surface
Is willing and ready to receive all leaves that fall

“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be”
– Einstein

“Enlightenment is not a process of learning, it is a process of unlearning”
– Dr. Kat Domingo

“Nothing external to me has the power to take away my peace of heart and mind. I may not be in total control of what happens in my life, but I certainly am in charge of how I choose to perceive my experience ”
– Jill Bolte Taylor (My Stroke of Insight)

“But let the mind beware that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious!”
– Jack Kerouac (Dharma Bums)

“Knowing yourself goes far deeper than the adoption of a set of ideas or beliefs. Spiritual ideas and beliefs may at best be helpful pointers, but in themselves rarely have the power to dislodge the more firmly established core concepts of who you think you are, which is part of the conditioning of the human mind.”
– Eckhart Tolle

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day: I shall not fear anyone on Earth…I shall not bear ill will toward anyone. I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. I shall conquer untruth by truth.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds. Shine!”
– Buddha

“Creativity is not thought driven. Seeing something free of thought – THAT is a creative moment!”
– Rodney Smith

Exerting the mind to empty the mind is no way to empty the mind
– Psychology of Zen I

“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside: candles at four o’clock, warm hearth rugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without”
– Thomas De Quincey

“As an elixir of sobriety and wakeful tranquility, tea is also a means of spiritual refreshment and the ritual of preparing and partaking of it is an occasion for spiritual conviviality.”
– New Tea Lovers Treasury

“If we offer quiet to whatever arises, then whatever arises will not expand beyond what it is.”
– Rodney Smith

“We can watch our tea, using it as a mirror to reflect the ways in which our every action, in all that we do, is affecting the tea. Any change we make in our daily life will cause ripples across the surface of our tea liquor; and if we just listen carefully, the tea itself will guide us to the balanced place where the times of being an ego and the times of stillness are in harmony. Then we don’t even need to watch or reflect on the ways our lives affect our tea, because at that time our lives will be tea, and tea our lives.”
– Henry Taiki Takahashi

“The artist who aims at perfection in everything, achieves it in nothing”
– Eugene Delacroix

“As machines become more and more efficient and perfect, so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man”
– Ernst Fischer

“What makes us discontented with our condition is the absurdly exaggerated idea we have of the happiness of others”
– French Proverb

“Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children.”
~ Khalil Gibran