Disappearing for bit…

Hi all (the few of you). I will be taking the blogs down for a bit. We had a system attack through them and until I have time to figure out how to protect us, the better part of valor is to remove them. I was finding little time to post in any case. See you soon. LM

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Mary Panttaja on September 10th 2013 in Uncategorized


In Vancouver at the moment, experiencing what we used to call “summer”——warm, balmy, sunshine. Well, what I think of as summer. (Odd, considering I grew up in Sonoma County where summer can be warm or foggy chilly.)

Spent the morning riding our bikes around the sea wall in Stanley Park. And had lunch and some grocery shopping at Granville Island.  All mixed in, of course, with work negotiations with folks in DC.  (“Vacation” has gotten off to a very rough start because there are work issues that have to be dealt with.)

But having a little “summer” is so fine. Living in San Francisco puts me at odds with July and August—which can be so dark, dreary, cold, and windy. We’ve been biking to work in a drippy fog, and home in a windy bluster most days in July. (Okay, June was beautiful this year.)  There are some things that everyone expects as part of summer——everyone except a San Franciscan.

  • Eating dinner outside, casually, lazily while enjoying the softening warmth of the day.
  • Lying in the grass comfortably watching the stars come out.
  • Jumping in the lake, river, or, even, ocean to cool off.
  • Taking your morning coffee or tea barefoot out into the yard.
  • Playing in the pool until it is dark.
  • Water parks with sprinklers that kids can play in every day.

Can’t do any of those things in summer in San Francisco except on a rare day. Driving around Stanley Park last night was enthralling—folks everywhere swimming, playing, cycling, hanging out in the warm twilight. Out of doors for a long summer evening. Jealous.

Of course, folks sweltering in heat day after day, have worse problems. I do not suggest that I am suffering, just whining at bit at things I miss. And our waiter last evening suggested that this long, warm, sunny spell was an anomaly; even as we gazed out over the Vancouver harbor on a gorgeous warm evening.

No matter, we will start our trek north tomorrow to Port McNeil, where the weather is 10+ degrees cooler and the showers more frequent. Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago for 6 days, hopefully a few days offline.


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Mary Panttaja on August 14th 2013 in Travel Logs

What’s Happening

That’s all.

Turns out that while there is a lot going on it all is “just what’s happening”. And that’s the core of my personal practice. Watching the shoulds, if-onlys, whys, why-nots, sighs, pouts, grumbles, comparisons, judgements,and scoffs—and every day trying to let them float by and not define things. I fail. But I try.


In the background, I’m watching the movie “42” while I type on a flight to DC.. A beautiful little film with great actors and writers. I’ve seen it before, but it just makes me smile. Even the automobiles are beautiful.


So what is happening?

This month, August, we are traveling. Business, work from the road (a bit), a “road trip”, and an off-the-grid kayaking week in the Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia. It’s been awhile since we took an extended break from work.

Key elements of this are the Rules of the Roadtrip (RotRT)—which we use to create some balance and sanity in our lives. It’s gotten to be that I lean on these Rules most days. And a lot of it falls back on “what’s happening”.

  • The first principle is Wandering. The task of a Road Trip is is to wander in time and space. Specifically, wandering is about not trying to control what is going to happen. (You aren’t in control anyway—so just give it up.)  (Sort of a model for life in any case.)
  • Second, just Follow along. Any thing can happen; and you must be content with any thing that does happen. Actually you need to be happy with it—well, most of it.
  • Third, you Don’t Know. You might have an inclination of what might happen, or where you might be headed, but you never actually know. And not knowing is the actual point.
  • Fourth, Don’t Mess with what’s happening (if you can help it.)You have to follow what’s happening before you follow any previous plan. You aren’t suppose to control things remember.
  • Fifth, Look Around. It’s all about seeing, about enjoying seeing what happens, or at least being interested—even when it causes a should, if-only, why, why-not, sigh, pout, grumble, comparison, judgement, or scoff.
  • Should all else fail, CTHD. (A cleaned up version—Calm the Heck Down)
  • Proceed.


One of our favorite “Road Trip” stories is a wander toward the Rockies. It started out one Saturday morning with a discovery that someone had stolen our hitch—which was customized with a weld to work with our little trailer. So we had to run to Santa Rose, find a replacement, find a welder to do the work—just what was happening. Back in Healdsburg by noon and on the road by 1, we still somehow made Elko, Nevada that day.  The next morning, picking up gas along our way east across eastern Nevada, we saw a Sunday morning news headline, “Dalai Lama to Teach in Sun Valley at 2PM”. We glanced at each other, “we can make that”, and off we went. Wandering north. Proceeding.


And, of course, we are going to miss our four granddaughters while we are gone. Especially the babies who sound so adorable when they both say, “Haby Birdday, GamMa.” Which is followed up quickly with “Haby Birdday, GamPa.”  (Or vice versa.) It’s a general purpose “I love you”.

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Mary Panttaja on August 7th 2013 in Catching the Updraft, Travel Logs

A Surprising Place

(Written on Sunday June 6th, but languishing until I got my act together.)

Here I am, today, on a very early flight to Boston. I will be there only 26 hours for an evening and a day-long meeting and will be back home tomorrow night. Home, as may surprise some people who have known me, and as often surprises me, is a 70 year-old rented flat in Potrero Hill, San Francisco. As a die-hard, back-to-the-land country girl, to be now ensconced in city life is bit of a miracle, or perhaps a cosmic sleight of hand.

There are many aspects of my life that surprise me daily (though the path here has been a moment-by-moment smooth transition) and the disjoint between “before” and “now” is dramatic.

  • Most dry days, I bicycle to work through downtown city traffic across rail tracks, pot holes, broken glass, and other dangers. I love my bike more than anything I own. I keep it dusty and a bit run down with a very cracked seat to try to minimize anyone’s instinct to steal it. I can’t imagine any of my “things” that I would loath so much to lose. In fact, we own four bikes that we have collected over the years, and they are the coolest things we own. Actually, they are the only “cool” things we own.
  • I have become a Giants baseball fan. We have been living in the city now for almost six years—four of them living within two blocks of AT&T Park. So we have been “living” the baseball season, and it just became natural to watch. It is fun and distracting to watch young folks perfect their skills, struggle against adversity, and, yes, sometimes win. They are a particularly compelling set of characters, earnest and hard-working.  And baseball, doesn’t require all of one’s attention—so other projects (like cooking, laundry, writing blog posts, or sketches of granddaughters) can happen simultaneously.
  • I, a country girl trained in the arts, am a co-inventor on a slew of patents. How in the world did that happen? When the four of us got together to kick off the company, the first thing we did was to take the core ideas and expand them in dozens of directions. And my first assignment at Voxer was to write all that down clearly and then manage patent development. So I figured out how to do that (what to choose, how to write it, what order to approach things).  Of course, we had a patent attorney who educated me on the patent part and it was all a team effort based on our core concepts. But what we did way back then has turned out much better than expected.
  • I am not farming, homesteading, or growing any of our food, unless you count a basil plant and a kafir lime tree in a pot. Ever since we left Berkeley, we have kept a garden, and often a sizable garden and orchards. For one period, we actually grew all our own meat, eggs, and milk; canned  and dried all our fruit; made our own cheeses, breads, and liquors (those are fun). But now, we shop in a little local market, sometimes the famers market, sometimes Whole Foods. We do have a fabulous local French butcher (who hand picks every animal), a neighborhood ice creamery, and a nearby winery. But we don’t grow anything, and that is a bit sad.
  • I have not gotten back to Nepal in nine years. I went to Nepal with friends in 2004. (Jim was valiantly working and stayed behind; but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.) I spent five weeks there staying with family, traveling, trekking (to Muktinath), and generally being overwhelmed by the vast cultural differences and the fact that the country was in a bit of a civil war. It was wonderful and I really do consider that I have family in Nepal. But, sadly, we haven’t managed, with work and local family, to get back there. Jim needs to go and meet people and explore the place. I think it needs to be on the schedule for 2014.
  • I live somewhere where I can grow hydrangeas, which I have always loved, but was unable to make thrive in the heat of the Alexander Valley.  Okay, I have one successful hydrangea in a pot on the front stoop. But it keeps its blooms from May through October and last year I was even able to pick them late and dry the flowers.
  • I live successfully in a large city surrounded by people, trains, buses, cars. For many years of my life, it did not seem conceivable that I could do that—that I could survive if I wasn’t out in the woods more directly. I miss our great oaks, the hillsides, the views of the valley, the owls at night, the coyotes in the canyon, the cascades in downpours, the river rising, the rattle of gondolas full of grapes, the bushels of produce to be processed each week, the sun blazing over Mount St Helena in the morning,  sprinklers running, the winter mists. It seems so long ago.

And here I am, cycling to work through crazy traffic in the morning; which is even worse in a foggy evening bluster on game days.

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Mary Panttaja on July 28th 2013 in Life and Livelihood, Uncategorized

a virtual hermit re-emerges….


It has been a very long time since I last posted anything to this blog. And for good reason. Jim and I have been working full-time to help build a company (Voxer), helping/watching our children expand into families (four granddaughters), and taking care of ourselves (which is a project in itself). That has been more than enough to keep me busy, and those things together took the momentum of living and just filled it up.

Before engaging in this company-building, I was consumed for a few years by creative projects (not that Voxer isn’t a creative project). As some folks may remember, I spent my early life in the arts, and only later did I move into technology. After the crash of 2001 when technology work was hard to come by, a few creative projects, large and small, took over my life. Some of them were quite far along when my attention shifted to Voxer,  and they are still there waiting. In fact, it seems, for some reason, that their momentum is picking up and my evenings and weekends (and airplane flights like right now) are starting to shape themselves around them.

It all got re-started recently when Jim and I took our Roland digital piano down to our older granddaughter who had expressed interest. Suddenly I had space in our flat for a work table. And then drawing materials came out of storage and small sketches of granddaughters starting appearing while baseball games played on the television.

I also had to move our website (an old placeholder) and our blogs to a new hosting service which suddenly had me thinking about blogging and posting my art portfolio. The novel is also coming out of dusty storage as well, it seems, and I’m back to pondering new ways to publish ambient, non-linear fictional spaces (as opposed to publishing a book).

Voxer and family are still the primary things going on—but small corners of attention are opening up.

So, hello. I don’t have any predictions or plans about where this goes, but this is what’s happening now and we will just see.

PS. And I see that part of this is to just get my writing chops going for some reason that I do not yet see.

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Mary Panttaja on July 22nd 2013 in Uncategorized

Just in case I start posting here again…..

(Which seems about to start happening.)

(Though I’m not making any guarantees.)

I am checking to see if this is working. If you see this post go by in your email, I’d appreciate some feedback that you received it.

Hopefully I will be more clever as they days go by….M…..but as I said…..

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Mary Panttaja on July 17th 2013 in Uncategorized

The teaching event

I’ve been thinking about what’s interesting and compelling about spending 4 days of our vacation here at this event.

  • First, the teaching from His Holiness the Dalai Lama
    • This is interesting because of the subject matter which comes in two components:
      • A philosophical study of the nature of reality; Buddhist philosophy is at core a way of understanding the nature of the evolving universe and how we participate in that evolution.
      • The method of training the mind in order that you may most effectively participate in the nature of the evolving universe. No where else have I seen a disciplined approach to training the mind in concentration and contemplation; much less one centered in a complete philosophy of the nature of reality. (I remember asking my philosophy reviewers of the arising world model (phd’s and masters in philosophy) how they were trained to do mental and analytical contemplation, and to a man/woman, they said that there was no such training in their universities.

The cultural nature of the trip is also fascinating:

  • The religious tapestry is quite exotic to a westerner. A whole system of color and ceremony (which HHDL makes fun of regularly) surrounds the event: chanting, prayers, prostrations, bowing, gilded chairs, an enormous thangka (painting of Chenrezig) behind His Holiness, which you are constantly gazing at. This ceremonial content is an important component for the Tibetans who are in attendance; this is a key part of their investment to keep their culture alive.
  • The audience is significantly filled with Tibetan exiles who have traveled from all over the world to be here with their families. Assortments of Tibetan costumes and a marketplace with Tibetan food and wares. There is the entire range of emigrants from western-raised teenagers in jeans and tshirts; middle aged couples who have made their way in the west and adopted a new way of life (the women wearing their fanciest Tibetan dresses–which are quite elegant); the seniors, smiling and nodding, who seem as if they are just off the plane, speaking no English, and feeling very vulnerable.
  • Madison is also a revelation–a mix of Cambridge/Berkeley in the midwest. The city is very comfortable, well laid out, beautiful trails throughout on lakes and creeks, parks everywhere, the university is beautiful. It is, of course very quiet; school is out and the state government doesn’t seem busy. Lot’s of good restaurants and very easy to get around.

Most of all, it is amazing to be in a room with a couple of thousand people, young and old, listening carefully to a teaching on how to take responsibility for training their minds to enable them to live their lives more effectively. In our western culture, this kind of event is very rare.

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mpanttaja on July 22nd 2008 in Personal Notes, Travel Logs


Just some things of note on this quick trip to the midwest.

  • Flew into Chicago on Saturday, and, after a short “lost” adventure, wended our way to Madison, Wisconsin.
  • “Why Wisconsin?” everyone asks. It is a long, weird story, but the short version states that the name Madison is significant to us, and when it turned out that His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be here for a teaching, we assumed that we should come. We missed going together to the last one in NYC.
  • Beautifully green and wet here. Lush prairie flowers along the paths just waiting to be mowed down. The only way to contain the verdancy of this prairie and forest is to mow it regularly.  Wild sunflowers over my head on the trails.
  • Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, is perched between a bevy of lakes. Very cozy and comfortable.
  • Of course, HHDL is here and it is wonderful to get to see him and the Tibetan community which has come to be with him. He sent a Buddhist monk here decades ago to start the first Tibetan monastery in America. He has been here 5 times.
  • And, of course, Thubten Jinpa is here; one of my favorite people and unknowing mentor. HHDL’s English translator and the embodiment of the practice of surrender enacted by one with an extreme intelligence and capacity. I have spent so many hours (on video tapes and live) listening to his voice that it is, for me, the voice of the dharma (the teaching of Buddhism). I have never once heard him speak for himself; though I saw him speaking casually with a friend–so I know it happens.
  • Jim called me over to an artist’s booth to see some thankas (paintings) and, low and behold, I found myself standing next to Jinpa buying a small painting. The artist lives and works in Oakland; we will go see him to have him help us frame the print we purchased from him. It is of Chenrezig  with both Blue Tara and White Tara.
  • Sunday—breakfast, to the hall, lecture, try to find some lunch (chaos, lines, and amateur vendors), Starbucks Frapaccino,  a last minute momo becomes available, protestors (not Chinese, but Shugden followers), more lectures, back to hotel, quick nap, cycling for 2 hours, dinner outside an Irish pub, to the university for a Tibetan concert, ice cream at the student union with hundreds of people visiting and milling at the lake at sunset; back to watch the finish of the first Alp mountain stage on the tv. Couldn’t sleep.
  • University wraps around one of the lakes; could be Boston/Somerville/Cambridge.
  • Fabulous town for biking; rented bikes within an hour of landing and have been out several hours each day. Broad trails everywhere.
  • Meadowlarks and blackbirds in the prairie fields—none of those in San Francisco these days. I miss them.
  • Found a wonderful coffee shop that makes great waffles—went twice today—waffles only once.
  • Sitting next to a family from Switzerland. The elegant  gentleman (with a beautiful young wife) escaped from Tibet at age of eleven in 1959, the year that His Holiness escaped. 6 years in India, 10 years in Belgium, now in Switzerland. Use to work in factories, then did training in cooking and worked in restaurants; now owns his own restaurant in a village outside of Zurich. Wanted to understand why we were there.
  • Twice have eaten dinner at the capital square; beautiful clean capital building on a ridgeline between two of the lakes. Quite in the summer.

Maybe more later. Apologies for the terseness. LM

“The Mind and the Brain”

I might write more about this book later. It is a review of modern neurology research over the past 20 years and points to our power to affect our own neurology–and therefore, who we are in a primary way.

One fun thing for me is that the author, Jeffrey Schwartz, has worked with two of my favorite thinkers:

  1. David Chalmers – philosopher at Australian National University (formerly at U of Arizona)
  2. Henry Stapp – American physicist (Berkeley) specializing in quantum mechanics

If he should suddenly write that he also consults with Roger Penrose and Thubten Jinpa I would not be surprised.

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Mary Panttaja on June 12th 2008 in Personal Notes

“Our Town”

We saw a production of “Our Town” by Thorton Wilder. Weirdly, it wasn’t until this morning that I really “got” what Wilder is pointing to—I must admit I am really slow about this realization. Even the structure and tenor of the play reflects the authors intentions. The whole thing produces a sense of disquiet (‘I don’t get it’, sort of thing.)

It’s not that small town life is quaint and all the details are interesting—it’s that the people of that town weren’t really living or engaged in life but had somehow settled into their roles and minutia. No one was really looking. A few people noticed some things—the moon in all it’s glory one evening for example. They see a glimmer of life around them occasionally, but normally focus on the hard facts of their lives.

The play gets dismissed as being to quaint—but that is the point, they are living their idea of quaint. Of course, intellectually I could have told you that deceased Emily’s speech in the last act was the theme of the play—that they were not paying attention to their lives and they didn’t know it. But today I really get a sense of it. The thing that tripped me into this realization was that the characters aren’t engaged with each other in any real sense. They talk about the sorrows and troubles of the town drunk (played by Donohoe), but no one ever even speaks with him. Everyone talks about wanting to see what will happen to him naively assuming that they have no part in the evolution of the story. It’s not their role as written in the quaintness of their lives. And, of course, they are not bad sorts, just ignorant of the wealth of true possibilities. The subtlety of Wilder’s presentation is that we’re not quite sure why we are not very engaged with these characters for they seem of a normal sort. Just like us; maybe even less interesting than we are.
PS. Dan Danohoe played the town drunk with which he did wonderfully expressive things with the few scenes he was given. Anthony Heald was the Stage Manager and was equally wonderful—though the part is a little less interesting to me.

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Mary Panttaja on June 12th 2008 in Personal Notes