March 23, 2013

Tell Me Your Name Again....

I have this issue with people. I'm pretty sure I have exceeded my mind's capacity to retain and remember all the people in my life.

Let's see - I teach yoga. There are perhaps 60-80 people I see each week, some weekly, some occasionally, some just once or a few times. I never really get to know their names; when a regular comes in early and I can sneak out to the desk I can match a name to a person, but I'm not all that good at keeping it all straight.

Then of course, there are all the yoga teacher trainees. 48 this year, 35 or so in 2010, 2011, 2012. That's a good 120 folks to remember - and I really do struggle with many.

I move through other worlds - music (my other members of my band, the Guinea Pigs, belong to the same UU church and many of our fans come from there), ballooning (probably 50-60 people), camp (250 or so, with a broader community of past campers), and my folk festival (perhaps a core of 40 key volunteers, with another 100 or so I ought to remember but usually do not). Add in musicians I meet, folks in the local arts, cultural and GLBT worlds, folks in the greater spiritual / yoga world. And of course, my extended family - a child of two roman catholics, I have close over 50 first cousins, and now they are breeding. It's way too much.

I have (as of this morning) 466 Facebook friends, and that's even a bit low, since I (a) almost never reach out to friend people myself and (b) accept friend invitations only from folks I have actually met in real life.

Last night, at our gig, a woman who clearly knows me came up, grabbed a hug. I had no idea. Turns out she is a friend of the other band members (goes to UU church), has a yogic name (shakti) and is on the merch crew at Falcon Ridge. I had no freaking idea.

This is a problem. Not sure how to deal with it, but it's annoying, inconsiderate, and kind of rude.

Kumare: Fake Guru. Real Truth.

Casting about for something to watch on Netflix streaming, I stumbled across this 2011 gem. How I missed it when it came through theaters, I am not sure, but so happy I found it. Movie website here. Kumare (the guru, not the movie) website here. IMDB page here.


Was not sure what I would get. The premise - american born, Indian heritage film-maker Vikram Gandhi, who appears to have done a bit of searching (and yoga) in his life, decides to do a little social experiment. Creating a spiritual teacher or guru, Kumare, out of thin air - he begins to move through the world (and more specifically, through the Phoenix AZ area) as Kumare and see what happens. Along the way he encounters a fair number of yoga studios, seeker, followers. 

Now, as a yoga teacher, I find myself surrounded by gurus and spiritual seekers who sit at their feet. It was *very* close to home on many fronts - the many yoga studios, the festivals and events, the various ashrams and communities. There's even a kirtan. Hey, that's me up there, playing guitar.And when a quite beautiful adherent in an unhappy marriage practically offers herself to him (he makes a reference to his bedroom) you can quite see how so many purportedly real gurus give in to the power. It's never quite stated, but one is left with the feeling that Vikram did not give in to this temptation.

And there is a lot of pretty sharp commentary and laughter here too - when one guru confesses that he sees nothing amiss with sleeping with beautiful young followers, yeah, we get that. When someone working with sound starts working over Kumare with a car buffer - it's a WTF moment. And yet, when Kumare visits a community of believers along the fringes (alien abduction and interplanetary channeling) he (Vikram) seems respectful.

Eventually, Kumare finds himself in the center of a circle of disciples or followers, and he begins (in earnest) the task of preparing his followers for his eventual "un-masking" - that is, to reveal himself and his deception. 

It is a fascinating and amazing piece of legerdemain, and film-making. Abetted by two attractive assistants (and what guru does not have his/her close associates or confidants) and adopting an amazingly on target guru personna (simple clothing, long hair and beard, an ever-present staff, and a little woven suitcase that was adorable and ludicrous), "Kumare" teaches his truth - that he is not who he says he is, that there is an inner guru, that there is no guru, no buddha. 

It's deep, metaphysical, and self-referential. It's funny, and sad, and heart-warming, and scary. I loved it. Loved it. 

The most amazing thing was the transformation of Vikram himself - who begins to realize that he is a much happier, better person in his Kumare personna, and begins to truly care for and love his followers. He's not going to step out lightly - but agonizes over if and how to end his project.  At one point he confesses that he actually sees and feels the "Blue Light" (a conceit he knows that he has invented). And when he orchestrates a "great unmasking" where he hopes to reveal his true identity, he's unable to do it.  

Finally, there is a "tribal council" type reveal - in a large room all the followers watch a farewell video from "Kumare" and then meet the newly shorn, shaved, and westernized Vikram. You watch one follower run to hug him, another sneak out the side door, never to return. Out of 14 followers, 10 have remained in contact and friendly.

It's such an amazing look at the world of yoga, of spiritual seekers, of gurus. And I loved the way the films focus shifted from the perspective of perhaps attempting to unpants the false gurus to respecting communities, belief, and the path. One comment I found on Facebook discusses "The Trickster" face of god, and yeah. Trickster energy, in spades.

Watch it if you can!

March 21, 2013

Coupling and Relationships

A friend of mine posted recently on Facebook:
So, this is largely a rhetorical question without answer but I feel compelled to ask it anyway. Why are there so many people, myself included, with good hearts and souls who have so much trouble finding someone with whom to walk on this journey of life? I find it to be very frustrating.
Instead of responding there, I decided to spend some time mulling this over on the blog - part of my conscious attempt to keep social media from sucking the life force out of the blog!

First off, I think that some folks are simply incomplete without a partner. That incompleteness may be emotional, may be psychological, may be financial. But some folks are simply unsuited to live alone - and that both raises the incentive to couple, partner, and perhaps lowers the standards. Not that the found partners are substandard, but that things that might be deal-breakers or barriers for some are overlooked or minimized.

And I think that, for folks who truly need a partner to survive, who are incomplete uncoupled, there's a subtle signaling (similar to pheromones or color attractants) that gets put out there in a way that others do not. I have another friend who has had multiple relationships in the years that I have known her - and she rides the roller coaster of attraction, pursuit, commitment, and dissolution. It makes me kind of nervous to watch or listen, not sure I have the stomach for that. Yet she puts out a  very honest, heartfelt "I'm available, I'm approachable" vibe that gets her noticed and gets her attention (from both genders, even though she is straight)

On the other side, I think there are folks who are pretty much OK alone. I'm one of those folks. I fill my life - with work, with causes, with hobbies, with interests - in a way that does not leave a lot of room for another. And the life I have created is valuable to me - I'd have to think long and hard about picking up and moving (for a relationship) or clearing the decks of enough things to make room for a relationship. A potential partner is competing not so much with all the others out there, but with the busy, vibrant life I've crafted alone. My last counselor asked "...what are you prepared to give up to be in a relationship..." and I have to admit that more often than not, the answer is "nothing"

I have what I call the aircraft carrier model of relationship - wherein the partners travel together on the big boat, and each flies off to their own missions and tasks, returning to the ship to refuel, recharge, unwind. I do not think I could couple with someone who was not as busy and engaged as myself - I'd be less available than such a partner might want; I'd be bored by someone without a vibrant solo life. The downside of that is that neither of us is putting all that much effort into finding the other; and neither of us has a lot of time to hang out in spaces dedicated to meeting and mating.

So...I need to just chill out on the whole relationship thing. It will happen. Or it will not. But in the meantime, much life remains  to be lived.

Help Kate Bornstein Stay Alive

Kate Bornstein has cancer.  The good news, direct from the team of skilled doctors on her case, is that the cancer is curable.  However, the treatment plan that gives Kate the best chance of beating cancer is incredibly expensive.  Kate has spent the past thirty years helping the rest of us Stay Alive—now it’s our turn to give back.  Let’s HELP KATE BORNSTEIN BEAT CANCER AND STAY ALIVE!
There's a GOFUNDME site established, here with the goal of raising $100,000 to help Kate pay for the treatment.

Kate has been a pretty formidable influence in my life, journey, and understanding of "the trans" - I, inexplicably and against all odds, went to see her reading from the newly released "Gender Outlaw" on Sept 29, 1994*. (who has a first edition hard cover version that Kate lovingly inscribed in crayon? This girl) It was the first time I met a trans person, in fact I was seated in a room filled with transfolk. It was terrifying and inspiring - I'd have to say that was the day I turned around and hugged the dragon that had been haunting and hunting me throughout my life.

I've gone to see Kate speak, read, perform perhaps a dozen times in the intervening years - and though I've occasionally disagreed with her on issues of tone as well as the details of traversing the world while trans - she's remained an inspiring and beloved figure in my life.

I could not give much, but I gave some. If Kate has touched your life, and you have a few bucks to spare, consider passing a few along.

* Where? Real Art Ways, in Hartford, of course. Is it any wonder this space remains one of my favorite places in the area?

March 14, 2013

In the Neighborhood: Starbucks and Chipotle

I've been watching the Newington corner of the Berlin Turnpike and Rowley Street (heretofore the location of a kind of slimy bar / gentleman's club, adjacent to Stew Leonard's, LA Fitness, Toy's R Us, among others) - and this afternoon I noticed the signage going up for two new retail shops: Starbucks and Chipotle.  A quick web search uncovers the contractor, JLN Contracting

Kind of excited to have a better quality mexican food alternative so close (Taco Bell, right across Rowley Street, is probably less excited).

Being something of a lone wolf without a lot of local dining out companions, I tend not to frequent the myriad of sit-down restaurants that line the Berlin Turnpike. Despite driving by several times a week, I have never actually stepped in the doors of: TGI Friday, Chili's, Outback Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday, Plaza Azteca, Joey Garlics. I've eaten at Bertucci's, Puerto Vallerta, and the Olympia Diner in years past, but not in this recent memory.

But Chipotle is definitely some place I'll visit now and then. So yay!

New Pope

So, we have a new pope. Or rather, THEY have a new pope.

A little background. I'm a former Roman Catholic. And my family was not simply cafeteria catholics, we were in, deep. I spent 12 years in catholic school, I served alter, I taught CCD, I played folk mass for years. My father was a deacon whose bridge partner was the monsignor, I was a lay eucharistic minister. I met my ex on the altar (she was playing music, and noticed me singing in the congragation), I was married by a bishop. I spent my honeymoon in Medjugorje, stalking the Blessed Virgin Mary. So yeah - hard core.

More to the point, I was the sort of little kid that the catholic church targeted for priesthood - bullied, learned, fey,  gender non-conforming. Over and over throughout my life, I was approached - by priests, nuns, adults - with the question "have you considered a vocation?". Which is what the catholic church did with little proto-queer kids back in the day. It explains a lot of the sex abuse scandals, IMHO, with a bunch of repressed gay men in positions of power and access to young men. On the other hand, I suspect had I been born in the gender I now inhabit, I probably would have made a fine nun...I had mad crushes on most of the nuns in my life. forward to today.  I'm adamantly non-catholic; I've been officially uninvited from partaking in the sacraments (thanks to an annulment that my ex sought, which resulted in the church peering rather closely at my gender transition). My issues extend past my own stuff - I would support married priests, women priests, LGBT priests, LGBT marriage, birth control. Pretty much the full litany of women's issues (although I'm not a fan of abortion, if I ruled the world it would remain legal but we'd track and reduce the number through birth control, education, and support for unplanned / unwanted pregnancies. And truthfully, my own spiritual quest has taken me way beyond christianity - not sure I can or will ever believe in the "one god, one savior, one path" aspects of most christian sects.

However - I am quite delighted to see this pope elected. A humble, man of the people (reportedly, he got on the bus with the other cardinals last night, rather than take the papal limo / motorcade) - he's most recently lived in a humble flat, taken mass transit, cooked his own meals. And today's news, he swung by the residence / inn where he had been staying to settle the bill and pick up his luggage. There is something of the buddhist in this new pope....and humble spiritual seekers of all flavors are welcome in my world.

And to my facebook and twitter fans / friends wailing and gnashing teeth about women's issues, GLBT issues, etc. - well, what do you expect, he's a faithful Roman Catholic and that's the church's policy - they would never elect a pope who believed otherwise.  If you identify as Roman Catholic and those issues are important to you, get out. I believe the church will change only if / when it loses all the cafeteria catholics whose hypocrisy allows them to pay lip service on sunday and then go vote and live the way they want.  If you are not Roman Catholic, it's not your problem.  Get over it.....

March 12, 2013

Knife Fight

Snuck over to Real Art Ways this evening to catch the Rob Lowe indie vehicle Knife Fight.

OK, I'm a big West Wing geek, recently Netflixed the entire series, and kind of missed Rob Lowe - his character Sam Seaborn disappeared without a very satisfying plot explanation (yeah he ran for the house on the West Coast, yeah, he lost....did he lose his return ticket?)

So here he is, looking not a lot older, a bit funkier and frayed (Lowe's character Paul Turner has more of a Josh Lyman vibe here than a Sam Seaborn vibe, witness the knapsack over the shoulder, as well as a pair of worn sneakers rather than italian leather loafers) - as a shoot from the hip political strategist with a small staff. Icing on the cake - Richard Shiff as a darker political operative. I was happy to give it a whirl, just based on these two. 

The trailer for the film was a bit scattered and confusing. What's not clear there is that Paul Turner is working with three politicos - a Kentucky governor (was that really Erik McCormack?) - with an intern problem, a California senator (less sleazy, but with a massage therapist problem), and a CA doctor (Carrie Anne Moss) running an outsider campaign for governor. Somehow one gets the idea via the trailer that at least two of these are running against each other and it's not clear which side Lowe's character is on.

Confused that Carrie-Anne Moss seems to carry co-billing (at least based on the poster); she's kind of in the background through much of the film, and Jamie Chung's young operative in training character (Turner's assistant) is a lot more prominent in the film. And that energetic soft focus seems to carry through a lot of the film.

There's a lot going on here - perhaps too much for one film. The sleazy but on the right side of the issues KY governor's "stand by your man" wife is an old friend of Paul Turner, the CA senator is "the real thing" - a war hero and family man who is flawed but solid. The doctor / wanna-be CA governor spends 1/2 the film on the outside, pleading for a shot until Turner has a "come to Jesus" moment around a political strategy that went too far, and suddenly she's right up front. And Chung's character is in a lesbian relationship - there's a scene or two of her with her GF, it's clear she's in the closet professionally, and that little plot is left hanging out there unresolved. Why fold that in to an already thick and interwoven plot?

At the end, things wrap up, the spin doctor is back in business, albeit a little humbled and perhaps less sketchy in terms of tactics, and Chung's character decides she's gonna stay in the business. The resolution seemed a little unsatisfying. The lessons learned were slight, the repercussions as well, and whatever lines got crossed in this film will probably be crossed at some future election cycle.

Worth seeing? Definitely, with enough West Wing vibe to satisfy - but I'm kind of sad to say it looks like a short run - stopped by Real Art Ways for a short week and there were only a handful in the house on a Tuesday night.  

High School Dream

One of my recurring dreams has been of high school. Invariably, I am walking the halls, struggling with my locker (unable to find it, forgetting the combination), struggling to remember the schedule (one of those "different class times every weekday kind of things"). A recurring element is that I have been skipping religion class (Catholic school) all year.

Last night's version was different. I seemed to be heading into Junior year, and I had transitioned over the summer. Found my locker, I had a green lock on it (a bleed over from my waking life) and I was putting a sticker on the front with my present name. I considered putting the trans symbol on the sticker, but thought better of it. The locker was unusual, larger size and configuration, and I had a pile of yoga blocks stashed in the bottom. The previous owner had been well organized and left me a small organized case with pens, binder clips, paper clips, etc.

Other parts of the dream included walking the halls, a little bit of flying (or rather, the ability to move by taking long, floating leaps that took me to the ceiling of the gym and auditorium). I recall meeting a few individuals, not sure if from high school or not, we were older and they had some struggles. And I remember it was the start of the year and I vowed to never miss a religion class.

Not sure what it all means, but it felt positive, as if I were making some changes, getting a chance to do things over again, correcting some past mistakes.

March 10, 2013

Kate Callahan at West Hartford Yoga

There are moments in ones life when a single act, a single coincidence, a small bit of serendipity can be seen to profoundly change the course of the future. If one is wise, one can look back and recognize these in the rear view mirror. If one is in tune to the grander cosmic consciousness, one can become aware of these moments in the present.

I had one such moment back in 2005. I was a bit adrift - having completed my Big Life Project, and looking for the next thing.  My then partner, Zippy, and I were bike-riding through the industrial back roads of Hartford, West Hartford, and Newington, and I stumbled across a small building on Jansen Court - West Hartford Yoga. I was never particularly drawn to yoga; although several friends had suggested it over the years. And I had seen ads for West Hartford Yoga in the Hartford Advocate and other publications; but I had assumed it was somewhere over by the center, and way too toney for me.  But here's this little building, a shack really, that was closed but seemed very approachable.

I picked up two pieces of paper that afternoon. First, a brochure for The Enlightenment Intensive (led by Shankara Newton) - I was drawn to a quote from the gnostic Gospel of Thomas (I had been reading Elaine Pagels) and eventually I made my way to an Intensive (well, to be honest, six) led by Shankara and others. The other piece of paper I picked up that day was the West Hartford Yoga brochure and schedule. And I noticed an Intro to Yoga series led by Kate Callahan.

Now, I had run into Kate in the acoustic music world - I think Colin McEnroe had her on his afternoon show on WTIC 1080; and I had gone to see her at the Pine Loft Cafe in Berlin. Her beautiful spirit and gentleness was enough to get me to my first yoga class.

Kate did not end up completing the series; she had to step back and my friend Carissa picked it up. But I did not need more than one practice to get it - I was hooked. So in a  lot of ways - my yoga practice, my community, my spiritual growth, the many teachers, friends, and students I have encountered, and the many lives I have touched, are rooted in the seed planted by Kate.

So yeah, I was there last night when Kate and Friends played a special concert at West Hartford Yoga, now relocated to new digs on Brook Street.

Kate was joined by others. First, singers Cynthia Wolcott and Michelle Begley (also on drums), who were truly amazing. Cynthia and Michelle provided delicate and supportive harmonies for many of Kate's songs - not so much backing up as supporting and lifting Kate with each harmony. Kate's originals, so often reflective of her spiritual journey with themes of spirit, soul, choices, blessing, and struggle, were perfectly suited the beautiful yoga studio. But as wonderful as her originals were fleshed out with harmony, the trio really shined when then sang in more traditional choral harmony - CSN's "Helplessy Hoping" and the Wailin' Jennys "One Voice" were particularly powerful and beautiful. Here's a video of the latter:

 In addition to Cynthia and Michelle, Kate was joined by WHY fixture (and Little Ugly starlet) Kaia Pazdersky on violin, and percussionist Damon Honeycut, who was Kate's musical partner many years back. So it was a homecoming on multiple fronts. 

It was such a beautiful evening of music. The room was filled with family, friends, and fans, many of whom have known Kate or shared her journey over many years. The music was exceptional (Kate has recently invested in a great sound system, run well by her beloved David) which saved me from being the audio engineer.  I sat between my Kirtan friends Sharon and Virginia - and just soaked in the music. 

March 07, 2013

Telling Stories in Connecticut

Seems like spoken word performance / story telling is all the rage in these parts.

I attended the inaugural "The Mouth" at the Mark Twain House this past month; anything carrying Chion Wolf's imprimateur has got to be good. (and it was....) You can keep up with "The Mouth" on Facebook.

A quick web search also uncovered The Connecticut Storytelling Center, which hosts an annual Connecticut Story Telling Festival at Connecticut College, April 26-27.

In addition, there's a weekly Urban Storytellers series at MCC on Main, Manchester.  This is a great space (and not just because my beloved Guinea Pigs have a gig coming up, March 22.

And a last minute addition, the ongoing Other People's Stories series, held irregularly at La Paloma Sabanera in Hartford. 

Finally, the twitter reveals a new series, Speak Up, to be held at Real Art Ways. The inaugural date for this event is Saturday. May 4, at 7:00 pm.

I'm a big fan of The Moth and Snap Judgement - so hopefully these things will do well. The quality of stories told at The Mouth was just steller, IMHO, so hopefully that is a harbinger of some good talent in the area.

March 06, 2013

American Veda, April 12-14 at Wisdom House

Long before the Beatles met the Maharishi and the practice of yoga became a lifestyle choice, the spirituality of India influenced Western culture and thought. It already had made its way into the libraries of John Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson and forever changed how artists, intellectuals and scientists viewed our world, our minds and our bodies.

This dynamic program, “American Veda” presented by author, spiritual counselor, and meditation teacher Philip Goldberg of Los Angeles, CA will explore this spiritual legacy with the help of videos of leading historical figures. Participants will experience spiritual practices they can take home with them to enrich their spiritual lives. This workshop will take place from April 12-14 and is for anyone intrigued by or interested in Vedic wisdom.

For fees and further information please call: (860)567-3163, email or visit:

Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center is an interfaith center which presents programs in spirituality, education and the arts and offers hospitality to the not-for-profit community. The center is rooted in Judaeo-Christian Wisdom tradition which supports the center’s commitment to sustainability and concern for contemporary issues. The Center is a ministry of the Daughters of Wisdom.

Justice O'Conner on Fresh Air: Meh

I listened to Terri Gross interviewing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor yesterday on Fresh Air. Justice O'Connor is making the rounds to support her book "Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court"

While Justice O'Connor's place in history as the first woman supreme court justice is secure, I found the interview to be mostly unsatisfying. Not sure if it's age or personality or what - but Terri was pulling teeth trying to get anything out of Justice O' Connor. There were some interesting bits about restrooms (it always seems to come down to the bathroom for all sorts of social movements), but there were so many opportunities to expound and expand upon historical cases, current issues, the dynamics of a court that has been quite polarized that Justice O'Connor just refused to entertain, could not or would not recount.

Why? She seemed as if she were still in "don't let anything slip out" mode required during the vetting and approval process for the court. Maybe she's got a "circle the wagons" attitude regarding the court. Or perhaps there is a political bias here, with the reliably liberal Ms. Gross (although she is an amazing, unbiased interviewer) pushing Justice O'Connor into a taciturn corner. 

I was particularly cranky when Terri, broaching the period on the court when Justice O'Connor was arguably the swing vote, was reproached - Justice O'Connor's take on the phrase "swing vote" was that she "swung back and forth" and she most adamantly did not do that. Terri tried (mostly in vain) to explain the concept and draw her out before moving on. Are the justices (or specifically, this justice) so out of touch that such a fundamental concept of the intersection of politics and law on the Supreme Court is lost to her?

Compare and contrast to Terri's 2010 interview with Justice Stephen Breyer - which I still recall, several years later, as engaging, informative, and forthright in terms of opinion and historical perspective.


March 01, 2013

Life Hack: Electric Heat and Digital Thermostats

When I purchased my condo in the lovely city of New Britain, one of my big concerns was the heating system - specifically, electric baseboard heat. I've been living with gas heat for years - hot water baseboard in Waterbury, forced air in Hartford. I was concerned about comfort, of course, but mostly I've heard much about the high cost of electric heat.

Balancing the cost issues, electric heat brings one big  benefit - it's inherently zoned. Which means, instead of one thermostat for the whole condo, or at best two (upstairs / downstairs) I have seven thermostats in the place: living room, kitchen, master bedroom, spare bedroom (my yoga room), two bathrooms, and the basement. So there's a lot of possibility for fine tuning the heat - to heat just the spaces I commonly use, and perhaps save some money.

When I moved in, all of the thermostats in the place were old-school electro-mechanical devices. There was no visible thermostat or feedback, the rotary dial was exceptionally coarse (with a resolution of 10ºF) , the calibration was highly suspect, and the heat control was simply ON / OFF. If the temperature dropped below a set point, the device turned on 100%, the space heated, and the device eventually turned off.

So my first thought was: Digital Thermostat. I found these Honeywell Thermostats at Lowes for about $25 a shot (cheap!) and replaced five of the seven thermostats (I left the bathroom thermostats in place, they are permanently switched off).

An aphorism I picked up in the corporate quality world was "If you measure something, it gets better" and the digital thermostats have a thermometer on them. So instead of simply "feeling cold" I can look and see the actual temperature. It's amazing how much things like my own health / energy / activity, as well as the ambient humidity and outdoor light level, affects my perception of temperature. So with a digital thermostat, I can now see that the room temp is 65 F (my usual occupied setting) and put on a sweater or sweatshirt. I think a lot of "heat creep" in electric systems comes from this lack of feedback.

In addition, the digital thermostats have a much finer resolution (1ºF) which means even if I decide to "crank the heat" I can restrict that to a few degrees. Finally, the digital thermostats use proportionate triac controls - which means that the heat is not simply ON / OFF, but appears to have four setting: ON / LOW / MEDIUM / HIGH. So as the temperature drops, the heat turns on LOW - and if that's enough to warm the space, it never gets past that. So the heat is a lot more even and therefore comfortable.

The electrical installation was pretty simple - easier than changing a light switch IMHO. The only complexity is that the older thermostats are DPST (Double Pole, Single Throw) - which is to say they break both lines (in my case, the heat is 240 VAC, two hot lines). The digital device is SPST - so one of the lines needs to be connected directly.

Now, simply adding digital thermostats still leaves a lot of room for energy waste - if I forget to turn the thermostats down. In addition, when I turn the thermostats down at night, I wake to a cold home. So I added programmable thermostats to key areas: the living room, the master bedroom, and the basement (where I have my office). This device is a bit more expensive: $50 at Loews. It has the same general functions as the digital thermostat, but adds a programmable function. This particular device permits four different timed settings (typically WAKE / LEAVE / RETURN / SLEEP) and can be programmed differently for weekdays (Mon-Fri) and weekends (Sat-Sun).

So I drop the house down to 58ºF at night (I tend to like a cool house to sleep; flannel sheets, blankets, and a bed dog keep me warm) and just prior to my normal wake-up, I heat the house up to 65ºF. During the day, I drop things down to 62ºF (I'm either in the basement working, teaching yoga, or out and about). I pop it back to 65ºF in the late afternoon, and back down at bed time. If I want it a little warmer, or happen to be hanging in the living spaces during the day, I bump the thermostat up confident that it will reset at the next timed change.

In hindsite, I'm retrofitting all the digital thermostats with programmable ones - I often leave the kitchen up at 65ºF by accident, and on more than one occasion, I've heated up the yoga room to 80ºF (for a warmer practice) and left it on for a day or more. So now the yoga room is permanently set to 55ºF and if I accidentally leave the temperature up, it will reset within a few hours. I'm transferring the old digital thermostats to the bathrooms.

Does it work? I think so. My electric bills (which include dryer, hot water, and range, as well as lights and heat) range from $80 (summer) to $250 (winter) - which is not too bad, especially considering there is no gas or oil bill coming. The total retrofit costs ($250 to go 100% programmable digital) - minimal really and I'm guessing the energy savings have covered that in a single heating season. And with electric heat, I do not need to maintain (and consider replacing) a much more finicky gas or oil furnace, fan, pumps, etc.   

The downside - need to program the thermostats (not really that difficult, as compared to the timer on my front door light) and maintain the clocks (daylight savings time). But so far no real issues with power outages causing resets - I guess these things have some internal capacitor or battery backup, or store the program in non-volatile memory.