Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Pictures of Saturn

Last month, Saturn was between the Cassini spacecraft and the Sun, an event that produced some amazing new pictures of Saturn and its rings.

Here is some of the text from the Cassini site that explains these new images:

With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun's blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world.

This marvelous panoramic view was created by combining a total of 165 images taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on Sept. 15, 2006. The full mosaic consists of three rows of nine wide-angle camera footprints; only a portion of the full mosaic is shown here. Color in the view was created by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared and clear filter images and was then adjusted to resemble natural color.

The mosaic images were acquired as the spacecraft drifted in the darkness of Saturn's shadow for about 12 hours, allowing a multitude of unique observations of the microscopic particles that compose Saturn's faint rings.

Ring structures containing these tiny particles brighten substantially at high phase angles: i.e., viewing angles where the sun is almost directly behind the objects being imaged.

During this period of observation Cassini detected two new faint rings: one coincident with the shared orbit of the moons Janus and Epimetheus, and another coincident with Pallene's orbit. (See The Janus/Epimetheus Ring and Moon-Made Rings for more on the two new rings.)

You can read the rest here. A couple more pictures from the main site.

A side view of the rings.

Dark Roasted Blend has a nice entry on these pictures and the mission of Cassini.

Ricky Gervais on Fairy Tales [NSFW]

Ricky Gervais is almost as entertaining as Eddie Izzard, but without the frenetic free-association that I enjoy in Izzard. Still, quite funny.

I stole this from Throw Away Your TV:

Word of the Year: Truthiness

The best satire pokes holes in our conceptions of who we are -- reveals the darkness beneath beliefs that are too easy or too simple. Right now, there are few people better at doing this in America than Stephen Colbert. The Guardian (UK) reports that Merriam-Webster has chosen "Truthiness," a word of Colbert's creation, as it's word of the year.
The word - if one can call it that - best summed up 2006, according to an online survey by dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster.

"Truthiness'' was credited to Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert, who defined it as "truth that comes from the gut, not books.''

"We're at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people's minds, and truth has become up for grabs,'' said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. "'Truthiness' is a playful way for us to think about a very important issue.''

Other Top 10 finishers included "war,'' "insurgent,'' "sectarian'' and "corruption.'' But "truthiness'' won by a 5-to-1 margin, Morse said.

Colbert, who once derided the folks at Springfield-based Merriam-Webster as the "word police'' and a bunch of "wordinistas,'' was pleased.

"Though I'm no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honor me,'' he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

"And what an honor,'' he said. "Truthiness now joins the lexicographical pantheon with words like 'quash,' 'merry,' 'crumpet,' 'the,' 'xylophone,' 'circuitous,' 'others' and others.''

Colbert first uttered "truthiness'' during an October 2005 broadcast of "The Colbert Report,'' his parody of combative, conservative talk shows.
Truthiness might be seen by some as a "playful" attack on irrational thinking, but it points to a deeper issue in this country that needs to be addressed. Colbert repeatedly finds humorous ways to expose the hypocrisy of fundamentalist thinking.

The question that comes to mind is this: since they are tackling the same issue, who will be more effective in changing minds, Stephen Colbert or Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins?

Which is the more effective tool, satire or ridicule? They are not the same thing. Colbert's brand of satire can get even the targets of his humor laughing along with him (if we exclude the White House Roast from earlier this year, where he was not well-received by the President and his people).

In the tradition of the court jester, Colbert speaks truth to power. But he does so with the message encased in laughter. Laughter can make the bitter pill a little more acceptable, and as such, there is a greater chance the message will get through.

Buddhist Resource -- The Berzin Archives

A gentleman named Sean on the Buddhism 101 list-serve recommended this cool resource site for Buddhists -- The Berzin Archives. This site is aimed at those in the Tibetan traditions, but much of the material seems useful for anyone wanting to get a better feel for Buddhist practice (I must say that I am biased here and that a Theravada student might not find much of use).

Here is their explanation of the site's origin and purpose:
The Berzin Archives is the collection of works of the American scholar and author Alexander Berzin, who spent 29 years in India, studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism. There, he served as translator primarily for his teacher, the late Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, and occasionally for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dr. Berzin has taught extensively in universities and Buddhist centers in more than seventy countries since the early 1980s.

With over 30,000 pages of material in English and several other languages, the Berzin Archives contain

  • translations and summaries of Tibetan texts
  • published books and unpublished manuscripts
  • transcripts and teaching outlines for hundreds of courses
  • translations and notes on courses by Berzin's teachers
  • private question sessions with Tibetan Buddhist masters and Islamic scholars
  • reading notes from over a thousand English, German, French, and Russian works
  • short Tibetan-English dictionaries of astrological and Buddhist technical terms
  • journals of Berzin's world travels and reflections

Supported exclusively by user donations and patrons, Berzin Archives aims to provide on the Internet a free multilingual tool for learning about the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions and about Central Asian history and culture. It is sponsored through Berzin Archives e.V., a German non-profit society in the public domain (gemeinnütziger Verein Register Nr. 2423Nz, Berlin).

The pages of the Berzin Archives website focus on

  • explanations of the different Tibetan traditions regarding sutra and tantra
  • Kalachakra, astrology, dzogchen, and mahamudra
  • graded levels for study and practice, including materials for meditation
  • a comparison of the Tibetan approach with that of other Buddhist traditions
  • training programs, such as balanced sensitivity, inspired by Buddhist methods
  • the history of Buddhist-Islamic interaction and the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to Mongolia and Russia

Modeled after the traditional approach, each page is a piece of the puzzle. Hyperlinks suggest a network of ways to fit them together. Access to advanced tantra practice material will be restricted to initiates and will require a password.

Berzin isn't the best writer in the world, but the essays seem factual and useful. He includes the original Tibetan terms in a lot of places for those who want to know such things.

Dharma Quote: Altruism

Here is the Dharma Quote of the Week from Snow Lion Publications:
Dharma Quote of the Week We ordinary individuals share the characteristic of having our attempts to gain happiness thwarted by our own destructive self-centeredness. It is unsuitable to keep holding onto the self-centered attitude while ignoring others. If two friends find themselves floundering in a muddy swamp they should not ridicule each other, but combine their energies to get out. Both ourselves and others are in the same position of wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, but we are entangled in a web of ignorance that prevents us from achieving those goals. Far from regarding it as an "every man for himself" situation, we should meditate upon the equality of self and others and the need to be helpful to other beings.

~ From Bodhicitta: Cultivating the Compassionate Mind of Enlightenment by Ven. Lobsang Gyatso, translated by Ven. Sherab Gyatso, published by Snow Lion Publications
This quote brings to mind an article I just read in New Scientist online.

In an article called "Why altruism paid off for our ancestors," it is argued that new research indicates altruism may have been a necessary survival skill for our early ancestors. A genetic study of contemporary foraging tribes in Australia, Africa, and the among the Inuit (that was then extrapolated to reveal genetic variation among their ancestors) suggests that competition between groups and relatedness within groups contributed to altruistic behavior between group members.
Samuel Bowles at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, US, ... conducted a genetic analysis of contemporary foraging groups, including Australian aboriginals, native Siberian Inuit populations and indigenous tribal groups in Africa.

The genetic variation found within these modern-day groups was analysed and then used to estimate the kind of genetic variation that would have existed in ancestral populations of hunter-gatherer from the Pleistocene and early Holocene (150,000 to 10,000 years ago, combined). “These modern groups live today as most scholars believe our distant ancestors did,” Bowles explains.

He calculated that early human individuals were likely to be substantially more related to each other than previously thought. But Bowles found bigger genetic differences than expected between discrete groups of ancient peoples. These conditions would have favoured altruistic behaviour, says Bowles.

He also concluded that monogamy leveled the cost of altruistic behavior among males. “Monogamy limits the ability of the stronger or more aggressive males to monopolise copulation,” says Bowles. “Humans are very unusual in this way.”

Bowles does not go so far as to argue for a genetic basis for altruism, but there definitely seems to be a learned behavioral component to it that we have had for a very long time. Altruism more than likely contributed to our survival and evolution. When we consider that Neanderthals ate each other in time of hardship, it seems that altruism may have favored us (smaller, weaker) over them (stronger, bigger).

When we modern humans engage in altruistic behavior, we are connecting with our shared experience as beings who want to be happy and avoid suffering. That there may be some deep-seated evolutionary imperative behind such behavior does nothing to diminish its power to connect us to each other.

As Buddhists, we vow to help all beings end their suffering and attain freedom. How very cool that this spiritual commitment may also have a biological foundation.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Alex de Grassi - The Holy and the Ivy

This is video of time-lapse photos of vine growth taken almost daily over a period of about a month.

Music : Alex de Grassi, "The Holy & The Ivy."
Sculpture by Véro Baudran.
Uploaded by

Update On Ken Wilber's Health [Updated]

[UPDATE: Since posting this, the entry at the KW blog has been removed, but I will keep this post up here. Not sure why there has been no further information, but I will post anything new that comes my way.]

The Ken Wilber blog has posted an update on Ken and his recent health crisis:
Dear Friends,

Early Wednesday morning Ken was admitted to a local hospital for repeated seizures and an abnormal cardiac pattern. Ken is currently in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit.

Ken does not have a history of seizures, and there was zero warning that something was about to go wrong. In fact, Ken had a fantastic day Tuesday, writing all morning and then meeting with several folks at the loft.

Doctors believe that they understand why these seizures occurred, and the good news is that it's nothing intrinsically wrong with Ken's physical well-being. In other words, we have strong reason to believe we can avoid these in the future.

Ken has been sedated since admission to the hospital in order to help prevent additional seizures, and doctors are planning on slowly backing off the sedative in the next day or so.

This is clearly an extremely serious situation, but it does not appear life-threatening, and according to the lead doctor at the hospital, she has no reason to believe that any of these conditions are irreversible.

If you would like to express support for Ken, please pray, do tonglen, or simply hold him in heart and mind with loving-kindness. Ken has always said that these practices work wonders, for both giver and receiver, and all of your love and care will be deeply appreciated by him.

Please do not send flowers; if even a dozen kind souls send flowers, the doctors will have no space to work. And naturally, please do not try and visit Ken in the hospital. Ken is in Intensive Care, and only family or extremely close ties are allowed in, nor is the hospital allowed to disclose that Ken is a patient there.

For the time being, I will be posting short updates on Ken's condition daily. As might be expected, we are looking at days and weeks in terms of recovery, but even just 48 hours after all of this started, recovery does indeed appear to be the path we've already begun.

Please, friends, walk with Ken on this path. Lift him with your heart, touch him with your mind, bless him with your soul, liberate him with your spirit. He will feel you, and you will feel him, and this miracle of we shall embrace us all, radiantly erupting as the bliss-agony of One Heart pulsing in so many bodies. Ken is nearer to you than your own skin; feel him with reckless abandon. Nourish this precious body of our beloved friend with all the love available to you. Let that love open you to infinity....



Glad to hear he will be okay.

In These Times: The Godless Fundamentalist

In These Times takes a look at Richard Dawkins, The Godless Fundamentalist. That actually seems like a fitting term for his brand of atheism, which is just as rabid as is the fundamentalism of believers.
In The Root of All Evil, biologist Richard Dawkins reveals his own lust for certainty

By Lakshmi Chaudhry

Religion fucking blows!” declares comedian Roseanne Barr in her latest HBO special. Her pronouncement, both in its declarative certainty and self-congratulatory defiance, could easily serve as the succinct moral of Richard Dawkins’ documentary, The Root of All Evil.

The big-screen version of a two-part British television series follows the noted biologist as he embarks on a global road-trip to the veritable bastions of theological conviction—the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a Christian conservative stronghold in Colorado Springs, a Hassidic community in the heart of London—bullying, berating and heckling the devoutly faithful he encounters along his way.

Confronting cancer patients who have traveled to Lourdes in hopes of a cure, Dawkins tells the viewer in the first scene, “It may seem tough to question the beliefs of these poor, desperate people’s faith.” By the end of the documentary, Dawkins’ bravado is not in doubt. When talking to Ted Haggard, a New Life Church pastor (more recently infamous for his predilection for crystal meth and gay prostitutes), after witnessing one of his sermons, Dawkins tells him, “I was almost reminded of the Nuremberg rallies … Dr. Goebbels would have been proud.” To a hapless guide at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, he taunts, “Do you really believe that Jesus’ body lay here?” And then there’s his remark—”I’m really worried for the well-being of your children”—to a Hassidic school teacher, Rabbi Herschel Gluck, whom Dawkins accuses of brainwashing innocent kids.

As he storms his way around the world in the state of high dudgeon, Dawkins’ attitude can be best described as apocalyptic outrage. The effect is in turns bewildering, embarrassing, grating and even unintentionally comic, as we watch the distinguished Oxford University Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science channel his inner Borat. When the astonished rabbi exclaims, “You are a fundamentalist believer,” even a sympathetic, true-blue San Francisco audience cannot help but chuckle in assent.

Read the rest.

Dawkins and crew -- Daniel Dennett, Greg Graffin, and Sam Harris -- have taken to calling themselves "brights" -- Dawkins' term for those whose worldview is not encumbered by supernatural and mystical belief.

As tends to be the case with most atheists, Dawkins is not really attacking anything other than a literalist interpretation of religious texts. His arguments can't touch any of the higher visions of the divine found in Kaballah, Vedanta, or Dzogchen, among others.

He can be amusing to listen to because he is smart and funny. But he is also maddeningly fundamentalist in his insistence that he has all the answers and that there is no other viable way to live in the world other than being an atheist like him.

The world needs to question its beliefs at this point -- too many people are willing to kill for what they believe. So I'm willing to give Dawkins and his crew some slack. But I think that they might also be doing some harm in making rational thought look intolerant and equally as crazed as the believers they attack.

25 Stupidest Quotes of 2006

It's another year-end list, this one on the humorous side. has assembled it's list of the 25 dumbest quotes from 2006 -- a risky venture considering Bush is still allowed to speak for the remainder of the year.

25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes by Various Idiots

25) "I think I'd just commit suicide." --Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in October, on the prospects of the Democrats taking back the Senate in the November election

24) "I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day." --New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

23) "I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me." --President George W. Bush, talking to key Republicans about Iraq, as quoted by Bob Woodward

22) "The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material." --Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Steven (R-AK), explaining the workings of the Internet during a debate on net neutrality (Listen to original audio clip or watch the an amusing techno video remix

21) "I enjoy cocaine because it's a fun thing to do. .. I enjoy the company of prostitutes for the following reasons: it's a fun thing to do. ... If you combine the two together it's probably even more fun." --Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), after being egged on to make those statement during an interview with Stephen Colbert (Watch video clip)

20) "Something else I've learned about Secretary Rice is she loves the cool Atlantic breezes here in Nova Scotia, and she left the window open last night." --Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, fueling speculation that the two are having a love affair

19) "[He has] a career of slavishly supporting the Republican Party." – House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, (D-MD) on Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, an African-American Republican running for Senate

18) "God is the one who chooses our rulers." --Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), explaining why the separation of church and state is "a lie." Harris also said, "If you are not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."

17) "We have a lot of kids who don't know what works means. They think work is a four-letter word." --Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

16) "And don't forget, Sherrod Brown is black. There's a racial component here, too. And now, the newspaper that I'm reading all this from is The New York Times, and they, of course, don't mention that." --Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, on the Ohio Senate primary race involving Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is white

15) "You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math. I'm entitled to the math." --Bush adviser Karl Rove, insisting to NPR that pre-election polls "add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House"

14) "I said a little prayer before I actually did the fingerprint thing, and the picture. And my prayer was basically: 'Let people see Christ through me. And let me smile.'" --Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, on being arrested and posing for his mug shot

13) "Did you know that Pat Robertson can leg press 2,000 pounds? How does he do it? Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars, while traveling the globe as a statesman? One of Pat's secrets to keeping his energy high and his vitality soaring is his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients. Discover what kinds of natural ingredients make up Pat's protein shake by registering for your FREE booklet today!" --from Pat Robertson's Web site

12) "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.... I'm not joking." --Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) (Watch video clip)

11) "We're not going to tell you what our plan is, Jon, because you're just going to go out and blow it." --Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), on the secret plan he and President Bush have to win the Iraq war, in a debate with his Democratic challenger, John Tester (Watch video)
You'll have to go to the site to see the top ten.

Speedlinking 12/8/06

This morning's image comes from the news. Seems that Canadian artist Jimmy Wright is trying to make a point about consumerism and Christmas. Some people are not amused.

Happy Bodhi Day.

And, oh yeah, it's Friday, too. WOO HOO!


~ Teens Who Take Multivitamins Have Healthier Lifestyles. It's true for adults, too.
~ Former President Clinton, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Sign Agreement To Cut Pediatric Antiretroviral Drug Prices. Clinton's war on AIDS is really impressive.
~ Birth control in good taste -- chewable birth control. Yum!
~ High Protein Diets May Boost Cancer Risk. Or they may not. This is one of those bullsh!t studies that needs to be read to be debunked.
~ Brain Tumors Paralyze The Immune System - First Preclinical Trails With RNA-Interference To Lift Blockage.
~ 'Nature' Paper Provides New Insights Into The Brain's Structural And Cellular Complexity.

~ Case Studies Examine Role Of Hormones, Psychology In False Pregnancy. Can they say "psychosomatic?"
~ Girls study: More weighing, more trouble.
~ Transplanted Brain Cells Hold Promise For Parkinson's Disease.
~ Obese diabetics may be unrealistic about calories. Yeah, it's not just diabetics. Under-reporting calories is common many people who are overweight. We call it denial.
~ Scientists Develop A New Way To Target Alzheimer's Disease.

~ "I'm not a racist, but...", or why automatic stereotyping happens: Part 1
~ Prisoners of Sex -- A New York Times Magazine article about being gay in the Muslim world.
~ New Campaign Seeks To Reduce Stigma Of Mental Illnesses. I've seen how social stigma makes it all so much worse.
~ Sibling Rivalry -- Would Jeb Bush really make a better president? God(dess) help us all.
~ Bush Expresses Caution on Key Points in Iraq Panel’s Report And Bush Reaction to Report Worries Father's Aides. Whenever I think he can no longer disappoint me because I have no expectations, he reminds me that he can go lower than I can fathom.
~ Reality Check: As Violence Escalates in Iraq, Hillary Holds Press Conference on Violent Video Games.
~ Buried Babies Suggest Prehistoric Compassion.

~ Chew on this organic commentary.
~ Richard Branson chats about embracing ethanol and slashing airplane emissions.
~ Mars Has Liquid Water, New Photos Suggest.
~ DNA Strands Weaved into High-Complexity Logic Circuits and Multiple "Robot Arms".
~ Birds Change Songs to Suit Urban Life, Study Finds.
~ Ebola Epidemic Wiping Out Gorilla Populations . "Thousands of gorillas in the Republic of Congo fall victim to the nastiest strain of the hemorrhagic virus."
~ U.S. EPA thinks lead in the air may be A-OK.

~ Albert Klamt links to Elza Maalouf's article in the Integral Leadership Review, Volume VI, No 2 - June 2006: Testing the Integral Model in the Middle East.
~ Two new posts from Steve Frazee, former CEO of Integral Institute: Integral University Fact or Fiction? and Publish or Perish on the I-I journal and magazine we have been promised.
~ Andrew Cohen and the Corruption of Power -- not so much integral, but of interest to the integral community.
~ From For the Turnstiles: The color scheme of Wilberian integral theory.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Tom Waits

You can find a whole mess of tasty Tom Waits links at The Kenyon Review blog.

Here is an appropriate video for a man who gets hipper as he gets older: I Don't Want To Grow Up.

Camille Paglia: Break, Blow, Burn

I recently picked up a copy of Camille Paglia's new book, Break, Blow, Burn, on Matthew Dallman's recommendation -- and I'm glad I did. I was a big fan of her first book, Sexual Personae, back when I was in college. When the ensuing books came out -- Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays and Vamps & Tramps: New Essays -- I was both excited and frustrated by the uneven essays.

Still, as much as I often disagree with her on details, I admire her vision and I am grateful that she can make me think in ways that few other authors can.

Thus, my excitement with her new book, which is a collection of 43 essays on important poems from the English tradition. She purposely excluded translations due to her sense that English is the ideal language for poetry:
The dazzling multiplicity of sounds and word choices in English makes it brilliantly suited to be a language of poetry. It's why the pragmatic Anglo-American tradition (unlike the effete French rationalism) doesn't need poststructuralism: in English, usage depends upon context; the words jostle and provoke one another and mischievously shift their meanings over time.
See how I snuck in that part about postructuralism? She abhors it as an approach to poetry, and that informs how she reads each poem. In the end, she upholds the sanctity of the text.

She came of age during the supremacy of the New Criticism, as did I, strangely enough. Many of my college English teachers were brought up in that tradition and passed it on to us students. As weird as it may sound, it was a big deal on campus in 1991 when one of the faculty went to a conference on post-modernism and came back to lecture on what he had learned -- especially Derrida and Deconstruction. By this time, post-modernism had already taken control of academia. I guess there are some advantages to having attended a small college.

Like Paglia, I was not a fan of the sterile approach to reading that the New Criticism supported. Here is her take on it:
The foundation of my literary education in college and graduate school in the 1960s was a technique known as the New Criticism, which studied the internal or formal qualities of poetry. I was impatient with what I regarded as its genteel sentimentality, its prim evasion of the sex and aggression in artistic creativity. Urgent supplementation was needed by psychology as well as history, toward which I had been oriented since adolescence, when I began exploring books about Greco-Roman and Near Eastern archeology. The New Critics' admirable reaction against a prior era of bibliographic pedantry had eventually resulted in an annihilation of context, an orphaning of the text. New Criticism was also hostile or oblivious to popular culture, the master mythology of my postwar generation. For that I had to look to bohemian artists like Andy Warhol or dissident academics like Marshall McLuhan and Leslie Fielder.

But the New Criticism, attuned to paradox and ambiguity, was a sophisticated system of interpretation that has never been surpassed as a pedagogical tool for helping novice as well as veteran readers to understand poetry. Its destruction by the influx of European poststructuralism into American universities in the 1970s was a cultural disaster from which higher education has yet to recover. With its clotted jargon, circular reasoning, and smug, debunking cynicism, poststructuralism works only on narrative -- on the longer genres of story and novel. It is helpless with lyric poems, where the individual word has enormous power and mystery and where the senses are played upon by rhythm, mood, and dreamlike metaphors.
I agree with her completely, although I would never use words like "genteel" and "prim." I also tend toward Jung while she tends toward Freud, but that's a minor quibble.

I was taking the same approach in my lit classes that she advocates -- a deep reading of the text, but within a cultural context including psychology, history, and sociology. When I did my master's degree, I had to do it in the humanities department because I wanted to include comparative religion and psychology as an integral part of my thesis.

All of this is to say that I am excited about getting into this book. She has included several of my favorite poems, as well as a few more recent poems that I have never seen -- she will have to convince me that each poem is "strong enough, as an artifact, to stand up to all the great poems that precede it."

Among the fine poems she looks at:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Kubla Khan"
Emily Dickinson, "The Soul Selects Her Own Society"
William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"
Wallace Stevens, "Anecdote of the Jar"
William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow"
Theodore Roethke, "Root Cellar"
Sylvia Plath, "Daddy"
Gary Snyder, "Old Pond"

The Chosen One

Video: Animator vs. Animation -- very cool.

What Does Your Birth Date Mean For Your Love Life?

Your Birthdate: May 4

You don't love lightly. For you, love is always a serious undertaking.

However, you are able to love many types of people.
You can bring out the best in almost anyone.

Love surprises you often. You never know when or where you'll find it next.

Number of True Loves You'll Have: 2

Number of Times You'll Have Your Heart Broken: 2

You are most compatible with people born on the 4th, 13th, 22nd, and 31st of the month.

Well, if this were true -- and I'm going to make sure it isn't -- I'd be screwed. I've had two "true loves" and twice had my heart broken. Here's to number three!

Winter Poem: Emily Dickinson

Poem 82

There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
’T is the seal, despair,—
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ’t is like the distance
On the look of death.
~ From The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson(Little, Brown, 1924), available online at

What If Chat Rooms Were in Real Space? [NSFW]

It might be a little like this . . . . Watch all the way to the end -- it's a weird little soap opera.

National Toy Hall of Fame

How many of the toys on this page did you have as a kid? I had 25 of them -- and there are only 36. My sister had some of the toys that I didn't, like Raggedy Anne.

From their WHY PLAY page:

Humans have played since earliest times, and philosophers and scholars have thought about it for centuries. More than 2,000 years ago, Plato suggested, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Last century, Albert Einstein called play “the highest form of research.”

Play is fun! We all know that.
But play is also a whole lot more.

Play is essential for learning and human development.

Sharpens our minds
Helps us grow
Keeps us healthy
Boosts our creativity

When children play, they learn to:
Solve problems
Make decisions
Express themselves and communicate with others
Recognize boundaries

Children who play do better in school and become more successful adults.

When we don’t play, we are:
Less creative and productive
More sedentary, more easily fatigued, more susceptible to obesity
More likely to encounter social problems and emotional stress

Play also helps us understand history and culture. The way we play shows:
Who we are
What we value
How we regard others
Change over time
Future possibilities

Uighur: The Other Tibet

This article is from In These Times. It is an interview with a woman who has led the push for an end to Chinese occupation of Uighur lands and subjugation of the Uighur people. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year.

Rebiya Kadeer: The Uighur Dalai Lama

Falsely imprisoned, this human rights activist is fighting the Chinese government’s right to rule her people.

By Jehangir Pocha

Rebiya Kadeer, exiled Uighur leader and candidate for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Rebiya Kadeer has been likened to the Dalai Lama, and the comparison grew more apt when the Uighur (pronounced wee-gur) human rights activist became a close contender for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, an award conferred on the Dalai Lama in 1989.

Yet in the United States, Kadeer and her cause remain relatively unknown. Like the Dalai Lama, Kadeer is challenging the Chinese government’s moral and legal right to rule her people—the Uighurs, an ethnically Turkic-Persian people in western China, whose homeland, Xinjiang, was annexed by China in 1949. The backlash against this annexation exploded in the mid-’90s, when Uighur separatists carried our widespread protests. Some Uighur extremists, who were supported by Islamic extremists in Pakistan, even bombed Chinese targets.

China reacted harshly, jailing thousands of Uighurs and using paramilitary forces to disband protestors. In 1999, when Kadeer, then a wealthy businesswoman and member of China’s parliament, began speaking out on behalf of her people, she was jailed.

In 2005, the Chinese freed Kadeer, largely because of pressure from the United States. Since then Kadeer has lived in Washington D.C., where she has spearheaded a peaceful campaign against China’s rule in Xinjiang. Yet hundreds of Uighur activists remain in jail and serious human rights violations are being committed in the province, according to Amnesty International.

Read the interview.

Speedlinking 12/7/06

This morning's image is from Live Science:

~ 7 Most Effective Exercises -- Experts offer their favorite moves for making the most of your workout time. They include squats, lunges, and bent rows, so it's a pretty good list for a change.
~ Master cells rule the enemy within. "[T]he immune system is kept in check by regulatory T-cells, which patrol the body and stop ordinary T-cells going berserk."
~ Racket grip size has nothing to do with tennis elbow.
~ New Data Shows Rimonabant Benefited Patients With Type 2 Diabetes By Improving Blood Sugar Control And Reducing Weight. Or you could just eat well and get some exercise. Nah, what was I thinking? This may be the magic pill for which so many people are looking

~ New Info On Eating Disorders In Two Stanford/Packard Children's Studies.
~ Depressed? Think faster thoughts, and your mood may improve.
~ Embodied Language and Expertise.
~ Loneliness and Depression: There is a Reason for Loneliness and Depression.
~ Branded Fish Oil Supplement Reduces Anxiety In Adults With History Of Substance Abuse.
~ From Beliefnet: Top 10 Ways to Heal Spiritually from a Breakup.
~ From Aaron at Anxious Living: More Flow.

~ Yahoo's top searches for 2006 -- Britney leads the way, along with Shakira, Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, and Linsey Lohan. Uh, yeah . . . the world is doomed.
~ Making Money Consciously, from Steve Pavlina.
~ Buddhist Geeks introduce a new geek.
~ Social Networking in Business: An Update.
Mixed reaction to Cheney's daughter's pregnancy. "Conservative leaders voiced dismay Wednesday at news that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Dick Cheney, is pregnant, while a gay-rights group said the vice president faces "a lifetime of sleepless nights" for serving in an administration that has opposed recognition of same-sex couples."

~ Rainforest dwellers get the road to illness. A study from the thinning jungle of northern Ecuador suggests that where roads go, disease follows, in a way that echoes the spread of disease in the New World brought by 15th-century European colonizers.
~ Black hole seen devouring star in best detail yet. The article includes a link to an animation of a black hole swallowing a star.
~ Warming oceans produce less phytoplankton. Destroy the foundation of the food chain and you destroy the chain.
~ More Than 50 Tribes Convene on Global Warming Impacts.

~ From Hokai: Integral Dreams. Hokai is not down with the gossipy approach some bloggers take to KW and Integral Institute.
~ Ken Wilber is in the Hospital -- this was posted at Integral Valley, confirmed here. Let's pray for his health and well-being.
~ Daniel Anderson responds to Joe Perez.
~ Frank Visser is dissing KW again: Integral Inflation.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

2006 Weblog Award Nominees

It's that time of year -- blogging award season. For the next month or so, blogs of all sorts will lobbying for votes that will get them an award of some kind or another. One of the biggest blogging awards in terms of blogs honored is the Weblog Awards.

Here are the nominees in the top three categories (of 45) -- not too many surprises in the best blog category:
Best Blog

Huffington Post
Daily Kos
Post Secret
Michelle Malkin
Boing Boing
Power Line
The Corner at NRO

Best New Blog

the fiveforty
WIMN's Voices!
Blue Crab Boulevard
Jane Lake Makes a Mistake
Reformed Chicks Blabbing
jules crittenden
Hang Right Politics

Best Individual Blog

The Anchoress
Dr. Sanity
Andrew Sullivan
Evangelical Outpost
Riehl World View
Blue Star Chronicles
Talking Points Memo
Glenn Greenwald

Here's a note on the selection process:

Every year this is the hardest post I have to write - the one where I explain why your nominated blog was not selected as a finalist. First, the odds are heavily stacked against you. This year we received nearly 4,500 nominations in 45 categories, of which no more than 450 will be selected as finalists.

Second, it's worth restating the guiding principles of of The Weblog Awards; ones we've used since the inception of The Weblog Awards in 2003:

1) Open and public nominations
2) Categories that allow blogs of similar readership levels to compete
3) Real time vote totals
4) Quick turnaround of the results
5) Fun

An operation of this magnitude will never be without its share of controversy or problems. There's one part of The Weblog Awards that will never get any easier - the finalist cut down. Explaining why many nominated blogs are not finalists is always the trickiest part of The Weblog Awards.

To maximize participation there will be as little overlap in the selection of finalists in the categories as possible. There are two notable exceptions to this edict [Note: It's a guideline, not an iron-clad rule], the Best Blog and Best Podcast categories. Finalists in those two categories my appear as finalists in other categories. Even with that general guideline there will be several thousands of nominated blogs that for one reason or another will not be finalists in any category.

There will be more written about the finalist selection process later, but in advance please understand that the constraints of the number of categories and the maximum number of finalists per category really ties our hands. The goal is to get the most representative slate of 10 finalists per category. We're under no illusion that (even with unlimited time) we could prune each category to a list of the 10 blogs that everyone would agree were the absolute best 10 blogs that category has to offer. We do what we can under incredible deadlines to pick the best slate possible. In the process I'm sure many excellent blogs are overlooked...

This is just one of many blogging awards. I'm sure there will be more announcements in the coming weeks.

What Year Were You Born Under?

It's weird how one's birth year can create a template that nails some aspects of one's personality.

You Were Born Under:

You're most comfortable inside your head - and often daydream the day away.

You have an artistic temperament that makes you seem creative to some, eccentric to others.

You avoid conflict at all costs, and you have a difficult time with relationships.

Attractive and with good manners, you tend to shine in social situations.

You are most compatible with a Pig or Rabbit.

I'm pretty okay with the conflict thing, although it isn't my favorite thing in the world. And I tend to hide more than shine in social situations, but the rest of it is fairly, strangely accurate.

Stephen Colbert's "The Word" -- American Orthodox

I lifted this fun segment by Stephen Colbert from The Largest Minority.

"One thing we know for sure -- Jesus was a conservative."

Antoine Dufour - As in the Sky

From the YouTube post:
Antoine Dufour is emerging as one of Canada's young stars of acoustic, fingerstyle guitar. Visit for more music and videos.

E.J. Dionne: Obama Wows the Religious Right

I linked to this in the speedlinks this morning, but I wanted to give it some extra attention because I like Obama and want to promote his candidacy for 2008.

The other reason I wanted to post this is because the article is as much about Rick Warren and a new interest in separating religion from politics as it is about Obama.

This is from E.J. Dionne's column on Truthdig:

When it came his turn to speak, Obama took on the moral message of evangelical AIDS activists—and then challenged them.

“Let me say this and let me say this loud and clear: I don’t think that we can deny that there is a moral and spiritual component to prevention,’’ he declared. “In too many places ... the relationship between men and women, between sexuality and spirituality, has broken down and needs to be repaired.”

Then Obama got to what “may be the difficult part for some,’’ as he put it, that “abstinence and fidelity, although the ideal, may not always be the reality.’’

“We’re dealing with flesh-and-blood men and women, and not abstractions,” Obama said, “and that if condoms and potentially things like microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, then they should be made more widely available. ... I don’t accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence.”

That Obama received a standing ovation suggests that Warren is right to sense that growing numbers of Christians are tired of narrowly partisan politics and share his interest in “the whole bird.’’ In their different spheres, Warren and Obama are both in the business of retailing hope.

One more thing: If you read Obama’s speech, you’ll realize he demonstrates a much truer Christian spirit than the GOP masterminds who have recently tried to push people away from Obama by pointing out that his middle name is Hussein.

Read the whole post to get the scoop on Rick Warren and his mission to fight AIDS.

Former Integral Institute CEO Steve Frazee Tells His Side

A while back, Vince posted on the recent call by Ken Wilber and Integral Institute for a new CEO, and not just any CEO, but one that is turquoise. I guess the person must match the furniture.

The interesting thing was that the ad said it would be first time they had filled the position (which has been changed), which those of us who are members found weird considering we had received an email from Steve Frazee when we was hired to fill that role outlining his plans for Phase 2 of I-I's development.

Vince has both the job call and the letter from Frazee in the original post.

The comments on that post have been hopping. After a bunch of sniping and general fun among the posters -- while still showing some concern for I-I's fate -- Inside Scoop posts a letter to I-I staff from KW that is pretty interesting. It suggests that there had been a tight lid on things at I-I in terms of staff conduct and that KW wants to free things up a bit. Paul Salamone counters that with his clarification.

Yesterday, Steve Frazee himself stopped by and added his well-spoken comments. In a very detailed statement, he explains why he left I-I and why things were not a good fit. It's a pretty clean statement, completely lacking any of the Wyatt Earpy energy KW is now famous for.

I wish I-I the best. It's always tough to turn a theory into an organization -- just ask the early Christians. The reality is that organizations tend to lose the heart that inspired them. KW is trying to make I-I an exception. I wish him well.

Speedlinking 12/6/06

Morning image is from The Fairest, again:

~ From T-Nation: QUICK Biceps & Triceps GROWTH, An Unsuspected Secret
~ NYC bans trans fats from eateries. This could become a national trend and may lead to these killer fats being removed from the market completely.
~ Varying Weight Training Intensity Increases Growth Hormone In Women. Doing the same workout week after week, month after month doesn't work. This article presents one of the reasons why.
~ Highlights From The December 2006 Journal Of The American Dietetic Association.
~ Minnesota deemed healthiest state, Louisiana worst. Arizona ranks #34.

~ The Dalai Lama: How Do I Live a More Spiritual Life? From the Preachers and Teachers series at Beliefnet.
~ Taste Test for Depression Drugs? Way to Choose Right Antidepressant May Be on the Tip of Your Tongue, Study Suggests.
~ First-time mothers at risk of mental illness, study finds. Take that, Tom Cruise.
~ Cool visual illusions (with animations!), and an effort to explain why they occur.
~ Glucocorticoid Plays Key Role In Skin Abnormalities Induced By Psychological Stress.

~ Blogging as Composing our Lives from thinkBuddha.
~ Malcolm Gladwell: Defining A Racist. He gives three criteria.
~ Atheists and morality?
~ What is Polytheism? Polytheism and Monotheism Defined in Kabbalah.
~ Defending Christmas: Dwarf Mistletoe Joins War on Christmas, Attacks Christmas Trees.
~ Extra Checks on Voting Machines Rejected. Panel rejects efforts to create an independent verifiable paper trail. Who needs fair and open elections?
~ E.J. Dionne: Obama Wows the Religious Right.

~ Biodiesel's tropical problem.
~ Rice-Plus? "An international agricultural research group is urging nations to invest in the development of new crop varieties in response to global warming and a projected world population of 9 billion by 2050."
~ Brazil Creates Largest Tropical Rainforest Preserve.
~ Moon Base Announced by NASA.
~ Hybrid Speciation Strikes Again.

~ The use of Derrida as a bogeyman in the polemic of Integral theory and in right-wing rantage has caught my attention. From For the Turnstiles.
~ From ebuddha, Question for Integral Theorists Out There, on Kohlberg and regressive movement in developmental models.
~ A process model of integral theory by Bonnitta Roy in the new Integral Review -- recommended by Edward Berge at Open Integral.
~ The new issue (#3) of Integral Review is up.