Saturday, December 23, 2006

Little Has Changed -- A Girl Like Me

A teen girl decided to replicate an old sociological experiment and found that little has changed. Back in the 1950s a researcher gave two dolls to black children, one white and one black. They were asked which one they wanted to play with or which one was the good doll and most chose the white doll. Worse, they said the black doll was bad. Fifty years later, the results were the same. 15 out of 21 children chose the white doll.

The short film was featured in the 6th Annual Media That Matters Festival

Random Thoughts

I have a full three days off from work this weekend, which I want to use to recharge a bit. Consequently, blogging will be lite. But there are a couple of things on my mind today.

1. Heart Blown Open: It's easy for me to care about others, to extend myself to them, especially when they are hurting. It's much harder for me to allow others in, to feel that anyone else cares about me or even appreciates me.

In the past couple of weeks, and especially last night, that block has been blown apart. Several people in my life have extended themselves to let me know that I make a difference in their lives and it got in -- I was able to feel it and let myself enjoy that awareness.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is huge for someone who is often as closed off as I am.

As much as I don't do the holidays, I think I finally understand that the season -- at its best -- is about giving to others, but it's also about letting others return that gift. If we cannot -- if I cannot -- let others in, let myself be appreciated and truly seen, I miss a great deal in my life.

To those who have shown me their appreciation and touched my heart -- some of whom read this blog -- thank you!

2. Buffy Slays!: I just finished watching all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While that may make me a girlyman, or at least a geek, I am convinced that Buffy was one of the best shows on television.

It took more than two months to get through all seven seasons, but it came at a time when I needed to escape my life a bit. Having seen the whole show from beginning to end, I am sad that there are no more episodes. While the show functions as great escapism, it also has an intelligence and humor that I really enjoyed.

In a very strange way that sounds pathetic when I say it out loud, I cared about those characters and will miss the place they held in my life for the last 2.5 months.

One thought, though: Having watched all the special features, Sarah Michelle Gellar appears in none of them. In fact, she is not even really mentioned in them. Alyson Hannigan, a much bigger star, made some appearances, but not Buffy herself. What is that about? Is SMG too full of herself to acknowledge the fans who made her career? Whatever.

3. The new iPod Shuffle rocks! One of my clients gave me this cool little toy for Christmas -- thanks Amber!. It's about the size of a postage stamp and clips onto a shirt sleeve, collar, or whatever. With a gig of space it holds 250 songs. This is the perfect workout iPod.

It comes complete with computer cable and headphones. I have to admit, though, that copying all my music into iTunes is a royal pain in the arse. It's slower than watching paint dry.

I had been thinking about getting an iPod for quite a while because my old MP3 player was on its last legs. But I had been resisting getting another device that I have to wear with an armband when I work out. I don't have big arms by any stretch of the imagination, but the arm band always felt uncomfortable while I was working out. Not a problem anymore. Very cool.

Okay, that's all I have. I'll be posting things here and there over the next couple of days and will be back to a normal schedule on the 26th.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Another in my on-going series of childhood favorite Christmas cartoons. The Jim Carrey version of this classic was an abomination.

Jesus and Mithra

I found this at Throw Away Your TV. Follow the links and watch the video. It's well know by religious scholars that the Judeo-Christian tradition borrowed much of its mythology from its neighbors, and this provides some interesting evidence for origin the Jesus myth (which is not to say that Jesus did not exist, only that some of the mythology about his life added by later writers may have been borrowed from the earlier Mithra cult).
A little bit of history about our fun holiday, Christmas.

This brings up some interesting questions about Mithra and the similarities he has with Jesus. Either way, it's a very interesting tale.

You should Google this guy, plenty of information out there about him.

Find this video and thousands of others at vSocial!

A Perfect Circle -- Imagine

This is a good cover of the John Lennon classic. It feels a lot more somber than Lennon's version, even if you don't watch the imagery. The singer is Tool's Maynard James Keenan.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Poem: Emily Brontë


The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing dear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

Tiny Tiny Critters

I found this flickr page of pictures of animals that will fit on a finger or in a hand. Very cool.

They're so cute.

Here are a couple of samples:

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Santa Claus is Comin' To Town is another of the Rankin-Bass classics of stop-motion animation from my youth. This one tells the story of Kris Kringle and how he became Santa Claus -- a secular myth of the miraculous child.

Global Orgasm

For this year's "event," see this post.

Today is global orgasm for peace day -- please do your part to generate a big peaceful vibe. The event was supposed to be on Solstice day, but the Solstice was actually last night here in my part of the world, but that's a minor quibble.
The Event

WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone you know.

WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction.

Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd, at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.

WHY? To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy a Synchronized Global Orgasm. There are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, so the time to change Earth’s energy is NOW!
Seems like the most anyone has had in the effort for peace since Allen Ginsburg and his pals all got really high and tried to levitate the Pentagon.

An Integral Approach to the War on Terror?

Siona at Zaadz forwarded a New Yorker article on David Kilcullen, an Australian who is an expert on counterinsurgency, to me and a couple of other integral bloggers. I find that his approach, while not referencing any integral jargon, has the feel of integral nonetheless.

Here is an example:
“What does all the theory mean, at the company level?” he asked. “How do the principles translate into action—at night, with the G.P.S. down, the media criticizing you, the locals complaining in a language you don’t understand, and an unseen enemy killing your people by ones and twos? How does counterinsurgency actually happen? There are no universal answers, and insurgents are among the most adaptive opponents you will ever face. Countering them will demand every ounce of your intellect.” The first tip is “Know Your Turf”: “Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your district.” “Twenty-eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency”—the title riffs on a T. E. Lawrence insurgency manual from the First World War—was disseminated via e-mail to junior officers in the field, and was avidly read.

Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.” As an example of disaggregation, Kilcullen cited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where, after the 2004 tsunami, a radical Islamist organization tried to set up an office and convert a local separatist movement to its ideological agenda. Resentment toward the outsiders, combined with the swift humanitarian action of American and Australian warships, helped to prevent the Acehnese rebellion from becoming part of the global jihad. As for America, this success had more to do with luck than with strategy. Crumpton, Kilcullen’s boss, told me that American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act.
Kilcullen's basic argument is that this whole war on terror, or the long war (partly his phrase), is not about Islam -- Islam is secondary to the problem.
“There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.
Beginning to see this problem as a human problem dressed in Islamic clothes is the first step toward being able to form an opposition that has any chance of succeeding.

He advocates working with this conflict at the local level, the people level, rather than all the inflated hyperbole of the Bush Administration about nation building and a global war. None of that is going to have any impact. The enemy is smart than that.

Bin Laden knows how Americans think -- our CIA made him the man he is today -- so just before the 2004 elections he released a video that linked his supposed agenda to the Democratic agenda in an effort to help Bush get reelected. Bin Laden knows he needs Bush to maintain recruitment and resentment among the rank and file who support his efforts.
Just before the 2004 American elections, Kilcullen was doing intelligence work for the Australian government, sifting through Osama bin Laden’s public statements, including transcripts of a video that offered a list of grievances against America: Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, global warming. The last item brought Kilcullen up short. “I thought, Hang on! What kind of jihadist are you?” he recalled. The odd inclusion of environmentalist rhetoric, he said, made clear that “this wasn’t a list of genuine grievances. This was an Al Qaeda information strategy.” Ron Suskind, in his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” claims that analysts at the C.I.A. watched a similar video, released in 2004, and concluded that “bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reëlection.” Bin Laden shrewdly created an implicit association between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Party, for he had come to feel that Bush’s strategy in the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. Indeed, in the years after September 11th Al Qaeda’s core leadership had become a propaganda hub. “If bin Laden didn’t have access to global media, satellite communications, and the Internet, he’d just be a cranky guy in a cave,” Kilcullen said.
When we make this into one big war against one big enemy, we make Bin Laden more powerful and play into his agenda. Rather than seeing this as one big war, we need to redefine it as 60 or so smaller wars (whatever the real number might be), and engage the enemy at that level.

If we are to follow the approach Kilcullen lays out, we must intimately know the people whose hearts and minds we hope to persuade. We must know their hopes and dreams, their frustrations and resentments. But we must also know everything about their lives, their villages or cities, and their social networks. Further, we must also understand the regional dynamics, and use all the resources we have available from face to face dialogue to global information sharing -- essentially, we must utilize each of the quadrants.

He correctly points out that this war won't be won with military might as much as it will with information and human level interactions. When he was on loan to the Pentagon, under Paul Wolfowitz's supervision, he was asked to create policy in that direction, but Rumsfeld preferred to spend the money on flashy weapons.
In 2004, Kilcullen’s writings and lectures brought him to the attention of an official working for Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Wolfowitz asked him to help write the section on “irregular warfare” in the Pentagon’s “Quadrennial Defense Review,” a statement of department policy and priorities, which was published earlier this year. Under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, who resigned in November, the Pentagon had embraced a narrow “shock-and-awe” approach to war-fighting, emphasizing technology, long-range firepower, and spectacular displays of force. The new document declared that activities such as “long-duration unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and military support for stabilization and reconstruction efforts” needed to become a more important component of the war on terror. Kilcullen was partly responsible for the inclusion of the phrase “the long war,” which has become the preferred term among many military officers to describe the current conflict. In the end, the Rumsfeld Pentagon was unwilling to make the cuts in expensive weapons systems that would have allowed it to create new combat units and other resources necessary for a proper counterinsurgency strategy.
This shows how poorly Rumsfeld understood the war he was leading -- and suggests that maybe under new leadership, there is hope that the US will begin to see the real issues involved. I'm not holding my breath.

However, Kilcullen demonstrates that there are military minds capable of seeing the whole of this conflict rather than merely focusing on the military approach. Hopefully, the Pentagon will begin to take more seriously approaches such as those laid out by Kilcullen.

There is much more to this article than I can cover, so please give it a read.

Speedlinking 12/22/06

This morning's image is from The Fairest:

~ Staley Strategies: The A-B Split -- hardcore training advice that makes sense, and oh yeah, it works.
~ Watch More TV, Gain More Weight -- duh?!
~ The top 10 uses for Christmas fruitcakes (satire).
~ Christmas Goodies Pack on the Pounds.
~ Exercise, diet reduce fatty liver in obese teens.

~ Study: Teens Use Medicines to Get High -- "Skittles" can produce a hallucinogenic high that will kill you. Fun.
~ Delusions and insight on ABC All in the Mind.
~ Cognitive Science of Humor.
~ The One-Minute Rule -- a simple way to unstress your life.
~ What determines the future karmic returns of giving?
~ The Goal of Buddhist Practice -- From Tom at Thoughts Chase Thoughts.
~ Triage -- Steve Pavlina's approach to time management.
~ The Buddhist Practitioner: A Full-Time "Reflecter" from Mike an Unknowing Mind.

~ McCain's Move to the Right Troubles GOP Insiders -- McCain has sold out the "maverick" image and following he worked so long to cultivate. What a weasel.
~ Democrats Hiring Up for Investigations -- "Evidence continues to mount that the new Democratic majority plans to investigate the war, energy policy, and other Bush policies, key committees have begun hiring lawyer-investigators whose job will be to probe into the administration."
~ The Year That Religion Learned Humility -- "The new millennium saw the rise of fundamentalist faith as a cultural force. In 2006, says Andrew Sullivan, the religious monoliths began to break down."
~ Keeping Intelligent Design Out of Science Classrooms.
~ Reefer Madness - Full Movie -- If you've never seen this, it's hilarious -- and oh so paranoid, racist, sexist, and stupid.
~ Thou Shalt Realize the Bible Kicketh Ass -- "What if The Bible were happening right now? That’s the question Douglas Rushkoff has been trying to grapple with in Testament, a series of graphic novels that transpose Biblical stories into contemporary narratives." By RU Sirius

~ The Weirdest Science Stories of 2006.
~ Massive Cosmic Explosion Has Astronomers Stumped -- "An unusual gamma-ray burst has astronomers wondering what new type of cosmic explosion could have created the brilliant blast of light."
~ Green building codes: One of the big environmental stories of 2007?
~ Just in case you need another reason to oppose ag subsidies -- "They waste money, trash the environment, wreck trade relations, and oh, devastate small farmers."
~ Savvy Squirrels Outwit Trees -- Okay, brain vs no brain, um, the mammal should win.
~ Largest European Dinosaur Found -- Don't worry, it's dead.
~ Climate Change vs Mother Nature: Scientists reveal that bears have stopped hibernating.
~ USDA Stocks Organics Board with Business Reps.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Not So Motivational Posters

Found these at Dark Roasted Blend, where you can see more of the same.

Saparmurat Niyazov, "President" of Turkmenistan, Is Dead

From the BBC:
Turkmenistan's 'iron ruler' dies

Portrait of Mr Niyazov shown on state television
State TV said Nizayov's death was a "great loss" to the Turkmens
Turkmenistan's authoritarian president Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the Central Asian country for 21 years, has died aged 66, state TV has reported.

Mr Niyazov, who named cities and airports after himself in a personality cult, left no designated successor.

Turkmenistan, which has large gas reserves, now faces an uncertain future with rival groups and outside powers scrambling for influence, analysts say.

Mr Niyazov died at 0110 local time (2010 GMT Wednesday) of a heart attack.

Last month, the president publicly acknowledged he had heart disease.

His funeral is set to take place on 24 December in the capital, Ashgabat.

BBC correspondents quote witnesses as saying the capital has been quiet since the news broke, with many people staying at home, shocked and unsure of what may happen next.

Seems there is some turmoil about who is actually in charge since Niyazov also held the post that was next in line to the presidency.

Here is what The Plank posted about Niyazov's death:
"Turkmenbashi"--"the leader of all Turkmen," as Turkmenistan's ruthless strongman Saparmurat Niyazov called himself--died suddenly yesterday, which will no doubt come as a relief to the five million people he ruled with what the CIA's World Factbook calls "absolute control." Like a few of Central Asia's other crackpot despots, he was on the daffier side of Kim Jong Il. Hopefully now, if they so choose, the people of Turkmenistan will get back the right to joke about Turkmenbashi (previously forbidden), the month of April (renamed Gurbansoltan eje for Turkmenbashi's mother), and the real history of their people (replaced with the Ruhnama, a new founding myth of the Turkmens contrived by Turkmenbashi himself).
Wow, doesn't that perfectly describe someone at the power-god, egocentric stage of development? Sounds almost like a feudal dictator to me.

Happy Solstice!

Wishing all of you the happiest holiday season and a fantastic new year!
May you find the peace and joy that will fill your heart.

Frosty the Snowman

Continuing with the holiday spirit, another classic cartoon. This one was my sister's favorite when we were kids.

Poem: Wallace Stevens

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

~ From Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Geek Toys

Here are a few useful posts I've found while browsing the social bookmarking sites in the last day or so.

The new 100 most useful sites, The Guardian Unlimited. The sites are broken down into categories, most of which are tech based and many have a UK address (easily remedied).

Freeware Games -- a seriously large collection of freeware games, shareware for programmers, other free software, screensavers, icons, and other stuff.

From Alpha Geek, how to digitize your old cassette tapes. This is cool -- I have a big box full of old cassettes, some of which have never been issued on CD (small bands with crappy labels).

Speedlinking 12/21/06

Happy Winter Solstice!

~ Fat children dodge scales in national obesity survey -- Would you want it pointed out in front of your peers that you are fat?
~ Scientists Link Weight to Gut Bacteria -- Wow, how many germs are they eating? Seriously, this is a chiken and egg question that the study doesn't answer.
~ Androgen therapy may slow progress of Alzheimer's disease -- Yet another use for good old testosterone.
~ Newer, Stronger Health Warnings on Tylenol, Aspirin -- Ditch the Tylenol unless you don't mind having kidneys that don't work. This is ABC's version of the story: Are Your Painkillers Actually Killing You?
~ The Amazing Uses for ChapStick -- This is cool -- a new way to deal with nicks while shaving.
~ Metabolic Syndrome found in adolescents.
Lower saturated fat with dietary fiber. Fiber also controls blood sugar, so more is better.

~ Poll: Stress knows few boundaries. And I was sure it couldn't find its way up the stairs.
~ Laughter: It's Catching -- Love those mirror neurons.
~ The Violent Brain in new SciAmMind.
~ Ungrounded Dispositions -- a new metaphysics blog.
~ David Chalmers reviews Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism, edited by Torin Alter and Sven Walter.
~ Neuroscience and Free Will -- The Economist thinks that neuroscience is eroding free will.

~ Alleviating Human Suffering One Hug at a Time -- "Thousands Line Up for Blessing From 'Hugging Saint'."
~ Racist and Sexist Humor -- "Racist and sexist humor was supposed to have been finished off by new sensitivity, critiques of it, and the new concern with not offending others. Didn't happen."
~ Tabling Science -- "The Union of Concerned Scientists is going on the offensive in the Bush administration's war on science with a campaign that includes a handy "table of elements" detailing the government's information manipulation."
~ What Drives Media Slant? Not a light read at 66 pages.
~ Conquistadors of the Senses. " Anti-gay referenda are just one of many legacies of the European invaders."
~ From Beliefnet:
Is America Really a 'Christian Nation'?

~ How Monsanto Poisons Science at the Cost of Your Health -- Mercola is a bit of an extremist, but he generally makes good points.
~ Surgical Robots Get a Sense of Touch -- Strangely, I think I'd rather have a fallible human.
~ Virgin Birth Expected at Christmas . . . . by a Komodo Dragon, that is.
~ Odd Gamma-Ray Burst Points to New Form of Stellar Suicide.
~ Social and environmental entrepreneurs have a lot to teach big business.
~ Boston will require new large buildings to meet green building standards.

~ Alan Kazlev reports on some drama at the Ken Wilber Wikipedia page: Wilber fundamentalist on Wikipedia?
~ From Sean at Deep Surface: Definitions of self.
~ From Tim Boucher at Pop Occulture Blog: As The Spirit Moves You -- not quite integral but interesting.
~ Matthew Dallman likes Robert Godwin's blog: THE "ONE COSMOS" BLOG.
~ A bit more personal a post from Joe at Until: Today's integral practice: fungal cell membrane synthesis.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wingnut Debbie Schlussel Questions Barack Obama's Religion

You knew it would happen, probably sooner than later, and it has -- the wingnuts are going after Barack Obama with insinuations and flat out lies. The source of this first major attack is a third-rate attack dog by the name of Debbie Schlussel. Maybe she wants to be the next Ann Coulter?

Here is the post in question, entitled "Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim":
I decided to look further into Obama's background. His full name--as by now you have probably heard--is Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Hussein is a Muslim name, which comes from the name of Ali's son--Hussein Ibn Ali. And Obama is named after his late Kenyan father, the late Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., apparently a Muslim.

And while Obama may not identify as a Muslim, that's not how the Arab and Muslim Streets see it. In Arab culture and under Islamic law, if your father is a Muslim, so are you. And once a Muslim, always a Muslim. You cannot go back. In Islamic eyes, Obama is certainly a Muslim. He may think he's a Christian, but they do not.


So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on Oprah); is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?

Is that even the man we'd want to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, if Hillary Clinton offers him the Vice Presidential candidacy on her ticket (which he certainly wouldn't turn down)?

NO WAY, JOSE . . . Or, is that, HUSSEIN?

Emphasis added.

What a load of crap. Where will his loyalties be? As if he is going to direct the CIA to support the jihad against the US? Is Ms. Schussel serious?

I can't believe the wingnuts are going this far already.

Media Matters for America has the details that refute this idiotic post -- by a person who regularly is a guest on MSNBC. It seems that the media, or at least the cable news media -- those leftists the neo-cons are always complaining about -- are waging a campaign to mention Obama's middle name as often as humanly possible. Even the somewhat politically confused Chris Matthews is playing along.

It's going to be an ugly next two years.

Bill Kristol on The Daily Show

As much as I disagree with Bill Kristol on, well, pretty much everything, I have to admit he is a good sport. He was on The Daily Show last night and pretty much played the good natured straight man while Jon Stewart just unloaded on him about Bush, Iraq, and Rumsfeld.

On the bright side, Kristol said two of the few things I'll ever agree with him about: Rumsfeld was a bad Defense Secretary and Cheney was wrong -- yes, he said wrong -- to say that Rumsfeld was the best Defense Secretary ever.

You can watch the video at Crooks and Liars.

Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

Getting into the Christmas spirit with cartoons. This one is for Celeste, who first turned me on to this silly thing. I stole it from The Christmas Spot.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche on "The Obstacle of Guilt"

This was condensed in the new issue of Bodhidharma, so I went to the Snow Lion Publications Summer newsletter and copied this whole first section of the article. You can read the rest of it as a PDF at the Snow Lion site.
If we strive to improve ourselves on the spiritual path without a positive sense of self it will be hard to look at our shortcomings. The desire to work with our shortcomings is the reason most of us enter the path in the first place. But this is not always easy—not because on the Buddhist path there is any shortage of skillful means, but because as human beings we find it difficult to accept our mind as it is. When we sit to practice we often find it hard to face what’s “in there.” All sorts of undesirable sensations and thoughts arise. Our response: “This is bad…very bad indeed. I need to cut this. I need to get rid of this. I’m so intense!” The more we look the more we uncover.

Without a doubt the world is complex; we have to face what is happening around us—our relationships or just whatever goes on in our mind. We cannot expect it all to go away; the mind needs to adapt to what it confronts. The mind gets jealous, it gets angry, it gets irritated, it gets depressed. It gets…you name it…it gets that way! When our mind erupts in anger, irritations, jealousy, pride, and arrogance it is hard to think of ourselves in a positive way. When we express our anger outwardly toward others we feel like a bad mother, bad father, bad husband, wife or brother. We were supposed to be caring and compassionate but instead we lost it! Now we are a bad practitioner too! When we feel guilty we can kiss our good self-image good-bye. Feeling guilty is an indication that we have a strong aversion toward our minds—who we are, how we feel, what we think.

Often we don’t notice this aversion because we are too busy revisiting “the scene of the crime,” turning it over in our mind again and again as if that could change it. It’s like going to see a movie for a second time in hopes that the ending might turn out differently. We simply can’t accept our wrongdoing or mistakes, nor can we accept the causes and conditions that produced the undesired result. Of course sometimes we can pin it on others, but we still feel the discomfort: “I wish I didn’t do that thing that I did last week!” “Why can’t my mind settle in a peaceful state as described in the teachings?” It’s a little masochistic. “Bad me!” And all because we simply don’t want to accept and sit with the residue of our actions.

I think guilt is a challenge for those living in the modern world where people give such weight to their feelings and emotional states of mind. In more traditional cultures, like Tibet, people give less importance to their emotions. I certainly don’t mean to say that they don’t have emotions, but they don’t dwell on them as much or give them much credence. Even in modern cultures some people feel a stronger sense of guilt than others. Sometimes people who come from rougher, less privileged backgrounds have less guilt, while those who come from more privileged and educated backgrounds -— who tend to analyze their thoughts and emotions and try to find some meaning in them —- struggle more with guilt.

Some people are deft at managing or justifying their shortcomings. When they do something they don’t feel good about they just say, “Oh, well.” They know how to suppress their emotions and simply move on. Others have a more sensitive nature, they notice more, and they dig a little too much. Instead of investigating mind with a sense of curiosity they fix their attention on how they feel. They give a lot of importance to the content of their emotions and the sensations that arise. On top of this they often feel uncomfortable with the feelings they fixate on. This is not bad by any means. It’s just a harder way to go. It could also be that our guilt has a little pride in it. We just can’t stand to entertain the idea that we may have some faults. Seeing them we feel like crawling out of our own skin. Honestly speaking, if there’s any skin we truly need to shed it’s our habit of rejecting our experience. This habit gives rise to guilt.
Having been raised Catholic, I know the guilt thing pretty well. I also tend to think that guilt is part of an over-developed Inner Critic, which I've written about quite a bit here in the past.

Anyway, I liked this article. It seems to easily reflect some of the integral theory stuff about having a healthy ego -- meaning no overwhelming guilt issues, or issues of other kinds -- in order to transcend the self through spiritual practice. Nice to see that being supported in the Buddhist writers.

Documentary: Who Wrote the Bible?

This is a nearly two-hour documentary from Channel Four in England, hosted by Dr. Robert Beckford, who is looking for good answers to what sounds like a simple question: Who wrote the Bible?

From the Channel Four site:
It's a question that has preoccupied biblical scholars for several generations but Beckford, who is director of the Centre for Black Theology at the University of Birmingham, forsakes the library and takes to the road in a journey from Jerusalem to Rome and on to the USA (with a stopover in Walthamstow). On the way, he talks to American pilgrims shouldering crosses on the streets of Jerusalem, to the head of the Pope's Bible Institute, to a former criminal and boxing promoter in East London, and many more. Beckford must be the only theologian in the UK who has his own Saturday night radio show, so he looks perfectly at home in the open top, electric blue fin-tail car he drives on the US leg of his quest.
Read the whole blurb about the show here.

Stolen from Throw Away Your TV, but available at Google video.

This is a good video -- it's honest and all of the information is easily researched and verified. As might be expected, evangelicals did not like the show too much. Still, as someone who enjoys Spiral Dynamics, it's easy to see some of the memetic issues at play in the world's monotheistic religions.

The Daily Show: This Week in God -- The Christmas Edition

Samantha Bee talks about Christmas in this special edition of This Week in God from The Daily Show.

As usual, I stole this from Throw Away Your TV.

Politically Incorrect Santa Claus

The letters themselves aren't politically incorrect -- but the responses from the old fat guy sure aren't very nice. This is circulating the web again by email, but it seems to have a home at
Letters to Santa

1. Dear Santa,
I wud like a kool toy space ranjur for Xmas. Iv ben a good
boy all yeer.

Dear Billy,
Nice spelling. You're on your way to being a career
lawncare specialist. How 'bout I send you a f****** book
so you can learn to read and write? I'm giving your older
brother the space ranger, at least HE can spell!

2. Dear Santa,
I have been a good girl all year, and the only thing I
ask for is peace and joy in
the world for everybody! Love, Sarah

Dear Sarah,
Your parents smoked pot when they had you, didn't they?

3. Dear Santa,
I've written you for three years now asking for a fire
truck. Please, I really really want a fire truck this
Love, Joey

Dear Joey,
Let me make it up to you. While you sleep, I'm gonna
torch your house. You'll have more fire trucks than you'll
know what to do with.

4. Dear Santa,
I don't know if you can do this, but for Christmas, I'd like
for my mommy and daddy to get back together. Please see what
you can do.
Love, Teddy

Dear Teddy,
What, and ruin that hot affair your dad's still having with
the babysitter? He's banging her like a screen door in a
hurricane, son! Let me get you some nice Legos instead.

5. Dear Santa,
I need more Pokemon cards please! All my friends have more
Pokemon cards than me. Please see what you can do.
Love, Michelle

Dear Michelle,
It blows my f****** mind. Kids are forcing their parents to
buy hundreds of dollars worth of these stupid cards, and none
of you snot-nosed brats are even learning to play the game.
Let me get you something more your speed, like "Chutes and

6. Dear Santa,
I want a new bike, playstation, a train, some G.I. Joes, a
dog, a drum kit,a pony and a tuba.
Love, Francis

Dear Francis,
Who names their kid "Francis" nowadays?

7. Dear Santa,
I left milk and cookies for you under the tree, and I left
carrots for your reindeer outside the backdoor.
Love, Susan

Dear Susan,
Milk gives me the runs and carrots make the deer fart in my
face. You want to be a kiss-ass? Leave me a glass of Chivas
Regal and some Toblerone.

8. Dear Santa,
What do you do the other 364 days of the year? Are you making
Your friend, Thomas

Dear Thomas,
All toys get made in China. I have a condo in Vegas, where I
spend most my time squeezing cocktail waitresses asses, and
losing all my cash at the craps table. Hey, YOU wanted to know!

9. Dear Santa,
Do you see us when we're sleeping, do you really know when
we're awake, like in the song?
Love, Jessica

Dear Jessica,
You are that gullible? Good luck in whatever you do, I'm
skipping your house...

10. Dear Santa,
I really really want a puppy this year. Please please please

Timmy, That whiney begging crap may work with your folks, but
that crap don't work up here. You're getting a sweater again.

11. Dearest Santa,
We don't have a chimney in our house, how do you get into our
Love, Marky Mark

Firstly, stop calling yourself "Marky," that's why you're
getting your ass whipped at school. Secondly, you don't
live in a house, that's a low-rent apartment complex you're
living in. Thirdly, I get inside your pad just like all the
burglars do, through your bedroom window. Sweet Dreams!

Speedlinking 12/20/06

This morning's image is from Live Science:

~ Low LDL Cholesterol Levels Linked to Parkinson's Disease. This is a troubling outcome. Does that mean that being healthy --my LDL is lower than my HDL -- will cause Parkinson's? At least all that coffee I drink should protect me a bit.
~ Nerve damage hints at diabetes cure -- faulty nerves in the pancreas may cause type-I diabetes.
~ Vitamin D may cut multiple sclerosis risk, study finds.
~ Osteoarthritis may respond to acupuncture. "Patients with chronic pain related to osteoarthritis experience "marked clinical improvement" with acupuncture plus routine care, German researchers have shown."
~ Sugary Sweet Drinks Bring on Chronic Disease Later in Life. Duh?!
~ Sex does the body good -- "Having regular and enthusiastic sex, by contrast, confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female." Sucks to be single when news like this comes out.
~ Firm designs nasal spray to fight obesity -- "Dieters may find some welcome assistance from a new nasal spray that could help resist the appetizing aromas of cinnamon bun stands, pizza parlors or tempting bakeries."
~ Olive oil may hinder cancer process -- love those healthy fats!

~ Mind Matters: Kids Who Lack Compassion -- "Studies of children indicate that people may be inherently prejudiced against those less fortunate. Bah, humbug, indeed."
~ Training Hones Older Folks' Memory Skills.
~ ‘Use-it-or-lose-it’ brain theory put to the test -- "Brief sessions of brain exercise can have long-lasting benefits for elderly people, helping them stay mentally fit for at least five years, one of the most rigorous tests of the “use-it-or-lose-it” theory suggests."
~ How the Brain Makes Decisions. "Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have found that the brain controls an individual's preference for immediate or delayed rewards."
~ Intimacy -- "Focusing too much on your relationship can actually contribute to its breakdown." Been there, done that.
~ A Place for Consciousness -- New issue of Psyche seeks to locate consciousness in fresh meat -- you know, the brain.
~ In Memory-Bank ‘Dialogue,’ the Brain Is Talking to Itself. "New recordings of electrical activity in the brain may explain a major part of its function, including how it consolidates daily memories, why it needs to dream and how it constructs models of the world to guide behavior."
~ How Extreme Meditators Can Influence Their Body.
~ How to Overcome a Confidence Crisis.

~ Bill seeks to ban trans fats from Massachusetts. Cool.
~ Even grandma had premarital sex, survey finds -- "More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past."
~ Episcopalians Against Equality -- "The founders of the Episcopal Church believed that all men were created equal. Monday's defectors decided that they were not."
~ Swamped by Muslims from Glenn Greenwald.
~ Bush: 'We do need to increase our troops' -- So when is the draft going to be instituted to get those soldiers they want to send to their deaths?
~ The Hollow Army by James Fallows at the Atlantic. "The U.S. military is stretched to the breaking point—and one more crisis could break it."

~ The Top Ten Myths About Evolution.
~ The Week in Sustainable Mobility.
~ Competition vs. Sustainability.
~ Field Report: Al Gore's Climate Project.
~ Dozens of New Species in Borneo -- cool.
~ Top Ten Animal Stories of 2006 From National Geographic News -- "Troves of new species, a dolphin showing some "leg," India's first new bird in 50 years—and a warning that seafood will be gone by 2048. It's been an up-and-down year for animal lovers."
~ Top 10 climate stories of 2006: Part II.

~ From Joe at Until: The pope and Islam, a clash of holons.
~ From Tim Boucher: Gods & Collective Experiences -- Not strictly integral, but good.
~ The Loving Integral Embrace of Lies and Truth -- Robert Godwin explains his version of integralism.