Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thems Some Fierce Beavers

For about 3 months in the fall of 1985, I was an Oregon State Beaver. Let's just say that ended badly -- in a cloud of LSD-induced hallucinations and a 0.0 GPA.

Still, I harbor some fond memories (well, I think they're memories) of my time there, which on a few nights seemed like all of eternity crammed into a single beat of my heart. I might have even gone to a football game or two. There was beer, lots of beer.

Anyway, I still follow Beaver athletics on occasion, although they haven't had much to cheer about this season (other than kicking the crap out of my adopted Washington Huskies).

Until today.

Those lowly Beavers rose up today and smote the third-ranked USC Trojans. Yep, 33-31, in Corvallis.

Ah, it's a good day to be an Oregonian, sort of. Well, I lived there for 15 years -- longer than anywhere else. Yeah, okay. Whatever.

How Scary Are You?

You Are Scary

You even scare scary people sometimes!

Eight Behaviors for Coping with Change

This is the final installment in my series on change -- the other pieces, in order, can be found here, here, here, and here.

Eight Behaviors for Coping with Change

When an individual is undergoing change, either by choice or brought on by internal or external circumstances beyond his/her control, there are certain behaviors that, if cultivated, can make the process easier to navigate. Each of these eight behaviors will ease the transition process and make the time in liminal space a little less overwhelming. If the individual is able to employ two or more of these behaviors concurrently, the synergistic effect will be that much greater.

The individual should begin the process of developing or strengthening the observer self. In essence, the observer self is the proximate self of Wilber’s self-system.[i] A developed observer self has the ability to step back from the distal selves, or masks, and to take even another step back from the ego, acting as an observer of the whole outer aspect of self. The main benefit of this behavior is the ability to dis-identify with whatever struggles the distal selves are engaged in, as well as to see the meta-narrative of a life, rather than being caught up in the scenes or chapters.

The observer self -- the part of the self-system that can step back and listen to the mind obsess about finances, or an annoying coworker, or whatever the wind of the mind is blowing into consciousness -- is more of a real self than ever will be the ego’s stream of words always flowing through consciousness. It is the first real approach to finding the higher Self, or the witness, which resides beyond the realm of ego.

The first crucial step is to quiet the winds of the mind, to develop the capacity to observe the mind operating, to know that “I feel angry, but I am not my anger,” as psychosynthesis teaches us.[ii] One of the best ways to develop this behavior is through meditation. Sitting for only five to ten minutes a couple of times a day, focusing on the breath, identifying the thoughts floating through consciousness, and then releasing those thoughts immediately will pay enormous dividends when entering a transitional phase. Possessing the ability to dis-identify with the struggles of change can give a needed time-out, a chance to get centered in the meta-narrative for a few minutes.

2) The second important behavior is dependent on the first – the individual must be able to see his/her life as a long narrative, and recognize that the individual scenes and chapters are not the whole story. The phrase “unable to see the forest for the trees” encapsulates the cliché version of this behavior. A person going through change can get so caught up in assaulting the barriers, or seeking internal resolution, or any number of other coping strategies, that the story is lost within the scene.

Having an observer self allows the individual to take a step back from the struggles of transition and see that the process is in service of the greater story of her/his life. Being able to hold the perspective that “this too shall pass” makes the process a little easier, but it also reframes the struggle within the context of a meaningful initiation, allowing that the process serves a higher purpose.

3) Another important behavior for someone engaged in change is to seek out someone who understands what is happening and talk to that person. For most people that will mean a mental health professional, a person of faith, a parent, or a close friend. Ideally, the individual should seek out someone who is familiar with the change process, and has been through it him or herself. The best guide through a new territory is someone who has been there before you and made it through.

There are three important aspects to this behavior for the individual to learn. Each will have benefits beyond the change process.

A) The Power of Naming: Being able to talk about the experience, to name it, and to name the feelings being experienced can give the individual a sense of control previously lacking. Many indigenous peoples believe that naming a thing gives one power over it. To a certain extent that belief holds up – for someone engaged in an emotional transition, and unable to name the feelings, naming those feelings removes some of the mystery those feelings held, and gives the individual a sense of power over those feelings. In essence, this is the value of “talk therapy,” that the therapist can guide the client toward a recognition and understanding of the dynamics of his/her psyche. The same value adheres to the situation, whether the other person is a professional, a person of faith, a parent, or so on. As long as the conversation is able to help the individual see the situation more clearly, the benefit will be obvious.

B) The Power of the Ally: The importance of having an ally during a transitional period cannot be underestimated. One of the emotionally difficult aspects of being in liminal space is the sense of isolation the individual feels. Having a friend, or professional guide, who understands the process and the challenges can provide comfort and reassurance during the most difficult times, when the individual feels as though no one understands and s/he is feeling the full existential force of liminality.

Most often, the ally will be the same person with whom the individual feels most comfortable talking about her/his struggles. This need not be the case, however. A partner or close friend can also serve as an emotional ally even if that person does not have the experience or the skills to act as guide. The important point is that the individual should avoid isolating his/herself from friends and loved ones, if possible, and seek out at least one person who will stand by the individual no matter what happens.

C) Finally, when talking about the process, it is important to change the phrasing from “I am” to “I feel.” This seems like a simple thing, but it can make a difference over time. This change in phrasing is another way to dis-identify with the pain or the confusion. To say,” I am confused,” or “I am depressed,” is to define the self as those emotions. To say, “I feel confused,” or “I feel depressed,” is to acknowledge a feeling, but by using this phrasing the individual avoids identifying with the feeling as a way to define the self. Part of what allows a person to become stuck in the Gamma Trap of liminal space is to become identified with the liminality.

If the individual can avoid or reduce his/her identification with the struggle of transitional space, there is an opening through which the individual can reframe the experience in different terms. As discussed above, viewing the transition process as a ritual of initiation can allow a sacred dimension into the experience. When the individual participates in the sacred, there is a sense of meaning that accrues simply through the experience of the sacred and its inherent numinosity.

4) Learning to meditate, even for short periods of time, can make a significant difference. First of all, meditation calms the body, and as was discussed above, one of the physical symptoms of being in liminal space is anxiety and restlessness. The quiet focus on the breath, even in five-minute blocks, can help to calm the body and the mind.

Practice inhaling slowing through the nostrils and exhaling slowing through the mouth. Feel the breath as it enters the nose and moves down the airway to the lungs. Feel the chest expand with the inhalation, then release with the exhalation. Notice the sensations of the air leaving the body, the brief pause, and then the next breath. When this is easy, then expand the consciousness to feel the face, the ears, the eyes, and the neck. Feel the tension in the shoulders and release it with an exhalation. Notice any other tension in the body and draw up into the lungs with an inhalation, then release it with an exhalation. Feel the whole body relax into the breathing.

Whatever thoughts come up can be acknowledged and released. If the mind wanders from the breath, gently pull it back to the breathing and pick up the rhythm. When five minutes of this mediation becomes easy, make it seven, then ten. Sit and breathe for as long as possible. The longer the meditation lasts, the greater the benefits. If this meditation does not fit the personality of the individual, seek out another variation. There are many ways to meditate and most are very powerful tools for quieting the body and the mind.

A side benefit of this type of meditation will be the emergence or a more powerful observer self over time. As the individual becomes adept at noticing and releasing thoughts or feelings, the observer self will be strengthened and be more accessible when needed. If an individual receives no other benefit from this approach than a stronger observer self, then the work would still be valid – that is how important an observer self is to psycho-social-spiritual evolution.

5) Creative expression, in whatever form the individual chooses, is a powerful way to crystallize unconscious struggles and bring forth whatever symbolic energy is needed to express those feelings. Among the most common choices are writing, drawing, painting, singing or other forms of music, and dancing. Some other forms include sculpting with clay (or Playdough), mask-making with paper mache, Jungian sand tray, film-making, miniature Zen gardens, and dialoging. Any activity that is non-directed and that allows the ability to express pre-conscious thoughts and feelings can serve as a valid form of creative expression.

There are now whole schools of therapy based on the ability of creative expression to tap into the unconscious of the individual. In the same way that meditation is beneficial, in part, because it bypasses the ego, so too can creative expression sidestep the ego and allow the unconscious to express itself in images, sounds, or symbols.

When the change process is fully engaged, the most reactive part of the psyche is the ego. The ego does not like change, and will resist as much and as long as possible. The ego relies on the status quo, on inertia, and when that homeostasis is disturbed, the ego throws up its defense mechanisms (withdrawal, anger, cynicism, and so on) to fight the change and to try to maintain its current status. This is one of the most powerful barriers to change. However, the ego can be circumvented through meditation and through creative expression. Meditation allows the ego to be superceded by more complete aspects of the self-system, which creates a foundation for growth, but creative expression also can bring the barriers to growth into the light by projecting them onto the page (canvas, sand, etc.) in the form of symbols.

Interpreting the symbols that emerge can be a challenge for some people. In the expressive arts that allow for symbols,[iii] the individual might want to “analyze” the content of the creation, looking for symbolic meaning that will help him/her understand how the process is working within the psyche. The are many good books on symbolism, and any used book store will have at least one of the better known editions. Using these books as a starting place (but not as the final word), the individual can begin to analyze the symbolic content of a creation. Whether the creation is abstract and there are only colors and shapes, or perhaps it is fully realistic with distinct symbols, or maybe it is sand tray with an odd assortment of plastic and metal figures – whatever the format, the individual can begin to interpret the work while always being careful to feel for the right interpretation. If the “experts” in a book say one thing about the meaning of a burning bush, but the individual has a wholly different association, then s/he should listen to what feels correct in her/his life, not the book.

Finally, the individual may also consider dreams a form of creative expression and work with them in the same way s/he might work with artist expression. The dream world is rich with symbolic and archetypal meaning. In working with dreams, it will be even more important to trust inner feeling about meanings and associations, rather relying on a book or an ally to help interpret the meaning. The dreams that fill our nights are distinctly personal, and must be given the respect they deserve.

Often, it will be enough to record the dream and any feelings associated with it. James Hillman has been a powerful voice against literal dream interpretation, as has his better-known student, Thomas Moore. By allowing the dream to remain free of interpretation, the psyche is allowed to continue its work without having been defined into a particular state. How a given individual approaches this issue will depend on where s/he falls on the thinking/feeling axis of the psyche. A “thinking” person will tend to enjoy the puzzle of interpretation and want to understand all the possible meanings. A “feeling” person will want to feel the meaning emotionally and will not be as concerned with a full symbolic interpretation. Both approaches are valid and are to be encouraged.

6) Another valuable behavior to adopt is spending time in nature as often as possible, but at least two or three times a week. Angeles Arrien suggests that at least an hour a day in nature is required for optimal health.[iv] Arrien talks about how native peoples have viewed wilderness as “the Great Mysterious,”[v] as the source of empowerment and spirit. The point is valid, but it is difficult for many people to find that “extra” hour a day to be outdoors. However, any time in nature is better than sitting in front of a television.

Being in nature, and especially in wilderness, allows a new perspective that often is lacking in day-to-day life – nature makes one feel small. When one is in nature, and can actually allow the experience to get within the ego’s barriers, the ego seems to recede and feel “tiny.” This allows the deeper aspects of the self-system to surface, providing the individual with a sense of calm that may have been lacking as the change process proceeds. The emotional calm that arises is mirrored by the body, which (in the absence of danger) tends to slow its heartbeat and lower its blood pressure while in a natural environment as opposed to an urban environment. Even for those people in big cities without easy access to nature, a park like Golden Gate Park or Central Park can provide the same benefits.

Finding a rock or a tree to sit against also provides a perfect space for a sitting meditation (as described above). When one is actually on the earth, or leaning against a tree, quieting the mind through focus on the breath allows a more receptive state for the vibrational energy of the earth to move through the body, grounding it in the present moment. This may sound like a bunch of “new age” gibberish, but the sensation is very real.

7) While in a transitional period (and any other time), it is important to maintain physical health through proper nutrition and regular exercise. Candace Pert, Mona Lisa Schultz, and others have shown that physical health depends on emotional and psychological health, but the reverse is also true. If a person does not take care of the body, feeding it and exercising it regularly, then psychological health will suffer.

The are many studies, and more being published all the time, showing that exercise can be as effective in treating depression as some pharmaceuticals, with none of the side effects. Other studies have shown that exercise can help in the treatment of anxiety disorders, addictions, borderline personality, and self-esteem issues, to name just a few – in fact, exercise can improve sex drive (which is largely in the mind) and intelligence. Nutrition is just as important – bad fuel means bad performance. High sugar diets, with a lot of refined flour and processed foods, make the mind sluggish as well as the body. Yet, higher protein diets, with complex carbohydrates coming largely from fruits and vegetables, provide amino acids that keep the mind sharp and alert, maintain even energy levels, eliminate the yo-yo blood-glucose levels resulting from sugar ingestion, and provide all the necessary nutrients to keep the neuro-emotional network strong and healthy. Healthy fats (the omega fats) are crucial to cellular and neurological health. All of this translates to a foundation for emotional and psychological health.

At the more esoteric levels, there is a whole tradition in Eastern religion that privileges the body as the vehicle for the soul to transcend this world. Many of the popular forms of yoga known in America have a more spiritual basis in eastern religion, especially hatha yoga. The spiritual form of hatha yoga has as its goal the harnessing of the body’s energy in service of the soul becoming enlightened in a single lifetime. It is believed that a strong, supple, healthy body is essential to the attainment of enlightenment. Many of the Asian martial arts, while less concerned with the spiritual element, also recognize the importance of a healthy body in maintaining a strong spirit.

With nearly 65 percent of Americans now overweight, and obesity overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death, it’s clear that this country cannot possibly be emotionally and psychologically healthy. Yet, for someone who is attempting to grow and become more complex as a human being, physical health is essential in providing a solid foundation for the emotional and psychological work to be done. A healthy diet that avoids sugar, refined flour, processed and fried foods, and seeks out healthy meats, vegetables, and fats – combined with regular exercise – can make a transitional period much less traumatic and allow for a quicker resolution.

It also should be understood that for many individuals, simply adopting a healthy lifestyle of nutrition and exercise itself will be a major transition in their lives. The change process for these people should be approached in the same way as though a person were moving to a post-formal world view from the pre-formal stage. There will be barriers to overcome (mostly internal), there will be reframing that needs to occur, and there will be exterior challenges from family and friends who do not understand or cannot accept that junk food is harmful. Like all change, however, it is about growth and evolution, and making the choice to possess a wider view of the world.

8) Learn to see change as a sacred process. Mircea Eliade, the great scholar of comparative religion, helped to popularize an important distinction between the sacred and the profane.[vi] Fundamentally, what is sacred is the opposite of what is profane. Not a very illuminating statement on the surface, but an example might help to clarify the matter. Most of the time a cracker is simply a snack, a combination of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in a set ratio, baked for a specific length of time, packaged and then sold in a store. However, that same cracker, on Sunday morning, during the sacrament of Communion, becomes the literal body of Christ. When the priest places the wafer on the tongue, it is the flesh of God, made tangible through the ritual of the transubstantiation, and if one is a good Catholic, Communion is experienced as ingesting the body and blood of Christ. What is normally profane (the cracker) is made sacred through the process of ritual and the faith placed in the ritual’s efficacy.

The sacred, then, can be defined as the transmutation of an ordinary object, act, or experience into something felt to have meaning. Yet, what is sacred is relative. A thing, act, or experience may be defined as sacred by a society, a culture, a small group, or an individual. For a devoted fan of John Lennon, may hold as sacred a guitar pick he may have flicked into the audience during a show. The fact that Lennon owned the pick, used it to play music, and then flicked it into the audience during the course of a show that may stand out in memory as a profound experience, transmutes the mere piece of plastic into a sacred object. His death, by murder, only further imbues the object with significance.

One of the primary elements in the ritual process is that liminal space is sacred space. The period in which the individuals are in liminal space is a profoundly sacred time because all traditional ritual is divinely sanctioned. Liminal space carries all the elements of sacred space, including the absence of social norms, timelessness or the return to the first time, being at the center of the world (often symbolized by the spine, a pole, a tree, a mountain, and so on -- the axis mundi[vii]), and an ontological change[viii] in the individual.

The structure of ritual provides that liminal space is sacred space, and that what makes liminality sacred is that it is imbued with meaning. If the change process truly takes place in liminal space, then it, too, must be seen as a sacred experience, possessing meaning beyond the mere dropping of outworn ideas or worldviews. When one is in sacred space, objects, acts, and experiences (OAEs from now on) can take on larger meaning or be experienced in new ways. Rudolf Otto identified several characteristics of the sacred: a feeling of terror in the presence of the sacred (mysterium tremendum), its majesty (majestas) is felt to possess an enormous power, and the religious fear when confronted with its mystery is fascinating (mysterium fascinans).[ix] All of these experiences are defined by Otto as numinous (from numen in Latin, meaning god) due to their ability to reveal some aspect of divinity. To the individual, the numinous is felt to be something entirely “other,” not of this world (essentially, not profane, thus the rather simplistic definition above).

When one reframes the change process in this way, as a ritual process, the individual is then free to experience change as a sacred event, with all the conditions that accrue to living in liminal space. Those who surrender to change can experience the process as an initiation ritual, complete with symbolic death and resurrection, an experience that both grounds the process as ritual and expands the meaning into sacred proportions. The change process is well-suited to reframing as an initiation process because the outcome of successful change is, in essence, a new sense of self -- just as the goal of an initiation ceremony, whether it is baptism, a puberty rite, or menses onset, is the establishment of a new, more complex identity than previously possessed.

[i] See Integral Psychology.

[ii] See Psychosythesis by Roberto Assagioli, or any number of other books by his students, including Molly Brown and Piero Ferrucci.

[iii] Music doesn’t allow symbolic expression in the same way as visual or written art, but if it is recorded, then there is something to which the individual can go back and listen, seeking patterns and melodies filled with emotion. I am not qualified to speak about the interpretation of musical composition, but there are good books that can serve as an introduction to music theory.

[iv] See The Four-fold Way, page 30.

[v] Peter Matthiessen’s phrase from Indian Country.

vi See The Sacred & the Profane (1957). Eliade’s book deals essentially with the nature of religious experience, myth, symbol, and ritual, but the basic distinction is relevant in a variety of areas. It has been one of the most widely used books in introductory-level college classes in comparative religion.

[vii] Axis Mundi translates as “center of the world”.

[viii] By completing the ritual process, the individual is fundamentally changed, his/her being is not as it was before the experience.

[ix] From Otto’s The Sacred (1909), cited in Eliade, page 9.

The Perils of an Online Life

I've been pretty open about my life in this blog. I try to share as much of my life as I can here for a couple of reasons: 1) to practice being more visible, and 2) to allow you to know me a little better.

When I found Zaadz nearly a year ago, I thought it was a cool idea and a great way to have some community with people who share similar interests (Buddhism, integral, and so on). I saw it as another way to be more visible in the world, to be more authentic with people who share some of my values, and as a place to explore my ever-fluid identity.

I encouraged Kira to join Zaadz as well, and she did. While I am glad that she has found some community there as well, now that we are not together any longer it feels strange.

I knew that she would one day begin seeing other people -- and, at some point, that I will, too. And I sincerely hope she finds someone who meets all of her needs and wants in a partner. But I certainly didn't expect to be reading about her efforts to create the intention needed to manifest that relationship. That was a lot of fun.

I guess this is one of the drawbacks of having a life that bleeds over into the online world. A small part of me regrets encouraging Kira to join Zaadz, but mostly I simply accept that this is how things are now.

Review: Shut Up and Sing

I never thought much of the Dixie Chicks -- until they got themselves in deep sh!t over saying some true things about their feelings for George Bush during the height of American jingoism and xenophobia. Then I suddenly quite liked them, even if I still wasn't fond of their music.

Now there is a documentary -- Shut Up and Sing -- about their struggles with the loss of fans and support that came as result of speaking out against Bush and his policies. They recently did the Oprah thing, which suggests the lefty-leaning cultural creatives are supporting their cause.

Rolling Stone reviews their movie, giving 3 1/2 out of 4 stars:
Life in Bush America gets a blunt, honest telling in this documentary that makes you want to stand up and cheer without ever begging for tears or glib sympathy. Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the chart-topping Dixie Chicks, set off a shit storm at the start of the Iraq War in 2003 when she told a London audience, "We're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas." Maines joined Martie Maguire and Emily Robison -- the two sisters who founded the Texas band -- in a media attempt to straighten up without flying right. But a concerted right-wing effort to kill their radio play and concert appearances, especially in the South, had success. Barbara Kopple, who directed this movie firecracker with Cecilia Peck, has been chronicling threats to democracy since Harlan County, U.S.A. in 1977. And she gives due respect to Topic A: free speech. For three years, the camera focuses on the Chicks as wives, mothers, entertainers and political flash points. Their fight to stay uncompromised is inspiring. When Bush himself claims the Chicks have no right to complain about "hurt feelings," Maines lets out a terse "dumb fuck." Amen to that, sister.
The Zero Boss (among others) recently blogged about how NBC and the CW refused to run an ad for the new movie because it was disparaging of Bush. You can watch the commercial here.

If you want to keep up with what the DC's are up to, you can check out their blog, Shut Up and Post.

Let's all give a round of applause for free speech.

Friday, October 27, 2006

What Is Your Power Color?

Your Power Color Is Lime Green

At Your Highest:

You are adventurous, witty, and a visionary.

At Your Lowest:

You feel misunderstood, like you don't fit in.

In Love:

You have a tough exterior, but can be very dedicated.

How You're Attractive:

Your self-awareness and confidence lights up a room.

Your Eternal Question:

"What else do I need in my life?"

Cool Site

Stumbled upon World Changing, a project founded by Alex Steffen and Jamais Cascio (with Lief Utne as editor), and thought it was cool. Here is their manifesto: works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together.

Informed by that premise, we do our best to bring you links to (and analysis of) those tools, models and ideas in a timely and concise manner. We don't do negative reviews – why waste your time with what doesn't work? We don't offer critiques or exposes, except to the extent that such information may be necessary for the general reader to apprehend the usefulness of a particular tool or resource. We don't generally offer links to resources which are about problems and not solutions, unless the resource is so insightful that its very existence is a step towards a solution. We pay special attention to tools, ideas and models that may have been overlooked in the mass media. We make a point of showing ways in which seemingly unconnected resources link together to form a toolkit for changing the world.

Every link we post is informed by technology, but the new possibilities we cover aren't just high-tech. Sure, we all need to understand the uses (and dangers) of advances like biotechnology, the Internet, ubiquitous computing, artificial intelligences, "open source" software and nano-materials. But we also need to know how best to collaborate, how to build coalitions and movements, how to grow communities, how to make our businesses live up to their highest potential and how to make the promise of democracy into a reality. We need to understand techniques as well as technologies, ideas as well as innovations. How we work together is as important as the tools we use.

This is a conversation, not a sermon. We encourage not just feedback, but active participation, and, yes, challenge. Got a great idea for a resource we've missed? Let us know – better yet, write your own recommendation and send it to us. Think we're off-base with a recommendation we've made? Let us know that, too, and what resource you think we should have covered instead. Changing the world is a team sport.
Certainly, this is a project rooted in the sensitive self of the "cultural creatives," but they are focused on attainable goals for people who feel that they can have an impact on the world. This is to be admired and supported from my point of view.

We need more people with their hearts in the right place who are willing to get involved with change, rather than just talking about it. Maybe their project will fail, but maybe they will succeed magnificently.

Election Humor

Some of the best election/politcal jokes from
"The election is three weeks away and there are rumors the Republicans are getting ready for an election night disaster, which would be a first -- a disaster they were actually prepared for." --Bill Maher

"If recent polls are correct and Democrats win back control of the House and Senate, President Bush's administration will be transformed into an early lame duck. Worse, Cheney will then shoot it." --Seth Meyers

"A politician in Denver still wants voters to support him even though a videotape has surfaced of him masturbating. His campaign slogan is, 'Think of me when you're about to pull the lever.'" --Conan O'Brien

"Congressmen are now on their five-week break. Did you know they were off? No, you don't even know when they're working. Anyway, they have five weeks to campaign for their upcoming elections. You know, they're traveling around the country talking about the most dangerous threats to our country -- flag-burning and gay marriage." --Jay Leno

"President Bush's approval ratings are dipping into the 30s, while Mark Foley is dipping into the teens." --Jay Leno

"After being caught sending explicit emails to underage boys, Florida congressman Mark Foley has resigned. So his seat is up for grabs, which is what got him in trouble in the first place." --Jay Leno

"This is like the worst thing to happen to congressional Republicans since last Thursday. ... Most people think GOP stands for Gay Old Pedophile." --Jay Leno

"Elections are only a few weeks away and it looks like the Republicans are going to lose a lot of them. I guess desperate times require desperate measures. [on screen: RNC's TV ad depicting another terrorist attack by Osama bin Laden, followed by a reminder to vote 11/7]. Let me get this straight. Osama bin Laden is threatening to attack America again, so what we should do is vote for the people who haven't been able to catch him for the last five years?." --Jimmy Kimmel

"Showing that he will not be deterred by this scandal, President Bush went to Chicago yesterday for a fundraiser with the embattled Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. Bush said he could have cancelled, but he wanted to show his unwavering commitment to the Republican principle of 'Go F--- Yourself.'" --Bill Maher

"This weekend Ohio Republican Bob Ney plead guilty to Abramoff-related bribery and corruption charges. Congressman Ney's district encompasses -- this is true -- most of Licking County, Ohio. Which early odds have it will also be the nickname of his jail cell. Ney asked for leniency in sentencing because he says he has a drinking problem. If you're keeping score at home, that now makes alcohol responsible for corruption, anti-semitism, and homosexual pedophilia." --Jon Stewart

"According to USA Today, most of our nation's cities will be unable to evacuate in the case of a major disaster. Washington, D.C., received an F as one of the hardest cities to get out of. Unless, of course, you're a Republican in November. Then it's easy." --Jay Leno

"Political experts say the Senate race in New Jersey is 'neck and neck.' Not only is the New Jersey race 'neck and neck,' it's also 'mullet and mullet.'" --Conan O'Brien " said it is launching a voter registration page targeting young adults. Sadly, the only person that the MySpace page has attracted so far is former Congressman Mark Foley." --Conan O'Brien

"Earlier tonight, ABC premiered its current and new episode of 'Lost.' It's all about the Republicans' election chances." --David Letterman

"This week Virginia Senator George Allen introduced a bill to help black farmers. He said this wasn't to make up for anything he's said in the past. No, this going to make up for the stuff he says in the future." --Jay Leno

There's plenty more at the site.

Poem: W. S. Di Piero

Blue Moon
—October 31, 2001

They’re gathering now
cone-head ghouls Spider-Man
fly-by-nighters’ burnt-cork cheeks
flailed sheets and twiggy voices
Mama stalking a border dog’s
crescent around back around
as if to fend off certain harm
October’s second sodium moon
basting the street and barbecue ribs
and links she smoked all day
to keep her four boys close
no begging door-to-door not
with new monsters wakened
Anything can happen here
tonight unlike past years free
to knock and shriek
now they spook themselves
overdub hip-hop shouts going
nowhere fast these fearless fat
boys past whom skip fuzzy whelps
tittering mice and bunnies clamped
to adults who keel them house
to house and now I see them
as a broken flock of dispersed
wild children wandering
adults and myself among them
like medieval gangs of the blind
the destitute the deranged the lost
beyond our ranks of city lights
to beg and thumb our way
suburb to rail tracks to hills
across lunar stubble fields.

~ W. S. Di Piero, "Blue Moon" from Brother Fire. Copyright © 2004 by W. S. Di Piero.

Gratitude -- Escapist Edition

I am extremely grateful that season seven of The West Wing will be released on November 7th. I just pre-ordered my copy from Amazon.

This was one of the best seasons of the show. It featured a presidential election campaign pitting Jimmy Smits (a conservative Dem) against Alan Alda (a socially liberal Republican).

With this, I will own the whole series.

The show gives me (false) hope that politics can sometimes actually be about helping people be better people.

Speedlinking 10/27/06

Morning image is from Päivi:

Happy Friday!

~ From iVillage, The Healthiest Foods for Office Snacking.
~ Obesity A Growing Problem In The Indo-Asian Population. The World Health Organization has suggested lower BMI cutoff values for the definitions of overweight and obesity in Asian populations.
~ Sexy Female Training. Hardcore training for smart women, by Tucson's own Chad Waterbury.
U.S. exercise guidelines coming in 2008. If this is anything like the food pyramid, no one will even notice.
~ Many Kids "Grow Out Of" Migraines As They Reach Adulthood. I did, thank god(dess).
~ Bob the trainer from the Biggest Loser (NBC) gives you weight loss tips.

~ Researcher Explores Psychological Well-being And Physical Health, Wins Seligman Award. The Eighth Annual Martin E.P. Seligman Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research in Positive Psychology went to a researcher looking at how psychological health impacts physical health.
~ Anxiety Disorders And Physical Conditions Linked. Anxiety disorders appear to be independently associated with several physical conditions, including thyroid disease, respiratory disease, arthritis and migraine headaches, according to a report in the October 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
~ meleephd at clear mind offers an excerpt from the Sandhinirmochana Sutra in analyzing yoga – the definitive teaching of yoga.
~ Mystery of Existence offers Headlessness and radical subjectivity.
~ Bob at Dust had a Cranky, mean-spirited reaction to Stuart Davis’s blog when Stu ranted against rationalist flatland (Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins).

~ Happy Hallelujah Night! Christians offer an alternative to Halloween with petting zoos, bouncy gyms, and lots of candy.
~ From Mike at Unknowing Mind, Buddhism and the Idea of God.
~ natasha at feminish looks at the relationship between how women dress and how men interpret that in Flesh, cloth and rape. The post ends with an anti-rape message (always important), but up until then she was making good points about how women choose their own identity through clothes, and how that doesn't give men any rights over them.
~ Integrative Spirituality reposts what I am guessing is an older article, but a good one, Bringing Goddess Home.

~ Global Cooling Chilled Super-Hot Oceans of Early Earth, Study Finds. Talk about climate change.
~ Simple Estimate Suggests Our Sun Had a Crowded Nursery. The sun seems to have been born in a cluster of nearby stars, based on evidence that one nearby neighbor went supernova.
~ Beyond the Whopper: Fast food goes organic and natural.
~ Google's green plans: It was big news a few weeks ago when Google announced plans to put a solar voltaic system on its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. . . . But according to a leaked company document, that was just a small part of a much more ambitious plan.
~ An Interesting New Prediction Market, for those of you who are fans of Freakanomics.
~ From P2P Foundation: Examining our assumptions on economies of scale.

And that's all for now. Might do one of these on the weekend -- otherwise, more on Monday.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Attempt to Disprove Vampires Fails

From Yahoo News, which is the perfect location for this "scientist":
Vampires a Mathematical Impossibility, Scientist Says

A researcher has come up with some simple math that sucks the life out of the vampire myth, proving that these highly popular creatures can't exist.

University of Central Florida physics professor Costas Efthimiou's work debunks pseudoscientific ideas, such as vampires and zombies, in an attempt to enhance public literacy. Not only does the public believe in such topics, but the percentages are at dangerously high level, Efthimiou told LiveScience.

Legend has it that vampires feed on human blood and once bitten a person turns into a vampire and starts feasting on the blood of others.

Efthimiou's debunking logic: On Jan 1, 1600, the human population was 536,870,911. If the first vampire came into existence that day and bit one person a month, there would have been two vampires by Feb. 1, 1600. A month later there would have been four, and so on. In just two-and-a-half years the original human population would all have become vampires with nobody left to feed on.
Okay, where to begin. First, not everyone bitten by a vampire becomes a vampire. Most victims simply die of blood loss. Second, well, there is no second. The first point erases this guy's logic.

In order to create a new vampire, a victim must be made to drink the blood of the vampire who has attacked him or her -- this is to be "sired." This element is common to all the Anne Rice books, as well as the Buffyverse of Joss Whedon's creation.

So, now that Efthimiou's debunking has been debunked, be careful of things that go bump in the dark.

Parable: The Fish and the Turtle

From Once Upon a Time:

The Fish and the Turtle (Is Nibbana Nothingness?)

Once upon a time there was a fish. And just because it was a fish, it had lived all its life in the water and knew nothing whatever about anything else but water. And one day as it swam about in the lake where all its days had been spent, it happened to meet a turtle of its acquaintance who had just come back from a little excursion on the land.

"Good day, Mr. Turtle!" said the fish. "I have not seen you for a long time. Where have you been?"

"Oh", said the turtle, "I have just been for a trip on dry land."

"On dry land!" exclaimed the fish. "What do you mean by on dry land? There is no dry land. I had never seen such a thing. Dry land is nothing."

"Well," said the turtle good-naturedly. "If you want to think so, of course you may; there is no one who can hinder you. But that's where I've been, all the same."

"Oh, come," said the fish. "Try to talk sense. Just tell me now what is this land of yours like? Is it all wet?"

"No, it is not wet," said the turtle.

"Is it nice and fresh and cool?" asked the fish.

"No, it is not nice and fresh and cool," the trutle replied.

"Is it clear so that light can come through it?"

"No, it is not clear. Light cannot come through it."

"Is it soft and yielding, so that I can move my fins about in it and push my nose through it?"

"No, it is not soft and yielding. You could not swim in it."

"Does it move or flow in streams?"

"No, it neither moves nor flows in streams."

"Does it ever rise up into waves then, with white foams in them?" asked the fish, impatient at this string of Noes.

"No!" replied the turtle, truthfully. "It never rises up into waves that I have seen."

"There now," exclaimed the fish triumphantly. "Didn't I tell you that this land of yours was just nothing? I have just asked, and you have answered me that it is neither wet nor cool, not clear nor soft and that it does not flow in streams nor rise up into waves. And if it isn't a single one of these things what else is it but nothing? Don't tell me."

"Well, well", said the turtle, "If you are determined to think that dry land is nothing, I suppose you must just go on thinking so. But any one who knows what is water and what is land would say you were just a silly fish, for you think that anything you have never known is nothing just because you have never known it."

And with that the turtle turned away and, leaving the fish behind in its little pond of water, set out on another excursion over the dry land that was nothing.

~ Source: "The Buddha and His Teachings" by Maha thera Narada.

Which RSS Reader Do You Use?

ProBlogger links to a review of RSS feed readers at CNET:

I missed this earlier in the month but CNET put together a review of some of the more popular RSS readers at Make your own headlines.

They looked at Bloglines (rated 7.7), Rojo (rated 6.7), Google Reader (no rating given), FeedDemon 2 (rated 8.0) and Newsagator Inbox 2.6 (rated 7.5).

What RSS/News Reader/s do you use?

found via a Feed is Born

Which reader do those of you who read this site use? Have you tried several? What features are you looking for the most?

Satire: President "Not Satisfied" with Iraq War

Some good clean fun from Big Red Buddha:

President "Not Satisfied" with Iraq War
Written by Miso

Thursday, 26 October 2006

President Bush addresses October, 2006 press conference WASHINGTON -- Citing 93 American casualties so far this month and escalating public discontent with the Administration's middle east policies, President Bush told a White House press gathering Wednesday that he's "not satisfied" with the Iraq war.

"I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq," the President said. "I'm not satisfied, either."

When asked to clarify his remarks, Bush termed the Iraq conflict a "poor value" for America's defense dollar, and insists that it be made more interesting to the average TV viewer.

"Like we say in Texas," the President laughed, "If you're gonna vacation down on the ranch, you gotta cut some brush."

Bush says public anger against the Iraq war actually amounts to frustration over the conflict's dwindling benefit to American consumers.

"I mean, take that whole 'Shock and Awe' thing," explained Bush. "That was fun -- made for some fine TV. But we're just not getting a lot of that anymore."

At an estimated cost of $6300 per second, the Iraq war is shaping into one of the most expensive foreign adventures in U.S. history. But the White House today unveiled a plan designed to return more war value to restless Republican voters in the final weeks weeks before the November elections.

The plan -- dubbed Operation Enduring Majority by GOP insiders -- calls for a dramatically increased program of "signature" photo ops, and a new Dixie Chicks-bashing music video by Country star Toby Keith.

White House spokesman Tony Snow says the President hopes to recapture the momentum of his "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier landing by being shot out of a circus cannon directly onto the stage of a major military rally. President Bush will then serve Texas-style barbecue to the troops after personally slaughtering a small herd of cattle chosen for the event.

"The President wants the world to know that nobody tops the United States when it comes to wartime imagery," said Snow. "Besides, if you can't have fun when conducting an Asian land war, when can you?"

Speedlinking 10/26/06

This morning's picture is the M31 central region:

~ The Anti-Skinny Fat Manifesto. "Nowadays people are more likely to attempt to emulate Brad Pitt's physique in Fight Club (good luck) than even the moderately muscled physique donned by Christian Bale in Batman Begins." Well, hell, we can't have that.
~ Exercise Helps You Quit Smoking More Successfully. Worked for me, lo, those many years ago.
~ Being Overweight Can Cost You At The Pump. Apparently, the more you weigh, the more gas it takes to drag you around.
~ Weight loss on the Web: Where to turn for advice. Consumer Reports rates the weight loss sites.
~ Ecstasy as a brain booster for Parkinson's? Can you imagine this? A bunch of nearly-senile olde folk rolling on E?
~ Study Identifies "Sociality" Neurons. Seems there are neurons that determine whether birds of a feather flcok together.
~ Coffee May Protect Against Diabetes: Study Shows Coffee Drinkers Have A Reduced Risk Of Developing Type 2 Diabetes. This is just confirming what we already know.

~ Tame your brain to keep your cool. Seems that a basic neurofeedback technique can help people -- including psychotics -- have better access their inner states as a way to control anger and rage. Sign me up.
~ From Aaron at Anxious Living: It’s Only Life.
~ Stephen Batchelor at Tricycle blogs about Reason and Transcendence (2).
~ Edward Berge at Open Integral is discussing Postmetaphysical Thinking. The central theme seems to be the development of the self as a social creature rather than Wilber's reliance on the Piagetian constructivist tradition.
~ Dashh posts an exerpt from an interview with William Irwin Thompson, in which he talks about Ken Wilber.
~ Meditation’s Impact on Alertness can be found over at Authentic Personality.
~ StevePavlina blogs on Purpose = Permanent Message + Temporary Medium, a look at how our life's purpose may change its form of expression over time, but not so much its central meaning.
~ Dave Pollard at How to Save the World tackles Need, Want, Love.

~ Stereotypes Can Keep Women's Math Scores Low. In study, females performed poorly when 'male math gene' theory was touted
~ Tombs Found in Syria Hold Riches, Signs of Ritual Sacrifice. Cool.
~ A few takes on the New Jersey "gay rights" ruling:
* Viewpoint: A Separate But Equal Ruling for Gay Marriage
* N.J. court opens door to gay marriage
* N.J. high court opens door to gay marriage: Justices force Legislature to decide how state will honor same-sex union
* NJ court grants gay couples equal marriage rights
* New Jersey court backs gay rights
~ Matthew Dallman deconstructs Ken Wilber's brief article, BLOG: Deconstruction of a Postmodern Musician. The gloves are off.

~ A New Research Project To Examine The Impact Of Prenatal And Childhood Environmental Factors. Maybe they'll come down on one side or the other of the nature/nurture debate.
~ Appalachians Triggered Ancient Ice Age.
~ Amazon River Flowed Backwards in Ancient Times. Damn, science is cool.
~ Where is the center of the renewable energy universe? The answer may soon be Arizona.
~ Brazil Bus Firm Powers Fleet on Biofuels.

And the lid is on.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Six Word Stories

Wired magazine has some six word stories inspired by Hemingway's famous, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." There are 59 stories at the website not in the print magazine.

These are all from famous or near-famous writers. Some are brilliant, some not so much. My favorite is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Serenity scribe Joss Whedon:
Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
Here are some others I liked:

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

His penis snapped off; he’s pregnant!
- Rudy Rucker

Kirby had never eaten toes before.
- Kevin Smith

Nevertheless, he tried a third time.
- James P. Blaylock

Thought I was right. I wasn't.
- Graeme Gibson

I saw, darling, but do lie.
- Orson Scott Card

Anyone have one they'd like to share? Please add yours to the comments.


It rained last night. Not a lot, but enough that everything was wet and cool. For that I am very grateful.