Friday, May 25, 2007

Free Write: Depression Speaks

A while back, I mentioned that I was trying to work with my recent situational depression as a subpersonality. One way to work with subs is to allow them to speak whatever is on their mind. What follows is an unedited free write in which I allow my depression to have its say. This is the voice of The Darkness, with some comments from me in italics.

The abyss opens before me, within me.

I am the abyss. No separation. One. I am a murky ocean of darkness swallowing all that comes near.

Depression, my old friend. As always, you have stolen my soul. Broken my spirit. I hate you, love you, loathe you.

I am emptiness. I am a black hole of nothingness. I am naught.

Cessation. The need to stop. Thinking. Feeling. Being. Cessation.

Everything comes undone. Change is the only constant.

But in this place, only nothing. No escape. No relief. Nothing.

I have swallowed your body whole. Useless flesh. Futile anchor. It thinks it exists. It thinks it matters. The body is a fool. The mind even more foolish. Silly ego. Silly self. You deceive yourself that you matter, that you are real.

Being and Nothingness. Only nothingness is real. I am that and I am naught.

All is darkness. Light is the illusion of meaning. Shadows speak the only truth. Darkness is truth.

I am the abyss. I consume all. Interminable darkness.

I am the death of hope.

Strangely enough, I think there is some wisdom in this. Depression is asking me to stop. To just be in emptiness. It's saying that if I wasn't attached to happiness and outcomes, I wouldn't be depressed.

I haven't been meditating as much I should be -- as much as I might when I am not depressed. And meditation might be the best thing for me right now.

Short Film: "Leave" by R.E.M.

There's no music video for R.E.M.'s "Leave," but this acoustic version of the song and the short film, Leaving Prague, that goes with it is fucking awesome.

Leaving Prague | shortmovie by Alexander Welitschko


Tony Hawk - The 900º

I actually saw this on TV when it happened and, as someone who had skated a bit in his youth, it blew my little mind. It came up on video sift today so I thought I'd post it.

He may not feel as old as other parents, but he's old enough to have retired at age 31. It should be made clear, though, that in skateboarding the word "retire" doesn't mean you stop skating. It simply means he's stopped competitive skating. He still skates almost every day, still learns new tricks, and still does several public demos a year. He was recently voted the best vert skater by readers of Transworld Skateboarding magazine. One of the reasons Tony decided to stop competing at the end of 1999 was that he landed the first-ever 900 (two and a half mid-air spins) at the X Games. The 900 was the last on a wish list of tricks he'd written a decade earlier. The list included ollie 540, kickflip 540, varial 720, and the 900.

Via: VideoSift

Speedlinking 5/25/07

Quote of the day:

"Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons."
~ R. Buckminster Fuller

Image of the day

According to OhGizmo, an artist and a palaeontologist have created a breakthrough in video game sciences by combining forces and recreating Pac-Man’s skull. The brilliant duo based their hypothetical skull on “the observation of human and various predatory animal skulls,” as well as plenty of observation of his work on the screen. And while the skulls aren’t for sale (at least, not just yet), I have no doubt schools and bio labs across the country will be trying to get their mitts on one of these as soon as possible.

~ Healthy Body Weight Throughout Adulthood May Help Delay Disability -- "Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout adulthood may help prevent or delay the onset of physical disability as we age, according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues."
~ How do muscles get bigger? -- "Getting bigger muscles is the top proroity of anyone working out with weights. Lets look at how your muscles get bigger and then you can figure out what it will take for you to increase your muscle gains."
~ Cord blood stem cells produce insulin: researchers -- "Stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of newborns can be engineered to produce insulin and may someday be used to treat diabetes, U.S. and British researchers reported on Friday."
~ Cruciferous veggies may ward off bladder cancer -- "Substances found in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, may help protect people from bladder cancer, a new study shows." And other cancers, too, since these vegetables help the body clear excess estrogen.
~ Migraine Symptoms And Causes -- "It is estimated that some 28 million people have been diagnosed as suffering from migraines in the US alone, while a further 14 million are thought to have undiagnosed migraine headaches. The World Health Organization considers migraines to be one of the most debilitating diseases of mankind. One migraine headache can put your life "on hold" for anything from a few hours to a couple of days."
~ Genes Add Up Risk Of Autoimmune Disease -- "Geneticists have identified a link between the number of copies of a specific gene an individual has and their susceptibility to autoimmune diseases like lupus. Research using DNA has revealed that people who have a below average number of copies of a gene, known as FCGR3B, have an increased risk of developing diseases caused when the body's immune system attacks its own tissue."
~ Snacking can be good for the elderly -- "Jo Spann used to be a steak-and-potatoes, three-squares-a-day type, but as the years have gone by, the 72-year-old now finds herself snacking “all the time.” A full meal now is usually a once-a-day event." This works for everyone -- if you take in the same number of calories in 3 large meals that you might in 6 smaller meals, you're more likely to store fat.

~ Cure Stage Fright with a Common Blood Pressure Pill -- "Many people sweat profusely because they are nervous about appearing before an audience. An Inderal pill taken one half hour before public speaking or any other high-pressure event can prevent the sweating, shaking and other effects of stage fright. Inderal is a beta blocker commonly used to control blood pressure; it is a safe and very effective way to get rid of even the worst stage fright. Check with your doctor."
~ How You Tell the Story of Your Life -- Another look at how personal narratives can shape our health and sense of self -- from the positive psychology folks.
~ Nonverbal Behaviour -- "Nonverbal behaviour is an area of psychology that receives stacks of media attention. There are endless popular psychology pieces claiming to teach you how to tell if someone is lying or whether they like you or not. All well and good, these things are really useful to know. But where popular accounts often fail is they tend to be simplistic. This series takes a look at some of the more novel and sophisticated approaches to research in non-verbal communication. We start with a study on the 'temporal dynamics of smiling' followed by an investigation of gender differences in reading nonverbal behaviour."
~ Brain Development In Some 500 Children Across US Tracked By NIH Study -- "Children appear to approach adult levels of performance on many basic cognitive and motor skills by age 11 or 12, according to a new study coordinated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).The NIH Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development is tracking brain and behavioral development in about 500 healthy American children, from birth to age 18." The study should go until age 30.
~ A First Glimpse At Healthy Brain And Behavioral Development -- "Yes, there are gender differences in cognitive function, but they're more limited than previously thought. And yes, income does affect cognitive performance - but less than expected when only healthy children are considered. And while basic cognitive skills steadily improve in middle childhood, they then seem to level off - questioning the idea of a burst of brain development in adolescence."
~ Why Good Things Happen to Good People -- "New research proves the link between doing good and living a longer, healthier, happier life."
~ 7 Signs of Addictive Relationships -- "Relationships can enhance or destroy your self-worth. Here's seven ways to know whether it's time to move out of an addictive relationship (& what exactly this is)."

~ Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan For Reducing Health Care Costs -- "Hillary Clinton, Democratic Senator for New York and US presidential candidate made a speech at George Washington University yesterday where she unveiled her strategy for health care reform, focusing on a seven point plan to reduce healthcare costs."
~ Education Reduces Cross-Cultural Misunderstanding of Nonverbal Behaviour -- "When nonverbal behaviour varies across cultures, it's easy to misunderstand someone from a different culture to your own. Despite this, when learning a foreign language, there's not much focus on nonverbal behaviour. Perhaps there should be."
~ Tour De France Champ Used Drugs -- "Bjarne Riis became the first Tour de France winner to admit using performance-enhancing drugs to win the sport's premier race, further eroding cycling's credibility after a series of doping confessions." Cycling is a mess -- anyone competing at the highest levels is using drugs, by necessity.
~ Study: Media Focusing on Democrats -- "By a wide margin, the news media concentrated on Democratic Presidential contenders more than Republicans during the first three months of 2007, according to a study."
~ Transgender Minister Reappointed -- "A United Methodist minister who has changed gender since being chosen to lead a congregation in Baltimore will be reappointed there, church officials announced."
~ No Checks, No Balances -- "The Iraq War continues: No checks, no balances, David Corn writes. Grassroots Democrats are enraged over Congress's failure to rein in the president. But the game's not over."

~ Quantum Dots Reach Clinical Lab -- "Bioconjugated quantum dots - luminescent nanoparticles linked to biological molecules - have shown great promise as tools for disease diagnosis and treatment, but their medical use has been limited by the lack of specific instructions for clinicians. Now, new clinical protocols detailing how to prepare, process and quantify these tiny particles will arm laboratory physicians with the information they need to track biomarkers in cells and tissues."
~ Top 10 Most Incredible Animal Journeys -- "Animals will make extraordinary and often mysterious expeditions to find a good meal, sexy mates, and the perfect place to raise a family."
~ Berkeley, Calif., goes all crazy with the green ideas -- "Six months ago, voters in Berkeley, Calif., overwhelmingly approved a measure to reduce the city's emissions 80 percent by 2050. Now proposals have been laid out to accomplish that goal, including requiring builders to use green materials, making landlords provide free bus passes to tenants, informing residents of the size of their carbon footprint, and helping sun-ergize every roof in the city."
~ MIT-led team uncovers malaria mechanism -- "During the first 24 hours of invasion by the malaria-inducing parasite Plasmodium falciparum, red blood cells start to lose their ability to deform and squeeze through tiny blood vessels-one of the hallmarks of the deadly disease that infects nearly 400 million people each year. Now, an international team of researchers led by an MIT professor has demonstrated just why that happens."
~ Acoustic Stove Could Aid Third World -- "An acoustically-powered stove is a cooker, fridge and generator in one."
~ Conservationists Warn India Rhinos Running Out of Space -- "With their numbers on the rise, the endangered great one-horn rhinoceroses in India's main national rhino park are running out of space as authorities delay sending them to other reserves, conservationists say."
~ Female sharks may reproduce without having sex. What’s next? -- "Female sharks can reproduce without having sex, scientists have found. A female hammerhead shark has given birth without mating with a male and its offspring has no paternal DNA."

~ Beyond the Beyond: Post-Metaphysics Call! -- "This week on Integral Spiritual Center...."
~ Buddha and the World (Part 3) -- Deepak Chopra -- "One reason that people revere Buddha but don't follow him is that they don't feel motivated enough to seek change. They hold an image of Buddhist monks perpetually meditating, observing strict discipline, and avoiding the world. The images aren't false, but they aren't complete, either."
~ Integral Living: A Practical Guide to Remembering Joy and Resting in Equanimity -- "Based on my personal experience and a nascent understanding of developmental psychology, a truly integral, mature life is not possible until one arrives at transegoic perspectives that take the constructed self as an object requiring deep evaluation and, sometimes, purgation of ineffective coping strategies and self-limiting habits. The challenge inherent in growth to higher levels of consciousness, however, is that acquiring the activation energy to move to the next level is not generated in the absence of psychic pain."
~ BLOG: Guest Blog: Trans-Hippie Integral Consciousness (by Ewan Townhead) -- "Ken saved my life. I was floundering; overwhelmed by choice, lost through freedom, wandering the endless halls of a relativistic maze. I was ready, had been ready for some time, yearning for the lift up to the next floor, but with no map to find my way there; I was getting desperate."
~ Desiring the Desireless: Our Needs and Strategies -- "Studying dharma over the last few years has been an exciting and confusing ordeal. What has been most confusing is the concept of non-attachment to desire. In Buddhism, desire is seen as the root cause of suffering. While this certainly makes a lot of sense, there is something that doesn’t quite feel right about it. Desire after all is ever-present at all moments in all beings, guiding every action we take."

Cultural Perspectives -- Stop the Clash of Civilizations

Damn cool video. One wonders, though, if the statistics are true. (Avaaz means "voice" or "song" in Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, and other langauges) is a community of global citizens who take action on major issues around the world. We have members in every country on earth, and operate in twelve languages. Our aim is to ensure that the views and values of the world's people -- and not just political elites and unaccountable corporations -- shape global decisions.

This video, made with Agit-Pop Productions, helped launch our campaign against the so-called Clash of Civilizations -- starting with a call for real Middle East peace talks now. Sign up at!

Via: VideoSift

Four Seasons in Norway

This is kind of cool.

44 pictures taken out of our window at random times of the day and at random intervals through the year. Put together in a time lapse that show one year in about 1 minute and 30 seconds. More info on how this video was made here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Narrative Psychology

In the past few days, I have stumbled upon several good articles on narrative psychology (this NYT article provides a good introduction), which seems to be an emergent field of research and therapy (there isn't even a Wikipedia entry yet). My sense is that it has grown out of script analysis, which has been a central tool in cognitive-behavioral therapies. But while script analysis tends to focus on individual behaviors -- how we internalize scripts about what will happen to us in specific situations, and how these scripts guide our behavior -- narrative therapy seems to look at the meta-narratives we tell ourselves about our lives and who we are.

I have several thoughts on this. The first is that this research/therapy needs to include our various subpersonalities as narrators. Each of our main subpersonalities will have a different narrative about our lives, what has happened to us, and why we are the people we have become.

The second thought is that we need to also look at the brain physiology of our narrative patterns. More and more we are learning that subjective states (cognition, emotion, beliefs) have objective correlates in brain structures and chemistry. For example, fMRI research is showing how different subjective states show up with different parts of the brain lighting up (I posted in today's speedlinking a new attempt to use fMRI scans as lie detectors).

We also know that various meditation states show distinct patterns in the brain, as well as depression, anxiety, and many others. It would be interesting to see how different an fMRI of a positive, self-affirming narrative looks when compared to an fMRI of negative, self-deprecating narrative. This research might point to specific brain structures involved in different qualities of narrative.

Finally, I think this is ripe territory for the humanities to join forces with psychology. Any therapist working with life narratives would benefit greatly from understanding the inner and outer structures of narrative as studied in literature (for example, think Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism). Further, it would help to understand how plot develops, how character develops, and what the elements of narrative reveal about the author, especially in autobiographical narrative (think confessional poetry or memoirs).

A very good article that does just this is Don Quixote and The Narrative Self over Philosophy Now.

The idea that our life is a story is by no means new. Thus the great bard Shakespeare said that life “ a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (Macbeth) However, it took philosophers some time to discover the philosophical import of this view of life. It was actually a German chap called William Schapp who first gave this age-old idea a philosophical twist. He maintained that we live our lives in a host of stories, which have connection with the stories of other people in various ways; so actually, our selves are nothing but cross-sections of stories. Our identities are created by a vast web of stories, as is our relationship with reality. We understand and identify things by placing them in the stories we tell about them: just like selves, things do not really exist outside of stories. We are caught in this narrative web because we cannot exist outside of it. There is a world-wide web of stories: the world is that web.

Unfortunately, the rest of the article only looks at two narrativist philosophers and does not really delve into the idea of a narrative psychology. Still, it presents an idea of how such a study might be valuable.

Another article, Psychology and history converge in book on the caring personality, looks at how the idea of the Redemptive Self plays a crucial role in American psychology.

As a research psychologist who has systematically collected and analyzed the life stories of hundreds of adults for two decades, Dan P. McAdams has long argued that people find meaning and purpose in their lives by formulating and telling their life stories.

In his latest book, “The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By,” the professor and fellow of the American Psychological Association focuses on the life stories of what he calls highly “generative” adults – women and men who score exceptionally high on psychological measures of social responsibility, productivity and caring for others.

Not only does he find that highly generative midlife adults experience greater psychological health than their less generative counterparts, McAdams discovers that they are far more likely to describe their lives as variations on a script he has dubbed the “redemptive self.” In that script, these highly caring individuals tell stories in which they transform negative life events or experiences into positive outcomes that give direction and meaning to their lives.

In a book that is part cutting edge psychology and part cultural history, McAdams – professor of education and social policy and of psychology at Northwestern — draws comparisons between the redemptive life stories of the “generative superstars” he has interviewed over 20 years and those of Americans from Ben Franklin to Oprah Winfrey.

The article (and the book) seems less about narrative psychology than it does about cultural myths, but I think it is instructive that the people he looks at as “generative superstars” all tell life stories in which they are not beaten by circumstances and struggles. Looking at these types of self-narratives could be useful in helping people rewrite their own scripts.

I once was in a self-help workshop where we were asked to spend a few minutes writing our life stories. After we had written the stories, the leader asked the group how many of us had written stories in which the main character (ourselves) were defeated by circumstances and obstacles. About half of us, including me, had written such narratives. She then asked us to rewrite the stories so that the protagonist sitting in that room has overcome those hardships in order to be sitting there that day.

I didn't gain any epiphany from that exercise at the time, but years later I began to see how personal narratives do indeed shape the way we view ourselves -- and the more self-reflective we are, the more those scripts can shape our self-image. I know people who tell their life stories as though they believe that everything that has happened to them is a result of their being bad people (often, these people were abused as children and have never had good therapy).

In my own life, I have somehow shifted, as a result of good therapy, to a narrative that allows me (the protagonist) to see all the events (the plot points) as useful learning experiences that have shaped me into the person I am now. I shifted from a victim narrative to a hero narrative. Rewriting our personal narratives so that we are the hero(ine) who overcomes hardships can be a useful tool in reshaping our self-perception.

This is from the NYT article mentioned above:

In analyzing the texts, the researchers found strong correlations between the content of people’s current lives and the stories they tell. Those with mood problems have many good memories, but these scenes are usually tainted by some dark detail. The pride of college graduation is spoiled when a friend makes a cutting remark. The wedding party was wonderful until the best man collapsed from drink. A note of disappointment seems to close each narrative phrase.

By contrast, so-called generative adults — those who score highly on tests measuring civic-mindedness, and who are likely to be energetic and involved — tend to see many of the events in their life in the reverse order, as linked by themes of redemption. They flunked sixth grade but met a wonderful counselor and made honor roll in seventh. They were laid low by divorce, only to meet a wonderful new partner. Often, too, they say they felt singled out from very early in life — protected, even as others nearby suffered.

And from later in the article:

At some level, talk therapy has always been an exercise in replaying and reinterpreting each person’s unique life story. Yet Mr. Adler found that in fact those former patients who scored highest on measures of well-being — who had recovered, by standard measures — told very similar tales about their experiences.

They described their problem, whether depression or an eating disorder, as coming on suddenly, as if out of nowhere. They characterized their difficulty as if it were an outside enemy, often giving it a name (the black dog, the walk of shame). And eventually they conquered it.

“The story is one of victorious battle: ‘I ended therapy because I could overcome this on my own,’ ” Mr. Adler said. Those in the study who scored lower on measures of psychological well-being were more likely to see their moods and behavior problems as a part of their own character, rather than as a villain to be defeated. To them, therapy was part of a continuing adaptation, not a decisive battle.

The findings suggest that psychotherapy, when it is effective, gives people who are feeling helpless a sense of their own power, in effect altering their life story even as they work to disarm their own demons, Mr. Adler said.

Mental resilience relies in part on exactly this kind of autobiographical storytelling, moment to moment, when navigating life’s stings and sorrows. To better understand how stories are built in real time, researchers have recently studied how people recall vivid scenes from recent memory. They find that one important factor is the perspective people take when they revisit the scene — whether in the first person, or in the third person, as if they were watching themselves in a movie.

From what I can tell, narrative psychology simply attempts to revise the stories people tell themselves, giving them a sense of agency in their lives. But understanding how these stories are constructed is crucial in being able to revise them.

Shifting the narrative from first person to third person, which amounts to developing an observer self, seems crucial in shifting the experience.

In a 2005 study reported in the journal Psychological Science, researchers at Columbia University measured how student participants reacted to a bad memory, whether an argument or failed exam, when it was recalled in the third person. They tested levels of conscious and unconscious hostility after the recollections, using both standard questionnaires and students’ essays. The investigators found that the third-person scenes were significantly less upsetting, compared with bad memories recalled in the first person.

“What our experiment showed is that this shift in perspective, having this distance from yourself, allows you to relive the experience and focus on why you’re feeling upset,” instead of being immersed in it, said Ethan Kross, the study’s lead author. The emotional content of the memory is still felt, he said, but its sting is blunted as the brain frames its meaning, as it builds the story.

This is an example, I believe, of how meditation can play a role in reframing our life stories. One of the great things about sustained meditation practice -- even just a few minutes a day -- is that we develop the ability to watch our thoughts and feelings rather than BE our thoughts and feelings. This would be a great tool in helping rewrite their life narratives in third person, and to deal with current issues from the distance of the observing self.

I can definitely see my PhD thesis focusing on this topic, especially with my post-grad degree in English. Making the topic more integral (including brain imaging studies, subpersonality theory, cultural narrative influence, and so on) could make this a cutting edge approach to therapy, especially when we consider the success people like Aaron T. Beck have had with cognitive therapy. Narrative psychology seems like the next step.

Speedlinking 5/24/07

Quote of the day:

"If God dropped acid, would he see people?"
~ Steven Wright

Image of the day (David Lorenz Winston):

~ Deadlifting: Variations On A Theme -- "I've always thought of the deadlift as the most under-appreciated exercise ever. The deadlift is truly an exercise in need of a face-lift!" An excellent article on how to deadlift, one of the full body lifts around. See also: Mastering the Deadlift: Part I.
~ Know the warning signs of heatstroke -- "Heatstroke is a sudden uncontrolled rise in body temperature that affects the brain so that it can’t function properly. It should never happen to you because you get plenty of warning."
~ Clock Gene Plays Role In Weight Gain, Study Finds -- "Scientists at the University of Virginia and the Medical College of Wisconsin have discovered that a gene that participates in the regulation of the body's biological rhythms may also be a major control in regulating metabolism. Their finding shows that mice lacking the gene Nocturnin, which is regulated by the circadian clock in the organs and tissues of mammals, are resistant to weight gain when put on a high fat diet and also are resistant to the accumulation of fat in the liver."
~ Endurance: What Athletes Can Learn from Sled Dogs -- "How can sled dogs run more than 100 miles a day for weeks on end, while humans couldn’t possibly recover from such abuse of their muscles? A study from Ohio State University shows why. How long you can exercise a muscle depends on how long you can keep stored sugar, called glycogen, inside that muscle."
~ Study: Cut Nicotine in Cigarettes -- "The Food and Drug Administration should regulate tobacco and develop a plan to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes, the Institute of Medicine urged Thursday...."
~ She moves in mysterious ways -- "Science seems to know why men work the way we do, which is pretty much the way other male primates work. Female sexual biology, though, can be puzzling."

~ Don Quixote and The Narrative Self -- "Once upon a time a philosopher wrote an article called ‘Don Quixote and The Narrative Self’. He commenced by saying: In this essay, I will discuss the question of whether our selves are constituted by narratives, ie stories. Are we like Don Quixote, whose self was created by his reading of medieval romances: are we Homo quixotienses, the narrative self? Or are we rather like the protagonist of Sartre’s novel Nausea, Antonin Roquentin, whose life did not form any narrative unity? Are we in other words rather Homo roquentinenses?" Excellent article.
~ Does the brain show a lie? -- "Amanda lies flat on her back, clad in a steel blue hospital gown and an air of anticipation, as she is rolled headfirst into a beeping, 10-ton functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) unit. Once inside, the 20-something blonde uses a handheld device to respond to questions about the playing cards appearing on the screen at the foot of the machine. With each click of the button, she is either lying or telling the truth about whether a card presented to her matches the one in her pocket, and the white-coated technician who watches her brain image morph into patterns on his computer screen seems to know the difference."
~ Researchers Develop Test to Assess Risk of Self-Injurious Behavior -- "A new behavioral test that does not rely on the patient to express his or her thoughts appears to identify those who are at risk of cutting and other self-injurious behaviors, a new study shows."
~ Chronic Pain Can Drive You To Distraction -- "Anyone who has experienced chronic pain knows that it affects the ability to work, sleep and perform other activities essential to leading a full life. Now researchers at the University of Alberta have confirmed that chronic pain doesn't just cause physical discomfort; it can impair your memory and your concentration." This seems like a no-brainer.
~ Revealing The Origins Of Morality -- Good And Evil, Liberal And Conservative -- "How much money would it take to get you to stick a pin into your palm? How much to stick a pin into the palm of a child you don't know? How much to slap a friend in the face (with his or her permission) as part of a comedy skit? Well, what about slapping your father (with his permission) as part of a skit? How you answer questions such as these may reveal something about your morality, and even your politics - conservatives, for example, tend to care more about issues of hierarchy and respect, while liberals concentrate on caring and fairness."
~ The Amazing Power of One -- "Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the goals you want to accomplish? Do you find it especially difficult starting out on a new goal? This is where the powerful “Rule of One” comes to the rescue."
~ Participate in Well-Being Research -- "SWB [subjective well-being]Research is running a week long "daily diary" study. This involves completing a brief 3-minute survey each day over an 8-day period. Participants are then presented with feedback about their well-being during this one-week period."
~ Debate Over The Importance Of Self-Esteem, From The Harvard Mental Health Letter -- "Many regard heightened self- esteem as a worthy aim, but others worry that its significance and value are overrated, reports the June 2007 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. There is convincing evidence that people with high self-esteem are happier, as well as more likely to undertake difficult tasks and persevere in the face of failure. Other studies have failed to confirm the virtues of high self-esteem."

~ America's widening "marriage gap" -- "As the divorce rate plummets at the top of American society and rises at the bottom, the widening "marriage gap" is breeding inequality."
~ The jolly swashbucklers of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End -- "Like all abstract art, At World's End is best approached non-narratively, as an experience rather than a story. Still, since that experience will cost you $10 and nearly three hours of your life, I'll try to sort through the flotsam and make sense of the thing."
~ John McCain vs. Mitt Romney -- "Mitt Romney is rising in the polls, and that seems to have irritated John McCain, especially because he thinks Romney is a phony. So, when Romney tried to use the immigration bill that McCain supports to beat up the Arizona senator, McCain fired back by cracking wise about what he sees as Romney's convenient changes of position. Here's how the exchange has played out...."
~ Is Giuliani too liberal for the GOP? Nope -- "He's a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights candidate seeking to lead a party dominated by Christian evangelical voters who hate those positions. Giuliani's three marriages, the charges of adultery that led to the very public flameout of his second one, and an open feud with his children also threaten his standing among social-conservative voters. Conservative leaders are always stirred up about something, but Giuliani seems to have gotten them in a particular snit."
~ Reason Sought in Linguist Firings -- "Lawmakers who say the military has kicked out 58 Arabic language experts because they were gay want the Pentagon to explain how it can afford to let the valuable specialists go."
~ The Changing Face of China | openDemocracy -- "As change sweeps through China at a rapid rate, adaptability has become the password to success. A new book by former BBC correspondent, Duncan Hewitt, examines at close hand how peasant revolutionaries have transformed themselves into lifestyle gurus, how migrant workers have become entrepreneurs, and how a once conservative father now runs a gay hotline. " This is an audio file free for download.
~ Obama Leads GOP in Head-to-Head Matches -- "In the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, Barack Obama trails fellow U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton in a national survey of likely Democratic Primary voters, but that same survey shows he would fare better against Republican opponents in General Election match-ups, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows. Obama would defeat all Republican opponents, including John McCain of Arizona, Rudy Giuliani of New York City, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and Fred Thompson of Tennessee in prospective presidential contests, the poll shows."
~ A Great But Broken Promise -- Bill Moyers -- "Think it over: In 1960, the gap in wealth between the top 20 percent of our country and the bottom 20 percent was 30 fold. Now, it is 75 fold. Stock prices and productivity are up, and CEO salaries are soaring, but ordinary workers aren't sharing in the profits they helped generate. Their incomes aren't keeping up with costs. More Americans live in poverty - 37 million, including 12 million children. 12 million children! America's a broken promise. America needs fixing."
~ Study Questions Analysis in JFK Slaying -- "New testing on the type of ammunition used in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy raises questions about whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, according to a study by researchers at Texas A&M University."

~ Carbon Taxes Versus Carbon Markets -- "Although there remain serious uncertainties about the magnitude of the human role in climate change, there is a growing consensus that emissions need to be reduced. The battle now is over how. The two leading approaches are carbon markets and carbon taxes."
~ Drought Aids Scientists in Muck Removal -- "State water and wildlife managers are taking advantage of an unprecedented drought by removing life-choking muck along Lake Okeechobee's shoreline."
~ Japan Proposes Halving Emissions by 2050 -- "The world should aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 as part of a new global warming pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday."
~ Color vision drove primates to develop red skin and hair, study finds -- "You might call it a tale of "monkey see, monkey do." Researchers at Ohio University have found that after primates evolved the ability to see red, they began to develop red and orange skin and hair."
~ to Stop Charging for Live Video -- "CNN will give away access to an online video service that now costs $25 a year, becoming the latest news organization to revamp its revenue model on the Web."
~ Cassini Radar Images Sea, Islands and Mountains -- "Cassini completed its 31st flyby of Saturn's moon Titan, which the team calls T30. The radar instrument obtained this image showing the coastline and numerous island groups of a portion of a large sea, consistent with the larger sea seen by the Cassini imaging instrument."
~ Essential tones of music rooted in human speech -- "The use of 12 tone intervals in the music of many human cultures is rooted in the physics of how our vocal anatomy produces speech, according to researchers at the Duke University Center for Cognitive Neuroscience."

~ Am I a Christian? -- "I was certainly brought up Christian; baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. But all that was basically compulsory, and I have only thought deeply about theological matters since round about the time Hannah was pregnant with Twyla, 2 1/2 years ago. Ten years ago, I took at course in college "The Bible as Literature", and that was a highlight for me, because I was very struck by the Book of Ecclesiastes, struck profoundly. Outside of that, not much theological thinking until recently."
~ Anchor Management - the Art of Forgiveness -- "My sponsor, being the wise person she is, smiled. 'Forgiveness has nothing to do with letting them off the hook. It has everything to do with letting YOU off the hook.'"
~ Relating to the world, on both sides of the split -- "When we relate to the world from within a sense of I-Other split, we relate to both sides (I and Other) the same way. We just can’t help it."
~ The Metamorphasis of Buddhism Strengthens the Global Sangha -- "There is so much discussion over Buddhism in the west. There are many from the East who feel that they have a corner or the "true" Dharma/Buddhism and that "Western Buddhism" is diluting the "True Buddhism." Yet as [the Dalai Lama] states above, the Buddha taught differently according to the place (which I'm 99% sure meant the culture as well)."
~ Meditating on the Wild Side -- "Enigmatic rock icon Lou Reed on his "not New Agey" meditation album, his devotion to tai chi, and the greatest thing he's ever done."
~ Buddhism: where do we *belong?* -- "It was a nearly silent ascent, the wetness of the grass muffling my footsteps. Suddenly I was startled, a deer which had been lying near the brush just north of me on the hill stood up and began walking away from me, very slowly, very deliberately. So I took her picture and returned my gaze to the fading golden sunset. She didn't go far though and finally took up a position and watched me. Unsure of what this meant, I decided to move further up the hill."

Miles Davis & John Coltrane - SO WHAT (1958)

Pretty good image and sound for an old video.

Via: VideoSift

Keith Olbermann: The Democrats Sold You Out!

The slaughter and chaos will continue without any checks or balances . . . embarrassing.

Via: VideoSift

Quotes on Courage

The Positivity Blog posted some quotes on courage -- here are a couple of my favorites.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
Anais Nin

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
Bertrand Russell

The best way out is always through.
Robert Frost

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
Soren Kierkegaard

Trust the still, small voice that says, “this might work and I’ll try it.”
Diane Mariechild

The greatest test of courage on the earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.
R. G. Ingersoll

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New Poem: Walking in Sabino Canyon

Walking in Sabino Canyon

Does the desert
feel my footsteps?
Do the ancient saguaros
sense my presence
in their silent community?

I walk through gauzy
afternoon heat,
among cholla and ocotillo,
feeling myself a stranger
in a foreign landscape.

Five years, now,
and still nothing feels familiar;
not the red cliffs,
the gentle rattle of a diamondback,
or the absence of crows.

Yet a lone raven
reminds me of the darkness
within, the breathing
shadow always so close,
the murkiness of loss.

The deeper into the canyon
I walk, the less I know
who I was when I began,
and the rocks begin to speak
in words I can almost intuit.

How could I have not heard
the voices before?
Such arrogance, thinking
I control my fate,
when my soul is not my own.

Augustana - "Boston"

A sad and beautiful little pop song.


Speedlinking 5/23/07

Quote of the day:

"Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead."
~ Charles Bukowski

Image of the day:

~ Exercise Reverses Signs Of Ageing - "Scientists in Canada suggest that twice weekly sessions of resistance exercise training using standard gym equipment can reverse the signs of ageing in the skeletal muscles of the over 65s.You can read the full text of their article in the new Public Library of Science's international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication PLoS One."
~ Experimental Biology 2007 -- "Highlights of any science conference make great reading (lots and lots of short factoids that make you either the hit or the bore of your next dinner party) and this one is no exception. Read it for some instant smarts."
~ Some Vitamin Supplements Don't Protect Against Lung Cancer -- "A study of more than 75,000 adults found that taking supplemental multivitamins, vitamin C and E and folate do not decrease the risk of lung cancer. The findings were reported at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference."
~ Red Wine Protects The Prostate, From The Harvard Men's Health Watch -- "Researchers have found that men who drink an average of four to seven glasses of red wine per week are only 52% as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as those who do not drink red wine, reports the June 2007 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch. In addition, red wine appears particularly protective against advanced or aggressive cancers."
~ Avoiding Weight Loss Supplement Scams -- "With so many scams hitting us via media ads and spam email every day, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of weight loss scams on the market today. Here are some tips to help you separate what is real from fiction when it comes to claims that a product will help you lose weight."
~ Fish oil plus exercise may banish body fat -- "People looking to shed body fat might want to follow their workouts with a few capsules of fish oil, if preliminary research is correct."
~ Light Drinking May Keep Dementia at Bay -- "People with mild cognitive impairment may slow their mental decline if they have up to one alcoholic drink a day, a new Italian study suggests."

~ New Neurons in Old Brains Exhibit Babylike Plasticity -- "Researchers have identified a "critical period" during which new nerve cells in adult brains have the same capacity to learn as those in developing brains."
~ 71% Report Depression Decrease After Green Walk, 22% Report Depression Increase After Urban Walk -- "Leading mental health charity Mind today launches a groundbreaking new report (1) which sets a new green agenda for mental health. With a mass of new and growing evidence, Mind calls for ecotherapy to be recognised as a clinically-valid frontline treatment for mental health problems."
~ Slacker? You can change your personality -- "Can a Type-A overachiever become a slacker? How about the guy who can't hold down a job to save his life-could he transform into an adrenaline-pumping go-getter? A leading expert in personality psychology says yes: Personality can change."
~ Magnets may make the brain grow stronger -- "Stimulating the brain with a magnetic coil appears to promote growth of new neurons - possibly leading to treatments for brain diseases."
~ 6-Week Study In Adults With Major Depressive Disorder Evaluates Effectiveness Of Adjunctive Aripiprazole Therapy With Antidepressants -- "In adults with major depressive disorder, adding aripiprazole to antidepressant therapy (ADT) resulted in significant improvement in the primary endpoint, the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) Total Score."
~ The story of your life -- "The New York Times has an interesting piece on an often neglected area of psychology that looks at the significance of the stories we use to explain our lives to ourselves and others. A small but active area of research called 'narrative psychology' has been examining how we make and use stories about our experiences for some years now."
~ Good Grief: Coping After Loss -- "Recovering from loss is an individual matter."
~ Yoga may help depresssion and anxiety -- "I've always preferred dancing to the stillness of yoga but the latest findings of Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital suggest Yoga is a safe and natural remedy for depression and anxiety. It may not cure moderate to severe depression and anxiety, but it could be helpful for anyone who wants to make lifestyle changes to reduce depression and anxiety."
~ Oprah confronts the limits of her self-help philosophy -- "The Secret, a wildly successful self-help book-turned-infomercial (or is it the other way around?), is the object of a severe critique by John Gravois in last week's Culturebox. Prodded by some recent backpedalling from Oprah (who had previously endorsed The Secret on her show), Gravois fanned the flames of a nascent backlash against this latest cultural fad."

~ Why the FDA stumbles on drug safety -- "How does a drug go from blockbuster to bust? How can big safety issues go undetected in medicines taken by millions of people for many years, as happened this week with the diabetes pill Avandia and a few years ago with the painkiller Vioxx?"
~ Youth's Attitudes About Women's Roles Influenced By Many Family Factors -- "By the time they are adults, men and women have distinctive attitudes about the roles women should play in society, but little is known about how these views develop. A Penn State study tracked youth's attitudes for most of the school age and adolescent years and found varying patterns of change according to gender, birth order, parent's influences and other factors."
~ The U.S. Seen Through Muslim Eyes -- "When it comes to renovating America's image in the greater Islamic world, the news is not getting any better."
~ Ban Kept for Gay Men Donating Blood -- "Gay men remain banned for life from donating blood, the government said Wednesday, leaving in place - for now - a 1983 prohibition meant to prevent the spread of HIV through transfusions." Shameful.
~ How to Save Soccer -- "David Beckham's nice but soccer needs a proper villain. Soccer needs Jose Mourinho."
~ The Notion: You Have The Power! -- "When are Democrats in Congress going to start acting like they're in the majority?"
~ Kucinich on ‘The Truth About Oil and Iraq’ -- "Congressman Dennis Kucinich commandeered the House floor for an hour Wednesday to discuss “in detail the Congressional and White House efforts to privatize the oil of Iraq.” Before he spoke, he announced the speech in a public e-mail. The talk is excerpted here."
~ An Evolving Debate about Evolution -- "Discussion of Darwin's theory moves to the national level."

~ The Plastic Poisons That Surround Us -- "Plastics may indeed have been the "wave of the future" for industry some 40 years ago, but we're paying for it dearly with our health today, thanks to all the exposure our bodies endure from petroleum-based industrial chemicals contained in plastic from things most people take for granted like bottled water."
~ Intel Vows to Strip Lead From Processors -- "Intel Corp. says it is stripping out the tiny amount of lead still contained in its chips."
~ Hurricanes Complicated by Warming -- "The link between climate change and weather appears more complex than thought."
~ Hydrogen Breakthrough Could Open the Road to Carbon-Free Cars -- "UK scientists have developed a compound of the element lithium that may make it practical for hydrogen fuel cell cars to drive more than 300 miles before refuelling."
~ Japanese scientists explore pluripotency -- "Japanese scientists have discovered how pluripotency -- the ability of stem cells to differentiate into other cell types -- is regulated."
~ Michael Crichton: “Aliens Cause Global Warming” -- " Recently, my attention was directed to a speech by Michael Crichton, given at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, on January 17, 2003. I was told that, while this speech contained some of the usual fallacious skeptical arguments, there were also somewhat convincing ones. So, I’ve given it a read, and I’d like to address Crichton’s arguments."

~ Dharma Talks online -- "San Francisco Zen Center's online library of Dharma Talks in MP3 format for download. Check it out."
~ Subjective Realism and Phenomenal Consciousness -- "I found this essay by Owen Flanagan on subjective realism and phenomenal consciousness today. I believe it is actually an excerpt from his book The Problem of the Soul. I was re-reading a section on subjective realism in that book the other night and this essay sounded like the same text."
~ What is expected, what is required? -- "When you recite the Bodhisattva vows, what is expected? What is required? I am going to put it right out there that you should not take my pondering of these questions at face value. If you really need an answer to this, please(!) seek out a Dharma teacher such as a Buddhist monk or priest."
~ BLOG: Meta-Genius: A Celebration of Ken’s Writings (Part 2) -- "Meta-Genius: A Celebration of Ken." Uh, yeah.
~ The MANY as the ONE -- Andrew Cohen -- "We just had an incredible weekend here in our home/21st-century ashram/evolutionary pressure cooker/rocket ship to the future."