Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gratitude 9/22/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) There are other people thinking about what might constitute an integral psychotherapy.

2) The movie 300: It's a fine example of how, in Spiral Dynamics terms, a Red-Orange worldview can defeat a Red-Blue worldview. Plus, its' fun to watch.

3) Michigan beat #10 Penn State today. That's why the games are played.

What are you grateful for today?

Integral Psychotherapy

When I read Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology many years ago, I thought I had found the holy grail of psychology models. In some ways that is true -- Wilber's book offers a theoretical framework by which to look at various pathologies within a developmental model. Some therapies are more effective for certain pathologies than for others, depending in large part on the source of the pathology developmentally (for example, early childhood or existential). Understanding the spectrum of development and the available theories of treatment allows the therapist to tailor the therapy to the pathology. In essence, no one approach works for all clients.

As I have started "studying" some forms of therapy that are currently in use (self psychology, relational psychotherapy, internal family systems therapy, object relations therapy, and so on), what has become painfully clear to me is that Wilber has never worked a day in his life as a therapist. Theoretical frameworks are all well and fine, but they are generally useless in the therapy room. For all his understanding of theory, I can't recall a single instance in Integral Psychology in which Wilber speaks about the relationship between the therapist and the client, which from my experience is the foundation that must come before any theoretical model.

One book that I have recently started is Relational Psychotherapy: A Primer, by Patricia A. DeYoung. Until very recently, I had never heard of relational psychotherapy [thanks Susie!], but having just begun this book, it feels to me like an actual integral psychotherapy.

The last time I was in therapy, the single most beneficial moments came when I was able to express some fear or anxiety and Maude (my therapist) was able to hear me and respond with empathy -- not pathologizing my feelings in any way, but being totally present to what I was expressing.

In relational psychotherapy, empathy on the part of the therapist is the key to the therapeutic relationship. Without empathy, there cannot be the safety for the client to become open and relearn old and dysfunctional relational patterns.

The second key element of relational psychotherapy is the understanding that whatever fears, anxieties, and other difficult feelings the client has are not merely within the client, but rather were learned and are still expressed within relational patterns -- where the self interacts with others. Whatever challenges the client is facing are not inherent in the client -- they occur in the boundary between self and other.

DeYoung says:

[W]hat's wrong is neither entirely inside the client, in his psychological makeup or dysfunctional patterns, nor entirely outside in the world, in forces that impinge on him. Instead, according to a relational model of psychotherapy, the problem exists in those spaces or activities where outside influences and inside responses interact to create the shape and feel of a "self."

This is very similar to the internal family systems model. Moreover, what Richard Schwartz is doing in internal family systems with being totally present and responding with empathy at all times (knowing there will be lapses, and that those lapses must become a part of the therapeutic process) -- responding from the Self, the internal witness -- is not much different than this model. I suspect there are a lot of very good therapists operating from a relational perspective without knowing it.

The true value of this model as an integral psychotherapy is that therapists are free to -- and are encouraged to -- draw from a variety of therapeutic interventions, while always being aware that the authentic relationship with the client is the primary concern.

The therapist must be able to be open and fully present and empathic for the relationship to flourish. Empathy is not a low-level developmental trait -- it requires considerable self development and a significant degree of developmental advancement. If we consider empathy a developmental line, it can be developed separate from other lines, but this is more difficult.

It seems to me that in order for a therapist to effectively employ this model, there needs to be some familiarity with the Self, with higher order compassion and empathy, and with the ability to stay present even when his/her own emotions are being triggered by a difficult client or a challenging moment in the therapy.

Knowing one's parts, or subpersonalities, would be incredibly useful in doing this kind of work. If the therapist is able to recognize when a part has been triggered in the therapy room, and if s/he has some experience in knowing how to stay grounded in the Self, rather than letting the part take over, then the work would be much easier.

Any version of an integral psychotherapy must first recognize the value of the empathic relationship with the client, the value of multiple tools for different issues, and that the self/other relationship (aside from certain severe psychological defects) is the fertile ground where most pathologies arise.

Hopefully, by the time I am practicing, there will have been more work done in this area.

Naomi Wolf on the Colbert Report

Naomi Wolf tells Stephen about the ten steps that all despots take to destroy democracy.

Satire: In The Know: White House Announces 'Everything Is Great In Iraf'

An Onion News special report:

In The Know: White House Announces 'Everything Is Great In Iraf'

Saturday Morning Cartoons

When I was a kid, the best 2 hours of television was the Bugs Bunny & Road Runner show -- two full hours of Looney Tunes focused around the title's stars. Every once in a while, it's good to see the world through those young eyes again. So I go to Google/YouTube and find some classic cartoons.

Happy Saturday morning!

Road Runner & Wile E Coyote - Episode 06 - Ready.. Set.. Zoom!

Road Runner & Wile E Coyote 22 - Zoom At The Top

Road Runner & Wile E Coyote 22 - Zoom At The Top from 4onemore4 on Vimeo.

Road Runner & Wile E Coyote 04 - Zipping Along

Road Runner & Wile E Coyote 04 - Zipping Along from 3compte3 on Vimeo.

A true classic: Rabbit of Seville, featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd (1950)

THE Classic - What's Opera Doc?

Bugs Bunny Classics: Sahara Hare

Pat Buchanan Makes a Rare Bit of Sense

I seldom agree with much of anything Pat Buchanan says, but every once in a while he surprises me with some very cogent and -- some might say -- progressive insights. Today's post on Real Clear Politics is one of those times (although he sort of loses sight of his point with a rant about immigration toward the end).

Here are the key quotes:

Terrorism, said Powell, is not a mortal threat to America.

"What is the greatest threat facing us now?" Powell asked. "People will say it's terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?"

History and common sense teach that Powell speaks truth.

Since 9-11, 100,000 Americans have been murdered -- as many as we lost in Vietnam, Korea and Iraq combined. Yet, not one of these murders was the work of an Islamic terrorist, and all of them, terrible as they are, did not imperil the survival of our republic.

Terrorists can blow up our buildings, assassinate our leaders, and bomb our malls and stadiums. They cannot destroy us. Assume the worst. Terrorists smuggle an atom bomb into New York harbor or into Washington, D.C., and detonate it.

Horrible and horrifying as that would be -- perhaps 100,000 dead and wounded -- it would not mean the end of the United States. It would more likely mean the end of Iran, or whatever nation at which the United States chose to direct its rage and retribution.


Powell's point is not that terrorism is not a threat. It is that the terror threat must be seen in perspective, that we ought not frighten ourselves to death with our own propaganda, that we cannot allow fear of terror to monopolize our every waking hour or cause us to give up our freedom.

Powell and Buchanan are spot on correct. We must not allow the war mongers and fear peddlers in the Bush administration and the press (yes, you, William Kristol) to generate an atmosphere of terror so that they can, one by one, take away our freedoms in the name of keeping us safe.

I'll take freedom over safety any day.

Humor: Rhino, Tickbird Stuck In Dead-End Symbiotic Relationship

Some relationship satire from The Onion:

Rhino, Tickbird Stuck In Dead-End Symbiotic Relationship

September 22, 2007 | Issue 43•38

POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA—After three rainy seasons together, a black rhinoceros and a parasite-eating tickbird are beginning to suspect that their symbiotic relationship has fallen into a rut, the couple reported Sunday.

"We're really symbiotic—almost too symbiotic," the rhino said. "It's just gotten so predictable lately that I'm starting to wonder, 'Is this all there is?'"

Enlarge Image Rhino Tickbird

The rhino and tickbird pass another morning on the African savannah not saying one word to each other.

First meeting at a local watering hole in 2004, both creatures immediately saw themselves as natural for one other and, in the words of the rhino, felt something "new, gratifying, and mutually beneficial." Within hours, the tickbird had moved into the rhino's habitat and set up house on his thick hide.

But as time went on, it slowly dawned on the couple that their partnership was perhaps merely one of convenience.

"I admit, when we first got together, I was a total mess," the rhino said. "She really helped me clean up my act. But we've been together so long now that I always know exactly what she's going to do next."

Devouring horsefly larvae embedded in her 3,000-pound partner's back, the tickbird seemed to agree that there was little fire left in their symbiotic relationship. At worst, she said, it feels like she and the rhino have been trapped in the same dead-end symbiosis for "countless millions of years."

"We just go through the motions, and there's hardly any communication," the tickbird said. "And we do it the exact same way every time. I get on top and take the parasites off while he just lays there."

"Feed off the embedded ticks on his hide, chirp when the predators come. Feed off the embedded ticks on his hide, chirp when the predators come. Where's the passion, the heat?" the tickbird continued.

The tickbird also accused the rhino of trying to make her "feel small."

"He doesn't realize everything I do for him," the tickbird said. "If it wasn't for my 'incessant squawking,' as he calls it, he would be shot by poachers before he even saw them coming."

Both creatures separately expressed envy of their neighbors, a plover and crocodile, who "never seem to have the problems we do," the rhino said.

"That crocodile appreciates having his teeth cleaned, and he makes sure she knows," the tickbird said. "Look at that big grin."

The rhino said that he often feels like a victim of her nitpicking.

"I might look tough, but I have feelings," the rhino said. "I give her plenty to eat and a great place to perch, but it feels like she's constantly pecking an open wound. Ugh, why can't we just be friends with mutualistic benefits?"

The frustration has caused the pair to act out in passive-aggressive ways. The rhino will frequently charge without warning, jarring the tickbird from her perch. Meanwhile, the tickbird often deliberately embarrasses her partner by speculating aloud about a symbiotic relationship with a cape buffalo or zebra, often within earshot of those species.

According to a nearby elephant, this sense of stagnancy commonly occurs in symbiotic partnerships across sub-Saharan Africa.

"The rhino and tickbird may have evolved physiologically to meet each other's needs, but it's clear they haven't evolved emotionally," the elephant said. "They need to recognize that in order to go forward. The rhino's loud snorting is very alienating. And obviously the tickbird is projecting her own feelings of inadequacy when she criticizes the rhino for being a typical Diceros bicornis."

For all their friction, both creatures conceded that they weren't sure they could actually live without each other.

"I don't know why we stay together," the rhino said. "I guess we're just creatures of instinctual habit."

The Feline Brain

Found this at one of the psych sites I read. Original source. (click to enlarge)

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Poem: On Being

On Being

the sentence is final / words compressed
as dead leaves in a bag / left for tomorrow

and why now / this ending foretold so
many times / the tide rolls in then out

can it be otherwise / a longer sentence
in which time prevails / tomorrow demands

our attention / yesterday's stones overturned
to reveal worms / wet guardians of decay

we all become compost / ashes ashes
we all fall down / did the dawn sneak past

what consequence / is any breath final
before the worms / dead leaves collect

behind my eyes / a skull filled with compost
as if it could be otherwise / time demands

and I collapse / the tide rolls in then out
seeking the sentence / but words fail

New Poem: Seeking Context

Seeking Context

mask without face, but other. can the stars
be far behind, imagined nights recollected
in warm days, steam rising
from strong dark roast coffee, this?

is what we dream not real? why
not gaze into vacant eyes, touch
soft fur of needy cats? then this too
fades, memories like DNA strands.

if we had known, would we have accepted,
those moments? the coffee cup
in her hands, the hangovers. now
there is silence, too, and, but . . .

beneath the bridge the water
is quiet. I have heard the ravens.
poor excuse for a city. not Seattle,
not New York. just here.

face without mask, can we hold
this in our hands? the naked presence
then shared over coffee, without words,
her legs over mine. cool sunlight.

so little said those mornings,
as though regret, as though fear,
sitting in the sun. ashamed I saw
her face, loved the face I saw?

tangled DNA. nothing remains.
static moments, memory, seeing
beneath the mask, her true face.
can the stars be far behind?

this then, or autumn arriving
so suddenly, hands held open
in supplication, down on my knees,
and still I hear the ravens.

does she hear, too, wearing no masks
at all? can those mornings speak?
I would have accepted, and did,
but even good memories fade.

Note: "mask without face" is from an Ann Lauterbach poem.

Gratitude 9/21/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) Wile E Coyote. Always makes me smile.

Road Runner & Wile E Coyote 07 - Guided Muscle from clips01 on Vimeo.

2) The weather is starting to change. I can tell more by the quality of light than the temps, but even the temps are in the low 90's. Mornings feel cool. Nice. I miss real fall weather.

3) I'm slowly learning more about who I am. Always a hard process, but rewarding when I am able to accept new information.

What are you grateful for today?

What Musical Instrument Should You Play?

You Should Play the Piano

You are a true music aficionado who loves many musical style and eras.

You find music to be an escape. And you'd like to be relaxed and comfortable when you're making it.

You're very innovative, and you have a unique way of knowing what may sound beautiful.

There's a strong possibility that you could compose some of your own work songs quite easily.

While you have a lot of creative energy, you are also serious and conscientious.

Your musical talent needs time, practice, and lots of privacy to flourish.

Your dominant personality characteristic: your painstaking attention to detail

Your secondary personality characteristic: your natural tendency to be whimsical

Too bad I have NO musical talent. But I'd love to play piano, or guitar.

Health & Fitness News

The monthly FitBits from Exercise Etc.

September 15, 2007
Exercise ETC’s Review of Exercise Related Research

Compiled by Chris Marino, MS, CSCS
Director of Education, Exercise ETC

Planning on Pregnancy? Strengthen that Pelvic Floor!

The pubococcygeus muscles, which make up the pelvic floor have several important roles and can experience dysfunction during or following pregnancy (i.e. urinary incontinence, sexual performance, and spinal stabilization). Pelvic floor muscle exercise (PFME), often referred to as Kegels, have been advocated for decades to improve recovery of the pubococcygeus muscles following pregnancy. Interestingly, very few women actually practice them regularly if at all.

A recent study reported that 24% of pregnant women report urinary incontinence, yet only 17% utilize Kegel exercises regularly. So, why don’t more women using Kegels as a preventive strategy pre- and post-pregnancy?

Some researchers and doctors have questioned their effectiveness. However, a study published this month in the journal Clinics reported that women who performed regular Kegel exercises during pregnancy, regardless of dysfunction, did in fact improve the strength of their pelvic floor muscles 47.4% vs. 17.3% in controls.

The answer to the lack of PFME practice may not be physiological or mechanical, but educational. A recent study reported that only 64% of pregnant women surveyed were taught PFME. Racial and ethnic disparities were identified, since a greater number of white (75%) and Asian (48%) women were taught PFME compared to black (36%) and Hispanic (39%) women. In addition, 74% of those receiving education possessed a college degree, whereas 37% were without education. Of note, a high percent of those taught PFME continued to practice the exercises after delivery (68%) and 6 months later (63%).

This research presents a great opportunity for maternity fitness programs that include the education and practice of PMFE.

Oliveira, C.D., et al (2007) Effects of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy. Clinics. 62(4):439-446.

Bo, K., et al (2007) Do pregnant women exercise their pelvic floor muscles? International Urogynecological Journal of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. 18(7): 733-736.

Fine, P., et al (2007) Teaching and practicing of pelvic floor muscle exercises in primiparous women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 197(1):107-115

Over-speed Training Improves Function in Older Women

The decline in speed and efficiency of gait is one consequence of aging that can result in poor functional capacity and increase the risk of inactivity-related disease. Improving speed and decreasing the energy demands of walking could significantly improve quality of life among older adults. A recent study reports a unique strategy to accomplish this.

Researchers incorporated body weight unloading using a gait treadmill to exercise a group of 75 to 85 year old women at high speed and intensity over 12 weeks.

During the initial six weeks the group completed interval sessions on a treadmill with 40% body weight unloading at a speed equivalent to the ventilatory threshold (Tvent). Tvent is the point at which breathing begins to become labored. Intervals consisted of 4 sets of 5 minutes alternating 1 minute at Tvent with 1 minute of recovery walking speed.

Speed was increased over the first six weeks after which body weight unloading was reduced to 10% for the final 6-weeks of training. The researchers evaluated energy cost and speed of over-ground walking before and after 12-weeks of training.

The results indicated that energy cost at slow, comfortable and fast walking speeds decreased up to 21%. In addition, maximal walking speed and mechanical power output at Tvent increased, 13% and 67%, respectively.

This study represents a breakthrough in training for older adults. Therapeutic exercise programs aimed at reducing risk of falling and increasing function in older adults should consider the methods used in this study for practical application.

Thomas, E.E. et al (2007) Speed training with body weight unloading improves walking energy cost and maximal speed in 75-85 year old health women. Journal of Applied Physiology. Sept (Epub ahead of print)

Can the Elliptical Cross-trainer Really Save Your Joints?

Many fitness professionals are quick to recommend Elliptical Exercise (EE) for the client or individual with lower extremity joint pain or impact intolerance. Although ground reaction forces that occur with walking are lessened during EE, questions remain concerning the impact EE has on hip and knee kinematics, which might pose a greater risk to some of those same clients.

Researchers in Taiwan studied the kinematics of EE and compared it to that of level treadmill walking. Fifteen adult males were analyzed while walking on a treadmill and during EE. Controlling for cadence and step length, researchers analyzed 3D kinematic data, pedal reaction forces, and ground reaction forces during each condition.

Their findings reaffirmed that EE produces lower pedal reaction forces and loading rates compared to treadmill walking. EE did, however produce greater hip flexor and knee extensor moments potentially creating higher mechanical stress at those joints compared to treadmill walking.

The results of this study suggest that greater caution is necessary when recommending EE for clients. The researchers recommend that muscle strength and joint function be evaluated prior to using EE to reduce and avoid injuries.

Lu, T.W. et al (2007) Joint loading in the lower extremities during elliptical exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 39(9): 1651-8.

Are You Losing Calcium When You Sweat?

The benefits of exercise in the prevention of osteoporosis are well known, but could exercise actually increase the risk by depleting calcium? A recent study reported that men lose significant amounts of calcium during strenuous exercise through increased sweating. To determine whether a similar loss occurs in women, researchers at Purdue University evaluated calcium changes over 24-hours after 60 minutes of strenuous exercise in young athletic women. They also assessed the effectiveness of calcium supplementation in preventing a net loss of calcium over that same time.

Twenty-six pre-menopausal women participated in three 8-day intervention phases: Placebo + no exercise, placebo + exercise, and 400 mg of calcium as calcium carbonate (TUMS ultra) twice daily and exercise.

The results confirmed previous findings in men whereas exercise was determined to have increased calcium losses via sweat. The researchers reported that urinary calcium excretion was higher during the calcium supplementation phase. This is suggested to represent higher net calcium absorption. In addition, urinary calcium excretion was unaltered with exercise. Hence, the body does not appear to compensate for calcium losses via sweating. The most important and practical finding was that net calcium retention was positive only when exercise was supported with calcium supplementation.

It remains questionable whether additional calcium over and above the daily recommendation of 1,000-1,500mg is appropriate, as this study controlled calcium intake minus supplementation well below this value. However, this study does validate the importance of maintaining adequate calcium intake to support potential exercise losses.

Martin, B.R., et al (2007) Exercise and calcium supplementation: effects on calcium homeotasis in sportswomen. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 39(9):1481-6.

Power Lifting Workout

This is an awesome video of Pyrros Dimas training -- he has completed a +200kg clean & jerk. The snatches he is doing in training are more than any American in his weight class can do as a one-rep max. Damned impressive. (Hat tip to Strong Lifts)

Speedlinking 9/21/07

Quote of the day:

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books."
~ Thomas Carlyle

Image of the day:

~ Are we really working hard? -- "I think there are definite parallels between work and fitness training. Over the past few years I think as a whole, in both areas, we've confused working "hard" with working long."
~ Does Explosive Lifting Build Muscle? -- "Strength training builds muscles and you should lift explosively. Period. Muscle definition depends on diet." The video is cool.
~ 7 Nutrition Myths Busted! -- "Find out the myths that could be making you fat."
~ Quick Burning Carbs May Cause Fatty Liver -- "Diets rich in rapidly digested carbohydrates not only expand waistlines, but may also cause fatty liver, a condition that can lead to liver failure and death, finds a new study in mice. If confirmed in humans, the findings suggest that fatty liver disease on the upsurge among Americans as a byproduct of the obesity epidemic may be preventable and possibly treatable through dietary changes."
~ An Interview With Lee Labrada - Advanced Training Techniques Exposed! -- "I had the chance to interview bodybuilding legend and Labrada Nutrition Founder and CEO Lee Labrada. In this interview, Lee discusses advanced training techniques and provides his Professional expertise of over 30 years."
~ Are All Calories Created Equal? A New Study Shows A Serving Of Almonds Can Help You Feel Full, Without Leading To Weight Gain -- "Scientists have noticed for many years that people who regularly eat almonds tend to weigh less than people who do not - even though they tend to eat more calories over the course of a day. Why? A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition sheds light on the mechanisms behind almonds' ability to provide valuable nutrition and help lower LDL cholesterol levels without contributing to weight gain."
COMMENT: The idea that all calories are created equal is one of the worst myths in nutrition. More than 25% of protein calories are used to digest the protein, while 6-8% of fat or carb calories are used in digestion. And as this article shows, healthy fats are filling (and besides, good fats are used to build cells) while simple carbs are not filling and we are hungry again very soon.

~ Sleepless nights 'can make you grow up fat' -- "Children who don't get enough sleep are more likely to become obese when they grow up, scientists say. Research has found that a lack of sleep prevents the body from producing sufficient quantities of a hormone that suppresses the appetite." This has been found in adults as well -- we need good sleep to prevent obesity.
~ If you see it, you'll eat it, expert says -- "We are powerless to ignore the clarion call of the candy jar, the beckoning of the buffet, the summons of the snack cupboard, says Cornell University expert Brian Wansink, who's spent a career watching how people behave around food."
~ Chronic fatigue linked with enterovirus infection -- "Some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome appear to have a chronic enteroviral infection that can be detected by a stomach biopsy, according to a report in the current Online First issue of the Journal of Clinical Pathology."

~ Study Shows How The Brain Handles Pleasant And Aversive Stimuli -- "Whether it's a mugger or a friend who jumps out of the bushes, you're still surprised. But your response -- to flee or to hug -- must be very different. Now, researchers have begun to distinguish the circuitry in the brain's emotion center that processes surprise from the circuitry that processes the aversive or reward "valence" of a stimulus."
~ Why Are We Conscious? -- "Humphrey suggested that consciousness was selected not because it gives us any particular type of skill or reflects any special type of knowledge about ourselves or the world. Rather, he suggests, consciousness motivates us. It gives us joy in living and reason to exist."
~ Your Friday Dose of Woo: In which I am given a woo-ducation in neuroscience -- "It inspired me because it taught me things I never knew about cellular biology and neuroscience. Morever, it totally took me by surprise, because at first glance it just looked like typical New Age spiritualist B.S. But do not be fooled. Disguised under that veneer of references to "divine primordial energy" and "hidden secrets of the soul" was the most ludicrous bit of "science-y" sounding stuff I've heard in a while."
~ Advice for Students: How to Read Like a Scholar -- "Reading as an academic exercise involves not just gleaning the content form a book or essay but engaging with it. We read not just to learn some new set of facts but also to learn how facts are put together to form an argument, to learn what kinds of arguments are acceptable in our chosen disciplines, and to prompt us towards further research. Reading of this sort raises as many questions as it answers, or more."
~ How to Handle Rejection -- "Rejection can help you reinvent yourself."
~ Dumped But Not Down -- "Braving even the biggest brush-offs."
~ Down But Not Done For -- "Setbacks force us to take risks, learn, and grow."
~ Best of the Brain from Scientific American -- "The Dana Foundation kindly sent us a copy of the great book Best of the Brain from Scientific American, a collection of 21 superb articles published previously in Scientific American magazine. A very nicely edited and illustrated book, this is a must for anyone who enjoys learning about the brain and speculating about what the future will bring us."
~ Understanding The Basics Of Learning And Memory -- "A molecular "recycling plant" permits nerve cells in the brain to carry out two seemingly contradictory functions -- changeable enough to record new experiences, yet permanent enough to maintain these memories over time.The discovery of this molecular recycling plant, detailed in a study appearing early online in the journal Neuron, provides new insights into how the basic units of learning and memory function."
~ Eccentric Tips for Becoming Productive -- "This guide won’t make you productive: only you can really do that for yourself. Rather, here are some little, specific tips you can follow that might speed up your day without any excessive effort from yourself.

~ Spray-Fire Atonement -- "Fasting aside, most non-Jews I know envy Yom Kippur, holiday of atonement. While not intended as the only day for Jews to expiate their sin against God and man (the daily prayer of tachanun, or supplication, is supposed to give you annual coverage), Yom Kippur exists in the popular imagination as a kind of concentrated power-cleanse for the soul—the spiritual equivalent of the detox diet."
~ Embassy Builder Linked to Kickbacks -- "Pete Yost for The Associated Press reports that 'the Kuwaiti company building the US embassy in Baghdad has been accused of agreeing to pay $200,000 in kickbacks in return for two unrelated Army contracts in Iraq.'"
~ Gonzo for Beginners: A Hunter S. Thompson Reading Guide -- "Okay, let's assume that you're late to the party on this one. Maybe you've seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas movie, or you've read bits of Hunter S. Thompson's stuff here and there. You need a heads-up on how to get into the good stuff. Here's what we recommend, in order."
~ Into the Wild reviewed -- "After more than two and a half hours in the company of the idealistic, self-dramatizing, but resourceful and ultimately appealing Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), it's hard not to feel at least a chin-chucking affection for this deluded youth. But it's also hard not to feel that Penn is stacking the deck heavily in his favor and losing out on the chance for a more sober meditation on the ambiguity of McCandless' quest."
~ Biblical Living: Following Every Rule for One Year -- "What if you spent one year following every rule in the Bible? A. J. Jacobs did exactly that."
~ Ahmadinejad to Speak Despite Protest -- "Columbia University said it does not plan to call off a speech by Iran's president despite pressure from critics including the City Council speaker."
~ How the Rich Hide Their Wealth -- "The rich go to great lengths to shield assets from the public and government."

~ Fight for the Top of the World -- "Russia has planted a flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole, Canada is talking tough and Washington wants to be a player. Who will win the race for the Arctic?"
~ Bioluminescence Genes Found Through Metagenomic Study Of Deep Mediterranean -- "A recent analysis of a metagenomic library from the deep Mediterranean shows a surprising high number of quorum sensing or lux genes that are only expressed when bacteria live in colonies. The deep ocean might be too depleted in resources for microbes to live independently. Some of the genes detected have been identified as directly involved in bioluminescence."
~ Asia-Pacific Nations Urged To Study Biofuels More Carefully, Expert Panel Suggests -- "Scientists say there is an urgent need to support the current rush toward major decisions on biofuel policies in Asia and the Pacific with solid research and unbiased information about their potential benefits, impact and risks."
~ Cave Entrances Found on Mars -- "Seven cave entrances along a Martian volcano were detected by a spacecraft."
~ Amazon forest shows unexpected resiliency during drought -- "Drought-stricken regions of the Amazon forest grew particularly vigorously during the 2005 drought, according to new research."
~ Plants and Animals: Long-Lost Relatives? -- "Does the tree of life need to be re-drawn from scratch?"
~ Cambridge makes music from 'dark energy' -- "An invisible force so mysterious that it has yet to be understood by even the most eminent astronomers is being turned into music at a new Cambridge University exhibition."

~ Scientific literacy as a means to inoculate against religion -- "Given the intricacies of the modern age and the ever-growing complexification of ideas and technology, it can be said that a scientific education is also increasingly necessary; if literacy can be considered a basic right, then so to must scientific literacy."
~ Does Peace Have a Future? -- Deepak Chopra -- "The anti-war movement has been completely blocked, and grass-roots efforts against the war have become more or less futile. In realistic terms war remains a stubbornly unchanging policy controlled by the right wing. Does that mean that the rest of us -- the vast majority who oppose the war -- are left without options?"
~ Monks up Burma's protest tensions -- "Monks have been protesting in Burma, adding to the rare public defiance seen in recent weeks. The BBC's Andrew Harding has just returned from the country and explains why the monks' involvement will make the military government nervous."
~ Norman Einstein RELOADED! -- "A couple of years ago I blogged the book, Stripping the Gurus by Geoffery Falk. During that time there was a chapter in the book about Ken Wilber entitled, Norman Einstein. I just became aware that Norman Einstein has evolved into a separate book! I'm a freakin' latecomer! Check it out."
~ Integral Responses to the New Atheists -- "As I've said to him in comments, I think if he's looking for a lengthy response from Wilber himself he's probably barking up the wrong tree. Wilber covered the ground tackled by the "New" Atheists back in 1999's The Marriage of Sense and Soul, and the question to ask is why haven't the "New" Atheists responded to these 1999 criticisms?" Likely because none of them, aside from Sam Harris, have ever heard of Wilber, let alone read his books.

Daily Dharma: What should a Buddhist eat?

Today's Daily Dharma looks at our food choices and the larger implications.

What should a Buddhist eat?

Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian; the Dalai Lama, the embodiment of compassion, eats meat by his doctors' orders. Clearly, there's more to mind than what is put into the mouth: yet, as long as food remains a fundamental part of life, these choices are a proper focus of spiritual awareness. Every bite of macaroni contains choices about culture, history, meaning -- even the "Nutrition Facts" newly listed on every U.S. noodle box have resonances for us that spread as far as asceticism, sin, compassion, the place of science in our beliefs, and the importance of supporting one's own well-being along with that of others. So what should a Buddhist eat?

- Kate Wheeler, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. IV, #2

Camille Paglia: Rigid Scholarship on Male Sexuality

Camille Paglia takes a look at three new gender studies books about men -- and while she is pleased that things are getting better, she feels there is still a lot of work to do in generating a more even-handed approach to gender studies.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Three provocative books on male sexuality recently published by university presses provide a good barometer of the current state of campus gender studies. A welcome development of the past decade has been the expansion of the gender lens to include men, who were routinely stereotyped by women's-studies curricula as they took shape from the 1970s on. These books reflect that broader perspective and also display a more liberal attitude toward pornography, which was assailed in the 1980s by religious and cultural conservatives oddly allied with crusading feminists. By the 90s, pornography was legitimized as a field of study by gay male academics as well as an insurgent wing of sex-positive feminism. However, despite their greater sexual sophistication, the three books under review still retain traces of the old archfeminist censoriousness toward men — or, more exactly, toward the majority of men in the world who do not happen to conform to the tidy bourgeois values of political correctness.

Read the whole review, it's very much worth it.

One of the books, the first one reviewed, has one of the most amazing opening sentences you're ever going to read:

It has been called sperm, semen, ejaculate, seed, man fluid, baby gravy, jizz, cum, pearl necklace, gentleman's relish, wad, pimp juice, number 3, load, spew, donut glaze, spunk, gizzum, cream, hot man mustard, squirt, goo, spunk, splooge, love juice, man cream, and la leche.

Almost like poetry.

Project Censored

Last week the Tucson Weekly published the top censored stories according to Project Censored. Not surprisingly, the executive branch's assault on civil rights is prominent in the list.

Here is the introduction:

There are a handful of freedoms that have almost always been a part of American democracy.

Even when they didn't exactly apply to everyone or weren't always protected by the people in charge, a few simple but significant rights have been patently clear in the Constitution: You can't be nabbed by the cops and tossed behind bars without a reason. If you are imprisoned, you can't be incarcerated indefinitely; you have the right to a speedy trial with a judge and jury. When that court date rolls around, you'll be able to see the evidence against you.

The president can't suspend elections, spy without warrants or dispatch federal troops to trump local cops or quell protests. Nor can the commander in chief commence a witch hunt, deem individuals "enemy combatants" or shunt them into special tribunals outside the purview of our 218-year-old judicial system.

Until now.

This year's Project Censored presents a chilling portrait of a newly empowered executive branch signing away civil liberties for the sake of an endless and amorphous war on terror. And for the most part, the major news media weren't paying attention.

"This year, it seemed like civil rights just rose to the top," said Peter Phillips, the director of Project Censored, the annual media survey conducted by Sonoma State University researchers and students who spend the year patrolling obscure publications, national and international Web sites and mainstream news outlets to compile the 25 most significant stories that were inadequately reported or essentially ignored.

While the project usually turns up a range of underreported issues, this year's stories all fall somewhat neatly into two categories: the increase of privatization, and the decrease of human rights. Some of the stories qualify as both.

"I think they indicate a very real concern about where our democracy is heading," said writer and veteran judge Michael Parenti.

For 31 years, Project Censored has been compiling a list of the major stories that the nation's news media have ignored, misreported or poorly covered.

The Oxford American Dictionary defines censorship as "the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts," which Phillips said is also a fine description of what happens under a dictatorship.

When it comes to democracy, the black marker is a bit more nuanced. "We need to broaden our understanding of censorship," he said. After 11 years at the helm of Project Censored, Phillips thinks the most bowdlerizing force is the fourth estate itself: "The corporate media is complicit. There's no excuse for the major media giants to be missing major news stories like this."

As the stories cited in this year's Project Censored selections point out, the federal government continues to provide major news networks with stock footage, which is dutifully broadcast as news. The George W. Bush administration has spent more federal money than any other presidency on public relations. Without a doubt, Parenti said, the government invests in shaping our beliefs.

"Every day, they're checking out what we think," he said. "The erosion of civil liberties is not happening in one fell swoop, but in increments. Very consciously, this administration has been heading toward a general autocracy."

Carl Jensen, who founded Project Censored in 1976 after witnessing the landslide re-election of Richard Nixon in 1972 in spite of mounting evidence of the Watergate scandal, agreed that this year's censored stories amount to an accumulated threat to democracy.

"I'm waiting for one of our great liberal writers to put together the big picture of what's going on here," he said.

These are the top ten stories -- you'll have to go to the site to read the details and see the next 15.


If you have any doubts about why other countries in the world hate the US, be sure to read the piece on how slaves are being used to build the US embassy in Iraq, which is as large as Vatican City and is completely self-contained.

Extreme Athletic Training

This cool little video is a montage of dozens of cross-training exercises, many of them soccer or tennis related. Makes me want to go workout right now.

Extreme Athletic Training

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Collage: Love Song

My horoscope this week from Free Will Astrology:

Symphonie Fantastique is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of music of the 19th century. French composer Hector Berlioz wrote it in 1830 as a response to being rejected by the woman he loved, hoping to seduce her with the power of his artistry. Your assignment in the coming week, Taurus, is to emulate Berlioz: Capitalize on a refusal you've had to endure; create a masterpiece in rebellion against a repudiation you've experienced; make a thing of beauty to compensate for being shunned or ignored. (P.S. The woman in question, Harriet Smithson, eventually married Berlioz.)

In honor of that admonition, I make this offering.

The spiders do not sleep tonight. They are coming for me. Embalming me. As though some or all of me has died and cannot be saved.

The web is tangled, like all things,
cool spring nights and her body
wrapped in silk sheets.

That's what I remember,
the fragrance of her, the waking
and knowing it wasn't a dream.


The very first night, holding her, stroking her hair so gently. I felt myself dissolve, open, transformed beyond the limits of flesh, the boundaries of mind. Pure feeling. Something so much larger than either of us. For those few hours, we were the only people on earth, a new Adam, a new Eve, drunk and happy.


It's tangled, the memory of her
and the reality of flesh,
in miniature the scenes replay.

A swirl of love and loss, hope
and fear, rich red wine,
cool jazz we danced to.

It was all a love song.

I will always love her.
No matter how far away.
No matter what words she says


And the spiders weave their webs over my eyes, refracting all light, enclosing such failed vision within its own confines. Lacking touch, the body left as dead. But the heart beats, muffled by dirt, encrusted with twigs and yarn, a nest for birds.

So little can be said that has never been said. The spiders web my mouth to silence me. To prevent me from revealing the secret all broken hearts know, but never speak.

Love is eternal.


O Great Spirit, hear my prayer:

I offer these words and images
not in craving for my wants,
but that those who read them
may open their hearts to the love
that lives inside of each being,
that they may surrender to the heart
and live a life in your service.


What right have we to disregard the wisdom of the heart? What right have we to live in opposition to its knowledge and vision? We are so little without love. We are so large with love.


Cold Night

At midnight, in a cold bed, I cannot sleep.
Incense and fire burned out, my tears turn to ice.

My shadow my only companion,
I will not turn down the light.

~ Po Chu-i


This haunting, as if spiders were ghosts. But it's not the small creatures encasing me in silk, it's her voice, the memory of her fingers on my skin, the awareness that the moments we shared could only occur between us.

No other will do.


These words are catharsis,
an offering to the world.

We walk our own paths,
each of us, alone.

Night comes, morning follows,
the leaden days pass one by one.

Of one thing I am sure,
the story is not finished.

A new ending can be written,
if only we can find the words.


1. Lovers #3
2. The Lovers
3. The Cure - Lovesong
4. Lovers 2
5. "Cold Night," translated by Sam Hamill, Midnight Flute
6. Lovers Dream

'God' Apparently Responds to Lawsuit

I think this whole thing falls into the category of satire, but what do I know. Wouldn't it be fun if God chose Clarence Darrow instead of William Jennings Bryan to defend him in this suit.

From HuffPost:

'God' Apparently Responds to Lawsuit

LINCOLN, Neb. — A legislator who filed a lawsuit against God has gotten something he might not have expected: a response. One of two court filings from "God" came Wednesday under otherworldly circumstances, according to John Friend, clerk of the Douglas County District Court in Omaha.

"This one miraculously appeared on the counter. It just all of a sudden was here _ poof!" Friend said.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sued God last week, seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty for making terroristic threats, inspiring fear and causing "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."

Chambers, a self-proclaimed agnostic who often criticizes Christians, said his filing was triggered by a federal lawsuit he considers frivolous. He said he's trying to makes the point that anybody can sue anybody.

Not so, says "God." His response argues that the defendant is immune from some earthly laws and the court lacks jurisdiction.

It adds that blaming God for human oppression and suffering misses an important point.

"I created man and woman with free will and next to the promise of immortal life, free will is my greatest gift to you," according to the response, as read by Friend.

There was no contact information on the filing, although St. Michael the Archangel is listed as a witness, Friend said.

A second response from "God" disputing Chambers' allegations lists a phone number for a Corpus Christi law office. A message left for that office was not immediately returned Thursday.

Attempts to reach Chambers by phone and at his Capitol office Thursday were unsuccessful.

I guess the US court system has no jurisdiction over God. But how could it, really, since He doesn't actually live here -- at least, according to the fundamentalists who like to blame God for all kinds of things.

I'm surprised this hasn't become a class-action suit on behalf of all those who think God gives a rat's ass what happens to them -- and has treated them badly.

Silly, silly mortals.

Satire: Planning Mean Limerick About Petraeus

From Andy Borowitz at Huffington Post. Planning Mean Limerick About Petraeus
Posted September 20, 2007

One week after excoriating General David Petraeus in a full-page ad in The New York Times, the liberal group today confirmed plans to create what is being characterized as a "really mean limerick" about President Bush's man in Iraq.

Rumors of the planned limerick rocked official Washington, which is still reeling from the Times ad, in which cleverly rhymed "Petraeus" with "Betray Us."

"These people have already shown that they are really good at rhyming things," said Colson Slattery of the Republican National Committee. "There's no question that they are capable of creating a devastating limerick."

But Tracy Klujian, a spokesman, said that plans for a really mean limerick about General Petraeus had hit a snag, largely due to the difficulty of finding something to rhyme with "Petraeus" and "Betray Us."

"So far, this is what we've got," Mr. Klujian said. "Hey there, General Petraeus/You should be called General Betray-us/Your views on Iraq/Are one big crock - and then we're kind of stumped about that last line."

Ms. Klujian confirmed that one proposed line -- "Why don't you get off that dais" -- had been rejected because "he's not really sitting on a dais."

Another line, in which the general was compared to Dr. Zaius, the evil orangutan in the Planet of the Apes films -- had been rejected as "too obscure," Mr. Klujian said.

"We don't know what the last line will be yet, but we know the message we want to deliver," he said. "Iraq's in a state of chaos."