Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Poem: Memory


Some of us are born
Looking backward, fallen
Leaves in our hands,
Walking past the jugglers
As though the fall is
Inevitable, balls on the ground

Photographs pale at the edges,
Stilled moments without context,
But in the simple scenes
We find meaning, insight
Into the fragile bones
Carrying all this weight

We wear grief as a fine garment,
Aware of the suffering felt
By those already at rest,
But there is no real rest,
Only broken windows, memories
Of a time when we did not wear flesh

Gratitude 11/17/07

Tonight I am grateful for a very nice evening with my friend Susie, her husband Richard, and her son Matthew. We had some good Indian food for dinner then saw Voltaire's Candide at the U of A.

The play was based on the adaptation by Leonard Bernstein, an operetta of sorts, but played as a farce. The music was wonderful, the acting and singing was quite good for a college cast, but it was a little over the top. Still, it was quite fun and entertaining.

Most of all, I was grateful to spend some time with Susie and her family.

What are you grateful for today?

Supreme Generosity

I first saw this image when I was a kid, in an old issue of Life Magazine. I asked my father to explain to me why this monk had set himself on fire and could sit there so calmly as he burned to death -- in what must have been extreme pain. He had no good answer, and whatever answer he did offer was presented through the lens of his Roman-Catholic beliefs.

Over the years I have seen the image again and again, but I had never encountered a good explanation of what motivated the monk, until the other night. Most explanations I have seen are framed in politics, the desire to end the war -- which is certainly a part of it. But Lama Surya Das offers a slightly different take on it, one that feels right to me.

Quang Duc's final act -- which in succeeding months and years inspired a handful of other Buddhist monks and nuns to also immolate themselves -- represents a practice of supreme generosity that has its roots in the Lotus Sutra, one of the most significant scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. Because these Vietnamese monks and nuns realized their ultimate, unborn, deathless nature and were no longer attached to an idea of the physical body as the self, they were free to use their bodies to deliver a powerful wake-up message to others. You could say they transformed their bodies into torches to illuminate the terrible suffering of the Vietnamese people. Only those Bodhisattvas who have truly liberated themselves by seeing deeply into the profound prajna truth of the universe can undertake this ultimate gesture of generosity with complete clarity and wisdom and without doubt or negative karmic repercussions. Contemporary master Thich Nhat Hanh, who knew Quang Duc personally, remarked on Quang Duc's act, "It was not made out of despair, but out of the wish to help, out of his great love for humankind." It has taken me years to understand this statement, but it has been worth the journey.

~ Buddha Is as Buddha Does

This is an inspiring level of generosity. Few of us, if any, will ever know that level of pure love and intention to help others. But that doesn't mean we can't aspire to be the most kind and generous people we can be.

Generosity is such a simple act -- all we need to do is consider the happiness and well-being of others. We don't have to sacrifice our own happiness, although sometimes we might trade our personal attachments for freedom from them in order to assist others. Seems like a good deal.

In fact, selfless generosity makes us happy -- it feels good. More importantly, however, it makes other people feel good, feel cared for, and that can make them more likely to do something generous for another person.

With each generous act we can initiate a chain reaction of kindness.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Poem: Night


The night is talking to itself
Again, wild arms waving at stars,
A crescent moon, and the owls
who pay homage to daylight
Brush its face so gently

The streets have vanished, now
Only the noise and bright lights,
Vivid veins revealing the city's
Heart, vital organs, extremities
Spreading into the desert

These quiet hours, like death, when
Strange thoughts haunt flesh,
Demand attention, as ignorance
Also makes demands, reduces us
To pale images in glass

On all sides the mountains,
Distant cries, the gaping mouth
Of night, teeth bared, yet its voice
Soothes the mind, lulls
The ever-present questions to silence

Gratitude 11/16/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) A good workout. I did 4 sets of 8 reps with 225 on the incline bench today, a personal best. And I also am up to using a 25 pound plate on pistols, which is really tough, but it feels good.

2) I'm going to be on the radio again next week. I was nervous last time, but this I think it will be fun.

3) I watched a cool little movie tonight -- 3 Iron. Here is the synopsis:

Tae-suk (JAE Hee) drifts around on his motorcycle looking for empty houses to stay in. He goes from door to door and puts up flyers in the keyholes of each house. He later breaks into the house where the flyer has not been removed, assuming that the owner is away.

Tae-suk lives in the empty house until the owners return, but never steals or ruins anything. He simply guards the houses for a few days, fixing broken items, and even does the owners’ laundry. Before leaving, he puts everything back as it used be.

One day, sneaking into a wealthy home, Tae-suk meets his destiny – a married woman named Sun-hwa (LEE Seung-yeon) who has been tormented by her abusive husband. While Tae-suk sneaks around the house, Sun-hwa hides in the dark and silently watches him. At first she's afraid of him, but when she sees him fixing a broken scale, she realizes he's not a thief and continues to observe him.

That same night, Tae-suk wakes up suddenly to find Sun-hwa staring at him. He runs out, but the phone rings suddenly. It's Sun-hwa's husband. Tae-suk overhears their conversation and realizes that Sun-hwa has an unhappy marriage and life. Sun-hwa looks silently at him as if she is begging for him to save her. Tae-suk however, turns away and walks out.

Tae-suk can't stop thinking about Sun-hwa's imploring eyes. The more he tries to forget about her, the more vivid the images of Sun-hwa become in his mind. Taesuk sneaks into her home again, and watches her in silence. After watching her for a while, Tae-suk turns on music to soothe her soul. He prepares clothes for her while she's in her bath. Sun-hwa senses that Tae-suk has come back for her and starts to feel comfortable. But her comfort turns sour after her husband comes home and tries to force her into having sex.

Tae-suk is enraged. He grabs a 3 iron and swings it at golf balls on the ground. The balls strike her husband several times and he collapses. Tae-suk then runs away with Sun-hwa.

Together, Tae-suk and Sun-hwa stick flyers onto doors and enter empty houses together. In every home they break into, Tae-suk continues to cook, do chores, and fix broken items. For the first time ever, Sun-hwa feels the real comfort of a home. Tae-suk sees that she is able to smile again, and the two ultimately fall in love with each other.

One day, as they enter a house, they discover the dead body of an old man. Taesuk and Sun-hwa bury the body in a respectful ritual, and begin living in the old man's house as if it was their own. Their happy days come to an end when the old man's son makes a surprise visit. He calls the police and they take Tae-suk and Sun-hwa away.

Tae-suk is charged with murder, trespassing, and kidnapping, while Sun-hwa is unwillingly brought back to her husband. Sun-hwa lives in hope for the day of Tae-suk’s release. But while in prison, Tae-suk finds a secret way to bring back the joys he and Sun-hwa once had...

Although this reveals a lot of the plot, it doesn't reveal the magic of the final third of this wonderful little film. I highly recommend it.

Catch Me on the Radio

If you are in the Tucson area, you can catch me on the radio on Tuesday, November 20th, at 5 pm -- 1330 AM, The Jolt.

I'll be talking about fitness and nutrition in the holiday season. This is a call-in show, so please feel free to call and ask me some questions - 520.529.3508.

This is my second appearance on Those Feng Shui Guys, although this time they will not be there -- I'll be talking with their publicist, who used to be a personal trainer.

Daily Dharma: What Happens When We Do Not Let Go?

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

What Happens When We Do Not Let Go?

What happens when we do not let go? Asians have a very clever trap for catching monkeys. People hollow out a coconut, put something sweet in it, and make a hole at the bottom of the coconut just big enough for the monkey to slide its open hand in, but not big enough for the monkey to withdraw its hand as a fist. They attach the coconut to the tree, and the monkey comes along and gets trapped. What keeps the monkey trapped? Only the force of desire, of clinging, of attachment. All the monkey has to do is let go of the sweet, open its hand, slip it out, and be free. But only a very rare monkey will do that.

~ Joseph Goldstein, Transforming the Mind, Healing the World; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

Garrett Lisi, an unemployed physicist (much has been made of his being a surfer, as though that matters), has made some serious waves in the physics world by publishing his "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything."

Lisi's theory manages to unite the four fundamental forces of nature: the electromagnetic force; the strong force, which binds quarks together in atomic nuclei; the weak force, which controls radioactive decay; and gravity (which has been the problem with the Standard Model).

The real beauty of Lisi's model is that is provides testable hypotheses.

From The Telegraph UK:

[H]is proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics.

Even better, it does not require more than one dimension of time and three of space, when some rival theories need ten or even more spatial dimensions and other bizarre concepts. And it may even be possible to test his theory, which predicts a host of new particles, perhaps even using the new Large Hadron Collider atom smasher that will go into action near Geneva next year.


The new theory reported today in New Scientist has been laid out in an online paper entitled "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" by Lisi, who completed his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1999 at the University of California, San Diego.

He has high hopes that his new theory could provide what he says is a "radical new explanation" for the three decade old Standard Model, which weaves together three of the four fundamental forces of nature: the electromagnetic force; the strong force, which binds quarks together in atomic nuclei; and the weak force, which controls radioactive decay.

The reason for the excitement is that Lisi's model also takes account of gravity, a force that has only successfully been included by a rival and highly fashionable idea called string theory, one that proposes particles are made up of minute strings, which is highly complex and elegant but has lacked predictions by which to do experiments to see if it works.


Lisi's inspiration lies in the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematics, called E8 - a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."

What makes E8 so exciting is that Nature also seems to have embedded it at the heart of many bits of physics. One interpretation of why we have such a quirky list of fundamental particles is because they all result from different facets of the strange symmetries of E8.

Lisi's breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own. "My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing," he tells New Scientist. "I thought: 'Holy crap, that's it!'"

What Lisi had realised was that he could find a way to place the various elementary particles and forces on E8's 248 points. What remained was 20 gaps which he filled with notional particles, for example those that some physicists predict to be associated with gravity.

Physicists have long puzzled over why elementary particles appear to belong to families, but this arises naturally from the geometry of E8, he says. So far, all the interactions predicted by the complex geometrical relationships inside E8 match with observations in the real world. "How cool is that?" he says.

The crucial test of Lisi's work will come only when he has made testable predictions. Lisi is now calculating the masses that the 20 new particles should have, in the hope that they may be spotted when the Large Hadron Collider starts up.

"The theory is very young, and still in development," he told the Telegraph. "Right now, I'd assign a low (but not tiny) likelyhood to this prediction.

Very cool. It will be exciting to watch this and see how it turns out. It's such an elegant and simple theory when compared to string theory.

Rolling Stone Reviews Saul Williams

3 stars from RS, 4.5 stars from listeners. Not bad.

Saul Williams
The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of Niggy Tardust

This auspicious collaboration between poet-dancer-actor Saul Williams, a notably independent and militant underground hip-hopper, and Nine Inch Nail Trent Reznor, the rare rock dystopian who has been humanized by success, has many virtues. It showcases two indubitable rebels against oppression both micro (record biz) and macro (cryptofascism). It joins a black performance artist who has a penchant for hard beats to a white studio wizard who specializes in them. And it's downloadable at a suggested five dollars — or, if you prefer, zero cents. So you have nothing to lose but your processing time to discover that this arresting and intelligent music is less songful than Nine Inch Nails' 2007 Year Zero and less articulate than Williams' 2004 Saul Williams. Inspired above all by Public Enemy, whose "Welcome to the Terrordome" loops obsessively through the beat-y "Tr(n)igger," NiggyTardust! tends to smelt sonics and lyrics into sludge rather than forging an alloy. The metaphor is an overstatement — more than most soundscapes, the album is full of ideas. But how important these may be is left unclear.

David Lynch's COOL Car Commercial

If David Lynch is making a car commercial, you know it will be strange.


Satire: China Recalls Hillary Clinton's Asbestos Pantsuit

From ScrappleFace:

China Recalls Hillary Clinton's Asbestos Pantsuit

(2007-11-16) — Chinese authorities today announced a sweeping recall of garments manufactured with asbestos, including the pantsuit worn by Sen. Hillary Clinton during last night’s Democrat presidential debate.

Sen. Clinton’s trousers were marketed mostly through retailers in the Washington D.C. region, and made from “a political-grade fabric that provides protection from spontaneous combustion, thus avoiding the embarrassment of ‘pants on fire’.”

Because asbestos is the leading cause of lung cancer in laboratory mice and rats, experts said it posed a particular danger to Sen. Clinton’s rivals on the stage last night.

The Chinese government apologized to the former First Lady for shipping the flame-retardant slacks, and said she could either return them for a refund, or try asbestos abatement through dry cleaning.

A spokesman for the Clinton campaign said the candidate had no worries, “because Hillary has a lot of friends in Chinatown who are experts at laundering things, and would love to contribute to her campaign in any way they can.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Speedlinking 11/15/07

Quote of the day:

"First there is a time when we believe everything, then for a little while we believe with discrimination, then we believe nothing whatever, and then we believe everything again - and, moreover, give reasons why we believe."
~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Image of the day:

~ Blending Size and Strength, Version 2.0 -- "Vanilla or chocolate? Blonde or brunette? Size or strength? Now you don't have to decide... at least about that last choice in the list. Here's a program that uses high tension and high volume to make you strong and big!"
~ 7 Tasty and Easy Breakfast Recipes That Build Muscle -- "What’s a quality breakfast? Something that consists of proteins for muscle growth, slow digesting carbs for energy & healthy fats. If you can add extra fiber, fruits & veggies that’s even better."
~ Muscle Cramps from Exercise: Causes and Prevention -- "Exercisers are often told that muscle cramps are caused by lack of salt (sodium) or low potassium. However, recent studies show that athletes in endurance events who suffer cramps usually have normal sodium and potassium levels."
~ Chocolate, and 7 other foods to lower blood pressure -- "TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer reveals eight foods which are among the "best of the best" when it comes to lowering your blood pressure."
~ Half a glass of red wine 'protects from cancer' -- "Half a glass of red wine a day could protect you from colon cancer, scientists have discovered. The study found that a diet rich in grapes can help prevent the third most common form of cancer."
~ Smokers Urged To Make A Plan To Quit During American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout -- "The American Cancer Society will celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, November 15. With exactly half of the United States now protected by smoke-free laws, and a variety of cessation resources available, there has never been a better time to quit smoking and enjoy the health benefits."
~ Magnolia bark can take bite out of bad breath -- "Adding a pinch of magnolia bark to mints or gum can eliminate bad breath by killing most odor-causing germs, U.S researchers have found. Most bad breath occurs when bacteria in the mouth break down proteins, producing foul-smelling sulfur compounds"
~ Scientific Evidence Of The Significant Anti-cancer Effect Of Milk Thistle -- "A research team demonstrated the significant anti-cancer effects of milk thistle. They found that the major biologically active compound of this plant, silibinin, could suppress the growth of cancerous liver cells. These scientists further studied the mechanisms of the anti-cancer effects of silibinin."

~ Bratty or a behavior disorder? -- "Parents caught off guard by the willfulness of their toddlers sometimes find themselves wondering where do the “terrible twos” end and mental-health problems begin."
~ Secrets Of The World’s Happiest Man -- "The other day I watched Mathieu Ricard’s talk; Ricard is a Buddhist monk of French origin who has been living in the Himalayas for at least twenty years or so now, and has earned the moniker of 'world’s happiest man.'"
~ The Doctor Is Within -- "You can judge your health better than your doc."
~ Take your Christmas back -- "It is well into November and the world is ramping up its Christmas hype. We are bombarded with Christmas food, Christmas gifts, Christmas expectations and Christmas pressure. This can be one of the best times of year, but many people end up overcome by stress, guilt, molten credit cards and broken relationships. It doesn’t have to be like this."
~ Does Child Abuse Affect Brain Development? -- "The focus of Dr. Teicher's presentation was on the neurobiological affects of different types of stress on the developing brain, especially in terms of the short and long-term impact of child physical and sexual abuse on brain development. In particular, that early childhood maltreatment acts as a severe stressor that can produce various physiogical and hormonal reactions that leads to lasting alterations in patterns of brain development which, in turn, can manifest as different psychiatric disorders."
~ 50 Creativity Muses to Court for Fresh Ideas -- "Whether you are an artist, a lawyer, a student, a mother, or just about any role you can conceive, creativity is an ingredient that adds richness, variety, and value to the projects we work on. The problem is that a lot of the time we return to the same well over and over again. We use the same old approach and what happens? The well runs dry."
~ Brain Hormone Responsible For Effects Of Social Isolation -- "The anxiety and aggression that result from social isolation have been traced to altered levels of an enzyme that controls production of a brain hormone.The study, done in mice by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, is reported in this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

~ 8 Democrats Pose Hurdle for Children’s Health Bill -- "Eight senators told Democratic leaders that they could not support any compromise that limits their states’ ability to cover parents along with children."
~ Professors and Politics (Again) -- "A month after the release of a study hailed by many as a definitive examination of faculty members’ political views, a slew of new research on the topic — some of it updated versions of previous research — will be released today finding (not surprisingly) that professors lean to the left."
~ Academia's Pervasive PC Rot -- "Another hyperbolic, conservative rant about liberals in academia? Perhaps I should confess my biases. I do dislike extremism of the Left and of the Right. But I have never been conservative enough to vote for a Republican presidential nominee. And the academics whose growing power and abuses of power concern me are far to the left of almost all congressional Democrats."
~ Bhutto: the new Chalabi -- "There's much in common between smooth-talking Benazir and the man once favoured by the White House to succeed Saddam Hussein.
~ Days of Rage -- "In the white glare of a hot summer’s noon, the broad avenues of Islamabad, Pakistan’s modern capital, are usually empty. But on a sweltering day this May the streets were crowded with noisily chanting protesters, all of them demonstrating against the military government of President Pervez Musharraf. Three separate protests were under way. Each one represented a slightly different vision of the future that Pakistan might have if—as now seems more likely than ever—Musharraf’s government were to fall."
~ Huckabee Stands By a Televangelist -- "As the Senate starts a probe of several "prosperity gospel" preachers, the Presidential candidate stands by the one with the most question marks."
~ Americans: Sheep to the Constitutional Slaughter? -- "Judge Andrew Napolitano is one of American media’s most tenacious defenders of Americans' rights. His official title at Fox News, where he appears regularly on Fox and Friends and The Big Story, is “Senior Judicial Analyst.” But at the often Bush-besotted network, the decidedly skeptical Napolitano thinks of himself more as 'House Civil Libertarian.'"
~ Pakistan's Musharraf appoints caretaker PM (AFP) -- "President Pervez Musharraf named Pakistan's current senate chief Thursday to lead a caretaker government that will steer the emergency-ruled nation toward elections in January."

~ A Techno Fix for Climate Change and Peak Oil -- "Innovation is key to dealing with these possible problems."
~ 15,000 homeless in Chile quake (AP) -- "Strong aftershocks from a powerful earthquake hit northern Chile on Thursday as the government erected a working military hospital and promised hundreds of other portable dwellings for 15,000 left homeless by the quake."
~ Onion-Power Makes Recharging iPods Easy -- "It turns out a white onion will do in a pinch in case you've lost your charger and need to juice up your beloved iPod. All you'll need is said onion, 2 cups of Gatorade/Powerade, a screwdriver and your USB cable (not all commonplace items, we know, but it's better than nothing); then just follow the handy directions provided in the above video and you'll be on your way."
~ Single-largest Biodiversity Survey Says Primary Rainforest Is Irreplaceable -- "As world leaders prepare to discuss conservation-friendly carbon credits in Bali and a regional initiative threatens a new wave of deforestation in the South American tropics, new research highlights once again the irreplaceable importance of primary rain forest."
~ Traffic control systems -- "Traffic flow accounts for as much as one-third of global energy consumption. However, unconventional changes in managing traffic flow could significantly reduce harmful CO2 emissions. ETH Zurich Professor for Sociology, Dirk Helbing, has developed a self-organised control system for traffic lights that could improve vehicular traffic flow by up to 95 percent."
~ Study shows Google favored over other search engines by webmasters -- "Web site policy makers who use robots.txt files as gatekeepers to specify what is open and what is off limits to Web crawlers have a bias that favors Google over other search engines, say Penn State researchers whose study of more than 7,500 Web sites revealed Google`s advantage."
~ Study Finds Who Produces Cleanest Cars -- "French, Italian and Japanese car manufacturers made the most environmentally friendly automobiles for sale in Europe last year, according to a study released Thursday."

~ a buddhist carnival - 1st edition! -- "the plan is for this carnival to feature first and foremost articles that directly and specifically talk about buddhist practice, reflection and ideas. however, there will also be room for posts that may not explicitly mention buddhism but touch on concepts intrinsic to it."
~ Dhamma-nating the Conversation, part IV: Liberating the Conversation -- "This is the fourth and final installment of my brief review of Nichiren Buddhism. If you are interested, please read part 1, part 2, and part 3 if you are not up to speed on what I have already covered. I am not an expert or an established practioner of this form of Buddhism, so please forgive any errors. On the other hand, for those who are experts and/or established practioners of Nichiren Buddhism, this is a chance to see how it can look to other people and may assist in mutual understanding with people from other traditions."
~ Modern Immortal -- "While I was listening to this first episode, I was really excited about the content, but also extremely appreciative of the chemistry and humor between the two of them. I have a feeling that Modern Immortal is going to be both insightful and hilarious. BGeeks has some urchinTracker ('/outbound/article/');">coopetition y’all!"
~ P2P Spirituality -- "In a series of blog posts I would like to research the meaning and relevance of a P2P (peer-to-peer) approach to religions and spirituality in our contemporary world. In a first post I would like to restate the P2P approach as I understand it, and give an overview of three attitudes towards religious pluralism, or this state of affairs where there is more than one religion or approach to spirituality available."
~ Is the Spiral Dynamics Path Inevitable? -- "The main thing that strikes me as problematic is that content and structure often appear to be fused, at least in the way that it is often used in Integral discussions. It appears that it is almost taken for granted that transition from the Blue v-Meme, for instance, will necessarily involve a move into a value structure that is largely Western, capitalistic, individualistic, and scientistic. Wilber's developmental color scheme deals with the unfolding of "deep structure" features which do not necessarily entail particular forms of content or "cultural" patterns. But the way Spiral Dynamics is often used -- as a template for universal patterns of development -- it appears to presuppose the inevitable movement to a largely Western, democratic, industrial value system."

Spike Jonze Short Film - How They Get There

Strange. . . and I like strange.


Daily Dharma: Clinging is a Stressful State

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Clinging is a Stressful State

The moment we want happiness, we start to cling to it in our mind. First, we cling to our own idea of happiness. We relate to the outside world as a source of satisfaction and look outward for the things we normally associate with happiness--accumulating wealth, success, fame or power. As soon as we become attached to any idea--happiness, success or whatever--there is already some stress. Clinging is itself a stressful state, and everything that derives from it is also stressful. For example, try to clench your hand to make a fist. As soon as you start to clench your hand, you have to use energy to keep your fingers clenched tightly. When you let go of the clenching, your hand is free again. So it is with the mind. When it is in such a state of clenching, it can never be free. It can never experience peace or happiness, even if one has all the wealth, fame and power in the world.

~ Thynn Thynn, Living Meditation, Living Insight; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

National Book Awards

The winner's of the 2007 National Book Awards have been announced. This is from USA Today:

NEW YORK — A dark novel about the calamities of the Vietnam War and a highly critical, heavily researched history of the CIA won the top awards Wednesday at the National Book Awards:

• Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke won the fiction award. "Reading it feels like a careening journey into our national subconscious," the judges said.

•Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, based largely on the spy agency's own files, won the award for non-fiction. It was praised for being "a sobering reminder of how American national security has suffered from the ineptitude of individuals and the failures of the broader institution."

The other winners at the publishing world's version of the Academy Awards were:

•Young people's literature: Sherman Alexie's semi-autobiographical novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, about a young Spokane Indian who abandons his impoverished reservation. The judges called it "disturbing, uplifting, tragic, and laugh-out funny."

•Poetry: Robert Hass' Time and Materials, praised for "transcendent ease that is ground in ethical observation."

Each winner receives $10,000, and perhaps more important, can expect a boost to both sales and their literary reputations.

Humorist Fran Lebowitz, host of the awards gala, entertained the black-tie crowd with a running joke that listed classic books that were finalists but not winners during the awards' 58-year history, including J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Rachel Carson's A Silent Spring, "solace," as Lebowitz called it, for the 'non-winners."

Also at the awards gala, the novelist and essayist Joan Didion, whose most recent book, The Year of Magical Thinking, deals with the death of her husband, received this year's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

And Terry Gross, host and executive producer of National Public Radio's interview show Fresh Air, a favorite stop for authors on their book tours, received an award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

More details on the awards are posted at

I'm glad to see both Hass and Alexie win, two of my favorite poets.

Eric Johnson - Cliffs of Dover


Poster's comment:

He tries to do so much at such quick pace. Misses a few notes and rhythm here and there, but his unholy possessed fingers makes up for it all.


Satire: U.S. Military Wasting All Its Victories On Notre Dame

From The Onion Sports:

U.S. Military Wasting All Its Victories On Notre Dame

WASHINGTON, DC—As combined American forces celebrate two consecutive football wins against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish while simultaneously marking the loss of the 3,150th soldier to hostile action in Iraq, many are left wondering if the United States military is in fact focusing its energies on the correct opponent.

"There is no doubt that Navy's recent 46-44 defeat of a motivated, entrenched Notre Dame team after a long drawn-out battle was a masterpiece of leadership, strategy, tactics, and bravery in the finest tradition of the service," said Grant Hughson, an editor at Jane's Sporting News. "And the total Air Force 41-24 domination of the Irish, accomplished by bringing to bear the sort of overwhelming force against which no opponent can retaliate, was a textbook execution of the doctrines of that particular branch of the American armed forces. Meanwhile, however, they seem to be making little or no headway in Iraq."

As the troop surge in Iraq draws to a close, sectarian and insurgent activity seems to have slowed to a near-standstill. However, with the 2007 death toll exceeding 850, more U.S. troops have been lost this year than in any other since major combat operations began, throwing the military's first victory over Notre Dame since 1963 into stark contrast.

"Strange how history repeats itself," Navy historian and football commentator John Feinstein said after the Air Force victory was reported alongside the news that the U.S. was preparing to reduce their commitment in Iraq by at least one battalion. "I don't think anyone who saw it will deny that Roger Staubach's '63 victory over the Golden Domers was inspiring, but I'd bet any money that at the time the Pentagon would've traded it for a victory in Vietnam."

Reactions to the armed forces' lopsided record of domestic and overseas success has been mixed, with many fans of the military pointing out that, while both football and war can be brutal, bloody, and final, the outcomes of combat may take decades to become clear.

"It's important to realize that our young men have been fighting pitched battles against religious fanatics who have been brainwashed into a culture that seeks to destroy all other ways of life," Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said Monday. "That's just the way Notre Dame football is, the way it's always been. You can't reason with people like that. You destroy them as completely, remorselessly, and quickly as you can."

"Naturally, the young men of our service academy will find the situation infinitely more complex when they're deployed to Iraq," Navy head coach Paul Johnson added. "Compare football to war all you want, but unlike when you go into South Bend, winning in Baghdad means winning the hearts and minds of the people, not pursuing some sort of scorched-earth policy."

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq and architect of the military's much-criticized current counterinsurgency strategy, offered no comment on whether or not the U.S. was any closer to following up its victories against Notre Dame with one or more much-needed victories in Iraq. However, the West Point graduate did express his disgust with the recent "friendly fire" incident in which the Air Force Falcons shelled the Army Black Knights 30-10 and voiced his support for installing some variation of the option in order to increase the Army's offensive capabilities.

Satire: Satan Refuses to Take Sides in Regan-Murdoch Lawsuit

From Andy Borowitz, writing at HuffPo.

Satan Refuses to Take Sides in Regan-Murdoch Lawsuit

Posted November 14, 2007 | 03:37 PM (EST)

The lawsuit filed yesterday by O.J. Simpson publisher Judith Regan against her former employer, Rupert Murdoch, has created a "difficult personal dilemma for me," Satan said in a press conference today.

For the Prince of Darkness, who has had longstanding ties to both Ms. Regan and Mr. Murdoch, the lawsuit "leaves me feeling very much caught in the middle," Satan told reporters.

Moments after Ms. Regan filed suit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Mr. Murdoch's company, publishing industry insiders were buzzing with speculation over whether or not Satan would choose between two of his most loyal henchmen.

But at his press conference, held at the Marriott Hotel at Chicago's O'Hare airport, the Lord of Misrule made it clear that the dispute between Mr. Murdoch and Ms. Regan was "personally wrenching for me."

"Judith and Rupert have always been like family to me," said Satan, wearing his traditional red horns and carrying a smoldering pitchfork. "And you expect families to have their quarrels - but nothing like this."

The Prince of Darkness said that Ms. Regan's lawsuit against Mr. Murdoch had complicated his Thanksgiving plans.

"I thought that I would have them both over, but clearly that's not going to happen," he said.

Satan added that the Regan-Murdoch rift was only the latest unfortunate turn of events in a year that he described as his "annus horribilis."

"First the Michael Vick thing, and now this," he said.

Elsewhere, a new poll shows that 50% of Americans oppose issuing a driver's license to illegal aliens, while 100% oppose issuing one to Britney Spears.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Speedlinking 11/14/07

Quote of the day:

"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."
~ Bertrand Russell

Image of the day:

~ Steroid Nation -- "An excerpt from the hot new book that's just as much about steroids in America as it is about the history of recent bodybuilding. Part detective story, part character study, and part sexy thriller, this book is a must read!"
~ Citrus Juice, Vitamin C Give Staying Power To Green Tea Antioxidants -- " A study found that citrus juices enable more of green tea's unique antioxidants to remain after simulated digestion, making the pairing even healthier than previously thought.The study compared the effect of various beverage additives on catechins, naturally occurring antioxidants found in tea. Results suggest that complementing green tea with either citrus juices or vitamin C likely increases the amount of catechins available for the body to absorb."
~ Cutting Carbohydrates May Help Stunt The Growth Of Prostate Tumors -- "A diet low in carbohydrates may help stunt the growth of prostate tumors, according to a new study led by Duke Prostate Center researchers. The study, in mice, suggests that a reduction in insulin production possibly caused by fewer carbohydrates may stall tumor growth." This study showed that cutting carbohydrates may slow tumor growth, at least in mice," said Stephen Freedland, M.D., a urologist at Duke University Medical Center and lead researcher on the study."
~ Stairs may be key in war on obesity -- "Attention all shoppers: taking the stairs protects your heart. Experts say climbing stairs for seven minutes a day could reduce your risk of heart disease by about 60 percent."
~ The Serious Effects of a Sleepless Night -- "Examining what happens when we're asleep, and the perils of sleep deprivation."
~ Ancient retroviruses spurred evolution of gene regulatory networks in humans and other primates -- "When ancient retroviruses slipped bits of their DNA into the primate genome millions of years ago, they successfully preserved their own genetic legacy. Today an estimated 8 percent of the human genetic code consists of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs)–the DNA remnants from these so-called 'selfish parasites.'"
~ Diabetes Strikes Younger and Younger -- "A trend toward high-fat food and less physical playtime may be partly to blame."

~ The Consumer Paradox: Scientists Find that Low Self-Esteem and Materialism Goes Hand in Hand -- " Researchers have found that low self-esteem and materialism are not just a correlation, but also a causal relationship where low self esteem increases materialism, and materialism can also create low self-esteem. The also found that as self esteem increases, materialism decreases."
~ Wisdom and Wizardry -- "At a critical moment of soul-searching, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore counsels Harry: “It is our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Dumbledore could also be counseling any aging human, says psychologist Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, who borrows from the popular J.K. Rowling books to name her Dumbledore Theory of Cognitive Aging."
~ Delayed PTSD Symptoms Complicate Treatment -- "Many of the soldiers returning from current overseas operations are suffering from PTSD and will face its effects for months or years to come. They just don't know it yet. And this lack of awareness may prevent them from receiving treatment in the crucial first stages of the disorder."
~ 7 Common Time Management Mistakes and How to Avoid Them -- "What are some of the most common mistakes that people make when trying to improve their productivity and manage their time better?"
~ Attention Management: 7 Tips to Use Your Attention Wisely -- "Attention management is one of the most important skills you should master in your life. Manage your attention well and it will give you tremendous success. Manage it badly and it may give you tragic failure. Which one do you want in your life?"
~ Leading Neuroscientist Seeks Neural And Biological Basis For Creativity, Beauty And Love -- "One of the world's leading neuroscientists is to search for the neural and biological basis for creativity, beauty and love after receiving over £1 million from the Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity. The research will bring together science, the arts and philosophy to answer fundamental questions about what it means to be human."
~ 4 Reasons Why Curiosity is Important and How to Develop It -- "Curiosity is an important trait of a genius. I don’t think you can find an intellectual giant who is not a curious person. Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, they are all curious characters. Richard Feynman was especially known for his adventures which came from his curiosity."
~ How Women Decide To Leave An Abusive Relationship Explained By Model -- "Two University of Illinois scientists have found a way to help health-care providers, social workers, and abused women's families understand the stages that these women go through when deciding to leave their partners. The process of leaving an abusive relationship can take years, and there may be many attempts before a woman finally leaves permanently."
~ Master Your Emotions, Control Your Mood? -- "Something about this article rubs me up the wrong way -- maybe it's the title itself, "Master your emotions". The cheerful, practical, common sense tone reinforces the idea that we are messy souls who need keeping in line, and who need to enforce a certain wholesome discipline for our own good. It sounds as if an adult is taking charge of a child."

~ The "Millennials" Are Coming -- "They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds. And if you persist in the belief you can, take your job and shove it."
~ On Myth -- "WRITERS don’t make up myths; they take them over and recast them. Even Homer was telling stories that his audience already knew. If some individuals present weren’t acquainted with Odysseus’s wanderings or the Trojan War, and were listening in for the first time (as I was when a child, enthralled by the gods and goddesses in H.A. Guerber’s classic retelling), they were still aware that this was a common inheritance that belonged to everyone."
~ Stone Age feminism? -- "Among Neanderthals, hunting big beasts was women's work as well as men's, so it's a safe bet that female hunters got stomped, gored, and worse with appalling frequency. And a high casualty rate among fertile women - the vital "reproductive core" of a tiny population - could well have meant demographic disaster for a species already struggling to survive among monster bears, yellow-fanged hyenas, and cunning Homo sapien newcomers."
~ The Dawkins Effect: How The God Delusion mainstreamed atheism -- "Though Dawkins’s efforts are still far from causing atheists to establish a majority in the US, the “critical mass” that he referenced in his preface seems to have been reached. Non-belief has been catapulted into the public debate; the popularity of The God Delusion has created a chain reaction that has allowed atheism to inch its way into the mainstream."
~ Crow art has Thai monks flapping -- "The painting, composed using a yellow cord traditionally worn by Buddhist monks, portrays the painter's disagreement with the immoral behavior of some clergy members. It shows two monks with pointed and sharp mouths resembling a crow's beak squatting and facing each other on the floor with crows looking over their shoulders."
~ Coppola's Film Life -- "In the last 35 years, the master filmmaker has created many of cinema's most iconic films."
~ FBI: Blackwater Killings Unjustified -- "A Blackwater spokeswoman says the company supports "stringent accountability" for any wrongdoing in the wake of a report that found the shooting deaths of at least 14 Iraqi violated rules of deadly force."
~ Rudy Guiliani: Criminal or Liar? -- "Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani raised serious questions about his record as a public servant when he announced on television that he had used "intensive questioning techniques" on New York mobsters and other criminals, and that his brand of intensive interrogation was difficult to differentiate from torture."

~ Ice Age Imprint Found On Cod DNA -- "Scientists have demonstrated how Atlantic cod responded to past natural climate extremes. The new research could help in determining cods vulnerability to future global warming."
~ Learn How Much Your Power Plant Pollutes -- "There's growing worry about global warming, but how much of it is the work of that power plant just outside town? And if Congress limits heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will it affect utility and electric bills? And who's the biggest corporate culprit when it comes to climate change?"
~ GM on track to road-test electric car in early '08 -- "As the race to bring a mass-market, rechargeable electric vehicle to market heats up, Bob Lutz, GM's head of global product development, said the largest U.S. automaker is on track to launch the Volt in November 2010."
~ Rare rhino shot for conservation education -- "In an ironic twist, a rare white rhinoceros was hunted in Africa for the sake of educating the U.S. public about endangered species." OK, that's dumb.
~ Don't buy Gingrich's view of environmentalism, or his new book -- "If you look up the word "Orwellian" on Wikipedia -- "An attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past" -- there should be a picture of Newt Gingrich's new book, A Contract with the Earth."
~ Big Auto unveils efficient cars, continues to fight against strict efficiency standards -- "When the L.A. auto show opens to the public on Friday, automakers will flaunt hydrogen cars, super-efficient engines, electric vehicles, and hybrid SUVs -- leading some to wonder at the disconnect between car manufacturers' public-facing "green" ambitions and their vocal opposition to a significant increase in federal fuel-economy standards."
~ Smaller Batteries Mean Better Mobiles...and Electric Bicycles -- "The same technological innovation that has enabled the ginormous global adoption rate for mobile phones -- the advent of small, powerful, fast-charging batteries -- has come to the world of two-wheeled personal transit. Bicycle store owner Brian Poncin has dropped us a line to rave about the new Schwinn electric bicycle: We were the first shop in the country to stock the bike and we sold out in a couple weeks."

~ I'm not obsessed with UFOs, Are You? and UFO Disclosures, Conspiracies, and Consciousness and UFOs: The Truth (whatever it is) is Out There -- UFO stuff has been the hot topic at the Zaadz I-I pod, and ~C has been leading the way.
~ Dhamma-nating the conversation, part III: The Controversy -- "Welcome to part 3 of my personal overview of Nichiren Buddhism. If you are interested you might also want to review part 1 and part 2. I am not a Buddhist scholar, so if you find errors or misrepresentations, please understand that they are strictly unintentional. Also, I have no desire to rehash or add fuel to debates between Nichiren Buddhists, such as those involved in the Nichiren Shoshu/Soka Gakkai schism."
~ My Asuric Tendencies -- "With time I have had to simply face up to the fact that I have certain asuric tendencies myself. They tend to operate at the mental-vital level (the Asuras belong to these planes of Reality). The general tendency is to want to suppress or stifle the individuality of another, just because you personally have some dislike for their preferred mental formulations or symbol spaces, or their individual path, ethics, or lifestyle. It is totally selfish."
~ Clark Strand's lastest volley of attack against Western Buddhism -- "“Baby Boomer Buddhism Going Bust” is the headline at Topix, announcing the gist of Clark Strand’s latest attack against Western Buddhism in an opinion piece that appeared in the Taste section of The Wall Street Journal last Friday [page W13], and was posted online in the WSJ‘s Opinion Journal."
~ Integral Warriors: The Importance of Living On Your Edge -- "What does it take for a man to live a masculine life of integrity, authenticity, and depth? What does it mean to live at, or just beyond your edge? "
~ What is Buddhism anyway -- "The Buddha taught that all living beings have a natural disposition that seeks greater happiness and wishes to avoid even the slightest suffering. Not only that, he said that we also have the right to be happy. It is not selfish to want happiness. "
~ Spirituality in Higher Education -- "According to recent studies, college students are seeking more substance -- and sustenance -- in the classroom than their professors are willing to offer. Findings of an ambitious and long-range study of spirituality in higher education offer an interesting window into the unspoken assumptions and expectations about what the quest for knowledge means at North American colleges and universities."