Saturday, December 08, 2007

New Poem: Father and Son

Father and Son

For no reason that makes sense to me, my hand
went to the shelf, to my father's old, worn
Catholic Bible, covered in dust from long years
of being ignored, lost amid a collection
of books refuting its claims on my life.

In the back pages are scribbled notes
in my father's hand -- his marriage to my mother,
my birth, his mother's death, my sister's
adoption, various moves and new houses --
all of which might as well be written in blood.

Last month marked 27 years since I watched
his boxed body roll into the furnace, spilled
his ashes over ocean waves, and this year
is the first time I have allowed myself
to have a Christmas since his heart stopped.

It's strange how our lives only make sense
in looking back. Only now do I know his death
allowed me to find my own thorny path, and
only now have I begun to miss having family,
to know others who have always known me.

So tonight I add my hand to the book,
record the deaths of my sister and mother
more than two years ago, leaving only me,
the prodigal son, who long ago discarded God
among the detritus of my crooked path.

I am not my father's son, maybe in blood, but
he would not recognize the man I am. In the days
after he died, I buried his rosary beneath an oak,
prayed that I would awaken from that nightmare,
and many years later, sitting on the cushion, I did.

Art - Zhang Huan

My friend Susie is in New York right now -- she visited this exhibit and sent me a link to the site. She said, "He wrote that NYC gives him an inexplicable fear related to the loneliness in the context of the mixing of so many cultures, and that only by staying with the fear does one "melt it away." I think that quote refers to the picture above -- a powerful statement on being mindful of and sitting with our fears.

In 1998 Zhang Huan was invited to New York to participate in Asia Society’s exhibition Inside Out: New Chinese Art and decided to remain in the city. In his new home, he embarked upon ambitious performances that continued to focus on the body and its physicality and often involved large numbers of volunteers. Through his performances, Zhang Huan reflected on his experiences in the city and his ethnic identity in a foreign land. In a series of commissioned performances developed in New York called My America (Hard to Acclimatize), he explored issues of belonging and assimilation in a globalized world. The series included My New York (performed at the Whitney Biennial), My Australia, My Rome, My Sydney, My Japan and My Boston and expressed Zhang Huan’s responses to different geographical locations.

“I try to understand each new situation. I combine impressions of China with local culture, what people call ‘glocal.’ It’s about going from one place to another, and bringing what you have to offer to each new place. Sometimes I understand the experience, sometimes not.”

You can watch two slide shows based on the exhibit.

New York Times
New York Magazine

Canadaville - Inspirational Giving

This is old news, but I just saw a report on it on my local news. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed so many lives in New Orleans, Frank Stronach, the Austrian-Canadian billionaire chairman of auto-parts giant Magna International, offered to put up more than 200 Katrina evacuees in dorm rooms at a racetrack training facility his company owns in Florida.

But that wasn't all he had in mind. And he asked some serious commitment from those he was willing to help.

From the CBC:

Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf coast in late August 2005, devastating the city of New Orleans, La. The storm surge breached the levees protecting the "Big Easy" and left huge areas partially submerged in filthy water. The worst-hit area was the city's Lower Ninth Ward – home to some of New Orleans's poorest residents. With their homes and most of their jobs washed away and little prospect of any quick improvement in their situation, thousands of people were facing a bleak future indeed.

That was Frank Stronach's cue. The Austrian-Canadian billionaire chairman of auto-parts giant Magna International offered to put up more than 200 Katrina evacuees in dorm rooms at a racetrack training facility his company owns in Florida. That gesture alone would have been noteworthy; Stronach and Magna, after all, have no links to Louisiana. But there was more.

Stronach then offered to spend $10 million to relocate the Katrina evacuees to another part of Louisiana and build them homes where they could live at no charge.

The new community that arose from that remarkable act has been dubbed Canadaville. Its first residents moved in Dec. 13.

What does the Canadaville development consist of?

The project is on about 320 hectares of land (800 acres) Stronach bought near Simmesport, La., a Cajun town of 2,200 people about an hour inland from Baton Rouge. The town is half-white, half-black, and about a third of its residents live below the poverty line.

The first phase of the development includes 49 three-bedroom mobile homes, complete with furniture, central air conditioning and porches, front and back. A recreational centre will include areas for basketball and soccer. Stronach is also paying for a new police station and three new police cars.

Canadaville has a capacity of 280 "guests," as the evacuees are called. The first group to move in numbers about 120.

There are plans to build an organic farm to produce chickens, hogs, Angus beef cattle and organic vegetables. Stronach predicts the farm will be profitable within five years.

Canadaville, in short, is meant to be a kind of self-sustaining model community.

What is expected of the residents?

Canadaville's residents will be allowed to stay rent free for up to five years. If they can't find jobs in the area on their own, they will be expected to work on the farm. Each resident is also expected to perform some community service. Eventually, most will likely return to the New Orleans area to try to pick up their lives. Any homes that they leave behind will be turned over to the Red Cross so the charity can use them for others who need housing. But some residents say they have no intention of going back to the "Big Easy," and hope to stay in Canadaville for years.

Who else has helped the Canadaville effort?

While Stronach has footed most of the bills, the effort has been supported by plenty of donations and volunteers. Nineteen Canadian carpenters went to Louisiana in November to donate their time and expertise by building the wood porches on the homes. The evacuees got free flights from Air Canada. The village was designed by the Toronto-based architectural firm Giffels/NORR. Other help was provided by the Canadian Auto Workers union, the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance Canada, employees of various Magna companies and many Louisiana residents.

What was the reaction in Simmesport?

There was some hostility. The majority of town councillors was initially against the proposal. Mobile home parks are often a hard sell at the best of times. And this one would be home to people from an especially poor and crime-ridden part of New Orleans. Would these streetwise transplants adapt to rural life? Would they cause trouble?

Some are skeptical that anyone would want to spend millions in an act of generosity unless he eventually expected something big in return. Others don't like that the Canadian flag is flying alongside the U.S. flag.

But local politicians and many of Simmesport's residents were won over as the new village created work and Stronach suggested that he may build a small manufacturing facility nearby for his company.

New Orleans newspaper columnist John Maginnis said the folks around Simmesport are "so bowled over" by the Canadaville project that many have put aside their initial objections.

"Oh, Canadaville, would that your spirit find its way into the hearts of more Louisiana communities," he wrote.

As of today's report, nearly all of the goals have been met. They have the organic farm, occupational retraining, and a good school. Children who had never been good students are now on the honor roll.

One of the things this "experiment" shows is how much of a role environment plays in people's lives. When given a chance to thrive in a good environment, these people are doing so.

Here's a video on this story.

Purity Sieges on I-35 (God's Highway)

No, this isn't satire -- it only seems that way.

Don't watch this video unless you've got an awesome tolerance for high-density super-concentrated stupid and dancing howling raving demented [beeeeep]. This is America, land of prophecies, dreams, and visions taken as insight, where imaginary demons and angels are supposedly fighting over a strip of pavement.
~ PZ Myers


That's some seriously magical-mythical thinking. Outside . . . it's America.

Health Is a State of Mind

I always try to impress upon my clients the value of being mindful of what they do in terms of eating and exercise -- and their beliefs around these topics. Awareness is an important part of making any kind of changes in our life.

The New York Times posted an article today that suggests that simply thinking of ourselves as healthier can have a dramatic impact on our health. This probably would not work with desk-bound people, but the study is interesting (even though they don't really understand what mindfulness means).

Mindful Exercise

Published: December 9, 2007

Simply by telling 44 hotel maids that what they did each day involved some serious exercise, the Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer and Alia J. Crum, a student, were apparently able to lower the women’s blood pressure, shave pounds off their bodies and improve their body-fat and “waist to hip” ratios. Self-awareness, it seems, was the women’s elliptical trainer.


At the start of the study, Langer and Crum quizzed 84 maids at seven carefully matched hotels about how much exercise they got. Fully a third of the women said they got no exercise at all, while two-thirds said they did not work out regularly. Langer and Crum took several measures of the women’s basic fitness levels, which indicated that they, indeed, had the poor health of basically sedentary people. Then just over half the women were told an unfamiliar truth: cleaning 15 rooms daily — pushing recalcitrant vacuum cleaners, scrubbing tubs, pulling sheets — constitutes more than enough activity to meet the surgeon general’s recommendation of a half-hour of physical activity daily. The researchers even provided specifics: 15 minutes of scrubbing burns 60 calories, 15 minutes of vacuuming burns 50. The basic message and the details were then posted in the maids’ lounges in the hotels where the 44 women worked, to serve as reminders, while a control group was left in the dark.

A month later, Langer and Crum checked back with the women to find, as they reported in the February issue of Psychological Science, remarkable results. The average study-group maid had lost 2 pounds, while her systolic blood pressure had dropped by 10 points; by all measures the 44 women “were significantly healthier.” Yet there were no reported changes in behavior, only in mind-set, with the vast majority of the women now considering themselves regular exercisers. Langer sees the study as a lesson in the importance of mindfulness, long a subject of her research, and which need not involve Buddhism or meditation, she stresses. “It’s about noticing new things; it’s about engagement,” she says.

But for the study’s white-collar readers, a corollary to its results might be dispiriting: Made freshly aware — mindful — of just how sedentary their work lives are in contrast to a housekeeper’s, might they not suffer a corresponding decline in health?

Daily Om: We Are Here to Serve

This was yesterday's Daily Om. The whole thing about unseen helpers and guides is a bit woo woo for me -- these are simply parts of ourselves that we haven't integrated. We all have inner gurus and guides, the task is to create access to them so that they don't seem like something outside of ourselves.

I'm also not too hot on the idea that we chose to be here, but then a lot of people believe that stuff.

Love Shows the Way
We Are Here to Serve

We are living in a time of great change. Many thinkers and seers agree that humanity and the planet Earth are evolving at a quickened pace, and that this evolution will necessarily be severe and seemingly chaotic at times. It is natural for people to react with fear, because these changes will doubtless bring some level of difficulty and loss to many of us. However, it is essential that we all remember that our souls chose to be here at this time and to be part of this process. Every movement in the universe is a movement toward love. This is true even in situations that appear on the surface to be the opposite of loving.

Since we chose to be here, we are capable and ready to rise to the challenges in which we find ourselves. It is helpful to reflect on our own lives and make any changes necessary to fully support humanity and the planet into the state of love. When we open our hearts in love instead of closing them in fear, we serve the divine process. We are all powerful spirits who took form at this time in order to serve our fellow humans, our planet, and the universe. As we find ways we can serve, our fear dissipates. We may serve by remaining calm and loving with our children and our families, even as the situation seems dark. We may serve by sending money to people who need financial assistance. We may serve by going out into the world and actively helping to rebuild lives. Regardless of what actions we choose to take, the essential element will be the internal gesture of choosing to remain in love. This is all that is needed.

When it is difficult to remain in love, we may always call upon our unseen helpers: the teachers and guides who are always with us. All we need to do is ask and then trust that we are being helped. The guidance we receive is love itself, showing us the way.

Neil deGrasse Tyson - A Brief History of Life

From Tyson's PBS Nova show, the history of life, condensed to 24 hours.


Friday, December 07, 2007

New Poem: A Deeper Voice

A Deeper Voice

I am lost in this body
dead leaves blowing
through my hair

the day crawls toward me
with arms waving
like a frightened child

my skin comes loose
just as a snake sheds
dry months of decay

alone in the storm
I begin to sense
a deeper voice

this flesh is not mine
nor is the tongue
voicing these words

whatever I have been
is washed clean by rain
never to be seen again

New Poem: Vision


I would accept dust-covered non-belief
simply to see what is unseen,
to have Cassandra's eyes, the hissing
serpents in my ears as I lay

on the temple floor, called to the window,
vision of falling fruit, eyes opened
to emptiness and whatever shadows
reside there, knowing Apollo gave me

a gift never to be received. Still
I would offer my body to taste
the bitterness of that gift, to see
what lies beyond the grasping reach

of human eyes, to glimpse, just once,
the next moment before it unfolds,
only to be denied, broken, my tongue
wrapped forever in dark silence.

Negative Calorie Foods [Sort of]

Bootstrapper posted an entry called Negative Calorie Foods: 15 Foods That Actually Burn More Calories Than They Contain. Unfortunately, the calorie burning part is a bit of a myth, but these are great snack foods that won't bust your diet.

By Laura Milligan

No, we’re not advocating the battle to see how few calories you can consume each day or promoting crash diets in any form or function; however, if you’re a snack-o-holic who can’t stop munching and crunching in between meals, try snacking on one of these negative calorie foods instead of gobbling down a cupcake or big bag of chips. Your body can burn more calories just by chewing and processing the snack than the food contains already. In other words, you’ll be able to keep eating throughout the day without packing on extra pounds.

  1. Celery: A staple on most party veggie trays, celery (without the ranch dressing) is a crispy snack that you can enjoy without worrying about taking in any calories. It is high in sugar and sodium, but still much healthier than pigging out on brownies or salty peanuts.
  2. Oranges: Before you leave for work in the morning, toss an orange into your bag for a mid-morning or late afternoon snack. An orange typically contains only 45 calories, so feel free to eat the whole thing!
  3. Strawberries: Strawberries are a popular negative calorie food because of their natural sweetness and juiciness. Sprinkle a few on your breakfast cereal to give your metabolism an extra jumpstart early in the day.
  4. Tangerines: A smaller, more tart version of the orange, tangerines are another negative calorie food that’s both tasty and portable. Enjoy one or two for a snack throughout the day to stimulate your taste buds without having to dig through the candy drawer.
  5. Grapefruit: As big as it is, grapefruit –without the extra sugar on top– is a surprisingly negative calorie food. One-half of a grapefruit only contains 36 calories but a whopping 78% of your daily value of potassium.
  6. Carrots: Carrots don’t just make your eyes sparkle; they also let you snack guilt-free. Snack on baby carrots instead of chips and salsa while you make dinner, or keep a bag in your office refrigerator when you feel the need to eat due to stress.
  7. Apricots: Indulge in nutrient-rich apricots for a sweet snack with negative calories. Your higher metabolism and thinning waistline will thank you.
  8. Lettuce: There’s a dirty little rumor in the magazine industry that the girls at Vogue keep lettuce in their desks to snack on when the hunger pains strike, but they can’t afford to compromise their stick thin figures. We’re guessing you’re not about to go through the day dizzy with starvation, but you can make yourself a hearty salad with lots of lettuce (and other negative calorie veggies!) once you get home. Don’t forget to take it easy on the dressing.
  9. Tomatoes: Chop up a tomato to give your sandwich, salad or egg whites omelet extra flavor without adding any calories.
  10. Cucumbers: Your salad can’t survive on lettuce alone. Cucumbers are another negative calorie food that are great for crunching on when your mouth is getting bored. Check here for tips on growing your own cucumbers.
  11. Watermelon: A traditional summertime treat, enjoying a watermelon is almost fun and delicious as eating candy because of its super sweet, super juicy nature. Plus, you’ll burn off all the calories crunching, digesting, and of course, spitting out the seeds.
  12. Cauliflower: Another party platter vegetable, raw cauliflower is naturally low in fat and of course, calories, so don’t be shy about piling up your cocktail napkin.
  13. Apples: An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but when eaten as a snack instead of candy bars or chips, apples will also keep the calories at bay. With only 81 calories per apple, your body also works a lot harder and longer to digest the fruit many other snack options.
  14. Hot Chili Peppers: Excess seasonings and dressings pile on lots of fat and calories to otherwise healthy meals. To avoid gaining weight simply because you’re a condiments junkie, experiment with more natural seasonings like hot chili peppers, which is a negative calorie food.
  15. Zucchini: Zucchini is a versatile, negative calorie food that can be baked, steamed, fried (not recommended), or prepared in many other ways. With just 15 calories per 100g, make zucchini your new diet staple.

Implementing negative calorie foods into your daily diet doesn’t just help you lose weight by cutting calories; it also speeds up your metabolism and introduces healthier items like fruits and vegetables into your regular food choices and favorite recipes. So no matter how you look at it, you’ll come out ahead.

Eat your fruits and veggies -- or at least have a V-8.

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Nirvana - The Man Who Sold The World [Unplugged]

Beautiful song and amazing performance.


"The Man Who Sold the World" is a song by David Bowie. It is the title track of his third album, released in the U.S. in November 1970 and in the UK in April 1971. It was later re-popularized and introduced to a new generation by Nirvana's cover on their MTV Unplugged in New York album. In the wake of this cover, Bowie bemoaned the fact that when he performed the number himself he would encounter, "kids that come up afterwards and say, 'It's cool you're doing a Nirvana song.' And I think, 'Fuck you, you little tosser!'"


Speedlinking 12/7/07

Quote of the day:

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
~ Marie Curie

Image of the day (David Winston):

~ National Body Challenge 2008 -- "Discovery Health's 2008 National Body Challenge is coming up soon; you can sign up starting on December 27 and I think it's a great idea for anyone looking to really get moving next year. Can you say "New Year's Resolution"?" Bally Total Fitness is a sponsor of this event -- you can get a free 8 week membership if you sign up.
~ Green Tea, Fruit Extracts Touted as Potential Cancer Fighters (HealthDay) -- "A gel derived from black raspberries, a fruit beverage and old-fashioned green tea all hold potential promise as ways to treat or prevent different types of cancer, preliminary research suggests."
~ Obesity, Diabetes Linked to Cancers (HealthDay) -- "Obesity and diabetes -- risk factors so often linked to heart disease -- can also affect the incidence and severity of cancer, a collection of four new studies suggests."
~ Stem Cells Make Sick Mouse Mighty Again -- "Stem cell treatment cures mice of sickle cell anemia."
~ 90 seconds to amazing health -- "What if you could cut your risk of heart disease, get fitter, and slow aging — not to mention protect your smile — in less time than it takes to watch a couple of commercials?"
~ Catching flu doubles the risk of heart attacks and strokes -- "Winter infections like flu can double the risk of heart attacks and strokes, an extensive study has found. Sufferers are twice as likely to be affected in the week after catching a range of common respiratory infections."
~ Nationwide trial to test omega-3 oils vs. Alzheimer's disease -- "A consortium of researchers, supported by the National Institutes of Health's National Institutes on Aging and coordinated by the University of California-San Diego, will be conducting a nationwide clinical trial to study the effects of an omega-3 fatty acid on the progression of Alzheimer's disease."
~ Overview of Varicose Veins and Spider Veins -- "There are many treatment options for varicose veins and spider veins. Learn more here."

~ A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism -- "Traditionally and especially in the early twentieth century, around the time of the birth of modern analytic philosophy, realist positions were contrasted with idealism, according to which there is no world external to and thus independent of the mental. The classic statement of this position is credited to Bishop George Berkeley, for whom reality is constituted by thoughts and ultimately sustained by the mind of God. Idealism need not invoke a deity, though. A phenomenalist, for instance, might be an idealist without appealing to the divine. Given an idealist ontology, it is no surprise that scientific claims cannot be construed literally, since they are not about what they seem to describe at face value, but this of course does not preclude knowledge of a mind-dependent reality."
~ Unlocking the secrets of self-sabotage -- "A new study suggests that if you believe you're mediocre, chances are you'll keep shooting yourself in the foot to prove it."
~ Wake Up: A Guide to Living Your Life Consciously -- "Do you ever have a feeling that you’re drifting through life, and not going where you want to go? Or that you don’t know how you got where you are today? Living consciously is about taking control of your life, about thinking about your decisions rather than making them without thought, about having a life that we want rather than settling for the one that befalls us."
~ Our Secret Attitude Changes -- "When you change your attitude about something, do you know why? Psychologists have argued that the inner workings of our minds are largely hidden away from us. One aspect of this is the surprising finding that people are often unaware when they have changed their attitudes."
~ What Do You REALLY Want? -- "Most of us don’t know what we want. We think we do, but we really don’t. We only know what we don’t want. We don’t want a boring job. We don’t want to be poor. We don’t want to disappoint our loved ones."
~ Subliminal Smells Bias Perception About A Person's Likeability -- "Anyone who has bonded with a puppy madly sniffing with affection gets an idea of how scents, most not apparent to humans, are critical to a dog's appreciation of her two-legged friends. Now new research from Northwestern University suggests that humans also pick up infinitesimal scents that affect whether or not we like somebody."
~ How emotions colour our perception of time -- "Our sense of time is altered by our emotions to such an extent that time seems to fly when we are having fun and drags when we are bored. Recent studies using standardized emotional material provide a unique opportunity for understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie the effects of emotion on timing and time perception."
~ 8 Powerful Ways to Rediscover Your Passion -- "You were born with a passion to do something unique with your life. As a divine being it was given you from the infinite supply of the universe. As an unborn child in your mother’s womb, you had it swirling all around you, and it lived and breathed inside of you, even before your little lungs developed." Ignore the New Age-y opening, it's a good article.
~ Domestic Violence -- "Verbal abuse is just as damaging as physical or sexual violence–the American Psychological Association classifies all three as wartime torture methods. In their daily wars women come to view themselves as worthless and powerless and internalize the loathing. They may develop serious medical problems like depression, anorexia/bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and more, all while afraid to leave the abuser." Emphasis added.

~ Poetry is not a tool for teaching other things -- "It should be taught for its own sake - and the more challenging it is, the better."
~ Studying Those Who Studied the Bible -- "While reading Karen Armstrong's new book, "The Bible: A Biography," a volume in the Atlantic Monthly's Books That Changed the World series, I fancied I could hear the sound of recently qualified Ph.D.s in the Bible sharpening their pencils for comment."
‘Irritable Centrism’ -- "Irritable centrism has shown itself in different guises, all of them consequential, several times in the past several years. It emerged very clearly in the spring of 2004, after the supreme court in Massachusetts essentially forced the state to recognize marriages between gay partners. For millions of people with unshakable convictions on this issue, the decision was either an overdue recognition of an important civil right or a disgraceful repudiation of conventional moral standards."
~ Atheism's Wrong Turn -- "Journalists have dubbed this combative style of challenging religious belief "the new atheism." To the extent that the appellation is meant to highlight the novelty of virulently anti-religious ideas finding a mass audience in the United States, it is certainly fitting. But, as a description of the style of unbelief itself, it demonstrates a striking lack of historical awareness. That's because "the new atheism" is not particularly new."
~ Huckster -- "Mike Huckabee has been scaring the bejesus out of the Republican establishment with his scorching populist invective. In one recent interview, the former Arkansas governor declared, 'I am like a lot of folks who are tired of thinking the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street.' He has denounced "immoral" CEO salaries, and warned, 'People will only endure this for so many years before there is a revolt.' The terrified anti-tax Club for Growth is waging jihad against Huckabee, and Robert Novak has called him an advocate of 'class struggle.'"
~ Holy Nonsense: Mitt Romney's windy, worthless speech -- Christopher Hitchens -- "Composed chiefly of boilerplate, the windy speech raised the vexed question of the candidate's religious affiliation—and thus broke the taboo on mentioning it—without setting to rest any of the difficulties that make it legitimate to raise the issue in the first place."
~ Joseph A. Palermo: Congress Must Find Out: Who Destroyed the Tapes? -- "The Democratic Congress might have taken impeachment "off the table" but it cannot ignore the Central Intelligence Agency's obstruction of justice. Destroying videotaped evidence of CIA personnel torturing Al Qaeda suspects in violation of U.S. law is no small matter."
~ Deepak Chopra: Religion's Greatest Enemy? -- "Decades after Monty Python came to an end, John Cleese is dapper, intelligent, freethinking, and still funny. I heard him give an impromptu talk and came away with one of his best lines: "The biggest enemy of religion is spirituality." The talk was in California among people who immediately applauded. On a certain level it's only a quip, because spirituality, in its truest sense, has no enemies. The same can't be said of religion."

~ TED Talk -- Robert Full: Secrets of movement, from geckos and roaches -- "UC Berkeley biologist Robert Full shares his fascination with spiny cockroach legs that allow them to scuttle at full speed across loose mesh and gecko feet that have billions of nano-bristles to run straight up walls. His talk, complete with wonderful slow-mo video of cockroach, crab and gecko gaits, explains his goal of creating the perfect robotic 'distributed foot.'"
~ Life's Complexity Began With Poop -- "Every now and then, science puts forth a theory that -- at least on a bitterly cold December day, with a flu infection stirring fatigue in a certain science journalist -- resonates with grand poetic truth. The theory: the incredible complexity of life on Earth, the myriad of forms and forms and functions, owes its existence to poop."
~ Really Big Planets: When Do Gas Giants Reach The Point Of No Return? -- "Astronomers have identified the point at which a star causes the atmosphere of an orbiting gas giant to become critically unstable. Depending upon their proximity to a host star, giant Jupiter-like planets have atmospheres which are either stable and thin, or unstable and rapidly expanding. The research enables us to work out whether planets in other systems are stable or unstable by using a 3-D model to characterize their atmospheres."
~ Methanol Shows Increasing Promise As An Alternative Fuel -- "After grabbing headlines for years as the ultimate solution to world energy problems, the "hydrogen economy" has an emerging but lesser-known competitor called the "methanol economy," according to a new article. Methanol, an alcohol like ethanol, shows increasing promise as an alternative energy source with advantages over both ethanol and hydrogen."
~ New research may lead to better climate models for global warming, El Nino -- "One hundred fifty scientists from more than 40 universities in nine countries are starting a coordinated program aimed at gaining new insights about the Earth's climate and the complex, interconnected system involving the oceans, the atmosphere and the land."
~ Astronomer detects atmosphere of extra-solar planet -- "University of Texas at Austin astronomer and Hubble Fellow Seth Redfield has used the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at McDonald Observatory to make the first ground-based detection of the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system."
~ Bioprospectors Identify Hot New Biofuel-producing Bacteria -- "A bioprospecting expedition to Iceland's famed hot springs has yielded new strains of bacteria with potential of producing hydrogen and ethanol fuels from wastewater now discharged from factories that process sugar beets, potatoes and other plant material. The microbes hold potential for combining energy production with wastewater treatment."

~ 4 Questions That Will Bring Balance to Your Life -- "If you focus on one aspect of your life to the exclusion of the others then no matter how much you improve in that one area, neglecting those other areas will only lead to overall digression. To ensure a more balanced approach, each key area of your life must be addressed."
~ Where Politics and Buddhism Intersect -- "TAP talks to Ethan Nichtern, author of the new Buddhist political treatise One City, about faith, youth, 9-11, consumption, and powerlessness."
~ Obama, Thompson, and “the fray” -- "If the general election is Fred Thompson versus Barack Obama, not only will they (based upon their current campaigns) largely stay “above the fray” (something Thompson as well has been commended for during the GOP debates), but by virtue of both’s commitment to depth, they will do something more. They will raise the level of debate in this country to the level of high intelligence and deep mutual respect perhaps not seen in this country at the presidential level for at least a generation." Agreed.
~ One City Blog -- "Ethan Nichtern is rapidly becoming my favourite Buddhist blogger. I’ve been a huge fan of his InterDependence Project Podcast for a long while now. His new book One City has been touted as “A trenchant and engaging call to an expanded awareness.” by Daniel Goleman, author Social Intelligence. And now… his new blog totally rocks too."
~ Mitt Romney On Faith in America -- "Now, just to be clear, I don't know enough about Romney to cast a judgment on his values. For all I know he could be playing a religious facade to get the sympathy of the religious voters (e.g. Christian evangelicals) to garner votes (ala G.W. Bush), but deep inside his values could be different from what he publicly profess (of course, this applies to all candidates). However, based on what I've seen so far, Romney is indeed a man of faith (see this debate video). His professed faith is mythic to the core. And his speech stretches the gap between believers, not-so believers (moderates, those with no religious affiliation, agnostics), and non-believers (seculars, atheists). It elevates the believers (faithful) above the non-believers (faithless). Romney's preference of belief over non-belief is more divisive than unitive--a reflection of his (predominantly) mythic faith."
~ Theory and Practice of Integral Sustainable Development: Part 1 – Quadrants and the Practitioner -- "This is part one of a two-part paper that offers an overview of Integral Sustainable Development. The paper explains the rudiments of a practical framework that integrates the crowded conceptual and operational landscape of sustainable development and enables practitioners to ...."

Daily Dharma: Doctor Buddha

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Doctor Buddha

Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and of the world. It looks at things objectively. It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool's paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness.

One physician may gravely exaggerate an illness and give up hope altogether. Another may ignorantly declare that there is no illness and that no treatment is necessary, thus deceiving the patient with false consolation. You may call the first one pessimistic and the second optimistic. Both are equally dangerous. But a third physician diagnoses the symptoms correctly, understands the cause and the nature of the illness, sees clearly that it can be cured and courageously administers a course of treatment, thus saving his patient. The Buddha is like the last physician. He is the wise and scientific doctor for the ills of the world.

~ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught; from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Ghost in your Mind - Black Lab

Nice song and video by a band I am becoming reacquainted with after a few years of not hearing their work. A little more radio-friendly than their work in the 1990s.

More about Black Lab.

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. While many will remember this day as one of the worst in American history, especially if they lived through it, few will consider how America has changed since then.

What follows is a very interesting take on our collective sense of justice, and how our leaders are expected to respond to national crises. One only need to recall how Roosevelt responded to Pearl Harbor and then compare that to how Bush responded to 9/11 to see how much things have changed -- and for the worse.

From OUP Blog:

9780195326413.jpgDavid Domke is Professor of Communication and Head of Journalism at the University of Washington. Kevin Coe is a doctoral candidate in Speech Communication at the University of Illinois. They are authors of the The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America. To learn more about the book check out their handy website here. In the article below Domke and Coe commemorate the bombing of Pearl Harbor (12-7-1941) by comparing it to our modern tragedy, 9/11.

Sixty-six years ago today America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. In responding, President Franklin Roosevelt did the expected: he addressed the nation to explain what had happened, to describe plans for retaliation and, of course, to comfort the American people.

But Roosevelt did one thing that, by today’s standards, was entirely unexpected: he didn’t say much about God. In fact, Roosevelt addressed the nation only once in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor—a fireside chat on the evening of December 9—and mentioned God only one time. That reference was the concluding word of the speech:

We are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace that follows. And in the difficult hours of this day—through dark days that be yet to come—we will know that the vast majority of the members of the human race are on our side. Many of them are fighting with us. All of them are praying for us. For in representing our cause, we represent theirs as well—our hope and their hope for liberty under God.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was the worst by a foreign entity in America’s history, and in comforting and rallying the nation Roosevelt overtly invoked God one time. FDR did not formally address the nation again until his annual State of the Union in early January 1942.

Today we face an entirely different era of religious politics. Politicians look for any opportunity to talk about God and faith, and crises present just such an opportunity.

Consider that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001, George W. Bush formally addressed the nation via live television three times in the space of nine days: from the Oval Office on the evening of September 11, at the National Cathedral as part of a memorial service on September 14, and before a joint session of Congress on September 20. In these three addresses Bush invoked God more than 20 times.

Bush concluded the September 20 address—which was watched by 82 million Americans, the largest audience for a political event in U.S. history—with these words: “The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.” He then added, “Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice, assured of the rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.”

The striking contrast between Bush’s and Roosevelt’s approaches provides two useful reminders.

The first is that the extent to which religion infuses American politics today is historically uncommon. Those who say there is nothing new under the sun with respect to religion and politics are flat wrong.

The second reminder is that presidents can do the job of comforting the nation in times of crisis without saturating their language with religious references. No one would argue that FDR failed in this important task where Bush succeeded. Roosevelt simply took a different approach. And, given the serious dangers that arise when politics and religion become too intertwined, Roosevelt’s approach might be just what we need today.

Satire: U.S. Breath Reaches All-Time Worst

From The Onion, but I'm afraid there might actually be some truth in this one.

U.S. Breath Reaches All-Time Worst

December 7, 2007 | Issue 43•49

WASHINGTON—Responding to a foul stench emanating from the mouths of Americans nationwide, officials from the U.S. Department of Breath and Human Services issued an emergency announcement Tuesday warning that American breath quality has been elevated to "stank mouth," the poorest single rating in the nation's 231-year history.

Enlarge Image U.S. Breath Reaches All-Time Worst

DBHS Secretary Michael Leavitt shields reporters from his coffee mouth.

In a solemn announcement, DBHS Secretary Michael Leavitt informed the nation that his organization initially considered ignoring the findings, believing that the situation would resolve itself after the next routine tooth-brushing.

"After several days with no improvement in odor, it became painfully clear that this agency simply had to say something," Leavitt said.

Leavitt maintained that DBHS is doing all it can and will continue to observe the worsening crisis from at least three feet away.

Added Leavitt, "I am compelled to ask the American people: What did you eat?"

Attempting to handle the awkward national emergency in the most delicate manner, health officials at first theorized that everyone in the country had been out late the night before and did not have a chance to freshen up in the morning. But after more than 400,000 uncomfortable conversations, officials deemed it necessary to notify the American public in order to prevent the loss of more social lives.

"We can no longer afford to turn our heads away and ignore this problem," Leavitt said.

Leavitt urged all Americans to accept a breath mint or a stick of gum, or, if such items are not available, a carbonated drink, which he claimed was not clinically proven to be an effective remedy, although there is some evidence that the carbon dioxide molecules may in effect "burn away" stink germs temporarily.

Despite the urgency and magnitude of DBHS's announcement, some critics maintain that the response has been shortsighted and only aimed at making the problem temporarily smell like mint. Some even claim the putrid smell might already be irreversible.

"This Band-Aid approach will work, but only for a few hours at most," said Walter Romano, D.D.S., a Cleveland-area dentist who has begun handing out free toothbrushes and stickers depicting sound oral hygiene to residents in his area. "This country hasn't flossed in years. In fact, I believe some people have even made the ill-advised decision to gargle not with mouthwash, but almost exclusivley with dog shit."

Others claim the problem is even worse than health officials are letting on.

"This is a full-blown stenchademic," said Dr. Guy Hammond, a leading researcher of smelliness, who added that the catastrophe will only worsen with dinner approaching. "Before long, the U.S. will surpass even Britain as the nation with the worst breath in the Western world."

Enlarge Image

A Tempe, AZ resident’s mouth is sanitized by emergency oral hygiene workers.

According to an independent study conducted by Hammond, the percentage of Americans whose breath could scare the stink off a skunk increased dramatically over the past year, from 17 percent to 29 percent, while the number of citizens whose breath could peel paint off the wall went up from 23 percent to 45 percent. The remainder of Americans, the study found, had breath so bad it could sink a battleship.

While no direct cause has been determined for the sudden spike in ass-mouth, officials believe it may be connected to a combination of garlic, onion, meat, cheese, tobacco, coffee, alcohol, plaque, laziness, and bodily fluids.

With initial tests showing the rancid odor to be virtually impervious to multiple applications of Big Red, Leavitt said his agency is urging citizens to avoid inhaling through their noses, and cover their mouths when they talk.

"Sadly, millions of Americans were raised to believe they could cup their hand and put it over their face to smell their breath," Leavitt told reporters. "But our top scientists and health experts informed me personally about 20 minutes ago that this method does not work."

DBHS has embarked on a widespread campaign to eliminate the deadly odors found in almost every mouth in the country. Refreshing relief has been slow to come, however: Efforts to deliver 30,000 gallons of ACT rinse to the hardest-hit regions of the country have stalled because so many National Guardsmen are already deployed in Iraq and the rest refused to go anywhere near the most troubled cities. In addition, attempts by FEMA workers to distribute Tic Tacs to citizens in Alabama and Texas also failed when hundreds were injured attempting to open the plastic boxes' flip-action lids.

On Wednesday, officials at the Center for Gum Disease Control and Prevention announced plans to quarantine those with the severest halitosis, though they warned that concentrating so much rotting breath in one place could make the entire nation puke simultaneously.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Speedlinking 12/6/07

Quote of the day:

"Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day."
~ Bertrand Russell

Image of the day (Mark Simms):

~ Discoveries -- "Short snappy synopses of scientific studies for the synaptically short-changed. Don't want to read lengthy, boring, studies? We've distilled them down to one or two lines. Get up to date on the latest science, quick!"
~ I’m Addicted To Overeating, NOT Food -- "This article by Rudd Sound Bites was about Thanksgiving, but it gave me a moment of revelation that I have never imagined before."
~ Overweight Teenagers More Likely To Die Of Heart Attack As Young Adults -- "A new US study has projected that overweight adolescents face alarming increases in the risk of heart disease and premature death as young adults."
~ Groundbreaking Fertility Diet Boosts Pregnancy Chances -- "You know that diet and lifestyle choices affect your health and lifespan. But no credible science (only old wives' tales) has ever shown that diet affects the chances of getting pregnant - until now."
~ Pine Bark Naturally Reduces Osteoarthritis Knee Pain -- "Affecting more than 10 million Americans, Osteoarthritis of the knee (OA) is one of the five leading causes of disability among the elderly. While OA mainly affects most people over 45, it can occur at any age."
~ Scientists Strike Blow In Superbugs Struggle -- "Scientists from The University of Manchester have pioneered new ways of tweaking the molecular structure of antibiotics - an innovation that could be crucial in the fight against powerful super bugs."
~ One Day Miracle Diet -- "The biggest advantage with one day cholesterol lowering diet programs is that the person undergoing dieting will not suffer any muscle loss. This is partially because of the high protein and low calorie content of the wafers, and partially due to the fact that the dieting person actually in fact is not completely severed from his/her eating habits. He/she can have any food he/she wants the every next day." I've said it a thousand times -- the only way to get healthy is to make healthy eating a lifestyle. Diets are only short-term solutions that seldom last.
~ Increased Longevity From Herbal Extract -- "The herbal extract of a yellow-flowered mountain plant indigenous to the Arctic regions of Europe and Asia increased the lifespan of fruit fly populations, according to a University of California, Irvine study. Flies that ate a diet rich with Rhodiola rosea, an herbal supplement long used for its purported stress-relief effects, lived on an average of 10 percent longer than fly groups that didn't eat the herb." I'll believe it when I see human studies.

~ New Years Resolutions: The Only Three Things That Matter -- "There are three things, and three things only that determine a persons success or failure in terms of their fat loss goals this New Years."
~ The Hidden Workings of Our Minds -- "What is true of great scientific and artistic leaps of imagination is also true in everyday life. When people are asked why they chose one career over another, one partner over another or one flavour of ice-cream over another, the same problems emerge. Often, people's answers are unconvincing or they just don't know."
~ Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychopharmacology, 4th ed. -- "Each edition of this book, beginning with the first in 1991, has received much use while sitting on my office shelf. The editions have spanned the modern era of child psychopharmacology and, along with the works of S. P. Kutcher, have offered practical clinical guidance in choosing and monitoring medications in children and teenagers while also providing an overview of the literature that supports child psychopharmacology."
~ Increase in Bipolar Diagnosis in Youth Prompts Debates and Calls for Research -- "A recent analysis that found a 40-fold increase in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in youth has highlighted diagnostic dilemmas and prompted calls for more research studies."
~ Everything Has a Reason: Live Your Life with Confidence -- "Life would be difficult if we think that things just happen at random. If we have such mindset, when something goes wrong we may lose heart and do not know what to do. It won’t be easy either to stay grateful and positive when something bad happens. Things will be much easier if we believe that there is a reason behind it and that it’s a part of our life’s picture." I make this argument with friends, but the reality, I think, is that we need to make meaning and will find a way to do so -- and it's crucial that we do.
~ Is Sadness Good for Us? -- "If you never feel sad, it is because you have never become attached to someone, and that is a very lonely way to be.
~ How to Move Forward Once You Achieve a Big Goal -- "What do you do once you achieve your big goal and make it to the top? This can become a big problem if it looks like the only way you can go is down. Professional athletes and aging celebrities all face this issue. The problem can be one of maintaining the position if this is what you want or figuring out where to go next while avoiding a big let down."
~ Meditation Techniques for the Busy or Impatient -- "If you are reading this then you probably recognize some value in meditation, in slowing down, and reducing stress. At the same time you probably struggle with fitting meditation into your daily routine. The good news is that establishing a daily meditation practice is easier than you may have thought."
~ Almost perfect -- "The New York Times has a short article on mental health and perfectionism, the tendency to measure success and self-worth by the completion of often unrealistic goals."
~ Review - Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind by Peter D. Kramer -- "I did not expect Kramer to pull it off, and, when a friend wrote me that this book was full of new and intriguing material about how Freud had not really been what he has seemed to be -- my first reaction was that it could not really be new material, or perhaps it was only new to those who had not read the work of those honest critics of Freud, who belatedly (decades after Freud's death) but not too recently (the honest critique of Freud began in the 1960s) had revealed what there was to know."

~ Aristotle and Beyond -- "The question is not: how do we know that thinking about something, or wanting it, does not affect it and that melting it does do so? – as though perhaps we cannot be sure of this. I am going to assume that we are able to distinguish correctly between affective and non-affective operations. The inquiry is simply into the formal features that constitute them one or the other."
~ The Shakespeared Brain -- "I have always been very interested in how literature affects us. But I don't really like it when people say, "This book changed my life!" Struggling with ourselves and our seemingly inextricable mixture of strengths and weaknesses, surely we know that change is much more difficult and much less instant than that. It does scant justice to the deep nature of a life to suppose that a book can simply "change" it. Literature is not a one-off remedy. And actually it is the reading of books itself, amongst other things, that has helped me appreciate that deep complex nature."
~ Going Down -- "Democracy once seemed ascendant in many East and Central Asian countries. Not so much anymore."
~ The original political vision: sex, art and transformation -- "Dissent and emancipation were holy for William Blake. He could teach our prime minister so much about how to be radical." Obviously a UK article, but a good look at Blake.
~ Civilisation is safe -- "The American nationalist right - and now an obscure Tory MP - would have us believe that Christian traditions are under threat. I don't think so."
~ Jon Soltz: Three Days, Three Changing Stories on NIE from the White House -- "Another day, another explanation of what the President knew and when he knew it with the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran."
~ Two Views: Editors: Mormon in America -- "We suspect that most people who watched the speech were impressed, sympathetic, and sometimes moved." OR -- Peter Montgomery: The Speech: Romney Still No JFK -- "Mitt Romney's speech on religious liberty and the role his faith would play in his presidency - the long-discussed "JFK speech" -- included some Kennedy-esque rhetoric about the fundamental importance of religious liberty, but it was a far cry from JFK's ringing endorsement of church-state separation."
~ Grammy's Winners and Losers -- "Kanye West leads the pack of nominees in a year when the Grammy committee was even more clueless than usual."
~ House passes energy bill but Bush set to veto -- "The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed an energy bill that would boost vehicle fuel economy requirements by 40 percent by 2020, raise ethanol use by five-fold by 2022 and impose $13 billion in new taxes on big energy companies." Of course he'll veto it -- it would cost his buddies a lot of money.

~ How our ancestors were like gorillas -- "Research published in this week’s Science journal shows that some of our closest extinct relatives had more in common with gorillas than previously thought. Dr Charles Lockwood, UCL Department of Anthropology and lead author of the study, said: “When we examined fossils from 1.5 to 2 million years ago we found that in one of our close relatives the males continued to grow well into adulthood, just as they do in gorillas. This resulted in a much bigger size difference between males and females than we see today."
~ Whatever Happened To... the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis? -- "Human beings and nonhuman apes inhabit neighboring branches on the tree of life, but there are differences. Humans have less hair and perpetually enlarged mammary glands, and unlike other apes, we sweat a lot. In 1960, to explain these differences, marine biologist Sir Alister Hardy posited a water-dependent species that preceded human beings. Hardy pointed out that only aquatic mammals like walruses and hippopotamuses have naked skin and subcutaneous fat—human traits not shared by other apes."
~ Environment: Internet Behemoth Google Throws Down Green Energy Gauntlet -- "More corporate green-washing, or is Google ahead of the curve?"
~ Images of Saturn's Small Moons Tell the Story of Their Origins -- "Imaging scientists on NASA's Cassini mission are telling a tale of how the small moons orbiting near the outer rings of Saturn came to be. The moons began as leftover shards from larger bodies that broke apart and filled out their "figures" with the debris that made the rings."
~ Team to chemically transform carbon dioxide into carbon-neutral liquid fuels -- "Using concentrated solar energy to reverse combustion, a research team from Sandia National Laboratories is building a prototype device intended to chemically “reenergize” carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide using concentrated solar power. The carbon monoxide could then be used to make hydrogen or serve as a building block to synthesize a liquid combustible fuel, such as methanol or even gasoline, diesel and jet fuel."
~ Online Library Gives Readers Access To 1.5 Million Books -- "The Million Book Project has completed the digitization of more than 1.5 million books, which are now available online. For the first time since the project was initiated in 2002, all of the books, which range from Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" to "The Analects of Confucius," are available through a single Web portal of the Universal Library, said Gloriana St. Clair, Carnegie Mellon's dean of libraries."
~ IBM using light instead of wires for building supercomputers-on-a-chip -- "Supercomputers that consist of thousands of individual processor "brains" connected by miles of copper wires could one day fit into a laptop PC, thanks in part to a breakthrough by IBM scientists announced today."

~ The Hero's Journey -- "Are humans a failed species? Is it what some Natives Americans have said, "very shrewd but no wisdom?" When we look around the biosphere we see that most other species devote much of their life energies to birthing, raising and protecting their progeny. In this respect, civilized humans are a failed species."
~ Ripple effects -- "We usually have an idea of some effects of some of our actions, mostly on those in our daily life. But we rarely know the ripple effects, including the indirect ones on people we have never met. To be honest, I probably don’t know most of the effects on people in my daily life."
~ Ken Wilber on Evolution (Reloaded) -- "Ken Wilber explains his understanding of evolution on his blog. Check it out. Below are some key quotes and my commentary."
~ Warner vs Genpo: The One-Sided Fight -- "If you cruise the same sites and blogs I do, you are aware of the ranting Brad Warner, Zen punk extraordinaire. I find the whole "controversy" about Big Mind so sticky that I am compelled to jump into the fray. Silly me." I like Warner, but he has repeatedly made his point about Genpo Roshi -- it's getting tiresome.
~ Search for Origins of Buddhism -- "The land of Pakistan is blessed with the vast treasure troves of the world and one of the most important treasures is the glorious civilization of Buddhism flourishing in the North Western areas of Pakistan. The mountains of these areas are witness to one of the highly creative ideology springing fromBuddha, taking refuge in the mountains from Karakurums in Chilas to Pir Panjal Mountains near Taxila."
~ This Journey Has No Gaps -- "In many ways, I feel right now like I'm marinating in life. This long-held desire I've had to "do" something noteworthy with my brief existence on our shared Pale Blue Dot hasn't gone away. But that pressing, throbbing feeling that often accompanies it has."