Friday, February 22, 2008

Lack of Blogging

Apologies for the lack of blogging today. I feel like shit. Fortunately, I don't have the flu and/or bronchitis that is going around.

So here's the deal. The other day I was doing lat pulls with the whole stack, about 250 lbs., and on one of the last reps, the bar cracked me across the nose. Stupid, yes. I am stickler for form, which means staying vertical and pulling with the lats rather than leaning back and pulling with the upper back. I do rows for that. I always caution my clients to keep their head back so that they don't hit their nose. I failed to observe my own advice.

So I broke my nose. Ouch. But no big deal, I've broken my nose before and it's mostly just annoying. But I broke the skin, too. So I have acquired a staff infection. Very painful, lots of swelling, watery eyes, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So I have a hard time seeing today. One half of my face is swollen. I got some good drugs and hopefully the staff will respond. If not, I have MRSA, which is a little more scary. I'll know more by Sunday. If the drugs are going to work, I'll know by Sunday.

Until then, blogging will be light.

Satire: McCain: Lobbyist Did Not Force Me into Positions

Campaign news from Andy Borowitz:

McCain: Lobbyist Did Not Force Me into Positions

Would Not Try Out New Positions at His Age, Mac Says

One day after The New York Times published an article raising ethical questions about Sen. John McCain’s dealings with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, the Arizona senator pushed back today at a press conference in Cleveland, telling reporters, “Vicki Iseman did not force me into any positions.”

Calling suggestions that Ms. Iseman could make him assume a different position “ridiculous,” Sen. McCain said, “At my age, I’m not about to try out new positions that I’m uncomfortable with.”

While Mr. McCain was vague about his official dealings with Ms. Iseman, he told reporters, “I would not allow a lobbyist to perform any favor for me unless it felt really, really good.”

The Republican frontrunner said that neither he nor Ms. Iseman had been aware that The New York Times was conducting an investigation into their relationship, adding, “Vicki and I have been in the dark together for a long time.”

But he vehemently defended the lobbyist’s professionalism, telling reporters, “Vicki Iseman is an energetic and passionate woman who has bent over backwards to please me.”

Early reaction to Sen. McCain’s comments was mixed, with some Republicans wondering whether he had done himself more harm than good.

But Mr. McCain did receive high marks from at least one Senate colleague, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Id.).

“I called John today to offer him my encouragement,” Sen. Craig said. “I said, ‘It’s hard, and it’s going to get harder, but stick it out.’”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Daily Om: Grounding Ourselves

Another good Daily Om today:

Being A Strong Container
Grounding Ourselves

We often hear people telling us to ground ourselves, but we may not be sure what that means, and how we might do it. Grounding ourselves is a way of bringing ourselves literally back to earth. Some of us are more prone than others to essentially leaving our bodies to and not being firmly rooted in our bodies. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this, but while we are living on the earth plane, it is best to stay grounded in our body.

One of the easiest ways to ground ourselves is to bring our attention to our breath as it enters and leaves our bodies. After about ten breaths, we will probably find that we feel much more connected to our physical selves. We might then bring our awareness to the sensations in our bodies, moving from our head down to our feet, exploring and inquiring. Just a few minutes of this can bring us home to bodies and to the earth, and this is what it means to ground ourselves.

We can go further by imagining that we have roots growing out of the bottoms of our feet connecting us to the earth. The roots flow with us so we can we always move, but at the same time, they keep us grounded. We receive powerful energy from the earth, just as we do from the forms of energy we associate with the sky, and our body is a tool that brings these two energies together in a sacred union. When we are grounded, we essentially become a strong container in which our spirits can safely and productively dwell. This is why grounding ourselves everyday, especially at the beginning of the day, is such a beneficial practice. Fortunately, it’s as simple as bringing our conscious awareness to our bodies and the earth on which we walk.

Candy Minx Reviews "In Treatment"

I had high hopes for this new HBO series, but a therapist friend of mine watched the first episode and wasn't impressed. Candy Minx is impressed and provides a good review of the series, therapy, blogging, and the patterns of connection. I enjoyed her review quite a bit.

Here's a bit of her review:

2) In Shakespeare, characters develop rather than unfold, and they develop because they reconceive themselves. Sometimes this comes about because they overhear themselves talking, whether to themselves or to others. Self overhearing is their royal road to individuation, Harold Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.

3) HBO has a new series titled In Treatment and I spent yesterday and today watching 20 episodes from this first season, over a ten hour period. A friend, who is a therapist, said it was very good, so I wanted to check it out. It is brilliant. First it has an outstanding format and incredible engaing actors. Every weeknight we sit in on a therapy session of one character for half an hour. The half hour feels much longer and I have found myself checking the clock because it feels like so much has transpired it couldn't really be a half hour program. There are five episodes a week, I suppose a little like the programming of a soap opera. Every night a different patient and sometimes, insights into the doctor's life as well...with his wife or children. On Friday's episode the doctor goes for therapy himself.

4) It's funny that I find myself questioning the time elapses and the clock during this program because not only is the structure of the series referring to time, the patients appointment schedule are the titles of each episode, but there are a couple of clocks in the office, the doctor and patients are almost always consulting how much time they have left during their visits. The nature of time and emotions is rather what this program is about combined with the idea and reality that saying things out loud releases their "power" and reveals subconscious motives.

Read the rest.

Daniel Dennett on Belief

This video was posted at the Secular Philosophy blog. He riffs on the belief in God, as opposed to the actual reality of God.

There are a whole series of other speakers from the "Atheism Tapes" contained in this video compilation.

Authors@Google: Randall Munroe (xkcd)

Had never heard of this guy, but I enjoyed the talk.

Randall Munroe is the creator of xkcd, a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Munroe on Munroe: "I'm just this guy, you know? I'm a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Before starting xkcd, I worked on robots at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. As of June 2007 I live in Massachusetts. In my spare time I climb things, open strange doors, and go to goth clubs dressed as a frat guy so I can stand around and look terribly uncomfortable. At frat parties I do the same thing, but the other way around."

This Authors@Google event took place December 7, 2007 at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA.


"Above" by Blue Man Group

Always entertaining . . . .


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Daily Om: Noticing Synchronicity

I've always been a fan of synchronicity, and today's Daily Om reminds me why.

Interconnected Experiences
Noticing Synchronicity

When events appear to fit together perfectly in our lives it may seem at first that they are random occurrences, things that are the result of coincidence. These synchronous happenings, though, are much more than that, for, if we look at them more closely they can show us that the universe is listening to us and gently communicating with us. Learning to pay attention to and link the things that occur on a daily basis can be a way for us to become more attuned to the fact that most everything happens in our lives for a reason – even when that reason is not clear right away.

When we realize that things often go more smoothly than we can ever imagine, it allows us to take the time to reflect on the patterns in our lives. Even events that might not at first seem to be related to each other are indicators that the universe is working with, not against, us. This idea of synchronicity, then, means that we have to trust there is more to our lives than what we experience on a physical level. We need to be willing to look more closely at the bigger picture, accepting and having confidence in the fact that there is more to our experiences than immediately meets the eye. Being open to synchronicity also means that we have to understand that our lives are filled with both positive and negative events. Once we can recognize that one event is neither more desirable nor better than the other – they all have an overall purpose in our lives -- then we are truly ready to listen to the messages the universe gives us.

While we may not be able to see everything in our lives as being synchronous, we can certainly use hindsight to be more aware of how the universe guides us. This sense of wonder at the mysteries of the universe and the interconnectedness present in our lives will help us see our overall ways of being and will in turn make it easier to work more consciously towards our spiritual evolution.

Insanely Strong Gymnasts from Cirque de Soleil

I'm not worthy.


I want to take this opportunity to make a point about training. These guys, like most gymnasts, don't do much weight training. But they train for several hours every day. Mostly, they work with bodyweight.

There is a common misconception that if we train every day, we will become over-trained -- which is true if we are trying to push maximal weights everyday. But these guys (and girls) are proof that frequent training, if the intensity and volume are managed correctly, can produce amazingly strong and beautiful bodies.

I'm just saying.

Speedlinking 2/20/08

[NOTE: After a week away, Speedlinking is back. However, as I am incredibly busy of late, the daily links might not be so daily. I'll do what I can to keep up.]

Quote of the day:

"Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted than when we read it in the original author?"
~ Philip G. Hamerton

Image of the day (Alessandro Zocchi):

~ Training to Hit a Homer -- "In all the years I played baseball, I never hit a ball over the fence. When I started playing slow pitch softball, I figured it was only a matter of time. The fields were smaller, the ball was slower, and I was much stronger then I ever was as a kid. Boy was I wrong."
~ 5 Things You Need to Know About Every Exercise -- "You may know the name of a particular exercise, but do you know what the agonists in the movement are? How about the synergists? Hrrummpph! And you call yourself a weightlifter!"
~ 30 New Ways to Build the Body You Want -- "We traveled the nation to find America's Best Gyms. Then we asked their experts for advice to help you build your best body, whether you train at an upscale health center or at home."
~ Shredded in 6 Days -- "Ever wonder how competitive bodybuilders get extra shredded for a show or photo shoot? Well, here's the complete how-to guide to becoming extra shredded. Get the camera ready, because it's only temporary." This is good -- too many people think the Men's Health cover models always look like that -- they don't.
~ Common Exercise Misconceptions Part 2 -- "Finally, some ammo to use against those putzes who insist on benching with their feet in the air. Craig also makes the case that chin-ups are a better lat exercise than pull-ups. Let the arguments begin!"
~ Top 10 Reasons You’re Not Building Any Muscle -- "Check the following 10 factors against your current lifestyle to ensure you’re not making some fundamental errors."
~ Whole grains help deflate belly rolls -- "Cutting calories helps people lose weight, but doing so by filling up on whole grains may be particularly heart-healthy, new research suggests."
~ Hypoglycemia Alert Dogs Offer Assistance To People With Diabetes -- "Glucose monitors, test strips, and lancets: people with diabetes are all too familiar with the equipment used to test their blood glucose (sugar) levels. Now some people are adding a different kind of aid to their diabetes management regimen." Beats getting stuck with a needle.
~ 13 Scientifically Proven Health Benefits Of Exercise -- "Nowadays you can't check out at the grocery store or do much of anything without being reminded that us mortal humans need to exercise. Still, we persist, procrastinate and eventually complain that we're overweight, sick, dying, etc."

~ Fascinating split brain behavioral experiments -- "To reduce the severity of his seizures, Joe had the bridge between his left and right cerebral hemisphers (the corpus callosum) severed. As a result, his left and right brains no longer communicate through that pathway. This is an extraordinary insight into the machinary of the mind. Here’s what happens as a result...."
~ Panic-Focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy -- "Both cognitive-behavioral1-3 and pharmacological treatments for panic disorder have been found to be effective over the short term. Not all patients, however, can tolerate or fully respond to these approaches, and the effectiveness of these interventions over the long term remains unclear."
~ This Wednesday: Six questions to help you stay serene -- "Every Wednesday is Tip Day. This Wednesday: Six questions to help you stay serene. Or, at the very least, to keep from losing your temper in an angry fit."
~ Has Idealism Been Refuted? -- "So, I have been having a very nice and informative discussion with Brandon about Berkeley’s so-called “Master Argument” which got me to thinking. Has immaterialism been refuted? It seems to me not. Here is a brief, and no doubt sketchy, survey of some of the better known ‘refutations’."
~ Serotonin, Violence and Prozac -- "A lot has been written in the past week guessing as to whether Prozac, a commonly-prescribed 20-year-old antidepressant, had any connection to the violence that Steven Kazmierczak (the NIU murderer) perpetrated. Kazmierczak was reportedly previously taking Prozac (usually prescribed for depression), but had stopped taking it 3 weeks prior to the murders."
~ How the Consistency Bias Warps Our Personal and Political Memories -- "What were your political views a decade ago? How good was your relationship last year? Studies show we often assume things haven't changed, when in fact they have."
~ 10 Steps to Handle Relationship Conflicts -- "Every relationship experiences some conflict. Some experience more than others, some are playful, and some are hateful. Then there are those that are never ending patterns of conflict that seem impossible to break."
~ Technology Exployed By Neuroscientists To Trace Source Of Emotions In Brain -- "First came direct marketing, then focus groups. Now, advertisers, with the help of neuroscientists, are closing in on the holy grail: mind reading. At least, that's what is suggested in a paper published in the journal Human Brain Mapping authored by a group of professors in advertising and communication and neuroscience at the University of Florida."

~ The Principle of Complementarity in Bohr's Quantum Mechanics and Vico's Historicism -- "Vico was acutely aware that to treat real concrete moments of Man’s history as mere moments of something higher is not to take them very seriously. Indeed, this was Hegel flaw: by absorbing the concrete historical situation into a higher theoretical scheme he in effect distorted the reality of their contingency."
~ In Intervals: Robert Pinsky and Tom Sleigh in Conversation -- "Tom Sleigh conducted the following interview with United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky on October 1, 1997, in West Newton, Massachusetts."
~ Covering Reality with Gold Leaf -- "IT’S THIS RECOGNITION of complexity and uncertainty that has been the key to the success of the West. An inductive, pragmatic mindset underpinned the economic expansion that led the West out of the long stagnation of the Middle Ages. It underpinned the development of science and technology (after a millennium where technology had essentially stagnated at Roman levels)."
~ Nietzsche’s Deeper Truth -- "At the outset of On the Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche reports that his polemical book of pseudo-history, pseudo-anthropology, and pseudo-psychology is an exercise in knowing ourselves. We cannot simply investigate morality and Christianity, as if these were topics we could entertain with dispassionate detachment as we do biological specimens or mathematical equations. No, according to Nietzsche, our commitment to a moral frame of reference penetrates to the depths of our soul."
~ Barack’s Rock -- "She's the one who keeps him real, the one who makes sure running for leader of the free world doesn't go to his head. Michelle's story." Good timing, considering the non-story about her remarks everyone is fixated on.
~ Interview: Alain Robbe-Grillet -- "Alain Robbe-Grillet occupies that paradoxical position not uncommon to avant–garde writers: He is both famous and obscure; his ideas are well known but his work much less so. Nevertheless, he remains a major figure in the landscape of postwar French letters and film."
~ Can we teach people to be happy? -- "Anthony Seldon and Frank Furedi set out their arguments before the first of a series of live public debates on educational issues."
~ Human culture subject to natural selection, Stanford study shows - "Scientists at Stanford University have shown for the first time that cultural traits affecting survival and reproduction evolve at a different rate than other cultural attributes. Speeded or slowed rates of evolution typically indicate the action of natural selection in analyses of the human genome."
~ MIT: No easy answers in evolution of human language -- "The evolution of human speech was far more complex than is implied by some recent attempts to link it to a specific gene, says Robert Berwick, professor of computational linguistics at MIT."
~ Evolution Wins as Creationists Inadvertently Switch Sides in Florida -- "A decision by the Florida Board of Education to approve a curriculum referring to "the scientific theory of evolution" has an unintended side effect: It embeds evolution in the curriculum for the first time. It also will require teaching kids what a "scientific theory" is."

~ Study shows where new diseases may arise (AP) -- "New infectious diseases have been appearing more often, says a study that suggests "hot spots" where the next new germs are most likely to appear."
~ America Has Too Many Stores -- "In January, Liz Claiborne said it would shutter 54 Sigrid Olsen stores by mid-2008. Ann Taylor announced that 117 of its 921 stores would be closed over the next three years, and Talbots axed the Talbots Mens and Talbots Kids concepts and 22 Talbots stores. (Those muffled screams you hear are Connecticut preppies trying to suppress their rage.) Even Starbucks has scaled back its yearslong saturation-bombing campaign."
~ Ecotopias Aren't Just for Hippies Anymore — and They're Sprouting Up Worldwide -- "In the 1970s, environmental idealists had a vision of Ecotopia: Everyone recycled, there was no pollution, and we all worshipped trees and co-ops. Today's eco-communities are less crunchy and a lot more high tech. In addition to using renewable energy sources, these projects aim to limit their impact on surrounding ecosystems by building with green materials, promoting earth-friendly transportation, and recycling water and waste."
~ Tonight's Lunar Eclipse: Last Chance Until 2010 -- "There will be a full lunar eclipse tonight, starting at 8:43 pm Eastern time, with the moon totally obscured between 10:01 pm and 10:51 pm."
~ Managing Uncertainty Important In Ecological Balance -- "The balance of nature looms prominently in the public mind these days. Climate change, genetically modified plants and animals, and globally declining fish stocks are but a few of the issues that remind us that ours is a fragile world. Or is it? It depends on whom you ask one professor specializing in biology and society."
~ African Dust Storms May Cool Atlantic, Lessen Hurricanes -- "Every year, storms over West Africa disturb millions of tons of dust and strong winds carry those particles into the skies over the Atlantic. According to atmospheric scientists, this dust from Africa directly affects ocean temperature, a key ingredient in Atlantic hurricane development."
~ Antarctic Life Hung By A Thread During Ice Ages -- "The extreme cold and environmental conditions of past Ice Ages have been even more severe than seen today and changed life at the Antarctic, forcing the migration of many animals such as penguins, whales and seals, researchers argue. Understanding the changes of the past may help scientists to determine how the anticipated temperature increases of the future will work to further transform this continent."
~ Microsoft Opens Game Development -- "Microsoft Corp. says it will make Xbox 360 video games developed by players available for download through the console's online service."

~ 2008 Blogisattva Awards Nominees Announced -- "The Blogisattva Organization is pleased to announce the nominees for the 2008 Blogisattva Awards honoring English-language Buddhism blogging during calendar year 2007. This is the third annual iteration of the awards which are given wholly for merit, and not as a measure of blogs’ popularity."
~ Lucy -- "It’s good, at least once in our lives, to call our parents by their names, not mom and dad but Janice and Steven or whatever their names happen to be. It’s not absolutely necessary to do this in their presence; some of us were brought up on customs that would make it easier to cut out our tongues than to address our parents by their legal names."
~ Not Spiritual -- "An interview with Ethan Nichtern, Founder and Director of the Interdependence Project (The ID Project) in New York City and author of the new book "One City: A Declaration of Interdependence". Good stuff!"
~ Would You Have Sex With Someone You Can Reboot? - "Apparently, a few decades from now, David Levy thinks that people would welcome the idea of having sex with robots. Check out this Q&A interview with David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots, in Scientific American. Here are some key quotes."
~ Integral Education Seminar 2008 -- "Next Step Integral has announced its 2008 Integral Education seminar called “From Cradle to Kosmos”, taking place August 1–6, 2008, at the Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island, in Washington State. Integral education is an emerging field, propelled by people who seek to push the envelope of what education can be."
~ Deepak Chopra Comes to Beliefnet -- "To kick off the spiritual teacher's new blog with his son and daughter, watch this exclusive video clip in which he explains how to tell if you're "plugged into" Spirit--or not."
~ Kosmos Magazine Up and Running -- "Last week was our university's club week. Good news for anyone following the development of Fordham's first integral magazine: 30 signups in one day! We were a little weak with the table design, but the Alex Grey paintings seemed to really draw in the crowd."
~ The Joys of Devotional Buddhism -- "Westerners, having come from a Judao-Christian-Islamic background, sometimes like to frown upon devotional Buddhism and hold up meditation as the end-all-be-all of Buddhism. I have had to explain myself a number of times to non-Pure Land Buddhists, and it can be frustrating. The last straw for me occurred this evening when I found this quotation on a Tricycle Blog article (the author is quoting someone from a Buddhist forum, these are not the author’s words)...."
~ Emergence in Palestine and the Arab World -- "At the outset of the February 2, 2008 Nation Building Conference in Bethlehem, Palestine, Elza Maalouf spoke to the nearly 700 Palestinian community leaders from all over the West Bank addressing societal emergence in Palestine and the Arab world."
~ Back from hiatus -- "As my handful of regular readers know by now, I’ve been on hiatus (except for the occasional post on presidential politics) for the past few months. I have been taking some personal time as well as focusing on my screenplay project. While I still have other pressing projects on my plate, I’m going to be returning to posting at Until on a regular basis."

On the Humanities: Soul searching

This is an interesting article from the Times Higher Education. This is obviously a British take on the issue, but the humanities in US universities have also fallen on hard times. I would argue that this is because they have become irrelevant as a result of relying on identity politics to create a curriculum, and have moved too far away from the core canon of great literature -- but I am biased.

Here is the beginning of the article:

The humanities have traditionally been the core of a classical university education, equipping graduates both culturally and morally. Today, however, humanities academics are increasingly questioning their purpose, and striving to strike a balance between canonical reverence and contemporary relevance. Matthew Reisz reports.

In 2004, John Unsworth, dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, delivered a speech to the American Library Association titled "The crisis of audience". When his daughter was three, he said, she had an imaginary friend named Audience. Unsworth remarked ruefully that 11 years later, "Eleanor has real friends; it's the humanities scholar who has an imaginary audience."

In another contribution to the debate, Marjorie Perloff, professor emerita of English and comparative literature at Stanford University, has referred to "the epitaph for the humanities" as "one of our most common genres today". Particularly in the US, embattled humanities scholars have taken to huddling together for comfort - often in conferences titled "the crisis in the humanities" or variations on that theme.

Perloff cited a 1999 article by Robert Weisbuch, then of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and now president of Drew University in New Jersey, in which he said: "Today's consensus about the state of the humanities - it's bad, it's getting worse, and no one is doing much about it ... We have lost the respect of our colleagues in other fields, as well as the attention of an intelligent public. The action is elsewhere. We're living through a time when outrage with the newfangled in the humanities - with deconstruction or Marxism or whatever - has become plain lack of interest. No one's even angry with us now - just bored."

Some of this worrying is probably just human nature. When members of any professional group get together, they spend much of their time complaining about being underloved and underpaid. But some believe there is a deeper sense in humanities departments that, despite buoyant student numbers, what they are doing is no longer valued, interesting or coherent - at least to outsiders but perhaps also to the academics themselves.

Read the whole piece.

The Critical Library: Helen Vendler

Helen Vendler is the Grand Dame of the poetry world -- her recommendations can make or break a career. Critical Mass has posted her suggested reading for anyone interested in criticism.

Each week, the National Book Critics Circle will post a list of five books a critic believes reviewers should have in their libraries. We recently heard from Helen Vendler, A . Kinglsey Porter University Professor at Harvard University, and a three-time NBCC finalist. Here is what she pointed out as worth keeping in your library at all times.

The Bible, with a concordance: It lies behind English and American literature.

Shakespeare: A never-failing resource of the poetic imagination.

an Etymological Dictionary: For the ground of meaning of all words

the OED
: For the history of the meaning of a word

an en face Horace: To see a set of classical lyrics with many genres, no wasted words, and an impregnable structure.

Helen Vendler
is A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University.

Joss Stone - Son of a Preacher Man (Live)



Flashback Video: Oasis - Wonderwall

They might be idiots, but these guys made some good music.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Daily Om: Outside The Comfort Zone

Here is today's Daily Om, which is a message I can use since I tend to often live too much within my comfort zone (although, I'd have to say that has changed quite a bit in the last week or two).

Outside The Comfort Zone
Things We Don’t Want To Do

Most of us have had the experience of tackling some dreaded task only to come out the other side feeling invigorated, filled with a new sense of confidence and strength. The funny thing is, most of the time when we do them, we come out on the other side changed and often wondering what we were so worried about or why it took us so long. We may even begin to look for other tasks we’ve been avoiding so that we can feel that same heady mix of excitement and completion.

Whether we avoid something because it scares us or bores us, or because we think it will force a change we’re not ready for, putting it off only creates obstacles for us. On the other hand, facing the task at hand, no matter how onerous, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow. The relief is palpable when we stand on the other side knowing that we did something even though it was hard or we didn't want to do it. On the other hand, when we cling to our comfort zone, never addressing the things we don’t want to face, we cut ourselves off from flow and growth.

We all have at least one thing in our life that never seems to get done. Bringing that task to the top of the list and promising ourselves that we will do it as soon as possible is an act that could liberate a tremendous amount of energy in our lives. Whatever it is, we can allow ourselves to be fueled by the promise of the feelings of exhilaration and confidence that will be the natural result of doing it.

This post mostly deals with tasks and things we avoid doing, but many of us live within our comfort zones -- to the neglect of our souls -- in many other ways as well.

We may not look for a new job out of fear of change; we may not leave a bad relationship because we are comfortably numb; we may not move to a new city because we are afraid we may not meet new friends.

But all change, especially change that challenges our comfort zone, is an opportunity for growth. Being stuck in our comfort zone is a good way to stagnate and wither away. It's never easy, but if we can open to it, we seldom regret the learning and growth that can come from trying new things.

2008 Blogisattva Awards Nominees Announced

Tom Armstrong and the awards committee have announced the 2008 Blogisattva Awards Nominees.

The Blogisattva Organization is pleased to announce the nominees for the 2008 Blogisattva Awards honoring English-language Buddhism blogging during calendar year 2007. This is the third annual iteration of the awards which are given wholly for merit, and not as a measure of blogs’ popularity.

This year, ten accomplished buddhobloggers participated in the gathering of candidates and the voting that determined this year’s nominations and/or will participate in the voting that determines the winners, to be announced on February 24.

There are 26 categories of awards with an aggregate 132 nominations, making for a bounty of worthy honorees.

The prime purpose of the awards is to introduce Buddhists -- and others with a nascent interest in Buddhism -- to some of the great many excellent, varied Buddhism blogs that are out there, as close as a click away.

Among the many great blogs and bloggers, IOC received nine nominations among the various categories. I am honored to be considered among such outstanding company.

Check out the full list of nominees (and go read these excellent blogs).

IOC is Back

It seems the folks at Blogger/Google have seen fit to unblock my blog, at last. Thanks to those brave souls who pushed through the barriers to get here anyway. Much appreciated.

Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Daily Dharma: The Eightfold Path

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

The Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path of Right Views, Right Thoughts, Right Speech, Right Conduct [Action], Right Livelihood, Right Effort or Lifestyle, Right Recollection [Mindfulness], and Right Meditation [Concentration] was preached by the Buddha to his first five disciples at Benares, and it remains for us the basic guide for our lives as Buddhists. It begins with Right Views and ends with Right Meditation, but each element of the path depends on all others, so really there is no first step and no last step. The key word is “right,” from words in Sanskrit and Chinese that mean “upright, straight, right, correct.” Finding what is upright in attitude, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and meditation, and then doing it - this is our life work.

- Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Radiohead Weird Fishes/Arpeggi on Later...

Live Radiohead . . . from In Rainbows.


Classic Sesame Street - Yo Yo Ma and the Honkers!

Because Sesame Street rocks . . . .


Satire: Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

Special report from The Onion:

The United States gave billions of dollars in aid to the wealthy European principality of Andorra, which it mistakenly assumed was a poor African country.

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

Monday, February 18, 2008

Daily Dharma: Mahasatipatthana Sutta

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle outlines the ways we can put and end to suffering.

Mahasatipatthana Sutta

21. “And what, monks, is the Noble Truth of the Way of Practice Leading to the Cessation of Suffering? It is just this Noble Eightfold Path, namely: - Right View, Right Thought; Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood; Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.”

- Mahasatipatthana Sutta: The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, in Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, trans. by Maurice Walshe; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Laser Harp

Very cool interactive laser-activated instrument that looks like a harp, sort of.


Satire: Children, Children's Children: 'Stop Worrying About Us'

From The Onion:

Children, Children's Children: 'Stop Worrying About Us'

February 18, 2008 | Issue 44•08

WASHINGTON—In a statement channeled back across generations to the present day, the nation's children and the nation's children's children called for an end to decades of passionate oratory over their well-being.

The future youth addressed all those who reference them regularly, including presidential candidates, Iraq War protesters, celebrities recording public service announcements, and anyone about to inaugurate a new community center.

Enlarge Image Children, Children's Children

"Treat yourself to some short-term gratification for once, and leave the future to us," Future child Samantha Jacobson read from the prepared statement.

"Put those silly fears aside," the not- yet-conceived children and their offspring wrote, stressing that, while they appreciated concerns over whether they would have access to clean water or ever see a majestic bald eagle, they'd prefer for those currently living to focus on their own lives in the here and now.

"We'll be fine," Samantha Jacobson, a representative from an uncertain tomorrow, read from the letter at a press conference Tuesday. "It's nice how you're always wondering if your actions will deprive us of a glorious heritage of peace and liberty to look back upon, smiling proudly, but, please, let us worry about that. You've sacrificed more than enough for the future—our future—already."

"Really," Jacobson added. "If the ecosystem gets destroyed or the world is plunged into perpetual war, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Signed by 150 influential members of the two forthcoming coming generations, the statement included requests to discontinue all debate over the potential future of such intangible resources as health, earth's natural beauty, and the ability to sit together at the table of brotherhood. The children's children furthermore asked their soon-to-be ancestors to desist all plans to plant trees or write letters to Congress on their behalf.

"There's been a lot of talk about what kind of world you'll be sentencing us to live in, but, come what may, we children of tomorrow are pretty sure we'll make do," the letter read. "How much damage can you realistically do in one lifetime anyway? In 20 or 30 years any major problems will have blown right over. At the very least, take comfort in telling yourselves that technology will develop a new and ingenious method for counteracting whatever negative impact you do have on our ability to breathe the air, watch the stars, or otherwise live in a world free from fear. Right?"

"Besides," it continued, "we'd never be able to enjoy our precious future lives knowing you had wasted every waking hour recycling beer bottles on our behalf."

The note ended by insisting that, whatever happens, the children's children will harbor no hard feelings toward those living today who simply choose to live their lives without fretting about environmental holocaust.

"You work hard, you pay your taxes—go ahead and use as much Styrofoam as you need," the statement concluded. "Who's to say we won't need big piles of Styrofoam in the future? We might. So go ahead and get that Range Rover, because it shouldn't be the privilege of future generations to limit your right to spacious leg room and all-wheel drive."

The letter has caused a stir among commencement speakers, mayors with plans to christen pediatric-hospital wings, and countless others who have spoken tirelessly for the benefit of their children's children from behind podiums. Some staunch supporters, such as Fitchburg, MA resident Nicholas Charters, claimed the letter only bolsters the case for protecting our nation's future.

"We must protect our right to defend our children's children," said Charters, who is contemplating a run for a city council opening. "If not for ourselves, then for our parents, and our parents' parents, who established a great tradition of worrying about the future that stretches back nearly 300 years."

Nevertheless, a majority of those interviewed were relieved to hear their hypothetical offspring are finally taking some initiative.

"It's a load off my mind," said Martin Paller, the 32-year-old inventor of disposable, single-use bath towels. "It will be nice to take some time and focus on myself for a change."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Daily Dharma: Suffering is a universal experience

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Suffering is a universal experience

Seeing the suffering in the world around us and in our own bodies and minds, we begin to understand suffering not only as an individual problem, but as a universal experience. It is one of the aspects of being alive. The question that then comes to mind is: If compassion arises from the awareness of suffering, why isn’t the world a more compassionate place? The problem is that often our hearts are not open to feel the pain. We move away from it, close off, and become defended. By closing ourselves off from suffering, however, we also close ourselves to our own wellspring of compassion. We don’t need to be particularly saintly in order to be compassionate. Compassion is the natural response of an open heart, but that wellspring of compassion remains capped as long as we turn away from or deny or resist the truth of what is there. When we deny our experience of suffering, we move away from what is genuine to what is fabricated, deceptive, and confusing.

- Joseph Goldstein, Seeking the Heart of Wisdom; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Body and Soul

I've been enjoying John O'Donohue's Anam Cara quite a bit. At one point he mentions that we have misunderstood the idea of divinity, believing that it is outside of us rather than within us. He counters this belief with the notion that our bodies are contained within our souls.

If we believe that the body is within the soul and the soul is divine ground, then the presence of the divine is completely here, close with us.

Being in the soul, the body makes the senses the thresholds of soul. When your senses open out into the world, the first presence they encounter is the presence of the soul. To be sensual or sensuous is to be in the presence of your own soul. Wordsworth, careful of the dignity of the senses, wrote that "pleasure is the tribute we owe to our dignity as human beings." This is a profoundly spiritual perspective. Your senses link you intimately within you and around you. (pg. 59)

I think this is a beautiful idea.

When we are in nature, our senses are flooded with sights, sounds, scents, and textures. It is no wonder that nature can act so powerfully to ground us in our souls. Allowing our senses to open to the mystery and majesty of nature can heal us in profound ways.

Even more so, when we are intimate with someone we love, ALL of our senses are overflowing with the sensuous. We may misunderstand this experience as being purely physical. But when we are intimate with another being we are in the presence of soul, if only we can open ourselves to that experience.

It's wonderful to have raw animal sex sometimes, but we need to balance those times with encounters in which our bodies and senses are open to touching and being touched by our own soul and the soul of our partner.

There can be a shadow side to this as well. Our addictions are all cravings of the soul that have been twisted into dysfunctional behaviors. When we get drunk or high, we are craving something that can only come from a profound connection with our souls. But we often don't know how to meet these cravings in healthy ways, so we find other ways to fill those holes. From this point of view, all addictions are soul wounds -- misguided attempts to fill the needs of the soul.

When we can learn to honor our bodies, we are really honoring the gateways to our souls.

A renewal, indeed a complete transfiguration of your life, can come through attention to your senses. Your senses are the guides to take you deep into the inner world of your heart.

By being attuned to the wisdom of your senses, you will never become an exile in your own life, an outsider lost in an external spiritual place that your will and intellect have constructed. (pg. 58)

The world would be so much a better place if we all could live our lives with an openness to the physical nature of our souls.