Saturday, March 01, 2008

Daily Dharma: A conversation between the Buddha and a philosopher

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle is an old parable retold by Thich Nhat Hanh.

A conversation between the Buddha and a philosopher

I remember a short conversation between the Buddha and a philosopher of his time.

“I have heard that Buddhism is a doctrine of enlightenment. What is your method? What do you practice every day?”

“We walk, we eat, we wash ourselves, we sit down.”

“What is so special about that? Everyone walks, eats, washes, sits down…”

“Sir, when we walk, we are aware that we are walking; when we eat, we are aware that we are eating…. When others walk, eat, wash, or sit down, they are generally not aware of what they are doing.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Keys; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Death Cab For Cutie - Soul Meets Body

This may be my new favorite love song.

Noam Chomsky vs. William F. Buckley Debate

This is an old debate, from 1969, but it's quite representative of Buckley's skills as a thinker and policy wonk. I very often disagreed with Buckley's positions, but I always respected his intellect and curiosity. Those on the left will likely enjoy Chomsky's role in this debate.

William F Buckley will be missed.

Part One:

Part Two:

Friday, February 29, 2008

IOC News

I'm making some changes here at the Cafe because, well, it turns out that there is life outside of blogging. I know, I know, who woulda thunk it?

My work life is busier than it has ever been - I actually have a waiting list for new clients. Plus, I am still getting writing work. And then there is actually having a personal life, something I haven't had much of lately.

The biggest change will be the demise of the daily speedlinks. That is by far the most time-consuming thing I have been doing here. Hopefully, that will free some time to actually do more writing. I'd like to post a legitimate "article" at least a couple of times a week, rather than the current couple of times a month.

Other than that, the total volume of posts will drop, but hopefully the quality will increase some.

My apologies to all those who loved the speedlinks -- I did, too, but I just don't have the time to do that much reading anymore.

Daily Om: Healing What Hurts

This was yesterday's Daily Om, a reminder that while all of us have unresolved pain living within us, we are not that pain. If we can process it and heal it, we get closer to freeing ourselves from the suffering that limits our sense of who we are.

Freeing Up Energy
Healing What Hurts

Many of us go through our lives being aware of a well of pain that has been under our daily awareness for so long we aren’t even sure where it comes from. It almost seems as if it’s part of who we are, or the way we see the world, but it’s important to realize that this pain is something that needs to be acknowledged and processed. The longer we sit on it, the harder it is to work through, and the more likely it is that we will be forced to acknowledge it as it makes itself known to us in ways we can’t predict. Rather than waiting for this to happen, we can empower ourselves by identifying the pain and resolving to take action toward healing it.

The very thought of this brings up feelings of resistance in most of us, especially if, on the surface, our lives seem to be in order. It’s difficult to dig up the past and go into it unless we are being seriously inconvenienced by the hurt. The thing is, when we are carrying the burden of our unprocessed pain, sooner or later it will inconvenience us. If we can be brave and proactive, we can save ourselves a lot of future suffering and free up the energy that is tied up in keeping the pain down.

There are many ways to do this, but the first step is to recognize the pain and honor it by moving our awareness into it. In this process, even if it’s just five minutes during meditation, we will begin to have a sense of what the pain is made of. It might be fear of abandonment, childhood abuse, anger at being mistreated, or some other long held wound. As we sit with the pain, we will also have a sense of whether we can deal with it by ourselves or not. It may be time to work with a counselor or form a healing circle with close friends. Whatever path you choose, resolve to go deep into the pain so that you can release it fully, and set yourself free. Remember, it is never too late in life to heal what hurts, and there is never a better time than now.

Flashback Video: Bush - Glycerine

Yeah, I liked old Bush.


Satire: Idiom Shortage Leaves Nation All Sewed Up In Horse Pies

The Onion reports on the shortage of new idioms.

Idiom Shortage Leaves Nation All Sewed Up In Horse Pies

February 29, 2008 | Issue 44•09

WASHINGTON—A crippling idiom shortage that has left millions of Americans struggling to express themselves spread like tugboat hens throughout the U.S. mainland Tuesday in an unparalleled lingual crisis that now has the entire country six winks short of an icicle.

Since beginning two weeks ago, the deficit in these vernacular phrases has affected nearly every English speaker on the continent, making it virtually impossible to communicate symbolic ideas through a series of words that do not individually share the same meaning as the group of words as a whole. In what many are calling a cast-iron piano tune unlike any on record, idiomatic expression has been devastated nationwide.

Enlarge Image Idiom Shortage

Harvard's Howard Albright urges the U.S. idiom czar to release emergency replacement phrases.

"This is an absolute oyster carnival," said Harvard University linguistics professor Dr. Howard Albright, who noted that the 2008 idiom shortage has been the country's worst. "I don't know any other way to describe it."

Albright said that citizens in the South and West have been hit by the dearth of idioms like babies bite the bedpost, with people in those colorful expression–heavy regions unable to speak about anything related to rain storms, misers, sensations associated with nervousness, difficult or ironic predicaments, surprise at a younger relative's rapid increase in height, or love. In some areas, what few idioms remain are being bartered or sold at exorbitant prices. And, Albright claims, unless something is done before long to dry out the cinnamon jars, residents of Texas may soon cease speaking altogether.

"These people are desperate," said Albright, gesturing with his hands to indicate the severity of the problem there. "We've never seen anything like it. Some are being forced to choose between feeding their family and praising especially talented professional athletes. It's as if—it's really—it is bad."

With an emergency measure to release a pepper-stack of backup idioms into everyday speech still being debated in committee, Congress has been criticized for its inability to respond to the crisis. Moreover, a number of Beltway insiders have accused members of both houses of abusing their positions to gain access to hundreds of 1920s-era idioms that have been kept in reserve for decades.

"Well, bully," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who claimed that the Capitol was not expecting a shipment of fresh idioms for weeks. "Americans have to collar all their jive, and take us cats at our word: Everything's copacetic, daddy-o, so don't flip your lids."

The White House has not yet issued a comment on the crisis.

While it has been difficult to determine the overall mood of average Americans, anecdotal evidence points to a growing discontent that ranges from trudging down the pudding skin to outright anger. In Philadelphia, 71-year-old Melvin Hatcher said he has found himself "egg-hooked" in conversation on a daily basis.

"These politicians want us to believe that throwing a few mud thrones at the problem is going to make it go away," said Hatcher, a retired African-American boxing trainer and World War II veteran. "They can make all the promises they want, but they will always remain a collection of deceitful people, if you'll pardon the expression."

Authorities said they expect the shortage to subside by April, but in the meantime, they urge citizens to skip shy the rickshaw until such time as the flypaper marigolds have a chance to waterfall—with or without a pole dragon's cottage—unless the cork and the bubble-truck tumble from the mountaintop, at which point, of course, old birds could light up every tuba tent and walleyed river king from 44 to the roller coaster.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Electron Filmed for the First Time

Very cool.

An electron rides on a light wave after just having been pulled away from an atom. Credit: Lund University.

Scientists have filmed an electron in motion for the first time, using a new technique that will allow researchers to study the tiny particle's movements directly.


Alanis Morissette - Everything

I can understand the origin of this song -- when someone loves you that completely, you want to sing it to the whole world. It's a wonderful feeling.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I Didn't Speedlink Today

Life has been a bit erratic lately. My internet connection is currently sketchy, my work life is very busy, my personal life has more drama than I prefer, and I am still fighting off a staff infection. All of this causes stress on the body.

Antibiotics are a great thing when you need them, but they trash the immune system. While antibiotics kill the bad bacteria, they also kill all of the good bacteria in our intestines. The downside of this is that the immune system is based in the intestines, so antibiotics lower our immunity to anything they can't directly kill, such as viruses.

The flu has hit Tucson hard this year, and while I send my sick clients home, a lot of gym members aren't so considerate. I'm exposed to all kinds of stuff everyday. And usually that isn't a problem -- I have a good immune system. But this week, the combination of stress and a weakened immune system due to the antibiotics has lowered my immunity.

Last night I began to feel myself getting sick. Knowing I had a light day today, I decided to do a sweat to kill whatever is attacking me.

The basic idea is that viruses can only live within a certain temperature range, right around 98.6 Fahrenheit. Get the body below or above that average and the viruses die. Getting the below that temperature is not wise, so going above it, within reason, is the best option.

So today I put on three layers of sweats, raised the heat in my apartment as high as it would go, turned the oven on high and opened the door, and drank hot cinnamon tea. I did this for five hours and I already feel much better. With all of the immune boosting supplements I take, I should feel like new by tomorrow.

So far, this has never failed to stave off a cold or flu -- I hope it works this time too.

[NOTE: The contents of this post have not been reviewed or approved by a medical professional, and as such should only be used for entertainment purposes.]

John Shelby Spong on God

The post by John Shelby Spong ran in the On Faith section of the Washington Post a few days ago. This is by far the most cogent defense of God as a concept and experience that I have heard from a member of the mainstream clergy.

Please note that I am not a Christian (although I was raised Catholic), so the Biblical account of God has little to do with my experience. But no matter one's faith, I am always happy to see the experience of God separated from the concepts we use (which are necessarily limited) to define or talk about God.

John Shelby Spong

Former Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Newark

"“On Faith”" panelist John Shelby Spong served as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2000. His books, seeking to make contemporary theology accessible to lay readers, have sold over a million copies. His latest book, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Discover the God of Love (2005), examines the holy book of the Judeo-Christian tradition. A committed Christian who has spent a lifetime studying the Bible and whose life has been deeply shaped by it, Spong has been a visiting lecturer at universities, Including Harvard, and churches worldwide, delivering more than 200 public lectures each year to standing-room only crowds. His best-selling books include Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, A New Christianity for a New World, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and Here I Stand.

And here is the bit of wisdom he had to share:

Question Faith? Fear Not

There is a vast difference between the experience of God and the explanation of that experience. God cannot be captured in human words, but human concepts of God can be.

Those concepts are, however, always time warped and time bound as all things are when reduced to words. If one does not question, doubt and challenge his or her own faith assertions and creedal affirmations, then one becomes an idolater. God becomes little more than our own creation.

The Bible is a human explanation of the God experience, first of the Jews, then of the Christians. The Bible is, therefore, not the “Word of God” in any literal sense. It is a human creation. So are the creeds, doctrines, dogmas and traditions of the Christian Church. The idea that anyone would suggest that it is inappropriate to question these human concepts lies somewhere between the ridiculous and the absurd.

Only people and institutions fearful of the adequacy of their version of truth would suggest otherwise.

The comments are not as lame as one might expect, either.

Cool Blog: Stuff White People Like

This site was featured on NPR yesterday -- check it out, it's pretty damn funny.

Here is a taste of Stuff White People Like:

#70 Difficult Breakups

Prior to engaging in divorce, most white people train for it by engaging in a series of long term relationships that end very poorly. At some point, you will likely encounter a white person who is in the middle of a difficult breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The suffering of heartbreak is universal, but it is important to be aware that white people thrive during these trying times. If you play your cards right, you can parlay these moments into future favors and valuable trust.

The majority of white person art is created after a difficult breakup; films, indie music, and poetry are all kicked into high production during the end of a relationship. This helps train white people to prepare for the pain that is coming.

Once breakup proceedings have been initiated, a white person is immediately thrust into the center of attention in their circle of friends. During this time, they are permitted to talk at great lengths about themselves, listen to The Smiths, and get free dinners from friends who think “they shouldn’t be alone right now.”

It is imperative that you do not attempt to kick them out of their misery by saying things like “get over it,” “there are other people out there,” or “I don’t want to read your poem.” Implying that there things in the world more important to you than their breakup is considered one of the rudest actions possible.

If you are lucky enough to speak a second language, the best thing you can do for a white person in this situation is to give them an expression in that language that relates to breaking up. This will make them feel better since they are comforted by the gesture and happy to be learning a new sentence that they can reuse to with their friends.

I think this blog is great -- go read some of it.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - 12 string acoustic blues

Awesome footage from SRV's Mtv Unplugged performance.

Satire: You Know What's Stupid?

A cultural commentary from The Onion:

You Know What's Stupid? Everything I Don't Understand

By Steven Bowman
February 27, 2008 | Issue 44•09

For far too long I've sat idly by, twiddling my thumbs and respecting the right of others to form thoughts and opinions independent of my own, and I can't take it anymore. I've got to speak up about the many things that annoy me or I'm going to go crazy. Take these new credit cards with the microchips in them, for instance. Man, those things really get my goat—trying to improve a device that was working perfectly fine as it was. Even worse are those wrappers on CDs that take forever to open. But you know what I hate the most? The one thing that makes my blood boil whenever I see it? Anything beyond my mental capacity, that's what.

God, all the people, places, and things I haven't made the least bit of effort to comprehend should just die already.

Will you look at all this stuff I have neither the intellect nor the maturity level to process? What a load of crap. It's in my face every day, doing lots of things I don't have an immediate desire to do and saying things I can't identify with at this stage in my life. How lame is that? I mean, what kind of pathetic loser would actually enjoy something that's so incredibly not among my personal preferences? Not me, that's for sure.

Maybe my standards are too high, but if you like any of the hundreds upon hundreds of things that are too multifaceted for my attention span, you should have your head examined, weirdo.

And don't even get me started on complex and sophisticated notions I can't possibly wrap my head around. That stuff makes me want to puke. Just knowing there are people out there who like—actually like—interacting with concepts that overwhelm my feeble consciousness makes me embarrassed to be an American. I don't like it in our homes, I don't like it in our schools, I don't like it outside of my comfort zone—well, I just plain don't like it. And if that makes me closed-minded, well, then I guess I'll have to dismiss that accusation outright in order to avoid being introspective even for a moment.

Why, only yesterday I saw a commercial on TV for a new product I have no immediate use for and therefore cannot see any value in. Who's making this worthless junk? Seriously. If I see one more household appliance I am not mature enough to own or operate, I'm going to punch someone. I swear. Sell that to the suckers with the money and inclination to buy it, because I wouldn't take it off your hands if you gave it to me, provided me with a living situation stable enough to house it, and showed me how to use it in a manner that didn't disrupt any of my cripplingly sedentary lifestyle habits.

Same goes with any TV show, movie, band, solo act, artist, book, burgeoning subculture, celebrity, fashion trend, or religious belief that makes me feel excluded from my peers or otherwise ostracized by the mainstream. That stuff is retarded.

While I'm at it, I'm sick to death of this growing trend of people who don't share my cultural heritage. I don't know how you did things back in that country I never took the time to educate myself about, but around here, we dip our fries in ketchup. That's the way it's always been as far as I know, and that's the way it's going to be until such time as I choose to acknowledge diversity among the earth's 6.6 billion people.

If things don't start changing around here, I might have to up and leave this town. It's gotten to the point where I can't walk down the street without having some flier thrust into my face, advertising some dumb concert or stupid party or annoying art festival or lame-o Minnesota primary or any number of other events that no sane person with a crippling fear of the unknown and a wildly underdeveloped imagination would ever want to go to. I've never been to any of these social gatherings, but I imagine the scores of people who attend them must be total idiots.

You know what? You geeks go knock yourselves out. Really. Have a blast with all your differences in personality and preference. Don't worry about me, because I'll be sitting at home alone listening to the same four records I've been listening to since college, laughing at your expense.

What a bunch of losers.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dharma Quote: On Kindness

This is the Dharma Quote of the Week, from Snow Lion Publications. It's been sitting in my in-box waiting to be posted.

Dharma Quote of the Week

What do you think would be the chief obstacle in recognizing that each individual person has been kind to you? In my case, I was afraid of having to return the kindness, because then I'd be under the control of these people. I didn't want to do what my parents wanted me to do, although they gave me a lot of slack--I left college after my first year, went to the woods of Vermont, went to Tahiti, all on my own with whatever cash I earned. I didn't fit into the upper-middle-class community where we lived. I didn't want their control; the lifestyle they were pushing on me was completely unappealing. Therefore, I refused to recognize their kindness.

However, assuming a debt with respect to every sentient being differs greatly from having a debt to a few. In this meditation, you start with friends, then neutral persons, and then enemies and contemplate: "I will return the debt of kindness that I have with this person through helping her or him achieve happiness." It is easy to determine that the response to all sentient beings' kindness cannot be to do everything they want, since, with so many people, what they want from you would be at cross-purposes. You cannot even do everything your mother of this lifetime wants you to do, though you know her advice is, for the most part, motivated by kindness....

Those who help us--our parents, for instance--often attain power over us for that very reason: "Do as I say because I have helped you." Thus, for some, it becomes almost a mental habit to refuse to recognize those who have helped us, because they otherwise would attain some power over us. Still, we know we should return their many kindnesses. That is one reason why the practice of reflecting, "This person has helped me in many intimate ways and thus I must do something in return," gets to be uncomfortable, but when it is extended to more and more beings, we have to find a way of intending to return their kindness without coming under their misguided influence. cannot do everything all those sentient beings want. There are so many of them, and they want such contradictory things. Besides, to fulfill what they temporarily want may not be the best way to help them. The greatest of all ways to return their kindness is to help them become free from all suffering and to assist in the process of becoming liberated from cyclic existence and attaining the bliss of Buddhahood. It is important to realize here in the step of developing an intention to return others' kindness that acknowledging a debt does not mean that you must do what they say. Otherwise, you might hold back from the truth of their attentive care.

~ From A Truthful Heart: Buddhist Practices for Connecting with Others by Jeffrey Hopkins, foreword by the Dalai Lama, published by Snow Lion Publications.

August Kleinzahler Reviews The Selected Poems of Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley was one of the best poets of his generation, and virtually unknown outside the insular world of poetry. He Passed Away in 2005, so the expected Selected Poems has now been released.

This volume comes from The University of California Press, which suggests it will be among the better collections, and also that it will do nothing to generate any public interest (as might a volume from a trade press).

Here is a passage from The New York Times review:

No American poet was more influential or imitated over the next quarter-century, an influence that was not entirely benign. What can sometimes seem offhand, slight and casually improvised in Creeley’s work is not at all what it appears to be. But these are the qualities and attendant sense of permission that lesser writers fastened on. Creeley, as with many masters, whether in sport or literature, made it look easy.

The poems of the ’50s and ’60s, and many thereafter, tend to be small, stripped-down affairs, as bare-boned as Beckett. They are asymmetrical, highly tensile constructions. The voice is anonymous, agitated, distressed. The movement of a typical Creeley poem is halting, and jittery, with the lines turning nervously back on themselves, particular words or phrases served up over and over in different syntactical contexts, the poet worrying them for meaning. Here is a bit of “The Rain”:

even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent —
and I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

Among the many influences at work in Creeley’s poetry, William Carlos Williams seems to be foremost, most evidently in the unusual weight Creeley gives to enjambment in his lines. It is through this device that the poet creates his signature set of tensions. Few other poets, including Williams, make such telling events of their line breaks. But also in the mix from Williams is the plain diction and conversational tone. Both poets were fascinated with the cadences of ordinary American talk. Also, both poets steer clear of metaphor and simile. And if Williams is wary of adjectives, Creeley seems to have a real abhorrence of them.

From Ezra Pound as well as Williams, Creeley learned concision. The silences and what is left out of any given Creeley poem carry equal weight with what is written down, and it is impossible to read Creeley intelligently without taking this into account, much as one has to do with traditional Chinese or Japanese poetry. Also, it was through Pound that Creeley was introduced to the poetry of Thomas Campion and other Jacobeans, whose music and use of rhyme he found compatible with his own poetic enterprise. Creeley, when using rhyme, employs it at unpredictable intervals and as a form of emphasis. The poet was also clearly drawn to the Elizabethan and Jacobean anonymity of voice and form of address, usually to a woman — in which case the site of address is likely to be the bedroom — or himself. Creeley has no equal among modern love poets writing in English, even if love for Creeley is characteristically an occasion for turmoil and rather grim business. Here is “The Warning” in its entirety:

For love — I would
split open your head and put
a candle in
behind the eyes.

Love is dead in us
if we forget
the virtues of an amulet
and quick surprise.

For readers coming to Creeley’s work for the first time, the format of a “Selected Poems” is the best way in, and this new “Selected,” supplanting a 1991 edition, is well chosen by Benjamin Friedlander. It includes a number of moving later poems not included in the earlier volume, many on the subject of aging, most notably the poem “When I Think” from Creeley’s final collection, “On Earth.”

Read the whole review

Animation: End of Summer

Very cool.

The authors write:

In an abandoned city before a tropical storm, a woman decides to stay...

Through this film, our ambition was to portray a particular ambience and feeling more than a heavy storyline. We (Patrick Harboun, Ronan Le Fur and Joaquim Montserrat) worked on it for 6 months within our studies at Supinfocom, a French CG animation school.

The film's website features a lot of background information.
We hope you'll enjoy it.


Don't Push the History Eraser Button!

Some fun Ren & Stimpy.


Satire: Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

The Onion reports on the 2008 election. If this wasn't entirely plausible, it would be much funnier.

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Monday, February 25, 2008

Speedlinking 2/25/08

Quote of the day:

"Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it."
~ Jane Wagner

Image of the day (Darien Chin):


~ Advice From the World’s Healthiest Men -- "Want to lead an emotionally and physically healthier lifestyle? MSNBC published a worldwide survey of over 20,000 men in various countries on topics such as fitness, work, vacations, diet, sex lives, and health. Using surveys and statistics from sources such as the World Health Organization, the best and the worst countries in each category were ranked."
~ (Video) Why Soy is Not a Health Food -- "In this video, Dr. Mercola talks about how nonfermented soy is not a health food, and should be avoided because it has been genetically modified. This is a topic that can be of debate to vegetarians, because many of us depend upon soy to get our protein needs met."
~ Monster Whey Protein Shake Recipe! -- "One great thing about low-carb eating is that it is very satiating i.e. you feel satisfied sooner than when on a low-fat diet. This is good for cutting fat but could work against you if it causes you to under-eat." This is good for skinny younger guys, but us older guys would want to cut the cream.
~ 5 Ways to Avoid Lower Back Pain from Deadlifts -- "The prime movers during Deadlifts are your quadriceps, hamstrings & glutes. Your lower back, upper-back, traps & forearms perform isometric contractions: they stay contracted during the whole lift. That’s how Deadlifts strengthen your lower back: you must keep your back rigid against a load. Unfortunately many don’t strengthen but hurt their back doing Deadlifts. Here are 5 ways to avoid lower back pain from Deadlifts."
~ T-Nation Strength and Size Roundtable, Part 1 -- "A cadre of coaches discuss various bodybuilding and powerlifting topics, including the wisdom of trying to build size and strength at the same time, and the relative benefits of isolation movements vs. compound movements."
~ Study Suggests Antibiotics Are Overused -- "A woman dying of Alzheimer's has a fever. Should she be given antibiotics? Many people would say yes. But a provocative new study suggests that antibiotics are overused in people dying of dementia diseases and should be considered more carefully because of the growing problem of drug-resistant superbugs...."
~ Flu may be peaking, but can be avoided -- "In parts of the United States, influenza is peaking, and while this year's vaccine isn't as effective as usual, the flu's misery can be avoided, an expert says."

~ Blood test could reveal bipolar disorder - "A blood test could be used to diagnose and assess the severity of certain mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, according to a new study. But some experts think this raises ethical concerns."
~ Psychosis and the coming glutamate revolution -- "Dopamine has been the big player in understanding schizophrenia since antipsychotic drugs were discovered. All current antipsychotics have their main effect by blocking dopamine function in the mesolimbic pathway and there's now significant evidence that this is the location of one of the major dysfunctions."
~ How to Build Your Self-Esteem -- "Learn how to build confidence and increase your self-image. Vanquish your fears and overcome insecurity with these simple steps."
~ Clinical MDMA Brief (25 Feb 2008) [DrugMonkey] -- "As a brief update on my posts on the clinical use of MDMA (Part 1, Part 2) I'll note that the MAPS folks are trumpeting the initiation of yet another clinical trial with extra oomph because it is at dear auld Haavahd."
~ Coping with Existential Depression - "People and professionals often divide up depression into different types, such as “clinical” depression versus “non-clinical” depression, “biological” depression versus “situational” depression. The diagnostic manual professionals refer to, however, doesn’t make any distinctions about theorizing where or how your depression is caused, and neither does most research in this area. And yet, I believe such distinctions may serve a purpose if they help guide a person’s treatment choices."
~ 10 Ways We Hurt Our Romantic Relationships -- "It’s not easy to have a great relationship with your boy/girlfriend, partner, or spouse. But it’s not impossible, either — it takes some work, of course, but it’s good work, work that’s a joy when everything comes together."
~ Researchers Identify New Receptor Complex In Brain -- "Mount Sinai researchers have identified a new receptor complex in the brain that responds to several types of antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia and also reacts to hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD."
~ Anticipation Fires the Imagination -- "How horrifying might it be to lose a limb? How exhilarating might it be to find true love? When these things actually happen, reality rarely matches our predictions. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (ScienceNOW's publisher) today, psychologist Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University presented new experimental results that may explain why."

~ Hillary Steps Up Attacks on Obama as Judgment Day Approaches -- "Clinton's campaign has increased its attacks on Obama before Ohio and Texas, but is it to blame for circulating a picture of him in Kenyan garb?"
~ Two Views on Nader’s Candidacy -- "Ralph Nader has announced that he will run for the presidency for a third time. In the past months on Truthdig, the case has been made both for and against such a campaign. Here Chris Hedges says why he should run, while Robert Scheer tells Nader himself it would be better if he didn’t."
~ Architecture’s Battle of the Modernisms -- "Modernist architecture almost from the start had two chief strains. The one that produced Manhattan’s greatest icons, the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, as well as Rockefeller Center, flows from Paris: from the classical massing, symmetry, and proportion that Gotham architects learned at the École des Beaux-Arts, and from the astonishing vocabulary of ornament that they learned from the 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs that gave us the art deco style. The other current, the International Style, flowing from the Bauhaus art and design school founded in Germany in 1919, gave the world the glass and steel box, which arrived in New York at the start of the 1950s in the relatively refined forms of the UN Secretariat and Lever House on Park Avenue."
~ Judy Blume's lessons in love -- "Her explicit novels about the rites of adolescence are loved by teenage girls the world over - and loathed by America's religious right. As she approaches her 70th birthday, Judy Blume talks to Melissa Whitworth about sex, censorship and the trials of being fairy godmother to a generation of women."
~ Is a Liberal Renaissance in the Making? -- " This election should bring some optimism after years of right-wing dominance."
~ The Movement And The Maverick -- "An Obama-McCain race would probably accelerate the process of scrambling the parties' historic class alignment."
~ Take a Stand Against Torture (It’s a Moral Issue) -- "The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is an interfaith effort “committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Its motto: ‘Torture is a moral issue.’"
~ America's Unfaithful Faithful -- "Americans are a religious people, but they switch religious groups with surprising frequency, a major new survey finds."

~ South Africa OKs Killing of Elephants -- "South Africa announced Monday that it was reversing a 1995 ban on killing elephants to help control their booming population, drawing instant outrage from animal-rights activists." It's things like this that make me misanthropic on occasion.
~ Low-Level Carbon Monoxide Dangers -- "You might be suffering the toxic effects without even knowing it."
~ SCUBA-2 Camera Will Explore Earliest Phases Of Galaxy Formation -- "A giant camera known as SCUBA-2 is being transported to the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. Rather than detecting visible light, SCUBA-2 will detect submillimeter radiation, which is sensitive to the heat emitted by extremely cold dust in the Universe. This material is associated with the mysterious earliest phases of the formation of galaxies, stars and planets, until now largely undetectable. Typically the dust is at temperatures of about -200 Celsius and so detecting its extremely weak emissions presents a huge technological challenge."
~ Masters Of Disguise: Secrets Of Nature's 'Great Pretenders' Revealed -- "A gene which helps a harmless African butterfly ward off predators by giving it wing patterns like those of toxic species, has been identified. The mocker swallowtail butterfly, Papilio dardanus, is unusual because it emerges from its chrysalis with one of a large number of different possible wing patterns and colors. This is different from most butterfly species which are identified by a common wing pattern and colour. Furthermore, some of the different patterns that the mocker swallowtail exhibits mimic those of poisonous species, which affords this harmless insect a valuable disguise which scares off predators."
~ Dust In West Up 500 Percent In Past Two Centuries -- "The West has become 500 percent dustier in the past two centuries due to westward US expansion and accompanying human activity beginning in the 1800s, according to a new study."
~ Honey bee invaders exploit the genetic resources of their predecessors -- "Like any species that aspires to rule the world, the honey bee, Apis mellifera, invades new territories in repeated assaults. A new study demonstrates that when these honey bees arrive in a place that has already been invaded, the newcomers benefit from the genetic endowment of their predecessors."
~ That's Folding! Cube's Urban Street Concept Bike -- "We love folding bikes. Because they remove one of the arguments about taking up cycling; “I don’t have any room for a bicycle.” Here is a folding bike concept to would give short shrift to that excuse, were it ever to transition into a real world commercial product. Gregor Dauth, a student at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany has worked with Cube bikes to develop his Urban Street Concept Bike." Beautiful bike!

~ Gray Hairs & the Dhamma -- "Reflecting on the aging process over a period of time helps one to accept the fact that one isn’t getting any younger. It’s a natural aspect of life that all phenomena deteriorate with time: even million year old wine won’t be a vintage! And it’s not just living beings that wither with time: looking at the ruins of Angkor Wat, the Coliseum, or the Sphinx, it can be seen how they all are subject to the same forces that whiten our hair over the years. Everything is impermanent (anicca)."
~ Change is certain (replay) -- "Change of URL! I'm about to start a new blog at where I will post my own articles from time to time. (Therefore, will only be used privately. Sorry for the confusion.) This place has been renamed to h~log and will feature recommendations, references, or short comments on entertaining, educating, and enlightening material found elsewhere in text or video." Make note of this in your readers.
~ Jonah Goldberg's Narcissistic Take on Global Warming -- "So I was surfing the conservative side of the Web when I encountered Jonah Goldberg's article on National Review Online, Global Cooling Costs Too Much. I would've let his article pass but even to a Climate Change moderate like me Goldberg's closing statement was just too ludicrous not to rip apart."
~ 2008 Blogisattva Award Winners Announced -- "Today's the day that the world has been waiting for, when the winners are announced -- for the Blogisattva Awards! [drumroll, please] "And the winners are ... why, Buddhism blog readers, worldwide."
~ It is so, it is so -- "Much of the life of Shinran, founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, is detailed in the letters his wife, Eshinni, and his daughter Kakushinni exchanged. In the final years of Shinran’s life, both he and Kakushinni moved to Kyoto (now that Shinran was pardoned), and so both mother and daughter exchanged letters."
~ The Merits of Melancholia -- "English professor Eric G. Wilson argues that the American pursuit of happiness, fueled by Prozac and "positive psychology," has robbed many lives of the "fertility of pain" or "melancholia" that propelled Keats, Handel, Georgia O'Keefe, and countless others to their greatest works. Joni Mitchell calls her bouts with melancholia the "sand that makes the pearl," and Professor Wilson says...."
~ Become an Integral Peacemaker -- "Watch Fleet Maull on Integral Peacemaker Training."

B. Alan Wallace - Toward the First Revolution in the Mind Sciences

An excellent Google Tech-Talk featuring B. Alan Wallace.

Physicist, monk, psychologist, and neuroscientist B. Alan Wallace explains why the first real revolution in the mind sciences hasn't occurred yet.

B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. has been a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism since 1970. He is currently seeking ways to integrate Buddhist contemplative practices and Western science to advance the study of the mind. He is the founder and president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies ( ).


Daily Om: Feeling Stuck

This was Friday's Daily Om, which I never got around to posting. But this is a good one -- a reminder that we are always exactly where we need to be on our path, even when we are feeling stuck.

Part Of The Process
Feeling Stuck

When we feel stuck in our lives it’s important to take stock of what is going on and find out if there is something we are doing or not doing that is keeping us stuck. Sometimes the situation is out of our control, and we need to look within to find the patience required to wait with equanimity until things move forward again. Many times, though, we can find the source of our stagnation in our own hearts and minds.

Sometimes we are clinging to old ideas about reality and we need to make adjustments that will bring us back in tune with life, so we can flow again. Sometimes we find that fear of change is what’s keeping us stuck, and we can resolve to find ways of facing that fear.

If introspection does not provide the answers we need, it can sometimes be helpful to ask those around you if they notice anything obvious that you might not be able to see. Remember to ask someone whom you can trust to be kind and sensitive as well as honest. Try to let go of your resistance because whenever there is something we can’t see ourselves, it’s because we don’t want to see it. Try to listen with an open mind, and remember that you are always the final judge of what you need. Anything offered to us from an outside source will need to be processed within before its wisdom can take hold.

In all this, be kind to yourself and remember that we all get stuck sometimes. Think of it as a part of your process, a necessary step on your journey, rather than as a problem that shouldn’t be happening. This can help to keep your frustration at bay and give you the space you need to take a deep breath and really figure out what’s going on.

The Velvet Underground - 1986 Documentary

A good documentary on the most under-acknowledged but important band to come out of the sixties. If not for the VU, the history of music as we know it would have been much different.

From Wikipedia:

The Velvet Underground was an American rock band first active from 1965 to 1970 (and 1970 to 1973 in a different incarnation). Its best-known members were Lou Reed and John Cale. Although never commercially successful while together, the Velvet Underground are often cited by critics as one of the most important and influential groups of their era.[1] A famous remark, often attributed to British musician Brian Eno, is that while only a few thousand people bought the first Velvet Underground record upon its release, almost every single one of them was inspired to start a band.[2] Their sound influenced many later musicians in many genres, including experimental, post-punk, new wave, and gothic rock.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

2008 Blogisattva Award Winners

The 2008 Blogisattva Award Winners have been announced.

A well-deserved Blog of the Year award went to One foot in front of the other by Michael. It is our loss that Michael passed away early this year from a rare form of cancer. Alas, all things are impermanent.

Among the many and diverse winners, IOC won for Best Achievement in Wide Range of Topic Interests Blogging. I was also a contributer to the Best New Blog winner, Progressive Buddhism.

Here is the full list of winners -- please check out these fine blogs and bloggers.

The 2008 winners, for achievement in calendar year 2007, are:

Blog of the year, Svaha!;

* * * * *

Best Post of the Year
: "Addressing Comments From the Meditation Thread"; Tricycle Blogs - Jeff Wilson; Jeff Wilson

* * * * *

Best Achievement in Skilled Writing
(The Wordsmithing Award): Ed of Bad Buddha.

* * * * *

Best New Blog, 2007
: Progressive Buddhism, a group blog with contributions by Ordinary Extraordinary [Justin Farquar], WH [William Harryman], Nacho Cordova, Buddhist_philosopher [Justin Whitaker], odin [Paul Jahshan], Tom [Tom Armstrong], and Joe in 2007.

* * * * *

Best Achievement Blogging on Buddhist Practice or Dharma
[blog; blogger(s)]: 108 Days; an anonymous group blog.

* * * * *

Best Buddhist Practice or Dharma Post ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Briefest ruminations on the death of a child"; Monkey Mind; John Ishmael Ford

* * * * *

Best Achievement Blogging in the First Person [as a diarist; writing of events in one's life; offering thoughts; or by venturing out into the world, gonzo style] [blog, blogger]: One foot in front of another; Michael

* * * * *

Best "Life" Blog Post [Best Achievement Blogging in the First Person (as a diarist; writing of events in one's life; or offering personal thoughts)] ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Breaking Point"; One foot in front of the other; Michael

* * * * *

Best Achievement Blogging on Matters Philosophical or Psychological [blog, blogger]: American Buddhist [the combination of American Buddhist Perspective (1/1-9/23/07) & American Buddhist in England (9/23-12/31/07)]; Justin Whitaker

* * * * *

Best Philosophy or Psychology Post ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Zen Teachings and Idolatry"; Flapping Mouths; TedinAnacortes

* * * * *

Best Achievement Blogging on Matters Scientific [blog; blogger]: Sentient Developments; George Dvorsky

* * * * *

Best Science Blog Post ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Perils of a Digital Life"; Sentient Developments; George Dvorsky

* * * * *

Best Achievement in Kind and Compassionate Blogging [blog, blogger]: One Foot in Front of the Other; Michael

* * * * *

Best Kind and Compassionate Blog Post ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Awakening"; Budding Buddhist; EdaMommy

* * * * *

Best Achievement Blogging Opinion Pieces or about Political Issues [blog, blogger]: Zen Traveler: Eric Stewart

* * * * *

Best Opinion or Political Blog Post ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Politics: toward a Buddhist immigration policy"; American Buddhist in England; Justin Whitaker

* * * * *

Best Engage-the-World Blog Post ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Meat eaters are bad people"; Sentient Developments; George Dvorsky

* * * * *

Best Achievement in Clean, Straightforward, Unaffected Design [blog, blogger]: Hoarded Ordinaries; Lorianne DiSabato

* * * * *

Best Achievement in Wonderful, Remarkable, Elegant Design [blog; blogger]: Tannishblog; Tannish

* * * * *

Best Achievement in Creation or Use of Graphics in a Blog [awarded for use within posts for overall effect] [blog, blogger]: Hoarded Ordinaries; Lorianne DiSabato

* * * * *

Best Single Photograph, taken by blogger or an associate, used in a post [Photo link; description; "post"; blog; blogger]: Photo link; "A Western pilgrim sitting among the small stupas and votives at the Mahabodhi Mahavihara."; "India Post #23"; Danny Fisher; Danny Fisher

* * * * *

Best Achievement with Use of Quotations in a Blog [blog; blogger]: lotusinthemud; sujatin

* * * * *

Best Achievement in Wide Range of Topic Interests Blogging [blog, blogger]: Integral Options Cafe; William Harryman

* * * * *

Best Niche Blog, Unusual-Function Blog, Blog Service, or a Serial within a Blog[blog, blogger(s)]: Buddhist Military Sangha; Lt. Jeanette Shin et al

* * * * *

Best Multi-Part Blog Post [post series; blog; blogger]: Dharma from the sky "I: legends and history", "II: Indian or Chinese dharma?";; Sam Van Schaik

* * * * *

Best Achievement with Humor in a Blog Post ["post"; blog; blogger]: "Vegetarian Christmas"; This Is This; Cliff Jones

Update: My Broken Nose

So I mentioned the other day that I had broken my nose. I went back to see a doctor this morning because I was concerned that the staff infection wasn't healing fast enough -- and because the comments on the original post freaked me out a bit.

It's not MRSA. And although it wasn't healing as fast as the first doctor had suggested, it's doing fine. He did a more thorough exam and said that the staff entered through the broken skin and set up camp in the nostril on one side.

That made me feel better -- and my nose is actually starting to look like my nose again.

But as usual, I bumped up against closed-minded medicine. I have been using olive leaf extract, a pretty potent natural antibiotic and antiviral, and tea tree oil, which on topical MRSA is statistically as beneficial as any pharmaceutical. The doctor told me I was silly to be wasting time and money on such things.

I personally think both have been useful. Especially the tea tree oil, even though I don't like it's estrogenic side effects. But for short-term use, I can live with it. When I apply the oil, the pain and swelling subside almost immediately, so I have been applying it several times a day.

Hopefully, someday, mainstream medicine will accept the benefits of complementary approaches.

Regular blogging should resume tomorrow, as much as my schedule will allow.

The Other Three Nominations for Animated Short Oscar

This is one of my favorite categories in the Oscars, which air tonight. But very little attention is usually paid to the nominees or the winner.

Here are the other three nominations, in addition to Peter and the Wolf.

Madame Tutli-Putli

Madame Tutli-Putli is a beautifully realized, maccabre film. The stop-motion animation on show here is brilliant. Most interesting are the eye movements. The effect was achieved by using eyeless puppets, and then using a human actor to film the corresponding eye movements. Once the tracking was complete, the footage was re-timed with the animation and then digitally composited into the onto the puppet scenes.


My Love

Moya Lyubov (My Love) is, quite literally, an animated oil painting. I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into making this film but it shows. Unfortunately it is in Russian, sans subtitles, but it remains breathtaking to watch nevertheless.


I Met the Walrus

This is the trailer and an interview with the creators for the short film honoring John Lennon.

"Peter and the Wolf" - Nominated for Best Animated Short Oscar

This is quite beautiful.

A modern interpretation of Sergei Prokofiev’s famous composition by stop-motion animator Suzie Templeton. Unlike the Prokofiev’s original, Templeton has decided to excise any narration.


Tool - Vicarious

The sound quality is a little off on this video, but it's still quite good.