Even in absurdity, sacrament. Even in hardship, holiness. Even in doubt, faith. Even in chaos, realization. Even in paradox, blessedness
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"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage." ~Anain Nin
Sedaris: Suitable for framing
She examined all of the painting, and then parts of it, her fingers dabbing in sympathy as she studied the brushstrokes.
“What are you thinking about?” I once asked.
And she said, “Oh, you know, the composition, the surfaces, the way things look realistic when you’re far away but weird when you’re up close.”
“Me, too,” I said, but what I was really thinking was how grand it would be to own a legitimate piece of art and display it in my bedroom. Even with my babysitting income, paintings were out of the question, so instead I invested in postcards, which could be bought for a quarter in the museum shop and matted with shirt cardboard. This made them look more presentable.
I was looking for framing ideas one afternoon when I wandered into a little art gallery called the Little Art Gallery. It was a relatively new place, located in the North Hills Mall and owned by a woman named Ruth, who was around my mom’s age, and introduced me to the word “fabulous,” as in: “If you’re interested, I’ve got a fabulous new Matisse that just came in yesterday.”
This was a poster rather than a painting, but still I regarded it the way I thought a connoisseur might, removing my glasses and sucking on the stem as I tilted my head. “I’m just not sure how it will fit in with the rest of my collection,” I said, meaning my Gustav Klimt calendar and the cover of the King Crimson LP tacked above my dresser.
Venezuelan-Owned Citgo Faces Congressional Inquiry For Offering Discounted Oil to U.S. Poor
In Washington, Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas has launched an investigation into one of the world’s major oil companies. But he is not investigating whether any of the oil giants are engaging in price gouging at a time when gasoline and heating oil casts are skyrocketing. Instead Barton has set his sights on the only oil company that actually dared to lower its prices last year - at least for the poorest Americans. Last week Barton demanded the Venezuelan-owned company Citgo produce all records, minutes, logs, e-mails and even desk calendars related to the company’s novel program of supplying discounted heating oil to low-income communities in the United States. The Citgo program, which began late last year in Massachusetts and the South Bronx, provides oil at discounts as high as 60% off market price.
Heh. Obvious, isn't it? Cutting into good ol' 'Merican profits is a big no-no, even in the midst of altrusim. Remember to get your gas at Citgo, folks.
Black and white twins
When Kylie Hodgson gave birth to twin daughters by caesarean section, she was just relieved that they had arrived safely. It was only when the midwife handed them over for her to hold that she noticed the difference between them. Remee, who weighed 5lb 15oz, was blonde and fair skinned. Her sister Kian, born a minute later weighing 6lb, was black...
Very occasionally, the egg or sperm might contain genes coding for one skin colour. If both the egg and sperm contain all white genes, the baby will be white. And if both contain just the versions necessary for black skin, the baby will be black. For a mixed-race couple, the odds of either of these scenarios is around 100 to one. But both scenarios can occur at the same time if the woman conceives non-identical twins, another 100 to one chance. This involves two eggs being fertilised by two sperm at the same time, which also has odds of around 100 to one. If a sperm containing all-white genes fuses with a similar egg and a sperm coding for purely black skin fuses with a similar egg, two babies of dramatically different colours will be born.
The odds of this happening are 100 x 100 x 100 - a million to one.
Claim of reversed human evolution provokes skepticism, interest
Scientists’ reactions have ranged from deep skepticism to interest in a report of a mutation that makes people walk on all fours, cited in a Turkish study as a possible instance of “backward evolution...”
This might help resolve a debate over how our forebears walked, they added. The mutation is documented only in five members of a Turkish family, whom researchers also describe as mentally and verbally underdeveloped... The British team argued in a report dated Oct. 3, part of a discussion paper series the Centre publishes, that it’s possible—but debatable—that “we are indeed seeing the ‘rediscovery’ of something very like the quadrupedal [four-limbed] gait used by our ancestors.”
Carriers of the mutation, they wrote, all children of one couple, “as adults have continued to walk—highly effectively—on hands and feet.” This gait, they added, seems to be a development of a type of crawl that some children take up as a transitional stage before upright walking.
Affected people walk palms down, unlike great apes, which walk on their knuckles, wrote the British group... “The local villagers laugh at and tease” the victims, they added. “Because of this, the females tend to stay close to the house, but the male sometimes wanders for several kilometres. He helps raise money for his family by collecting cans and bottles, which he carries home in a pouch made from his shirt, held by his teeth. He is remarkably agile.”
Abandon the world. The world is the enemy of the Earth. The "world as we know it" is a deadly parasite on the biosphere. Both cannot survive, nor can the world survive without the Earth. Do the logic: the world is doomed. If you stay on the parasite, you die with it. If you move to the Earth, and it survives in something like its recent form, you can survive with it.
The very premise of North Carolina’s mental health reform — that money saved by closing state hospital beds would follow patients into the community — is being overturned, mental health care providers and advocates say.
The state’s budget director, David McCoy, has advised that the money instead be diverted to pay debt service — $4 million this year and $8.9 million next year — on the new state hospital under construction in Butner. The city is about four hours east of Asheville, not far from Durham.
In a letter to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker Odum, McCoy said the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services is not authorized to transfer money from “downsizing funds” to the local management entities. The LMEs, as they are known, are responsible for building and managing a network of local mental health services providers.
The state plans to close Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh and John Umstead Hospital in Butner, which have 631 beds between them, and consolidate services into one new hospital that will have 432 beds.
This action comes on the heels of a proposal to cut $28 million in administration funds to the LMEs in the coming budget year.
About one in four Americans has a diagnosable mental illness. About one in 17 — or 6 percent of the population — has a severe mental illness, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. People with a serious mental illness are less likely than the general population to have health insurance because of their difficulty staying employed, so they rely more heavily on public support for treatment.
“We can’t build a network of services if we don’t have the money to do it,” said Anne Doucette, director of provider and community network development at Western Highlands Network. “It just can’t be done without money. People are going to wind up in crisis, in jails and emergency rooms, and that’s a lot more expensive.”
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Yay for Jubilee!
Yes, that's me. And about 300 other very happy people on a day of celebration.
Listen: South Africa's Kwaito Generation
Some people call it South Africa's hip hop. But kwaito is more than that. It's an urban soup of South African jazz and township pop mixed with Western house and rap. It's the music that defines the generation who came of age after apartheid.
South Africa's story today is its youth. More than half the population is age 25 or younger. In a still prepubescent democracy, this generation has been affecting the culture, language and economy of South Africa in more ways than the West may realize. And kwaito is the reason.
Like American hip hop, kwaito was built from the ground up, originating in what its performers often refer to as "the ghetto." (In this case, though, that ghetto is in Soweto, the township where blacks were forced to live during apartheid.)
The music has afforded young blacks opportunities they could only have dreamt of under forced segregation. It has meant financial freedom for some. Moreover, it has given them the chance to exercise their recently won freedom of speech; to address the new struggles (AIDS, crime, xenophobia) that have developed in the wake of the struggle; and to bring their experiences to the TV's and radios of a nation that is still discovering its identity.
Stunning, beautiful audio + photographs from a Jain festival
It left me wonderstruck...
The blog and its creator are enjoying the weekend, lazily and happily.
Phillip K. Dick: If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others
May I tell you how much I appreciate your asking me to share some of my ideas with you. A novelist carries with him constantly what most women carry in large purses: much that is useless, a few absolutely essential items, and then, for good measure, a great number of things that fall in between. But the novelist does not transport them physically because his trove of possessions is mental. Now and then he adds a new and entirely useless idea; now and then he reluctantly cleans out the trash -- the obviously worthless ideas -- and with a few sentimental tears sheds them. Once in a great while, however, he happens by chance onto a thoroughly stunning idea new to him that he hopes will turn out to be new to everyone else. It is this final category that dignifies his existence. But such truly priceless ideas. . . perhaps during his entire lifetime he may, at best, acquire only a meager few. But that is enough; he has, through them, justified his existence to himself and to his God.
An odd aspect of these rare, extraordinary ideas that puzzles me is their mystifying cloak of -- shall I say -- the obvious. By that I mean, once the idea has emerged or appeared or been born -- however it is that new ideas pass over into being -- the novelist says to himself, "But of course. Why didn't I realize that years ago?" But note the word "realize." It is the key word. He has come across something new that at the same time was there, somewhere, all the time. In truth, it simply surfaced. It always was. He did not invent it or even find it; in a very real sense it found him. And -- and this is a little frightening to contemplate -- he has not invented it, but on the contrary, it invented him. It is as if the idea created him for its purposes. I think this is why we discover a startling phenomenon of great renown: that quite often in history a great new idea strikes a number of researchers or thinkers at exactly the same time, all of them oblivious to their compeers. "Its time had come," we say about the idea, and so dismiss, as if we had explained it, something I consider quite important: our recognition that in a certain literal sense ideas are alive.
What does this mean, to say that an idea or a thought is literally alive? And that it seizes on men here and there and makes use of them to actualize itself into the stream of human history?
Top stars picked in alien search
A US astronomer has drawn up a shortlist of the stars most likely to harbour intelligent life. Scientists have been listening out for radio signals from other solar systems in the hope of detecting civilisations other than our own.
Margaret Turnbull at the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC looked at criteria such as the star's age and the amount of iron in its atmosphere. Her top candidate was beta CVn, a Sun-like star 26 light-years away.
Integrative Spirituality: Spiritualized Activism
Our world is no longer perceived as a linear, predictable environment where we can plan for future outcomes with certainty. Chaos is abound, there is an overabundance of information, fragmentation and the planet appears plagued by serious problems that could bring it to the brink of destruction. But there is also a phoenix rising from this bleak picture and with it comes new understanding, new perspective and new ways of being - not just doing. This phoenix carries on its wings an improved form of activism --- spiritual activism.
Co-creating with the divine intelligence (or what Tom Atlee the author of The Tao of Democracy refers to as co-intelligence) to increase our capacity of developing creative solutions to the world's rich challenges, taps into the power of the universe. Instead of pushing, driving and forcing with our will, we can let go and let the process of social change organically unfold. We can put our attention on the process itself and support the evolution of a better global and local society by going within and using this divine intelligence to guide us in our actions. This is where spiritual activism begins, with the transformation of each individual being.
SubGenius Membership Allegedly Leads to Loss of Child Custody
Deliver us from ourselves, Bob.
On February 3, 2006, Judge Punch heard testimony in the case. Jeff entered into evidence 16 exhibits taken from the Internet, 12 of which are photographs of the SubGenius event, X-Day. Kohl has never attended X-Day and is not in any of the pictures. Rachel is depicted in many of these photos, often wearing skimpy costumes or completely nude, while participating in X-Day and Detroit Devival events.
Glacier Melt Could Signal Faster Rise in Ocean Levels
Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth's oceans will rise over the next century, scientists said yesterday.
Meditation found to increase brain size
Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.
In one area of gray matter, the thickening turns out to be more pronounced in older than in younger people. That's intriguing because those sections of the human cortex, or thinking cap, normally get thinner as we age.
"Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being," says Sara Lazar, leader of the study and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. "These findings are consistent with other studies that demonstrated increased thickness of music areas in the brains of musicians, and visual and motor areas in the brains of jugglers. In other words, the structure of an adult brain can change in response to repeated practice."
Another paradise found
You see those little shapes in the bottom left? Those are helicopters.
A cave so huge helicopters can fly into it has just been discovered deep in the hills of a South American jungle paradise. Actually, "Cueva del Fantasma"—Spanish for "Cave of the Ghost"—is so vast that two helicopters can comfortably fly into it and land next to a towering waterfall. It was found in the slopes of Aprada tepui in southern Venezuela, one of the most inaccessible and unexplored regions of the world. The area, known as the Venezuelan Guayana, is one of the most biologically rich, geologically ancient and unspoiled parts of the world.
This is the first geographic report and photographic evidence of such an immense cave. However, researchers say, it isn’t really a cave, but a huge, collapsed, steep gorge. As a bonus, researchers also discovered a new dendrobatid frog species...
Quantum computer works best switched off!
With the right set-up, the theory suggested, the computer would sometimes get an answer out of the computer even though the program did not run. And now researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have improved on the original design and built a non-running quantum computer that really works.
Quantum computers have the potential for solving certain types of problems much faster than classical computers. Speed and efficiency are gained because quantum bits can be placed in superpositions of one and zero, as opposed to classical bits, which are either one or zero. Moreover, the logic behind the coherent nature of quantum information processing often deviates from intuitive reasoning, leading to some surprising effects.
Choose Your Villain
Note the eerie similarities between Goldstein and whomever the posterboy of the day is for All That Is Wrong In America:
In the novel Goldstein is rumored to be a former top member of the ruling (and sole) Party who had broken away early in the movement and started an organization known as "The Brotherhood", dedicated to the fall of The Party. However, in the course of the novel, the reader never learns if "The Brotherhood" or Goldstein himself actually ever existed, even though he is led to believe that neither Goldstein, nor the "Brotherhood," nor "Big Brother" exists outside of suggestion.
37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty
The flickering television in Candy Lumpkins's trailer blared out The Bold and the Beautiful. It was a fantasy daytime soap vision of American life with little relevance to the reality of this impoverished corner of Kentucky.
The Lumpkins live at the definition of the back of beyond, in a hollow at the top of a valley at the end of a long and muddy dirt road. It is strewn with litter. Packs of stray dogs prowl around, barking at strangers. There is no telephone and since their pump broke two weeks ago Candy has collected water from nearby springs. Oblivious to it all, her five-year-old daughter Amy runs barefoot on a wooden porch frozen by a midwinter chill.
It is a vision of deep and abiding poverty. Yet the Lumpkins are not alone in their plight. They are just the negative side of the American equation. America does have vast, wealthy suburbs, huge shopping malls and a busy middle class, but it also has vast numbers of poor, struggling to make it in a low-wage economy with minimal government help.
A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.
Annexing Khuzestan; Battle-Plans for Iran
Bush has no intention of occupying Iran. Rather, the goal is to destroy major weapons-sites, destabilize the regime, and occupy a sliver of land on the Iraqi border that contains 90% of Iran’s oil wealth. Ultimately, Washington will aim to replace the Mullahs with American-friendly clients who can police their own people and fabricate the appearance of representative government. But, that will have to wait. For now, the administration must prevent the incipient Iran bourse (oil-exchange) from opening in March and precipitating a global sell-off of the debt-ridden dollar. There have many fine articles written about the proposed “euro-based” bourse and the devastating effects it will have on the greenback. The best of these are ‘’Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar’‘ by William R. Clark, and ‘’The Proposed Oil Bourse’‘ by Krassimir Petrov, Ph.D.
The bottom line on the bourse is this; the dollar is underwritten by a national debt that now exceeds $8 trillion dollars and trade deficits that surpass $600 billion per year. That means that the greenback is the greatest swindle in the history of mankind. It’s utterly worthless. The only thing that keeps the dollar afloat is that oil is traded exclusively in greenbacks rather than some other currency. If Iran is able to smash that monopoly by trading in petro-euros then the world’s central banks will dump the greenback overnight, sending markets crashing and the US economy into a downward spiral.
The Bush administration has no intention of allowing that to take place. In fact, as the tax-cuts and the budget deficits indicate, the Bush cabal fully intends to perpetuate the system that trades worthless dollars for valuable commodities, labor, and resources. As long as the oil market is married to the dollar, this system of global indentured servitude will continue.
Mutual Back Scrtatching, Ltd: U.S. Has Royalty Plan to Give Windfall to Oil Companies
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The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years.
New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.
Based on the administration figures, the government will give up more than $7 billion in payments between now and 2011. The companies are expected to get the largess, known as royalty relief, even though the administration assumes that oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period.
...the projected largess could be just the start. Last week, Kerr-McGee Exploration and Development, a major industry player, began a brash but utterly serious court challenge that could, if it succeeds, cost the government another $28 billion in royalties over the next five years.
In what administration officials and industry executives alike view as a major test case, Kerr-McGee told the Interior Department last week that it planned to challenge one of the government's biggest limitations on royalty relief if it could not work out an acceptable deal in its favor. If Kerr-McGee is successful, administration projections indicate that about 80 percent of all oil and gas from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico would be royalty-free.
"It's one of the greatest train robberies in the history of the world," said Representative George Miller, a California Democrat who has fought royalty concessions on oil and gas for more than a decade. "It's the gift that keeps on giving."
Chainsaw Charlie likes it: Bush plan could sell WNC tracts
The Bush administration has proposed selling 300,000 acres of public land nationwide, including some 6,615 acres in the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests in Western North Carolina. Some land in the Uwharrie and Croatan national forests in North Carolina would also be put up for sale. The money generated would be distributed to counties for schools.
That's the milquetoasty version. Scrutiny Hooligans spells it out fo' real:
Representative Taylor could, of course, go ahead and tell us how his values figure into the equation, whether selling public lands to private interests as a short-term education funding measure is something that's good for western North Carolina. But he has so far refrained from stating any sort of relevant opinion on the matter... The AC-T article makes it clear that underfunded rural schools, now seeing declining timber sales that were used to prop up a lack of federal and state support, depend on the money now supplied through timber funds. However, the article does not address the larger problem of school funding that is driving this wrongheaded proposal.
Caring for Your Introvert
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?
If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?
If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.
An interview with Fritjof Capra
at the very core of my framework is the analysis of networks, of living networks and the comparison of biological and social networks. And first, as I did already in The Web of Life, I identified a set of key characteristics of living networks. One of them is that these networks are self-generating, that is, every part in the network contributes to continually generate and regenerate the whole. For example, in a cell, you have a network of chemical processes and the food comes in from the outside, simple molecules, sugars, oxygen and so on, come in from the outside, and the cellular network builds all the structures—the proteins, the enzymes, the DNA—all that is built and continually rebuilt and regenerated and maintained by the cellular network.
Now in human society, we’re not talking about chemical processes, we’re talking about processes of communication. A human community is a network of communications. This network of communications also generates itself continually. What it generates, though, are not so much material structures but ideas, information, meaning. These are nonmaterial structures. When a conversation or a communication happens, it gives rise to ideas or information, which then trigger new communications. The entire network also sustains itself and continually regenerates conversations and communications.
Another similarity would be that both types of networks, the biological and the social, create their own boundaries. So a cell, again, creates its boundary, which is semipermeable. That is, it lets certain substances in and others it doesn’t let in, and it gives the cell its identity in this way. The boundary is created by the cell itself. Similarly, of course, multicellular organisms have other kinds of boundaries—we have our skin, you know, the various boundaries of organisms. A social network of communications also creates its boundaries but again, they are not primarily material boundaries, although these also exist, but they are cultural boundaries.
When you have a community, you know who belongs to the community and who doesn’t, and you would treat them differently, you would have different expectations as to their behavior, you would share information differently—some things you would tell people in the community and not tell people outside of the community and so on. This is a boundary of trust, a boundary of expectations, a boundary of values and meaning. It is also continually generated and renegotiated by the network, by the community.
Giving déjà vu a second look (again)
Dr Chris Moulin first encountered chronic déjà vu sufferers at a memory clinic. “We had a peculiar referral from a man who said there was no point visiting the clinic because he’d already been there, although this would have been impossible.” The patient not only genuinely believed he had met Dr Moulin before, he gave specific details about the times and places of these ‘remembered’ meetings.
Déjà vu has developed to such an extent that he had stopped watching TV - even the news - because it seemed to be a repeat, and even believed he could hear the same bird singing the same song in the same tree every time he went out. Chronic déjà vu sufferers are not only overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity for new experiences, they can provide plausible and complex justifications to support this. “When this particular patient’s wife asked what was going to happen next on a TV programme he’d claimed to have already seen, he said ‘how should I know? I have a memory problem!’” Dr Moulin said.
The Virus: Unintelligent Design
...With the recent discovery of a truly monstrous virus, scientists are again casting about for how best to characterize these spectral life-forms. The new virus, officially known as Mimivirus (because it mimics a bacterium), is a creature "so bizarre," as The London Telegraph described it, "and unlike anything else seen by scientists . . . that . . . it could qualify for a new domain in the tree of life." Indeed, Mimivirus is so much more genetically complex than all previously known viruses, not to mention a number of bacteria, that it seems to call for a dramatic redrawing of the tree of life.
That represents a radical change in thinking about life's origins: Viruses, long thought to be biology's hitchhikers, turn out to have been biology's formative force.
This is striking news, especially at a moment when the basic facts of origins and evolution seem to have fallen under a shroud. In the discussions of intelligent design, one hears a yearning for an old-fashioned creation story, in which some singular, inchoate entity stepped in to give rise to complex life-forms—humans in particular. Now the viruses appear to present a creation story of their own: a stirring, topsy-turvy, and decidedly unintelligent design wherein life arose more by reckless accident than original intent, through an accumulation of genetic accounting errors committed by hordes of mindless, microscopic replication machines. Our descent from apes is the least of it. With the discovery of Mimi, scientists are close to ascribing to viruses the last role that anyone would have conceived for them: that of life's prime mover.
Spitzer telescope finds 'crushed glass' galaxies
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has observed a rare population of colliding galaxies whose entangled hearts are wrapped in tiny crystals resembling crushed glass.
The crystals are essentially sand, or silicate, grains that were formed like glass, probably in the stellar equivalent of furnaces. This is the first time silicate crystals have been detected in a galaxy outside of our own.
"We were surprised to find such delicate, little crystals in the centers of some of the most violent places in the universe," said Dr. Henrik Spoon of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. He is first author of a paper on the research appearing in the Feb. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. "Crystals like these are easily destroyed, but in this case, they are probably being churned out by massive, dying stars faster than they are disappearing."
The discovery will ultimately help astronomers better understand the evolution of galaxies, including our Milky Way, which will merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy billions of years from now.
"It's as though there's a huge dust storm taking place at the center of merging galaxies," said Dr. Lee Armus, a co-author of the paper from NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The silicates get kicked up and wrap the galaxies' nuclei in giant, dusty glass blankets."
Want to make a complicated decision? Just stop thinking
Here's a suggestion for the next time you need to make a complicated decision: stop thinking. According to a new study, thinking too hard about a problem leads to poor choices - difficult decisions are best handled by our unconscious minds. While most people are happy to buy a new set of towels without much thought, they are unlikely to buy a new car or house without some serious thought. But Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, argues that we might be getting these methods of decision-making the wrong way around.
He asked volunteers to pick their favourite car from a list of four based on a set of four attributes including fuel consumption and passenger leg room. He gave them four minutes to think about their decision and most people chose the car with the most plus points. When Dr Dijksterhuis made the experiment more complex - 12 attributes rather than four - people could only identify the best car a quarter of the time. This result was no better than choosing at random.
However, when the researchers distracted the participants after showing them the cars (by giving them puzzles to do before asking participants to make their choices), more than half picked the best car. "Conscious thinkers were better able to make the best choice among simple products, whereas unconscious thinkers were better able to make the best choice among complex products," wrote Dr Dijksterhuis in a paper, published today in Science.
The problem with thinking about things consciously is that you can only focus on a few things at once. In the face of a complex decision this can lead to giving certain factors undue importance. Thinking about something several times is also likely to produce slightly different evaluations, highlighting inconsistencies.
Neo-Hesse: Webmagister Ludi and the Glass Bead Game
We can now say the web is an exploration into our own psyches. The association of images and sounds is unique, and how we integrate our new behavior patterns is going to be reflected in how we create our own realities on the internet, even if those realities have not formalized themselves yet in our 3-D world of earth-fire-water-air. For what is the internet, but a continual hypertextualiztion of ideas made immediately manifest by a search engine or an available link. Web logic is not the same logic we use in a cause and effect relationship. Many times we are not aware of what information is going to be revealed to us through a search engine. Ideas are organized anew and not like the Dewy decimal card catalog system librarians are so accustomed to. We now access information by our moods or by our impressions or by audio stimulus. We have created a synaesthetic information environment where the association of ideas is not dependent on the syntax of the language, but on the mood obtained from a variety of media inputs. The age old adage of "a picture is worth a thousand words" takes on a new significance because any one of those thousand words can be searched to reveal a thousand more pictures. Frankly there is no one way to utilize the internet. There are no rules for information access, data organization, or logical understanding.
Keep in mind, this was written ten years ago.
So I've been told...
At a quickly inhaled brunch today (at a place where one cannot go to be anonymous because of this town's peculiar social tides), a person I barely know told me that "I do a lot" for the community and I'm "appreciated." This, of course, feels all good-n-swimmy on first listen, before the self-critic begins to gnaw away at it. Doubt has always been a more-or-less automatic reaction to thanks and praise, but slowly, at least one part of her equation is beginning to sink in.
I do do a lot.
With the recent success of finding a New, Wonderful, Super-awesome Job, I now have another large helping of responsibility. Y'see, since leaving The Old Office, I have been barely working 15 hours a week at a Somewhat Disorganized Place. The New, Wonderful, Super-awesome Job is full time during the week, but I'm going to keep one client from the Somewhat Disorganized Place on Saturdays, for a few hours a day. And I still am a contracted consultant and trainer for The Old Office. I'm also a contract trainer for an Uber-Professional Prevention Program. All the while, I will maintain my part-time gig as Gofer-Extraorinaire at the Goofy and Lovely Spiritual Community.
When you add all that up, that's five jobs (though the contract nature of two of them kinda throws them into another category). Nonetheless, with occasional website design and other side projects, this amply proves the nameless woman's observation. Yet that's just a picture of my job-type-activities. This does not include volunteering, school, and those somewhat vital things called Resting and Enjoyment of Life.
It's actually fine, though. Having not done anything full-time since mid-December other than musing and cosmic loafing, I'm thrilled to finally have a full plate again. All of these gigs are fairly good evidence for appreciation, enough to send some feeble signal to my omelet-addled brain that I am competent and have my non-literal shit more-or-less together. Which, earlier in life, was a remote and lofty whimsy...
I must particularily thank a few fine Blogospherians for their support, encouragement and networking during this odd phase of my life. First off, immense and profound gratitude goes to Gordon at Scrutiny Hoolingans. This is the good fellow responsible for networking me into the New, Wonderful, Super-awesome Job. Had I not gone to an event that I was initially ho-hummy about, and been forthcoming about my then-downward facing prospects, I would not have had a chance at the New, Wonderful, Super-awesome Job. Gordon is the MAN, as it were.
Also, deep thanks and respect go to Bruce over at BruceMulkey.com. For it was he, with a motherlode of kindness, that got me into the Uber-Professional Prevention Program as a contract trainer. I've already been trained as a trainer in two interesting modules and implementation should be coming along soon. Bruce is an excellent writer who feels the world deeply. He is quite tall and it also the MAN, if you will.
Immense jugfuls of thanks, support and kindress-spiritness go to Fliss at the Hangover Journals. She too has been on a long road to job transition, and she's given so much encouragement and straightforward wisdom that I am now deeply endebted to her. Should you ben in Asheville, and in need of a truly kickass graphic designer and educator, drop me a line and I'll send you her resume. We both are acutely aware at how great a price jobs come at in this town, and she could really use some good leads right now. Please send them her way.
Of course, beloved Robin over at Robin's View has been a partner in
Finally, it's down to all of you folks... the loyal and ir-regular readers of Bird On The Moon, and my scattered community of web-friends from Metachat, Metafilter, and who knows what. You've sent such warmth my way, that I nearly chucked the space heather. I can only say thanks so many times and in so many ways... but here goes again... THANKS. You've made the rough going far smoother than it ought to be.
Things, as they say, are looking up... or all around, within and without. I'm moved by every little bit of it. Even deeply so, by people like you and the lady passing by while I was gnoshing on vegan-sausage gravy at Earthfare today. I do feel appreciated, and that's about 33 years in the making for me to say that with such conviction and verve. As with all things cosmic and transcendental, it works both way.
As above, so below, and right back atcha.
The blog slept in today, oblivious to the passage of time.
A Trillion Worlds for the Taking
For thousands of years of recorded history a fragile race of bipedal apes have cast their primate eyes skyward in hope of Divine Salvation or in fear of Heavenly Apocalypse. Strangely, unbeknownst to them, those superstitious musings weren't far from the truth. Tumbling silently through the farthest reaches of our solar system are the twin potentials of untold wealth and apocalyptic peril. Great iron mountains unchained by land, hydrocarbon ice bergs floating in an endless spatial ocean, and self gravitating heaps of gravel. There are trillions of them by best estimate. All these riches are ours for the taking: Each a potential Destroyer of Worlds.
Sixty-five million years ago, a smallish one made a fateful rendezvous with our lush steamy, planet and changed the course of life on earth. And while it may have been the harbinger of doom for the dinosaurs, it was midwife to the birth of modern day furry mammals, and its many celestial cousins left behind may yet provide our deliverance or our demise.
I've been waiting for the final word, but I finally have a full-time job offer, with excellent pay, in the field I've been wanting! I've got to run now, more details later tonight!
Supernatural selection: study religion like any other human behavior
The argument that religion can be explained as a natural rather than a supernatural phenomenon is not new. The Scottish philosopher David Hume set himself a similar task over 250 years ago. Marx and Freud had their own explanations. Over the years, scholars have enlisted everything from rational choice theory to brain scans in their efforts to trace the origins of faith...
Until a few decades ago, the assumption in much social science research was that religion was the product of ignorance: Unfamiliar with the germ theory, primitive tribes believed that vengeful spirits brought disease; lacking an education, the farmboy believed in the virgin birth. In a world of increasing technological and educational advancement, the influential anthropologist Anthony Wallace wrote in 1966, ''the evolutionary future of religion is extinction. Belief in supernatural beings and in supernatural forces that affect nature without obeying nature's laws will erode and become only an interesting historical memory."
In the intervening years, of course, religion has not gone extinct-by most measures the United States is a more religious country than it was 40 years ago-and social scientists have started to take another look at it. Dennett's new book is concerned primarily with this more recent work, in which a new generation of researchers have begun to suggest that religion may be neither a matter of revealed truth nor willed ignorance, but something a bit more complicated.
Several of these new theories enlist Darwin. David Sloan Wilson, a professor of anthropology and biology at Binghamton University, is a leader of the ''functionalist" school. His argument, which borrows from the early French sociologist Emile Durkheim, is simple: Religion evolved because it conferred benefits on believers. In terms of natural selection, human groups that formed religions tended to outcompete those that didn't, surviving longer and propagating more. Calvinism brought social cohesion to 16th-century Geneva, the ''water temple" system on Bali coordinates the island's complex irrigation scheme.
''There are practical benefits that are shortchanged when most people think about religion," Wilson told me. In a way, ''religion is basically providing the kinds of services we always associate with a government."
Patients Suffer Déjà Vu … Over and Over
Imagine suffering from chronic déjà vu. You don't even go to the doctor because you feel like you've already been there.
"We had a peculiar referral from a man who said there was no point visiting the clinic because he'd already been there, although this would have been impossible," said psychologist Chris Moulin, who runs a memory clinic at the University of Leeds in the UK.
So Moulin has started the first known study of the condition.
Déjà vu hits most of us now and then. We're struck by the sensation that we have experienced an event before, even though we can't fully remember it or perhaps know it didn't really happen. The sensation is fleeting, so researchers can't study it.
But Moulin figures chronic déjà vu sufferers offer an opportunity to do research that might unlock the secrets of the everyday variety.
Science team finds 'lost world'
An international team of scientists says it has found a "lost world" in the Indonesian jungle that is home to dozens of new animal and plant species. "It's as close to the Garden of Eden as you're going to find on Earth," said Bruce Beehler, co-leader of the group.
The team recorded new butterflies, frogs, and a series of remarkable plants that included five new palms and a giant rhododendron flower.The survey also found a honeyeater bird that was previously unknown to science. The research group - from the US, Indonesia and Australia - trekked through an area in the mist-shrouded Foja Mountains, located just north of the vast Mamberamo Basin of north-western (Indonesian) New Guinea.
The researchers spent nearly a month in the locality, detailing the wildlife and plant life from the lower hills to near the summit of the Foja range, which reaches more than 2,000m in elevation. "It's beautiful, untouched, unpopulated forest; there's no evidence of human impact or presence up in these mountains..."
Great balls of lightning
If you have ever seen a mysterious ball of lightning chasing a cow or flying through your window during a thunderstorm, take comfort from the fact that you have witnessed a very rare phenomenon. Indeed, ball lightning -- a slow-moving ball of light that is occasionally seen at ground level during storms -- has puzzled scientists for centuries. Now, however, researchers in Israel have built a system that can create lightning balls in the lab. The work may not only help us to understand ball lightning but could even lead to practical applications that make use of these artificial balls...
Ball lightning is thought to be a ball of plasma that is formed when a bolt of lightning hits the ground and creates a molten "hot spot". The ball can typically measure 30 centimetres across and can last for a few seconds. Although they are generally created during thunderstorms, Eli Jerby and Vladimir Dikhtyar from Tel Aviv University in Israel have now been able to make lightning balls in the lab using a "microwave drill".
The device consists of the magnetron from a 600-watt domestic microwave oven and concentrates its power into a volume of just one cubic centimetre. The researchers inject the microwaves though a pointed rod into a solid substrate made from glass, silicon, germanium, alumina or other ceramics. The energy from the microwaves then produces a molten hot spot in the substrate
The Last Island of the "Savages"
In the spring of 1974, North Sentinel was visited by a film crew that was shooting a documentary titled Man in Search of Man, along with a few anthropologists, some armed policemen, and a photographer for National Geographic. In the words of one of the scientists, their plan was to "win the natives' friendship by friendly gestures and plenty of gifts." As the team's motorized dinghy made its way through the reefs toward shore, some natives emerged from the woods. The anthropologists made friendly gestures. The Sentinelese responded with a hail of arrows. The dinghy proceeded to a landing-spot out of arrow range, where the policemen, dressed in padded armor, disembarked and laid gifts on the sand: a miniature plastic automobile, some coconuts, a tethered live pig, a child's doll, and some aluminum cookware. Then they returned to the dinghy and waited to observe the natives' reaction to the gifts. The natives' reaction was to fire more arrows, one of which hit the film director in the left thigh. The man who had shot the film director was observed laughing proudly and walking toward the shade of a tree, where he sat down. Other natives were observed spearing the pig and the doll and burying them in the sand. They did, however, take the cookware and the coconuts with evident delight.
In 1975, the exiled king of Belgium, on a tour of the Andamans, was brought by local dignitaries for an overnight cruise to the waters off North Sentinel. Mindful of lessons learned the year before, they kept the royal party out of arrow range, approaching just close enough for a Sentinelese warrior to aim his bow menacingly at the king, who expressed his profound satisfaction with the adventure.
Fantastic Planet: Images, Icons, Ikons, and Gnostic Speculi
The problem, according to the Iconoclasts, was the prohibition against the worship of idols within the Ten Commandments. Familiarly, the Iconoclasts maintained that images of holy figures could induce idolatry, and that the veneration of ikons was tantamount to breaking said commandment. This idea was so ingrained that ikons were officially banned from 726 AD to 842 AD, when they were triumphantly returned to the churches on the first Sunday in Lent (still celebrated in Orthodox Churches).
Think about that for a moment: they were *returned to the churches* in triumph. These images, these ikons of the holy figures were so important to people that they kept the tradition alive and underground in the face of persecution which ran from imprisonment to excommunication to death. Why were these ikons so important, and why are they still so important to so many to this day? And, what is the difference between the veneration of ikons and idolatry?
Lvx23: magickal constructs
What is the subtle and sublime mechanism that underlies magick? In whatever system or technique, by some process we manifest mind into reality. Internally we can call it self improvement yet we know there's so much more. By some arcane, digitally feral technologies our thoughts are often heard by the chaotic web of life, which responds in kind giving us that one sideways glance and cocked smile at just the right fucking moment to be beyond a doubt a sudden mind-blowing manifestation of magick. It's as if there is a great presence existing in some very real yet abstracted layer of reality that interpenetrates everything, leading from the backs of our minds right to the central servers of the Akashic Record.
We humans so often consider ourselves alone and isolated. Possibly comforted by a loving other but inevitably, in those very very late hours of a sleepless night, we are, standing at the edge of a gaping black grave, alone. The centimeter or so of our bony skull is apparently enough to completely contain the raging torrents of a millions years or so of cognitive evolution. Undeniably we all have atomic furnaces burning inside our heads, incomprehensibly complex and capable, so powerful that incredibly complex tasks like linguistic communication and symbolic representation are basic sub-routines requiring very little actual effort on the part of the human operator.
The simple fact that, by culture, we generally share the same language, the same core values, the same basic ontologies, and the same educational backgrounds is evidence that we are, in fact, very connected and far more similar than different from one another. In short, we all share the same basic cognitive scaffolding on which we hang our individuality. While this acculturation is certainly acquired through peers and seniors, there's a certain point during childhood when one learns things without ever being told. It's as if the child is able to tap into the cultural record resident in all minds yet simultaneously external and independent.
Cargo Cults: In John They Trust
In the morning heat on a tropical island halfway across the world from the United States, several dark-skinned men—clad in what look to be U.S. Army uniforms—appear on a mound overlooking a bamboo-hut village. One reverently carries Old Glory, precisely folded to reveal only the stars. On the command of a bearded “drill sergeant,” the flag is raised on a pole hacked from a tall tree trunk. As the huge banner billows in the wind, hundreds of watching villagers clap and cheer.
Chief Isaac Wan, a slight, bearded man in a blue suit and ceremonial sash, leads the uniformed men down to open ground in the middle of the village. Some 40 barefoot "G.I.’s" suddenly emerge from behind the huts to more cheering, marching in perfect step and ranks of two past Chief Isaac. They tote bamboo “rifles” on their shoulders, the scarlet tips sharpened to represent bloody bayonets, and sport the letters “USA,” painted in red on their bare chests and backs.
This is February 15, John Frum Day, on the remote island of Tanna in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. On this holiest of days, devotees have descended on the village of Lamakara from all over the island to honor a ghostly American messiah, John Frum. “John promised he’ll bring planeloads and shiploads of cargo to us from America if we pray to him,” a village elder tells me as he salutes the Stars and Stripes. “Radios, TVs, trucks, boats, watches, iceboxes, medicine, Coca-Cola and many other wonderful things.”
Nature of the Divine: get out into the world and play
It seems when often when people talk of their belief or lack of belief in a divine figure many seem to fall into the trap of relating to God in their own image. They see the divine as essentially anthropomorphic and possessed of human qualities. So when bad things happen, be they natural disasters or human calamity, they invariably consider that God is either a mighty pissed malicious bastard to be feared or can't exist, because if he (generally it's a he) did he wouldn't allow these sort of things to happen.
Some interpretations of spiritual systems hold the belief that this Earth is ultimately fallen, that the pain and misery in the world is a result of it's imperfection and that either the commonly worshiped God is in fact our main jailer, or we are deep down no good bastards who deserve all that's coming to us.
Reasons Why 'You' Don't Exist...
A multipart series from many contributors. This snippet from Clifford Pickover:
What if the number of these simulations is larger than the number of universes? Could we be living in such a simulation? Astronomer and philosopher Martin Rees suggests that if the simulations outnumber the universes, "as they would if one universe contained many computers making many simulations," then it is likely that we are artificial life. He notes that this theory allows for "virtual time travel," because the advanced beings who create the simulation can rerun the past...
Old Beliefs Keep Medicine in a Closed Bottle
If we are a reflection and microcosm of the universe, why do we think in such a limited fashion, when the universe is so infinite? Are we afraid of infinity, of being open vessels to the greatness of the vast universe? The brilliant Latin American writer Jorge Luis Borges thought so. In an essay entitled “Avatars of the Tortoise,” he wrote, “There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics. I refer to the infinite.”
Yet, quantum physics, and the field of quantum consciousness, tell us that consciousness is infinite and eternal, and spreads out across the universe everywhere all at once. Although we can only be in one place at one time in the relative plane, at our core we are infinite beings.
Yet we behave just the opposite. We think and act dogmatically; we would rather defend our dogmas – and dogmas are the antithesis of an open-ended, infinite universe - to the death than to take a step back and examine why we think the way we do. And the reason we think the way we do is because of our mental models.
Rock the Vote: Ousting Hamas?
The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.
Likewise, Shrub and Shootin' Dick won (lost) a smaller mandate than previously understood. We're doing such a great job of supporting *democratically elected governments* these days!
The Mid-Apocalypse Review: 2005-2006 Winter
It's been an unseasonably warm winter so far, including the warmest January on record. According to NOAA's report, this past month saw "an average temperature of 39.5 degrees F, which is 8.5 degrees F (4.7 degrees C) above the 1895-2005 mean of 31.0 degrees F." Nor is this merely a stateside phenomenon; the Aussies are reporting the same thing down under. At the same time, Europeans are dying from the cold. The reasons for such enormous variability, from record highs to lethal cold, is not exactly mysterious--even a layman like myself was able to predict Europe's temperatures, back in September. Europe's lethal cold and last year's hurricanes are both part of the same phenomenon: the extinction of the Gulf Stream. Even that is a mere sideshow to the much bigger problem of global warming...
Because of polar amplification, we'd expect the first impacts of global warming to be seen at the poles; namely, the melting of the polar ice. It's already progressed far enough that even the Bush administration is considering taking steps to protect polar bears from falling right into the Arctic Ocean. It also inhibits things like the Odden ice shelf.
Though it's difficult to find up-to-date numbers, given that January set a new record for the warmest on record (beating the previous record of 1999), it doesn't seem very likely that we'll see significant ice this year, either, which should line us up for another yearly cycle of the same hurricane conditions, and the same lethal European cold.
Scientists evolve a complex genetic trait in the laboratory
Scientists have evolved a complex trait in the laboratory — using the pressure of selection to induce tobacco hornworms to evolve the dual trait of turning black or green depending on the temperature during their development. The biologists have also demonstrated the basic hormonal mechanism underlying the evolution of such dual traits.
Their experiments, they said, offer important insight into how complex traits involving many genes can abruptly “blossom” in an organism’s evolution.
Dark matter comes out of the cold
Astronomers have for the first time put some real numbers on the physical characteristics of dark matter. This strange material that dominates the Universe but which is invisible to current telescope technology is one of the great enigmas of modern science.
That it exists is one of the few things on which researchers have been certain. But now an Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, team has at last been able to place limits on how it is packed in space and measure its "temperature". "It's the first clue of what this stuff might be," said Professor Gerry Gilmore. "For the first time ever, we're actually dealing with its physics..."
Five Interesting Things
The blog is taking the day off to romp and play in the snow- can ya blame it?
jaybird found this for you @ 12:09 in | | permalink
I waited for the snow
I awoke in the morning with the giddy hope of a kid
As I am in you.
The Democrats Need a Spiritual Left
For years the Democrats have been telling themselves "it's the economy, stupid." Yet consistently for dozens of years millions of middle income Americans have voted against their own economic interests to support Republicans who have tapped a deeper set of needs.
Tens of millions of Americans feel betrayed by a society that seems to place materialism and selfishness above moral values. They know that "looking out for number one" has become the common sense of our society, but they want a life that is about something more --- a framework of meaning and purpose to their lives that would transcend the grasping and narcissism that surrounds them. Sure, they will admit that they have material needs, and that they worry about adequate health care, stability in employment, and enough money to give their kids a college education. But even more deeply they want their lives to have meaning --- and they respond to candidates who seem to care about values and some sense of transcendent purpose.
Many of these voters have found a "politics of meaning" in the political Right. In the Right wing churches and synagogues these voters are presented with a coherent worldview that speaks to their "meaning needs." Most of these churches and synagogues demonstrate a high level of caring for their members, even if the flip side is a willingness to demean those on the outside. Yet what members experience directly is a level of mutual caring that they rarely find in the rest of the society. And a sense of community that is offered them nowhere else, a community that has as its central theme that life has value because it is connected to some higher meaning than one's success in the marketplace.
It's easy to see how this hunger gets manipulated in ways that liberals find offensive and contradictory. The frantic attempts to preserve family by denying gays the right to get married, the talk about being conservatives while meanwhile supporting Bush policies that accelerate the destruction of the environment and do nothing to encourage respect for God's creation or an ethos of awe and wonder to replace the ethos of turning nature into a commodity, the intense focus on preserving the powerless fetus and a culture of life without a concomitant commitment to medical research (stem cell research/HIV-AIDS), gun control and healthcare reform., the claim to care about others and then deny them a living wage and an ecologically sustainable environment --- all this is rightly perceived by liberals as a level of inconsistency that makes them dismiss as hypocrites the voters who have been moving to the Right.
Yet liberals, trapped in a long-standing disdain for religion and tone-deaf to the spiritual needs that underlie the move to the Right, have been unable to engage these voters in a serious dialogue. Rightly angry at the way that some religious communities have been mired in authoritarianism, racism, sexism and homophobia, the liberal world has developed such a knee-jerk hostility to religion that it has both marginalized those many people on the Left who actually do have spiritual yearnings and simultaneously refused to acknowledge that many who move to the Right have legitimate complaints about the ethos of selfishness in American life.
Imagine if John Kerry had been able to counter George Bush by insisting that a serious religious person would never turn his back on the suffering of the poor, that the bible's injunction to love one's neighbor required us to provide health care for all, and that the New Testament's command to "turn the other cheek" should give us a predisposition against responding to violence with violence.
Imagine a Democratic Party that could talk about the strength that comes from love and generosity and applied that to foreign policy and homeland security.
Imagine a Democratic Party that could talk of a New Bottom Line, so that American institutions get judged efficient, rational and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize people's capacities to be loving and caring, ethically and ecologically sensitive, and capable of responding to the universe with awe and wonder.
Imagine a Democratic Party that could call for schools to teach gratitude, generosity, caring for others, and celebration of the wonders that daily surround us! Such a Democratic Party, continuing to embrace its agenda for economic fairness and multi-cultural inclusiveness, would have won in 2004 and can win in the future.
US plans massive data sweep
The US government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity.
The system - parts of which are operational, parts of which are still under development - is already credited with helping to foil some plots. It is the federal government's latest attempt to use broad data-collection and powerful analysis in the fight against terrorism. But by delving deeply into the digital minutiae of American life, the program is also raising concerns that the government is intruding too deeply into citizens' privacy.
"We don't realize that, as we live our lives and make little choices, like buying groceries, buying on Amazon, Googling, we're leaving traces everywhere," says Lee Tien, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "We have an attitude that no one will connect all those dots. But these programs are about connecting those dots - analyzing and aggregating them - in a way that we haven't thought about. It's one of the underlying fundamental issues we have yet to come to grips with."
The core of this effort is a little-known system called Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement (ADVISE). Only a few public documents mention it. ADVISE is a research and development program within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), part of its three-year-old "Threat and Vulnerability, Testing and Assessment" portfolio. The TVTA received nearly $50 million in federal funding this year.
Abramoff says he met Bush "almost a dozen" times
Jack Abramoff said in correspondence made public on Thursday that
"The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows," Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Kim Eisler, national editor for the Washingtonian magazine.
Abramoff added that Bush also once invited him to his Texas ranch. Jack Abramoff said in correspondence made public on Thursday that
"The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows," Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Kim Eisler, national editor for the Washingtonian magazine.
Abramoff added that Bush also once invited him to his Texas ranch.
141 Programs Bush Wants to Cut or Kill
Highlights of Terminated Programs:
AGRICULTURE: Watershed protection and flood prevention operations, $75 million.
What an ass.
I know, I *forgot* to post today. I'll make it up to ya tomorrow.
a single memory is processed in three separate parts of the brain
...While one part of the brain, the hippocampus, is involved in processing memory for context, the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the cerebral cortex, is responsible for retaining memories involving unpleasant stimuli. A third area, the amygdala, located in the temporal lobe, consolidates memories more broadly and influences the storage of both contextual and unpleasant information.
“These results are highly intriguing... It is the first time we have found this fragmentation in the brain of what we would think of as a single experience. For example, different aspects of an experience, such as a car accident, would be processed by different parts of the brain. The experience is fragmented in our brain, even though we think of it as one event.”
...Understanding which parts of the brain process which types of memories gives scientists a better grasp on why particular types of memory impairment can occur and why, for example, different types of strokes might affect different memory systems. “This study is a terrific demonstration of how different components of our neural real estate can be allocated to process different aspects of memory... The more we know about the specialization of memories, the more we can understand how and why the processing of memory can go awry, which in turn can critically inform clinical problems involving a wide range of cognitive deficits.”
It's capitalism or a habitable planet - you can't have both
There is no meaningful response to climate change without massive social change. A cap on this and a quota on the other won't do it. Tinker at the edges as we may, we cannot sustain earth's life-support systems within the present economic system.
Capitalism is not sustainable by its very nature. It is predicated on infinitely expanding markets, faster consumption and bigger production in a finite planet. And yet this ideological model remains the central organising principle of our lives, and as long as it continues to be so it will automatically undo (with its invisible hand) every single green initiative anybody cares to come up with.
A carbon-rich substance found filling tiny cracks within a Martian meteorite could boost the idea that life once existed on the Red Planet. The material resembles that found in fractures, or "veins", apparently etched by microbes in volcanic glass from the Earth's ocean floor.
The evidence comes from a meteorite held in London's Natural History Museum that was cracked open by curators. All the processes of life on Earth are based on the element carbon. Proving carbon in Martian meteorites is indigenous - and not contamination from Earth - is crucial to the question of whether life once arose on the Red Planet. Initial measurements support the idea that the "carbonaceous material" is not contamination, the scientists say.
Criminality-a-go-go Double Pack!
In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States. Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing, said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances.
"The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning", the president told Mr Blair. The prime minister is said to have raised no objection. He is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam".
Oh, and a note to my dear friends in the UK. This 'Labour' government of yours isn't doing so well. Would Gordon Brown be any better? Makes me wonder whether Neil Kinnock can be revived for some of that old fashioned Labour ideal.
Future Hi: Thought Fields
Nature so faithfully reproduces it's best algorithms across the entire scale of creation.
While thought and ideation are often reduced to synaptic events arcing between neurons, it is perhaps more accurate to regard the realm of thought as a field arising from the summation of hundreds of billions of such events. To consider even a very localized region of neural activity - say, the right frontal cortex - is to regard the complex interaction of many millions of neurons each with countless axonal and dendritic projections reaching out to each other and themselves, all tangled up in a maddened, organic mess of gray spaghetti. Each neuron releases a swarm of neurotransmitters through every axonal projection and each neurotransmitter carries an electrochemical charge. As these neurotransmitters bond with enzymes embedded in the neuronal membrane, altering the ionic balance of the cell interior, the action potential of the receiving neuron is either excited or inhibited. When excited, it passes the signal onto the next neuron(s) in the chain by releasing more of it's own select group of neurotransmitters. Each such pulse along the chain induces it's own electromagnetic field.
One could imagine the cortex as a pulsing blob of neural tissue waxing and waning with the dynamic EM field generated by its neuronal activity. Since a single neuron ultimately only possesses the capability of sending a binary message - fire or not-fire - it would be odd to suggest that conscious thought would occur in this domain. The analogy is to binary code - 0 & 1 - where each switch represents a single bit. Eight such bits can be combined to create a byte, which is essentially equivalent to a word. So by analogy we could suggest that while a single neuron can only pass a simple off-on signal, a group of neurons might possess at least a basic amount of informational content equivalent to a word.
But words alone do not make speech, nor do bytes make a program. It's the complex aggregation of bytes into functions and the dynamic flow of data between these functions that creates a program. It is the emergent property of the entire system. Thus, our pre-frontal cortex is a regional function that generates a dynamic electric field from the summation of it's bytes, the neurons. And it's not isolated. It transmits to and receives input from other cortical regions, from the midbrain, the hindbrain, and the steady flow of data streaming in through the sensorium. The whole thing is bathed in blood and nutrients and gases, and awash in hormones pumped out by the hypothalamus And this avoids consideration entirely of exogenous compouonds we take in from the air, from food, drugs, cars, factories, each other, etc. Suffice it to say that from this rich, noodly broth, our unique sense of self arises. Mind manifests across the electromagnetic field of brain.
In Africa, Islam and Christianity are growing - and blending
At first, it seems a surprising sight: inside a two-story mosque in sub-Saharan Africa's largest metropolis hangs a life-size portrait of Jesus Christ.
Yet worshipers at "The True Message of God Mission" say it's entirely natural for Christianity and Islam to cexist, even overlap. They begin their worship by praying at the Jesus alcove and then "running their deliverance" - sprinting laps around the mosque's mosaic-tiled courtyard, praying to the one God for forgiveness and help. They say it's akin to Israelites circling the walls of Jericho - and Muslims swirling around the Ka'ba shrine in Mecca.
Amid intense sectarian violence in this half- Muslim, half-Christian country, these groups serve as tolerant peacemakers. Also, with widespread poverty and health concerns here, people are seeking practical, profitable religion more than rigid doctrine.
happy birthday, birdonthemoon.com!
It's three years old!
Actually, that passed by last week, and I just now remembered it. I hope my own website will accept a belated birthday greeting from me. It's been a great run, and while I may not post four times a day anymore, I intend to keep going as long as possible, as long as the medium holds out.
It's connected me to some truly spectacular people and communities, has reached 180 countries, with over 1.9 million visits since inception (that's just baffling). So, the good times will continue to roll for this little website, as it plays, frolics, and grows its way into yet another year of bloggery.
As they say, w00t!
Stories about good people - Pt. 2
Call it a simple twist of fate — times two: A teenager in western New York state has saved the life of the same woman who years ago saved his life.
Seven years ago, Kevin Stephan of Lancaster, N.Y., was a bat boy for his younger brother’s Little League baseball team. A player who was warming up accidentally hit him in the chest with a bat. Kevin’s heart stopped beating. “All I remember is that I dropped the bat off, and all of a sudden just got hit in the chest with something, and I turned around and passed out,” Stephan said.
Fortunately, a nurse whose son played on that team was able to revive him and save his life. “I started CPR on him and he came back,” Penny Brown said. Stephan’s mother said he was extremely fortunate. Brown was supposed to be at work that night, but was given the day off at the last minute.
Now comes the really interesting part.
Last week that same nurse was eating at the Hillview Restaurant in Depew, N.Y., when she began to choke on her food. Witnesses say patrons were screaming for someone to help her. “The food wasn’t going anywhere and I totally couldn’t breathe,” Penny said. “It was very frightening.” Restaurant employees yelled for Stephan to come out and help. “They knew I was a volunteer firefighter and they called me over and I did the Heimlich, and I guess you could say I saved Mrs. Brown,” Stephan said. At the restaurant, they realized the amazing twist of fate they had just witnessed. Seven years ago, Brown had saved Stephan's life. Now at age 17, he had returned the favor.
Stories about good people - Pt. I
Royalty, celebrities and thousands of ordinary people owe a huge debt of gratitude to Cedric Robinson. For almost half a century, he has guided countless groups of people over a safe path across the potentially treacherous Morecambe BayAnd he has done it for a "salary" of just £15 a year.
Cedric is preparing for his 43rd year as the Queen's Guide to the Sands - and despite being 72 years old, he has no intentions of retiring. He has lived in the Morecambe Bay area his entire life and became the 25th official guide when he was given the job. Born in the village of Flookburgh on the south Cumbrian coast, he was fisherman, cockler and coastguard before taking up his current role of organising the now-famous cross-bay walks which can involve up to 600 people.
Anatomy of a Dream
The variations in the top row of this readout indicate when I was dreaming during Saturday night's sleep study, from which I'm groggy, and my hair and goatee are covered in the gel they use to affix the sensors. After increasing the air pressure, I apparently had very few interruptions. Though waking up with air being forced into your body is not altogether pleasant, I know that this will imrove my life in the long run. I should have my very own air-breathing dragon within a month.
Smorgasbord of Stimuli
Life has gotten interesting on a variety of fronts. Many loyal readers have donated and written in support of the unemployment situation. While far from perfect, there is now money coming in. I'm doing adult mental health intervention during the day, which has been a bit touch-n-go, but it's a start. Hopefully, I'll start doing some training soon, which will up the income a tish. Though financially, there is still a great deal of struggle, so I'm keeping the fund open. And I'm adding a new one...
In less than three weeks, I'll be doing some rebuilding/relief work in New Orleans. We'll be camping in a washed-out lot in the Lower Ninth, and by day working with returning residents. I'm strongly opposed to a "White Man's Buyout" of the city, and the work we'll be doing will be to support returning residents as an action of social justice and compassion. It will be a very hard and tough five days...
If you would like to support this effort, you may donate via the fund drive link at the top of the page, and when doing so please earmark the funds for New Orleans Relief. I will forward the raised funds to the Jubilee Community Gandhi Team, which will be heading up the trip. Thanks in advance for your consideration!
In other news...
Tonight I'm going in for my second sleep study, this time with the CPAP machine. They will be looking at how effectively the decreases my incidents of sleep and breathing interruption. I will hopefully have a machine of my own within the month.
There may be a bit of romance brewing. I'll say little so as not to jinx the seedling, but it appears that a pairing engineered by a wonderful male yenta may yet bear some fruitfulness. Indeed, this very morning, a rare winter thunderstorm lit the windows and shook the house, and I woke up holding him, watching the rain through the pines and the light upon his back. This is weird for me- I've been enculturated into singlehood, even reclusive hermetic singlehood. While it is too early to say just how my culture will be in flux, it was one beautiful evening, of which I do hope there will be more.
They're calling for snow tonight, which may as well be powdered sugar falling to sweeten an already interesting smorgasbord of stimuli in my lil' world.
Honks, squeaks, and melodic syllables can all be scored into avian duets. In at least 222 bird species worldwide, or about 3 percent of those known, two or more individuals routinely coordinate their vocalizations.
Duetting shows up in a range of bird families and takes many forms, says Michelle Hall of the Australian National University in Canberra. Although members of a mated pair typically alternate as they sing their parts, duos within some species sing in unison. In a few cases, two males vocalize together, or several birds form an ensemble, as among the plain-tailed wrens.
An ornithological sorrow of life in northern temperate zones is the scarcity of duetting birds. The few nontropical birds that perform together generally do simple numbers.
Ornithologists have described male and female Canada geese alternating honks. And Lauryn Benedict of the University of California, Berkeley is studying a duet of California towhees where male and females produce simultaneous, near-identical, squeal-like vocalizations that are used only in duets and never alone.
Imbolc: Emerging Into Light
The Celtic festival of Imbolc celebrates the return of Spring from underground--and the Soul to renewed life.
Once again, it is time to welcome in the early Spring and the festival of Bride, or Brigid, the Goddess who brings Light and Life to the land. The ancient Celts called it Imbolc, the time when the new lambs were born, the Earth is beginning to thaw, and new, impossibly fragile-looking green shoots start to emerge through the bare soil.
This miraculous emergence into light is one of the major themes of the holiday. An old Scottish rhyme tells us that this is the time when Bride emerges from the Earth, just as in the Greek myth, enacted at this time of year as part of the Eleusinian mysteries, the goddess Persephone came out of the underworld and Spring returned once more.
Gore Vidal's State of the Union
Today, the 31st of January, in the hallowed year, election year, of ’06, could be a memorable day if we all do our part, which is simply to concentrate, among other things, and do perhaps what a couple of groups have decided would be useful for the President, I guess his State of the Union. We might give him some idea of our state, which is one of great dissatisfaction with him and his regime. And there's talk of perhaps demonstrating in front of the Capitol or here or there around the country to show that the union is occupied by people who happen to be patriots. And patriots do not like this government.
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i am jay joslin: a spirit-fed mountain hopping lover of everything, an ordained lefty-veggie-homo, and bon-vivant go-go dancing with all the messenger mockingbirds of morning.
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Keep it even,
"Not all who wander
You contain everything
Everything contains you
If you desire the Infinite,
look no further than the window.
Ten Considerations for Being Well n this Goofy Universe
0. If you find yourself
wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor. 1. Always be of service to
the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being
of service to your becoming Whole. 2. You will be called upon
to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never
turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in
their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night
that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to
share . 3. The rewards of being
true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met
with nothing. 4. You’ll also see that
knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own
struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but
yours is the power to choose it. 5. You’ll find that some of
your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s
okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them
I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I
tried it on. 6. Your growth will be a
mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you
strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing
minutes. Don’t count on second chances. 7. In those times when
everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t
forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are
a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle
to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re
having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic
flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that
there’s a little of each one hidden in both. 8. Respond as best as you
can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any
situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF,
leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in. 9. Whatever you’re doing,
celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got
when you’re done. Magic lives in the action. 9 ½ . All matter is energy.
All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short
time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came.
Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy
that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a
sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore,
why be bored? 9 3/4 . Choosing to live in
the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling
obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to
continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there
with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences. 10. The Universe itself it
not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered ,
butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So,
whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as
best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy,
unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.
0. If you find yourself wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor.
1. Always be of service to the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being of service to your becoming Whole.
2. You will be called upon to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to share .
3. The rewards of being true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met with nothing.
4. You’ll also see that knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but yours is the power to choose it.
5. You’ll find that some of your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I tried it on.
6. Your growth will be a mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing minutes. Don’t count on second chances.
7. In those times when everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that there’s a little of each one hidden in both.
8. Respond as best as you can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF, leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in.
9. Whatever you’re doing, celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got when you’re done. Magic lives in the action.
9 ½ . All matter is energy. All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came. Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore, why be bored?
9 3/4 . Choosing to live in the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences.
10. The Universe itself it not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered , butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So, whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy, unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.