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"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage."    ~Anain Nin

{ Friday, 31 March, 2006 }

The Race is On: Chimps Are Out-Evolving Humans

The results are in: chimps are evolving faster than human beings. This startling discovery was made by a group of biologists and evolutionary scientists at the Biped Research Institute of Portland, Oregon following a three-year study into the genetic and evolutionary patterns of multiple generations of both species. Research was conducted by analysing the genetic patterns in a rare, 22-generation direct line of chimpanzee descendants, then comparing these records with those of a similar multiple-generation selection of humans. According to Biped Research, chimpanzees, or Pan troglodytes, are evolving approximately 30% faster than human beings and will, if the rate continues, eventually outstrip homo sapiens in many of the characteristics that define "humanness".

"We're not particularly surprised that there is a disparity in evolutionary efficiency," said Dr. Truman Kettle, President of BRI. "However, that the disparity is so dramatic took us all a bit aback. Should trends continue, we could expect to find talking, reasoning, fully bipedal chimps to begin to appear within 15-20 generations. Quite possibly faster."

jaybird found this for you @ 16:56 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Black holes: The ultimate quantum computers?

Nearly all of the information that falls into a black hole escapes back out, a controversial new study argues. The work suggests that black holes could one day be used as incredibly accurate quantum computers – if enormous theoretical and practical hurdles can first be overcome.

Black holes are thought to destroy anything that crosses a point of no return around them called an "event horizon". But in the 1970s, Stephen Hawking used quantum mechanics to show black holes do emit radiation, which eventually evaporates them away completely.

Originally, he argued that this "Hawking radiation" is so random that it could carry no information out about what had fallen into the black hole. But this conflicted with quantum mechanics, which states that quantum information can never be lost. Eventually, Hawking changed his mind and in 2004 famously conceded a bet, admitting that black holes do not destroy information.

But the issue is far from settled, says Daniel Gottesman of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada. "Hawking has changed his mind, but a lot of other people haven't," he told New Scientist. "There are still a lot of questions about what's really going on."

jaybird found this for you @ 12:55 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Kosmos: A Brief History of the Word that means “Everything”

“The authentic and primal Kosmos . . . contains within itself no spatial distinction, and has none of the feebleness of division, and even its parts bring no incompleteness to it since here the individual is not severed from the entire. . . . [D]o but survey it, and surely this is the pleading you will hear:”

“I am made by a God: from that God I came perfect above all forms of life, adequate to my function, self-sufficing, lacking nothing: for I am the container of all, that is, of every plant and every animal, of all the kinds of created things, and many Gods and nations of Spirit-Beings and lofty souls and men happy in their goodness. . . . And all that is within me strives towards the Good; and each, to the measure of its faculty, attains. For from that Good all the heavens depend, [along] with all my own Soul and the Gods that dwell in my every part, and all that lives and grows, and even all in me that you may judge inanimate.”

jaybird found this for you @ 08:40 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 30 March, 2006 }

Flemming Funch: Key Concept

The global brain, well, we seem to really need it. As it is right now, humankind is a schizophrenic moron. Or manic-depressive, maybe. Sometimes brilliant and productive, mostly lethargic, largely criminally destructive. Despite that many members of the human race are well-meaning, knowledgeable and resourceful. We desperately need to be connected in a manner that is constructively complex, so as to awaken our collective intelligence. Maybe that is something we can do on the internet, maybe it is a different way of doing a few key things. It appears that none of us are smart enough to solve the puzzle. But we might be smart enough to discover patterns that allow something bigger to emerge. We might not be clever enough to know exactly how to do it, but we might know how to start something that triggers the emergence of a bigger level of intelligence. Patterns that promote self-organization and collective intelligence, even small scale, are a very likely leverage point. One ingredient is to know when to get out of the way, and let useful things happen.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



SPECULATIONS ON THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE

Recursion is the essence of science. For example, science papers cite other science papers, and that process of research pointing at itself invokes a whole higher level, the emergent shape of citation space. Recursion always does that. It is the engine of scientific progress and thus of the progress of society.

A particularly fruitful way to look at the history of science is to study how science itself has changed over time, with an eye to what that trajectory might suggest about the future. Kelly chronicled a sequence of new recursive devices in science...

2000 BC — First text indexes
200 BC — Cataloged library (at Alexandria)
1000 AD — Collaborative encyclopedia
1590 — Controlled experiment (Sir Francis Bacon)
1600 — Laboratory
1609 — Telescopes and microscopes
1650 — Society of experts
1665 — Repeatability (Robert Boyle)
1665 — Scholarly journals
1675 — Peer review
1687 — Hypothesis/prediction (Isaac Newton)
1920 — Falsifiability (Karl Popper)
1926 — Randomized design (Ronald Fisher)
1937 — Controlled placebo
1946 — Computer simulation
1950 — Double blind experiment
1962 — Study of scientific method (Thomas Kuhn)

Projecting forward, Kelly had five things to say about the next 100 years in science...

1) There will be more change in the next 50 years of science than in the last 400 years.

2) This will be a century of biology. It is the domain with the most scientists, the most new results, the most economic value, the most ethical importance, and the most to learn.

3) Computers will keep leading to new ways of science. Information is growing by 66% per year while physical production grows by only 7% per year. The data volume is growing to such levels of "zillionics" that we can expect science to compile vast combinatorial libraries, to run combinatorial sweeps through possibility space (as Stephen Wolfram has done with cellular automata), and to run multiple competing hypotheses in a matrix. Deep realtime simulations and hypothesis search will drive data collection in the real world.

4) New ways of knowing will emerge. "Wikiscience" is leading to perpetually refined papers with a thousand authors. Distributed instrumentation and experiment, thanks to miniscule transaction cost, will yield smart-mob, hive-mind science operating "fast, cheap, & out of control." Negative results will have positive value (there is already a "Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine"). Triple-blind experiments will emerge through massive non-invasive statistical data collection--- no one, not the subjects or the experimenters, will realize an experiment was going on until later. (In the Q&A, one questioner predicted the coming of the zero-author paper, generated wholly by computers.)

5) Science will create new levels of meaning. The Internet already is made of one quintillion transistors, a trillion links, a million emails per second, 20 exabytes of memory. It is approaching the level of the human brain and is doubling every year, while the brain is not. It is all becoming effectively one machine. And we are the machine.

"Science is the way we surprise God," said Kelly. "That's what we're here for." Our moral obligation is to generate possibilities, to discover the infinite ways, however complex and high-dimension, to play the infinite game. It will take all possible species of intelligence in order for the universe to understand itself. Science, in this way, is holy. It is a divine trip.

[via reality carnival]

jaybird found this for you @ 20:58 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Hormones could treat phobias

It could be easier for those with a fear of spiders to have a bath following a study published this week. Researchers suggest arachnophobes, and people with other phobias, could be helped by a dose of the stress hormone cortisol, which impairs memory. The University of Zurich team found giving the hormone before being exposed to the phobia trigger led to less fear...

Cortisol impairs the retrieval of memories, so the principle the researchers were looking into was whether giving a dose of the hormone before people were exposed to a spider - or their own personal phobia trigger - would help. The theory was tested on 40 people with social phobia and 20 with spider phobia. Half of those studied were given cortisol and the rest a dummy version. They were then either asked to give a speech in public, or exposed to a spider, depending on their phobia. In both cases, subjects who received the hormone reported less stimulus-induced fear and anxiety.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:55 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Mayan Legend: How The King Of Birds Was Chosen

Halach-Uinic, the Great Spirit guarded over all the Maya World.

His will was law. One day be grew tired of the constant chatter and fighting among the birds. At a meeting in the center of the forest, he announced that the birds must choose a king to keep peace.

Of course, each bird thought it possessed the best qualifications. Col-pol-che, the cardinal sang, "Look at me. No one else is bright red and so beautiful. All the birds admire me. I should he king." And he strutted in front of the impressed bird audience, fluttering his wings and raising his crest.

X-col-col-chek, the tropical mockingbird, trilled out, "I'm the only bird with such a lovely voice. Everyone listens to me." Enlarging his throat, X-col gave a short performance of enchanting and complicated melodies. This was a tremendous sensation among the birds and went far in convincing them that the mockingbird should be king.

Then the wild turkey, Cutz, strode into the circle and gobbled, "There's no doubt that I should be king because I'm the biggest and strongest bird. With my size and strength, I can stop fights and also defend any bird. You need a powerful king. I'm the one!"

And so, throughout the day various birds displayed their qualities. The only one that kept quiet was Kukul, the quetzal. This bird was very ambitious and proud. He had elegant manners and a graceful body, but his plumage was shabby. Kukul thought it would be impossible to be chosen as king while he was dressed so poorly...

jaybird found this for you @ 12:51 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



The Chinese zombie ships of West Africa

We're in the big African Queen inflatable, cruising alongside an anchored trawler. It's more rust than metal - the ship is rotting away. The foredeck is covered in broken machinery. The fish deck is littered with frayed cables, and the mast lies horizontally, hanging over the starboard side. A large rusty Chinese character hangs on railings above the bridge, facing forward. It reads 'happiness'.

Zizi - our Chinese translator - shouts a greeting. A head pokes out from the accommodation, puzzled at this disturbance. A female voice, out here? He picks his way through the debris to the side of the ship. He's friendly, but a bit perplexed at our presence. Sarah asks questions - Zizi translates. He's the 2nd mate, and says that he's been sitting here on his own for five days, awaiting a new crew, He doesn't know when they'll arrive. The trawler itself has been anchored here, at this spot, for three months.

"Is this ship ready for fishing?" we ask. "Yes, of course", he looks around, gestures at the deck. He seems surprised that we would ask. We're amazed it's even floating.

Moff turns the boat, taking us to another of the rusting fishing vessels, 70 nautical miles (130km) off the coast of Guinea, West Africa. We had been told this was where old pirate fishing boats were left at anchor, abandoned. We didn't expect to find living people on board the dying ships.

Earlier, after leaving the Esperanza, we'd found a big red Russian tanker engaged in the refuelling of Chinese trawlers - with one alongside, the Zhang Yuan Yu 1 was practically falling apart at the seams. The skeleton crew were friendly enough - and told us that they awaiting a new crew, so that they could go fishing again. Except for some brief words with an engineer in overalls on the stern, the Russian crew on the tanker Wkotobo were unfriendly, and didn't even return our waves.

We head away, going with the current, which was purple and green with the dregs of spilled fuel. Throughout the afternoon, I keep noticing just how dirty the water is, with oil and fragments of plastic.

We arrive at Long way 08, which is in line for refuelling. This trawler is in a poor state, with the hull covered in masses of good-sized shellfish.

Four young Chinese crewman meet us with smiles and welcomes. They tell us that some of them have been on board for 2 years, non-stop. The trawler itself has been out here for eight years, and would probably be kept going for another six or so, or as long it lasted.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:35 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 29 March, 2006 }

New brown dwarf star discovered in the galactic neighborhood

A team of astronomers has found a cold object that is neither star nor planet circling a star relatively close to Earth.

The object, a cool brown dwarf orbiting its red parent star, sits about 12.7 light-years from the Sun, making it the third closest such object known to date, researchers said.

Cold and dim, brown dwarfs are objects that are typically more massive than planets but fall short of igniting into full-fledged stars. Astronomers using the Very Large Telescope at European Southern Observatory in Paranal, Chile found the latest brown dwarf orbiting the red star SCR 1845-6357.

“Besides being extremely close to Earth, this object is a T dwarf—a very cool brown dwarf—and the only such object found as a companion to a low-mass star,” said Beth Biller, lead author of the study reporting brown dwarf find and a graduate student at the University of Arizona, in a statement. “It is also likely the brightest known object of its temperature because it is so close.”

The newly found brown dwarf carries a temperature of about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit (750 degrees Centigrade) and a mass between nine and 65 times that of Jupiter, researchers said. It also orbits its red parent at a distance 4.5 times that of the average separation between Earth and the Sun, or about 418 million miles (672 million kilometers), they added.

The research will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:04 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



A million voices for Darfur

Sign the petition!

Two years into the crisis, the western Sudanese region of Darfur is acknowledged to be a humanitarian and human rights tragedy of the first order. According to recent reports by the World Food Program, the United Nations and the Coalition for International Justice, 3.5 million people are now hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced due to violence, and 400,000 people have died in Darfur thus far. The international community is failing to protect civilians itself or to influence the Sudanese government to do so.

jaybird found this for you @ 17:01 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Why Mrs Blake Cried

When William Blake died in 1827, his widow Catherine appointed Frederick Tatham his literary and artistic executor. No sooner had Tatham accepted the position than he was, in the words of William Michael Rossetti, brother of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "beset" by "Swedenborgians, Irvingites, or other extreme sectaries", and compelled to thrust "a gag into the piteous mouth of Blake's corpse". What these timid souls feared was that Blake's remains would disclose his intense, frequently obsessive and occasionally pornographic interest in sex. Tatham's job amounted to a full-scale expurgation of what Blake's less unbuttoned followers considered obscene. Blake had left many drawings and manuscripts containing his most explicit sexual, religious and political expressions - all three were linked for him - and Tatham felt obliged to destroy these. The loss was irreparable, but some of the cover-up - literally - was less extreme. Joined by Blake's friend John Linnell, on some works Tatham only erased the offending words or images. When this proved impracticable they resorted to a fig leaf. Blake's original nude self-portrait for his Milton exhibited an erect and oddly blackened penis. One of Blake's prudish descendants mitigated the shock caused by the poet's proud member by drawing knickers over it. Thankfully, modern technology has restored much of this censored material, and what emerges is a vivid recognition that for Blake, sex was at the centre of his spiritual and domestic life.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:59 in Authors, Books & Words | | permalink



Blumenthal: The Apocalyptic president

In his latest PR offensive President Bush came to Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday to answer the paramount question on Iraq that he said was on people's minds: "They wonder what I see that they don't." After mentioning "terror" 54 times and "victory" five, dismissing "civil war" twice and asserting that he is "optimistic", he called on a citizen in the audience, who homed in on the invisible meaning of recent events in the light of two books, American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips, and the book of Revelation. Phillips, the questioner explained, "makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?"

Bush's immediate response, as transcribed by CNN, was: "Hmmm." Then he said: "The answer is I haven't really thought of it that way. Here's how I think of it. First, I've heard of that, by the way." The official White House website transcript drops the strategic comma, and so changes the meaning to: "First I've heard of that, by the way."

But it is certainly not the first time Bush has heard of the apocalyptic preoccupation of much of the religious right, having served as evangelical liaison on his father's 1988 presidential campaign. The Rev Jerry Falwell told Newsweek how he brought Tim LaHaye, then an influential rightwing leader, to meet him; LaHaye's Left Behind novels, dramatising the rapture, Armageddon and the second coming, have sold tens of millions.

But it is almost certain that Cleveland was the first time Bush had heard of Phillips's book. He was the visionary strategist for Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign; his 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority, spelled out the shift of power from the north-east to the south and south-west, which he was early to call "the sunbelt"; he grasped that southern Democrats would react to the civil-rights revolution by becoming southern Republicans; he also understood the resentments of urban ethnic Catholics towards black people on issues such as crime, school integration and jobs. But he never imagined that evangelical religion would transform the coalition he helped to fashion into something that horrifies him.

In American Theocracy, Phillips describes Bush as the founder of "the first American religious party"; September 11 gave him the pretext for "seizing the fundamentalist moment"; he has manipulated a "critical religious geography" to hype issues such as gay marriage. "New forces were being interwoven. These included the institutional rise of the religious right, the intensifying biblical focus on the Middle East, and the deepening of insistence on church-government collaboration within the GOP electorate." It portended a potential "American Disenlightenment," apparent in Bush's hostility to science.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:57 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 28 March, 2006 }

Duh: The Science Of Sexual Orientation

The bedrooms of 9-year-old twins Adam and Jared couldn't be more different. Jared's room is decked out with camouflage, airplanes, and military toys, while Adam's room sports a pastel canopy, stuffed animals, and white horses... Jared was eager to show her his G.I. Joe collection. "I have ones that say like Marine and SWAT. And then that's where I keep all the guns for 'em," he explained. Adam was also proud to show off his toys. "This is one of my dolls. Bratz baby," he said.

Adam wears pinkish-purple nail polish, adorned with stars and diamonds. Asked if he went to school like that, Adam says, "Uh-huh. I just showed them my nails, and they were like, 'Why did you do that?'" Adam's behavior is called childhood gender nonconformity, meaning a child whose interests and behaviors are more typical of the opposite sex. Research shows that kids with extreme gender nonconformity usually grow up to be gay.

Danielle, Adam and Jared's mom, says she began to notice this difference in Adam when he was about 18 months old and began asking for a Barbie doll. Jared, meanwhile, was asking for fire trucks. Not that much has changed. Jared’s favorite game now is Battlefield 2, Special Forces. As for Adam, he says, "It's called Neopets: The Darkest Faerie."

Asked how he would describe himself to a stranger, Jared says, "I'm a kid who likes G.I. Joes and games and TV." "I would say like a girl," Adam replied to the same question. When asked why he thinks that is, Adam shrugged.

"To me, cases like that really scream out, 'Hey, it's not out there. It's in here.' There's no indication that this mother is prone to raise very feminine boys because his twin is not that way," says Michael Bailey, a psychology professor at Northwestern University and a leading researcher in the field of sexual orientation.

Bailey says he doesn't think nurture is a plausible explanation. Psychologists used to believe homosexuality was caused by nurture — namely overbearing mothers and distant fathers — but that theory has been disproved. Today, scientists are looking at genes, environment, brain structure and hormones. There is one area of consensus: that homosexuality involves more than just sexual behavior; it’s physiological.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:56 in Gay, Lesbian, Queer & Free | | permalink



42: Prime numbers get hitched

In 1972, the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote an article called "Missed Opportunities." In it, he describes how relativity could have been discovered many years before Einstein announced his findings if mathematicians in places like Göttingen had spoken to physicists who were poring over Maxwell's equations describing electromagnetism. The ingredients were there in 1865 to make the breakthrough—only announced by Einstein some 40 years later.

It is striking that Dyson should have written about scientific ships passing in the night. Shortly after he published the piece, he was responsible for an abrupt collision between physics and mathematics that produced one of the most remarkable scientific ideas of the last half century: that quantum physics and prime numbers are inextricably linked.

This unexpected connection with physics has given us a glimpse of the mathematics that might, ultimately, reveal the secret of these enigmatic numbers. At first the link seemed rather tenuous. But the important role played by the number 42 has recently persuaded even the deepest skeptics that the subatomic world might hold the key to one of the greatest unsolved problems in mathematics.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:50 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Researchers get neurons and silicon talking

European researchers have created an interface between mammalian neurons and silicon chips. The development is a crucial first step in the development of advanced technologies that combine silicon circuits with a mammal’s nervous system.

The ultimate applications are potentially limitless. In the long term it will possibly enable the creation of very sophisticated neural prostheses to combat neurological disorders. What's more, it could allow the creation of organic computers that use living neurons as their CPU.

Those applications are potentially decades away, but in the much nearer term the new technology could enable very advanced and sophisticated drug screening systems for the pharmaceutical industry.

"Pharmaceutical companies could use the chip to test the effect of drugs on neurons, to quickly discover promising avenues of research," says Professor Stefano Vassanelli, a molecular biologist with the University of Padua in Italy, and one of the partners in the NACHIP project, funded under the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies initiative of the IST programme.

NACHIP's core achievement was to develop a working interface between the living tissue of individual neurons and the inorganic compounds of silicon chips. It was a difficult task.

"We had a lot of problems to overcome," says Vassanelli. "And we attacked the problems using two major strategies, through the semiconductor technology and the biology."

jaybird found this for you @ 12:48 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Jubilee: Doing what is right and holy in the world

My wide-open, big-love multi-faith spiritual community is stepping up to the plate against institutionalized discrimination. I was asked to make a statement on my opinion of Howard's move, and a gave it all the gusto he deserves, for he is just a man who feels deeply and profoundly about being spiritually congruent with your source, whatever that may be. It is a rare and noble virtue, and I applaud him.

I'm proud to call Howard a friend, and proud of my community.


In a statement he released Monday morning, Hanger said:

“As a United Methodist Minister, I am prohibited from ceremonially blessing the love of any gay couple. So, with a sad heart and after a long talk with my bishop, Deb Kiesey, I have decided that I can no longer operate as a minister under the banner of an institution which so blatantly discriminates against the love of 10-20 percent of the world's population. I will resign my ordination papers and continue to serve as Minister of Ritual for the JUBILEE! Community. This decision will not affect my legal ability to officiate at marriages, baptisms or any other ecclesiastical functions.

“This is an extremely difficult decision. Both my father and grandfather were Methodist ministers, one of whom left the church over his opposition to war and the other who got into trouble with the church over his pro-civil rights stance.

“The choice was clear, however: obey my conscience and my call to follow Jesus (a man who said nothing about homosexuality and everything about love) or obey a policy that clearly and uncompromisingly judges and discriminates against the committed love of God's children. It's a no-brainer; but a heavy-hearter. As a minister, my mission is to bless and encourage love wherever I find it and to bring love where it is not. I must continue to do this.

“My hope and prayer is that United Methodists and all other denominations may soon realize that love is love; and what our world needs now is love, not discrimination.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:35 in Local- Western North Carolina | | permalink



{ Monday, 27 March, 2006 }

Hardly Surprising: Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.
The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

jaybird found this for you @ 20:02 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Could Ethiopian skull be missing link?

Scientists in northeastern Ethiopia said Saturday that they have discovered the skull of a small human ancestor that could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man.

The hominid cranium -- found in two pieces and believed to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old -- "comes from a very significant period and is very close to the appearance of the anatomically modern human," said Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project in Ethiopia.

Archaeologists found the early human cranium five weeks ago at Gawis in Ethiopia's northeastern Afar region, Sileshi said.

Several stone tools and fossilized animals including two types of pigs, zebras, elephants, antelopes, cats, and rodents were also found at the site.

Sileshi, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist based at Indiana University, said most fossil hominids are found in pieces but the near-complete skull -- a rare find -- provided a wealth of information.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:59 in History, Civilization & Anthropology | | permalink



You thoughts can now be read: The Silent Speaker

In space, no one can hear you scream. Use a cell phone on a crowded commuter train and everyone can.

Charles Jorgensen is working to solve both problems, using an uncanny technology called subvocal speech recognition. Jorgensen demonstrates it at his offices at NASA's Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, Calif. He attaches a set of electrodes to the skin of his throat and, without his opening his mouth or uttering a sound, his words are recognized and begin appearing on a computer screen. The Ames lab has already used subvocal commands to drive a car around a virtual city in a computer simulation and to Google the Web using nothing but unuttered search terms and commands. Jorgensen sees abundant applications for his technology where audible speech is impossible: for astronauts, underwater Navy Seals, fighter pilots and emergency workers charging into loud, harsh environments.

When we speak aloud, we're forcing air past the larynx and tongue, sculpting words using the articulator muscles in the mouth and jaw. But these muscles go into action regardless of whether air is sent past them. All you have to do is say the words to yourself and you're sending weak electrical currents from your brain to the speech muscles. Jorgensen's trick is to record those signals (known as electromyograms), process them with statistical algorithms and compare the output with prerecorded signal patterns of spoken words, phrases and commands. When there's a match, the unspoken turns into speech.

Jorgensen, who earned a Ph.D. in 1974 in mathematical psychology (before it was known as artificial intelligence), hit upon the idea for subvocal speech recognition after working on electromyographic interfaces for fighter pilots. "That work led us to ask, 'How small an electromagnetic current can we discriminate?'" says Jorgensen. (The fact that nerves produce current has been known since 1848, when Emil DuBois-Reymond sliced open his hand and plunged his clenched fist into a saline solution, triggering a jump in an attached galvanometer.)

Subvocal speech recognition still needs a lot of work before it can achieve consistent, accurate readings. Audible-speech-recognition software is now proficient enough to convert both "tom-ah-to" and "tom-ay-to" to "tomato." Under optimal conditions normal speech-recognition software that works with sound is 95% accurate.

Read it- the implications are spooky.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:56 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Brezny: Secrets of Pronoia

When an old tree in the rain forest dies and topples over, it
takes a long time to decompose. As it does, it becomes host to
new saplings that use the decaying log for nourishment.
Picture yourself sitting in the forest gazing upon this scene.
How would you describe it? Would you dwell on the putrefaction
of the fallen tree while ignoring the fresh life sprouting
out of it? If you did, you’d be imitating the perspective of many modern storytellers, especially the journalists and novelists
and fi lmmakers and producers of TV dramas. Th ey devoutly
believe that tales of affl iction and mayhem and corruption and
tragedy are inherently more interesting than tales of triumph
and liberation and pleasure and ingenuity. Using the machinery
of the media and entertainment industries, they relentlessly
propagate this dogma. It’s not suffi ciently profound or wellthought- out to be called “nihilism.” “Pop nihilism” is a more accurate term. Th e mass audience is the victim of this inane ugliness, brainwashed by a multi-billion-dollar propaganda machine that makes the Nazis’ Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda look like a child’s backyard puppet show.

At the Beauty and Truth Laboratory, we believe that stories
about the rot are not inherently more captivating than stories
about the splendor. On the contrary, given how predictable
and omnipresent the former have become, they are actually
quite dull. Obsessing on evil is boring. Rousing fear is a hackneyed
shtick. Wallowing in despair is a bad habit. Indulging
in cynicism is akin to committing a copycat crime.

How did it come to be that the news is reported solely by
journalists? There are so many other kinds of events besides
the narrow band favored by that highly specialized brand of
storytellers. Indeed, there are many phenomena that literally
cannot be perceived by journalists. Th eir training, their
temperament, and their ambitions make vast areas of human
experience invisible to them.

“Ninety-six percent of the cosmos puzzles astronomers,”
read a headline on CNN’s website: proof that at least some of
our culture’s equivalent of high priests — the scientists — are humble enough to acknowledge that the universe is made up
mostly of stuff they can’t even detect, let alone study.
If only the journalists were equally modest. Since they’re
not, we’ll say it: Th e majority of everything that happens on
this planet escapes their notice.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Sunday, 26 March, 2006 }

Tonight will be my last night of un-aided sleep

Tomorrow night I pick up my CPAP, and I'll post all about it. That said, goodnight, beautiful people.

jaybird found this for you @ 23:10 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



{ Saturday, 25 March, 2006 }

Wordplay: Perspective, balance, and today

Today has been a bit too cold for much gallivanting, and it's been snowing off and on for some time, perhaps for the last time until winter returns. This being fickle Asheville, I somehow don't think this is the end of it... It's funny how we humans always seem to start things off by yakking about the weather. Perhaps that thin skin between us and cold Space is more of a friend than we realize- it's always in conversation. I've been generally happy lately, mixed with the occasional petty derailment. But I've been having fun with it all, and have put myself on the analyst's couch of the mind, to be both the nut and the nutcracker. Mirror mirror. Good times.

I've been delighting lately in contrasts- delicious contrasts which force one to laugh through the tears, to kiss the sky through balled-up fists. No details, but it's been a thrilling ride which enlivens and sustains through this gray threshold between winter and the flowery, orgasmic Puck-ish fever of Spring. If anything, what these contrasts have done is to teach (again) that the material side of this crawl through the mire and tang of life on a sphere is a rather silly affair and not worth wasting vital dendritic quivers over. The material failures which caused me a little more ire than necessary are some pretty big metaphors which say, really, don't rely on anything, at all. By being alive I've chosen to gamble, and my happy ramble through Being is rather like the dance of a single die upon a verdant felt runway under a million glittering casino lights. Either way I land, I can't ever really come up empty.

So, here's to laughter. Here's to surprise. Here's to the big fat unknown which will one day fold me in its flesh. I can't bet on having this body for an eternity, nor can I not. I can't know, so I'll laugh, as the daffodil laughs at the snow, as the pigeon laughs at the airplane, as the Infinite laughs, lovingly, at our castles and contraptions. What else can be done but to pick up my hat, and sail into the night, to the land of inviting glances and endless second chances?

Time for a shower.

jaybird found this for you @ 18:27 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



{ Friday, 24 March, 2006 }

Charles Tayfor for Congress: He Sucks!

A daring group of local concerned citizens launched a new, imformative and pretty damn funny site aimed at Taylor's highly unethical behavior, sap-lust for deforestation, and rather unfortunate relationships with unsavory characters.

All with a delicious satiric bite. Do check it out.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:41 in Local- Western North Carolina | | permalink



Bring on the freeze-dried ludefisk: Swedes plan to colonise Moon

We always knew the Swedes were a shifty bunch - softening hearts worldwide with a pleasing blend of inoffensive europop, cheap yet effortlessly stylish flat-pack furniture and fun-loving, pnemuatic blonde fillies - but now the horrible truth can now be revealed: they're planning to colonise the Moon thereby ensuring their own survival as the Earth's resources dwindle and lesser nations are returned to a primitive Stone-Age state enslaved to Sweden's galactic ambitions*.

The proof comes in the form of the innocent-looking SMART-Centre which, according to various reports, has assembled a consortium of more than 50 partners - including Japan's Shimizu Corporation, US NASA contractor Orbitech and the UK's Cranfield University - to turn the centre's Dr. Niklas Järvstråt's dreams of extraterrestrial conquest into reality.

Järvstråt first pitched the idea of colonising the Moon over ten years ago. His plan is to establish a self-sustaining community "where the great circle of life can be sustained in its entirety by lunar raw materials and where all life-sustaining products will be manufactured in situ".

jaybird found this for you @ 16:56 in Radical Undertakings | | permalink



100-year-old decides it’s time to retire

Awwww...

Winston retired this week after 75 years of cleaning and then supervising the maintenance of first, Los Angeles trolleys, and then buses. He never took one sick day and only missed one day of work — when his wife passed away.

“He gets here before I do,” says Winston’s boss, Alex DiNuzzo, the Metro Transit Authority manager, adding, “And I get here at 5 in the morning.”

Winston was born in 1906 — when Teddy Roosevelt was president, when corn flakes were introduced and when finding a job wasn't easy for a black man.

But he distinguished himself with his professionalism and stamina, outlasting all of his co-workers

jaybird found this for you @ 12:53 in Interesting People | | permalink



"Flow" & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Csikszentmihalyi opened the lecture with an account of his name which included reference to its Hungarian/Transylvanian roots. Talking of his roots he noted one of his defining moments was at the age of ten, in 1945, when Hungarian society was overturned and most of the adults whom he had respected "disintegrated" with the loss of social status and financial support. Though he acknowledges that he hasn't yet discovered the basis for why a few did not "disintegrate", he set himself a goal of discovering a way to live a better life.

He has looked at many different answers to this question in domains as separate as art, religion, and sport, and in the past as well as the present, and sees that there are many different forms of answer. Indeed he noted there seems to be a need to reinvent or reexpress the answer every couple of generations. He saw the need to find or refind the answer as urgent as people do not seem to know what to do to live happy lives.

He started with artists, or with those that were "creating meaning". Many described an "ecstatic state" or a feeling of being outside of what they were creating with their hands. Ecstatic comes from the Latin for "stand to side". Csikszentmihalyi accounted for this feeling of being consciously outside of the creation as due to the psychological limits of consciousness, that at higher levels of consciousness the more mundane aspects become subconscious in order to restrict conscious attention to the number of items it can manage. So a pianist described not noticing the room, his hands, the keys, the score, but rather being conscious of only "being one with the music and expressing emotion".

He noted that a major constraint on people enjoying what they are doing is always being conscious of a fear of how they appear to others and what these others might think. Ecstasy includes rising above these constraining concerns of the ego.

Csikszentmihalyi concluded that stepping outside of normal daily routines is an essential element of what he was looking for. This might be obtained through diverse routes or activities, such as reading a novel or becoming involved in a film.


[more, via metafilter]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:34 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 23 March, 2006 }

The Mayas: How The Mockingbird Became The Best Singer

When X-chol-col-chek, the mockingbird, was young, her family was very poor, and she could only dress in dingy feathers. Since she was hatched, however, X-col had displayed a magnificent voice. She wanted to take singing lessons but could not afford them.

The mockingbird was fortunate to obtain work with a rich and noble family of cardinals. That winter, a famous singing professor, Dr. Xcau, the melodious blackbird, came to Maya Land. The father cardinal immediately imagined that his daughter, Col-pol-che, could become a fine singer. She was lazy vain and hated to study. But by promising her many fine gifts, the father convinced her to try singing lessons.

When Col-pol-che went with Dr. Xcau to a quiet part of the woods to begin her music course, X-col followed and hid in the bushes to listen and learn. Then she raced back to finish her chores. For weeks, the professor tried to make the girl cardinal sing sweetly, but without success. He soon realized she had neither the voice nor the ambition. He was afraid to tell her wealthy father after such a long time, having accepted a lot of money. So, he finally flew far away an forgot the whole affair.

Meanwhile, X-col had been practicing. One morning, Col-pol-che happened to hear her and was very surprised at her little maid's ability. That same day, the father cardinal decided his daughter should give a concert for their friends. The indolent girl was terrified, yet she dared not tell her parents that she couldn't sing. She thought of the mockingbird's lovely voice and decided to ask her for help.

The two birds asked Colote, the woodpecker, to bore a hole into the tree trunk where Col-pol-che would perch. Then the mockingbird would hide inside. While Col-pol-che pretended to be singing, the real voice would come from X-col within...

jaybird found this for you @ 20:14 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



Unprecedented double helix near center of Milky Way

Astronomers report an unprecedented elongated double helix nebula near the center of our Milky Way galaxy, using observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The part of the nebula the astronomers observed stretches 80 light years in length. The research is published March 16 in the journal Nature.

"We see two intertwining strands wrapped around each other as in a DNA molecule," said Mark Morris, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, and lead author. "Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the cosmic realm. Most nebulae are either spiral galaxies full of stars or formless amorphous conglomerations of dust and gas -- space weather. What we see indicates a high degree of order."

The double helix nebula is approximately 300 light years from the enormous black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:12 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



The red rain phenomenon of Kerala and its possible extraterrestrial origin

A red rain phenomenon occurred in Kerala, India starting from 25th July 2001, in which the rainwater appeared coloured in various localized places that are spread over a few hundred kilometers in Kerala. Maximum cases were reported during the first 10 days and isolated cases were found to occur for about 2 months. The striking red colouration of the rainwater was found to be due to the suspension of microscopic red particles having the appearance of biological cells. These particles have no similarity with usual desert dust. An estimated minimum quantity of 50,000 kg of red particles has fallen from the sky through red rain. An analysis of this strange phenomenon further shows that the conventional atmospheric transport processes like dust storms etc. cannot explain this phenomenon. The electron microscopic study of the red particles shows fine cell structure indicating their biological cell like nature. EDAX analysis shows that the major elements present in these cell like particles are carbon and oxygen. Strangely, a test for DNA using Ethidium Bromide dye fluorescence technique indicates absence of DNA in these cells. In the context of a suspected link between a meteor airburst event and the red rain, the possibility for the extraterrestrial origin of these particles from cometary fragments is discussed.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:10 in Forteana, Phenomena & the Bizarre | | permalink



Shari'a Law in the United States

First in Europe and now in the United States, Muslim groups have petitioned to establish enclaves in which they can uphold and enforce greater compliance to Islamic law. While the U.S. Constitution enshrines the right to religious freedom and the prohibition against a state religion, when it comes to the rights of religious enclaves to impose communal rules, the dividing line is more nebulous. Can U.S. enclaves, homeowner associations, and other groups enforce Islamic law?

jaybird found this for you @ 08:07 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 22 March, 2006 }

JON CARROLL: I believe I lost it.

I believe I lost it. I believe I yelled. It was in an empty room, so no animals were harmed in the making of that yell, but still. I felt frustrated. And you know what's really good when you're feeling frustrated? Remembering that you have a newspaper column.

Last year the Ford Motor Co. started to buy ads in several publications aimed at gay readers. They did so, one presumes, because they realized that gay people buy automobiles, and Ford has, alas, not been selling many automobiles lately. Then the company got assaulted by the American Family Association, a creation of the Rev. Donald Wildmon, a clever right-wing agitator with a hate-based agenda. So Ford announced that it would stop advertising in gay publications.

But then, whoops, Ford reversed its reversal and said, never mind, it was going to advertise in gay publications after all. So then a representative of the AFA announced that it was reinstating its boycott. "We cannot, and will not, sit by as Ford supports a social agenda aimed at the destruction of the family."

What a vile sentence. What a vile sentiment. What overbusy, underbrained worms these people must be. I am not yelling.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:19 in Gay, Lesbian, Queer & Free | | permalink



Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These... Whatever They Ares?

Interesting that [Bush] cannot remember "Federal Reserve" on the fly. Also interesting that he does not know that the Federal Reserve controls the overnight federal funds rate, but does not control--it influences--long-term rates. Interesting that he thinks his power to veto appropriations bills is the power to "make suggestions" about spending levels.

Who is the "they"? And did "they" really tell him to say that?

jaybird found this for you @ 16:14 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Two Years Before 9/11, Candidate Bush was Already Talking Privately About Attacking Iraq, According to His Former Ghost Writer

Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.

"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade·.if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency." Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father's shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. "Suddenly, he's at 91 percent in the polls, and he'd barely crawled out of the bunker."

That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work - and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war - has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush's unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters - well before he became president.

In 1999, Herskowitz struck a deal with the campaign of George W. Bush about a ghost-written autobiography, which was ultimately titled A Charge to Keep : My Journey to the White House, and he and Bush signed a contract in which the two would split the proceeds. The publisher was William Morrow. Herskowitz was given unimpeded access to Bush, and the two met approximately 20 times so Bush could share his thoughts. Herskowitz began working on the book in May, 1999, and says that within two months he had completed and submitted some 10 chapters, with a remaining 4-6 chapters still on his computer. Herskowitz was replaced as Bush's ghostwriter after Bush's handlers concluded that the candidate's views and life experiences were not being cast in a sufficiently positive light.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:11 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



President Bush Increasingly Uses Rhetorical Straw-Man Arguments to Combat Unnamed Critics

"Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," President Bush said recently.

Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."

"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."

Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions. When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position. He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" - conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:07 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 21 March, 2006 }

AFRICA'S NEW OCEAN: A Continent Splits Apart

Normally new rivers, seas and mountains are born in slow motion. The Afar Triangle near the Horn of Africa is another story. A new ocean is forming there with staggering speed -- at least by geological standards. Africa will eventually lose its horn.

Geologist Dereje Ayalew and his colleagues from Addis Ababa University were amazed -- and frightened. They had only just stepped out of their helicopter onto the desert plains of central Ethiopia when the ground began to shake under their feet. The pilot shouted for the scientists to get back to the helicopter. And then it happened: the Earth split open. Crevices began racing toward the researchers like a zipper opening up. After a few seconds, the ground stopped moving, and after they had recovered from their shock, Ayalew and his colleagues realized they had just witnessed history. For the first time ever, human beings were able to witness the first stages in the birth of an ocean.

Normally changes to our geological environment take place almost imperceptibly. A life time is too short to see rivers changing course, mountains rising skywards or valleys opening up. In north-eastern Africa's Afar Triangle, though, recent months have seen hundreds of crevices splitting the desert floor and the ground has slumped by as much as 100 meters (328 feet). At the same time, scientists have observed magma rising from deep below as it begins to form what will eventually become a basalt ocean floor. Geologically speaking, it won't be long until the Red Sea floods the region. The ocean that will then be born will split Africa apart.

The Afar Triangle, which cuts across Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, is the largest construction site on the planet. Three tectonic plates meet there with the African and Arabian plates drifting apart along two separate fault lines by one centimeter a year. A team of scientists working with Christophe Vigny of the Paris Laboratory of Geology reported on the phenomenon in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research. While the two plates move apart, the ground sinks to make room for the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:17 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



Conservationists Vie To Buy Forest Habitat

A recent U.S. Forest Service study predicted that more than 44 million acres of private forest land, an area twice the size of Maine, will be sold over the next 25 years. The consulting firm U.S. Forest Capital estimates that half of all U.S. timberland has changed hands in the past decade. The Bush administration also wants to sell off forest land, by auctioning more than 300,000 acres of national forest to fund a rural school program.

"The nation has never seen anything like this," said Conservation Fund President Lawrence A. Selzer, whose 20-year-old group is hoping to raise $48 million in the coming months to buy the 16,000 acres that make up Big River and Salmon Creek. "It has the potential to permanently and profoundly change the landscape of America."

The United States still has large swaths of forest -- much of it private -- that provide critical habitat for large animals such as bears and cougars as well as recreational opportunities for the public. But if the selling spree continues, environmentalists fear, these areas could be cut up into much smaller parcels in which condominiums and trailer parks would replace soaring trees.

The sales have attracted limited national attention because they are mostly private transactions and involve local planning decisions, but the stakes are enormous. In the Pacific Northwest, New England, Southeast and parts of the upper Midwest, traditional timber companies or newly emerging timber investment management organizations, known as TIMOs, own vast stretches of forest that rival the national forest system.

Today, a third of the U.S. land mass is forest -- the same proportion as in 1907 but just 71 percent of what existed before settlement by Europeans -- and 57 percent of it is privately owned. But competition from cheap imported lumber, soaring land prices and pressure from Wall Street are now prompting timber companies to sell.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:13 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



How many species inhabit the planet?

Scientists and policy makers who want to slow the rate at which species are being lost face a conundrum: No one knows how many different plants and animals there are.

"Some people who study insects think there may be as many as 100 million species out there... But if you took a poll of biologists, I think most would say there are somewhere around 15 million..."

The conundrum will hang over a U.N. conference in Brazil next week where experts will discuss ways to slow the loss of species. The United Nations agreed in 2002 to reduce the rate at which animals and plants are disappearing by 2010.

"The implication of not knowing exactly how many species there are is that we can't tell if we are actually making progress on the 2010 target..." What we know is that around 1.7 million plant and animal species have been identified and named by scientists.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:08 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



last night's dream

A middle-eastern man is handcuffed on the ground. Two men have pointed guns at him, and he is about to die. The man gives them a look, so full of power, that the men flee, and fire their guns at him, with all of the bullets missing. The man laughs, his chains come free, and a pigeon flies right into his hand.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:03 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



{ Monday, 20 March, 2006 }

Welcome to Spring!

While the Vernal Equinox was an important point of passage in the year, the actual method of marking the festival varied from village to village and people to people. Rituals and invocations for abundance in the new crops being planted would often be held during the new moon closest to the Equinox (traditionally a good time to plant). In some places this was also the time when promises were made between lovers for the Handfasting Ceremony that would come at Midsummer. In a very real sense the ceremony was an expression of hope and trust in the new lives that would blossom in the warmth of summer.

Even the latter day celebration (comparatively speaking) of Easter acknowledged the significance of the Vernal Equinox. The Council of Nice decreed in 325 A.D. that "Easter was to fall upon the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox."

This time of equality between day and night has been, and continues to be, a timekeeper, marking our passage from darkness and cold to warmth and light.

jaybird found this for you @ 18:19 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



Bronze Age Sky Disc Deciphered

The purpose of the 3,600 year-old sky disc of Nebra, which caused a world-wide sensation when it was brought to the attention of the German public in 2002, is no longer a matter of speculation.

A group of German scholars who studied this archaeological gem has discovered evidence which suggests that the disc was used as a complex astronomical clock for the harmonization of solar and lunar calendars.

"This is a clear expansion of what we knew about the meaning and function of the sky disc," said archeologist Harald Meller.
The sky disc of Nebra was not all moonshineBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The sky disc of Nebra was not all moonshine

Unlike the solar calendar, which indicates the position of the earth as it revolves around the sun, the lunar calendar is based on the phases of the moon. A lunar year is eleven days shorter than the solar year because 12 synodic months, or 12 returns of the moon to the new phase, take only 354 days.

The sky disc of Nebra was used to determine if and when a thirteenth month -- the so-called intercalary month -- should be added to a lunar year to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the seasons.

"The functioning of this clock was probably known to a very small group of people," Meller said.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:11 in History, Civilization & Anthropology | | permalink



Intolerable abuse of power: The Letter of the Law

In the dark days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a small group of lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department began meeting to debate a number of novel legal strategies to help prevent another attack. Soon after, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to begin conducting electronic eavesdropping on terrorism suspects in the United States, including American citizens, without court approval. Meeting in the FBI's state-of-the-art command center in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the lawyers talked with senior FBI officials about using the same legal authority to conduct physical searches of homes and businesses of terrorism suspects--also without court approval, one current and one former government official tell U.S. News. "There was a fair amount of discussion at Justice on the warrantless physical search issue," says a former senior FBI official. "Discussions about--if [the searches] happened--where would the information go, and would it taint cases."

FBI Director Robert Mueller was alarmed by the proposal, the two officials said, and pushed back hard against it. "Mueller was personally very concerned," one official says, "not only because of the blowback issue but also because of the legal and constitutional questions raised by warrantless physical searches." FBI spokesman John Miller said none of the FBI's senior staff are aware of any such discussions and added that the bureau has not conducted "physical searches of any location without consent or a judicial order."

...in a little-noticed white paper submitted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Congress on January 19 justifying the legality of the NSA eavesdropping, Justice Department lawyers made a tacit case that President Bush also has the inherent authority to order such physical searches. In order to fulfill his duties as commander in chief, the 42-page white paper says, "a consistent understanding has developed that the president has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches and surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes." The memo cites congressional testimony of Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, in 1994 stating that the Justice Department "believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes."

jaybird found this for you @ 12:06 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Our Fourth Year: This is why occupation must end now.

According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children. Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began...

Eman Waleed, 9, lived in a house 150 yards from the site of the blast, which was strong enough to shatter all the windows in her home. "We heard a big noise that woke us all up," she recalls two months later. "Then we did what we always do when there's an explosion: my father goes into his room with the Koran and prays that the family will be spared any harm." Eman says the rest of the family—her mother, grandfather, grandmother, two brothers, two aunts and two uncles—gathered in the living room. According to military officials familiar with the investigation, the Marines say they came under fire from the direction of the Waleed house immediately after being hit by the ied. A group of Marines headed toward the house. Eman says she "heard a lot of shooting, so none of us went outside. Besides, it was very early, and we were all wearing our nightclothes." When the Marines entered the house, they were shouting in English. "First, they went into my father's room, where he was reading the Koran," she claims, "and we heard shots." According to Eman, the Marines then entered the living room. "I couldn't see their faces very well—only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny." She claims the troops started firing toward the corner of the room where she and her younger brother Abdul Rahman, 8, were hiding; the other adults shielded the children from the bullets but died in the process. Eman says her leg was hit by a piece of metal and Abdul Rahman was shot near his shoulder. "We were lying there, bleeding, and it hurt so much. Afterward, some Iraqi soldiers came. They carried us in their arms. I was crying, shouting 'Why did you do this to our family?' And one Iraqi soldier tells me, 'We didn't do it. The Americans did.'" Time was unable to speak with the only other survivor of the raid, Eman's younger brother, who relatives say is traumatized by the experience. U.S. military officials familiar with the investigation say that after entering the house, the Marines walked into a corridor with closed doors on either side. They thought they heard the clack-clack sound of an AK-47 being racked and readied for fire. (Eman and relatives who were not in the house insist that no guns were there.) Believing they were about to be ambushed, the Marines broke down the two doors simultaneously and fired their weapons. The officials say the military has confirmed that seven people were killed inside the house--including two women and a child. The Marines also reported seeing a man and a woman run out of the house; they gave chase and shot and killed the man. Relatives say the woman, Hiba Abdullah, escaped with her baby.



And that's not all...

jaybird found this for you @ 08:44 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



{ Sunday, 19 March, 2006 }

Winter's Flight

And so it is, the last day of winter...

You wouldn’t know it, by the pale sun and the crawling slate clouds which promise rain tomorrow, but winter, that time of inward-ness, that time of dark days which ferment secret thoughts, is to pass in some manner of celestial clockwork tomorrow.

Mysteries abound: the rising of the green, slender stalks, responding to a call from the roots. The synchronous flowering of trees. The return of long absent birds. These things would happen with or without us- such mechanics have preceded us in countless succession to now, and shall proceed us, past the veil of death, path civilizations, past all the drama that crosses the map as hurried actors. To bear this season witness is, again, to be invited to an audacious feast, one in spite of all of the perils which could befall, one in spite of the abyss of mystery surrounding even the mere pronouncement of words. What to do with such an awesome thing?

The trick of it is, is that as many of us shall herald this season with frivolity and ostentatious delight, as many of us will hardly notice, as their feast of existence is famine. Can we gallivant for their sake, truly? Can we shoulder their burdens as we dance our queer circles and summon the ancient’s wisdom to converge with today’s torrent upon torrent of data? Can I truly be myself without doing so, without the dichotomous divide of us/them and to exist as a whole, integral, and compassionately-attuned creature?

I ask you: can a Morning Glory find its way to blossom through barbed wire fences? Without a doubt. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen butterflies sail past prisons, and rainbows over post-urban wastelands. I’ve seen those torn with despair and disease still crack a smile over the silly bumbling of me, the foreigner on their turf. I’ve seen Dandelions crack cement and heard Beethoven just miles from Auschwitz. Growth is contagious, and it will spread if left unattended. If we let go. If the ties that bind are seen, clearly, as further evidence that we live so intensely that some may try to contain us. Silly them. You cannot net a dream, much as you cannot suppress that deep, indwelling, burning light, which commands growth.

I’ve noticed that the Mockingbirds have returned. My restlessness has gifted me with being awake at three in the morning, when they intone their improvisations to a ribald moon and give sweet cadence to low hanging stars. Perhaps they know the mystery to the tender green stalks, the explosions of Forsythia, the spontaneous greening of pastures, the bubbly desire of water to rush ever closer to its source. Perhaps it’s even the returning song of this minstrel that causes this Earth to stir, as much as we humans would like to take responsibility for it. The thing of it is, none will ever know, no matter the true grit of science and the bounty of our erudition. Alchemy always has worked its stuff below the radar, and magic surely turns the invisible gears below the threshold of our mere thoughts. These are tongues that speak only in the wordless symphony of bedazzlement and wonderment, the very curtain behind which the secrets of life gather for impromptu meetings.

The coming of spring is only the first drop. There is much more desire, much more mystery, much more adventure. Winter has impregnated us with an urge to burst out, touch the grass, make the many metaphors of love, and do what is good. To that, I raise my mug of black tea, in honor of what is taught, in thanks for what is received.

Now comes the unknown. The sweet, ever flowering, ever winding unknown. Fill us all with bright green leaves, budding blossoms, and that burning sun which calls us to light the way for justice, for equity, for this brief shimmer of ecstasy called life.

And so it is.

jaybird found this for you @ 18:36 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



Given to the burning

Smoke came down from Tennesee today,
Errant ash from a distant fire...
Everything burns, and in that consumption,
An exhale.

The air, written with a pen of licking fire,
Was still and it repeated, softly,
That this is what we can expect out of it all-
Transformation, and waiting your turn.

The last days of winter
Cast into flames, to be set aglow with the pulsing blood of spring,
They pass, and I rise to meet the world
From behind the glass where I've kept a season.

All that is gone
Given to the burning
All that is coming
Felt through trembling skin, and outstretched arms.

jaybird found this for you @ 00:45 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



{ Friday, 17 March, 2006 }

Implants for science: Big Brain Thinking

Scientists are learning volumes about the brain -- how it can make split-second decisions, how it learns from past mistakes, how it converts pulses of light into a complex visual scene. But, for some, deciphering the "language" of the electrical pulses that travel through our brains is only half the story. The second part, and one that is far more philosophical and complex, is how that brain activity translates into consciousness -- a person's self-awareness and perception of the world around them.

Bill Newsome, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, has spent the last twenty years studying how neurons encode information and how they use it to make decisions about the world. In the 1990s, he and collaborators were able to change the way a monkey responded to its environment by sending electric jolts to certain parts of its brain. The findings gave neuroscientists enormous insight into the inner workings of the brain.

But Newsome is obsessed with a lingering question: How does consciousness arise from brain function? He feels the best way to answer that question is by implanting an electrode into his own brain -- and seeing how the electric current changes his perception of the world.

Newsome would not be the first person with a brain implant. Epilepsy patients undergo electrical stimulation prior to brain surgery. A paralyzed man in New England has an experimental implant that translates his brain activity into movements of a robotic arm. And, perhaps most famously, Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics professor at the University of Reading, U.K., first implanted a chip into nerve fibers in his arm in 2002, then implanted a chip in his wife's arm, as part of his quest to become a cyborg.

It's not certain that Newsome will get approval for such a radical undertaking. But, if he does, his experiment won't be in the interest of curing a disease or become a human machine. He's hoping to do something broader: understand consciousness.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:12 in | | permalink



Dust from comet's tail throws up solar system mystery

Dust particles collected from the tail of a comet and returned to Earth by the spacecraft Stardust are challenging scientists' theories of how the solar system formed.

The first examination of the particles, which were collected by the Nasa probe on a 2.8bn-mile (4.6bn-kilometre) round trip to comet Wild 2, has revealed minerals that could only have formed at blistering temperatures close to the sun. The finding has surprised mission scientists as comets are known to form in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system, at least 40 times further away from the sun than the Earth is. Scientists working on the Stardust project say the probe collected thousands of particles in 2004 when it flew to within 150 miles of the comet's nucleus, using a tennis racket-shaped collector coated in aerogel, the hi-tech equivalent of fly paper.

"The interesting thing is we are finding these high-temperature minerals in materials from the coldest place in the solar system," said Donald Brownlee, the project's Washington University-based lead scientist. "It's certain these materials never formed inside this icy, cold body."

jaybird found this for you @ 08:39 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



{ Thursday, 16 March, 2006 }

Climate change 'irreversible' as Arctic sea ice fails to re-form

Sea ice in the Arctic has failed to re-form for the second consecutive winter, raising fears that global warming may have tipped the polar regions in to irreversible climate change far sooner than predicted.

Satellite measurements of the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice show that for every month this winter, the ice failed to return even to its long-term average rate of decline. It is the second consecutive winter that the sea ice has not managed to re-form enough to compensate for the unprecedented melting seen during the past few summers.

Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:12 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



An elaborate greeting in rural Mali

The Dogon greeting is an elaborate affair. It begins when two people are still far apart. It needs to. First one inquires about the other's health and the other replies that he is well.

Then about his wife. She is fine, likewise his parents, his children, his animals. Each inquiry receives the same response. Then the second person repeats the list of questions to the first, getting his replies in turn. Only after this protracted preamble and the mutually swapped phrase 'yappo-yappo' can they move on to the rest of their conversation. But the chances are that by now they have passed each other by and are calling back over their shoulders.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:10 in Culture, People & Customs | | permalink



In China, the fox cult lives on

Haunting rather than hunting was what foxes were associated with in ancient China, and even occasionally in modern Taiwan, as the detailed analysis offered in The Cult of the Fox abundantly and fascinatingly shows.

Studies of the irrational nature of much traditional life in China are very much the fashion in academic circles. The perusal of the secular, highly organized, Confucian society so admired by 18th century Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire is now out of fashion. Attempts to understand what the ordinary people believed and felt are considered far more important, and popular religion is understandably at the heart of this current scholarly endeavor.

Kang Xiaofei is a young assistant professor in the US, and in 1997 she undertook a research trip back to the land of her forebears to find out what she could about the cult of fox spirits in China ancient and modern. She discovered plenty, and in the center of her fieldwork research, in the Yulin region of northern Shaanxi, bordering Inner Mongolia, even uncovered an only recently deceased shaman called Lei Wu.

This man had practised healing via possession by a fox demon from the late 1940s until his arrest and imprisonment in 1959 during the anti-superstition Socialist Education Campaign. After his release he continued to practice secretly, and according to Kang's informants -- among them a well-educated accountant of 37, an illiterate ceramicist aged 67 and a blind former carpenter who had become the caretaker of the local Buddhist temple -- even administered to some high-level cadres from the regional government. As so often, apparently, the fox shrine was a hidden-away part of a larger and more public temple-complex. In this case it was a small hexagonal room, rarely unlocked and only big enough to hold three kneeling supplicants. "We don't usually open this to public worship," she was told.

The fox, it turns out, was considered by its very nature ambiguous. It was untamable and inedible, yet possessed quasi-human intelligence and itself hunted close to human habitations. Consequently it became a symbol of the marginal and the semi-legal. Its cult was illicit but widely practised. It was believed to be especially appropriate for people with feelings at variance with the official norms. If you loved someone who was already married, for instance, you wouldn't go to the regular deities for assistance, but the fox spirit might prove sympathetic to your plight.

[via corpus mmothra]

jaybird found this for you @ 12:07 in Culture, People & Customs | | permalink



Civilization: A risk of total collapse

Is it possible that global civilisation might collapse within our lifetime or that of our children? Until recently, such an idea was the preserve of lunatics and cults. In the past few years, however, an increasing number of intelligent and credible people have been warning that global collapse is a genuine possibility. And many of these are sober scientists, including Lord May, David King and Jared Diamond - people not usually given to exaggeration or drama.

The new doomsayers all point to the same collection of threats - climate change, resource depletion and population imbalances being the most important. What makes them especially afraid is that many of these dangers are interrelated, with one tending to exacerbate the others. It is necessary to tackle them all at once if we are to have any chance of avoiding global collapse, they warn.

Many societies - from the Maya in Mexico to the Polynesians of Easter Island - have collapsed in the past, often because of the very same dangers that threaten us. As Diamond explains in his recent book, Collapse, the Maya depleted one of their principal resources - trees - and this triggered a series of problems such as soil erosion, decrease of useable farmland and drought. The growing population that drove this overexploitation was thus faced with a diminishing amount of food, which led to increasing migration and bloody civil war. The collapse of the civilisation on Easter Island followed a similar pattern, with deforestation leading to other ecological problems and warfare.

Unlike these dead societies, our civilisation is global. On the positive side, globalisation means that when one part of the world gets into trouble, it can appeal to the rest of the world for help. Neither the Maya nor the inhabitants of Easter Island had this luxury, because they were in effect isolated civilisations. On the negative side, globalisation means that when one part of the world gets into trouble, the trouble can quickly be exported. If modern civilisation collapses, it will do so everywhere. Everyone now stands or falls together.

[more]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:02 in Conjecture & Speculation | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 15 March, 2006 }

Save Richmond Hill Woods City Park!

This park has something that no other park in Asheville has. Because this park is relatively large it can, and likely does support higher biodiversity. Clearing out the center of this park for ball fields and an Armory will not only reduce its physical size, but the climate inside the park will also change. This is called edge effect, and has negative effects of habitat, biodiversity and aesthetic value. This will negatively impact amphibian, bird, and plant species found within the park, as well as the uniqueness of the park...

Richmond Hill Park is Asheville’s largest wooded green space. At 183 acres, this forest is a unique, valuable, and irreplaceable element of Asheville’s city park system. No other park in Asheville provides city residents with the same outdoor recreation, nature and wildlife experiences as Richmond Hill Park. If this park is “developed” according to the proposed plan, the city of Asheville and its residents will lose forever much of the uniqueness and value of the site, qualities that make it an outdoor sanctuary for the people to enjoy. This goes counter to the heart and soul of the residents of the city, and the image that makes Asheville so attractive to residents and visitors alike

-The park is perfectly suited for low-impact outdoor recreation and nature appreciation. There is no better publicly owned place in the city to walk on wooded trails, mountain bike, walk your dogs, go bird watching, or take nature walks and appreciate wildlife. This is an experience that is unique to Richmond Hill Park among Asheville’s parks, and it should be preserved for these purposes. If the “development” occurs as planned, the outdoor experience will be greatly diminished, and the remaining forest will be ecologically poorer than it currently is. The increased "Edge Effect" will increase exotic invasive species establishment within the park, decreasing biodiversity, and wildlife habitat quality. This is why the edge of a forest looks and is different than the “deep Woods”.

-The site is a poor choice for both ball fields and an armory. The terrain at the site is very hilly and wooded, which will require large amounts of forest to be clear-cut, and then extensive heavy grading and leveling. 20% or 30-35 contiguous acres of the park are slated to be cleared and developed. In the process, many plants and animals will be killed, and erosion and sedimentation will severely degrade the quality of the streams found on the property. To treat the land at the site in this manner is to waste its’ intrinsic value, and to create irreparable damage to the park and landscape. We should instead restore an already degraded and cleared/leveled landscape for the creation of ball-fields/armory, and/or use the ones that have already been built more efficiently.

I agree that it is important to have ball fields, but this is not the place for them!

-There are a number of rare and area-sensitive species that live in the park. By reducing the park by 20% of its size, many of these species will be lost. A thorough count and catalogue of the species currently living in the park should be taken before any “development” takes place, as it is possible some threatened and endangered species may live there. Any environmental assessment should examine both the Armory and Ball field Complex jointly. Anything less is not a true assessment of the impact on the park!

-The project will create high traffic volume in the currently quiet and safe neighborhood. This poses obvious threats to pedestrians and pets, but will also lead to more localized congestion, increased air, noise and light pollution.

After you have voiced your concerns, thank them for their time and for hearing you. Let them know this is an extremely important issue to you, and that you will be monitoring it closely.

You can further express your opposition to the “development” at Richmond Hill by signing a petition asking city officials to stop this project. Sign the Petition at:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/3063317798

jaybird found this for you @ 20:08 in Local- Western North Carolina | | permalink



Three cosmic enigmas, one audacious answer

Dark energy and dark matter, two of the greatest mysteries confronting physicists, may be two sides of the same coin. A new and as yet undiscovered kind of star could explain both phenomena and, in turn, remove black holes from the lexicon of cosmology.

The audacious idea comes from George Chapline, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin of Stanford University and their colleagues. Last week at the 22nd Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting in Santa Barbara, California, Chapline suggested that the objects that till now have been thought of as black holes could in fact be dead stars that form as a result of an obscure quantum phenomenon. These stars could explain both dark energy and dark matter.

This radical suggestion would get round some fundamental problems posed by the existence of black holes. One such problem arises from the idea that once matter crosses a black hole's event horizon - the point beyond which not even light can escape - it will be destroyed by the space-time "singularity" at the centre of the black hole. Because information about the matter is lost forever, this conflicts with the laws of quantum mechanics, which state that information can never disappear from the universe.

Another problem is that light from an object falling into a black hole is stretched so dramatically by the immense gravity there that observers outside will see time freeze: the object will appear to sit at the event horizon for ever. This freezing of time also violates quantum mechanics. "People have been vaguely uncomfortable about these problems for a while, but they figured they'd get solved someday," says Chapline. "But that hasn't happened and I'm sure when historians look back, they'll wonder why people didn't question these contradictions."

jaybird found this for you @ 16:07 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Sharp rise in CO2 levels recorded

CO2 levels now stand at 381 parts per million (ppm) - 100ppm above the pre-industrial average. The research indicates that 2005 saw one of the largest increases on record - a rise of 2.6ppm. The figures are seen as a benchmark for climate scientists around the globe.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has been analysing samples of air taken from all over the world, including America's Rocky Mountains. The chief carbon dioxide analyst for Noaa says the latest data confirms a worrying trend that recent years have, on average, recorded double the rate of increase from just 30 years ago. "We don't see any sign of a decrease; in fact, we're seeing the opposite, the rate of increase is accelerating," Dr Pieter Tans told the BBC. The precise level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is of global concern because climate scientists fear certain thresholds may be "tipping points" that trigger sudden changes.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:04 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



The woman who can't forget

The "human calendar." That's what some people call the woman who contacted UC Irvine neurobiologist Jim McGaugh six years ago and said, "I have a problem. I remember too much."

She wasn't exaggerating. McGaugh and fellow UCI researchers Larry Cahill and Elizabeth Parker have been studying the extraordinary case of a person who has "nonstop, uncontrollable and automatic" memory of her personal history and countless public events.

If you randomly pick a date from the past 25 years and ask her about it, she'll usually provide elaborate, verifiable details about what happened to her that day and if there were any significant news events on topics that interested her. She usually also recalls what day of the week it was and what the weather was like.

The 40-year-old woman, who was given the code name AJ to protect her privacy, is so unusual that UCI coined a name for her condition in a recent issue of the journal Neurocase: hyperthymestic syndrome.

"I have studied learning and memory for over 50 years, and I had never read of or even heard about a person who has a comparable ability to remember," McGaugh said. "However, we do not know whether she is unique or whether there may be others with comparable remembering ability who have not as yet been identified."

jaybird found this for you @ 08:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 14 March, 2006 }

How Poor People Live

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, "Did you enjoy the trip?"

[please read on, it's very short and very powerful]

jaybird found this for you @ 20:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



How to stop time

Einstein demonstrated that time is relative.

But the rabbit-hole goes much deeper. Quantum physics discovered that consciousness is entangled in matter in some inexplicable ways; but other than the very fast, or very small, or very large, we tend to assume our “ordinary” reality conforms more to the laws of Newton. Simple cause and effect unfolding with clockwork constancy —well, it’s time to shatter this assumption. Let’s stop time.

Find a clock with a smooth sweeping second hand. The one on this page might work, but depending on how much is running on your computer, it may or may not be completely smooth. If it appears relatively smooth, it will still work, you’ll be able to factor out what you are controlling...

jaybird found this for you @ 16:24 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



On Evil: An Interview with Alain Badiou

The idea of the self-evidence of Evil is not, in our society, very old. It dates, in my opinion, from the end of the 1960s, when the big political movement of the 60s was finished. We then entered into a reactive period, a period that I call the Restoration. You know that, in France, "Restoration" refers to the period of the return of the King, in 1815, after the Revolution and Napoleon. We are in such a period. Today we see liberal capitalism and its political system, parlimentarianism, as the only natural and acceptable solutions. Every revolutionary idea is considered utopian and ultimately criminal. We are made to believe that the global spread of capitalism and what gets called "democracy" is the dream of all humanity. And also that the whole world wants the authority of the American Empire, and its military police, NATO.

In truth, our leaders and propagandists know very well that liberal capitalism is an inegalitarian regime, unjust, and unacceptable for the vast majority of humanity. And they know too that our "democracy" is an illusion: Where is the power of the people? Where is the political power for third world peasants, the European working class, the poor everywhere? We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian–where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone–is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we're lucky that we don't live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it's better than the bloody dictatorships. Capitalism is unjust. But it's not criminal like Stalinism. We let millions of Africans die of AIDS, but we don't make racist nationalist declarations like Milosevic. We kill Iraqis with our airplanes, but we don't cut their throats with machetes like they do in Rwanda, etc.

That's why the idea of Evil has become essential. No intellectual will actually defend the brutal power of money and the accompanying political disdain for the disenfranchised, or for manual laborers, but many agree to say that real Evil is elsewhere. Who indeed today would defend the Stalinist terror, the African genocides, the Latin American torturers? Nobody. It's there that the consensus concerning Evil is decisive. Under the pretext of not accepting Evil, we end up making believe that we have, if not the Good, at least the best possible state of affairs—even if this best is not so great. The refrain of "human rights" is nothing other than the ideology of modern liberal capitalism: We won't massacre you, we won't torture you in caves, so keep quiet and worship the golden calf. As for those who don't want to worship it, or who don't believe in our superiority, there's always the American army and its European minions to make them be quiet.

Note that even Churchill said that democracy (that is to say the regime of liberal capitalism) was not at all the best of political regimes, but rather the least bad. Philosophy has always been critical of commonly held opinions and of what seems obvious. Accept what you've got because all the rest belongs to Evil is an obvious idea, which should therefore be immediately examined and critiqued. My personal position is the following: It is necessary to examine, in a detailed way, the contemporary theory of Evil, the ideology of human rights, the concept of democracy. It is necessary to show that nothing there leads in the direction of the real emancipation of humanity. It is necessary to reconstruct rights, in everyday life as in politics, of Truth and of the Good. Our ability to once again have real ideas and real projects depends on it.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:22 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



A SOCIAL HISTORY OF CHEERFULNESS

American historians of emotions note a major emotionological shift from melancholy to good cheer over the eighteenth century. In the early modern period American culture, just as European, was fascinated with feelings of sadness. In Europe, there was a fashion for melancholy. People delighted in appearing melancholic and such words as Schwermut or Schwärmerei (religious or mystical melancholy), spleen, ennui and Heimweh (nostalgia) were in constant circulation. Many philosophers assumed that melancholy was all-pervasive. The French Encyclopedia talked about "the habitual feeling of our imperfection." "Profound sadness became the badge of a way of life."Sentimentalism was part of the Age of Enlightenment: tear-provoking novels such as Richardson's "Pamela" and "Shamela," Rousseau's "La Nouvelle Héloïse," and Goethe's "The Sufferings of Young Werther," made the first bestsellers. Epistolary art, painting and the theater aimed to provoke sadness far more often than laughter. People sought to partake in sadness and valued its expression. It was considered good to cry so tears were frequently shed in public by both men and women. For example, book reading, done aloud and in groups, often ended in collective weeping. In France, melancholy was part of the code of the salons where the apostles of reason, Diderot and Voltaire, were repeatedly seen tearful. In eighteenth-century European aesthetic, tears implied a noble soul and a sad face was a sign of sensibility and compassion. Royal events provoked mass weeping and, at the time of the French Revolution, it was customary for the entire National Assembly to break into tears after a moving speech. This emotional style was not unknown to the American Congress during the first several decades of its existence. Here is how Harriet Martineau describes a speech on the treatment of the Cherokees given in 1835 by Senator Henry Clay, his voice "trembling with emotion, swelling and falling. [...] I saw tears, of which I'm sure he was wholly unconscious, falling on his papers as he vividly described the woes and injuries of the aborigines. I saw Webster draw his hand across his eyes;I saw everyone deeply moved..." Parliamentary institutions on both sides of the Atlantic subscribed to the culture of sadness thus setting the tone for emotion display in public.

[via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:13 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 13 March, 2006 }

JACK ABRAMOFF TALKS ABOUT HIS RELATIONSHIPS

Abramoff discusses his relationship with:

President Bush, who claims not to remember having his picture taken with Abramoff. According to Abramoff, at one time, the president joked with Abramoff about his weight-lifting past: "What are you benching, buff guy?"

Tom DeLay, who once referred to Abramoff as one of his closest friends. Abramoff explains his working relationship with DeLay, saying, "I didn't spend a lot of time lobbying Tom for things, because the things I worked on were usually consistent with the conservative philosophy." Abramoff has "admired Tom DeLay and his family from the first meeting with him," he tells Margolick. "We would sit and talk about the Bible. We would sit and talk about opera. We would sit and talk about golf," Abramoff recalls. "I mean, we talked about philosophy and politics."

Ken Mehlman, who recently claimed he didn't really know Abramoff. According to documents obtained by Vanity Fair, Mehlman exchanged e-mail with Abramoff, and did him political favors (such as preventing Clinton administration alumnus Allen Stayman from keeping a State Department job), had Sabbath dinner at Abramoff's house, and offered to pick up Abramoff's tab at Signatures, Abramoff's own restaurant.

Newt Gingrich, whose spokesman Rick Tyler tells Margolick that "Before [Abramoff's] picture appeared on TV and in the newspapers, Newt wouldn't have known him if he fell across him. He hadn't seen him in 10 years." A rankled Abramoff says "I have more pictures of [Newt] than I have of my wife." Abramoff shows Margolick numerous photographs: "Here's Newt. Newt. Newt. Newt. More Newt. Newt with Grover [Norquist, the Washington conservative Republican Über-strategist and longtime Abramoff friend] this time. But Newt never met me. Ollie North. Newt. Can't be Newt … he never met me. Oh, Newt! What's he doing there? Must be a Newt look-alike.… Newt again! It's sick! I thought he never met me!"

jaybird found this for you @ 20:24 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Helen Thomas: Lap Dogs of the Press

Despite the apologies of the mainstream press for not having vigilantly questioned evidence of WMD and links to terrorists in the early stages of the war, the newspapers dropped the ball again by ignoring for days a damaging report in the London Times on May 1, 2005. That report revealed the so-called Downing Street memo, the minutes of a high-powered confidential meeting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair held with his top advisers on Bush's forthcoming plans to attack Iraq. At the secret session Richard Dearlove, former head of British intelligence, told Blair that Bush "wanted to remove Saddam Hussein through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The Downing Street memo was a bombshell when discussed by the bloggers, but the mainstream print media ignored it until it became too embarrassing to suppress any longer. The Post discounted the memo as old news and pointed to reports it had many months before on the buildup to the war. Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley decided that the classified minutes of the Blair meeting were not a "smoking gun." The New York Times touched on the memo in a dispatch during the last days leading up to the British elections, but put it in the tenth paragraph.

All this took me back to the days immediately following the unraveling of the Watergate scandal. The White House press corps realized it had fallen asleep at the switch--not that all the investigative reporting could have been done by those on the so-called "body watch," which travels everywhere with the President and has no time to dig for facts. But looking back, they knew they had missed many clues on the Watergate scandal and were determined to become much more skeptical of what was being dished out to them at the daily briefings. And, indeed, they were. The White House press room became a lion's den.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:22 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



A Veteran’s Letter to the President

We were patriots sworn “to protect and defend”. Today I conclude that you have dishonored our service and the Constitution and principles of our oath. My dad was buried with full military honors so I cannot act for him. But for myself, I return enclosed the symbols of my years of service: the shoulder boards of my rank and my Naval Aviator’s wings.

Until your administration, I believed it was inconceivable that the United States would ever initiate an aggressive and preemptive war against a country that posed no threat to us. Until your administration, I thought it was impossible for our nation to take hundreds of persons into custody without provable charges of any kind, and to “disappear” them into holes like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Until your administration, in my wildest legal fantasy I could not imagine a U.S. Attorney General seeking to justify torture or a President first stating his intent to veto an anti-torture law, and then adding a “signing statement” that he intends to ignore such law as he sees fit. I do not want these things done in my name.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:19 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Citizen-Times: We're Sorry About That (Not Accepted)

So, Asheville's Billy Graham lovin', GOP cheerin' "news"paper has decided to say it is so very sorry for allowing the use of the word 'sodomite' in the 2 page hate ad. Hey, no problem! Next time the KKK coughs up $6300 for such an ad blitz, don't forget to apologize for the use of the word n*gg*r, and retract later. Really, people, c'mon:

A two-page advertisement condemning homosexuality and announcing a rally supporting the right of Christian and conservative businesses to refuse to employ gays and lesbians ran Thursday in the Asheville Citizen-Times. Many members of the community called to denounce the newspaper for publishing the advertisement.

We strongly support the right of all citizens to publicly present their opinions, whether or not we agree with them, and it was that paramount value that caused us to accept the advertisement for publication.

In doing so, we failed, however, to live up to another value that is equally central to our ability to function with integrity. For that, we would like to express our remorse and offer an apology.

In allowing the use of the word “sodomites,” we allowed an entire group of people to be referred to with disrespect and contempt.

We would have permitted the use of other words expressing bigotry only in the rarest circumstances, such as when essential to understanding an important news story. We would not have allowed them in an advertisement of this type, nor should we have allowed this word to be published in this context.

For having done so, we are truly sorry.

That's really all you're sorry for? What about the tacit approval given to a hate rally downtown, with hundreds bused in from Tennesee? Now, I'm all for free speech in the public square, bit I'm also for equal time. How about some good, objective press coverage of the next gay rights rally, rather than a two paragraph blurb with a blurry photo of counter-protesters... How about using a percentage of the ad revenue for employee diversity training?

Not so much A C-T. You made a bad move and many I know are cancelling their subscriptions. Between you and WLOS, Asheville is in a very sorry state of affairs journalistically.

But really, we know how to quit you.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:06 in Local- Western North Carolina | | permalink



{ Sunday, 12 March, 2006 }

Isadore Upinsky: "On Impending Spring and the Turvy Side of a Topsy Life."

The thing about it is, is that the moon will always rise, the tides will always ebb and flow, and Spring will always come. As it happens this year, there are certain configuarations of human events which tumble about the mind and through the winds: war, famine, crumbing institutions, and earthquakes of social change. Yet, these configuations will change and scatter and blow so that each year, there is great uniqueness- and great similarity. The human dance is ongoing, ever changing, ever continuous. Until, of course, the Universe is done with our particular talents and quirks.

Yet I forsee that the forsythia and crocus will always be heralds of awakening. Day by day, songbirds will flock in ever greater numbers to the trees of their ancestors and sing the morning song, no matter the headlines or lack thereof. Spring peepers will make their orchestras in the marshland, and bats will dip and dive in the ruddy ecstasy of sunset. There is great continuity, and our presence for this brief glimpse of time is an audacious and sinuglar prize. We need not white-knuckle the fear of death, for it is simply the lever which rectifies and balances prize distribution. No pinball game can be played forever, yet the thrill of high score can make for golden memory through the entropy of flesh.

So, it is something I have said countless times: that we exist at all is sufficient. Indeed, that we exist and have a bit-part in this drama or comedy is frightfully sacred and at the same time, it is what the Universe does. We emerged from it, so it must somehow be a device intricately arranged to make life out of the organic hodge-podge. Accidental or purposeful? It does not matter, for it is simply enough. The odds are remarkably low for apples as much as they are for God, yet we are content to eat applesauce and pray. Absolutes get tipsy in this kind of moonlight and become romantically inclined ideas, if only for the moment. It's all honeysuckle.

Breathing a deep in full breath of this warming air is tribute to continuity. You, as a being, will not always be in this picture, but you helped to paint it, and it will never be the same. When we get caught up in the trivial, we do a disservice to the infinite, because we lose it if favor of the cute little human gizmos (philosophical and otherwise) used to keep us pretending that there is such a thing as the mundane. Some folks spend quite a bit of time trying to convince themselves that they are normal. Normal people. What is that? We have emerged from a fustercluck of carbon and goo to do the dance galactic for a short spin around the ballroom. An average life is a con, and the very idea will rust the limiting valve of perception shut. As we see everywhere in society.

I deeply encourage, at any time of seasonal change, to allow yourselves to go wild, be animalian such as you are, and to consider for a moment that you are an undilute drop of the cosmos, falling through the spectral delights of time, space, and mind. This is a time of breaking last year's mold, and reshaping. What can be more luxurious and austentatious than to be a new being each year, even each day? Can we not trasform as the world around us? If anything, winter-to-spring is a message that it is not only our right to metamorphose as we wish, it is our nature. And for that shimmering prize, you only have to breathe to win.

[from an uncirculated anthology of his work, circa 1972]

jaybird found this for you @ 22:49 in Authors, Books & Words , Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



{ Saturday, 11 March, 2006 }

Of another world

It’s the first night of the year
Where the night is truly inviting
Enticing you to join with it, to sip of its wine,
To be thrilled by the winds which kiss the reviving land
And young laughter,
That echoing play which promises sacred frivolity
With the coming season of change.

The cat looks up, perplexed.
We are both, for once, out of the house
In shared wonder, moon reflecting in his eyes.
The awakening from slumber means
We must consider the dreams of our time
When we were consumed and beholden to the frost.
Renewal, for all we strange animals,
Rebirthing, for the brave yellows and purples
Which thrust from the soil.

Always something to learn from this,
No matter how many times it has been seen,
No matter how oft the cracks have been shoddily repaired
In the fissures of our beliefs,
No matter the pervading grief which blots ecstatic flowers
From beleaguered vision.
If each day is truly another chance for the Universe
Reinventing itself from start to distant finish,
We are masters of whole seen and unseen histories
Even in our wearisome steps.
It exists that we may.
We, as humans, dragonflies, and apple blossoms,
What do we do with this whole vast unknown
Which, crocus-like, blooms so fleetingly
For our simple gaze
And the awakening bee’s first pollen?

What will I, then, do with this first inviting night of the year?
I will be in awe of the pine,
Which towers over the house as a sentinel.
I will smile as the neighbor, known for loud Southern Rock,
Tells his mother he loves her, and to be careful.
I will recline into the sweet light on the moon,
As windchimes and stars and passionate hints of jazz
Take the night, holding it, gazing into its eyes,
Whispering the promise of spring into a tender ear,
And dancing softly away into the purple light
Of another dawn,
Of another world.


jaybird found this for you @ 22:32 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



Asheville Run Amok Part II: Screwie Hoolie Nails It

"I hate the sinful lifestyle." But, he went on to say, tomorrow's rally is "not about hate."

By way of clarification, Dr. Runion said, "If a pedophile or serial killer walks into my house, I don't respect him." But he would share the Bible with them.

"I'm a child of God," he went on, "and I can commit any sin you can commit. Sin is by choice."

After Runion's comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia and serial murder, I asked about Charles Taylor's "Family Council" of which he is a member, and he told me that the group is made up exclusively of men and that they provide counsel regarding faith and family values to the Congressman. Runion said that many denominations are represented on the Council and that I could get a list of members from John Hilkert in Rep. Taylor's office.

Screwy Hoolie: "Does Congressman Taylor agree with you on this issue [homosexuality is an abomination]?

Dr. Runion: "Yes sir, he does."

jaybird found this for you @ 00:17 in Gay, Lesbian, Queer & Free | | permalink



{ Friday, 10 March, 2006 }

Return of the Squat

The long-whiskered rodent made international headlines last spring when biologists declared they'd discovered a new species, nicknamed the Laotian rock rat. It turns out the little guy isn't new after all, but a rare kind of survivor: a member of a group until now known only from fossils. Nor is it a rat. This species, called Diatomyidae, looks more like small squirrels or tree shrews, said paleontologist Mary Dawson of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Dawson, with colleagues in France and China, report the creature's new identity in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

The resemblance is "absolutely striking," Dawson said. As soon as her team spotted reports about the rodent's discovery, "we thought, 'My goodness, this is not a new family. We've known it from the fossil record."' They set out to prove that through meticulous comparisons between the bones of today's specimens and fossils found in China and elsewhere in Asia. To reappear after 11 million years is more exciting than if the rodent really had been a new species...

jaybird found this for you @ 20:20 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



Evil Amok in Asheville!

Did anyone else notice the HUGE two-page spread ad in the middle of today's Asheville Citizen-Times Home & Garden section? Was anyone else horrified and offended?

If you haven't seen it, let me tell you about it. The header on the left-hand side reads "What the Bible Says About SODOMY." Followed by, you guessed it, lots o bible verses, several taken out of context, as far as I can tell. Then there's a box at the bottom of the page that reads: "According to the Word of God, the gay lifestyle and their claim to be Christian does not agree with one another."

Retyping this shit is making me feel like barfing, and it's not just because of the bad grammar.

Page two announces a rally to be held in Pack Square on Saturday at 11:00 "in SUPPORT of CHRISTIAN and CONSERVATIVE BUSINESSES and their RIGHT TO OPERATE according to FAMILY VALUES SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE (between one man and one woman) WHOLESOME WORK ENVIRONMENT (without oppression from the Sodomites & The Liberal Media).

All punctuation errors and screaming caps are theirs, not mine.

So, basically this is a reaction to the whole Wolf Laurel Ski Area brou-ha-ha, which the next graph refers to, followed by a long list of names. Christians, all, I assume. None of them anally-inclined. For those of you who missed it, a Wolf Laurel photographer was fired from her job recently because she's in a long-term monogamous relationship. With another woman.

Shocking, I know.

Sounds like a mighty good time for a bit of reality infusion. This will be, as we say here in the south, a hoot.

In the words of their "leader," bring 'em on.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:25 in Gay, Lesbian, Queer & Free | | permalink



Fermi paradox: Is There Anybody Out There?

Our galaxy is about 100,000 light years from rim to rim and contains perhaps 400 billion stars, each of which could easily have, on average, a half-dozen planets. The galaxy is perhaps 10 billion years old. If there were a single fledgling interstellar civilization in all that space and time, and it expanded away from its planet or point of origin on average at the measly rate of one light year every ten-thousand years, slower than our own Voyager Spacecraft are traveling, and grew in all directions, it would take 'only' one-billion years to get from one end of the galaxy to another and completely fill it up along the way. A little faster, at a mere one percent of the speed of light, it would take only ten-million years to spread from one end of the galaxy to another, and less than a billion to engulf entire clusters of galaxies.

Humans could begin constructing spacecraft that move at these speeds right now, if we put our minds to it. So if we could start spreading all over the galaxy using our current technology, why hasn't someone or something already spread all over us? Once cultures started spreading like this it seems likely a ruthless sort of selection would kick in and favor the culture, or the faction within a culture, which does so the most aggressively, quickly, and successfully. It's hard to see what would stop it. So where are they? Is there anybody out there?

jaybird found this for you @ 16:17 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Are you from the past? More Than Half of Americans Reject Evolution

"Surveys repeatedly show that a substantial portion of Americans do not believe that the theory of evolution best explains where life came from." They are "not so quick to agree with the preponderance of scientific evidence."

The US has already fallen behind Europe in leading the world... way behind. While I'm not an atheist, it's times like this me must give good ol' Richard Dawkins a refreshing read and remember that there is so much wrong and counterevolutionary on many levels about giving credence to fundamentalist belief systems.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:09 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Ivins: The Progress Myth in Iraq

...Brother Rumsfeld warns us, “We do know that their goal is to try to break the will; that they consider the center of gravity of this—not to be in Iraq, because they know they can’t win a battle out there; they consider it to be in Washington, D.C., and in London and in the capitals of the Western world.”

I’m sorry, I know we are not allowed to use the V-word in relation to Iraq, because so many brilliant neo-cons have assured us this war is nothing like Vietnam (Vietnam, lotsa jungle; Iraq lotsa sand—big differences). But you must admit that press conferences with Donny Rum are wonderfully reminiscent of the Five O’Clock Follies, those wacky but endearing daily press briefings on Southeast Asia by military officers who made Baghdad Bob sound like a pessimist.

Rumsfeld’s performance was so reminiscent of all the times the military in Vietnam blamed the media for reporting “bad news’” when there was nothing else to report. A briefing officer once memorably asked the press, “Who’s side are you on?” The answer is what it’s always been: We root for America, but our job is to report as accurately as we can what the situation is.

You could rely on other sources. For example, the Pentagon is still investigating itself to find out why it is paying American soldiers to make up good news about the war, which it then passes on to a Republican public relations firm, which in turn pays people in the Iraqi media to print the stuff—thus fooling the Iraqis or somebody. When last heard from, the general in charge of investigating this federally funded Baghdad Bobism said he hadn’t found anything about it to be illegal yet, so it apparently continues.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the Los Angeles Times Iraq is “really vulnerable” to civil war if there is another attack like the al-Askari bombing. By invading, said Khalilzad, the United States has “opened the Pandora’s box” of sectarian strife in Iraq.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:05 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



{ Thursday, 09 March, 2006 }

Kurt Vonnegut's "Stardust Memory"

A key to great writing, he adds, is to “never use semi-colons. What are they good for? What are you supposed to do with them? You’re reading along, and then suddenly, there it is. What does it mean? All semi-colons do is suggest you’ve been to college.”

Make sure, he adds, “that your reader is having a good time. Get to the who, when, where, what right away, so the reader knows what is going on.”

As for making money, “war is a very profitable thing for a few people. Jesus used to be so merciful and loving of the poor. But now he’s a Republican.

“Our economy today is not capitalism. It’s casino-ism. That’s all the stock market is about. Gambling.

“Live one day at a time. Say ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!’

“You meet saints every where. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.

“I’m going to sue the cigarette companies because they haven’t killed me,” he says. His son lived out his dream to be a pilot and has spent his career flying for Continental. Now they’ve “screwed up his pension.”

The greatest peace, Vonnegut wraps up, “comes from the knowledge that I have enough. Joe Heller told me that.

“I began writing because I found myself possessed. I looked at what I wrote and I said ‘How the hell did I do that?’

“We may all be possessed. I hope so.”

jaybird found this for you @ 21:20 in Authors, Books & Words | | permalink



Media Theory: Simulation and Simulacrum

Simulations are now a part of everyday life. A fire drill is one example, as it is a process which has all the outward appearance of an orderly escape from danger but none of the danger itself. Pilots and astronauts now train in flight simulators before taking to the air. Simulacrum has very little modern and vernacular use, and instead is employed almost entirely in the theoretical field. According to the OED's first definition, a simulacrum is almost impossible to distinguish from a representation (see: representation). But in the second and third definitions we can see that the simulacrum supercedes representation in terms of the accuracy and power of its imitation. It is only when the viewer of the simulacrum penetrates the surface that he can tell that it differs from the thing it imitates.

Michael Camille elucidates the classical notion of the simulacrum in his article "Simulacrum" in Critical Terms for Art History. Camille analyzes Plato's opinion of the simulacrum in The Republic: "The simulacrum is more than just a useless image, it is a deviation and perversion of imitation itself - a false likeness" (Camille, 31-32). Imitation, resulting in the production of an icon or image (see: image), results in the production of a representation that can be immediately understood as separate from the object it imitates. The likeness, however, is indistinguishable from the original; it is "a false claimant to being" (32). While the simulacrum is defined as static, it nevertheless deceives its viewer on the level of experience, a manipulation of our senses which transforms the unrealistic into the believable. Camille writes: "what disturbs Plato is...what we would call today the 'subject position' of the beholder. It is the particular perspective of human subjectivity that allows the statue that is 'unlike'...to seem 'like' and, moreover, beautifully proportioned from a certain vantage point' (32). The simulacrum uses our experience of reality against us, creating a false likeness that reproduces so exactly our visual experience with the real that we cannot discern the falseness of the imitation.

jaybird found this for you @ 18:17 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



FuturePositive: The Geometrization Of Thought

As a result of the popular books and magazine articles that have appeared over the last few years the topic of chaos theory has become familiar to many people. While some psychologists may not be comfortable with the mathematical details of the theory they are probably acquainted with its broad outlines and general concepts. Thus, for example, the image of "butterfly effect" is often applied to systems so extraordinary sensitive that a perturbation as small as the flapping of a butterfly's wings produces a large scale change of behavior. While chaos theory holds that such systems remain strictly deterministic they are, nevertheless, so enormously complex that the exact details of their behavior are, in practice, unpredictable even with the aid of the largest computers.

On the other hand, since such systems remain within the grip of their strange attractor while the details of their fluctuations appear to be random, nevertheless, their chaos is contained within a particular range of all possible behaviors. Their dynamics may, for example, exhibit a fractal structure in which similar patterns are repeated at smaller and smaller scales of space and intervals of time. As an example, while it is impossible to predict the exact value of a particular share on the stock market at an arbitrary date in the future one may be able to say something about its general pattern of fluctuation over a month, day or even an hour.

In a sense, therefore, chaos theory is something of a misnomer for it is not so much the study of systems in which all order has broken down in favour of pure chance but rather of those which exhibit extremely high degrees of order involving very subtle and sensitive behavior. The full description of such systems would require an enormous, potentially an infinite, amount of information. On the other hand, highly complex behavior can sometimes be simulated in very simple ways through the constant repetition of an iterative processes such as Prigogine's baker's transformation or the non-linear feedback associated with the changing size of insect populations.

While chaos theory and fractal descriptions are capable of simulating a wide variety of natural processes it remains an open question as to the extent to which such theories actually offer a full account of the inner workings of nature and society.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:14 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Preserving Biodiversity: Last Days of the Ark

There is a battle being fought. Although it rarely, if ever, has made the evening news, it is a war that all but a very few are guaranteed to lose. The battlefield? Look no further than your morning breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and glass of milk. The conflict rages around the newest eco-buzzword--biodiversity--and who owns God's handiwork. If biotechnical companies continue undeterred, our food sources will be neither God's nor nature's, but the property of Ciba-Geigy, Royal Dutch/Shell, Sandoz, or one of the other half-dozen multinational chemical corporations.

Welcome to the real One World Order.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:11 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 08 March, 2006 }

Ancient sun temple uncovered in Cairo

Archaeologists discovered a pharaonic sun temple with large statues believed to be of King Ramses II under an outdoor marketplace in Cairo, Egypt's antiquities chief said Sunday.

The partially uncovered site is the largest sun temple ever found in the capital's Aim Shams and Matariya districts, where the ancient city of Heliopolis — the center of pharaonic sun worship — was located, Zahi Hawass told The Associated Press.

Among the artifacts was a pink granite statue weighing 4 to 5 tons whose features "resemble those of Ramses II," said Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Also found was a 5-foot-high (1.5-meter-high) statue of a seated figure with hieroglyphics that include three tablets with the name of Ramses II — and the 3-ton head from a royal statue, the council said in a statement. The green pavement stones of the temple's floor were also uncovered.

An Egyptian team working in cooperation with the German Archaeological Mission in Egypt discovered the site under the Souq al-Khamis, a popular market in eastern Cairo, Hawass said. "The market has to be removed" as archaeologists excavate the entire site, Hawass said.

King Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 B.C., had erected monuments up and down the Nile with records of his achievements, as well as building temples — including Abu Simbel, erected near what is now Egypt's southern border.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:18 in History, Civilization & Anthropology | | permalink



New animal resembles furry lobster (or a Muppet Show reject)

Divers have discovered a new crustacean in the South Pacific that resembles a lobster and is covered with what looks like silky, blond fur, (Pun: a washed up celeb?) French researchers said Tuesday.

Scientists said the animal, which they named Kiwa hirsuta, was so distinct from other species that they created a new family and genus for it.

A team of American-led divers found the animal in waters 2,300 meters (7,540 feet) deep at a site 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) south of Easter Island last year... The new crustacean is described in the journal of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. The animal is white and 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) long -- about the size of a salad plate.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:14 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



Successful monkey business: Chimpanzee cooperators

‘We’ve never seen this level of understanding during cooperation in any other animals except humans,’ says Melis. Cooperation happens all the time in the animal kingdom. A pride of lions cooperates to hunt down a gazelle. A herd of elephants band together to protect themselves from predators. But there may not be much thinking going on behind this kind of cooperation. It could be that by each animal wanting the same thing and working at the same time, success happens by accident.

In Melis’ study which took place at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda, not only did chimpanzees understand when they needed help, they understood their role, their partner’s role, and chose who they wanted to work with.

To reach a food tray, the chimpanzees had to pull two ends of a rope which dragged the tray towards them. Both rope ends had to be pulled at the same time or the rope was simply pulled out. Melis found that the chimpanzees only let a partner into the room (by opening their door) when the rope ends were too far apart to pull them on their own.

‘Not only did they need to know when they needed help, they had to go out and get it.’ Melis says. ‘Then they had to wait until their partner came in and pull on the rope at the same time. The chimps really had to understand why they needed their partner.’

[via vortex egg]

jaybird found this for you @ 12:10 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



Alchemy for the Brain-Damaged: The Royal Art

So are we talking technique, or are we talking visionary experience? Hopefully both. From the 'spiritual' perspective it behooves one to preference the latter, but part of the point of magick is that it empowers the personality to pursue the spiritual more effectively. My feeling is that done correctly, technique leads to vision, with the added benefit of also having a skill set to implement the vision afterword. In a nutshell, unless your natural inclination is towards renunciation and asceticism, or christlike devotion to others, you'll get something out of cultivating some skills in this area. so we'll start with technique... For our purposes here, we'll be treating magick as this: the cultivation of intent. Full stop. That's it. That covers everything you need to know for now.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:07 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 07 March, 2006 }

A not-so-brief history of time

A a medievalist who arrived last month at Harvard's history department, is a time revolutionary. Historians, Smail says, are in thrall to a chronology of the human race that is, by now, embarrassingly out of date. He wants to move the start date of introductory history courses back, oh, 100,000 years or so.

If you have taken the first part of a two-semester, college-level history survey class, you know how it usually starts: a few desultory comments about ''prehistory" and then a pronouncement that civilization as we know it had its first stirrings in the Fertile Crescent, around 4,000 to 6,000 BC. But as Smail points out in an article in the latest issue of the American Historical Review, when you consider recent (and not-so-recent) discoveries in archeology, anthropology, and biology -- the finding that all humankind traces to Africa, for example, or that humans were on the march out of that continent by roughly 100,000 BC, not to mention good guesses for when language, hunting, and farming arose -- the fixation on a start date of 4,000 to 6,000 BC begins to seem awfully arbitrary.

And yet, as Smail goes on to argue in his essay, suggestively titled ''In the Grip of Sacred History," this chronological tick has a very interesting back-story. ''Every history curriculum in secondary schools and colleges that tacitly accepts a Near Eastern origin around 6,000 years ago," Smail writes, ''contains the unintended echo of the Judeo-Christian mythology of the special creation of man in the Garden of Eden."

Through the 18th century and well into the 19th, Western historians, almost all of them Christian, thought that humankind (and Earth) dated to roughly 4,000 to 7,000 BC. (One especially influential estimate pinpointed 4,004 BC.) And many thought that the Garden of Eden could be traced to the Fertile Crescent. Smail's theory is that, in the 19th century, as the biblical timeline lost credibility and the staggering age of the Earth began to be glimpsed, historians reflexively clung to as much of the traditional timeline as they could. A true reckoning with the long timelines envisioned by Darwin never occurred.

Smail is among a small but growing number of historians who think their field needs to push the clock back. Another key figure is David Christian, who teaches at San Diego State University. His 2004 book, ''Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History," starts with the Big Bang and, in a book of 15 chapters, doesn't get to humans until Chapter 6.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:02 in History, Civilization & Anthropology | | permalink



The Open Future: The Reversibility Principle

Two philosophies dominate the broad debates about the development of potentially-worldchanging technologies. The Precautionary Principle tells us that we should err on the side of caution when it comes to developments with uncertain or potentially negative repercussions, even when those developments have demonstrable benefits, too. The Proactionary Principle, conversely, tells us that we should err on the side of action in those same circumstances, unless the potential for harm can be clearly demonstrated and is clearly worse than the benefits of the action. In recent months, however, I've been thinking about a third approach. Not a middle-of-the-road compromise, but a useful alternative: the Reversibility Principle...

jaybird found this for you @ 16:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Integration of Religion in Multi-Dimensional Science

Multi-Dimensional Science, or MDS is an attempt to fully integrate science with mysticism, and religion. Naturally enough, it includes parapsychology, or psychical resarch which is the evolving science into claimed "supernatural" phenomena.

Before proceeding further, it must be made very clear that in NO way is MDS a religion, cult, or sect even though it may use terms associated with them. Admitedly, most of this new "science" consists of speculative metaphysical issues such as reincarnation, post mortem existence, pre-destination, other worlds, et al. Essentially, MDS hopes to largely indirectly prove, or alternatively disprove the the reality, or non-reality of such "revelations".

The basic thesis, and methodology of Multi-Dimensional Science (MDS).
Central to mysticism, and religion is the concept of an unseen non-physical psychic, or spiritual universe. It is undetectable by our by five limited senses, and by other means. In religion, and indeed, in western philosophy it can only be accepted on grounds of faith, or belief. In mysticism though such non-physical realms can be "proven" via direct experience by the awakening sixth sense of mind, and conciousness during some form of meditation, or spiritual technology. This whole process involves "going within" oneself, and entering the inner realms, or planes of higher conciousness.
This normally invisible non-physical universe may well be a shared objective reality rather than the figment of the imagination...

jaybird found this for you @ 12:56 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



Good Eats: Is our universe about to be mangled?

Our universe may one day be obliterated or assimilated by a larger universe, according to a controversial new analysis. The work suggests the parallel universes proposed by some quantum theorists may not actually be parallel but could interact – and with disastrous consequences.

Random quantum fluctuations mean the behaviour of particles and photons of light cannot be predicted exactly. The quantum equations that describe them contain a variety of different - and opposing - outcomes in their solution, such as a particular particle causing a bell to both ring and not ring in an experimental setup. Physicists then have to use an equation called the Born rule to calculate the probability of the bell ringing, and countless experiments have shown the rule works.

But researchers have long struggled to understand why a bell will ring – or not ring – in any given run of an experiment, since in theory it has the option of doing both. This conundrum, known as the quantum measurement problem, has led a small subset of physicists to argue that in fact the bell does do both - but that each possible outcome takes place in a different, parallel universe that pops into existence during the experiment.

"This is what the math suggests if you take it literally," says Robin Hanson of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, US. But the idea that "every microsecond, the universe splits into a bunch more universes boggles the mind."

[via corpus mmothra]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:33 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



{ Monday, 06 March, 2006 }

Himalayan melting risk surveyed

A new weather station is expected to show the extent of warming in the Himalayas, one of the world's biggest deposits of ice and a key source of fresh water. It has been installed on the longest Himalayan glacier, in the Everest region of Nepal.

There have been numerous reports of glacial retreats in the Himalayas over the years, but this weather station will be able to quantify changes to the local climate... Previous studies have shown temperatures in the Himalayas have been rising at a rate of 0.06C per year, fuelling fears that melting glaciers have been filling glacial lakes more rapidly. There are 3,250 glaciers in the Nepalese Himalayas, and 2,315 of them contain glacial lakes that are increasing in size at varying rates.

"While we do know that there is a lot of glacier melting due to global warming, we still need to know the exact causes and dynamics of such melting..."


Sobering, ain't it?

jaybird found this for you @ 20:48 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



Bush Admin: McCain Torture Ban Doesn't Apply to Gitmo

But of course!

Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:43 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



Positive Music: The Plant Experiments

Her first experiment was to simply play a constant tone. In the first of the three chambers, she played a steady tone continuously for eight hours. In the second, she played the tone for three hours intermittently, and in the third chamber, she played no tone at all. The plants in the first chamber, with the constant tone, died within fourteen days. The plants in the second chamber grew abundantly and were extremely healthy, even more so than the plants in the third chamber. This was a very interesting outcome, very similar to the results that were obtained from experiments performed by the Muzak Corporation in the early 1940s to determine the effect of "background music" on factory workers. When music was played continuously, the workers were more fatigued and less productive, when played for several hours only, several times a day, the workers were more productive, and more alert and attentive than when no music was played.

For her next experiment, Mrs. Retallack used two chambers (and fresh plants). She placed radios in each chamber. In one chamber, the radio was tuned to a local rock station, and in the other the radio played a station that featured soothing "middle-of-the-road" music. Only three hours of music was played in each chamber. On the fifth day, she began noticing drastic changes. In the chamber with the soothing music, the plants were growing healthily and their stems were starting to bend towards the radio! In the rock chamber, half the plants had small leaves and had grown gangly, while the others were stunted. After two weeks, the plants in the soothing-music chamber were uniform in size, lush and green, and were leaning between 15 and 20 degrees toward the radio. The plants in the rock chamber had grown extremely tall and were drooping, the blooms had faded and the stems were bending away from the radio. On the sixteenth day, all but a few plants in the rock chamber were in the last stages of dying. In the other chamber, the plants were alive, beautiful, and growing abundantly.

Those plants were obviously under the influence of bad fertilizer. More of my plants here actually sing Led Zeppelin songs... a buncha lillte Robert plants, they are. Heh.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:39 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



Spooky: RED RAIN OF KERALA

A red rain phenomenon occurred in Kerala, the place where I live, during July-September 2001. The characteristics of this phenomenon were very strange. Conventional explanations appeared totally inadequate to account for this phenomenon. I started an investigation with limited resources and I was greatly assisted by my research student A. Santhosh Kumar. We have been studying this red rain since 2001. Some of our research results are now accepted for publication in the journal -Astrophysics and Space Science, an international peer reviewed journal of astronomy, astrophysics and space science.

According to these accepted results, the red particles, which caused the red rain of Kerala, are possibly of extraterrestrial origin. This conclusion is arrived by analysing the various aspects associated with this phenomenon, like the geographical and time distribution pattern of this phenomenon and the nature of the red particles. It appears that the phenomenon can be explained much easily if it is assumed that the origin of the red particles is from cometary fragments, which underwent atmospheric disintegration above Kerala. There are also some additional correlating evidences that prompt this line of thinking, like the sonic boom from the meteor airburst, which preceded the first red rain case. Having made a logical possibility like this it follows that the cometary body in question should contain huge quantity of these red particles, which amounts to an estimated quantity of more than 50,000 kg. [More...]

[via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:36 in Forteana, Phenomena & the Bizarre | | permalink



{ Sunday, 05 March, 2006 }

All the species of the Earth will speak their peace

Spring is not yet here
Though expectant buds are sung a song
Of light and ardor from a nearby star
And thrust through the tips of twigs
Through the motions of my tongue
And the running rhyme of the river.

Birds aplenty return and regail the morning
With stories, legends, adn myths of the air.
I await, capivated by the rapture of the warming day,
I await the balance of day and night,
The pinnacle between struggle and whimsy,
The one secret word that sums it all up, somehow.
I await to pronounce this. We all do.

The word will be green
And will be jewelled with the sap of imagination-
The word will blossom before you
Even as your own seeds long for ripening
You will bow in heady joy at the speaking of this word.
The word will resonate through the sinews and cell of all things
Even as they go about their business.

In spite of the smoky glass which obscures the skyline
In spite of the sentences which fall from the sky with heavy din
In spite of the human addiction to the infantile over the infinite
There is a holy language all can speak
Which will summon the very essence of life, of spring,
Of the dew upon the leaf
The warmth of bread
The touch of the Beloved.

I talk to myself
In incessant practice to speak this language
And that inutterable pearl of a word
Which encapulates all memory into a glimmer
Much as the Mockingbird's song is a litany of all avian music.
I seek to be a madman for this cause...
Sooner would I speak my truth to the savage humor of it all
Than to postulate easy answers and quick jumps over the chasm
That separates the illusory from the unknown quanta of truth
I scatter from my hand.

Spring shall return
And the waters will rise
And we will be in awe of the world
While our temporal dance winds into yet another
Corner of the ballroom, cheek to cheek, whispering mysteries
Of life and promises of emergence, as we practice,
Syllable by syllable, in saying that word,
The word, the evasive key by which all
Are heard, and sung, and held
Forever as holy.

jaybird found this for you @ 23:17 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



{ Friday, 03 March, 2006 }

It's been a frightenly busy day (finally), and as a result I'll have to catch up on my blogging later. Yet, for the most part, all is quite well.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:31 in Misc. Babble | | permalink



Mexican biologist discovers new shark species

A Mexican marine biologist has discovered a new shark species in the murky depths of Mexico's Sea of Cortez, the first new shark find in the wildlife-rich inlet in 34 years.

Postgraduate student Juan Carlos Perez was on a fishing boat in early 2003 studying sharks from the Mustelus family netted at depths of 660 feet when he noticed some of them had darker skin and white markings.

The sharks, slender, dark gray-brown and around 5 feet (1.5 meters) long, turned out to be a new species that Perez and his team have named "Mustelus hacat," after the word for shark in a local Indian dialect.

"What I first noticed was their color. They are dark in color, like dark coffee, and have white markings on the tips and edges of their fins and tails which jump out at you because they are so dark," Perez told Reuters on Thursday.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:26 in Environment, Ecology & Nature | | permalink



Beautiful and Fecund: Swamp Things

One of the most exquisite showcases in all of nature's biological beauty exists in my own backyard. It's not quite land, not quite water. But in the soggy confusion between the two is complex of ecosystems literally bursting with flora and fauna more diverse than a tropical rain forest. Here, the normal roles of plants and animals are often turned upside down: Great cats pad silently along muddy trails between shallow inland lakes patrolled by playful dolphins and toothy sharks. Flowering vines feast on branches dripping with moss and plants devour animals. Cacti can be found underwater and oysters in trees. Prairies of serrated sedge grass are bordered with magnificent old growth forest, all leaping out of dark, endless plains of water. It is the only place on earth where salt-water crocodiles live side by side with fresh-water alligators. It's a nightmarish place teaming with rodents, slithering snakes, cockroaches, leeches, spiders, and clouds of mosquitos, as well as a dreamy paradise of brilliant blossoms, exotic waterbirds, and stately Cypress trees stretching to the horizon. Or so it was, once upon a time.

It is the Florida Everglades. And although there are plenty of familiar bogs and swamps in it, the ecology arises from natural forces unique in all the world: For the Everglades itself isn't a swamp, it's a river.

The wetlands of South Florida have also served as the waterlogged stage for dramatic human conflict over hundreds of years. Tribe Vs. Tribe, Spanish Conquistadors and native Americans, Cowboys and Indians, slaves and owners, tycoons and conservationists, man against nature, and corporation Vs. environmentalist.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:21 in Science, Quantum & Space | | permalink



{ Thursday, 02 March, 2006 }

Keillor: Impeach Bush

These are troubling times for all of us who love this country, as surely we all do, even the satirists. You may poke fun at your mother, but if she is belittled by others it burns your bacon. A blowhard French journalist writes a book about America that is full of arrogant stupidity, and you want to let the air out of him and mail him home flat. You hear young people talk about America as if it's all over, and you trust that this is only them talking tough. And then you read the paper and realize the country is led by a man who isn't paying attention, and you hope that somebody will poke him. Or put a sign on his desk that says, "Try Much Harder."

Do we need to impeach him to bring some focus to this man's life? The man was lost and then he was found and now he's more lost than ever, plus being blind.

The Feb. 27 issue of the New Yorker carries an article by Jane Mayer about a loyal conservative Republican and U.S. Navy lawyer, Albert Mora, and his resistance to the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. From within the Pentagon bureaucracy, he did battle against Donald Rumsfeld and John Yoo at the Justice Department and shadowy figures taking orders from Dick (Gunner) Cheney, arguing America had ratified the Geneva Convention that forbids cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners, and so it has the force of law. They seemed to be arguing that the president has the right to order prisoners to be tortured.

One such prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, was held naked in isolation under bright lights for months, threatened by dogs, subjected to unbearable noise volumes, and otherwise abused, so that he begged to be allowed to kill himself. When the Senate approved the Torture Convention in 1994, it defined torture as an act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Is the law a law or is it a piece of toast?

Wiretap surveillance of Americans without a warrant? Great. Go for it. How about turning over American ports to a country more closely tied to 9/11 than Saddam Hussein was? Fine by me. No problem. And what about the war in Iraq? Hey, you're doing a heck of a job, Brownie. No need to tweak a thing. And your blue button-down shirt -- it's you.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:32 in News, Opinion & Politique | | permalink



The Persian Sufis

The Sufi phenomenon is not easy to sum up or define. The Sufis never set out to found a new religion, a mazhab or denomination. They were content to live and work within the framework of the Moslem religion, using texts from the Quran much as Christian mystics have used to Bible to illustrate their tenets. Their aim was to purify and spiritualize Islam from within, to give it a deeper, mystical interpretation, and infuse into it a spirit of love and liberty. In the broader sense, therefore, in which the word religion is used in our time, their movement could well be called a religious one, one which did not aim at tying men down with a new set of rules but rather at setting them free from external rules and open to the movement of the spirit.

This religion was disseminated mainly by poetry, it breathed in an atmosphere of poetry and song. In it the place of great dogmatic treatises is taken by mystical romances, such as Yusuf and Zuleikha or Leila and Majnun. Its one dogma, and interpretation of the Moslem witness: 'There is no god by God', is that the human heart must turn always, unreservedly, to the one, divine Beloved.

Who was the first Sufi? Who started this astonishing flowering of spiritual love in Lyrical poetry and dedicated lives? No one knows.

Early in the history of Islam, Moslem ascetics appeared who from their habit of wearing coarse garments of wool (suf), became known as Sufis. But what we now know as Sufism dawned unheralded, mysteriously, in the ninth century of our ear and already in the tenth and eleventh had reached maturity. Among all its exponents there is no single one who could be claimed as the initiator or founder.

Sufism is like that great oak-tree, standing in the middle of the meadow: no one witnessed its planting, no one beheld its beginning, but now the flourishing tree speaks for itself, is true to origins which it has forgotten, has taken for granted.

[via plep]

jaybird found this for you @ 15:30 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



Inside Scientology

The faded little downtown area of Clearwater, Florida, has a beauty salon, a pizza parlor and one or two run-down bars, as well as a bunch of withered bungalows and some old storefronts that look as if they haven't seen customers in years. There are few cars and almost no pedestrians. There are, however, buses -- a fleet of gleaming white and blue ones that slowly crawl through town, stopping at regular intervals to discharge a small army of tightly organized, young, almost exclusively white men and women, all clad in uniform preppy attire: khaki, black or navy-blue trousers and crisp white, blue or yellow dress shirts. Some wear pagers on their belts; others carry briefcases. The men have short hair, and the women keep theirs pulled back or tucked under headbands that match their outfits. No one crosses against the light, and everybody calls everybody else "sir" -- even when the "sir" is a woman. They move throughout the center of Clearwater in tight clusters, from corner to corner, building to building.

This regimented mass represents the "Sea Organization," the most dedicated and elite members of the Church of Scientology. For the past thirty years, Scientology has made the city of Clearwater its worldwide spiritual headquarters -- its Mecca, or its Temple Square. There are 8,300 or so Scientologists living and working in Clearwater -- more than in any other city in the world outside of Los Angeles. Scientologists own more than 200 businesses in Clearwater. Members of the church run schools and private tutoring programs, day-care centers and a drug-rehab clinic. They sit on the boards of the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Boy Scouts.

In July 2004, The St. Petersburg Times dubbed Clearwater, a community of 108,000 people, "Scientology's Town." On the newspaper's front page was a photograph of Scientology's newest building, a vast, white, Mediterranean Revival-style edifice known within Scientology circles as the "Super Power" building. Occupying a full square block of downtown, this structure, which has been under construction since 1998, is billed as the single largest Scientology church in the world. When it is finally completed -- presumably in late 2006, at an estimated final cost of $50 million -- it will have 889 rooms on six floors, an indoor sculpture garden and a large Scientology museum. The crowning touch will be a two-story, illuminated Scientology cross that, perched atop the building's highest tower, will shine over the city of Clearwater like a beacon.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:29 in Spirituality, Religion & Mythos | | permalink



Future Hi: Meaning and Experience

Everything must have context: what she said, what he did, political motivations, religious tendencies, creation, destruction, everything. Do you think bacteria want to know why they're being constantly attacked with antibiotics? Does the rock ponder the meaning of it's own demise through the grinding of nature? Are families of gazelle trying to comprehend why their child was eaten by a lion? No. It all just happens. It's all experienced openly and completely without superimposed abstractions, thanks in large part to a diminished forebrain.

Meaning gives us, well... meaning. It's a uniquely human creation evolved in the interface between self-awareness and language. Self-awareness establishes the fundamental awareness of the Other. There is me and she. Me and this computer. Me and the myriad of creation that I contend with. Animals may instinctively defend themselves and follow the rules of biosurvival, but self-preservation is not self-awareness. Language creates the representational overlay we apply to experience. It provides a shared code within which we can define the objects of our world, co-process and collaborate on various projects, theories and algorithms about the perceived patterns of nature, and by which we can share our experiences through the common syntax. The early childhood rites of language acquisition lay the foundation of our quest for personal meaning. What does "cat" or "biology" mean"? What about "Honesty"? "Love?" "Hate?" "Thermonuclear"? What does it mean when birds flock together at sunset over the water? Why did she say that? Why am I here?

Meaning is a complex expression of the perception of pattern - the perception of pattern mixed with emotional content. Meaning is almost always a form of emotion. Science functions best when it's removed from meaning. Just the facts of observation. Magick functions best when it's embedded deeply within the folds of meaning, of emotion. The clinical poles might be psychopath and schizophrenic, respectively. A life without meaning is empty and free of consequence. A life overwhelmed by meaning is one incapable of dealing with the diverse and immediate mechanisms of the competitive world.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 01 March, 2006 }

The new vocational digs

Picture(65).jpg

Here 'tis, the humble beginnings of my new office in Brevard with the New Wonderful Company. Doesn't it look cozy? This was taken with my phone, and what you can't see are all of the wonderful little plastic animals that I have exploding (i.e. in voluminous quantity) about the place. I'm really excited about this space, and think that it will help nurture my rather ADD-esque attention and organization issues.

Of course, the office being wondrous and fab is only a small part of my incessant joy over the New Job. Every day I seem to get better and better news about how all of this is going to work (it's a totally new program to the agency). Starting from scratch, that gives us so much freedom in implementing the program and creativity in growing it. I continue to feel blessed beyond belief, even if I know that quite a bit of this work will kick my ass at first.

So be it... that's growth!

jaybird found this for you @ 20:01 in Journaling the Infinite | | permalink



Busy day

I'm up way early for a variety of strange reasons, yet due to those strange reasons, I'm unable to post goodies for you today.

Don't worry, those reasons are mostly good. More in the evening.

jaybird found this for you @ 06:15 in Misc. Babble | | permalink




 
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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.