Archive for July, 2009

Buffy/Twilight smackdown

Yah, I may have mentioned before that I’ve had this vampire thing since I was in my teens. Watched every Hammer Horror vampire movie that was on late night TV, read the original Dracula many times. Loved the Vampire Chronicles. Then later got hooked on Buffy. But my wife was sent a copy of the first two or three Twilight books and thought they were dreadful, so I’ve never read them or gone to see the movie (not that I get out to the movies much, now that I have two young kids).

Anyway, I came across this fantastic Buffy/Twilight smackdown via someone on Twitter, and it makes me more glad than ever that I didn’t see the Twilight movie.

As Hortense commented on Jezebel.com:

Everything that is portrayed in Twilight as super romantic about Edward is exposed as creepy and stalkerish here, which is fantastic, as Edward Cullen’s

Posted at 9pm on Jul 7, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing

Miscellany at large

Posted at 9pm on Jul 6, 2009 | 2 comments
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Our fragile resources

water

I put this image together to show the relative volumes of the Earth, the Earth’s total water reserves (salt, fresh, vapor), and the accessible fresh water reserves. If you look at about five o’clock on the water sphere, you’ll see a smaller. That’s all the fresh water available for human use on our planet. It doesn’t look like much!

This is an adaptation of the image shown here, showing the relative volumes of the Earth’s total water reserves and atmosphere. The image of the Earth is from NASA.

I calculated the sphere representing the fresh water reserves based on the claim at globalchange.umich.edu that

“…of the world’s fresh water … ~0.007% … is accessible for direct human uses. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and those underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost.

Posted at 1pm on Jul 6, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing, Religion & Society
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Mary Oliver on compassion

When will you have a little pity for every soft thingthat walks through the world,yourself included?

~ Mary Oliver

(Quoted in the New York Times)

Posted at 11am on Jul 6, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Meditation & practice

Can the Unconscious Outperform the Conscious Mind?

There’s an interesting article on Psyblog offering evidence that powerful claims for unconscious thought in complex decision-making are overblown.

A team at the University of New South Wales and the University of Essex, writing in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, describe four separate experiments searching for the fabled power of unconscious thought (Newell et al., 2009). One of these was a straight replication of Dijksterhuis’ study and the other three were variations on the theme. All four experiments pointed towards the same conclusion:

"In stark contrast to the claims in the literature and the media we found very little evidence of the superiority of unconscious thought for complex decisions." (Newell et al., 2009; p.19).

Indeed in more naturalistic conditions conscious thought was sometimes superior to unconscious thought.

Two other recent papers published in the journal Judgement

Posted at 10am on Jul 6, 2009 | 3 comments
Filed Under: Meditation & practice

A priest, a rabbi, an imam, and a Buddhist monk were on a game show…

Sounds like a joke: A Priest, a rabbi, and imam, and a Buddhist monk were on a game show…

A new game show on Turkish television will pit a Greek Orthodox priest, a rabbi, an imam and a Buddhist monk against one another in attempt to convert atheists to their respective religions.

In each episode of Penitents Compete, to be broadcast by Turkey’s Kanal T television station in September, the four faith guides will try to persuade 10 atheists of the merits and truth of their creeds.

The show’s producers say there is a good chance none of the atheists will be converted, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review reports.

But those who are will be sent on a pilgrimage. New Muslims will head to Mecca, Buddhists to Tibet and Jews and Christians to Jerusalem – with television cameras following them.

“They can’t see this trip as a getaway but as a religious experience,”

Posted at 9pm on Jul 5, 2009 | 3 comments
Filed Under: Religion & Society
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This is in my personal mission statement:

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought."

~ Basho

Posted at 6pm on Jul 5, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Meditation & practice
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Consider my mind boggled

For the first minute or so this video is just a cheesy 1940′s song-and-dance routine. Then you find your neurons unraveling as you witness what should be impossible displays of flexibility. Meet the Ross Sisters, from 1944.

Posted at 6pm on Jul 5, 2009 | 1 comment
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Kalyana Mitra ceremony

In a few minutes I’m off to Aryaloka to conduct a Kalyana Mitra ceremony for three men: Vidhuma, Bodhana, and Jim. Kalyana Mitrata is spiritual friendship, and the ceremony is a pledge on the part of Vidhuma and Bodhana to give Jim spiritual support up to and after his ordination into the Western Buddhist Order.

Posted at 8am on Jul 5, 2009 | no comments
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What it’s all about

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Posted at 1pm on Jul 4, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Religion & Society
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Frederick Douglass: The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro

(Abridged)

Frederick Douglass July 5, 1852

1 Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens: The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for it is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence, the fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude.

Frederick Douglass

2 This, for the purpose …

Posted at 11am on Jul 4, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Religion & Society
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Quote: “The roots of all living things are tied together”

“The roots of all living things are tied together. Deep in the ground of being, they tangle and embrace. This understanding is expressed in the term nonduality. If we look deeply, we find that we do not have a separate self-identity, a self that does not include sun and wind, earth and water, creatures and plants, and one another.”

Joan Halifax Roshi, Essential Zen (Harper Collins)

Posted at 10am on Jul 4, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Meditation & practice
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Affirmations can make you feel worse

From the BBC:

Canadian researchers found those with low self-esteem actually felt worse after repeating positive statements about themselves.They said phrases such as "I am a lovable person" only helped people with high self-esteem.

This doesn’t surprise me. Telling yourself things you fundamentally don’t believe is likely in many cases to remind you of what you do believe, which may be along the lines of "Who am I kidding, lots of people don’t like me."

I think some affirmations would be less likely to have this effect. Things that are true would be affirmations of the possibility of change and growth, and although they may stir up some reactivity at first they are fundamentally true and it’s therefore possible for our entire being to organize itself around them. Untrue affirmations ("everybody loves me") can only be believed by people who suppress an awareness of the truth

Posted at 10am on Jul 4, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Meditation & practice
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Random musings

  • I managed to get a lot of writing done yesterday. I’ve been going back over a chapter I wrote on the Water Element (for a book on the Six Elements). I think I’m going to have to fork some of the material into a new chapter either at the start or end of the book, but that’s ultimately a good thing. I find sometimes I have to print stuff to be able to get some perspective on it — otherwise it’s hard to keep track of where I am in the document. Since I have a quiet morning I’m hoping to be able to get some more work done before heading off for a 4th July family gathering.
  • Watched the final episode of Frasier last night What a great show! I’m going go miss those characters and the wit of the script. Even

Posted at 9am on Jul 4, 2009 | no comments
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Sarah Palin, quitting because she’s not a quitter

Gail Collins is often wickedly funny, and she’s in good form commenting on Sarah Palin’s quitting in order to spend more time with her family values:

  • "Palin is quitting as governor because she’s not a quitter."
  • "She recalled her visit with the troops in Kosovo, whose dedication and determination inspired her to … resign."
  • "The timing of Palin’s announcement was extremely peculiar. Not only did she interrupt the plans of TV newscasters to spend the entire weekend pointing out that Michael Jackson is still dead, she delivered her big news just as the nation was settling into Fourth of July celebrations. You’d have thought she didn’t want us to notice."
  • "It turns out that Palin believes that the only way her administration can ‘continue without interruption’ is for her to end it."
  • "There is

Posted at 8am on Jul 4, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics
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New oyPhone coming from AT&T?

I wonder why AT&T has its bullet points in Hebrew? (Is that Hebrew? That’s what it looks like to me.) Will I need a Talmudic scholar to decipher my next bill? Did AT&T confuse itself with Associated Talmud Torahs? Will they soon be bringing out an oyPhone?

at&t hebrew bullets

Posted at 8am on Jul 3, 2009 | no comments
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“Sick” Microsoft ad promotes porn

If I hadn’t seen this Microsoft ad on PC Magazine’s website I would have assumed it was a spoof. How could any respectable company produce such an obnoxious advertisement?

Posted at 7am on Jul 3, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Religion & Society
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Happy Colonial Rebellion Day

  • I’m excited to hear there’s a possibility that outgoing Doctor, David Tennant, might be making a Doctor Who movie.
  • The LRO has started sending Hi-Res images of the Moon’s surface.
  • In honor of the United States of America’s most important day, Wired magazine publishes the same 4th July article that they published last year.
  • I like to call it "Colonial Rebellion Day."
  • Wired also has an interesting interview with Daniel Wegner about his paper on "How to Think, Say, or Do Precisely the Worst Thing for Any Occasion." Just don’t mention the war:

Posted at 6am on Jul 3, 2009 | no comments
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Lies, Sex, and a sad lack of Daily Show videotape

Glenn Greenwald keeps up the good fight, expecting journalists to pursue factual truth (and to call authorities on their BS) rather than merely pass on both "sides" of a debate as is both were mere opinions, even when one side is factually correct and the other is bogus.

This failure to takes sides with the truth, in an attempt to maintain a faux "objectivity" leads to the media passing on government (and opposition) propaganda, lending it the appearance of truth. This applies especially with the media’s refusal to call actions taken by Americans "torture," even when Americans have prosecuted others (as torturers) for committing those identical acts (such as waterboarding) and even as those same media describe as torture those same, or essentially identical, acts carried out by other nations.

In one of his many articles on this topic, Greenwald quotes this juicily hilarious extract from

Posted at 5am on Jul 3, 2009 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics
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Random thoughts on a rainy day

  • I’m off to the prison in Concord this afternoon to meditate with inmates and to study the second part of Chapter 6, "Skillful Effort," in Gunaratana’s Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness. I’m really enjoying reading the book.
  • I’m hoping the torrential rain eases off before the one hour drive, which will be longer because of the weather.
  • Nick Kristof has an interesting piece about how the evolutionary history of our brains skews political priorities: "Americans spend nearly $700 billion a year on the military and less than $3 billion on the F.D.A., even though food-poisoning kills more Americans than foreign armies and terrorists."
  • I’m getting used to it, but I often used to be thrown by the New York Times’ consistent use of "from … to" rather than the (I believe) more common "to … from."

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