Saturday, April 29, 2006
Some of the simplest and cheapest things you can do is keep your tires properly inflated, keep your car clean and waxed, remove extra weight and drag from your vehicle, drive smoothly, turn off the AC and roll down your windows to cool off at slow speeds, avoid excessive idling, use cruise control for flat terrain, use the highest gear possible, combine your trips and slow down on the freeway.
Last but not least replace your air filter and spark plugs and get a complete tune-up at the recommended intervals.
Check your tire pressure - the proper pressure for your tires is in the owners manual or sticker on the driver's side door jamb. Proper inflation can reduce fuel consumption by 3% according to the Department of Energy (DOE). Besides the fuel savings you'll be safer driving a car with properly inflated tires, since under-inflation increases rolling resistance causing heat to build up and increasing the chance of tire failure.
Wax your car - having a shiny waxed vehicle makes it more aerodynamic - one person reported a 7% reduction in fuel consumption on a 1600 mile road trip.
Reduce weight - ditch those sand bags you put in the back of your pickup last winter for traction. If you have a roof rack, remove it unless you are using it - roof racks create drag.
Drive smoothly - avoid excessive acceleration (quick starts and stops). This saves fuel and wear and tear on your engine, transmission and brakes. Anticipate traffic flow - it's not going to matter how quick you get to the next red light in the over-all scheme of things...slow down relax. Don't tail gate people on the highway - you wear out your brakes and end up having to speed up and slow down which burns fuel.
Use cruise control selectively - you'll save fuel on flat roads but the cruise control will use more fuel in hilly areas.
Turn off the AC - and roll down your windows to cool off - this saves fuel at slow speeds. At highway speeds, driving with your windows down increases drag and fuel consumption.
Maintain your car - change your air filter and spark plugs, and get a complete tune-up by a mechanic, at the suggested intervals. A dirty air filter can increase fuel consumption by 10 percent. A faulty oxygen sensor can increase fuel consumption by up to 40 percent.
Avoid excessive idling - If you go to drive-thru's and have to wait awhile either shut off your engine while waiting or better yet get out of your car and go inside...or even better yet stop eating that stuff and start walking and biking to your local cooperative, farmers-market...or Safeway - whatever is in the area. If possible change your commute times if you have to deal with freeway gridlock so you commute during off-peak hours.
Use the highest gear possible - If you have a manual transmission try to get it in the highest gear possible as quickly as possible without lugging the engine. If the terrain and traffic allows it you might want to try coasting (or at least try to avoid riding your brakes while going down hill unless it's necessary to be safe).
Slow down - simply slowing down from 75 to around 55 to 60 mph can reduce fuel consumption by about 20 percent as shown on this U.S. Department of Energy graph.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Christians should be angry that all kids don't have access to a good education, that people work full time and are unable to afford basic necessities such as healthy food and medical care. Christians should be angry that mentally ill or addicted people are not given the medical and psychological help they need but are left to fend for themselves on the streets or warehoused in prisons. Christians should be angry at a government that promotes torture as acceptable. Christians should be angry that people under the guise of Christianity, preach a litany of hate.
We need to get the Jesus back who speaks in Matthew Chapter 25 -
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.”
So far I like it fine (after about 10 minutes of use). It was easy to install and it feels comfortable in my hand. It weighs a little under a pound and isn't as huge and bulky as a full size trackballs. It's probably a little too big if you are traveling with your laptop - and I'm not sure how that exposed ball would fare getting bounced around inside a briefcase or shoulder bag. You manipulate the trackball with your finger(s) rather than your thumb as in some of the full-sized trackballs. The Logitech marble mouse trackball is about 20 dollars.
The drive will hold about 75 hours of high-definition video or 375 hours of standard-definition T.V.
The previous industry standard was 500 gigabytes.
Pretty soon we will have 1000 gigabyte (terrabyte) drives.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I found a flight from London Stansted Airport to Bilbao, Spain (it's in the northern Basque region of Spain) for 15.99 Euros or about 20 USD on easyJet.com. You could visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and see the Russian art exhibit and take in the marvelous looking museum designed by the North American architect Frank O. Gehry....for 20 dollars, plus the cost of admission to the museum.
Ryanair.com has a whole bunch of flights advertised for .14 Euros. That doesn't include the taxes and fees, but once you add those in - they are offering fares to a whole lot of places in Europe for about 20 dollars.
From what I've read these fares are subsidized by the tourist industries in the various cities, assuming you will book a hotel, dine and otherwise spend some money in their fair cities. Many of the flights fly into smaller airports anxious to build a tourist industry now that the E.U. has opened up the continent. For a student or someone who travels light, these could be great opportunities to see Europe on a budget.
p.s. I found out about these deals by reading an article in the April 24th edition of the "New Yorker" magazine by Anthony Lane, called - "High and Low - How to be a Jet-Setter for Next to Nothing". It's an interesting article on low cost no frill airlines and the great deals available on airfare in Europe right now. You'll have to buy the magazine, or get it at the library to read it, it's not online.
The meditation of the week at interluderetreat.com has some nice things to say about gardens and working outdoors these nice spring days - and a link to BonsaiSite.com where they talk about Bonsai as an art and horticultural practice.
I had a bonsai tree for awhile until our old basset hound Louie knocked it out of the pot and mangled it to the point of no return. Louie was the dumbest animal I've ever known - not that we didn't like him, but he was completely untrainable. He took the turkey off the table one memorable Thanksgiving. He'd follow family members downtown in our little town, and duck into the grocery store when the door was opened - and then refuse to leave, until lured out with a hot dog or some other treat. He tolerated the cats. They would stand on chairs waiting for him to come by, looking like vultures, ready to pounce on him. He'd get back at them by picking up their cans of cat food and running outside to snarf them down. I don't think he liked cat food - he just didn't have much use for cats. He'd sleep in our beds when we were gone, and hop out when he heard the car coming up the drive, knowing that was against the rules.
He was a good dog.
Postscript - After a few days of fiddling around with IE 7 - I have to say....
Why would I use it?
I'm not a rabid anti-Microsoft person. I use many Microsoft products and like them just fine. I'm not sure why Microsoft thinks they need to compete in the browser arena. They are like a slow old dinosaur trying to keep up with open-source nimble gazelle's like Mozilla Firefox.
You can see how much ground Microsoft would have to cover to catch up if you take a look at I.E. 7's add-ons compared to what is available for Mozilla Firefox. Microsoft is depending on people who are trying to make money writing web apps (not a bad thing by itself) but they lose their credibility really fast when they point you to relatively expensive software add-ons that user's rate as junk.
So far I.E. 7 and it's companion Window's live email program have broken my ability to read certain emails (the line breaks don't work). It's either a ploy by Microsoft to force people who use Microsoft Live Mail to use I.E....or really sloppy programing.
I.E. 7 looks sort of cool. compared to the dudley old I.E., but some of the toolbars are frozen in place and ill-placed (for me anyway).
Shortly after I began using I.E. 7 I started to get a full page irritating popup to ilead.itrack.it. I haven't seen anything like that in over a year of using Firefox.
I.E. 7 is a RAM hog. For example I have 7 Firefox windows running right now using 35 Mbytes of RAM. Opening a single window with I.E. 7 chomps up 42 Mbytes.
There's nothing that I can see in I.E. 7 that hasn't already been done in Firefox.
Last but certainly not least - Microsoft has announced the second unpatched IE bug in a week.
Last week, and weekend, was fairly draining emotionally and physically - not to say it wasn't very rewarding.
I'm watching fairly mindless sometimes bizarre TV - one of my guilty pleasures every so often.
This morning I watched part of an episode of The Waltons on the Hallmark Channel. John-Boy was struggling with whether he wanted to become a librarian. One of the other brothers (Jason) had joined a gospel/hymn singing musical group that was playing guitars, singing hymns on the radio and selling bibles on the side. At night Jason played barn dances with the same group. Jason was attending a musical conservatory to learn "serious" music too. Mom Walton was worried that her son was spread too thin. I quit watching before the end...but it's an interesting start to the day of T.V. sampling, to consider what was being aired on T.V. in 1976 the year that episode first appeared. The simple stories, that were easy to make fun of at the time, seem like a relief compared to some of the garbage on T.V. today. It's still a little too much sweetness and light for me...but might be worth watching with some youngsters. Maybe throw in "Little House on the Prairie", "Beverly Hillbillies", "Green Acres", "Andy Griffith" and "Petticoat Junction" for some variety. Things were a lot simpler then.
The afternoon lineup started with Tiara Girls on MTV-2.
MTV.com says, "Tiara Girls documents the struggles of several young women and their journeys to win what they believe is the most coveted sign of succcess - a beauty pageant crown."
At first I thought it was sort of funny and cute to see her fat old dad, and her mom...and whoever else was in her entourage encouraging her. When Jamie didn't get picked for the final ten I realized how stupid the whole thing was. She's broken hearted, at least for a moment, saying how she was good enough...
Good enough at what? Being pretty, and semi-quick witted, and an "object" to be picked by the judges. It's so stupid - not like a sporting event, or academic competition where a person can take pride in being in the competition, and have some understandable reason for winning or losing and therefore a goal to strive for to improve. The fact that you are born with your looks leaves little room for working hard to look like a beauty queen - but who the hell would want to do that anyway?
I can't fathom why any parent would encourage a girl, or young woman to define herself in such shallow terms. Pure idiocy.
Speaking of shallowness and pure idiocy....here's a couple of other shows I've been watching - one funny and one accidently (maybe) very educational for young people.
I've seen Andy Milonakis on T.V. a few times and thought he was pretty funny. Watching his show on MTV-2 this morning provided a few laugh-out-loud moments. He's good in small doses, but he works hard and his looks (he's an adult who looks like a kid) make a lot of his stuff funnier.
This is an episode from earlier this year. My favorite part is the dog with telekinetic powers.
Finally I watched a little bit of MTV's - My Super Sweet 16. Ohhhh my gawwwwdd it was so weirddd! ;-)
The super "sweet" sixteen year old was picking who would be invited to her party to end all parties (one that would cause her to be remembered...not for who she was or what she did...but for what an AWESOME party her daddy bought her). She says, "I'll talk to dorks or geeks but I don't want them at my party."
Well alrighty then.
I think the people behind MTV are very smart (thank goodness). This isn't a show about how cool these sweet sixteens are - it's an educational tool to show impressionable young people what jackasses people who have too much given them can be. Thank you MTV.
"... here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)..."
e. e. cummings
Source - Spiritual Quotations from Allspirit
Religion allows people to stand up for justice, human rights and the dignity of humankind. Christianity celebrate the interconnectedness of all people with each other, with God, with the Spirit. This - "we're all in this together" aspect allows people to be compassionate to those in need. Religious faith, allows people to go where the faithless would never dare to tread.
Consider Mother Teresa helping the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. Consider any number of Christian missionaries and aid workers around the globe. People, some like Tom Fox who gave his life in the name of peace.
It's not the people you read about that make the most difference though. It's all the people you don't read about - that you never hear about. The people that quietly, or sometimes not so quietly in the case of social injustice, exhibit their faith in countless ways. Faith allows those people to stand near the fire, near the pain, to stand up for what is right. It provides people courage and compassion - to be with others - beside them not looking up to them or down at them; but beside them as equally loved and lovable creatures of God.
Churches aren't where God lives, churches might be places where people learn something about God, but at their best they are a source - sending informed compassionate caring thoughful people into the world to do God's work.
Religious study, or any kind of self-work, should not be an end in itself - that's too selfish - it needs to prepare someone to give their best to others.
Religion at it's best it's not the opium of the masses but rather the energizer of the masses - to do good - to love one another - and to know that you are loved.
"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."
"We shall not cease from exploring,
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
"Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry,
the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness
which does not bow before children."
Source - Spiritual Quotations from Allspirit
"Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form."
"Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart."
"It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I've gone and come back, I'll find it at home."
"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do."
"Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness."
"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you; Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want; Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep."
"This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet."
Source - Rumi Quotes
Monday, April 24, 2006
The grape hyacinth is looking very purpley. The light was nice.
Time for a bath.
We're so lazy that we can't expend the effort to use multi-syllabic words.
It's a step up for me though. I used to be too lazy to talk. I'd move my finger back and forth vertically to signify yes, or horizontally to mean no (like shaking your head only less work).
Not playing sports - gambling on sports. I was totally obsessed with sports betting a few years ago. It had a lot of exciting features besides just immersing myself in sporting events - I like applied math - so the odds, statistics and occasions to use spread sheets was fun for me. I wanted to learn how sports betting worked. I read books, checked out bulletin boards, signed up for 3 online betting services, tried the Vegas sports books (people who hang out in sports books a lot...are generally really fat).
It was fun. I made thousands (of bets) and didn't lose any money - you can't say that about many gambling games. On Saturday mornings during college basketball season I'd get up at 8 am and be following 6 or more games throughout the day. It was a good mental exercise.
But it got tiresome.
There's a New Yorker cartoon that shows a little boy coming home from a baseball game with his dad. Mom is in the kitchen and the little boy is saying, "We covered the spread." That was one of the main problems for me after awhile. It isn't about who wins or loses but covering the spread. For example, say I'm a big Seahawks fan and the Seahawks are favored by 3 points. If I lay a bet on that game they have to win by 4 points for me to win, 3 points is a push and if the win by 1 or 2 points I lose.
That's the problem - even though I'm a big fan I'm not glad if they win by a point or two - I'm bummed out because I lost my bet. That takes the sport out of sporting events.
Sports betting is about a 50-50 proposition so it's kind of a stupid bet (still better than any Vegas games) - not to say it can't be very exciting.
I'm off the sports wagering deal now and getting back to being active. It feels a lot better. I'm not nearly as connected to sports. But when I do watch a game it's for the sportsmanship, the atheleticism...not the spread.
"How many times does something have to happen before it occurs to you?"
It's best to open up your eyes if you can and see what's going on around you. Lot's of great things happen right up close.
Wayne Dyer used a part of a poem by Rumi -
The breeze at dawn
Has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep
You must ask
For what you really want
Don't go back to sleep
People are going back and forth
Across the doorsill
Where the two worlds touch
The door is round and open
Do not go back to sleep
He was promoting the idea of getting up at 3 am or thereabouts to connect to the still quiet source. He uses the word source to point to God, or the spirit, or some all-connecting essence of the universe (I'm not sure) - but I do like the idea of getting up really early in the morning before things get going. It's a great time to think - work - pray. It's also fun, in a different way, to get up really early in a big city and watch and listen as the city wakes up. You should try it some times.
Suffering is inevitable. Life is hard. It's unfair. People you love will die. You'll die. People suffer. As paradoxical as it sounds, accepting these facts makes for a much easier life. Or if not easier acceptance of suffering at least allows you to live life. The fact that you, or those you love, or strangers suffer does not mean that life can not also be filled with joy. In fact by accepting the wholeness of life we can appreciate the contrasts. It gives us more colors in our palatte and a richer vocabulary to tell our story.
Suffering is relative, it's personal and it may not be possible for one person to communicate, or another to understand, what suffering means. What causes me pain may not faze you or vice-versa. It's very age dependent - 16 year olds and 60 year olds have very different ideas about suffering (one would hope anyway). It's very situational dependent. I can only imagine that a person living comfortably in a middle class home in North America has a very different idea of suffering then someone in a refugee camp...someone in prison...someone in pain.
People get in trouble when they try to avoid all suffering - addictions of all sorts are attempts to avoid suffering.
People use other less drastic means then drugs and alcohol to try and avoid suffering, the hard stuff of life, scary stuff, truly bad news. First and foremost is television.
Television, not religion - as Karl Marx claimed, is the "opiate of the masses". How many God!@#$% times do I have to see the story about that girl in Aruba? For me zero...but I surf the channels and I see that story running and running and running. It's not news. It's not impacting anyone other than that girl and people who knew and loved her. There's all kinds of crime/murder/missing people all over the world, all the time - why that story?
Because you can watch it and not think. You aren't going to Aruba, you aren't 18, you don't know her...it's nothing. But it fills time and minds. Ditto for the continuous loop stuff on any of the cable news networks. It's mind numbing useless information. There isn't enough information to cause one to think or ponder or reflect or form a new idea beyond what is being fed to you....just a stream of distractions. My recommendation...
Turn off the T.V.
I'm not a purist - there are educational or entertaining or escapist things on T.V. that are fine. It's just not fine to have it going to the point where you lose the ability to reflect, to be with yourself, to read, to write...to live.
Wishing you a wonder-filled week.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I sold the Shadow so I'll have to figure out some other desert worthy vehicle to get me down there. My 85 S10 might be just the ticket for another slow trip to Northern Nevada. It can't be any more unreliable than the good old Shadow. That was a good car for people who like to walk....or camp beside the road if one should happen to have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere.
I'd take the bus or fly into Reno but it would be tough to get seven days worth of food, water, clothing, and a shelter in my luggage.
If anyone who knows me would like to make some plans for a group trip, that might be fun. It's not for everyone by any stretch but if you are open to some inhospitable weather and some really hospitable people it's literally one heck of a trip.
I heard an interview with Sidney Rittenberg on NPR last night and wanted to learn more about him.
I found out from this article written by Drew Brown that Sidney Rittenberg is amongst other things - a professor of History and Philosophy at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). He went to China in World War II as an U.S. Army soldier and ended up staying 35 years.
He spent 16 of those years in Chinese prisons. He was incarcerated from 1949 to 1955 after being accused of being a U.S. spy by Joseph Stalin; and again from 1968 to 1978 for criticizing the government during the Cultural Revolution.
Nowadays he is a teacher and a business consultant for China/U.S. firms. He is considered a hero by the Chinese for not turning against China even with the personal mistreatment he suffered through.
One of the things that caught my ear in the interview yesterday was his comment that corporations may not always be the evil demons some of us think. He said he met some of the most honest, compassionate and enlightened people in his dealings with business people.
Not only is he a practical minded consultant but he has some really great things to say about what constitutes the "good life" as evidenced by this quote from the PLU article -
"Of great importance to Rittenberg, who gave the commencement address in May 2003, is finding happiness and encouraging others to do so. "College students will have spirited, lively discussions about philosophy, but when asked about happiness, they’re stumped," Rittenberg said.
He has maintained happiness by continuing his work to improve relations between the US and China. Along with teaching, lectures and frequent trips back to China, he and Yulin have established Rittenberg & Associates, which consults individuals, agencies and businesses who work with China.
"The road to happiness leads through other people’s hearts," he said. "It doesn’t matter how much you are able to accomplish. It’s the attempt, trying to serve others, that is important. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality."
Wishing all you young people, students everywhere, a great deal of happiness.
Here's a link to an article by Sidney Rittenberg at Amazon titled - MAN WHO STAYED BEHIND and a book by the same name written by Sidney Rittenberg and Mike Wallace.
The woman known as A.J. remembers thousands of details, by day and date, of things that happened to her years earlier.
She can recite detailed events about her life from memory, for example when the interviewer asks her what happened on April 13th 1987 she replies, "April 13 1987 was a Monday the first day of Passover and I was home with conjuctivitus.
She remembers all kinds of details by day and date, for example - on April 15 1990 she made cookies, on April 27 1994 her father went to Baltimore, her house smelled like ham on April 12 1998, on Tuesday July 1 1986 she ate at such and such a restaurant.
There have been other cases of people who had clear auto-biographical memories, but apparantly no one as detailed as A.J.
Oddly enough her particular memory skills did not help her academically. She cannot memorize dates or facts particularly well. She says she "feels" a day and likens each day to a video she has taken and stores on a shelf for easy retrieval whenever she feels like reliving it.
If you find this sort of thing interesting - a good, easy to read, book is Oliver Sack's The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat : And Other Clinical Tales
Here's a link to a Wikipedia summary of some of the stories in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat that will give you a feel for what it's about.
Alan Meckler makes the obvious point that most blogs are not commercial viable. I would add - nor are they intended to be. They serve a limited purpose, being today's equivalent of a diary. I don't think that's a bad thing. One of Leonardo Da Vinci's secrets to creativity was to keep a journal. Blogs work great for keeping a record of ideas, things that interest you, and topics for further investigation.
Jason Calacanis thinks blogs can be monetized by advertisers. He makes the point that you might expect to make "half a living" from blogging if you had 500,000 page views a month - which isn't easy. With a RPM (revenue per 1000 page views) of 3 to 10 dollars you end up making $1500 to $5000 per month.
Mr. Meckler makes the point that with the ad-based revenue model, and his relatively popular blog he would make about enough to buy a candy bar every month.
If you moved out of the ad-based revenue model and into a business to business area you might have a better chance of making money. B2B is where you write a blog on some niche topic...maybe growing bonsai trees, catching fish with magic fishing lures or making furniture out of willow branches, how to make money on the internet, develop buns of steel etc. - and advertise, or sell your own, items associated with that activity.
If you take away the possibility for making money from blogging I don't think it makes any difference at all to the vast majority of bloggers. They are doing it for fun, as a way to share ideas, vent, learn...and they can buy their own candy bars.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Numa Numa Dance - a fat guy rockin out to a Hungarian folk song.
Star Wars Kid - a fat guy playing with a pretend light saber.
Speaking of fat funny guys...
I think Chris Farley was one of the funniest fat guys, had to love Matt Foley, the motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river. SNL keeps pretty close tabs on those videos, so you won't find them on the internet. I like the movie "Tommy Boy" and think the scene from "Tommy Boy" where he's singing "fat guy in a little suit" is pretty memorable.
Chris Farley was a fat guy, and funny partly because he was a good physical comedian. There have been quite a few fat comedians - Chris Farley, Jackie Gleason, John Candy, and John Belushi (a little fat) come to mind - but no really fat comedians. At some point on the fat scale we lose the ability to laugh at or with fat people and start to feel some mix of pity and repulsion.
I think there must be something instinctive in our gut reaction when we see super-fat people (people who can no longer function and have to ride a scooter or have gross amounts of fat hanging off them). My guess is that it's an instinct we have from our cave man ancestors that tells us that person is in danger of being eaten by a saber tooth tiger (we feel sorry for them because they look like a tasty treat and can't run very fast). On the other hand we think...hey I can outrun that guy ;-)
China's record on human rights is abysmal of course, on the plus side they have cheap labor and provide cheap goods for us to consume. How those two things balance out is something you will have to work out for yourself.
If you read many of the reports of human rights abuses it's easy to imagine what it might be like to live in such a place. You would be afraid to make a peep. People are put in prisons for what would be considered minor expressions of free speech in a democratic country.
We are ready to embrace China for the sake of trade/economics, and we can't afford, or won't take the risk, of making our relationship contingent on respect for human rights and human dignity, freedoms we hold dear.
Some assume that industrialization and capitalism brings with it freedom, and respect for humanity. That doesn't always turn out to be the case if we consider Germany from 1933 to 1945. A case can be made that communism is the outgrowth of a poor society where the have-nots are many and are glad to get a little, and fascism is the outgrowth of a rich society where those who have - want more, and will do almost anything to get it. The point being that assuming that a country will automatically embrace democratic principles and respect for human dignity, as a result of economic growth, is a fallacy.
There's a big piece of the puzzle missing in the "World is Flat" discussion brought on by Thomas Friedman and others - his point is that China is a worthy global competitor because they value education, particularly technical education and are willing to work hard to ensure their people are educated. That may be true, but one of the prime reasons China is competitive globally is they have no labor protections or any of the social contracts that we expect in civilized countries.
If a U.S. company could work people as many hours as they wanted, for whatever wages they wanted to pay, and not provide unemployment insurance, medical benefits, follow EEOC or OSHA rules, contribute to social security, or anything else we expect as part of our social contract, and if anyone who disagreed ran the risk of being thrown in prison - how competitive would they be?
So the point is - if we really want to believe the world is flat that we are on a "level the playing field" then we need to work globally, not just for economic gain but for the protection of human rights and respect for the human dignity of all people.
It's important that we leave the affairs of the state to the state - for example balance of trade. But it's equally important that we bring the affairs of people to the forefront and not go to sleep thinking that corporations and governments are looking out for human rights.
Whatever organization or church you choose to support, I'd recommend thoughtful consideration and if you decide to, speak out, and act out, to work for not for a balance of trade but a balance of respect for basic human dignity - for humanity everywhere.
I learned that little tidbit by listening to Virginia Postrel talk about her book The Future and Its Enemies on C-Span Booknotes. The point of that little piece of info is that we can't really predict what the future will bring, Cambodians coming to America and then becoming makers of tasty donuts - who would have thought it? But more to the point - it's not worth trying to fight change - better to go with the flow or more precisely to use the flow to go where you want to go.
I can't get the picture of Bill Gates and President Hu from China hanging out a Bill's house down on Lake Washington. I can see them playing X-Box games, jumping off the dock, roasting weenies on a fire. Playing laser tag. Riding bikes off a cool jump. Getting on their jammies and watching videos, drinking cocoa and eating some Jiffy Pop.
I think the best way to do anything or maybe the only way to do anything that is worth doing is to FOCUS. You gotta have focus. Solitude helps me focus, but I can get really into something in a busy, distracting environment - it has to be the right thing though - something that is interesting/fascinating/challenging.
Have you ever heard people say, "it's all a game"? Lot's of things in society unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, are that way. The problem, as I see it, is that at some point in your life you will want to find meaning and if you can find it by "playing the game." well then more power to you. You might want to stop and think every so often - what does this really mean? Does what I'm doing have any positive impact on the "real" world? People? Other than the people playing the game? I'm afraid that on one's deathbed the idea that you played the game really great (which turned out to have no meaning for anyone other than other game-players) could be a bit of an existential shocker.
The Chinese are smart. President Hu isn't making a big deal about visiting with President Bush but rather the fact that he's having dinner with Bill Gates (a name any educated person in China is familiar with..and of course a symbol of capitalism's potential). He's also going to give a policy speech today. Where? Not at the Whitehouse but at a Boeing plant. Why? Because he knows where power lies. He understands politics better than a lot of Americans who still hold on to the quaint notion that power resides in our elected officials.
There's another interview with Andrew Bird at Chicago Public Radio - Audio Library: Eight Forty-Eight that's interesting. They talk about his background in classical music, the variety of musical styles he uses and, the looping technique you will hear in many of his songs.
This is the cover of the album "Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs" -
Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
He's a poet with a sense of humor and a talented musician, who comes up with amazingly good phrases like,
"when the words we use have lost their bite / now they hit you like an imaginary pillow fight"
from the song "Banking on a Myth".
It makes his music more appealing to watch the video of his performance in Amsterdam at fabchannel, listen to some of his interviews, and read some of the lyrics, rather than just listen to the album. It will give you a feel for the energy he exhibits in a live performance and give you a chance to catch some of the subtle messages in the words.
Very good stuff.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm not a big fan of the Pope, but I'm not the sort that would typically be browsing the Vatican website for the latest papal direction. I happened across the encyclical though, and ended up reading the whole thing (it's really not that hard...pretty basic stuff).
According to the Wikipedia article, the first half is said to have been written by Benedict XVI in German, his mother tongue, in the summer of 2005; the second half is derived from uncompleted writings left by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
"Deus Caritas Est" is Latin for "God is Love", which pretty much sums up what the encyclical is about.
There's a nice philosophical discussion of "eros" (human) and "agape" (divine) love, and an interesting point about Christianity not killing "eros"...
"biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe, or one opposed to that primordial human phenomenon which is love, but rather accepts the whole man; it intervenes in his search for love in order to purify it and to reveal new dimensions of it."
Probably the best summary in my mind is this -
"The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour is emphasized. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbour or hate him altogether...love of neighbour is a path that leads to the encounter with God, closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God."
There is a secondary theme regarding the role of church and state, reaffirming that each has a separate role to play,
"The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State."
It's amazing how far afield some go from these two simple precepts - loving your neighbor and leaving church work to the church and political work to the state. This is not to say that the church cannot provide informed compassionate people to do the work of the state, only that we not mix up the role of the two institutions.
Can't help but think of the various "political" folks who want to use the church to do the work of the state and underly their righteousness with a thinly disguised hatred of some one, or some group, they consider the "other". In God's teaching there is no other.
We are truly all in this together.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Amanda, who died in an airplane crash along with her parents a few years ago, was a writer/teacher/friend who left strong positive impressions on those who knew her.
The good thing, if anything could be said to be good about a young woman killed in an airplane crash, is that the people who remember her are very articulate and provide a fascinating glimpse into a life well lived.
More at Live a round life.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Martin Luther criticized the Catholic Church in the 1500’s for it’s corrupt practices. More specifically he targeted Pope Leo X, pontiff at that time, who was known for his completely non-Pope like behaviors – greed, corruption, and assorted sins of the flesh. Pope Leo is reported to have said when he became Pope, “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.”
Martin Luther called Pope Leo X, the Antichrist.
In 1520 Pope Leo X sent Martin Luther a bull threatening to excommunicate Luther, he also ordered anyone having writings of Luther's to not keep, or read them, and encouraged the writings be burned publicly. Pope Leo X gave Martin Luther 60 days to toe the line, of course Luther refused - he burned the first bull and reiterated his point of view that Leo was the Antichrist, leading Leo X to publish his second bull to excommunicate Martin Luther.
You can read about Pope Leo X in Wikipedia, or if you don’t trust that source – the Catholic Encyclopedia Article on Pope Leo X.
Martin Luther was a brave reformer. I think the Catholic Church may need a new brave reformer.
I don’t know what’s really going on with the reports of sexual abuse by priests. In my younger years I spent a lot of time with and around priests and never heard stories of, or had any direct knowledge, of any such thing. Not sure what’s going on – mass hysteria of some sort? A desire to make a buck? Or maybe there is something systemic wrong – something that needs a reformer - to sweep out the corrupt and make some major revisions to the church.
I think the first thing that reformer could do would be to end the vow of celibacy. If a priest chooses to be celibate that’s a personal decision, but it should not be a requirement. I have no proof, but I believe a man who is married and has children of his own is much less likely to be a sexual predator – it seems that way from the newspaper reports anyway. It seems to make sense intuitively as well.
The second thing that reformer could do would be to end the requirement that priests be men. A healthy mix of male and female pastors would be good for everyone – and I believe provide an internal monitor of the health of the priesthood. There is something too secret about the current state of affairs when we find out by reading scandalous reports in the newspapers that a particular priest is, and has been for years, sexual abusing young people. Allowing married men and women to be priests opens the window, would create chances for dialogue – and quite simply provide new sets of eyes and ears to know what’s really going on.
I’m sorry that the Catholic Church, or some particular clergymen specifically, have become so mired in allegations of sexual abuse. But being sorry isn’t going to make things change. I’m not sure without some major house-cleaning and fundamental changes in the pool of people who are brought into the priesthood - that things will change all that much. It’s sad because there are so many wonderful priests in the Catholic faith, that are tainted in some way by the sins of their brethren - unless they stand up to provide solutions to this unfortunate situation.
The new Pope Benedict has a beautifully written, and very clear, statement on the fundamental Christian precept of “love” in his first Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est" – there is nothing in what he writes to preclude love between a man and a woman in the life of someone most holy – in this case those who are called to the priesthood.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
I don't know what this means.
I am puzzled by what the word spirituality means, and using sacred to define it doesn't help me much (since I'm not real clear on what sacred means either).
I took some definitions from Webster's dictionary -
highly valued and important
exalted or worthy of complete devotion
venerated as or as if sacred
of or relating to sacred matters
an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms
the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person
the activating or essential principle influencing a person
Using those definitions I rewrote the statement,
"Spirituality is the search for the sacred and the pursuit of meaning and purpose in life."
to be -
"Living well is to search for what is truely important, and highly valued since it provides meaning and purpose to a life."
In a circular manner I have equated "spirituality" with "living well". I'm still not sure what spirituality is, but that's fine.
What do you value? What gives your life meaning and purpose?
Given the impermanant nature of this world, how permanant are the things you have chosen to value? Do the things that give your life meaning depend on health, wealth, a job, another person? Eventually you will lose all of those things - then what gives your life meaning?
There are questions that have no answer, or at least the answer will change over time. I honestly believe it is in the search that we find meaning. We all enjoy a good mystery, life is full of them.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
It's also fun to read the description of some of the things they sell like this Patagonia M's Sideburn Shirt -
"A shirt for keeping your cool when the crags heat up. Sideburns are made from a lightweight, airy blend of organic cotton and polyester that moves moisture and hot air away from your skin. Inside, polyester mesh lines the shoulders for free-moving comfort and increased wicking performance. The full front zipper vents excess heat instantly; a hidden chest pocket holds an MP3 player. Redesigned this season through the body for a trimmer fit."
It's a climbing shirt you see - for keeping cool when the crags heat up. Organic, holds an MP3 and it's for thin people. I like the idea behind the marketing. It's a bit ironic to be reading it as a cube dwelling non-climbing chub - but you never know I might be climbing on some hot crags again someday...or if not me, certainly you.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
"That song will never sell," he thought to himself.
Today is Palm Sunday he’d heard the radioman say. Two thousand years ago they lined the road with palm fronds as Jesus rode into town on a donkey. He was on a roll. The events at the ending of this Lenten season go quickly now. In this short week we see the celebration turn to betrayal, suffering, and death. Then back to celebration as they roll away the stone and find their leader has risen again.
It’s a good story. You have to have faith to see it as something more. Faith – the belief in that which we don’t have proof of. In our scientific world we like proof, give me the data, the facts, the figures. Show me.
There are lots of things in our lives that demand faith if we are to live as compassionate, caring, loving, and eventually - transcendent human beings. Not creature-like only concerned with the here, the now, but rather with faith in things beyond what we see.
Faith in love. Faith in the goodness of all people. Faith that something, someone, is looking out for us. Faith in fidelity. Faith in friendship. Faith in family. Faith in our leaders, teachers, ministers.
So many times our faith is tested. The data doesn’t support the hypothesis. But that’s the story. Jesus loved the world and all the people in it. God so loved the world that he gave his only son to suffer and die on the cross for us, for our sins, so we can be forgiven and forgive others.
If we give up our faith and stop accepting the mystery, then what?
Then we live in the here and now, and it’s often an ugly place. You can find all sorts of things to wring your hands over, obsess over, hate – everyday. There are lots of facts that show us this is an ugly place to live in. Without some way to transcend this life we are stuck in the muck. People killing people, hurting people, starving people, betraying the trust of those unable to take care of themselves. It’s all on the news. We have to look out – look out for ourselves. Make sure we get our piece of the pie. There isn’t enough for everyone.
Faith, the ability to transcend our rationality – to be irrational, exuberant, joy-filled in the face of the ugliness that is brought into this world by human creatures. That simple faith can allow us to do things that would be unthinkable otherwise. Certainly there have been cases of very bad unthinkable things done in the name of faith. But because we have faith in the good we can care for the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, the addicted and forgive the wicked – having faith that all can be redeemed.
Faith to sit and listen, to work, to fight for goodness – even in the face of unbearable sadness – to witness, not to proselytize with words, but to live lives of faith.
To show, not to say.
He wrote as he sat - in his comfortable chair.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
From the song "Tables and Chairs" by Andrew Bird -
i know we're going to meet some day
in the crumbled financial institutions of this land
there will be tables and chairs
there'll be pony rides and dancing bears
there'll even be a band
cause listen, after the fall there will be no more countries
no currencies at all, we're gonna live on our wits
we're gonna throw away survival kits,
trade butterfly-knives for adderal
and that's not all
ooh-ooh, there will be snacks there will
there will be snacks, there will be snacks.
You can listen to the song recorded live from the Paradiso in Amsterdam at fabchannel.com and if you like maybe pick up a copy of the album, Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Zorba the Greek was said to have described himself as “the whole catastrophe.” The truth is, we’re all the whole catastrophe, only we wish that we weren’t. We deny the parts of ourselves that we deem unacceptable rather than accepting the fact that we’re all less than perfect. One of the reasons it’s important to accept all aspects of yourself is that it allows you to be easier on yourself, more compassionate. When you act or feel insecure, rather than pretending to be “together” you can be open to the truth and say to yourself, “I’m feeling frightened and that’s okay.” If you’re feeling a little jealous, greedy, or angry, rather than deny or bury your feelings, you can open to them, which helps you move through them quickly and grow beyond them.
Harry Chapin – Greyhound
I should have realized by now
that all my life's a ride.
It's time to find some happy times
and make myself some friends
I know there ain't no rainbows waiting
when this journey ends.
Stepping off this dirty bus
first time I understood
It's got to be the going
not the getting there that's good
That's a thought for keeping if I could.
It's got to be the going
not the getting there that's good.
H. Scott Peck – The Road Less Traveled
Life is difficult. The first of the “Four Noble Truths” which Buddha taught was “life is suffering”. This is a great truth, one or the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one. Problems call forth our courage and wisdom; indeed they create our courage and our wisdom. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems. Ben Franklin said, “Those things that hurt instruct.” Wise people learn to welcome problems. Most of us are not so wise. Fearing the pain involved most of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, ignore, forget, pretend they do not exist, we even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that caused the pain. We attempt to get out of them rather than suffer through them. Let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity for suffering and the value thereof, the need to face problems directly and experience the pain involved. What are the tools/techniques of suffering that I call discipline?
- Delaying gratification
- Acceptance of responsibility
- Dedication to truth
Timbuk3 – Greetings From
Life is hard
Can't buy happiness no matter what you do
Can't get to heaven on roller skates
Can't take a taxicab to Timbuktu
Thich Nhat Hanh – Peace Is Every Step
Real love. We have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we think only of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love. We must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, aspirations, and suffering of the person we love. This is the ground of real love. You cannot resist loving another person when you really understand him or her.
Stephen Covey – Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (A Quick Overview)
- Be proactive – Take a Breath between stimulus and response
- Begin with the end in mind – Planning ahead doesn’t eliminate spontaneity.
- Put first things first – Relationships are our most important things.
- Think win win – Even though you may not always be able to
- Seek first to understand and then to be understood – Listen to learn not to reply
- Synergize – Be part of the orchestra (solo on your own time)
- Sharpen the saw – Do things that enhance your mind, your body, your spirit and your relationships.
View life as a spiral of continuing upward growth.
Occasionally you will slide back.
Be good to yourself.
Move onward and upward.
Mary Catherine Bateson - Peripheral Visions: Learning Along the Way
Virtually all the learning that precedes schooling—walking, talking, bye-bye and peekaboo, the intricate rhythms of life within a household—is learning as homecoming. It proceeds at dazzling speed compared with school learning, yet it is underestimated nearly everywhere. Infants have visible states of intense alertness from their earliest weeks.
Building model planes, ballet dancing, riding, computer hacking, basketball playing, working on a novel in secret, any of these, whether or not it promises a way of making a living later in life, can become a standard for feeling fully alive.
When school begins much of this invisible learning is negative: the inadequacy of parents as sources, the irrelevance of play, the unacceptability of imagination. School teaches the contextualization of learning and the importance of keeping different areas of life separate: home from the workplace, Sundays from weekdays, and work from play.
Teaching children that there is a correct time and place for learning, we also teach them to stop learning when the manage to escape from school, or to keep what has been learned specialized to one context and quite inaccessible for use in others.
The informal learning, unverbalized and unquestioned, takes precedence over explicit teaching unless uprooted in drastic ways.
It is fashionable in America to say that schools are failing and there is a groundswell of anger against educators of all kinds. This is not in the main because they are not doing their job, it is because we have no adequate understanding of what that job is in the kind of society we are becoming.
The avalanche of changes taking place around the world, the changes we should be facing at home, all come as reminders that of all the skills learned in school the most important is the skill to learn over a lifetime those things that no one, including the teachers, yet understands.
You will always be acting under uncertainty. You will know the future when you get there. Only so can you make it your home.
The world we live in is the one we are able to perceive; it becomes gradually more intelligible and more accessible with the building up of coherent mental models. Learning to know a community or a landscape is a homecoming. Creating a vision of that community or landscape is homecoming.
Fritjof Capra – The Web of Life
Information is presented as the basis of thinking, whereas in reality the human mind thinks with ideas, not with information.
As Theodore Roszak shows in The Cult of Information, information does not create ideas; ideas create information. Ideas are integrating patterns that derive not from information but from experience.
From a story by Victor Frankl about Auschwitz…a young women who would die in the next few days… But when I talked to her she was cheerful. She mentions, “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.”…”this tree is the only friend I have in my loneliness”….”I often talk to this tree” Thinking she must be delirious I asked her if the tree replied? “Yes”. What does it say?
“I am here – I am life, eternal life.”
Both Frankl and the young woman reach new awareness through painful confusion followed by perception of wholeness and form. Both reached awareness through an emotional torment, honestly and bravely suffered, that gave way to transcendent fulfillment. The basis of this fulfillment was a single metaphor,
Monday, April 03, 2006
Saturday, April 01, 2006
"The best things in life are nearest. Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that the daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life."
Robert Louis Stevenson
"The Zen master Ling Chi said that the miracle is not to walk on burning charcoal or in the thin air or on the water; the miracle is just to walk on earth. You breathe in. You become aware of the fact that you are alive. You are still alive and you are walking on this beautiful planet. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive."
Thich Nhat Hanh