31 October 2007

October Searchlight

What were people looking for when they found themselves in my inchoate domain? Click below to find out.

angel doors: Uh, do angels need doors? Or are you looking for doors with angels on them? `/^
kitty bowls: try TJ Maxx if you're looking to buy them. I also found them at The Cupboard in Fort Collins
Professor Umbrage: I take Umbrage that this search led to my blog! Well, no, not really, but it seemed like a good thing to say...
great roc spreads wings: Not an official name in the CMC form, I'm told, but I forget who coined the name.
lay down and deliver: Ummm... most of the stuff that comes to mind I ain't gonna type. Unless you have to crawl under a porch to get to a mailbox?
lighted lightswitch: Easier to install when the previous remodelers haven't put wood paneling over the old switch, without a large enough hole for extraction.
memo paper riddle: Uh... what did one memo say to the other? I'm more random than you are! (Anyone who can come up with something better, feel free to share)
ten commandments solon: Sensible.
8fab3af85b833781dd07fd9924ac3d17: ??? No clue.
b6 armor shot pattern: So, uh, not the vitamin then?
brief summary of sweeney todd: Barber who slits throats gets his just desserts, in more ways than one.
chuck monday tv: Ridiculous, but so far entertaining.
buy hindu mantra chanting alarm clock: Impressive. Does such a thing exist?
confusiousism outline: You might find more useful info here.
decongestant and searchlights market: ??? Ummm... do searchlights need decongestant?
can a person go through ibuprofen withdrawal: Yes. Definitely. Unpleasant. It took me about a week to get over the sporadic headaches, but supposedly some people take more than a month.
dog breathing problems sporadic: You might want to see a vet. Dogs can have allergies and/or asthma.
evil phonebots: Aren't they all?
example of a summary of what you think about a philosophy class: I think it's bloody brilliant. But seriously, is this a homework assignment? You don't know how to write a summary?
f8ed "comic": Yeah, I messed with the name to fit my bizarre alphabet obsession. But there's a link down under "comics".
fungus spots concrete patio: Not sure how that got you here, but you might ask at your local nursery or hardware store.
how does orland bloom evolve during the kingdom of heaven: He evolves into a komodo dragon! Or, no, wait, that was Janeway. Never mind.
m&ms use imported dextrin: Probably. Either way, until they label the source for their dextrin, I ain't eatin' them. Tapioca is common, but it could be wheat.
malfoy with the moving origami paper: ??? If this was in the books, I seem to have repressed it.
maunderings of the master: Well, I've got a Master's degree in math. Will I do? `/^
quiz sporadic: Is that anything like an occasional table?
public service announcement healthy teeth: Wow. Someone actually searched for that?
shedding skin on your feet: Possibly athlete's foot, possibly something worse. Hydrogen peroxide works well for my foot problems, but I am most certainly not a doctor.
things that affect my health: pollution, nutrition, bombs, bullets, uh... you might want to be more specific.
the life & letters of tofu roshi: Good read. Recommended. It's a very good introduction to looking at the world from a different perspective.
triangular breathing: Well, Don's version is to empty the lungs, breathe in, filling the lower lungs first, for a count of seven, hold for a count of seven, and breathe out, emptying the top of the lungs first, for a count of seven, seven times. There are probably others.
weird dye jobs: Hey! My curtains turned out very nicely!
xotic saran wrap: *blinks* I don't think I want to know...

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The Hollow Men




I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar




Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.








II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.





Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom




III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.










Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.








IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river





Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.



V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.








Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
......................................For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
.......................................Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
.....................................For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

T.S. Eliot


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29 October 2007

In Parallel

Ha! I just maneuvered my Echo into a very small parking space, with roughly a foot of room, total! All hail the parking queen! (who, quite royally, had to make two goes of it, unless she wanted the royal vehicle parked halfway on the royal sidewalk) Incidentally, I hear that the new Echoes (now inexplicably called Yaris) are about a foot longer than mine. They wouldn't have fit at all. ^/^

Oh, and since I keep forgetting to mention it, I have major pet peeve about people who park at the ends of available parking and leave half a car length. You're wasting space, people! Pull clear up to the end, or back clear down to the end. Use the available space!!! My goal is to have my bumper just barely over the yellow line. That's what I consider perfect. More often, I'm about five-eight inches away, which is worlds better than half a car length.

This post brought to you by the effects of early morning hot chocolate and sleep deprivation.

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27 October 2007

Wintersmith

I finally, finally, got to read Wintersmith. It's the third of Terry Pratchett's young adult series featuring Tiffany Aching. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the previous two, but it's still a very good read. Short version: Tiffany manages to step into exactly the wrong dance, and if she can't put things right, summer will never come. (No decipherable spoilers below the fold)

The thing that I love about Pratchett's witches, most especially Granny Weatherwax, is that they get it. I don't know that I can explain what it is to anyone who doesn't already get it, but I suppose I can try. The balance. The still point. Waiting for your mud to settle so that the water runs clear. The place where thought ends and action begins. That there is always a price to be paid, a choice to be made, and the highest price may be for choosing what is right.

But back to this particular book. Sword-fighting with imaginary swords! Nac Mac Feegles threatening to stay in the Underworld! A kitten that scares even Greebo! Chickens galore! Snowflakes that look like people! Romance writers who don't understand sheep! People made of snowflakes! Singing cheese! Nac Mac Feegles reading books! And exchanging oxen for books! And we mustn't forget BOFFO!

Okay, I think I've run out of random, unhelpful exclamations now. Highly recommended to anyone who likes a good Story.

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Philosophy Class (Week 8)

We've moved from the Old Testament to the New, by way of Isaiah. The primary focus was on the idea of prophecy, to consider from a philosophical standpoint whether to think of it as "the future influencing the past" or "the past influencing the future." Dr. Levenson never took a committed stance on this, except perhaps momentarily, to get discussion going, and then he'd swap stances. My overall impression is that he likes the idea of the future influencing the past, but that doesn't really bear on whether he thinks it happened or not.

The passage in question is Isaiah 52-53, The Suffering Servant, which seems eerily similar to the life of Jesus in the gospels. I have to take issue with one of the supposed similarities: "his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness" as a reference to his appearance after crucifixion. Uh, if Catholic crucifixes are anything to go by, he was still recognizably human (or in human form, if you prefer). In essence, the passage is a description of the Judaic practice of animal sacrifice, but applied to a human, sometimes called "The Suffering Servant."

Had this passage been relatively unknown and obscure in Jesus' day, I might be more willing to consider the idea of it as prophecy. But it was well known. It was a part of the community consciousness. So, ignoring all else, if a well known "man of god" dies horribly, this is a natural passage to turn to for an explanation. You could also argue for a stronger possibility, of deliberately "setting things up" to match up, but that seems less likely to me.

Then on Friday, we started discussing Matthew. We made it as far as the virgin birth. Dr. Levenson was very careful here to distinguish discussing ideas from discussing facts. His primary focus was on whether a virgin birth was, in itself, necessary to Christianity. Not surprisingly, the Christians in the class said it was, while the rest of us were more open to exploring the possibility that it wasn't. Essentially, they took the position that Jesus had to be perfect, and so his literal, uh, "biological" father had to be God. However, this is far from the only possibility. "Adoptionists and other non-Trinitarians considered Jesus to be a natural-born man and generally held his baptism to be the point at which he came to embody the Holy Spirit." (Wikipedia). That makes much more sense to me.

There are two likely reasons for adopting the virgin birth as doctrine (regardless of whether it was true). The one we discussed in class involved making it more acceptable to Greek and Roman cultures. They have tons of stories of gods impregnating women, and the resulting offspring were always extraordinary. The second did not come up in class. It's the complete and utter disdain that Christianity has for human nature: fallen, sinful, evil, imperfect. "No, the savior can't be human because humans are horrible, nasty creatures (never mind that we ourselves are human; we hate ourselves, too)." It's just not good enough to have a human who received God's power and blessing at his baptism, at least not for people who despise humanity.

I can't remember what book it was... it may have been by Kent Nerburn. I remember that there was a Native American talking to a Caucasian. The gist of the talk was that it was important not to hate your own people, because that would lead to hating yourself. A lot of traditional Christian doctrine embodies a horrid contempt for humanity, for its own people. No wonder the savior can't be human: they'd have to hate him, too. It's my opinion that this is the true tragedy of mainstream Christianity. It emphasizes all of humanity's failings, and attributes any observed strengths to God. This is entirely the wrong way to look at things, especially if you want to be stay sane and not lapse into severe depression.

I'll take the Eastern idea that "from the outset, your own nature is pure," over a litany of how horrid humanity is any day. It's not that there's no work to be done; it's that you're already where you need to be, if you can find where you really are. Who you really are. The person, the human, that lives under your skin and behind your eyes. Mainstream Christianity tends to impose a view-of-self on its adherents that prevents them from ever seeing themselves for who/what/all that they really are, or really can be. Sad.

(I should probably mention that reading Matthew was actually worthwhile, even if we haven't discussed much of it yet. There are some very nice passages in there. I begin to see why Thomas Jefferson thought it worthwhile to compile the passages he found worthwhile.)

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Warring States

Odd dream segment last night. I was in some sort of impromptu prison camp with maybe 8 others. One of the newest ones to be thrown in with us had a key with him. Despite looking like the key to an overgrown jewelry box (brass, with a heart at the end), it turned out to fit the lock on the door. Though, now that I'm not dreaming, I'm reasonably certain that the door and lock were both flimsy enough that we could have just broken through, which means we should have at least tried to free the two prisoners who chained to something inside the prison, er, tent. I'll bet the locks there were just as flimsy.

At any rate, I got out of the "cell" and started wandering around...well...something that looked an awful lot like the old Fred Meyer, before it moved over to where the Pocatello Mall used to be, except there were areas set off behind the retail areas displaying national(?) treasures for the people running the prison camp. Several times I went back over to the cell, looking for a way to free the two we'd had to leave behind. The last time, I went back into one of the treasure areas. There were crystals and statues on shelves and nooks in the walls, and all sorts of tiny drawers, like someone had lines the walls with normal chests of drawers...except that all the drawers were jewelry-box size, say, 1 inch high by five inches wide. Out of curiosity, I opened one of the drawers. Whatever was inside was so sparkly that I couldn't make out its shape, and seemed to be encrusted with diamonds. Anyway, it was as I made my way along the huge jewelry armoire that I accidentally bumped something and made a noise, and got the attention of a...guard, presumably.

She was Asian, black hair almost to her waist, wearing some sort of lavender-grey business-skirt outfit and didn't seem too concerned by the noise, but still came out to investigate. I tried to hide...but there weren't very many places to hide. As soon as she saw me... well, she looked surprised, but then I was tackled by someone else entirely. Not sure if there was a sudden character swap or what.

Anyway, the guy who tackled me was also Asian, with flyaway hair maybe 4-5 inches long that stuck out in every direction. He wound up pushing me down the corridor in something of a dance....with a musical interlude where it really was a dance...then we went back to fighting.

Then the scene cut away to black. An ominous voice declared that the plan was proceeding. Soon California would be known as the Citrus State, but first they had to quell any opposition from Florida.

About this time, the alarm went off. So apparently I was in a Chinese prison camp, inside Fred Meyer, being run so that California could steal the title of "Citrus State" from Florida. ^/^ That one's odd even by my standards.

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26 October 2007

Desks, aka Too Many Screws

I think I mentioned that my mom was buying out her boss's business, since he was retiring this year. They sealed the deal on October first, and my mom has decided she wants to, er, update the building. As part of that, she ordered two desks. This afternoon, I went over with her to "help" put them together.

And I now know the biggest difference between cheap put-together furniture and high-end put-together furniture. High-end furniture is intended to last a long time and be stable. This means that it comes with a whole ruddy lot more fasteners. Also, sturdier fasteners. No cheap plastic pseudo-L-brackets. Nope. Thirty-six metal L-brackets instead, most of which go in awkward to reach nooks and corners. If I'd realized this, I would have brought down an electric screwdriver. As is, my hand gave out before we got done. So the first desk is about half put together and the second is still in the box. Oh, and I expect I'll have blisters tomorrow.

One minor snag. On one of the panel pieces, the holes for the L-brackets were drilled just a shade too close to the edge, like a sixteenth of an inch or so. One flat edge is supposed to line up with the edge of the panel, so that when its attached to the other panel, they're flush. Well, these have a slight gap. We'll see how obvious it is when the rest of the desk gets put together.

In other news, next week I seem to have volunteered to drive down to a philosophy conference. Now if I can just find out, oh, where it is and when it starts, that would be good. It's not a deadline day in Math 108, so Linda can cover that by herself. It's quite likely that Dr. Levenson will be going down as well, but even if he's not, missing class for it shouldn't be a problem. All that leaves is to cancel my office hour.

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25 October 2007

Buster

Last spring, before I started walking Buster, my mom would constantly complain about his behavior. He would jump up on her from behind without warning, nearly knocking her over. So far as I can tell, my dad hadn't tried to train him at all. So I decided to train him. When I realized that Dad could no longer see well enough to take Buster on walks, I started doing that, too.

I'd never trained a dog before, but I'd seen it done quite a bit on Barking Mad, a show on Animal Planet about dealing with "problem pets." You need a clicker and some small dog treats. When the dog does something right, you click and give a treat. Finding treats that I was willing to handle was a bit dicey; 99% of them are made with wheat flour. I found some that were mostly meat, and broke them into smaller pieces to use as rewards.

Starting is the hard part. You basically wait until the dog is doing something that you would like to train in. So when I'd see Buster start to sit down, I'd say "Sit!" as I clicked, and give him a treat. When he'd lie down, I'd say "Lay down!", click, give a treat. I've also gotten him to stand up, so long as there's a vertical surface he can put his paws on; otherwise he tends to jump. He knows what "stay" is, but really, really doesn't like to do it. I've changed my approach a bit to try and get him more enthused. I was working on "roll over" for a while, and I've started trying to get him to "shake."

At any rate, he's become much easier to walk, and my mom no longer dreads going over to see my dad when Buster is inside. Every so often she'll say something like, "He's so much better than he used to be." He sort of knew the word "down" before I started, but would grumble about it. I think getting treats for "lay down" and "sit" broke him of the grumbling. Which reminds me, my dad says that Buster sounds a lot like Chewbacca when he really starts complaining about things. I've never heard this, but Buster is the first dog I've encountered whose bark could be closely described by "Bow-wow-wow-wow-wow". It's deep, and there are some 'r's in there, too, but it's still fairly close.

There's one small problem that I've been noticing. Buster is my dad's dog, but when I'm there, Buster wants to play with me, not Dad. This could be simply because I'm not there all the time, but I'm not entirely sure. With a "normal" person, I wouldn't worry about this. With Dad...I'm waiting for some half-paranoid, delusional rationalization, and really really hoping none comes. There's a saying in my family: "Don't ask Dad questions; he might try to answer them."

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24 October 2007

Morning Glow




translucent leaves
glow like the sun
maple at dawn



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22 October 2007

A Public Service Announcement About Teeth

Bad teeth run in my family. My Grandma Parker's started to just rot away when she was in her 30's. She had them all pulled and relied on dentures for the rest of her life.
My mom's haven't rotted quite as quickly, but she's spent an awful lot on crowns to try and keep them.

I cannot prove that getting a water filter that filtered out fluoride caused to get them severely worse, but the timing is certainly suggestive. Also, my own teeth got worse during that period, so that I installed my own water filter but made sure that it did not filter out trace minerals, like fluoride.

At any rate, she has at most four molars left right now. Underneath the crowns, the teeth were nearly all rotten. And, naturally, none of those molars actually line up with one another. They sent her to an oral surgeon, to see about getting permanent implants. There was a problem: not enough bone in her upper jaw and not enough room to add more bone. On Friday, she had something called a "sinus lift" to address this, which lifted her sinuses to give them room to add some more bone (at least, that's my understanding). So in a few months, they can put some actual teeth in.

I won't tell you what she's spending on dental work at the moment. Suffice it to say that I could not afford it, and her insurance has lousy dental coverage. I'm not entirely sure why she didn't just opt for dentures... I suspect it has something to do with how badly Grandma's were hurting her in her last few years (largely because she refused to see a dentist to have them adjusted). It would have been cheaper; I know that much.

This is yet another reason that I was so freaked out last winter when they found four cavities. I do not want to start down the same road, tooth-wise. It's also why I was so pleased this summer when my extra brushing and fluoride rinse paid off. Seriously, take care of your teeth now. If all it takes is an extra five-ten minutes of brushing and rinsing each day to avoid all the pain, hassle and expense, isn't it worth it?

ADDENDUM: Aunt Bee has another reason to take care of your teeth.

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21 October 2007

Orographic


clouds on the mountains,
blanketing their peaks,
staving off the sky

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20 October 2007

No Long Form

We had a new/old student come to taiji this morning. Mike had been coming, moved to Pocatello and stopped coming, and now has apparently moved back to IF, and hence is willing to come again. At any rate, Don decided that we'd go back to the short form, today at least, but throw in a few of the long form exercises. Mostly Don was focusing on corrections for Mike, so neither Mark nor I got any major comments. However, if we'd done anything particularly egregious, Don would have noticed. So our short form hadn't suffered appreciably from learning the bits of the long form. No clue what we'll be doing next week. I would like to learn at least enough of the long form that I could figure out the rest on my own, given a list of the correct order, but that means we have to make it to at least one example of each move that isn't in the CMC form. I know the names for three such moves: needles at the bottom of the sea; fan through the back; circle fist. Needles isn't too far past where we've gotten to, but I'm not sure where the others are.

Oh, and Don seems to think that I may soon be too good for him at push-hands. Or, better than he is. I think he's a bit overly optimistic about my abilities, but it's nice to know that I'm improving. Apparently there's a phase that most serious taiji students go through, somewhere between 2 and 5 years in, where they think they know everything there is to know. It takes them another year or so to realize that they know almost nothing. Well, I've never gone through a long period like that. Every time I'd even start thinking I was getting a handle on things, someone would demonstrate for me just how much I had left to learn. So I can honestly say that I'm leagues ahead of where I started, but I see an infinite expanse still ahead of me to go. Seriously, even if, by some miracle, I get better than Don, there's still Kayo, and Bataan, and Ben Lo, and dozens or hundreds of others that I haven't met yet. And the ultimate challenge? Cheng Manch'ing, the grandmaster himself. Do I think that's possible? Eh, there's a small part of me that says, "Sure! Why not?!" There's a much larger part of me pointing and laughing and saying, "Yeah, suuuure it's possible. Wanna buy a bridge?" That feels like the right balance. Enough ego to keep me going; enough humility not to overstep myself.

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19 October 2007

Philosophy Class (Week 8)

We're still talking about the Old Testament right now. We spent most of the week on Exodus 19-20, i.e. the ten commandments. Well, one of the three versions of the ten commandments. Part of what came up in the discussion was the documentary hypothesis.

Short version: due to differences in language, word usage, and style, it is no longer believed that a single person wrote the entire Pentateuch. The hypothesized writers (or groups of writers, as Melissa tells me) are designated by letters. J is so-called because 'he' refers to God as JHVH (or YHVH), which, as both Dr. Levenson and Fibonacci have told me, no one is entirely certain how to pronounce any longer. Dr. Levenson was plainly uncomfortable with even trying to pronounce it, and while he showed us the Hebrew characters for it, he quickly erased them. The texts attributed to J also tend to be extremely ambiguous. The Adam and Eve story is one, as is the story of Cain and Abel (ambiguous because God puts a mark on Cain to protect him). Melissa told me that one scholar has compiled a collection of the J texts, and argues that J's God was something of a Coyote figure, a trickster.

If I recall correctly, Dr. Levenson said that 'P' (for priestly) was believed to have written Exodus 19-20. There is no ambiguity here. God is an awesome, nearly frightening force, and all but Moses are too terrified to approach. As an interesting aside, Dr. Levenson mentioned that in every rabbinic commentary he's read on the verses, there is a general agreement that despite the terror, there was also a blissful sense of God's presence, as if they had once again come near to paradise. This is nowhere to be found in the text, and yet there seems to be near universal Jewish agreement on it.

It's this notion of fear that has never made sense to me. The only thing I've been able to come up with is that maybe some have gotten so far removed from the divine that it seems terrifying. I just...can't even imagine that, really. Or is it just that they've never experienced it and the very idea terrifies them? That I can follow a little bit. It still doesn't make much sense to me, though. It's like...being afraid of yourself, of the world, of the change of the seasons... *sighs* I really don't get it.

Anyway, today we started on Amos, the first of the literary prophets books. Essentially, he's screaming about how all of Israel has fallen from God and God will thus destroy them. One noteworthy bit is that social justice is a big theme. The rich would rather buy shoes than help the poor and oppressed. Another noteworthy bit: Amos was not a "licensed" prophet. According to Dr. Levenson, there was a sort of prophet's guild, but Amos was freelance. The third noteworthy thing is that the language he used casts a sort of hypnotic spell. It's also interesting that a book containing the harshest criticism of the Israelites would be canonized into their scripture.

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curbside puddle
windblown ripples can't hide
the glowing leaves

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18 October 2007

Shenanigans

Amazingly, a random note I put on the whiteboard in Math108 on Tuesday has not been erased. I didn't expect it to last one day, let alone two. Under the influence of hot chocolate, yerba maté, and decongestant, I put a note next to someone else's labeling of the "Laws of Exponents": *$50 fine for violations. If it had instead said "Rules of Exponents," I almost certainly would have crossed out 6 and added underneath "There is no Rule 6." I did that one year when I was working up there. I would repeatedly cross out "6" and someone else would come along and fix it...up until someone (was that you, Fibonacci?) decided to put "12/2" instead of 6. That I was willing to leave alone. ^/^

Also on Tuesday, I decided that the sign reading "This computer is having digestive difficulties" needed elaboration. I wrote "*GURGLE*GURGLE*" on it. That sign is also still there, although, oddly, someone has reversed it so that the writing is now up-side-down to anyone who sits there.

I wonder if they'll both still be there tomorrow...

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17 October 2007

Update (now updated)

It's been a long couple of days. Monday morning I went to get my snow tires put on, and had the unpleasant confirmation that they needed to be replaced. It wasn't really a surprise, as they were the same age as the tires that came with the car, and I had to replace THOSE last spring.

In the afternoon, I made chicken stew (YAY for shiitake mushrooms!!!) and graded stats tests. Mostly they did fairly well, and the average was high: 86%. I need to double check this, but I think the distribution was two-peaked. One peak was in the low 90's, the other in the mid-70's. I don't recall very many in the 80's. That's somewhat common on the material that's a bit more difficult. There'll be a group who really, really get it, and a group that doesn't quite. *shrugs* Then there was the concert...

Yesterday was Tuesday, and Tuesday is always busy. Today... not so busy, but I think I'm extra-tired from being extra busy the past two days. And there's another concert tonight. I did go over to College Market with people from my philosophy class again. Travis is still wrestling with the idea of detachment. To me, it's the idea that you acknowledge/accept the way things are, yet you're aware of where they're not...ideal, and you're aware of whether there's anything that can be done about this. If there's something you can do, you do it. If not, you let it go, or wait for a more opportune moment. Travis tends to take detachment as meaning something more extreme than that, but I think it's a middle path between not-caring and caring-too-much. Just like taiji is a middle path between collapsed (too relaxed), and tense (not relaxed enough). People are more likely to be too tense and too attached, and so the emphasis is on letting go, on detaching. Someone who is too detached would require an alternate path.

's all for now.
___________________________________________________________________________________
And now it's later. Good concert. It was the Symphony's Pops Concert, featuring a bluegrass group called Special Consensus. I love the bluegrass style, probably because it's so reminiscent of the older Celtic styles. My only objection to it is that it often picks overtly religious themes, but tonight was almost all secular with one, single gospel contribution. I'm sure there was a time when I could have related to it, but tonight I was mostly thinking "Road? There's a road to heaven? If you can't find the divine right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?"

Musicwise, the whole thing was awesome. Lyricwise...about half and half. Some songs were brilliant. Others left me puzzled. One song that they said was often requested at weddings had this somewhat vexing lyric:

Well, if you strike a match and set the whole world aflame
and they used up the ocean and still prayed for rain.
When they cry for the guilty, I'll take the blame,
and when no one is listening I'll whisper your name.



Ummm... maybe it's just me, but I have trouble seeing that as a good thing, especially as there's no indication that this fire was an accident. (I'd link to the site with the full lyrics, but it's got a rather annoyingly persistent ad-client that it wants you to install; I will mention that the writer is Michael Johnson, and maybe you can find a less irritating source for the rest if you're interested)

Lyrics oddities aside, I really enjoyed the Special Consensus. Their newest member, the mandolin player, was easily the best. His voice reminds me a lot of Chris Kane's*, and he is an awesome, awesome mandolin player. A mandolin, btw, looks like a quarter size guitar, so slightly smaller than a violin, and is played like a guitar. That kid has some fast fingers.

*Chris Kane played Lindsay on Angel**. He has a country group called Kane. Very edgy, enjoyable music. Nothing at all like the pop-garbage that generally goes under the name of country that would be indistinguishable from pop-rock if they lost the twangy accent. Kane plays good music.

**James Marsters, aka Spike, also has an awesome voice and a band. Unfortunately, I really REALLY don't care for punk rock.

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15 October 2007

Zum

Concert tonight, not a symphony. I think a symphony would have put me to sleep, unless it chose extremely lively numbers. No, this was a British group called Zum. There's a pianist, cellist, violinist, accordion player and double bass player. Very lively, entertaining group, capable of utilizing their instruments in very creative and unusual ways. For instance, they have no drummer, so quite often they use their instruments as drums. Also, I never knew it was possible to make a cricket sound using a violin, or to play a cello like a guitar, or a violin like a ukulele. Quite entertaining. And, yes, they can also play them in a "normal," classical manner. For the most part, they trade melodies freely between the instruments, though the bass player only had one turn at the melody, and that was on the last scheduled song. I can't recall ever hearing a melody played on a double bass before.

The flavor, overall, is of Irish gig, but the music isn't predominantly Irish; that was just the feel. There was one Irish jig, in fact, and several tangoes, a Hungarian salsa tango ragtime, a many-many-genred piece that managed to get a folksy American guitarish twang out of the cello in one spot, some gypsy music... Some of almost everything, really. No rock that I can think of, but quite frankly, lively violin is so much more energizing than rock. For me, at least. Anyway, I bought one of their CD's at intermission, Inferno, that looked like it was mostly a collection of the livelier pieces.

The only parts that I didn't quite care for involved über-smooth jazz, which I've never cared for. It's all tone-on-tone blues, purples and blacks and just gives me a headache. However, it never lasted for long, as they rarely stay within a single genre on any given song. So I'd say I enjoyed 90-95% of the music.

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Stealing Poetry

I highly recommend the occasional Poetry Sunday supplements over at Positive Atheism. It doesn't seem to be done every Sunday, but the past two have been quite good. Good enough that I'm going to re-post the most recent below the fold:



Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains — but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


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14 October 2007

Why I'm not an Atheist

There were two defining moments, where nothing much interesting happened, and yet they redefined how I looked at the world. I don't even remember for certain which even happened first, though I can hazard a reasonable guess.

When I started college at Colorado State, I considered myself an atheist. It might be more accurate to say that I considered myself "not Christian" and didn't have a good alternative besides atheism. I've mentioned some of this before, but with a different focus. Anyway, so there I was, freshman in college, and one Thursday afternoon, I found myself walking back from class.

I can still picture the scene vividly. East of my dorm were several rows of parking, separated by grassy divides. Evergreen trees grew at the southern edges. Cool, crisp October air drifted across my cheeks. I wore an old grey jacket that always reminded me of Captain Picard, for no obvious reason, and carried a blue and black backpack that survived all four years of college.

I looked up into the sky, towards the evergreens, just as I stepped onto the second grassy island away from the dorm. Clear, blue sky above me, with a few wisps of clouds, and it was somehow perfect. It was as if all of creation had come together in that place, in that moment, and I was there to see/feel it. At that moment, I became convinced that there was something more to the world than just the observable, physical shell. It would take me several more years to give a name to it, but I stopped calling myself an atheist on that day.

The other event I think must have occurred the following summer. [Actually, the more I think about it, the more it feels like a dream.] I know that it was at home, in my parents' kitchen, back when I could still say "parents" and have it mean something, but it feels like it took place outside of time, somehow. Especially since the kitchen drifts between yellow and blue in the memory: it was yellow when I was growing up, but was painted blue sometime while I was in college.

I was just sitting in one of the new kitchen chairs, staring at the counter, and thinking. Not really thinking about anything in particular. The chair could swivel and roll, so I occasionally took advantage of these features, but mostly I just sat still. Thinking and not-thinking. Thinking and being, maybe. It's hard to put the not-quite-thoughts into words...

Imagine looking out the window on a grassy yard. In one moment, you see all the colors, the life, the...essence(?)...of everything: trees, grass, rocks, flowers. In another moment, all the color, the life, everything drains out of them. The first I called the "living world"; the second, the "dead world." The dead world was the world as I would see it as an atheist. The living world was the alternative. It was as if I was being given an explicit choice between them in that moment.

Now that I think about it, this may not have been an event: it may have been a dream I had sometime after the first event. And yet, even now, I can still find both those worlds in my awareness. It really is like seeing the color and life drain out of everything in my field of view, out of me. The world becomes an empty shell; I become an empty husk. It's as if...there's some extra "sense" that I would have to give up to be an atheist, and what I'm feeling is what happens when I shut down that extra sense.

But even though I'm not an atheist (by my definition of the word; some might argue with me on that point), I'm also not a theist. If I've got to give the "life" behind the universe a name, I'll call it Tao. The idea of an external, controlling deity behind the observable universe is, well, no more appealing to me than the dead world. Everything is still empty, only now there's a puppeteer pretending to fill them; the life pulled out of the universe and placed within that deity, instead. As soon as you separate deity from the universe, you make the universe redundant and meaningless. As for Tao, Tao is both distinct from and one with the universe. How could it be otherwise? `/^

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Humanist Carnival

There's some really good stuff at this week's Humanist Symposium. Highly recommended for people to skim through.

A few of my favorites:
The Meaning of Life, especially the discussions in the comments.

Excerpt: "This view, that meaning can only ever be imposed from the outside, seems to me to be a pessimistic, limiting, and (dare I say it) depressing conclusion. We make our own meaning in this life - we can choose what we are here for, and I find this far more worthy of celebrating than the forced imposal of another's will on our life. I certainly do not find it depressing. Look on it as a choice between admiring the works of another painter, or being given an easel, a canvas and a palette and told to paint what you want - I know which I would find the more liberating."

This next one amuses me: Train Your Brain to be Happier. It amuses me because there's nothing new in it. Buddhists have been saying similar things for centuries. We develop habits of mind, so if we can develop good habits, we can be happier. The methods may differ a bit, but the idea is the same.

And lastly a distinction that I was aware of but hadn't thought much about: Rationalism vs. Empiricism. Science is empirical. It can never be 100% certain because it can never test each and every possible situation. New results require adjusting of old theories. As Barrow points out in the book of nothing, however, the new theories must "collapse" to the old theories under certain conditions. Rationalism, as defined at the link, is seeking to start from base principles and prove everything that way. Math and logic are rationalistic disciplines in this sense. Philosophy also tends to be rationalistic, but it isn't always.
________________________________________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: Not from the Carnival, but it fits in with the theme anyway, I just came across a very interesting post at Forbidden Gospels, explaining why she named her blog that.

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13 October 2007

Yang Long Form (Week 6, more or less)

No one at all made it to class last week. Most of this week was spent refreshing and reviewing the beginning third of the long form, and then I got reminders/refinements on the next bit, while Mark and Melissa were seeing it for the first time.

I'd completely forgotten a weird transition right before Great Roc spread wings. You start in single whip to the corner, then withdraw the weight to the back foot, turn the front foot in 45 degrees, and sweep the hands across to the right. Then you pick of the front (left) foot, put it down turned back towards the side wall, and the hands spread for Great Roc. Then fist under elbow is NOT a spear strike to the throat. It's a distractional flick, to hide the fist. So the hand comes up crooked and funky-like, and then straightens to flick at the opponent's eyes.

I also had Step Back to Repel Monkey wrong. There are NO waist turns. Instead, there's this bizarre bobbing gait. You stand up completely in the posture, then sink down and lean forward for the transition. No waist turn. *sighs* Or, no major waist turn. It does seem to wander a little bit. But no waist turn means that you're just waving your hands around, from a CMC perspective. The body movements up and down mitigate that a little bit, but, see, as soon as you start to stand up, that's a cue for your opponent to help you along. "Oh? You want to go up, eh? Here! Let me help with that!"

I think once I have the choreography down, I'm going to try and put some CMC into it. I don't want to lose all of the long form variants, since some of them I think are valuable, but there are some moves that are just insane from an applications standpoint. I don't want to mess with it so much that I lose the different energy flow, though. It's very distinct from that of the CMC form. The CMC form's energy flow is almost colorless for me, with maybe some hints of brilliant gold (and maybe when I get it down better, the gold will be there throughout). The yang long form is a screaming crimson. Very, very different feel.

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12 October 2007

Two Complaints...

...about Moonlight. First off, the freezer thing is just weird. Especially considering that no one would have had freezers a few hundred years ago. Presumably this will be handwaved as "Why d'ya think vampires slept in crypts?"

The second thing involves a minor spoiler, so it's below the fold.

Last week's episode ended with Beth finding Mick vamped out and desperately sucking on an IV bag full of blood. At this point, he didn't have much choice but to tell her what he was, and it ended right there, with Beth still staring at him. So the next episode should have started right there. Anything else is just sloppy writing. It was implied that Beth had run off afterwards, but that needed to be shown, either as the ending of the last ep, or as the beginning of this one. You don't end at a cliffhanger without at least showing some of the follow-up. Not implying: showing.

Otherwise, I'm still enjoying the show. ^/^

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the book of nothing

ADDENDUM: Amazon link. This was supposed to be in the title link, but didn't show up for some reason. Sorry!
I picked up this book a few years back, and it sat gathering dust on my shelf for a while, which is a pity. It's a very good read. It's about the idea of zero, and correspondingly the idea of "nothing" and the vacuum. Roughly the first five chapters are historical examinations of zero, the ether and the vacuum, especially philosophical arguments against the existence of nothing. The last four chapters move us into the twentieth century, and become gradually more technical. A big theme is Einstein's "cosmological constant," which I don't remember hearing described as "vacuum pressure" before. There's also a lot of discussion about the "Big Bang" and how the properties of the vacuum itself determine the properties of the observable universe. Barrow doesn't go into a lot of...calculational detail here, but the ideas themselves are fairly technical, and not necessarily easy to follow.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that this is primarily a book about ideas. It's not a text book. Barrow engages in some speculation, but clearly labels it as such. The history of zero itself is fascinating in its own right. Also, I think this is the very first time I've seen a book discuss what the cosmological constant actually means. I'd recommend the first half of the book to just about anyone with an interest. For the second half, if you don't already have some familiarity with quantum physics and big bang cosmology, you're likely to feel a bit lost.

PS: You can't escape from an old earth by trying to mess with c and rates of radioactive decay. Anyone wishing to argue about the age of the universe, go to talkorigins and make sure your argument hasn't already been refuted ad infinitum.

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Philosophy Class (Week 7)

We've moved a bit more westward. Now we're looking at Judaism. Specifically, the Adam and Eve story. I'll be honest: I have some specific reasons for despising this story. However, Dr. Carlson presented in a way that didn't rile me. Still... I figured the disclaimer was appropriate in case my rancor leaks through in my descriptions.

The focus was on four issues.
1. Tree of Life vs. Tree of Knowledge
2. Naming of the Beasts as poetic longing for companion
3. Who lies?
4. Why "naked"?

On the first issue, there's a very Taoistic thing going on. The opposite of Life is not death, but Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is precisely the same idea as in the Tao te Ching: the first step to falling away from the Tao is to start distinguishing between objects; when you start making judgments on those objects, you have completely lost sight of the Tao. Amusingly, making judgments on things makes you "more like God" in the Judaic conception, and yet makes you fall away from "Paradise." Hmmmm... So to be God is to be forever miserable and never able to be in Paradise yourself? (random thought that just occurred to me; may be worthless)

For a more Jewish conception, Dr. Levenson mentioned that there's a philosophic interpretation where the Tree of Life is really the scriptures themselves, though that's a mite problematic if God specifically removed Adam and Eve from the garden to keep them away from the Tree of Life and then revealed scripture to their descendants. Another interpretation is that the human body itself is the Tree of Life, if one can penetrate its deepest mysteries. I suppose you would have to assume that, back at the original Trees, Adam and Eve weren't ready for this ultimate mystery, but that some of their descendants would be.

I still don't quite understand (2). I get the ancient idea that naming things gives you power over them. I don't really see a direct connection to Adam's longing for a companion. There's an indirect connection, in that anything over which Adam has that much power would never be an equal to him, but Dr. Levenson kept talking about the "poetry" of it all, and how it was like a poet yearning for his beloved. I'm just going to shake my head and refrain from comment on that.

For (3), the answer is no one, depending on the time frame you use. The snake was correct in the immediate term: eating the fruit did not cause immediate death. God was correct in the long term, according to standard theology, in that now Adam and Eve would eventually die. I'd like to know what the original Hebrew on "must" is, in "you must not eat of those trees." One idea that got discussed was that the creation could not be complete until it had rebelled against its maker, "grown up" so to speak. But there's some incredibly bizarre and contradictory imagery in there.

I asked Dr. Levenson for his take on how there could be "knowledge of good and evil" when God had created everything and "it was good." His response? "There are a great many inconsistencies in the stories." To know good and evil is to be like God, but if God is entirely good, then how can he know evil? Either there was an external source of evil, or God is not entirely good. There is no other option. Incidentally, the very act of finishing Creation with "And it was good" is an affirmation that it didn't have to be good, that there was at least one other possibility. So there was already such an idea as not good. And I could go on and on about this...but I won't.

(4). The one detail we're given about Adam and Eve's conception of themselves before/after the "fall" is that they realized they were "naked." Dr. Levenson had an interesting take on this, which hadn't occurred to me. He suggests that to not know that they were naked beforehand implies that they had no body awareness at all, that they did not differentiate themselves from their body, and possibly even from their environment. In a sense, they were not truly "embodied" until after eating of the tree.

As an allegorical depiction of the rise of consciousness in humanity, this makes some sense to me. For anyone who considers it a literal historical event, I have one question: what kind of fruit was it? It doesn't say in the text. You would think that the singular event which resulted in the expulsion from paradise (for being too much like God) would be remembered in vivid detail. But the kind of fruit is not mentioned. Even supposing it was unique to the Garden of Eden, some mention of "the fruit only God could grow" would be expected. But, no. It's only "fruit."

Further working against the idea of the event as historical is that most cultures have a myth of some sort of "golden age" from which humankind has "fallen." Based on my (limited) reading, this probably reflects the change from hunter/gatherer societies to agricultural ones. Hunter/Gatherer societies typically work less than agricultural ones. At the same time, though, they're incredibly insecure and completely at the mercy of the elements. When the weather is favorable to plants and animals, all is well; something wipes out the local flora and fauna, and the community perishes. Hence, the temptation to plant things oneself, to try and gain security, but added security also means added toil. Also dental decay, but that's another story.

Final thoughts, one very interesting oddity in the story is that Adam is created in the desert and then placed in the Garden of Eden, in paradise. In other words, humans' natural state is not paradise; it's the desert, the wasteland, the parched land. I hadn't thought about this until Dr. Levenson pointed it out in the scriptures. It took God to put Adam into paradise, then his inborn (created?) nature took over and got him thrown right back out. This is important. Why? Because the Garden could only be a temporary place for him, never his home. It changes the entire meaning. Being taken to the Garden was an opportunity, not to be with God, but to earn independence from God. How? By showing defiance. He was created already separate from God's perfection, and completed the break in the Garden. To posit this as a source of sin or evil is about as logical as deciding that every rebellious teenager is evil. No, Adam had to grow up, to become more like God, and then he was unceremoniously tossed out to fend for himself, just as many teenagers are.

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10 October 2007

Progress

If I'd had only three lectures to give yesterday, it wouldn't have been too much of a problem. By the fourth, I was lagging. I let them go early. They weren't going to get much more out of me. On the plus side, I did make it through the material, albeit more briefly than I might have on a better day.

On Monday, I was pretty out of it. In philosophy class, I was hearing all the words, and recognizing them, but they weren't really connecting to much of anything for me. Today, I was following everything pretty well. Oh, we're discussing Adam and Eve now, but more on that after Friday's class. Anyway, I started feeling better on Monday night, and measured my temperature just out of curiosity. 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Lovely, eh? It hasn't been over one hundred since then, thankfully.

Today I'm feeling quite a bit better. Enough better that Buster finally got to go for a walk for the first time in a week and a half. First, the symphony interrupted. Then I wasn't feeling well. I wasn't quite feeling up to it this afternoon, but I made it up the hill by my dad's place with less difficulty than expected. I'd been riding the bus up the hill on campus. Flat ground? No problem. Downward slope? Great. Uphill? Ugh. But maybe tomorrow I'll feel up to walking up the hill on campus.

So this has been one of the more persistently irritating colds I've had in a while. Saturday, Sunday and Monday were all pretty bad, though I started to improve on Monday. Slightly better Tuesday. Quite a bit better today. Hopefully progress continues. Oh, and I've got all the hand-outs for tomorrow's classes ready. 015 isn't printed yet, but that's a matter of a few minutes.

And that's probably enough of me rambling on for tonight.

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leaves, found whilst walking the dog



privileged to see
autumn sweeping through trees
tweaking their color

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08 October 2007

Five Principles of Religion

[Note: I started on this post two weeks ago, and just cleaned it up for today. So the last two paragraphs are likely to be inchoate and incoherent.]

I'd hoped to get up to 10 of these, and perhaps I will eventually, but five is a pretty decent start.

1. A religion cannot be understood in isolation. Like language, one cannot truly appreciate one's own religion without having substantial experience of another.

2. A religion that relies solely on faith is either aware that it has no evidential support or is terrified that this is so. The louder the railing against the evidence, the greater the fear.

3. Literal interpretation of a sacred text is an insult to both the text and the gods contained therein.

4. Warhawks follow a warlike god; doves follow a peaceful god. People create God in their own image, not the other way 'round.

5. Go deep enough into any religion and you will get to the same place.
..........Corollary: Rituals and dogmas are distractions designed to prevent people from realizing this.


A couple days back, I was looking up the etymology of religion, and found this amusing quote: "To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name." [Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]

I would add that there are plenty of external differences, but that anyone who progresses far enough will start to see the underlying internal unity. Anyone still fixated on external things like labels and books has a long way to go. But the thing that amuses me about this quote is the implication that anyone who holds to any sort of unity between religions is an atheist. This makes George Bush an atheist! Which means he's not a citizen, according to his own words, and hence ineligible to be president. *looks pleased with herself*

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Link Dump

The skin's mostly loose now, but some of it is stubbornly refusing to be rubbed off. So I figure a link dump is in order, since trying to post anything remotely coherent is probably beyond my abilities. The bits of skin keep sticking in the keyboard. Er, forget that image.

First up is a beaut. Or maybe a Butte. Wait, no... no plate tectonics. Anyway, ever notice the similiarities between religious rationalization and fan-fic? No? I'll clue you in: they're stuck with a single, flawed text. Everyone in their right mind can see its flawed. So then they come up with some incredible mental gymnastics to either explain that the flaws aren't really flaws, or at least why the flaws make some kind of sense. Classic Star Wars example: "She's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs." Of course, the parsec is a measure of distance, not time. So there's a rationalization: a gravitational anomaly. Here's one version: "Actually it does make sense, because the kessel run is done by flying past the Maw Cluster of black holes, so making it in less than 12 parsecs means that Han travelled less than 12 parsecs away from the Maw Cluster in order to shorten his time." Source. Sounds a lot like apologetics to me. Seriously. No, the writers couldn't have made a mistake! Clearly they had in mind this gravitational anomaly!

There are plenty of similar Star Trek examples. My favorite is "Why was the transporter not working such a big deal when they had a runabout?" Answer: "The runabout hadn't been introduced in that episode." Likely in-universe justification: "The runabout had been removed for repairs/was malfunctioning also/had mutated and was trying to eat people."

I recently found a blog written by a now-atheist who still has one year left at his Christian university. Big ouch. Here he describes a typical philosophy class, and his frustration with questions about the meaning of life.

Another recently discovered blog has two good posts. The first discusses rationalism vs. empiricism, among other things. The second discusses a label I'd never heard before: Secular Paganism.

And from the last Carnival of the Godless, an article discussing the meaning of meaning.

This one is just cool: Using spam-filters to digitize old texts that are unreadable by current scanners.

Last, and certainly least comprehensible, is a discussion of the history of taoism. The original story goes that Lao Tzu, disgusted by the decadence of his country, decided to leave. At the border, a guard stopped him and asked him if he wouldn't write a book for those he left behind. Lao Tzu decided, eh, "Why not?" and spent three days. Lo, the Tao te Ching was written, and Lao Tzu left, never to be seen again. The more modern opinion has been that the Tao te Ching was gradually assembled from various sayings and stories. The article suggests that perhaps neither is the case, that perhaps it was a document produced by an entirely different tradition from Taoism. I find this option somewhat amusing.

'Kay. I stop writing now. I can has cold cure?

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07 October 2007

Shedding Skin

...or growing antibodies... Either way, I haven't been feeling particularly well since Friday. I didn't go to taiji yesterday (nor did Melissa, but in her case it was because of icy roads and a dearth of snow tires). I'm feeling slightly better now. I finally decided to take an ibuprofen; that helped immensely. Presumably that means I had a heckuva fever, but I didn't measure my temperature to verify this. So if I don't post much for a few days, just be patient. Eventually I'll slough off this cold and reveal shiny new, er, scales... Or possibly antibodies. So for the moment, here's a picture of a lizard I saw when my mom and I went down to Arches National Monument.

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No Accounting for Taste

^/^ It seems that one of the authors I link to absolutely hated Moonlight. You can find out complete details here. Strangely, she liked Bionic Woman, and complained that Moonlight had bad acting and no sense of humor, which is how I felt about Bionic Woman. Ah well.

Is Moonlight derivative? As much as any vampire story will be. There are certain story lines that are guaranteed to come up in a serial vampire tale. And since there are only so many variations on their weaknesses or strengths, no matter what you pick, someone's going to think it's a copy. I still don't see it as a Forever Knight rip-off. I really don't. Mick is not trying to become human again. He is not a cop. At the beginning of the series, there were no regular, human cast-members who knew what he was. So... whatever. I like it and hope it lasts.

Then there's the complaint that it's too angsty. Uh, no... that was Angel, aka he-who-broods. FK was a bit angsty, depending on the plotline If anything, this one has less angst in it. Admittedly, we don't know why he's drinking bottled blood instead of feeding on humans, but, hey, we're only two eps in. And, incidentally, I like musical montages in shows when they're done well (and I like the song).

But P.N. Elrod did remind me of the two vampire detective sagas that I'd forgotten. Lee Killough had two books about a vampire cop. Decently written. A bit...I don't know...overly pretentious somehow. I enjoyed them, but there was an air about them that bugged me. Tanya Huff also has a series featuring, first, a vampire and a detective working together. It's evolved a bit since then. Also enjoyable, but a bit too... oogy boogy for my tastes. If you've watched Mythbuster's, oogy boogy is their technical term for really "out-there" myths, like pyramid power and telepathic bike helmets. Tanya Huff has had a demon, a mummy, zombies, and ghosts feature as villains in various books. I tend to prefer my vampire fiction straight up. Like P.N. Elrod writes. ^/^

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06 October 2007

snow


first snowfall
covers the ground
kittens pause

forward, withdraw,
shaking snow from
delicate paws






Chapter 9

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05 October 2007

Alternative Medicine, et al.

I read quite a few blogs that come down hard on alternative medicine, in many cases for good reason. I just wanted to share a non-expert consumer's perspective. There are some points that the professional medicos just seem to not get. At all. Not about the efficacy of treatment; on that, they know more than I do. But about the psychology of patients.

See, I despise going to the doctor. It's expensive. It eats up a lot of time. And the doctor rarely listens to anything I say, beyond a few keywords that register in his language center. From those keywords, and nothing else I've said, he tries to fit a diagnosis. Anything I say that does not go with those keywords is ignored. Actually thinking for myself and asking for clarification is a major no-no. Any questions not on the doctor's mental script are completely out of bounds. Now, I'm sure that not all doctors are like this, but those that aren't seem to be few and far between.

So what do I do? I research on-line. I find out what the likely possibilities are if I'm having odd symptoms. If they're severe enough then, yes, I will find a physician, but that's a very VERY last resort. Are there vitamins I can take that may help? I'll try that. Are there herbs with good research behind them? Great. As far as quality control, the herbal industry does need some regulation, but I do not want to see herbs locked up behind the pharmacy desk. I want to be able to get to them without begging a boon from an autocratic dictator who is certain that I don't know what I'm talking about when I describe my own symptoms.

Case in point. Allergies. Antihistamines do absolutely nothing for my nasal allergy symptoms. Benadryl sort of helps, but it also messes up my breathing, and that's worse. Claritin works about one time in five, but always gives me dry-mouth. I gave up on them a long time ago. Instead, I looked into herbal remedies. There are three that I use. Nettle relieves mild itchy eyes and nose for me, but doesn't do much for anything else. Bromelain provides instant relief from an extreme runny nose. Quercetin is supposed to strengthen the walls of the cells that release histamine, so that not as much histamine gets released into the blood, but has to be taken for a while to have an effect. Between all three of these, I have my allergies under control with no noticeable side effects. (Aside: I'm sure that other people do get side effects from these substances; they just don't bother ME that way).

Regardless of whether a doctor prescribes something or I find it for myself, taking any substance is like spinning a roulette wheel. If the ball goes into the right slot, great. If it doesn't, not so great. With prescriptions, I have to go back and pay the same guy who got it wrong the first time to find me something else. With herbs, I'm out the amount that I spent on the herb and nothing more. Yes, you want to stick with well-known brands, and look into the actual research done on each herb, but for minor complaints, I'll take my chances with herbs and vitamins.

My attitude has nothing to do with not trusting pharmaceutical companies. It has everything to do with despising the inconvenience and hassle of going to a doctor. It's degrading, belittling and very often pointless. I can find out more from twenty minutes on the internet than from two hours in the doctor's office. "But the doctor went to medical school! He knows more than you do!" Doesn't do me any good if he won't even listen to me. It reminds me of a quote from The Usual Suspects: "To a cop the explanation's always simple. There's no mystery to the street, no arch criminal behind it all. If you find a body and you think his brother did it, you're gonna find out you're right." The doctor will always start with his personal "favorite" guess at what's wrong. If you're lucky, he's right. But he's not listening to everything you say. He's going to pick up mostly on the things that tie into his pet hypothesis. The rest will be ignored. He's got too many cases to pay particular attention to your set of details. Only if you don't respond to his favorite regimen will the other details be listened to, and then he'll just grab those that fit his next guess.

Sorry, but if I'm going to be a lab-rat, I'd just as soon be in charge of the experiment. Find me a doctor who listens and cares, and maybe I'll change my mind. You want to know why "alternative" medicine is such big business? Look no further than the behavior of most doctors.

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Philosophy Class (Week 6)

We're working on Eliade's "The Secret of Dr. Honigberger" now. We pretty much just had discussion days on Monday and Wednesday, talking about ideas in the texts and discussing their implications. The idea of caste came up briefly. The original idea of caste doesn't bother me. It was a notion that everyone has some place where they fit, a place where they are on the soul's journey, and that's where they should be. What it's turned into is rather antithetical to that. Instead of finding where a person fits, each person is assumed to have been born into the place where he/she fits. People who don't fit are out of luck.

As for Eliade's story, it's a very odd read. Enjoyable, well-written, but...odd. Almost macabre, but not quite. I plan to make a separate post on it once I've reread it; I want to go back and look for themes. This isn't a story that you read once and get the full meaning; it's one you really have to go back and think about. But we discussed a few of the ideas in it today. We actually started on Wednesday, but I didn't finish the book until Wednesday night.

It seems to be an attempt to present mystical experiences in a way that the general public can relate to, in part. So that people who've never heard of these ideas can think about them, and maybe decide whether there's anything to them beyond legend. It's believed to be semi-autobiographical. How much is fiction? ^/^ Hard to say. For now I'll just give a very brief summary.

Eliade (or whoever the narrator is supposed to be) receives a letter, an invitation to visit a widow's library of occidental texts. She asks him to complete her husband's work on a biography of Dr. Honigberger, and he accepts, not least because of the spectacular nature of the library. He gets distracted, though, by the late husband's pursuit of esoteric meditational pursuits, recorded in his journals. He's repeatedly warned off of pursuing this path. And then... I'm not sure. That's why I need to reread. Something bizarre happens, or else the whole story was a dream/illusion, or...something else I haven't thought of. Anyway, that's why I need to read it again.

We had another class-related discussion over at College Market. Four of us went with Dr. Levenson and just chatted for a while about anything and everything. There was me, Travis, Jen (THE most vocal student in the class), and someone else whose name I'm going to have to find out from Melissa, as he's also in the beginning taiji class. Incidentally, I highly recommend Dragonwell Green Tea. Much smoother than the Gunpowder I tried there last time.

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03 October 2007

Tired Wednesday

Symphony tonight. I'd almost rather sleep. One test to give tomorrow, which gives me a slight break lecturing wise, but not grading-wise (then stats next week and 143 the week after that). *sighs* I need more non T/Th office hours to get stuff done; I'm lousy at getting grading done at home.

And since I keep forgetting to post the links, here are my latest efforts on the Tao te Ching:

Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

I'm really too tired to write anything of much interest at the moment, so here's a poem from Daily Zen:


To shake off the
Dust of human ambition
I sit on moss in
Zen robes of stillness,
While through the window,
In the setting sun
Of late autumn,
Falling leaves whirl
And drop to the stone dais.

- Tesshu Tokusai (?–1366)

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01 October 2007

Monday TV

Chuck: Still walking the thin line between funny and ridiculous, and doing it well. I should add that, if our country's intelligence agencies are really run as portrayed here, we should all be very concerned. We have the CIA and NSA basically fighting over who gets possession of the secrets in Chuck's head. And they're not too good at blending into their, er, cover jobs. Entertaining, yes. Believable, NO. (ADDENDUM: Not believable in other ways, too)

Heroes: Slow, dark and odd. The most interesting story lines are the ones where multiple "heroic" characters are interacting. Okay, the ancient Japan one is probably the VERY best one. It's the old "meet your hero; get disillusioned; turn him into a real hero" gag, but done rather well. ^/^

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Searchlight

Well, it's the end of the month. Or, at least, the beginning of the next month. So here are some searches that got people to my blog.

Most popular?

flute rack - best bet? Buy two wooden peg tie racks, a few slats of wood, some spray paint and some cloth/ribbon to wrap around the pegs to protect the flutes.

ibuprofen withdrawal - Annoying, but not as annoying as caffeine withdrawal. For me it went away after four or five days. Mild headache and nausea, intermittent.

mis quizzes - As in Les Mis? Otherwise, me confused.

yang long form - Cool, enjoyable, but I know more about the yang short form.

More below the fold.

"banana bread" "tapioca flour", "bean flour" "bread recipe", "bette hagman" four bean flour sorghum, arrowroot in banana bread (wow, there are a TON of variations on this; I ought to get some more recipes up) - Bit of a pain, but do-able. If you don't have it already, buy Bette Hagman's Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread.
"ben lo" taiji - if he's not a master, he's the closest I've ever seen to a master. I missed the workshop this fall, but learning the long form would have put my short form off anyway.
"candle ledge"+wall - beautiful, especially in reflection.
"email stephen spielberg" - I'm pretty sure I was joking.
"if you miss the train" - First line of a very good song.
"pineapple weed" edible/medicinal - Can't remember what it's for, but it does grow around here.
"pork and seeds" - Enjoyable. Watch out for soy sauce on the meat.
"precision glass and doors" - They did a pretty good job, but if something changes on your job, make sure to keep reminding them about it.
"quote 500" blogspot - Okay... I know why I posted about a quote 500, but have no clue why anyone would search for it.
"stretches and strengthening exercises" - Try yoga. It does both at once and, done properly, is unlikely to overstress anything.
"two drinks under par - One of my favorite descriptions of Sam Vimes.
"why bush lost the war" - (a) he's a moron; (b) he only appoints yes-men; (c) he's a moron
atv trails around inkom, id - I can tell you more about hiking trails, but half of Gibson Jack is open to ATVs.
basement windows rotten frames - Bad news, but now replaced. Hope you can get yours replaced, too.
black angel in dream - Did it have fangs?
brief summary of ten commandments - Obey god; avoid thinking.
bubblehead big band - Scary.
buckwheat bolster - Very solid. I found mine at the Nepal/Tibet import store in Fort Collins.
canadian fleabane "soy sauce" - Uh... WHAT?
centennial trail lava hot springs - Very steep, then I ran into mosquitoes and gave up. Haven't been back.
changing a two pronged outlet to a three pronged outlet - Pray that the previous electricians didn't cut the groundwire down to the nub.
civilization and its discontents quotes - You might find more searching for "Freud quotes" unless there was a reason you wanted that specific work.
david hume dialogues concerning natural religion philo - Good read. Highly recommended.
decongestant backlash - I'm pretty sure that mine was mainly due to ibuprofen. I expect that double backlash would have been much worse.
eating corn smut - It's a delicacy in some parts of Mexico, but it sure is ugly.
egress window wells fake rock decorative - Cool. I'd like to do that to my foundation. Actually, I'd like to do that to my entire house... but I think I'd have to gather and cut the rocks myself to afford it.
epicureanism afterlife - None.
fever/cold - Uh, you might want to be more specific.
fibonacci's birthday - May 23. Oh, wait, you meant this Fibonacci?
find two-prong outlet replacement - try any hardware or department store
fluffy germs - LOL. Matt was telling me about Mono and Flesh-Eating stuffed toys, etc, but I have no clue what the link is to find them.
gomden - rectangular meditation cushion; I prefer zafus.
grolla's portland - Haven't made it there yet. Kind of a fussy menu, but at least nearly everything is gluten-free.
growing zuchinni in colorado - put the seed in the ground when it's not likely to frost again; water; wait. Seriously, zuchinni don't need much attention, and seem to be spelled zucchini.
harry potter and the deathly hallows brief summary - And they all lived happily ever after, except the ones who died.
hauling a refrigerator on its side - Not recommended. Let stand for at least a day before plugging back in.
hell's half acre, inkom - It's closer to Idaho Falls, actually...
horse stance and knee injuries - Keep the knee lined up over the toes. Narrow your stance if necessary.
is fireweed a nitrogen fixer - Not that I know of, but I'm no expert.
knights that say neat, knights who say ni tibia,
the knight who say knee
- Ummm... okay... My own pun was bad enough...
kunicki.info - if you mean Cathi Kunicki, she's a very good math instructor who's in charge of Math 25 and 15 at ISU. Cares a lot. Has a lot more patience than I do.
m&m mini, quarters - So I'm not the only one who's noticed that the tubes are the perfect size for keeping quarters in! Pity that I can't eat the M&M's. Dextrin. Sometimes made from wheat.
mowgli story of the dragon who kept getting smaller - I'll have to dig out my copy and reread... that's not ringing a bell.
origami tsuzura - Ah ha! The very first origami box I made! If you've got Tomoko Fuse's book, be patient. You might skip to the triangle boxes; they're actually easier, ironically enough.
pinwheel for grave - more durable than flowers; helps to alleviate the sadness.
pseudogout and magnesium - If that's what I've got in my left ankle, magnesium helps. Me, anyway. But I have no evidence that what I've got is really pseudogout, and most of the info I've found says that once the calcium crystals get deposited, you're stuck with them.
purple moon pocatello - Good store. Better if they restocked more often.
purpose philosophy class - As in "on purpose" "what is the purpose of" "purpose of life"?
rattlesnakes and fibonacci - Maybe he'd like a pet rattlesnake to go with his pet mantis...
rikki-tikki-tavi what is the main message the authoris trying to get across First off, SHORTEN! Second off, have you tried READING the story?
schlock mercenary flip flops - I suppose if there's a market for them, you might talk Howard Tayler into making some...
snopes where did the dumbest guy are earth scene take place - Insert joke here.
sporadic fever - Doesn't sound fun.
stir fry chicken - Good meal. Try it with sesame oil, red pepper, garlic and ginger (or your favorite substitute).
taiji knee injury - sadly common. Keep the knees over the toes and BEND AT THE HIPS. And hope your hip doesn't lock up on you, forcing the rotation into the knee...
the gunk on my teeth - probably plaque; brush often.
the wheel of time nynaeve and lan - bittersweet romance.
things that go bump in the night: evolutionary interactions - you might be better off at Science Blogs.
two gargoyle's one lies one tells truth puzzle - Ask what the OTHER one would say.
watermelon or ballistics gel - Try both!
what does an anesthesiologist do parody song - There is one?
ying yang clock fixture insert - ??? No clue.

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Autumn Storm

overhead
withered leaves
rustling

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