March 26, 2005
WASHINGTON, March 24 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith, author of the award winning book "Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America" call upon the Florida Courts, Governor Jeb Bush and concerned citizens to take any legal action available to let Terri Schiavo live.
"A profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo," Nader and Smith asserted today. "Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt-and there are many doubts in this case-has been given to her death, rather than her continued life."
Among the many injustices in this case, Nader and Smith point to the following:
The courts not only are refusing her tube feeding, but have ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. "This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead," Nader and Smith assert.
March 25, 2005
This last summer, I was exposed to Ganesh or Ganapati in a Tibetan Buddhist context. Up to this point, I'd only been familiar with him from the Hindu context:
I'd always been fond of Ganesh as an opener of ways, a clearer of obstacles. I am friends with a number of Shaivite Tantrikas and they are all quite fond of him. Whether I could be considered a strict Buddhist Tantric practitioner is pretty open to questions on most days. Ganesh was once the primary deity of some tantric sects, as Mike Magee mentions here:
Until the middle ages c.e., it appears that there was a separate cult of tantriks, the Ganapatyas, who followed this Deva and his Shakti. Like Shiva, he was worshipped via a linga, but in this case red.
Mike also quotes Arthur Avalon on Mahaganapati:
"...he is to be meditated upon as seated on a lotus consisting of the letters of the alphabet. The sadhaka should meditate upon an island composed of nine gems, placed in an ocean of sugarcane juice; a soft gentle breeze blows over the island and makes the waves wash the shore thereof. The place is a forest of Mandara, Parijata and other Kalpa trees and creepers, and the light from the gems thereon casts a red glow on the ground. The six gladdening seasons are always there. The sun and moon brighten up the place. In the middle of the island is a Parijata tree whereon are the nine gems and beneath it is the great Pitha (altar) on which is the lotus whereon is seated Mahaganapati. His face is that of the great elephant with the moon on it. He is red and has three eyes. He is held in loving embrace by his beloved who is seated in his lap and has a lotus in her hand. In each of his ten hands he is holding a pomegranate, a mace, a bow, a trident, a discus, a lotus, a noose, a red water-lily, a sheaf of paddy and his own tusk. He is holding a jewelled jar in his trunk. By the flapping of his ears, he is driving away the bees attracted to his temples by the fluid exuding therefrom, and he is scattering gems from out of the jar held in his trunk. He is wearing a ruby-studded crown and is adorned with gem." Sharadatilakatantra, Agamanusandhana Samiti, 1933.
This last summer, at retreat, I found out that Ganesh, like many Hindu gods, had been taken up by the tantric Buddhist practitioners long ago. Recently, I found images of a Tibetan Buddhist thangka to him, showing him in a very Tibetan style:
In any case, I found this pretty interesting though not for any easy to explain reason.
OM GAM GANAPATI SVAHA!
March 24, 2005
The Flesch-Kincaid scale measures the readability of writing. This came up today because someone ran a section of Neil Gaiman's new novel that is available through this. Microsoft Word gives you the option of displaying readability after a spelling and grammar check.
A piece of writing with a 75% readability will be understood by 75% of readers. Writing with a grade level of 8 will be understood by anyone with an 8th grade education or higher.
I just ran my first two graduate history papers and my first three graduate philosophy papers through this. I receive pretty consistant results for all of them with small ranges. For these classes, I'm not particularly trying to speak "up" in my writing. I'm writing in a fairly normal manner. The only thing that is different than my standard writing style is I simplify sentences during my editing process and move some to a more active voice. I tend to write more with a passive voice for some reason and I also tend to longer sentences with a number of subclauses and such. The results are from after my process on my final papers. (I've gotten 'A's on the first paper for each class and no grades yet for the next. I just finished my final edit of my third philosophy paper tonight.)
Here are my results:
Characters per word: 4.9
Word per sentence: 18.6 (this went up to 21 on one paper)
Sentences per paragraph: 5.9
Passive voice: 11%
Reading Ease: 36.8%
Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: 12.0 (this varies down to 11.1 on two papers)
I'm not sure if this is good or bad but I may not have a future as a popular writer of fiction since I seem to bury the needle on grade level. I wonder if this affects my e-mails at work?
Update: I ran a bunch of my blog entries through it. The grade level moves down to 8.4 to 9.0 but the other statistics are pretty much the same.
March 23, 2005
A great way to get back at those noisy neighbors! Give them a taste of their own medicine with any one of these 20 ear-splitting sound effect tracks. Anyone who's ever lived in an apartment will really appreciate this hilarious CD. Earplugs supplied for your listening pleasure.Imported from France.
Tracks include: 1) Drill; 2) Party (At Least 200 People); 3) Orgasm (Outstanding); 4) Train; 5) Drum (Played by a Child); 6) Inhuman Screams; 7) Walking (High Heels); 8) Domestic Squabble; 9) Doors Banging; 10) Bowling; 11) Unhappy Dog; 12)Practicing Scales (Violin); 13) Traffic Jam; 14) Garbage Truck; 15)Newborn; 16) Phone Ringing; 17) Ball Game; 18) Pigeons; 19) Spring Cleaning; and 20) Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!
March 21, 2005
This dude needs a bit of help. Yowza.
This kind of thing really makes me wonder about people sometimes. This guy is obviously functional, on some level, or he wouldn't have his blog. Looking through his entries, he's definitely a whackjob though. The Dalai Lama stealing his thoughts?
Evil Buddhism. Christianity, a perversion of the One True Insect God, at least only suggests that a single messiah figure died and came back to life. That's fair. That's equitable. One man of divine origin absorbs the sins and evils of the world. I am that man. I am not Jesus. But the Insect God speaks to me in dreams. It occurs to me that I know nothing about the Insect God. I simply accept it because it seems to want to help me, and because it does so without demands. Is that changing? Does it send me bad energy about Suzie because it is a jealous Insect God? Does it love me? Can it love? Have I been lead astray?
I am afraid, and I do not handle fear very well. My sense of certainty is shaken, and it is for this very reason that I've avoided being certain about anything other than my own ability to resist the Dalai Lama. So what about Buddhism? The prime evil of Buddhism is its belief in reincarnation and karma. In case you haven't heard, reincarnation means that you come back again and again and again on a wheel of pain that breaks your bones and mends them repeatedly. Karma is the debt you gain by doing bad things in order to survive in the hellish, never-ending nightmare that we all experience over and over and over (see 'reincarnation'). What this means in practice is that Buddhist monks are the ultimate loan sharks, lending you karma at ridiculous interest rates, knowing full well that you'll never be able to pay the vig. How else can you explain it? It's such self-supporting bullshit, after all, and it helps support power structures the way that all religions do. I mean, the Dalai Lama is attacking me and TRYING. TO. STEAL. MY. THOUGHTS. Is this karma? Did I do something bad in a former life? And, if so, does the Dalai Lama know about it? Is punishing me part of his karma? As the Greatest Buddhist Monk on Earth, shouldn't he be aware of his karma, and shouldn't he be able to escape it? Is he an agent of karma, or is he using it as a facile excuse to fuck with my mind for his evil, demented pleasure? If I go out and kill a child, is it that child's karma? What if I want to kill a child but get hit by a truck before I have a chance to? Is that karma? What if I aim a telescopic rifle at a schoolyard full of children, get the shakes because I drank too much last night, and end up shooting the Dalai Lama by accident? Is that karma?
Fuck you, Dalai Lama! You son of a fucking bitch! My hands are shaking right now! I need help from the Insect God! I need help from the Insect God! I need help from the Insect God! I need help from the Insect God! I don't believe in killing anyone, but I would fucking kill you! I feel so angry. I don't usually feel this angry. I'm literally shaking. I don't remember writing any of that. I don't know what's happening. I thought that writing a blog would make me feel better. I don't know what I should do. I want to call Suzie. I don't want the Insect God to be angry at me. I don't remember the last time I had sex. No. I do. It was after I left the hospital. That girl I met. Or was that before? I can't remember what Suzie looks like. I can't remember anything except those insects (Insects? I.N.S.E.C.T.S.?). I hate bugs. I always have. I don't remember. I don't remember not having that hate.
Fuck. Fuck. I sound insane. I need to stop. I need to stop. I can't fight Him like this.
March 20, 2005
It looks like I'll be hosting Khachab Rinpoche in Seattle this summer for a long weekend teaching.
The topics won't be determined until May. As the patron/host of the event, I should get some say in them. It should be a Dzogchen focus but, depending on whether I can find a translator, it may have to be pretty concrete stuff. I'll need to ping a few people that I know locally to see if I can find someone to do the job.
This marks the beginning of a new chapter in my Tibetan Buddhist involvement. Rinpoche will be staying at my house as well so I'm planning on getting some time alone with him to work on a few things. His attendant suggested as much as well.
March 19, 2005
R and I went over to the Forest Yurt last night for Tara Puja. This is the first meeting of the unnamed, ad-hoc circle of practitioners that Denny and Sophia spoke with us about forming. It was pretty low key and we got to hang out a bit before and after ritual. For the ritual itself, we did a sadhana for the 21 Taras.
Here is one of them. Om Tare Tutare Svaha!
Noble Lady Tara Jigjed Chenmo
Homage, Mother, worshipped by Indra, Agni, Brahma,
By Marut and different mighty ones.
Honored by the hosts of spirits, of yakshas,
Of gandharvas and the walking dead
Rain, rain, rain. The weather feels almost normal in Seattle again.
R and I had a relatively lazy day at home. After we got up, she went out to the gym while the cleaners did their monthly cleaning of our upstairs. It's so yuppie in a way but it makes a big difference in the house. Since we both work, I don't feel too bad paying for a couple of hours of work every month.
I'm doing the reading for my next philosophy paper. I turned in my history paper (more historical theory) this week. After the paper is done for philosophy, I'm clear until April 22, when my final papers for each class are due. I'm looking forward to the history one since I got to choose the book that I'm using.
I'm still trying to figure out whether I need to do the History track, the Philosophy track, or the Interdisciplinary track. My interests seem to be sitting solidly on Western Esotericism, particularly Masonry and esoteric offshoots of the Freemasons. I don't have a specific topic yet. Given the past (or non-current) nature of much of this, I figure that History is the best bet. I'm not completely certain and, so far, the head of the program, who is my history professor right now, hasn't replied to my e-mail about the matter.
My philosophy prof seems to to think highly of me. We've had some decently long e-mail conversations back and forth and he offered to advise my thesis but only if I focus it into areas where he is able to help and having certain historical requirements from him. He doesn't want a general history of a group or the like. He wants a focused problem that includes, for example, a fraternal order. His specific example was the Ku Klux Klan moving into a particular state at the end of the 19th century and the problems this raised and the way the group had to adjust itself there. (He apparently has done research on the KKK).
I did find out today that two offshoots of Waite's Golden Dawn survive into the current period. These are the "Magickal Order of the Golden Dawn" and the "Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn" (with the former being an offshoot of the latter).
I think Waite's Golden Dawn survives as well, which is too bad because it might make a good research topic. I believe I heard that R.A. Gilbert was head of it at one point but I'm not sure.
Tonight, R and I went out to dinner and picked up a couple of movies. We bought the director's cut of Donnie Darko, Dr. Strangelove, and the Princess Bride. The first is a joint decision, the second was mine, and the third was hers.
March 16, 2005
Another view on the Death of Caesar.
March 14, 2005
I wanted to mention a cool new blog to people: Generation Sit. It's over at http://www.generationsit.org/ strangely enough.
I've been following the blogs of some of the members for some time and one of them is a local that I've had coffee with before. It approaches spiritual practice from an active, practice oriented viewpoint informed by Ken Wilber's work on Integral Studies.
Cool stuff and highly recommended as a blog to follow.
Brain Imaging Studies Investigate Pain Reduction By Hypnosis
Although hypnosis has been shown to reduce pain perception, it is not clear how the technique works. Identifying a sound, scientific explanation for hypnosis' effect might increase acceptance and use of this safe pain-reduction option in clinical settings.
Researchers at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and the Technical University of Aachen, Germany, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to find out if hypnosis alters brain activity in a way that might explain pain reduction. The results are reported in the November-December 2004 issue of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.
The researchers found that volunteers under hypnosis experienced significant pain reduction in response to painful heat. They also had a distinctly different pattern of brain activity compared to when they were not hypnotized and experienced the painful heat. The changes in brain activity suggest that hypnosis somehow blocks the pain signal from getting to the parts of the brain that perceive pain.
"The major finding from our study, which used fMRI for the first time to investigate brain activity under hypnosis for pain suppression, is that we see reduced activity in areas of the pain network and increased activity in other areas of the brain under hypnosis," said Sebastian Schulz-Stubner, M.D., Ph.D., UI assistant professor (clinical) of anesthesia and first author of the study. "The increased activity might be specific for hypnosis or might be non-specific, but it definitely does something to reduce the pain signal input into the cortical structure."
The pain network functions like a relay system with an input pain signal from a peripheral nerve going to the spinal cord where the information is processed and passed on to the brain stem. From there the signal goes to the mid-brain region and finally into the cortical brain region that deals with conscious perception of external stimuli like pain.
Processing of the pain signal through the lower parts of the pain network looked the same in the brain images for both hypnotized and non-hypnotized trials, but activity in the top level of the network, which would be responsible for "feeling" the pain, was reduced under hypnosis.
Initially, 12 volunteers at the Technical University of Aachen had a heating device placed on their skin to determine the temperature that each volunteer considered painful (8 out of 10 on a 0 to 10 pain scale). The volunteers were then split into two groups. One group was hypnotized, placed in the fMRI machine and their brain activity scanned while the painful thermal stimuli was applied. Then the hypnotic state was broken and a second fMRI scan was performed without hypnosis while the same painful heat was again applied to the volunteer's skin. The second group underwent their first fMRI scan without hypnosis followed by a second scan under hypnosis.
Hypnosis was successful in reducing pain perception for all 12 participants. Hypnotized volunteers reported either no pain or significantly reduced pain (less than 3 on the 0-10 pain scale) in response to the painful heat.
Under hypnosis, fMRI showed that brain activity was reduced in areas of the pain network, including the primary sensory cortex, which is responsible for pain perception.
The imaging studies also showed increased activation in two other brain structures -- the left anterior cingulate cortex and the basal ganglia. The researchers speculate that increased activity in these two regions may be part of an inhibition pathway that blocks the pain signal from reaching the higher cortical structures responsible for pain perception. However, Schulz-Stubner noted that more detailed fMRI images are needed to definitively identify the exact areas involved in hypnosis-induced pain reduction, and he hoped that the newer generation of fMRI machines would be capable of providing more answers.
"Imaging studies like this one improve our understanding of what might be going on and help researchers ask even more specific questions aimed at identifying the underlying mechanism," Schulz-Stubner said. "It is one piece of the puzzle that moves us a little closer to a final answer for how hypnosis really works.
"More practically, for clinical use, it helps to dispel prejudice about hypnosis as a technique to manage pain because we can show an objective, measurable change in brain activity linked to a reduced perception of pain," he added.
March 13, 2005
I've always really liked this essay by Michael Ventura. I think it speaks to the experience of a lot of people in this world. I posted it on a weblog a long time ago but I felt like doing so again.
Someone is stealing your life
by Michael Ventura
(Excerpted from LA Weekly 26-Jan-90)
Most American adults wake around 6 to 7 in the morning. Get to work at 8 or 9. Knock off around 5. Home again, 6-ish. Fifty weeks a year. For about 45 years.
Most are glad to have the work, but don't really choose it. They may dream, they may study and even train for work they intensely want; but sooner or later, for most, that doesn't pan out. Then they take what they can and make do. Most have families to support, so they need their jobs more than their jobs admit to needing them. They're employees. And, as employees, most have no say whatsoever about much of anything on the job. The purpose or service, the short and long-term goals of the company, are considered quite literally "none of their business" - though these issues drastically influence every aspect of their lives. No matter that they've given years to the day-to-day survival of the business; employees (even when they're called "managers") mostly take orders. Or else. It seems an odd way to structure a free society: Most people have little or no authority over what they do five days a week for 45 years. Doesn't sound much like "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Sounds like a nation of drones.
It's been a busy weekend.
Madeline came over after work on Friday night. Before she arrived, I went to the University Bookstore after dropping John off and picked up my copy of Resolution by John Meaney. Duane, who has run the Science Fiction section there since I was a teenager, has been giving me shit for buying from Amazon.co.uk, so I purchased it from him. There is a copy of the new Richard Morgan novel on its way as well but it hadn't arrived yet.
The evening was spent with Madeline and R. We went and got some "get dirty" clothes for Madeline so she could mess around in the garden area and help R, which she has seemed interested in doing. We got a few more painting supplies as well. After all of this, it was Dairy Queen for ice cream and that was all she wrote.
Saturday, other than some time with Madeline, was spent reading history texts for my next paper, due this coming Friday, and putting primer on the outside of the new or patched siding on the house. Since my carpenter also renailed all of the siding on the front and side of the house, I had to go over each nail with primer as well. Kind of tedious. I think between Saturday and Sunday, I spent about four or five hours covered in primer putting a couple of coats on things. I really want to get the new paint on before it rains but the weather looks bad for that. At least with the primer on, the wood is protected.
Ah, the tedious joys of home ownership. In a lot of ways, I miss just having an apartment and not having to worry about this sort of thing but I'll probably feel better when a month or two goes by without me paying to fix a problem or spending time worrying about existing problems.
Right now, I'm taking a break from my work on the paper. I finished my reading this evening. It was a selection of texts on different facets of the work of historians. I read some selections on Marxism and Post-Marxism, Cliometrics, Woman's Studies and Gender, Race, and Postcolonialism. I'm supposed to write a paper (only about seven pages or so) on two of the topics from the reading and then use the tools and perspectives to critique the book that I wrote my first paper on. That book, while a solid text, is an American text written around 1950 by a white guy so you can say it has some perspective issues from a modern point of view.
Next week, I have another paper due for the philosophy class. After that, it's four weeks until either class has its last paper due. The history one ought to be fun since that's the paper where I was allowed to choose my own book for it.
It's weeks like the next two where I wonder about the wisdom of working full time, being married, and being enrolled in a graduate program at once.
From a thread on a Livejournal community where they were discussing bad tattoos (and no, it isn't about a tattoo...):
and this reminds me of when i used to be a union negotiator, well, that one time, and the only advice the previous negotiating team gave us was, "if you are going to use the meeting room in the library, make sure you get there first so you can have your back to the painting. let management stare at the painting." it was this painting
This leaves me speechless with awe as a negotiating tactic though, given that this wasn't a bathhouse, one has to wonder about the inspiration for the art. Was this in a union hall?!?