Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Song of the Day

I took my love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brought it down

Oh, mirror in the sky - What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
I don't know, I don't know

Well, I've been afraid of changin'
Because I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, even children get older
And I'm getting older, too

So, take my love, take it down
Climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
The landslide will bring it down
- "Landslide" written by Stevie Nicks

Quote of the Day

"A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them, for they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world."
– Sigmund Freud

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What We Talk About When We Talk About Flooding

I don’t like network news, so I don’t watch it. I get everything I need from NPR and 99.9% of the time I don’t miss a thing. However, there have been so many natural disasters recently, that I do miss the visceral effect of really comprehending what it means when the man on the radio says “flood” or “tsunami.” One recent example of this is the horrific flooding in, of all places, Minot, North Dakota. A friend of mine grew up 90 minutes away, and this town was the closest place for her family to go shopping and pick up supplies. This means that Minot flooding not only impacts the town itself, but all the communities within in a 2 hour radius.

This friend forwarded on some links that really drove the disaster home. Check out this article from Minot resident and click here for photos of the town under water.

What’s incredible is that given the flatness of the terrain, the water is not planned to recede for quite some time, so the 10,000 people that were driven out of their homes will be mobile for the forseeable future. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. To give you some idea, North Dakota's National Guard estimates that it will will cost $90 million or more to repair roads, parks and other public works from damage.

Tips from the Rich

Barry Richoltz had an interesting article about the lessons he's learned from the very wealthy. They're astute, but my favorite one is the last: "It helps to be incredibly lucky." To me, that sums up the casino that is the stock market in a nutshell.

Link of the Day

Girl Talk's Ideal 154-Track Backyard-Barbecue Mix

Can't say I agree with all of these songs (to choose just one, Huey Lewis has MUCH better songs that "If This Is It"), but it's an interesting discussion!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quote of the Day

Creativity has much to do with experience, observation and imagination, and if any one of those key elements is missing, it doesn’t work.
- Bob Dylan, Chronicles, page 121

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.
– Carl Jung

Deep Thought

It would be really nice to be able to take a vacation from being a parent.

The Stone Roses redux

Received a copy of the Remastered “20th Anniversary” version of the Stone Roses eponymous LP for Father's Day (thanks Ruthy!) The album has always been one of my favorites, and was one of the milestone tapes that ended up in my hands in that summer of 1989 when I had no self-confidence and was flailing around for something to hang onto – turns out that something was becoming obsessed with all kinds of music above and beyond my usual staple of classic rawk. The original cassette version was a uber-cool black and the cover was filled with action painting art and the Roses arrogantly posing. And the music! My god, "Fools Gold" alone was worth the cost of admission (not until I became familiar with Can did I hear a 10 minute song of which every minute was essential), but songs like "I Wanna Be Adored" ("I don't have to sell my soul/ He's already in me") and "Elephant Stone" really spoke to me in their marrying of traditional rock music to more modern dance rhythms. I believe someone even used the term "trance-rock" to describe it, not entirely accurate, but close. Regardless, it’s damned good music, if not horribly original.

In fact, just about the only problem with it is how it was recorded. As I said before, I was listening to this joint on cassette, and while the vinyl-age mix may have served for listening over old school foamy headphones on a walkman, it’s simply inadequate in the digital era. But the remastered version really enhances the experience – the dramatic bass buildup to “I Wanna Be Adored” now really rumbles, and the trippy backwards feedback in “Waterfall” chimes along like the best musical cathedral you could imagine. Really worth checking out – especially if you’re only copy is a cassette taking up space in a dusty attic box.

Poem for the Weekend

the frog
observes the clouds

- Chiyo-ni

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poem of the Day

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
- Walt Whitman

It's so easy to forget the sentiment in this poem when you're stuck in the detritus of everyday life.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Like all explorers, [meditators] are drawn to discover what's waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it."
- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

What's Playing?

My music listening has been all over the map lately. Between listening to electronic music for ideas and inspiration for my fledgling efforts on making my own music, music sampling sites like onetrackmind and soundsgoodtometoo, and a fantastic mix Kelly pulled together for me (I’d list the highlights, but she hasn’t given me a track list yet!), there hasn't been any one consistent theme with which I’ve gotten obsessed (yet).
Having said that, there are a number of Pandora stations that have been on heavy rotation and have served both as entertainment and introduced me to a lot of good new music (despite what some people may tell you). They are:
- Daft Punk. Listening to the entertaining if uneven Tron Legacy soundtrack inspired me to indulge my inner dancing fool on a more regular basis. Well, that and my youngest son is never happier than when he’s dancing, and Daft Punk appears to be his favorite foot-mover.

- Ulrich Schnauss. Discovered Schnauss’ excellent pop-based electronic from a Thomas Fehlmann station. His music is consistently excellent - poppy without being cloying, driving without becoming static, and can serve equally as pleasant morning music and stand up to serious headphone listening.

- Hammock. Got into these folks after picking up some free downloads from a the church show. This band could probably be described as shoegazing, but to my mind it’s simply excellent music; slow-paced feedback, with dual guitars each sending yearning feedback out into space. I feel like they're instrumental Sonic Youth on heavy anti-depressants (and I mean that in the best sense of the term). Only one song so far has had awful shoegazing vocals, and I simply used Pandora's "thumbs down" feature to get rid of it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Song of the Day

Pope Joan's "Celebration". Digging the arrogant groove!

Quote of the Day

"Our sense of individualism - that each of us is alone and separate - is a culturally implanted hallucination."
- Alan Watts

Pandora Sucks?

The Big Picture, a normally good source of information, recently posted this guest rant about how Pandora sucks:
Analysts have noted this. Pandora’s lack of scalability, its huge rights payments.
But what analysts have not drilled down upon is the service itself.
It just doesn’t work.
People become infatuated with new technology. They love to check things out and tell others about them. Isn’t that the key to making a YouTube clip go viral? But just because you’ve got millions of views that does not mean you’re rich. Or that you can replicate your success. It just means that for a moment everybody got excited about you.
For a moment, everybody got excited about Pandora. It was so easy to use. But did it satiate? Was it satisfying?
If music radio is to survive, and that’s doubtful, it’s all about curation. Serving up music you want to hear. Pandora fails at this. Despite the vaunted Genome, just too many suggestions are tuneouts, some positively dumbfounding. Do you really expect people to sit for this, pay for it with their cash or time in a world where people only want the best and have no time to waste?
In other words, the future of listening to music, of breaking acts, of exhibition, is not Pandora.
...Investors expect that in the future people will pay to listen to crap. Huh?
The future of music exhibition does not revolve around algorithms but people. It’s about personalities, cults, built around the deejay. Which is why all radio research is flawed. Radio is not about the tracks as much as the trust. Is the deejay my friend? We hang with imperfect friends, we’ll listen to a song on their recommendation that we may not initially like because we like THEM! We don’t really like Pandora. There’s nothing there other than a bunch of wanna get rich suits.
I'm not really sure what to make of this. Does he think that all of the people out there using and loving Pandora are idiots? I suspect not; I think his rant is from the perspective of an investor and fueled by his doubts that Pandora will ever make any money. I don't pretend to have any opinion about this. All I know is that despite the absence of a "live DJ" Pandora has introduced me to new music that I never would have heard otherwise. In fact, Kelly's present of a Pandora One subscription for Xmas last year was probably the best present I received. You really just have to know how to manipulate the likes and dislike feature to get a really good playlist and/or just keep creating new playlists.
I'm now inspired to post about all of the good new music i've found by using Pandora. Look for that shortly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shocked, Just Shocked

Follow the money!
In a June 15 article, Politico reported that several conservative groups, such as the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, pay millions in "sponsorship fees" to various conservative radio shows, including Rush Limbaugh's, Glenn Beck's, Sean Hannity's and Mark Levin's. Politico reported that the "fees buy" the conservative groups "a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs - praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate - often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising."

Where No Storms Come

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there
I wake and feel the fell of dark, no day

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come

- Gerard Manley Hopkins, Heaven-Haven

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Game Seven!

It's been a long time since i've been excited about hockey, but i've officially had Bruins fever for a while now. Partly because I live outside of Boston, partly because I went to the same university as spectacular goalie Tim Thomas (UVM, for those of you sorry enough not to know), and partly because the Stanley Cup playoffs are just simply awesome. The Bruins / Canucks series has been very entertaining to watch, even if it's been frustrating as hell watching the Bruins' offensive futility up in Vancouver.

But all that's put aside now: it's time for Game Seven! A game seven in hockey is in my mind the most exciting game in all of sports. It's do or die for two teams that have beaten the crap out of each other for six games already. The big difference between hockey and basketball game sevens is that in hockey, the refs tend to put their whistles away and let the players sort it all out. Which, given how brutal this series has already been, could get nasty! As prohockeytalk puts it:
If you think you’ve got this series all figured out, throw that knowledge out the window because Game 7 is a prison riot on ice. Anything can happen and anything goes. Records get tossed out the window and sometimes the rule book does too.
Go Bruins!

Atwood on SciFi and Literature

I'm a huge fan of Margaret Atwood, and I loved her article on Science Fiction. First her definition:
I like to make a distinction between science fiction proper and speculative fiction. For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth. But the terms are fluid.
Next, after a very interesting dissection of the form, her conclusion:
But it is still the human imagination, in all its diversity, that directs what we do with our tools. Literature is an uttering, or outering, of the human imagination. It lets the shadowy forms of thought and feeling - heaven, hell, monsters, angels and all - out into the light, where we can take a good look at them and perhaps come to a better understanding of who we are and what we want, and what the limits to those wants may be. Understanding the imagination is no longer a pastime, but a necessity; because increasingly, if we can imagine it, we'll be able to do it.

Running and Character

Due to illness, insomnia and extreme readability, I’m already halfway through Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. The thing that has stood out to me so far - other than the sheer awesomeness of the story - is the emphasis on the personality traits that make up a better runner. As evidence, McDougall presents the fascinating story of Czech runner Emil Zatopek (starting on p.95), or the antidotes about Joe Vigil:
Posted on the wall of Vigil’s office was a magic formula for fast running that, as far as Deena could tell, had absolutely nothing to do with running: it was stuff like “Practice abundance by giving back,” and “Improve personal relationships,” and “Show integrity to your value system." p.119
Over the previous two years, Vigil had become convinced that the next leap forward in human endurance would come from a dimension he dreaded getting itno: Character. … Vigil wasn’t talking about “grit” or “hunger” or “the size of the fight in the dog.” In fact, he meant the exact opposite. Vigil’s notion of character wasn’t toughness. It was compassion. Kindness. Love. p.92
I’m looking forward to where this all leads, but from a book that I expected to hear more about running form than racing psychology, this angle was a pleasant surprise.

Crossposted on Reading, Running and Red Sox

Quote of the Day

The human experience is populated by dreams and aspirations. For me, the animal totem of these dreams is the antelope, swift, strong and elusive. We chase after antelopes and sometimes we catch them. Often we don’t. But why do we bother? I think it is because without dream antelopes to chase we become what a lapdog is to a wolf. And we are inherently more like wolves than lapdogs, because the communal chase is part of our biological makeup.
- Bernard Heinrich, Racing the Antelope

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nip Watch

It's been a while, and today's yield was 12 vodka nips augmented by one water and one red bull bottle.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fantasy Novels

In the literature world, to say the word fantasy is to bring to mind cheesy, melodramatic writing of ancient lands and characters with strange names who go on quests and meet mythical creatures. You know, swords, cloaks, tunics and dragons. Primitive technologies but advanced skills presented under the guise of magic. As a genre, fantasy is typically viewed with even greater distain than scifi, and I must admit that I’ve fallen prey to this assumption as well. For the fact remains that like any genre, there’s a lot of gawdawful fantasy writing out there. Having said that, there's also a lot of excellent storytelling occuring under the cover of fantasy fiction, and i'm going to write about two of the best authors here: China Miéville and Usurla Le Guin.

I've read a few of Meiville’s books, but was most taken by Perdido Street Station and The Scar, two novels that take place in the same world but do not tell the same story. They are not masterpieces – they're overlong, for one, and perhaps because of that are a bit repetitive – but they are fascinating. He’s a fantasy author that straddles the border with horror (another ghetto genre!) with great aplomb.

The Scar in particular has stuck with me. At a high level, it's about the city of Armada, a floating city made of thousands of ships, whose leaders quest to send the entire city to the Scar, a mythical place where reality breaks down and anything is possible. The book uses ancient technologies to achieve modern ends in the manner of steampunk, but in my mind avoided the triteness of that sub-genre with fresh imagination: The Scar’s amazing inventions and creatures contributes to fully realized world, one that’s so successful Miéville used it in at least three books. It's an extremely engaging book, and is most successful when Miéville's explores the implications of the fantasy twists of his world or when he indulges his love of horror; for example, a scene where a character dives deep into the ocean and is stalked by shadowy creatures is absolutely chilling in effect and cinematic in scope. I saw the scene in my head and it scared the piss out of me.

My main problem with Mievelle is his occasional lapse into cliché – not fantasy cliché but just plain cliché – and his knack for anticlimax. For example, Amarda quests to capture the Avanc (a gargantuian lake monster from another dimension) and this task is built up over half the book as an incredibly hard task, as a universe-changing event, and yet once the Avanc is captured, this incredible feat is quickly accepted as a given and the book just moves onto the next plot point. The buildup never equaled the payoff, and this continued over the course of the novel gets trying. And perhaps it’s an English thing, but his continued use of the word “brine” as a substitute for “water” is trying.

Another type of fantasy writing alltogether is Le Guin’s Earthsea novels. LeGuin, a skillful author, is an old school Fantasy writer with a storytelling skill and feminist perspective that enable her to present wonderful stories for those people who can get past complicated names and phrases like “Pelnish lore.” The Earthsea saga is set in a world of thousands of small islands surrounded by mostly uncharted ocean. The original trilogy is about a powerful magician called Sparrowhawk, and his adventures as he grows into a powerful ruler and how he unites and saves the islands of Earthsea. It’s a world where dragons and magic are prevelant, and despite its complexity, is marketed as children’s books (in my mind, in the same manner as the Harry Potter books).

My favorite of the series is the second novel, The Tombs of Atuan. It was an easy read, and is separate from the rest of the books in that it’s essentially constructed as a standalone story (analogous to the non-conspiracy X-Files episodes). These types of stories serve as a digression from the main narrative, but typically teach us something about our heroes (usually from an oblique perspective) while incrementally enhancing the major narrative. In doing so, TToA touched on a lot of the series’ major themes: duty, responsibility, coming of age, etc. but did so in a fresh way, if not with the freshest prose. Le Guin, as good as a writer she is, can be prone to a lot of the fantasy clichés – although she’s been writing long enough that perhaps she indulges in some harmless self-plagiarism (which could an unavoidable aspect overproduction: see Stephen King or (in music) Ray Davies). For instance, the book contains a lot of “steely glances,” and her hero is inevitability tough and yet tender when it counts (or “Thoughtful and severe,” as LeGuin puts it on page 160).

All this would be as cheesy as the cover of my edition , if it weren’t for the skill in which she weaves the creation of her world into these books. And that's probably what ultimately draws me into these novels: the fun of living in a world of amazing creatures and fantastical things. I love reading about Miéville's Khepri (humanoid scarab beetles) and Cactacae (enormous cactus-people), with their everyday problems, hopes, and desires. I love losing myself in the intricate mythology of Earthsea, which is a mixture of multiple different religous and historical sources. These books are a refreshing escape from what can all too often be a humdrum life, and I highly suggest that you give them a try.

First Lines of "Born to Run"

For days, I'd been searching Mexico's Sierra Madre for the phantom known as Caballo Blanco--the White Horse. I'd finally arrived at the end of the trail, in the last place I expected to find him--not deep in the wilderness he was said to haunt, but in the dim lobby of an old hotel on the edge of a dusty desert town.
- Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

My cobloggers at Reading, Running and Red Sox highly recommended this book, so I finally broke down and bought this book - the paperback, not on the Kindle - and am eagerly anticipating it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Night Trey Blogging

Poem for the Weekend

After Everything

Now that it's over I find myself leaving
The sound permeating all directions at once
I never said goodbye to the family, lovers
Brothers and daughters, the rest of the bunch

It seems so strange that the things I was chasing
Have all evaporated like a distant dream
Petty ambition, petty obstruction
Something in between

And I really thought it would go on forever
Never believed they would sever the ties
All of the questions remaining unanswered
Stranger's reflection in a stranger's eyes

Here is a child playing in a garden
Here is an old man with a broken heart
Here comes a train to take you away
It all goes round and round and comes back to the start

I was never really sure what I was waiting for
When the moment came I was looking away
Obsessed with the past, scared of the future
Never took the time to be here today

And I really thought it would go on forever
Never believed they would sever the ties
All of the questions remaining unanswered
Stranger's reflection in a stranger's eyes

After everything now this happens
It's not a grand illusion, it's a stupid little trick
The show must go on, these people have paid
You're standing in the wings feeling kinda sick

Never really sure what you were waiting for
When the moment came you just couldn't choose
The fog sweeps down over the marine city
Standing backstage trying to put on your shoes

I really thought it would go on forever
Never believed they would sever the ties
All of the questions remaining unanswered
Stranger's reflection in a stranger's eyes

- Steve Kilbey

Common Trek

A big 'ol slice of awesomeness in the form of a Kirk/Spock slashup from the Star Trek animated series set to William Shatner's version of Pulp's "Common People."

This completely made my day! I love William Shatner.

Deep Thought

Jealousy is the shadow of greed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quote of the Day

Is the mind a labyrinth through which the consciousness gropes its way, or is the mind the boundless void in which certain limited thoughts rise up and disappear?
- Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke, p. 245

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quote of the Day

We're all lonely for something we don't know we're lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we've never even met?
- David Foster Wallace

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


A while back, I made a promise to stop paying so much attention to politics. I find the mechanisms of power fascinating in its mixture of high-mindedness, venality, and manipulations, but the current political culture is so vapid and polarizing in its pursuit of gotya moments that I checked out. However, some events are too ubiquitous to miss, and so I found myself reading up on Anthony Weiner’s sex tweets.

I’m not going to write about the obvious points here, but let me list them for my peace of mind: 1) namely that for someone who is supposedly Congress’ social media expert, Weiner showed a remarkable lack of judgement by not realizing that it was only a matter of time before any picture he sent was discovered, 2) as always, the cover-up is worse than the deed, and 3) you really can’t pick a better name for the politician in this scandal than Weiner. Seriously: you just can’t make this stuff up.

No, what interests me is act of sexting. Given that emails and texting have become so commonplace as to almost become a form of speech, I’m not suprised that sexting is so common. The problem is that these texts and pictures are transmitted in a public domain and can be copied any number of times. In the past, sexy pictures or letters physical objects whose discovery and dissemination was limited at best. But now once a text or picture is out there, it’s free game.

Which is sad. Texting as a form of communication is freeing in a way that emails and even speech is not. I know that as much as I talk and email with my wife, our texts have a completely different feel to them; they’re fun and immediate and – best of all – quick. An instant capture of the moment. I’m not on twitter, but I imagine that the act of tweeting is similar. Now enter sex into the equation and the allure is almost irresistible for people in long-distance relationships, who travel, or even those who like to share the random things that pass through their heads during office hours...

There’s a lot of other things that go into sexting, but Penelope Trunk’s take - How Adults Can Sext their way to Happiness - is worth reading. Among very amusing stories about sexting at 40 and the freedom that it gave her, she notes:
Sending a naked photo of yourself is an emotionally intimate act because of the implied trust you have in the recipient. When you act in a trusting way—like trusting the recipient of the photo to handle it with care and respect—you benefit because being a generally trusting person is an emotionally sound thing to do; people who are trusting are better judges of character.
She also writes that “sending nude photos is so common today that lawmakers are forced to treat it as a mainstream courting ritual and legalize it for all ages.” It’s important to remember that Weiner broke no laws – everyone he tweeted was of legal age – his only fault was lying (to his wife, his constituents, etc. – no small matter, but not illegal). IMO, it would be a better world in which more people spent their time thinking about sex rather than other things – at least it’s healthy! The problem is that at the moment the forms of communication aren’t private, and so the risk of embarrassment and humiliation are high. Until something changes, it’ll be a risk that sexters will have to run. Perhaps that makes it more exciting?


I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge a milestone that passed last week: Thought Ambience posted its 1000th post, a long way since its beginning on 9/6/08. Here's hoping that those of you who wander through this section of cyberspace find it interesting, and don't be afraid to shoot me a note in the comments of any posts - I do read and try to respond to them all.

Meditation: Recognizing the Capricious Mind

I've been meditating lately. It's extremely hard to do, because the brain simply just won't stop wandering away from what it's "supposed" to be doing during meditation - that is, concentrating on the breath as a conduit for focusing on the present moment. When I meditate, I found myself getting more and more frustrated with my inability to focus on my breath for more than 20-30 seconds at a time before realizing that my mind had moved onto other things; frustrated, that is, until I read this great meditation primer by Sam Harris. Specifically, I liked this:
...falling, from the point of view of vipassana, occurs ceaselessly, every moment that one becomes lost in thought. The problem is not thoughts per se but the state of thinking without knowing that one is thinking.

As every meditator soon discovers, such distraction is the normal condition of our minds: Most of us fall from the wire every second, toppling headlong—whether gliding happily in reverie, or plunging into fear, anger, self-hatred and other negative states of mind. Meditation is a technique for breaking this spell, if only for a few moments. The goal is to awaken from our trance of discursive thinking—and from the habit of ceaselessly grasping at the pleasant and recoiling from the unpleasant—so that we can enjoy a mind that is undisturbed by worry, merely open like the sky, and effortlessly aware of the flow of experience in the present.
For some reason, I had always thought that the idea of meditation was to clear the mind of all thoughts, but Harris not only says that this is impossible, but that "every meditator" experiences this problem. This may seem obvious to you, but to me it was a real relevation. I read this passage as saying that the real goal of meditation is to accept the constant failure of your mind to focus on the here and now. Recognizing this constraint - and being aware of it constantly - will help to realize when the mind wanders away from the present. If nothing else, Harris' passage has helped me get past my feeling of meditation inferiority in favor of trying to internalize this fact.

Quote of the Day

"The artist sits still, finally, because the materials he deals with begin to shape his life, instead of being shaped, and in stillness he seeks a form of self-defense, one that ends with putrefaction, or stillness caught in the lapse."
- Don Delillo, Great Jones Street, p. 126

Monday, June 6, 2011

What is a Midlife Crisis?

As I approach 40, I've come to realize that my biggest mistakes were not the choices that I've made or, surprisingly, even anything that I did - rather, my biggest mistakes and regrets are what I did not do. It seems to me that most mid-life crises arise from foax finally realizing what they want to do, but it being too late - or them believing it's too late - for them to do it. Luckily, with a few exceptions, it's not too late for me to realize the things that i've always wanted to do - I just need to go about doing them (for example, getting over my fear of heights). Hopefully you'll hear more about this in the future!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Fragment

They yelled; they tied their shirts around their heads; they drank. This went on for many hours. Eventually, one passed out, curved upright on his barstool like a question mark, and the rest blinked silently at each other: now what?

Poem of the Day

I have seen
The old gods go
And the new gods come

Day by day
And year by year
The idols fall
And the idols rise

I worship the hammer
- Carl Sandburg

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tab Dump

Some things I've read lately, most of them from the Daily Dish:
- This is your Brain on an Orgasm

- Musicians have Better Brains! Money quote: "...musicians’ brains are highly developed in a way that makes the musicians alert, interested in learning, disposed to see the whole picture, calm, and playful. The same traits have previously been found among world-class athletes, top-level managers, and individuals who practice transcendental meditation"

- This sounds like a fascinating book: Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic by Nevill Drury The reviewer makes a good point that i've often pondered myself:
...humanity keeps clinging to its belief systems, its religious leaders, and its prayer. More than that, we’re dipping back into the magical realms — one would think that if superstition were to be eradicated through the power of reason and rationality, magic would be the first to go. It turns out our hunger for the irrational and the intuitive is more insatiable than previously assumed. [Examples of magickal belief systems popular today] And yet the atheists keep on, telling us that we don’t have to believe in God. It maybe never occurred to them that perhaps we want to.

- How to make yourself smarter in 20 days.

- Why it's okay for me to double salt my popcorn. As long as it's unrefined sea salt:
The differences between refined and unrefined salt are significant. (Make sure you use unrefined sea salt, as other sea salts can be just as processed as ordinary table salt.) Unrefined sea salt contains about 82 percent sodium chloride and the rest is comprised of essential minerals including magnesium and calcium; and trace elements, like iodine, potassium, and selenium. Not coincidentally, they help with maintaining fluid balance and replenishing electrolytes.
Refined, processed salt is actually an industrial leftover, according to Nina Planck's book Real Food. Planck describes how the chemical industry removes the valuable trace elements found in salt and heats it 1,200 degrees F. What's left is 100 percent sodium chloride, plus industrial additives including aluminum, anticaking agents, and dextrose, which stains the salt purple. To gain its pure-white sheen, the salt is then bleached. Thus refined salt is hardly a whole food; and consuming a jolt of sodium chloride upsets fluid balance and dehydrates cells, to say nothing of the harm the various additives and bleach residues may cause.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Song of the Day

Aphex Twin's "Audax Powder", off of Surfing on Sine Waves.
Sounds like someone is bouncing a huge hollow rubber ball... directly in your skull!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Deep Thought

The best idea in all of sports? Playoff beards, of course!

Diaper Mushrooms

As someone that tries very hard to be ecologically minded, my guiltiest fault is that I've been exclusively using disposable diapers for my kids. I did try using some cloth diapers when Hunter was young, but not only was it disgusting them, but it just added to the relentless mountains of laundry that fill my house.

The answer? According to Grist, mushrooms:
A team of researchers has come up with an excuse for switching back to disposable diapers. They found that within 2 months, oyster mushrooms will consume 90 percent of a disposable diaper. Within four months, the entire thing is gone.
Plus, the resulting mushrooms are safe to eat for anyone who can look past their origins. It's like a double sustainability rainbow.