Thursday, May 13, 2010

More than liberal and conservative.

Left versus Right; Liberal versus Conservative;  Republican versus Democrat, with a dash of Independent or Tea Party somewhere along this bipolar continuum? One day we won't be a bipolar nation. Both sides can be divisive, but most social conservatives require divisiveness for their identity.  They couldn't be themselves without it.  It belongs to their developmental makeup or meme that includes competition, individuality and individual achievement, internal causation/ locus of control, individual responsibility over consensus, and a tendency to see society as a composed of strictly divided groups (race, religion, culture, politics) rather than an even playing field where differences might make a group stronger and more integrated (what I like to call Integral Strength).  

Wake up, friends, this is more than a question liberal and conservative, and as long as we continue to think there are only two political variables we are doomed to be a bipolar nation.

In reality there are (at least) 4 independent variables Free (Libertarian) and Order (Authoritarian) AS WELL AS Socially Exclusive (Conservative) and Socially Inclusive  (Liberal).
Multidimensional. That's reality.  This explains my see-sawing between party affiliation and the/my typical Milliennial tendency to feel neither of the two major parties are particularly attractive.  Personally I hope the disillusionment of the Millennials will persist and create a richer variety in dialogue.  

I think that a rise of four parties might be potentially destabilizing, although it could work just as most parliamentarian coalition - building works.  But I believe it would be constructive to use better vocabulary to name the reality of these four variables, because it would make polarizing and demonizing language a degree more difficult, thus causing dialogue to stretch and grow beyond the traditional name calling.

To qualify that, I'd like to observe more debates in existing multi-party systems.

The Nolan Chart is an early fore-runner of the multidimensional, which arranges the quadrants according to level of freedom, thus putting libertarianism at "the top," which suits the libertarian author.  The idea of libertarianism is a sweet and utopian one, however.  Given that humans have strong vices (drives to better themselves at the detriment of others) such as greed, revenge, vigilantism, spite, lust, etc, I think it is useful that we come to terms with a limit to certain freedoms to commit those crimes.

Hobbes says in the second part of his Leviathan:  "The purpose of a commonwealth is given at the start of Part II: THE final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent, as hath been shown, to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants….
The commonwealth is instituted when all agree in the following manner: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner."

And thus we have a society and government.

What do you think?

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Recreate Us: An Open Letter to Mr. K B

One of the goals of this letter is to be a conversation starter and relationship transformer. I see many other great possibilities that may result from the writing of this personal manifesto. I hope it will inspire others to really go deep into who they are, air out the closets of the mind, and open up their important, even vulnerable spaces to others. Following that intention comes the opportunity for action - creativity and service to others, both of which give rise to a world that works.
I'll make a short version and also a long version which will be for future discussions.
I. Who I am as a creation, my Created Self:
Who I am is the World as Family. It took a lot of work and coaching, and deep insight to make this declaration. If it hadn't been for Heather Smith-McNiff's laser perception of the soul, I'm not sure I would have really known this bedrock of my soul.
The World as Family expresses my Self fully. It expresses my personal desire for affinity as well as my commitment that others experience affinity in abundance. I see my commitment as an access to create a world full of peace and joy while allowing for the rigorous and sometimes difficult conversation that is required to create real affinity. What do I mean by affinity? Affinity to me is a love that is not just expressed by agreement and sympahty or even empathy, but a commitment that others may live their best life.
I only wish I had enough energy and courage to continuously powerfully support all those I know and interact with in their pursuit for fulfillment, connection, love, and awareness. And I like most people experience break downs in my commitment to live a creative and created existence. One of my heroes- concentration camp survivor and psychologist, Viktor Frankl views creativity (as well as love) as a function of the higher self, one's enlightened conscience that is in tune with God and the universal conscience. By taking creative actions, especially amidst suffering and despair, is to spite survival and normalcy. A creative and thoughtful deed simultaneously brings your Self in line with a life goal, a reason for existence, and an excuse for using and wasting carbon.
II. My Ego, Act, It
A. Hidden /counterintentions
B. What triggers it
I am most angry, sad, and frustrated when I have failed at a commitment toward others. This is when I hide or freeze when the amygdala takes over. This is mostly inward anger, though it can be directed at others. Even when directed at others, I often try to avoid conflict at all costs. This leads me to being and being perceived as passive.  When you add to this my egoic/IT's tendency for self-criticism and perfectionism, this leads to a lot of lateness and things not getting done on time.  So I usually wait for my circumstances to provide me with a confidence boost address the larger tasks and challenges in life. 
The avoidance of conflict is an action-memory pattern that I have made up as a strategy to numb the emotions of anger and fear.
I vowed as a child not to get into arguments, in part, because I perceived them to be very traumatic and threatening. In my family I rarely saw them cause anything productive, or have a positive outcome. So I told myself that any time there was heightened anger or fear in a discussion, that I would never engage in that discussion, because it would never resolve anything. I get triggered (my IT springs into action) by people I perceive IT perceives as uncommunicative, dominant, and unpredictable or illogical.
III. My perception of you and me and the YOU I'd like to be enrolled in.
The most common point of contention between me and others and you, K-Bru, is a difference in communication and leadership styles. From my perception, I see you as mostly authoritarian and non-consultative, and minimally communicative. I acknowledge that you do communicate, and when you do, it is mostly straightforward, but it seems to come few and far between, and sometimes necessary information is communicated way too late for there to be any meaningful discussion. For example, it was probably over a month that you responded to my emails and verbal communication about the need to create a powerful community context for the house, (bills, chores, and fun things). And by the time we had this discussion, we had a fire in the fireplace, and it seemed the only thing you were interested in was getting the bills flat. Despite the fact that I had had enrollment conversations with everyone in the house about creating a context, it seemed you had little interest in creating enrollment or context and that your sole interest was finances. By the time we got the bills sorted out, people were tired and had to go to bed. This was on top of repeatedly changing things in the common spaces without enrolling everyone in the changes. Because you rarely took the time to enroll me (or others) in making changes in the house, it seemed hypocritical when you justified the reason for not informing me of the major things of mine you were moving by saying that the people in the house had different ideas than I did - that you were young and creative and had new ideas of how you wanted the house to look. It's unfair to put me in a category of not wanting change when you've never enrolled me in change.
And I see myself having a nearly opposite style of communication and leadership, as my default is to try to have as many people involved in important decision making as possible. To me, this makes the most sense in a group house as consensus, communication, and democracy honors other people. The downside is that sometimes things don't get done on time because I wait for all parties to weigh in, or I don't put enough effort into getting people to check in.
When someone night after night goes up to their room after work and spends little time in the common areas, except to eat, it sends a message, in that it sends no message, so it's easy to make up stories. Since I don't know who you are, what drives you, what your IT is like or how IT got to be that way I had very little chance of engaging with you effectively. Mark described it as having "no space in your listening" as the phenomenon where one feels free to have powerful discussions with people, but there are a few people in whose presence there is no power or freedom to be had. I don't know what you aspire to, what lights you up, either. I would like to know.
It would be easy to say that things weren't working between us because we both have strong opinions about how things should be managed or how the space should look. But this is not the case, as I have lived with MANY people in this house and others, many of whom had VERY strong opinions, and VERY DOMINANT PERSONALITIES about how things should look and what the context should be. And past residents and I have had disagreements about these things, even when I was not on the lease, and when most of the furnishings weren't mine. And we worked it out through enrolling communication, love and fun, sometimes paired with alcohol to soften the edges. Did I make it up that you weren't into enrollment and that you just did what you wanted or sometimes you just gave up when you encountered resistance from me?
Sometimes this is all just my racket, but when I'm empowered, open communication and consensus decision making is my stand and commitment. That's why I called you that night after the seminar over a month ago - to get to know who you are instead of making it up, and that's why I've written this. So if you really are communicative, I'd love for you to include me in that communication, if you are committed to a good future for human beings, I'm all ears, I'll even lend you a hand if I can. I am ready and waiting to be enrolled in who you are and what you're doing.
Just to recap - I think you're a fine human being, and I observed that you can be stubborn and you don't tend to go for enrollment conversations - at least in matters of community. But maybe that was just while I was living in the house, and there was something in the way I was being that triggered your IT. What could I have done to inspire you to have enrolling conversations about who we are as a part of a house-community?
This is what I would like to complete.
IV. And now what there is to do is to move my belongings out of the house. From what I've heard, one month is the preferred time. Under normal financial circumstances I would agree to that. In fact I would have moved my stuff out a long time ago if I had been gainfully employed. Frankly, I don't have any financial recourse currently. My job starts in June. In the following weeks I will be searching for temporary/part-time employment so I can put money toward a storage unit.
My biggest financial concern is my car, which will require several hundred dollars just to get inspected and retitled, not including any repairs that may need to be made. Packing and moving my furniture and other belongings won't require a huge financial investment, but moving the car will. So I would like to work something out in which I get my belongings moved out first, and the car later.
One big way that could make all this happen is to hammer out an agreement around my deposit. Even part of this back could really help me get the ball rolling. What do you think?
Lastly, I was wondering if anyone in the house has reached out to X, who has confided that he hasn't filed his tax returns for the last several years. If someone would take the time to sit down with him, create a free tax return at H&R block (that's how I did it this year) or through the IRS website: He would be in line to receive quite possibly several thousand dollars, at least one thousand for the past year, as that's a standard for singles who make under a 30K. He can also file for his Pennsylvania and other state returns online, gaining even more money. I think this would be a huge victory for him, even if someone sat down with him the entire time. I would even volunteer my time if I lived near.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Response to Pain in the English post:
I have to disagree with the premise that caps exist for purely historical reasons. There is a LOT of research (it's a quickly burgeoning body of research) toward legibility and psychology. The results of which tend to support exactly what Alan said! Psychologist, Sociologists, Linguists, Psycholinguists, and Typographers are involved in this fascinating game! Please read the full article whose link I posted below. Furthermore, it's a very simple logical step to say that if it has been shown that there are significant differences among different fonts among one alphabet that there are also better and worse alphabets (written languages) for legibility and visibility. Just because there are more alphabets with no caps doesn't mean they are more legible than alphabets that have them. It might mean that, but I'll wait for the research. There is not much research studying differences in legibility across and among different languages/alphabets, but there is some and it's increasing. See links below. Here is someone in the field on this subject, explaining this whole LEGIBILITY vs. CASE vs. HISTORY debate: "...[S]cript was optimized for writing at the expense of legibility. But it is not the only one that suffered from the hands of the writers. Nearly all modern writing systems are thought to have descended directly or indirectly from the single source – the Phoenician. This script is the ancestor of nearly every alphabet in use today, including Arabic, Greek, Latin and many others. The Hebrew alphabet remains closest to its predecessor, as only the form of the letters has been modified, while classical Mongolian script hardly bears any resemblance. The success of Poenician was due in part to its phonetic nature; Phoenician was the first widely used script in which one sound was represented by one symbol. This simple system contrasted the other scripts in use at the time, such as Cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, which employed many complex characters and were difficult to learn. This one-to-one configuration also made it possible for Phoenician to be employed in multiple languages. Its evolution took different directions, and many different alphabets emerged, all influenced by the writers and optimized for writing." ~Please read the original article at Info on Chinese legibility: Have fun learning and reading, people!
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

When I was a Boy

Friedrich Hölderlin (1784-1843)
~translated by the author of this Weblog When I was a Boy...
When I was a boy,
A god saved me oft
From the shouts and sticks of men,
As I played safe and well
With the flowers of the grove,
While the breezes of heaven
Played with me.
And how you delight
The hearts of flora
When they reach
Their tender arms out toward you. So have you delighted my heart,
Father Helios! and, how Endymion,
Was I your dear-heart,
Holy Luna!
Oh, all you true
And friendly gods!
That you only knew
How my soul loves you!
Yet erstwhile,
I did not call you
By your names, and you
Never named me, like men name themselves,
As if they knew themselves.
Yet I knew you better,
As I had ever known men,
I understood the stillness of ether;
The words of men I never understood.
The call of the whispering grove
Educated me
And I learned love
Among the flowers In the arms of gods
I grew up great.
Das Original:
Da ich ein Knabe war...
Da ich ein Knabe war,
Rettet' ein Gott mich oft
Vom Geschrei und der Rute der Menschen,
Da spielt ich sicher und gut
Mit den Blumen des Hains,
Und die Lüftchen des Himmels
Spielten mit mir.
Und wie du das Herz
Der Pflanzen erfreust,
Wenn sie entgegen dir
Die zarten Arme strecken,
So hast du mein Herz erfreut,
Vater Helios! und, wie Endymion,
War ich dein Liebling,
Heilige Luna!
O all ihr treuen
Freundlichen Götter!
Daß ihr wüßtet,
Wie euch meine Seele geliebt!
Zwar damals rief ich noch nicht
Euch mit Namen, auch ihr
Nanntet mich nie, wie die Menschen sich nennen,
Als kennten sie sich.
Doch kannt' ich euch besser,
Als ich je die Menschen gekannt,
Ich verstand die Stille des Aethers,
Der Menschen Worte verstand ich nie.
Mich erzog der Wohllaut
Des säuselnden Hains
Und lieben lernt' ich
Unter den Blumen.
Im Arme der Götter wuchs ich groß. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fit, Fabulous, and Obese?

In a word, yes.

When I look at the photo of my mother's family reunion I see mostly tall, mostly thin, and what most of people think of as fit and healthy looking people from ages two to 80. When you look at the photos of my father's family you're likely to see tall yet chubby folks of all ages. But it's not the size (or mass) that matters.
I'm thin so I must be healthy

Both sides can really pack it away when it comes down to it. The old world Eastern European appetite lives on in both, although my father's family seems to revel in eating a bit more than the maternal fam. It' just that one family seems to hold onto the fat much better than the other. Even when my sisters and I were (or are) training in sports or marching band daily, we never cut a svelte figure. Whereas, my mother seems to be perpetually slender, even in her mid-60's, and even back in the days when she didn't have a regular fitness regimen. My father was a chunky all-American center at a big Midwestern university, and I believe most of his brother's played football at least in high school. Fitness on my father's side leads to muscle with a healthy layer of fat, and even when I'm sedentary, my muscle mass is usually much greater than my more slender friends. Here's the deal: it's not safe to say that Dad's family lives a sedentary lifestyle and Mom's leads an active lifestyle. It's not not even safe to say one family is a family of overeaters. 

So, enough about my story and on to the research to back this up.

De Facts:    
The following data has been compiled in the book an Epidemic of Obesity Myths  

A remarkable finding is that heavy people who are fit have lower risk than thin people who are unfit." -Dr. Kelly Brownell, Director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, 2003

Fitness Vs. Fatness

"Consistently, physical inactivity was a better predictor of all-cause mortality than being overweight or obese." -Annals of Epidemiology, 2002

"There was a steep inverse gradient between fitness and mortality in this cohort of men with documented diabetes, and this association was independent of BMI … Obese men with fitness levels greater than the lowest quartile were at no increased risk for mortality when compared with men in the reference group."
-Diabetes Care, 2004

"[A] fit man carrying 50 pounds of body fat had a death rate less than one-half that of an unfit man with only 25 pounds of body fat."
-Harvard Health Policy Review, 2003

"We've studied this from many perspectives in women and in men and we get the same answer: It's not the obesity—it's the fitness."
-Steven Blair, P.E.D., Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, 2004

"In Greek schoolchildren, primary CHD [coronary heart disease] risk factors are mainly associated with physical activity levels, independently of fitness, fatness, and/or fat intake… It is noteworthy that the present data contradict recent reports citing obesity as the single most important contributor in the pathogenesis of CHD during childhood … Confirming a previous report in Greek children, we found that the CHD risk factors studied were not substantially affected by qualitative aspects of diet."
Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2004

"Active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary … the health risks of obesity are largely controlled if a person is physically active and physically fit."
-The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 2000

"Compared with normal weight, overweight and obesity did not significantly increase all-cause mortality risk. Compared with low CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness], moderate and high CRF were associated significantly with lower mortality risk."
-Obesity Research, 2002

"Obese individuals with at least moderate CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness] have lower rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or all-cause mortality than their normal-weight but unfit peers. In fact, death rates in the former group are about one half those of the latter."
-Editorial, JAMA, 2004

"Unfit, lean men had twice the risk of all-cause mortality as did fit, lean men and also had higher risk of all-cause mortality when compared with fit, obese men. The all-cause mortality rate of fit, obese men was not significantly different from that of fit, lean men … In summary, we found that obesity did not appear to increase mortality risk in fit men. For long-term health benefits we should focus on improving fitness by increasing physical activity rather than relying only on diet for weight control."
-American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999

"The report from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study presents convincing evidence that fitness is a more potent risk factor for mortality than is fatness … an effect of fitness that was statistically independent of the level of fatness was confirmed. The effect of fatness independent of fitness was less clear."
-American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002

"If the height/weight charts say you are 5 pounds too heavy, or even 50 pounds or more too heavy, it is of little or no consequence healthwise-as long as you are physically fit. On the other hand, if you are a couch potato, being thin provides absolutely no assurance of good health, and does nothing to increase your chances of living a long life."
-Steven Blair, P.E.D., Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, 1997

"This prospective follow-up study among middle-aged and elderly men and women indicates that obesity (as assessed by increased BMI) is not related to an increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality, but low-level LTPA [leisure time physical activity] and a low level of perceived physical fitness and functional capability are … In conclusion, in contrast with our initial hypothesis, obesity was not found to be an independent predictor of mortality among middle-aged and elderly men and women. However, low-level LTPA seemed to predict and a low level of perceived physical fitness and functional capability predicted an increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality among both men and women."
-International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 2000

"An interesting finding of this study is that overweight, but fit men were at low risk of all-cause mortality."
-International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 1998

"Most studies of BMI and other measures of obesity have not adequately accounted for physical fitness, a known modifier of weight status and a potential mediator of the effects of obesity on CAD [Coronary Artery Disease] and adverse CV outcomes … Our data support previous studies showing that functional capacity appears to be more important than BMI for all-cause and CV mortality, especially in women."
-JAMA, 2004

And here is some research published in 2003 from an academic journals Nature and Obesityon obesity and fitness in Flemish (Belgium/Netherlands) youth:

"Results of this study show that obese subjects had poorer performances on weight-bearing tasks, but did not have lower scores on all fitness components. To encourage adherence to physical activity in obese youth, it is important that activities are tailored to their capabilities. Results suggest that weight-bearing activities should be limited at the start of an intervention with obese participants and alternative activities that rely more on static strength used."

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Integral Options Cafe: Healthy Parks=Healthy People? - Featuring Richard Louv (Author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder"

From the Integral Options Cafe: A series of videos by experts on why and how having a relationship with the natural world is important. Integral Options Cafe: Healthy Parks=Healthy People? - Featuring Richard Louv (Author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder" "You can listen to a good one-on-one conversation with Richard Louv at All in the Mind. The three experts in these videos, along with moderator Natasha Mitchell, make a good argument (not that I need convincing) that nature spaces are crucial for human health and well-being.

In this Melbourne Conversations event, Healthy Parks=Healthy People?, three world authorities discuss the benefits of contact with nature for human health and well-being.

Acclaimed author Richard Louv has identified a phenomenon: nature-deficit disorder. His book Last Child in the Woods galvanized an international movement around the disconnection between children and nature;


Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist changed my life.  And I thank my friend Bek for introducing it to me during my senior year of college.  After re-reading excerpts during the dog days of Swing Semester, it brought me to big alligator tears.  The path I had followed since college was the path of my heart, and while there had been many detours, just like the book's hero, it was incredibly affirming to know the lessons had got into the marrow of my bones.

  • “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

  •  “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

  • “Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.”


  • “When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision."


  • “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”


  • “Every search begins with beginner's luck and ends with the victor being severely tested.”


  • “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”


  • “The boy and his heart had become friends, and neither was capable now of betraying the other.”


  • “When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It’s always a positive force.”


  • “Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World."


  • “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.”


  • “I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now."


  • “When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you.”


  • “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.  And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity."

  • "When you are in love, things make even more sense, he thought."

  • "Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense."


  • “All you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation. Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there.”


  • “The alchemists spent years in their laboratories, observing the fire that purified the metals. They spent so much time close to the fire that gradually they gave up the vanities of the world. They discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves.”

  • “I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But above all, I learned that these things are all so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald.” 

  • “In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Space Station Astronaut captures Space Storm Aurora

The International Space Station flies through Earth's aurora in this photo taken by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and posted on April 5, 2010. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is visible docked to the station. Full story. Credit: Astro_Soichi

Strategic Beethoven Tactics, from the NYT

Playing Musical Chairs to Capture Beethoven’s Spirit

The ostensible lure of the four-concert series the conductor Ivan Fischer presented with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center was the chance to hear all nine Beethoven symphonies performed in close proximity by two exemplary ensembles representing different traditions: the period-instrument band and the modern orchestra.

Daniel Barry for The New York Times
Budapest Festival Orchestra: Ivan Fischer conducting the ensemble, accompanied by the Dessoff Symphonic Choir, at Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday.
Not a bad hook, as marketing ploys go. But the most valuable revelation of this series was what a dynamic, idiosyncratic Beethoven conductor Mr. Fischer is. After three concerts in Alice Tully Hall, he ended his sequence on Sunday afternoon at Avery Fisher Hall, leading the Budapest ensemble in the Sixth and Ninth Symphonies.
For the Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”), Mr. Fischer radically broke with conventional orchestral seating. The principal flutist, oboist and clarinetist were placed front and center, with other winds mingled throughout the ensemble: a second flutist back near the basses, a second oboist between the violas and second violins, a piccolo player with the trombones on a rear platform.
If the unusual setup was meant to bolster clarity and balance, it succeeded. Mr. Fischer’s tempos and dynamics tended toward extremes, punctuated with resounding silences, but always yielded results that sounded fresh, inspired and wholly in the spirit of Beethoven’s evocative writing.
The layout for the Ninth Symphony was even more peculiar. The woodwinds migrated to a standard grouping near the back, replaced in the front row by Roland Denes, the timpanist, who admittedly played an especially prominent role. Only at one point near the end of the first movement did his animated rumble obscure details elsewhere in the ensemble.
In the fourth movement the four vocal soloists — Lisa Milne, soprano; Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano; Jorma Silvasti, tenor; and Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass — sang from individual platforms positioned among the string players. The Dessoff Symphonic Choir was positioned on the floor in front of the stage, responding to Mr. Fischer’s direction via video monitors in the house. That wandering piccolo player now turned up amid the percussionists.
Once again, Mr. Fischer’s quirky tactic worked. The soloists sounded robust and vibrant from their elevated stations, Ms. Milne and Mr. Sigmundsson particularly. The choir’s projection and enunciation were unusually clear. And the piccolo’s merry tooting effortlessly cut through the clang of small, hard cymbals in the finale’s jaunty march. However unorthodox Mr. Fischer’s techniques, Beethoven’s spirit rang out with an explosive jubilance.mend

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Climate: An Integral Discussion

 from the Ken Wilber (Integral) meetup group discussion:

T.M. : "Jim Turney's remarks practically had me leaping to my feet from my little red mushroom stool as he described politics as lurching from walking solely on one's left foot, becoming exhausted, and then walking solely on the right foot until exhausted again. He called for a recognition that each of us has politics as individual as our fingerprints, but under-girding our views are the same competing poles: particularly of freedom vs order. And we're not going to get anywhere until we can address the concerns of both poles in a way that frees them to recognize their own need for the opposite pole. This is very much a theme of my own work in dialoguing with fundamentalists and thus resonated strongly. Where do I sign up?!! Jim Garrison, board member of Wisdom University and founder of the State of the WorldForum, called us to wake up to the fact that 90% of humanity will be wiped out within 40 years if we don't act immediately to cut carbon emissions by 80%. When a questioner challenged the doability of that, Jim compared hesitation to hanging one's head in despair as a fire is breaking out in the kitchen. STOP EVERYTHING and fight it, he said. He also told us that corporations can reach the targets with cuts in their profits of only one third, and that he is finding foreign corporations more receptive than American, with Brazilian firms replanting the rain forest and Chinese firms leaping out front in developing green technology... At the end I felt an overwhelming desire to integrate the passions of our two speakers. As Ron asked at dinner afterward, how can Jim G's message be communicated with Jim T's insight about what is needed to reach people with a very different worldview? I was also confused by the followup remarks of Jim Garrison's colleague that sustainability will create prosperity. While that is clearly true in the long run, how does it square with Garrison's call for a one third cut in corporate profits? Doesn't that mean a one third cut in my retirement fund, setting my thermostat to 40 degrees, and walking the ten miles to work? I am willing to do that if that will save the earth. But I suspect (and here I am editorializing) that much of the resistance to believing in climate change is really fear that the cure is almost as bad as disease. How do we speak to that?"
And here is my response: Dear T.M. et al,

 There are many moments of possibility of integrating the will to material prosperity with the will to reduce for the sake of an integrated whole, sustainable Earth. We have seen the rise of a race toward carbon neutrality and carbon sinkage in communities (and many countries) around the world. In the US, it is our cities and states that are leading the charge; like Maryland, Annapolis, and Seattle, just to name those efforts which I am currently researching.

Municipalities and states (those not economically solely dependent on fossil fuel) have more to gain in the short term as well as long term by re-tooling for a carbon neutral future. On the other hand, nations and some provinces are composed of a broader patchwork of developmental levels and economies. 

When regions have a broader range of represented memes, the advance of progress is "hindered" (slowed) by messy democratic processes.

Where does this lead? I see one particularly likely, but sad route: a climate Pearl Harbor. My worst fear would involve an event like the ice shelf sliding off of Greenland, creating a nearly instant rise in Atlantic and Arctic sea levels, the Gulf Stream being knocked off course, not to mention the huge "dark earth" solar radiation absorption panel the size of a small continent.

 Who knows, maybe we can manufacture enough Mylar to quickly cover Greenland and reflect the rays back out into space.

This frightful motivator notwithstanding, there may be yet a moment of shift toward a carbon neutral moonshot. May it be born out of America's competitive Orange nature instead, as other nations leap forward into clean energy economies, inshallah! And lastly, my idea to integrate "the Jims' " passions lies in the power and possibility of youth. The good news is that the 30-and-under set (Millennials) are largely already on board, even in many traditionally Orange and Blue areas of the US. This is why my friends and I launched Swing Semester - to hold up a big mirror to the Milliennial Generation, and push them into purposeful action. I love the fact that they defy the binary left-right political spectrum. This goes to show you that their level of functioning is somewhere beyond traditional definitions! There has been ample evidence at Copenhagen, here locally in the PowerShift Climate Conferences with around 5,000 in attendance, not to mention polling data on attitudes and beliefs. Many of them have little interest in traditional partisan distinctions. I look forward to seeing you all soon and hearing your thoughts and actions. 

Best, Sirtosky

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Monday, March 15, 2010

These People Want to Stop Human Aging by 2029

Oh, telomeres!
From the Greek telos, meaning end and meros, meaning part.  Why are these endparts important to oncology, cancer research, and aging?  The human machine must be constantly renewed at the cellular level to keep the body working.  However, over time, our body loses functionality, lubrication, and elasticity, due in great part to cells that have reached the end of their ability to replicate, thanks to the caps on their chromosomal DNA.  These telomere caps determine the number of times our cells can divide and replicate.  Scientists often compare them to the protective tips (aglets) on the end of shoe laces because they prevent the strands of DNA from unraveling, degrading, and binding with other chromosomes.  So, when you die you're literally reaching the end of your rope - your DNA ropes.  On the other hand, when telomeres are suspended or lengthened they allow cells to proliferate to the point of being cancerous.  Oncologists would like to put short, functioning telomeres on cancer cells as soon as they're discovered, while a few mad scientists want to extend or remove telomeres as a pseudo fountain of youth.  It would be somewhat analagous to making our whole body a controlled cancer.  Yummy!

When telomeres get down to about 5,000 repeats they die of old age, according to William Andrews, one of the longevity obsessed scientists at Sierra Sciences who is cooperating with the Manhattan Beach Project to end aging by 2029.  He says, that by looking at telomere length in a blood sample "I can tell how old you are and how long you have before you die of old age."

Here is the alarming article from h+ magazine that details this misguided project.  My mental red flags were a-waving, and nausea quickly overcame me as I began asking the 6 important questions about important new technologies and society (Neil Postmann) as so wisely taught by my professor Stephen Butler.

Here are six questions Postman says we must ask when someone tells us about a new technology -

1. What is the problem to which this technology is a solution?
2. Whose problem is it?
3. What new problems might be created by solving the original problem?
4. Which people and what institutions will be most seriously harmed by this new technology?
5. What changes in language are being forced by these new technologies?
6. What sort of people and institutions gain special economic and political power from this new technology?

    • Because often, it's poor people that are the last to see the technology and the first to get the shaft.  They usually endure the worst fallout of the technology, aren't informed or warned of impending dangers, have the least say in the matter, and the least access to discussion about it.  Below I've posted some excerpts of a really great discussion about the impact of "immortal technology" in response to the article from _h+_Magazine_.  Some of them believe that capitalism and the captains of industry will crumble as we see affordable robots being available in the average home.  These foreseen robots would be able to replicate products.  Those of you who pay attention to the pace of technology have to admit that that is not just a pipe dream.  Others in the debate feel like we are entering a new phase in feudalism at a level that calls the movie _Stargate_ to mind, a future defined by a new "transhuman elite" and indentured slave labor.  One of the civilized world's worst nightmares.  And still others feel that the majority of the disenfranchised will revolt, and open-source internet and technology will save the day.   I'd rather allow time to take its course, as few things are certain in our unstable, wild-card world.

Submitted by Oracle (not verified) on Fri, 12/11/2009 - 11:48.
If advances in robotics and software algorithms eliminate the majority of jobs instead of eliminating the idea of work altogether. If artificial scarcity is forced upon the public through DRM locked nanofactories instead of open source MNT that can make anything for pennies... eliminating the need for money and credit

If human genetic enhancement and radical life extension are only available to the wealthy in said artificial scarcity model economy  If the nation state model begins to move to a centalized bureaucracy (EU, NAU, ASEAN) staffed by unelected officials controlled by special interests (read: fractional reserve bankers), instead of more transparent governments that are directly accountable to their constituents

The above situations, if they play out, will cause tremendous social, poltical and economic strain the likes of which we've never seen. No amount of media spin will be able to cloud the argument. These inequalities can't be ignored, denied or made light of. You're either a slave or you're not. Will we see an empowered humanity freed from disease and wage slavery or will we have a neo-feudalist global plantation dominated by a transhuman elite? Conflict will explode using lethal nanotech weapons. Hugo De Garis may not have to worry about an Artilect War. Humanity may have gigadeath war not over species dominance, but over issues concerning control and dominance over the population.

         reply    Submitted by Valkyrie Ice (not verified) on Fri, 12/11/2009 - 22:34.
yep. quite true.    However, I don't foresee that happening for one very simple reason. The internet.
All of those things require control of information.

The internet allows the universal dissemination of information.
DRM has been being tried for how many years now? It's still useless. Anyone who is seriously interested can find a way around DRM.
The feudal system ended when the printing press arrived. Information was suddenly available and accessible to the masses. The Social order was over turned when the knowledge previously controlled by the Church was suddenly uncontrolled. Knowledge previously hard to obtain in very rare tomes owned by only a few suddenly was being passed around by many. The Reformation occurred because the common man could now access the knowledge once only the priests could read.
All forms of Tyranny depend on suppression of knowledge. Our history has proved this time and again. Suppression doesn't work forever though. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. Our modern "war on drugs" certainly hasn't, and as climategate is proving, all it takes is one leak on the internet to open a huge can of worms.
A DRM controlled nanofactory might be tried. But as sure as a black market for drugs appeared as soon as they were made illegal, and a million DRM free mp3 sites sprung up following the attempts to ban music sharing, a black market for non-DRM nanofactories will occur.
And as Drexler pointed out, all it takes is one single self-replicating nanofactory to create a world filled with them.
We've been slaves to the Corporatacracy. But we're moving out of that phase now. They are trying like hell to restore their power through lobbying to kill reform in health and finance and eliminate net neutrality, but all they are truly doing is spending millions on efforts that will fail. They may buy a few more years of life, but that is all.
The only ones who will survive are those who adapt to the new realities. Google seems like it might do well, but those who continue to cling to the past won't.
We're at the start of the elbow curve for the internet. It's been growing in power slowly, but the next decade it is going to skyrocket in influence, especially once VR becomes commonplace.
In 20 years... there may not be a tyrant left standing.

         Submitted by Stephen Crowley (not verified) on Fri, 02/26/2010 - 09:25.
Google is becoming cozy with the NSA.. no one is safe as long as the Patriot Act is in effect. We need pervasive cryptography.. the freenet project has come a long way.. need more like it.
Eventually one company will figure out that it's too expensive to maintain manufacturing facilities when they can put desktop units in every home and simply concentrate on design and R&D sold online to customers who can "print" it out at home. Due to the fact that a home unit could easily build all the parts for another home unit, there's very little profit to be made "selling" them, but lots of money to be made in "branded" designs.
But as individuals begin building a database of "open source" designs, even professional designs will begin to have to be charged less and less for.
And this applies not only to manufacturing, but almost every business you can think of.
Cheap robot labor is inevitable. And once it is available, it WILL dominate the business world, because it'll be the only way to continue to profit... and that very fact will drive the final nails in capitalism.
Groups can fight, try to supress, and ban and outlaw, and all that will occur is the one company which embraces the new technology will begin looking at the rest as lunch.
It's a dog eat dog world after all.
As for how soon... well if you are a roboticist, you might find this interesting:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Amygdala Hijacks and You

Key: italics= [sic]

What's your flavor?
Well, apparently almond, since that's the etymology of this almondform part of the proto or old mammalian brain, i.e., limbic system. Some people call the amygdala the "reptilian brain," which is actually the brainstem. The Mr. Wizard of philosophy, Howard Richards, who first introduced me to this exciting piece of the noodle brought it up in the course of Philosophy of Education.  This was back in '02 when the amygdala hijack just started becoming all the rage in pop psychology (pun intended).  I believe it had to do with the conundrums of educating angry, messedup kids. While those who are brought up in violent environments will tend to exercise less control over their fight (and perhaps flight) responses, all human beings, even those raised in the most ascetic and mindful or "Tao" cultures will succumb to the might of this tiny ancient brain. Yes, it's nutty.

But all puns aside, here is the best video introduction to the amygdala I've seen on the interwebs, enjoy!  Is it me, or does he seem to be having a little amygdala hijack?

Here's a little  mnemonic song I wrote for you about the chain reactions going on in our hot heads:
~the amygdala reacts to the hormones, hormones come from adrenals, the adrenals connect to the pituitary, the pituitary's connected to the hypothalamus, and oh how they scare!~

I risk being didactic by saying that we humans really need to recognize and accept the fact that this 18 minute takeover is common and unavoidable.
When was the last time you raised your voice (or wanted to)? AmygdaBAM!
Did you ever break a sweat during a test or in front of a crowd? AmygdaBAM!
Flip the bird in traffic? Amygdabam!
Shocked at a surprise birthday party? Amygdabam!
Just learn that your child/spouse/parent/best friend is gay? Amygdabam!
Flashbacks, PTSD? Amygdabam!
The time you climbed the tree licketysplit at the sight of a sabertooth tiger? Amygdabam!
Sweaty palms at the movie theater (from your date or the horror)? Amygdabam!
Turned down for a job or promotion? Amygdabam!
Gramma lifts the car to free you from certain death? Amygdabam!    See, aren't hormones like corticosteroids (cortisol), adrenaline (epinephrine/norepinephrine) great?!

What are you "favorite" hijack moments.  We can all recall ones that live on in infamy.  What events tend to trigger your hijacks?  How often do you have them?  I encourage you to make a list.  The more you become aware, the less they have the power to totally determine your thoughts and actions.

How about when you ate that tub of ice cream in one sitting, or... Many of our mindless activities, even enjoyable leisure activities are ways we deal with the emotional onslaught of all those neurochemicals and associated body sensations (acid stomach, tight shoulders/neck, the infamous tension headache). My father dealt with his anxiety attacks (amygdala hijacks) by running to the ole microsoft and playing minesweeper and hearts and taking about three Xanax (alprazolam).

Please, accept this morally neutral phenomenon as soon as possible. It's neither an evil that must be exorcised, nor a benign entity that deserves free reign over our behavior. Adrenal takeover of your executive functioning: your reasoning, your smarts, your sense of empathy, fairness, justice, love, peace, etcetera - gone. And then it's followed by a chemical residue (extraneous stress hormones) for three to four hours.

Boo.  I mean, yay? Well, most of us would be dead or severely injured without a properly functioning amygdala. By the way, freezing, or shutting down is also symptomatic of said hijack. Whether you recognize it or not, you are familiar, and you play host to this frequent visitor that we sometimes indulge. I know I do! The television and the endless interwebs rabbitholes are my favorite mindless past-time that help me remain in that brainless non-executive state of functioning. I can prolong the numb residuals of adrenal hormones (steroids!). Not only does the interaction of hormones and the old brain help granny to lift that car off the baby, but it also helps you remember! Yes, if you haven't noticed, emotions help with long-term memory.

“The amygdala is promiscuous as to the actual experience,” McGaugh says. “It’s just activated by emotional arousal. It doesn’t have to be a negative emotional experience. If it’s positive and it engages the amygdala, it will be a stronger memory.” Unforgettable: Memory Research., D. Pendick

This is why we sometimes wallow immediately following a hijack. Many of us seek to avoid the traumatic emotional memories and high stress levels associated with certain incidents our brain recognizes. Your brain remembers getting called into the principal's office when the boss wants to talk with you in private at an odd point of the day. Just like the Iraq vet "recalls" the IED explosion when the care engine backfires. And, as opposed to what my above-referenced presenter said, we can't stop it, prevent it, placate it. And you shouldn't always want to. We don't live in a world made of marshmallow fluff inhabited only by Pollyannas and HH Dalai Lama. We need to dodge the bullets and react quickly when we're needed to serve with valor.

I think we live in amazing times where we can know and even predict what will happen inside our body and brains. As humans get used to the idea of the macrocosm (satellite images of Earth, the UN, global trade, the interwebs), I hope we mentally digest the wisdom of the microcosm. Our bodies are fabulous and mystical machines (if ever an oxymoron), and if we treat them (and nature) as our allies, then we should be able to live healthier, happier lives, and save the planet while we're at it.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

All about Flow

My friend Bek is a cultural creative.  One of the newest ideas that came from a conversation with her:  you decide what age you're turning on your birthday.  No need to be a slave to chronology.  As the ontological truism states - the self is a phenomenon that arises out of creation or a creative state.

My own personal awakening into a reality that brings meaningful creation into all areas of life follows a line that began with Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning).  And I've continued on the path, absorbing and attempting to live the lessons given by "Dr. Mike" Csiszentmihalyi's (Flow),  Paulo Coehlo's AlchemistEckhart Tolle, Taoism, Buddhism,  Landmark Education (the legacy of the much-maligned Werner Erhard).  They all share one thing in common, what psychologists call an Internal Locus of Control.

Mihalyi has spent the majority of his adult life researching and naming the type of life, peak experience described by the Flow (Optimal Experience)  .  I'm currently participating in the Landmark seminar "An Invented Life," which is based on the basic brain science of being AWARE of our rote patterns and instincts based on the past and survival.  The state of Flow or "self as creation" experience arises out of realizing that our constant inner monologue/commentary/judgments and behavior patterns do not equate The Self.  The Self is the strong and quiet voice that arises when one is observing all of our thought/action memory patterns.

The fundamental principle that draws all these ideas together:  You can choose your attitude, the contents of your consciousness.  It's the path that I follow, as well as many of today's cultural creatives like John Mackey of Whole Foods (, his friend Brian Johnson,, Oprah, Van Jones, just to drop some big names.  This is a path which require practice, especially for those of us who came from unbalanced, superficial, or outright abusive and morally deprived homes or communities.  However, the tendency to want to grow into the light, and maximize potential while enjoying oneself has neurological, writ bio-genetic roots.

And roots are an apt metaphor used by many thinkers.  I love Frankl's story about the potato which, existing in utter darkness, will send out roots in all directions until it finds light.  At that point leaves start to sprout and it takes root.  I experienced a mild degree of physical abuse and a lot of persistent psychological abuse.  I share a common psychological culture with many of those who grow up in relatively resource-rich middle-class and even materially wealthy cultures, that are spiritually or psychically poor.  While experiencing none of the depravity of famine, genocide, or decay inherent to a culture of poverty, the mind, thoughts and emotions, and even the soul can become just as twisted.  It really has little to do with class, status, or material resources.  People in rural Haiti are known for their persistent smiles that are rooted in true happiness.  While death, tragedy, and disease plague that nation, a rich culture of the mind abides.  But there are also unhappy cultures:  it's no surprise to me that Eastern European countries are some of the unhappiest nations on earth, where the best stress coping mechanism seems to involve alcohol.  However, as of 2002, Zimbabwe is the unhappiest nation polled, which follows as they've been led by an increasingly insane and dictator over the last 30 years, who has driven their relatively high level of material prosperity to a very low level.  As for "the happies," I'm not sure why Denmark is up there, but the rest seem to be places where people readily and frequently engage in communal fun like dancing; wine, beer, and food festivals.

Even pop news is getting in on this stuff, at least Katie Couric cites some good recent research in this here YouTube video.  And if Katie says it, it must be true.

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The UN Goes to Hollywood—But Is It Ready for a Close-Up?

The UN Goes to Hollywood—But Is It Ready for a Close-Up? This is just one part of a conversation started by my friend Kyra: I agree with her point that in the mass media feedback loops make a much bigger impact than soundbites/ytes. Maybe the UN needs to hire people that have the knack for successfully engaging people. I think UNICEF's messaging is good, at least by having distanced itself in the public's eye from the UN. But here's the catch - the UN is roughly as fashionable across America as the fight for AIDS research... maybe even less so. You have small, but LOUD groups on the fringes - one extremely supportive, the other calling the UN a communist New World Order org bent on destroying US sovereignty. I think coastal Americans have positive associations, if not somewhat apathetic. But the folks in the Middle are for the most part apathetic if not outright hostile. So, I think the coastal chunks and the supporters are ready to be engaged. Middle America needs more positive associations. I would like to see this, esp. in light of the fact that more political and commercial dollars are spent on manipulation and messaging to Middle America than any other. I think only time will show whether showing up at awards ceremonies is a way to create positive associations with the apathetic Middle. Consider the Red Ribbon campaign - largely popularized by awards shows. Really, I think the the UN should use new media. And as far as new media go - there are cloying or boring new media, and then there are sexy yet CLASSY new media. I firmly believe that you can make noble ideas sexy. To be clear, I mean desirably eye-catching, not erotic. The UN might have to hire classy, hip people to pull it off. Brave New Films, Oprah, Michael Moore, the One Campaign, Whole Foods have all managed to pull off noble and "sexy." Rock on. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.