Thursday, November 8, 2007

dig, or stay buried

I have something I wish to show you. But I don't think you will believe me. I barely believe me. I will make it as plain as I can. But you, like me, have been trained so long not to see it. So I'm afraid I can only point you in the general direction. You must discover it for yourself. I can only help you begin.

The stone floor is wet. We must sit. But I'm afraid this is not a time for rest. Breath deep. The cold will fire our nerves for what is to come. Come. Let us release our need for comfortable and protective continuation of status quo. Let us empower ourselves and embrace a possibility that things are not as we like and we have the will to change. Do not look away. Imagine this will as a small fire burning brightly within. Sit still and stare with me. Let us give focus to that which wishes to be hidden. Let us seek to uncover that which wishes not to be seen.

It is our purpose, to understand. To grok. And our natural sensitivity is far more powerful than we know. We must only give it voice. Listen. So many walls prevent us from seeing. Challenge yourself to see through them. Allow yourself to dissolve the solid, and see beyond. Give purchase to the soul of discovery reaching with numb fingers for true solidity. Stand no longer between what you feel and what you are told to feel. For you are the biggest and strongest wall of all.

Ask yourself what should be. Ignore what is. This part is very difficult - because it asks you to question as much as you are able to. And for most it feels pointless or painful. Ask yourself what you hope for. What makes you choose the choices you do. What do you work for? What do you trust and why do you trust? What if you were wrong. What if we were all wrong. It's a very nihilistic track, but explore it long enough to look under the rocks seldom moved.

Now think positively. Feel the energy, the life, the breath of existence you know is possible. Ask why it doesn't exist now. Push. Do not settle for the knee jerk reaction. Push harder. Your first response is trained. Do not trust it. Dig deep. What is your subconscious screaming? What are you ignoring. What incessant pecking have you endured unknowingly for lifetimes of self slavery. I can point your head, but you must look. Peel away the layers which obscure. Question the quick and ready answers. You were not trained for happiness. You were not trained to see. You were trained to listen. Trained to believe. Trained to want. Trained to trust. But what do you believe? What do you want? What do you trust?

You can turn away. It is easiest. And what worth is there in pain? What merit to inspect that which is... obvious. What to be gained? And oh, so much risked. Of course you know what is real. They tell you so. You see it. They show you. They... they.. only have your best interest, right?

I desperately want to lay this all out for you. To peel it away and spread it clean for you. But you don't want see it. No one does. I know that now. It must begin with the search. You can only see what you are prepared to see. Cultivate your desire to observe. Breath life into your inner sensitivity. Ask, and do not settle for the quick answer. Challenge to dig deeper.

I will wait. I admit impatience. But tell me when you are ready. Or rather, just sit. I will see it in your eyes. It will be plain. And then I can not keep it from you. No one can.

Monday, October 15, 2007


It's entertaining to watch my thoughts. They tend to flow over the same mental stones, rolling them over and over, shifting them aimlessly. I can consider anything, I tell myself. Why limit my thinking. But of course I do. Some thoughts I hear as spoken words in my inner ear. Others merely sit and do not verbalize. If I look at them closely, then they assemble - coalesce from wispy ether. Look away and they are gone.

At some point these ideas cross a magical threshold where they manifest in action. Some conscious, most not. A kind of simmering potential energy. What triggers this metamorphosis from dormant mental juice to the firing of muscles and the building of will? The most interesting catalysts are the subtle ones. The ones that build from long consideration, ebb and recede with disinterest, and resurface with unexpected vigor. The flashpoint, the ignition of mental fume into explosive movement, the transition of this potential into the actual is beyond my understanding. But it's amazing to watch.

The tipping point can be knowledge long suspected and the confirmed. This story behind the Iraq war may confirm what many have suspected. But for some reason, it has not incited much action. Listen to a politician who has floated in the sea of political half-truths for 30 years and still maintains some sense of self. It's somewhat unbelievable. His demeanor is of one used to seeing his listener's eyes glaze over - and his point evaporate on impact. He believes, but I think he's somewhat surprised to see that others do as well. He seems a lonely politician. He knows that being genuine is rare for his breed. I wish him well. I hope his words find purchase with others, even if he does not succeed.

I'm still watching the stones roll around in my own mental stream, wondering which will eventually surface - considering the options. When will I act? Or will I at all? I don't know. It's so easy to be apathetic. Just floating wordlessly, eyes closed, sensing the passage of time. One finger in the cold water feeling it rush by.

I'm beginning to learn. That's usually the moment just before I act...

Friday, October 12, 2007

monkey mind

Sleepless nights from stress are pushing me to seek relief. Alcohol or sleeping aids don't leave me feeling rested. And often don't even work anymore. I know that meditation or reading before bed puts my mind in a restful state - but I feel lazy to do either since I just want to flop on my bed and close my eyes. But these days it takes a lot of flopping until this fish is quiet.

I've been searching for inspiration to help motivate me to meditate. Siri Singh Sahib has some interesting thoughts on how to discover your soul. It's enjoyable just to hear him speak. But it also motivated me to find energy for this important practice. His call for mental clarity resonates with me.

B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. has an interesting talk on focusing study of the mind. This too, motivated me to find time for self inspection. His point inspires and speaks to me. Our study of the mind should be separated from the physical inspection of the chemical processes of the brain. I've always been a scientist - but a close minded one - on this subject. He suggests to peel back the layer of our literal scientific dogma - and employ the tools of inspection long honed in a culture across the sea.

Let's do it together. Perhaps we can discover why we beat ourselves up. Why our thoughts continue to leap around and shake our mental the cage when we just want some damn rest. Maybe we can stumble around looking for the key definition of consciousness. Wake me up if you find it. I will just get some sleep...

Friday, October 5, 2007

self preservation

Who can deny the powerful urge to preserve things important to us? For many, especially parents, this powerful sense of protectionism extends beyond our immediate needs to the well-fare of people, property, and relationships that support and surround us. The needs of those around me routinely supersede my own. I am connected to these things through a sense of responsibility and this compels me to make forward looking, speculative assessment of risks and rewards. This is the life of a connected individual.

Gathering thoughtful, factual information is an important part of estimating tomorrow. It is the antennae of man to seek information. Our long feelers probe out ahead gathering information and testing minute changes we do not even begin to understand on anything other than a primal level. The prevalence of news and opinions on the Internet unfiltered through by biased media engines presents a unique opportunity to extend our antennae on a global scale, and experience novel information if we are willing to probe. Extend our view of the possibilities. And if we allow ourselves, consider ideas without foothold in popular, well funded tv and media streams.

For me, a nightly, insomniac driven scouring of the net last night revealed a video Freedom to Facism. Inspiration is most meaningful when it first recognizes then relieves the buildup of thoughtful angst which pre-existed and explains mysteries all ready pondered. Rarely does a simple fact, overturned on it's own, find purchase. It takes the involvement of the seeker. We must observe the missing hole in the puzzle to appreciate it's filling. In this case, I have been slowly watching with dread the erosion of CNN and other news sources. More and more, their presentation of facts in a pre-chewed, pre-digested manner insults my need for real understanding. ( Amanpour's reporting aside - as they have managed to sidetrack her for a year on the wonderful effort for real understanding of issues on "God's Warriors" - but leave the flock unattended). This video suggests something much more sinister may be chewing on my nightly news reports. Something which seeks to protect itself, and in remaining hidden, will continue to do so.

Further investigation revealed some very thought provoking words. Ron Paul's speech on patriotism from the congressional pulpit was another blast of air on the furnace of fear that there are forces at work that seek their own self preservation, perhaps at the exclusion - or at best indifference - of my own. So at this point I feel the need to gather much more information about what is going on. If you are at the point where you feel lead by the nose by media, then perhaps you are ready to listen to these. If not, wait. And no, I'm not republican. He is the first politician I've ever seen who has a chance to change that. My heart is with Clinton. But I fear her new health care plan leaks a darker connection. Insurance companies deny reasonable claims and laugh all the way to bank. I would not make filling their pockets mandatory. She knows she can't fight them anymore. That's what scares me.

I have no reasonable conclusion, yet, that sits well with me. I have no explanation for the alarm. But, like gazelle on the African veldt, my ears are perked. Some words of alarmists jump from reasonable doubt to extreme conclusion. But my sense it that there is some truth to the danger. People with real money, not you or I, but those who live in the corporate veins of the real arteries of financial power, will protect what is "theirs". We would do well to watch and consider the tremblings on the ground.

Monday, September 24, 2007

solo trip to tripiness

I went on my first long distance solo adventure in Japan, a trek to the Tokyo Game show. From door step to craziness and back to doorstep in one day, and only my two little feet ( and many, many trains ). It's incredible that I could make such a trip so easily. Public transportation is convenient here! And so many people were very helpful.

The show itself was very similar to E3. Very noisy and crowded. It was hard not to be disappointed that I couldn't take photos of the games. So instead they posted girls everywhere and invited you to take their photo. I waited for 15-30 minutes each to get closeups with a few new games. Heavenly Sword was visually awesome and kind of overwhelmingly hack and slash. Halo 3 looked exciting. The line was too long to try it. I waited 30 minutes to play Microsoft's new flight sim on a very cool 3 screen setup. The realistic flight controls died in the hands of the guy in front of me.

Overall, XBox 360 seemed like they came to compete in Japan. Their booth was the strongest visually. PS3 booth was big, but very crowded; chest-touching-back, scooting-3-inches-a-second crowded. I didn't make it far before I turned back. Wii showed games everywhere. They seemed to have no central display. Nintendo seemed the publisher with the least to prove. They are dominant here, in Japan.

It was a very fun trip. Exhaustingly crowded and noisy. The train ride back for a time was like being a sardine in a can. We were all smushed together. I was fine because I was so much larger and my head poked out. But I felt bad for the shorter people. Eventually the faithful Shinkansen trundled me home, and I dragged in very late and tired, about 13 hours after I left.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I want the answer

You may or may not have seen this. I want to warn you. This is about as anti-inspirational as it gets.

This man wants to know why Kerry conceded the 2004 election when he was winning. I want to know the very same thing. His behavior and the reaction of the guards suggests that he knew this was a sensitive question and the guards knew that such a question was likely to pop up. I'm really, really hoping they were not pre-briefed to handle it in the way they did.

I really want to know Kerry. I voted for you. I was astonished when you didn't fight the result.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

long walk

Today found me on another long walk, trotting randomly through the streets of downtown Shizuoka. The heat is finally giving us a reprieve and I can't help but stretch my legs and go roaming. I live and work in the same small room, in my apartment in Shimizu. The back of my chair inches from my bed. Some days I never even set foot outside. But when the claustraphobia hits I just have to set out. Breath real air.

I've explored nearly every street around my apartment for miles. And I don't like walking down the same street twice. So my walk starts with a trip to the local small shuttle train, and a quick hop downtown to start from there. The clouds are dark gray and swirling ominously, threatening a downpour. I welcome it. Rain envigorates me when I'm walking. But it is a false threat. The wind is cool and strong, and the concrete road never ending. I set out from the busy station and head towards the nearby hills. In a direction I've never been. The shops and homes flow by and I'm quickly out the city, weaving my way through small back streets where the interesting things are. I break out into a large open flood plain. The wash from Mt. Fuji comes through here. And there is a raised walking path that takes me along the wide flowing river. This takes me behind many houses. I see a son and father throwing baseball in the alley. Each silent and somewhat serious. Men and women walking their dogs keep me company on the long path. But I soon break out and head for the wilderness. For some reason, I prefer the empty streets. The ones with bamboo on either side touching tips far overhead. But there is no road into the nearby hills. And I skirt the base for a long time before feeling like I'm very far from home, and better turn back.

Boys are girls are out of school now. And they race past me in their crumpled starched uniorms, peddaling their large metal bikes and looking very bored. Clusters of girls wear navy blue skirts and white shirts, chatting constantly. Some eye me curiously, most ignore studiously. That is definitely a required skill; the art of ingoring studiously. It's not long before I'm back downtown and mixing with the crowds of fashionably suited men and women making their way home. The train ride home is packed. And I give my seat up to stand by the railing. I prefer to stand anyway. I'm sweaty and I know I don't smell great. The train rocks as it hurtles down the rails and I peer out the window at the city flying by. So many homes. So many people. It's not long, and my stop comes, Sakurabashi. Bridge of cherry blossoms. But there are none. Just rows of tightly packed bikes patiently awaiting their masters just outside the stop. I exit with the flow of rushers home, and silently make my way to my own.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

oblivious oblivion

"Happiness is a warm gun" according to the Beatles. And many more serious sources seem to agree: happiness comes in the afterlife. It is unachievable in the material world. Monks seek enlightenment through detachment. And momentary nirvana is fleeting possible with practice. But detachment never lingers long, nor it's peace, under the rain of daily tiny assaults on a thin imaginary roof of isolation. For it's only in impossible isolation that you could hope to divest yourself from emotional attachments. Surrendering to the inevitability of a web of moral and social connections, how then is a sane person expected to realistically achieve some sense of peace? Can peace be found in the connections? In the worries and responsibilities.

For some this is not a rhetorical question. But quite serious. The quest for some sense of inner peace can drive people down long and twisted roads with no guarantee for end. It can drive you to spend to achieve: "I will be happy when I can buy..". It doesn't even need finishing. Any sentence beginning with "I will be happy if.." seems doomed to failure. The conditions for happiness are not conditional. And not in the future.

From my own limited experience, it happens when you surrender to the now. When you can embrace the wonderful experience that is drawing a clean breath into a healthy body. And from there let your awareness discover the beautiful intricacies of the mundane world as they exist before you at this moment. Pause to relish the connections. Do not separate yourself. It's so easy be impatient. To see only what you have seen before. Do not categorize. Do not impose yourself on it. Challenge yourself to look with new, childlike eyes, and not look away until you have groked the water before you. Consider it's existence. The rushing passage of time. The flow of energy and pressure that have molded its birth, life, and eventual momentary presentation to your awareness. Waiting for you to see it. And it will always wait. For it is at peace. An oblivious oblivion. But connected to you, as you are to it. And all things. Let it's peace fill you. And surrender to your connection.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

evolution of learning

Learning another language is a great way to gain insight into your own mind. I've been using the Rosetta Stone language learning software to wire my brain to process Japanese. I can feel the necessary connections building when my body feels a deep sense of fatigue and I can no longer continue listening and clicking. The system mimics what it must be like to be a child. You hear snippets of language and different images. You are rewarded when you click on the right one. There is never any translation. There is no need. No one translates 'car' into baby-speak to teach a baby what a 'car' is. They see it - or experience it - and create and association with a sequence of audio and muscular emanations that is stored in the brain as 'language'. I've often been intrigued by this process, why it takes so much more energy than other tasks, what affects the rate of learning.

One of the things I seek to explain to myself is what man has been doing for so many millions of years. How does it put us where we are now? And where do we go from here? In some sense - I speculate we will reach some threshold where it takes so much schooling to reach the forefront of science that we will be limited by our lifetime. And therefore could not hope to advance new thought because it would take so much time to learn what is 'known' previously. I now think this is false. And this video helps explain why. And it also helps explain why it took so long for man to evolve the systems we build on today - language - society - technology. And how they are evolving. In addition to aquiring new data that advances our tiny needs for the moment, we are stumbling on the tools for constructing new thought. Some times, like paper and the printing press, the connection is clear and the tools shape the advance of tochnology and therefore - more importantly - our ability to build mental relationships that did not previously exist. That's what learning is; creating structure in our brains - electro chemical connections - that lead to new abilities to make more novel structures. The ubiquity of information washes us in more forms of novel input. And the resursive cycle, our internal explorations of this input and exfoliation of thought, feeds on itself and drives us all.

Going back to my fatigue observation, I think diet and energy level affects how much effort is available to make these connections. Perhaps that's why it gets harder to learn as we get older. We just dont have the metabolic capacity to process sugars effeciently any more. Our protien folding gets more and more messy. And we lose the ability to make connections. Another factor is the willigness to try something new. The mind travels down the same paths daily - the same snippets of sentences we reuse in conversations - the builtin response to surprise - the reflex to categorize more and more of what we see as something we have all ready seen. Perhaps the evolution of learning will be recognizing and controlling these environmental, social, diet, and stimulation of new experiences. Maybe we will rediscover the importance of sleep.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

vigor of youth

If you are an engineer, or even if you aren't, you might find this inspiring. This 17 yr old has combined bits of information, no small amount of gumption, and a heroic consumption of stimulating beverages in order to bend the will of two large corporations - Apple and Att. His blog says it best. But I can't help echo. He documented and performed the first complete hardware unlock of the iPhone so that is can be used with any SIM on any network globally. It was entertaining, as an computer scientist and amateur hacker myself, to go over his steps and marvel at the hours of time it took to complete this task with no certain end. Admittedly, he was not alone. But no one put the pieces together before he did.

I remember well cracking open my own Playstation case with soldering iron in hand. At least I had a 15x15 glossy diagram showing me what to solder. But 8 molten globs of solder later I was the proud owner of a cracked machine that could play any game from any country. Which in no way compares to his monumental achievement. But I can identify with the glee of subverting the corporate will of protectionism.

In similar news of dissolution of corporate angst, Sony is releasing the walkman to DRM free music and evaporating the Sony music service. I'm not sure why one had to lead to the other. But I'm hopeful for the example this may serve. And also hopeful this puts Sony back in the black. I'm fearful their BluRay bid will be spoiled by their greed. This gives me hope that the pain of isolationism will infect other areas of the company thinking. Perhaps what they need is more of the unafraid vigor of youth.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

crazy quaff

What is that growing on his head? Oh, that's just my latest attempt to make something for myself in Second Life. Boring hair, begone. So if you haven't heard, Second Life (SL) is a boom town. And the exciting bit is... you can make real money. This has a lot of people rushing to stake their claim and make a quick buck. SL is an online world with about 30,000 people on average playing simultaneously. With about 9 Million accounts they see 1 Mil US dollars spent there every 24 hours. Wow. I won't bore you with crazy stats, they are all up on their web site . So the cool twist is anyone can make anything and then they own it, set a price, and can sell it. The details get more complicated, but the mechanism is simple and everyone gets it. You can make dough online. And man does that put dollar signs in people's eyes. Even mine.

So I'm considering ideas about what kind of store to open myself. Ideas anyone? So far I'm thinking.. hair shop ( don't laugh too hard ), maybe sunglasses or hats, or maybe an all asian atire kimono shop. There is not a lot that hasn't all ready been done. So I'm trying to think of something original for which there will be demand. Anyway, it's just fun to make stuff..

Did I say that this was my idea too? I was working on technology 4 years ago to do this same kind of thing.. (big online world where people can make and share stuff). Maybe I should finish that instead of making hair. :P

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

take a trip

There may be a flying car in your future, if big business doesn't shoot it down. Moller International is slowly but surely nearing operational tests that will enable it to pass FAA regulations and enable users to take off and land at any airport. This amazing achievement is made possible in no small part by it's 8 Wankel rotary engines delivering 1700hp. Conceived in 1924, the rotatary design was used by Mazda but has yet to achieve wide spread use. It has fewer moving parts, lower vibration, and higher fuel effiency than conventional piston designs. Maybe my son will have one. There's a 500 acre plot in Canada I was eying for my futuristic utopian experiment in living. This would be the perfect vehicle for my tech savy inhabitants. Now I just need that billion dollar idea to fund it all...

Monday, August 6, 2007

in another life

Do you have another life? I do. It's where I do all the things I tell myself I should do - but lack the will to do - now. The wonderfully magnanimous, civilization improving, selfless acts that ignore such trivialities as personal pain or hardship in the interest of future humanity. 10 years ago, when filled with much more of this youthful elixir, I imagined a career in particle physics - particularly the lines of research that would lead to practical, clean, sustainable nuclear fusion. In my gut, I know it would change everything about the world now. I followed the work of scientists on the Tokamok and I was disheartened to see the UCSD program cancelled in 1998 from lack of progress. I know other international bodies continue to pursue this dream. But until I saw this video, I thought it very far away. Seeing this raises my conspirational hackles and I try hard not to look cynically at the forces which work to keep this dream a reality. It's a huge step, that this secret work of 11 years is now seeing the light of day in a scientific forum. I hope it's not like many other discoveries, that lay dormant for centuries before adventurous souls discover the hidden gem. And I wonder what I could do to help push this effort forward in some minuscule way?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

guilty cravings

3 months in Japan and I was joning for a real American brownie. Monday is my day off and I jumped on the tiny rail going downtown to the only place I can get this guilty treat. The train lets out into a large underground shopping mall with a large variety of bakeries, chocolatiers, grocery store, and my favorite - the import store. It's a magical place were they always serve a little paper cup with strong coffee just the moment I need it - as I walk in. I've tried half of the 10 curry mixes they have available and I'm also back today for our favorite green curry mix. It's the closest to we've found to matching the authentic Thai that we craved. I was also on the prowl for spaghetti sauce, the food of life for a pasta lover like myself. They had a wonderful selection as well, and I found a large Italian brand familiar to me - but it was on the expensive side. And of course, the brownie mix. Good ol' Betty Crocker. Overpriced as well, and completely worth it!

My 4 yr old son helped me stir in the oil, water, and egg ( breaking the measure cup in the process. oh well ). We made half a recipe - because it's gold - and baked it for 45 minutes in our combination microwave/oven. Our tiny apartment soon filled with the sweet chocolatey smell of baking brownies and that alone was worth the trip. It was a little too late to let our son eat sugar, so he was off to bed. But I slipped on some sandles and made a late trip to the market across the street and bought some vanilla Hagendaas - the tiniest container you've ever seen. My wife and I served ourselves and her eyes got big when she saw the size of the piece I cut. I was past guilt and scooped a large dallop of ice cream on top ( almost half the container gone ). We both smiled. "Itaidakimas" It was a little slice of heaven :)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

wandering the streets

So far we are having an "empty" rainy season, and today my son was with his grandparents, so I jumped on the chance for a private walk on this sunny, humid Sunday. I took a walk to down town Shin Shimizu; the friendly little port side city in Japan where we are staying for the next year. The streets were very quiet and mostly empty. The air smelled faintly of sea salt and fish. The sidewalk paved with coulourful bricks carefully interlocked to flex in temperture and seizmic preasures. All the growing things are green and exude a happily damp fresh air. I walked with my pack and iPod, taking long smooth strides and wanting to get a sweat going. I provided some mild interest for bored onlookers. It's a little unusual to see a gaijin in this part of Japan. I've seen only a handful of europeans since I arrived this April. It's a humbling experience to be an extreme minority. I see their curious and sometimes blank stares and I can not guess what they are thinking. I do not understand enough of what is running through the average Japanese person's mind. I'm beginning to grok the sense of duty, the sense of being watched. They are similar. Maybe they are thinking, "I wonder what he is thinking?" Perhaps we are a mirror.