Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Monday, May 30, 2005

More on the Sith

Democracy Now has an interesting show today.

It is pretty scary, and is shows just how much our government has turned to the Dark Side.

Watch or listen to it

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Real Dark Lords of the Sith

I finally managed to make time to go see Star Wars III last night.

Throughout the movie, I, like so many others, was struck by the parallels between today's political situation and that of the story line.

Unlike other viewers, I don't see George Bush as playing the role of senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious, he is just not smart enough or effective enough, or strong enough.

Bush has always reminded me more of Jar Jar Binks, not very bright but with a huge ego and easily manipulated. When I think of Bush I always remember 9/11 when he sat gulping air like a fish out of water, paralyzed with shock and/or indecision while the World Trade Center burned.

Bush has always seemed to be more of a puppet to me.

So where does one look to find the Dark Lords of the Sith?

I would suggest you look to the places that teach people to get in touch with The Dark Side.

That would be Anger, Fear, jealousy, Hate.

In the States you would want to start looking here.

That's right, Dominionism is the front for the Dark Lords on this side of the planet, just as Wahhabism is the front in the Muslim world.

There is probably no greater threat to freedom and democracy than these theocrats who think that they have the license to force their beliefs on the world.

If you want to meet the real Dark Lords of the Sith read here.

(hat tip to crooks and liars for the links)

That's right, the people who are doing here what Osama bin Ladan, and his kind are doing in the Middle East but are using Christianity as their excuse and smoke screen rather than Islam. It's the same game, just different teams.



Meet two of the Dark Lords, James Dobson and Ted Haggard.

These are two men who use their powers to whisper their message of hate and fear into the ears of everyone from politicians at the highest levels to the thousands of average citizens that find their way into the "mega-churches" that the Sith have built to spread the message of the Dark Side of the Force.

Remember, it is fear and hate that lead to the dark side, and that is what the message is.

The "Muslims will get you if you don't watch out", "The homosexuals are infiltrating every part of your life, and they will steal your children", "God wants you to hate these people", "We are being persecuted by 'them'".

How much more "Dark Side" can you get? The chaos they create serves them very well as it fosters the climate of fear and hate that draws people to them.

So the question you may be wanting to ask yourself at this point is "do I want to live under a dictatorship controlled by these Dark Lords?"

If your answer is NO, then you need to fight them.

You have to fight them on the level of ideas, Get a Bible, a "red letter" one, and read the words of Jesus. When they start pushing their doctrine test it against what Jesus actually said and confront them on their lies. Start with Matthew 5.

Muslims need to do the same thing with the Quran, to actually read the book, and ask themselves if the Mullahs are representing the word of God accurately.

Remember, no human's interpretation of the Quran or the gospels is infallible, and everyone who reads it IS interpreting it.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

I finally found one of those Internet tests

That I thought was interesting.

Here is the test and my results

Who Would You Be in 1400?
The Harlequin
You scored 44% Cardinal, 41% Monk, 32% Lady, and 43% Knight!

You are a mystery, a jack-of-all-trades. You have the king's ear, but
also listen to murmurings of the common folk. You believe in the value
of force and also literature. Truly you are the puzzlement of the age.



My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Cardinal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Monk
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Lady
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Knight
Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on OkCupid Free Online Dating
(Of course this makes a certain sort of sense being that Sufis often traveled as Harlequins. Even the idea of the "party colored" coat harkens back to the Dervish coat or khirka).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Traveling again

Today I will be hopping from the East Coast to the West.

With any luck I will be able to chronicle my adventures on the plane.

Everyone should probably read this

It is one of the better expressions of sentiment about what the Republican Right has really given us.

A speech by Senfronia Thompson to the Texas Legislature. Read it and weep (for our country).

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

El Machete Del Gringo Gordo

I have always had a sort of love/hate relationship with Cold steel knives

On the one hand, the company makes really good knives, some of the better production knives out there, and usually at reasonable prices.

On the other hand, the company's owner, Lynn Thompson comes off as a total horse's arse in more ways than can be enumerated here. (If you have ever seen a picture of Thomson you will understand the title of this column).

If I were to choose one thing that stands out about him, it would be that he is a trophy hunter. That is someone who kills animals that have done him no harm, that he does not need or want the meat from, that die just to feed his ego.

Now I have hunted most of my life, but for food, and materials, and I have never had my picture taken with any animal I have killed. I guess I am just old fashioned, but I hold to the idea that you only kill what you need to survive, and that you honor the life you have taken by using everything.

####

I am pretty good at dressing out game, and when I was in high school I came up with an idea to make some extra cash during hunting season.

I went to a popular staging area for deer hunters and set up a small stand and hung out a sign offering to dress, skin and otherwise prepare a deer for a small consideration.

I got a good deal of business, but much to my shock, most of the hunters just wanted the head of their kill for a trophy. They did not have any interest in the meat for the most part, and none of them wanted the hide.

I ended up coming home with more meat than the family could use, and so had to share it out with everyone I knew. I also ended up with several hides to brain tan for buckskin.

I never did this particular job again even though it was pretty lucrative, it was just too depressing.

I admit, this is a personal quirk of mine, but I have come to view trophy hunters as a lower life form.

####

So here I am in New England with some work to do out in the forest. Given all the considerations, I come to the conclusion that what I really need is a machete.

The machete is not only a very versatile tool, it is the one essential tool for much of the third world. Throughout much of Africa, Central and South America it is found everywhere because of its inexpensive price and versatility.

On much of the West Coast of the US the Machete is quite common, I suspect because of the strong Latino and Filipino population in the area.

I pretty much grew up using the machete as an all around tool.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that the machete was not commonly found in New
England.

I spent a good part of the day hunting for one. Walmart didn't have one of the crappy blades that can be found in its camping section in much of the western US.

After hours of searching I located an army surplus store by phone that said that they has some machetes. I jumped in the car and drove to the place.

As it turned out the shop had three machetes, one of which was the Cold Steel Bolo. The other two were a cheap Taiwan blade, and one designed for the "tactical" crowd (looks kewl but is not useful).

So I picked up the Bolo, even though at $11.95 it was pricey for a machete (the "tactical" machete was $25.98 though so I guess I got a bargain).

In Africa I am used to paying about three to four dollars for a good machete (crocodile brand from mainland China is the preferred brand in Tanzania)





So here is my review of the Cold Steel Bolo Machete for your consideration.
Specifications:
Weight: 17.3 oz.
Blade Thickness: 5/64"
Blade Length: 16 3/8"
Handle: 5 5/8" long. Polypropylene
Steel: 1055 Carbon Steel w/ Black Baked on Anti Rust Matte Finish
Overall Length: 22"
There were a couple of noticeable problems with the machete.

First was the edge. I am used to a machete having a fairly rudimentary grind on the edge, but the grind on this edge was just plain bad. There were several "dishes" on both sides where whoever did the grinding let the angle change and the grinder dug into the steel.

It took a half hour with a file and whet stones to true up the edge and get it where I wanted it.

The good news in that the temper of the blade is correct for a working machete.

A machete should be tempered to a tough "spring" It should be able to bend and return without taking a "set". This means that "stainless" blades are out.

This also means that while a good machete will not hold an edge for more than a couple of hours of hard work, you can sharpen it with a convenient rock if you have to.

The handle is of some sort of injection molded plastic with a nice rough texture.

Two negatives about the handle are its size and the mold seam.

The handle size works for me, but I have a pretty big hand, someone with a smaller hand might find the grip to be uncomfortable.

The seam, where the two halves of the mold separate was quite rough, and if left that way will give you some really nasty blisters. a couple of minutes with a good sharp knife trimming the seams fixed this problem.

Once I got the blade and handle into the condition I wanted, it was time to take it out and do some work.

The first job I used it for was the removal of several birch and maple saplings from a section of forest.

The machete cut through saplings about as big around as your wrist with two or three blows, which is as it should be for hardwood saplings.

The short blade made working in tight places easier than with a longer blade, and the machete held its edge for quite a while before I felt the need to take a stone to it.

The plastic handle was a bit more comfortable than wood to use over several hours of cutting. (After the seam was trimmed away).

This machete worked as well as any I have used for hard chopping and clearing work.

I selected several likely saplings to take back to the cabin with me, as I wanted to test the machete's usefulness with more delicate work.

It worked just fine for trimming branches and peeling the bark off the wood.

I decided that I would make a fimbo (a maasai walking stick) as a first project.

The machete worked well as both a draw-knife and plane. Much shaping, when you are whittling, is done by holding the blade ninety degrees to the surface you are working on and scraping. If the knife (or machete) is properly sharpening it will take off a long strip of wood just like a block plane. It is much safer to shape a piece this way as you do not run the risk of having the grain of the wood "grab" the edge of your knife and cut too deeply.

The machete functioned quite well. The short blade was an advantage here. The good temper was a blessing since it allowed me to put a very sharp edge on the blade.

All in all the Cold Steel bolo machete is a pretty good tool, and given that the other common machetes such as Ontario brand will cost you twice the price of the equivalent Cold Steel items, it is a pretty good buy.

I do not think that I would choose the Cold steel over some of the better Central and South American brands, which will run you from $4.00 to $5.00 US and start with a better grind on the edge, but the Cold Steel Bolo did its job to my satisfaction.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

The Dervish and the Woodcutter, a Sufi Tale

One day a woodcutter, as he was walking to the forest where he would be working, met a traveling dervish.

After making greetings, the dervish asked the woodcutter if there might be some work that he could do in exchange for a meal and a place to sleep.

The woodcutter, who thought of himself as a hard but fair man, told the dervish that if he were willing to cut wood all day, and to do a good job, that there would be a meal and a place in the barn to sleep for him. The woodcutter also told the dervish that if he worked very hard and managed to keep up with him, that he would give him supplies for his travels beyond just one meal.

The dervish allowed that this was very generous, and said that he would do his best.

The two men arrived at the place where they would be cutting for the day, and the woodcutter showed the dervish where the various tools were stored, where to cut, and where to stack the wood.

The woodcutter started to work.

He was justly proud of his skill and ability working with his ax. He would start in the morning and not stop until evening when the light began wane.

For the first hour the dervish kept up with the woodcutter, but at the end of the hour the dervish went and sat under a tree for a good ten minutes.

The woodcutter thought to himself, "Just like a holy man, no taste for real work."

The dervish returned to his work, but at the end of the next hour he took another break.

This went on all day and the woodcutter became more and more indignant over what he saw as the dervish's laziness.

By the end of the day the woodcutter had decided to give the dervish a piece of his mind about the slothfulness of holy men. As he approached the dervish however, he noticed that the dervish's wood pile, that is was quit a bit bigger than his own.

The woodcutter came up to the dervish and said "What magic is this? I know that you took time each hour to rest in the shade, how did you manage to cut more wood than me, when I did not stop for a rest at all?"

The dervish replied "while you saw me sitting in the shade, what you did not notice was that I used the time to re-sharpen my ax."

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Teach Yourself

Because the "Powers that Be" don't want you to think.

One of the gravest disservices we have done to the people of this nation is to have provided them with a poor education. We have not taught students to think.

There is an old saying from Turkey, "If you act like a donkey there are plenty of people who are willing to ride you."

If you do not learn to effectively process information (and it is a learned skill) then you will always be at the mercy of people promoting their favorite dogmas.

THINK FOR YOURSELF, OR OTHERS WILL DO IT FOR YOU!

That is the problem, all sorts of people would like you to uncritically believe what they are telling you about the way the world is. Many of them pretend that such uncritical belief is "faith", which it is not.

If you do not have the tools to discover what a given person or group is really trying to sell you, then you are libel to be making some really wacky presuppositions about the world, which will in turn become the heuristics by which you operate.

About half of what we perceive as "intelligence" is the ability to process information effectively, so if you want to be "smarter" then all you have to do is improve in that area.

While this is pretty simple, it is not necessarily easy. In my experience, most people are conditioned to a way of thinking already comfortable to the individual. When a person tries to change the way they process information they run a good chance of evoking a "threat response" from within themselves.

The wonderful thing about the internet is that you have access to so much useful information. I you are reading this you are able to self-educate on a goodly number of subjects to a remarkable degree, and do it almost for free.

Here are some links to places where anyone can make themselves incrementally smarter with just a bit of diligent study and application.

And remember rule #14

"I not only have the right to think at all times, but the responsibility to do so."

Critical Thinking

Wikipedia Critical thinking overview

Mission Critical

Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Project

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills


Critical Thinking on the Web


Logical Fallacy

Logical fallacy from Wikipedia

Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies

The Adam Smith Institute, Logical Fallacies


Heuristics

Heuristic from Wikipedia

Judgment Heuristics and Biases

The Common Thinking Errors Page

English Prime

TOWARD UNDERSTANDING E -PRIME

E-Prime Tutorial

Quantum Psychology

A layman's personal perspective

English Prime as an Instructional Tool in Writing Classes



Memetics

Memes from Wikipedia

Meme Central

Memes.org


General Semantics

General Semantics from Wikipedia

The Institute of General Semantics

Korzybski's GENERAL SEMANTICS

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Way Too Disturbing

I am sure that we could come up with a similar list for Democrats.

It just shows the kind of people who seek power and the kind of people who we give our power to.

Check it out.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

A bit more on Rule #1

Here are a couple of nice links that address the "fossil record" fallacy that the Dogmatic Christian Taliban likes to wave about, and a little something to make you think about thinking.

Enjoy

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A PERSIAN LESSON

FOR his o'erarching and last lesson the greybeard sufi,

In the fresh scent of the morning in the open air, On the slope of a teeming Persian rose-garden, Under an ancient chestnut-tree wide spreading its branches, Spoke to the young priests and students.

"Finally my children, to envelop each word, each part of the rest, Allah is all, all, all—is immanent in every life and object, May-be at many and many-a-more removes—yet Allah, Allah,Allah is there.

"Has the estray wander'd far? Is the reason-why strangely hidden? Would you sound below the restless ocean of the entire world? Would you know the dissatisfaction? the urge and spur of every life; The something never still'd—never entirely gone? the invisible need of every seed?

"It is the central urge in every atom, (Often unconscious, often evil, downfallen,) To return to its divine source and origin, however distant, Latent the same in subject and in object, without one exception."
Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

HP Lovecraft was right

about how frightening New England is just under the surface

From the low weathered hills surrounding Arkham, Massachusetts to the ivied halls of Miskatonic University, down to the rank, fetid bay of Innsmouth, just under the surface of this placid country lies horrors unimaginable to the human mind.

You never know when, rounding a bend in the trail you may come across something uncanny.




My tasks are almost completed here, and soon I will have a few minutes to sit down and compile the tale of my adventures.

Assuming that is that I last out the night.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

The nature of Sin

(with thanks to Terry Pratchett.)

I have put this little snippet up as a result of a post by Sume.

An old woman and a priest are sitting by the road having a conversation. (The conversation starts on the classic subject of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?")

"Sixteen!"

"You've counted sixteen?" said Oats eventually.

"No, but it is as good an answer as any you'll get. And that's what you holy men discuss is it?"

"Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin, for example."

"And what do they think? Against it, are they?"

"It is not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray."

"Nope."

"Pardon?"

There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."

"It's a lot more complicated than that--"

"No it ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."

"Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes-"

"But they Starts with thinking about people as things."
From the book Carpe Jugulum

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Traveling

I will be on the road for the next ten days

But I will be able to jack in to the bloggingsphere from time to time, and so be able to regale you with my adventures.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Monday, May 09, 2005

Inviting Jesus to Dinner

I just ran across this

at a place called Slick Rick Da Blogger! (aka, Rick Root's Blog)

It struck me as fairly funny, and God knows, we could use a laugh just now.

=======================================

This evening, the doorbell rang. We live in a predominantly jewish suburban neighborhood of single family houses, a demographic fact known far and wide. I opened the door and was greeted by a nicely dressed man. "I have come to bring jesus to your home," he said.

I reacted almost immediately and asked, "Is he coming for dinner?"

The man said, "He will come any time you are ready."

Aha, I had a live one. "Well, tonight we're having a stir fry. Does jesus like chicken?" I asked. The man's eyes glazed slightly. "I don't know if he still keeps kosher, after all these years," I continued, "but this is a kosher home, so he'll be able to eat."

The man fumbled into a briefcase and handed me a printed brochure, which I ignored.

"If he wants to daven mincha before he comes, the shul is only three blocks from here," I said.

He gulped, "What?"

I repeated my statement and added, "You mean Jesus Christ, don't you?"

He nodded.

I continued, "Born in Bethlehem?"

He nodded and started to back away from my door.

I smiled and said, "If that's the guy, he's jewish." As he started to turn away, I said, "You're invited too, but no butter on your dinner roll." And the guy almost ran down the walk.

My wife asked me who was at the door and I told her, "Some friend of Jesus."

She knows me. She shrugged. "And did you invite him in?" she asked.

I nodded, "Sure. I invited him and Jesus to dinner, but the guy ran away."

She walked back into her office, and said over her shoulder, "You don't speak aramaic, dummy. Jesus would have a lousy evening here."

I told you, she knows me. I forgot all about the language problem.
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Rule #1 revisited

Jesus said "By their fruits you will know them"

As I suspected would happen, there has been a bit of misunderstanding about my post on evolution, the theory of natural selection, the theory of intelligent design, the theory of creationism, and Christian dogma.

Let me help everyone re-focus.

What anyone believes about any of these theories means exactly Jack Shit!

As I said in the last essay, "The value of a theory is found in its usefulness." The usefulness of a theory is a pretty good indicator as to how close to reality it is.

For example, if we have a theory that says that the earth is flat, sits in the center of the universe, and that the sun, moon, and planets revolve around it. We also have a theory that says that the sun is the center of the solar system, that the earth is pretty much spherical, and that it with the other planets revolve around the sun, and that moon does revolve around the earth.

what we discover is that the flat earth theory does not produce as much useful innovation as the round earth theory. Especially in the area of navigation. And the flat earth theory falls apart when we leave earth and go into space.

So rather than wrangling about the usual bullshit that comes up (and has come up) like "gaps in the fossil record" you need to examine what has been extrapolated from each of these theories.

As I pointed out in my last post, taking natural selection seriously has lead to all manner of useful discoveries and advancement in the bio-sciences.

Taking creationism seriously has lead to zero advancement in any sciences that I have been able to find.

Taking non-Christian dogma driven theories on intelligent design seriously has lead to some interesting initial results but nothing practical yet.

So what we see is that Christian dogma (as opposed to the teachings of Jesus) is bankrupt when it comes to scientific enquiry.

And here is the problem. Christian dogma is based on two fundamentals, first is that the bible is a 100% accurate account of reality. The second, which is extrapolated from the first, is that "Christians" are the only recipients of God's grace, and that they have the only "Truth". In short that everyone that is not a member of their fan club will be punished by God forever.

Of course scientific enquiry, especially in the areas of the bio-sciences, genetics, astronomy, physics, archeology, anthropology, and geology, to name a few, have shown that the bible (as opposed to the Torah which has some real survival value, but those are just the parts that Christian dogmatists reject) is not even remotely an accurate description of reality and that Christian dogma has been 100% incorrect about these areas.

This means that "creationism" with its demand that the bible be considered as a scientific document that is literally true in every respect is functionally useless for scientific inquiry.

If it were good for anything we would have seen at least a little advancement in our understanding of the universe over the last 2000 years while the Christian dogmatists held power coming out of this position, but we don't.

So when Christian dogma can't compete in the free market of ideas, it does what it has always done. It tries to legislate reality, preferably out of the barrel of a gun.

So we get laws insisting that we teach bullshit to students and pretend it is science. If it were science it would be good for something, and is isn't.

All the creationists have to do to demonstrate that they have a valid theory is to make something useful with it, cure a disease, make food crops more productive, anything.

But they have had almost two thousand years to do so, and have failed consistently. You could go so far as to say that the history of western science is the history of Christian dogma being wrong about everything it legislated as true about the natural world.

That is really what is going on in Kansas, Christian dogmatists are trying to force their world-view into the schools without having to go through the inconvenient process of demonstrating any real world value to these beliefs, and pretending that it is science.

My opinion is that Christians need to stop trying to legislate reality, need to stop trying to force their world-view down everyone's throats, and need to find some real fundamentals, like taking the teachings of Jesus seriously, something I have never personally seen.

The consequences to them not doing this is liable to be unpleasant for the whole planet, and I am just too old and grumpy to put up with another Dark Age.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Homesick

"God created Dune to test the faithful"

This phrase often goes through my head when I am traveling home. The desert has always been one of mankind's great teachers.


The Road Home

If you go quite some ways down this road, you will come to the place where I grew up. The few times I have taken people home with me from the "Great White World" they have been taken aback by the seeming starkness of the environment.

I am reminded of another phrase from Dune,
"The Kitab Al-Ibar, The Manual of the Friendly Desert,
the place full of life. Believe, and Al-Lat shall never burn you."
That is always how I think of the place where I grew up, the friendly desert, the place full of life.

The desert is completely unforgiving, one mistake, one action out of harmony with her and it can cost you your life. Folks from "civilization" come to the desert with all manner of hi-tech equipment to insulate themselves from the reality of the environment, they even bring their homes on wheels, complete with TV and wet bar, and still the desert claims a few of them every year.


Hidden Places

Unless you know where to look you will never find the secret places where water gives life to the dry land. Where the abundant wildlife and the green growing plants find what they need to nurture life in the desert.


Red Rock Canyons

You might be walking a hundred yards from one of these secret places and never notice if you don't know what to look for. Much of the South West is a big plateau, with deep canyons cut by rainfall and snow melt. If you can't read the land you may never find one of the life giving canyons.



The Peaks
Of course my home is not all desert. When you make the word for Apache in sign language, you first make the sigh for person (rather than Anglo or Mexican) and then the sign for mountain.

The mountains are sacred, they are a place of refuge, and they are where the Gan, the mountain spirits live.


sacred Hoop

If you walk quietly through the trees you might come across a "medicine wheel" at a place where someone stopped to pray, to connect with God and the spirit of the place, to seek a vision.



White House

And everywhere you go you see the places of the Old Ones, the Anasazi, who were here for thousands of years, and who are in fact still here.



Chaco

Their towns are found in the most unlikely places, and the stories of who they were are passed down from generation to generation.



Petrogliph

And they wrote about themselves on the cliff walls, leaving the stories of their lives and what they understood about the universe for anyone who can read them.



tse biyaa anii'ahi

Here I am, standing at the center of the world.

When I think about these things sometimes I get homesick.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Always Remember Rule #1

Rule #1 states "People are stupid!"

It goes on to say "while an individual person may exhibit signs of intelligence, "People" will tend to act in accordance with the least intelligent possibility (hence the popularity of right wing "republican" religious fascism throughout the world).

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the so called "debate" between evolution and "creationism".

Because there is a huge amount of disinformation on the subject I am going to take it upon myself to lay out the information in a way that anyone can understand.

Evolution is not a theory, it is an observable fact.

Get over it.

Natural selection is a theory about how evolution works. It is one of a few competing theories, but we will get to that in a moment.

The biblical creation story found in Genesis is a myth.

The theory of "intelligent design" as it is being advocated by the Christian Taliban is not in fact a theory of intelligent design, it is a smoke screen attempting to get people to accept the Genesis creation myth as fact.

At this juncture I should point out that the value of a theory is found in what comes out of it.

In the case of natural selection as a valuable theory, what has emerged from it is large sections of today's biological sciences, most importantly perhaps, the science of genetics.

Contrast this to all the scientific breakthroughs that have come from taking a literal view on the creation myth of Genesis, which are,........ How do I put this delicately? Well..... Absolutely none, zero, zip.

As a matter of fact, when it comes to observations of the natural world, Christian Dogma has been 100% incorrect.

The only reason that Christian dogma survived in the scientific community of Europe as long as it did was because it was enforced with sword and torch.

I should point out that far from taking the bible as literal truth, early "Christian dogma based science" was very selective about what it took from the bible. For instance it ignored all the rules about hygiene found in the Torah, which made Europe in the Dark Ages the planet's pesthole.

Now here is the thing, the world-view of the fundamentalist Christian Taliban is a straw house. The slightest breeze of objective inquiry begins to quickly erode it.

I will give you just one example.

The Christian Taliban dogma insists that the male of the species is of more importance, and is dominant over the female by "God's decree". But actual observation of the natural world tells us that the opposite is true.

I would go so far as to say that it is more likely, that when God created the first couple, he created Eve first, then Adam. Meditate on parthenogenesis for a bit and you will see what I mean.

There is a price you pay for legislating dogma, the best recent example of this is to be found in Stalin's support of T.D. Lysenko and his mandating that the evolutionary theories of Lamarck as the one official reality of the USSR.

What this did was to make Soviet genetic science almost completely unworkable.

This of course made it very difficult to produce enough food and other bio-resources. It also put the USSR years behind the US in the bio-sciences.

Interestingly, there are a couple of theories that support "intelligent design", the most promising of which is morphic resonance as formulated by Dr Rupert Sheldrake, but there are two problems. It doesn't support right wing Christian dogma, and the dogmatists in the scientific community are unwilling to objectively examine the data. (The Christians and Muslims are not the only groups that have a Taliban).

So when the Christian Taliban tell you that they only want their dogma to get equal time with rigorously tested scientific theories, you need to understand that what they are really saying is that they want to take the US into a new Dark Age.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Today is the Fifth of May, an important holiday for North America
(even if most of the people in the US don't understand why)

The nice thing about being from New Mexico is that I got to celebrate the Anglo, Native and Hispanic Holidays growing up, and so was never under the delusion that the history of America was the history of Anglos.

If you don't know why Cinco de Mayo is important to the whole contenent you can learn a bit about your history here.

Alta traición
No amo mi Patria. Su fulgor abstracto
es inasible.
Pero (aunque suene mal) daría la vida
por diez lugares suyos, cierta gente,
puertos, bosques de pinos, fortalezas,
una ciudad deshecha, gris, monstruosa,
varias figuras de su historia,
montañas
(y tres o cuatro ríos).

José Emilio Pacheco

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It's getting warmer outside these days

Which means it is almost time to start making one of my favorite hot weather drinks, lassi.

I first discovered lassi back in the dark ages when I was knocking around India seeking martial enlightenment. It is a very healthy and refreshing drink made from yogurt.

There are a number of different recipes for the drink, and almost all of them are really tasty.

Here is one of my favorites.

Amalaki Lassi

You will need:

Two cups of plain organic unflavored yogurt
Two cups of pure water
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Two Tblsp ground dried amalaki berry (you can get amalaki from Bazaar of India, a very good company, I get most of my ayurvedic herbs from them)
honey, unfiltered, raw organic

Mix two cups of yogurt and two tablespoons of dried amalaki berry thoughly, cover and let sit over night in the 'fridge.

next morning, in a blender add 2 oz boiling water and 1/4 tsp of ground cardamom, let sit for five minutes.

Add two cups of water and two cups of pre-prepared amalaki yogurt

sweeten to taste with honey, chill for an hour in the blender tank, reblend and serve.

You can chill it while blending by using 1.5 cups of water and .5 (and a bit) of ice when you blend.

It tastes good and is very good for you, enjoy.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Gun Kata

There is a movie called "Equilibrium" that has become something of a cult classic.

I have gotten a couple of emails lately asking about a martial art found in this movie.

The movie is a sort of spin on "1984" with the population of the world being kept in line by a mood altering drug, one that dulls emotional response. (not all that much different than what we see today)

There are a group of enforcers who go after anyone who has stopped taking the drug.



These enforcers ( who are called Tetragrammaton Clerics) practice "The Gun Kata" which supposedly is

"...a fighting style born out of aggressive statistical analyses of gun battles that teaches its practitioners how to enter a fight, analyze where the other fighters are and what they will do next, and then react with a perfectly orchestrated defense. In other words, these guys pretty much can wipe out a room in a half-second."
For a movie it is a fun idea, of course it is also completely not real, just something to make the movie more interesting. It succeeded quit well in this. The choreography was good.

But it is just a movie, you are not going to find the gun kata being taught in any decent martial arts school.

But......

There was one part of the movie that gave me an idea.

The last fight in the film, between the hero and the ultimate bad guy was very interesting for one reason. It was done in trapping range.

This got me to thinking, how would I train someone to deal with a gun at such close range?

This is what I came up with.

I took two practice pistols and drilled out the barrels, thin I fit them with colored acrylic tubing about 24 inches long. They look like this.


You need two people to play, but it helps to have a third person to add to the mix.

Each player puts the pistol in their strong hand and get into trapping range. Start with the pistol at your side. Whenever you want, try to touch your partner with the tube on your pistol, your partner does the same. If you are touched you have been shot. As you get better at the game you can add strikes and other techniques, but remember the main idea is to touch your partner with the tube of your pistol. BTW, you really need eye protection for this exercise.

If you have a third person give them a set of wood blocks, which they will clap together sharply at random intervals, simulating the sound of a gun shot (good for working on startle reflex). He should also have a pocket full of spent brass , and should toss shells at the players (because at that range you are going to be hit with flying brass).

It is an interesting drill/contest, try it and tell me what you think.

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Lest We Forget

Today is the 35th anniversary of the massacre at Kent State, Ohio, where the US military (National Guard) opened fire on unarmed protesters against the war in Viet Nam.

Four people were murdered, several more wounded, no one was ever held accountable for the atrocity. The people killed were basically children. (my apologies to you 19 and 20 year olds reading this, but from my perspective 35 years after the fact they seem so)

There is a rather good web page here that has some information and the lyrics to the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song "Ohio" which was one of our anthems against the war in those days.

We need to remember that the Right Wing has always used violence to control dissent, nothing has changed today, we just see fewer bullets and more "murder by idea" though that may change.

Take a moment to go to the site, look at the faces of the children killed by the Nixon goverment, think about all the lives cut short by the greed and power mad need to control the lives and resources of the world (on all sides) that have kept us in a constant state of war for most of our history. Is it worth it?

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Monday, May 02, 2005

I just got back from the 12th annual Sufism Symposium

(Flourish of Trumpets!!!!!)

(or lots of yawns, depending on your personal makeup)

I have been to several of them over the years, and have presented at a few, though it is usually my teacher who does that.

That is pretty much the only reason I go, because my teacher goes.

The event is hosted by the International Association of Sufism, which is a very good group and is run by real teachers, but they are a bit too intellectual for me. The speaker list is always loaded with Ph.D's but you will find very few ecstatic mystics invited to present. Also, their particular path is, to me, very dissociated from the body, and most of the students are thin, hard and rigid. Sometimes I just want to grab them and make them dance and laugh for an hour. (I actually did that once, certain people were not amused, but that is another story)

Though I go there to assist my teacher in whatever he might be doing (and to train the young dervishes in the art of serving their Shaykh, a practice in being awake)

It is also a treat to see some of the other teachers that come there.

My absolute favorite person is Shaykh Ahmed Tijani Ben Omar, who was sent to the US from Ghana several years ago to help lift Americans up spiritually.

Shaykh Tijani is a certified genius, who memorized the entire Quran by the time he was sixteen. He is a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence, a master of tafsir (exegesis) and has one of the most amazing voices you have ever heard. I could listen to him read Quran all day.

I also get to see good friends from other Sufi Schools that I rarely get to spend time with.

What most of the participants at these symposiums never realize is that there are always three symposiums going on, more or less at the same time.

The first is the public one, where people come and listen to the panel speakers and attend the workshops.

The second is the one where the teachers of the various tariqas get together and hang out. They will cover a lot of ground that will never be spoken of in a public milieu, the only people who get to hear what is going on are the teachers, and the people who attend them.

The third is the one where those of us who have been around for a while get together and talk among ourselves. We will often present something that we have been working on or have learned since the last time we got together. Sometimes we will just tell stories.

Here are some of the stories I told this weekend.

************

Responsibility of The Teacher, a Sufi Story

Haji Bektash Wali the great saint of Anatolia, appointed Nurudin Chaqmaq as his Khalifa ('deputy') in the farthest north.

At that time Sheikh Chaqmaq already had many disciples, for he was a man who had attracted, through his dedication and readings of the ancient masters, several circles of pupils. Moreover, he had been in intimate contact with more than one of the real teachers of the time.

The Haji Bektash gave him teachings which on the surface were strongly at variance with the traditional customs and thoughts to which his disciples were comfortable.

Chaqmaq tried to evade his responsibility by handling over his flock to the Haji Bektash. But Haji Bektash refused, and told Chaqmaq: `Only by acting as a channel from me to your people will you yourself become transformed.'

Chaqmaq feared that this new teaching would undermine his authority. `If you teach only through authority, you are not teaching at all,' said Haji Bektash. Certain of Chaqmaq's disciples came to complain to Haji Bektash that their master was behaving in an eccentric manner. `We are no longer able to have the comfort of the customary observances,' they said. `This is exactly what I want to happen,' said Haji Bektash.

Other students feared that Haji Bektash had influenced Chaqmaq in strange ways, and that he would influence them similarly. This was reported to Haji Bektash. He said: `They see something good happening to Chaqmaq but they think it is bad. This is a fever which has to burn itself out.'

Four years passed before, entirely through the example of their teacher, Chaqmaq's disciples realized that Haji Bektash had other things to do than `capture lame horses'. Haji Bektash said: `It was your own egocentricity which made you imagine that you were something which anyone would bother himself to enslave.'


When someone sees duality in
existence, this is shirk. (attributing partners to God)
When someone hides the truth of his
own Identity, this is kufr. (infidelity)

So consider yourself mushirk if you see
anything but God. Consider yourself
kaafar if you do not know yourself.

"Mutu qablan tamutu." (Die before you die)

Hazrat Ali Ibn Abu Talib
************

There is a story of Gautama that is usually only told in part. The part that is spoken of is often quoted by people who would like to make a spiritual path that is comfortable for them, one where they can pick and choose their lessons.

"The Buddha asked his disciples how they would get across a river. 'With a boat', they replied. The Buddha asked, 'When you arrived at the other shore, would you carry the boat with you or would you leave it on the margin?', The disciples replied,'We would leave it on the margin and go on without it'.The Buddha said,'In the same way, when you arrive at the other side of the river, you may leave the boat of doctrine and practice.'"

Here is the rest of the story:

Buddha and his disciples came to a river and taking a boat, crossed. The Buddha then delivered the parable given above. The disciples, understanding the meaning of the story, left the boat and followed Buddha on his journey. In a few hours they came to another river. Buddha sat under a tree laughing, and waited for his disciples to go back and fetch the boat they left on the shore of the first river.


It is not a "thing" that you get, it is a process.
It doesn't matter what poetry you quote
The poet means what he means,
not what you wish he meant.

No matter how often you call a weed a rose,
You will never change its scent.
And the only river that matters
Is the one that you find at the end of your life.

The question is, when you reach the banks,
Have you developed the strength and discipline
You will need to make it to the other side.
Or will you be swept away into oblivion.

Thinking about enlightenment is not the same as being awake.
The map is not the territory, but if you insist that you are in
Ifsfahan when you are in Shiraz, you will never make it to Mecca
No mater how good your map is.

The saddest ones of all Are the ones who,
thinking they see the shore, Leave the boat in the middle of the
river.
And then tell us that breathing water
Is enlightenment.

************

The way we speak of "Muslim" and "Sufi" leads the ignorant to assume that these words refer to things. They don't.

When I say that "Sufi" has no positive relation to dogma, that dogma is meaningless in connection to "Sufi", the ignorant also assume that this means that there is no connection to the practice of "Islam". (another verb disguised as a noun)

"Sufi" means to use the practice of Islam as it was meant to be used, as spiritual discipline and training rather than the dogmatic, unconsciously performed rote actions. One who practices "Islam" is given certain exercises such as the five times daily prayer, fasting, following the "fards", etc. Sufi means being awake to these practices. "Muslim" is the act of consciously, freely, submitting oneself to the "contract" (Din) between God and Human as expressed through the instructions given to the Prophet Muhammad (saws) by God that contains the instructions for these practices.

Dogmatists of every ilk think that if they follow rote, external pattern, that is enough. From the point of view of one who practices tasawwuf, this is a "breach of contract".

One can follow other contracts, expressed by other Messengers, Such as the contract expressed by Musa or Isa, and Allah assures us that this is acceptable, but this could not be called Tasawwuf.

One should not expect Allah to honor a unilateral contract made up by someone to fit their connivance.

************

I was asked to comment on this story
There was once a Sufi shaykh of great knowledge and wisdom who traveled from town to town with his disciples.

One of his disciples was going around telling everyone "come come see the shaykh who can prove Allah's existence in 70 different proofs!!"

When an old woman heard this...she said.."What's so incredible about that....All it means is that he has 70 doubts he has to disprove!" When the shaykh heard this he told his student.."see that..take iman from the simple people."

Islam is simple,..In the end everything is. Its our need to articulate that gives an illusion of complexity. We don't need a number to prove anything and one who does has doubts, severe ones at that.

You don't need proofs to give you certainty (yaqeen)...Love is for the sake of Love.

And I said:

Now here is an interesting story, but not for the obvious reasons.

There are a few questions that should perhaps be asked if this story is to be understood.

First, what makes us think that this "Great Shaykh" actually knew anything at all? He did after all allow his student to go around town saying "come come see the shaykh who can prove Allah's existence in 70 different proofs!!" Anyone who permits his student to do that might in fact be a complete boob rather that anyone who really knows anything.

What about the old woman's reply was simple?

Was it simple because she was old? Or a woman?

Now here is the "TRUTH" (yes I did say that with tongue in cheek) :-D

The "Shaykh" was in fact an imposter who had no clue that he was a fake who was just feeding his ego standing there with his big turban and his followers and his "Proofs". The old woman was the Qtub of her time (nah, Allah would never really have a woman be the Qtub). What she said to him was an attempt to awaken him from his fantasies about himself. That he calls her "simple" shows that he doesn't get it yet. His answer to her statement was a condescension to keep himself and his followers from seeing the truth about themselves.

My questioner then said to me:

Islam is simple,..In the end everything is. Its our need to articulate that gives an illusion of complexity. We don't need a number to prove anything and one who does has doubts, severe ones at that.

You miss the fact that simple does not mean easy. Any halfway decent programmer will tell you that simple is the most difficult, most complex thing to achieve. A clod will hack together a program with 1000 lines of code. A master will do the same program with 100 lines. Allah makes human bodies with 23 pairs of chromosomes. Simple, Yes?

Now, you say "We don't need a number to prove anything and one who does has doubts, severe ones at that." And I ask, "Are you omniscient, that you know what everyone else needs/has needed/will need? If not, then you can only speak with any certainty about yourself.

Judging from the number of different kinds of bugs there are, I suspect that Allah likes diversity. So I deem it possible that He has both put people on paths where they need numbers AND provided the numbers for them.

************

So this is what goes on behind the scenes at these symposiums, this is what the servants talk about downstairs when everyone else is asleep.

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