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October 30, 2000

Some Nader supporters have started to promote this idea of vote swapping, in which you can simultaneously vote for Nader and against Bush by "swapping" your Nader vote with someone who was planning to vote for Gore who lives in a state that Bush is already certain to win. Apparently the Justice Department has looked at this and declared it legal. I happen to know two people who would like to vote for Nader but are registered to vote in Oregon and California (one each --- California isn't really a tossup state but it's getting a little tighter for Gore there), and I'd like to invite people who read this who live in a Bush-secure state like Texas who were planning to vote for Gore to "trade" with us. Please email if you're interested... any Austin residents up for this?

My friend Piet Hut, a professor of astrophysics at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies (the place where Einstein spent the latter part of his career), is being sued by the Institute to revoke his tenure with no reasonable grounds. The Institute seems to disapprove of his direction of research, which focuses on computer simulation of the behavior of stellar clusters and galaxies, an approach currently less favored in the astrophysics community. He has also become interested in the interface between philosophy and science, with a particular interest in phenomenology and Eastern philosophy, and there is the implication that the IAS disapproves of this. Naturally, revoking tenure simply because an instution disapproves of the content of its faculty members' research is a complete violation of the whole notion of tenure in the first place. You can find more information on the lawsuit here with statements of support from over 45 distinguished academics from around the world (and more keep coming), including Ed Turner, professor of astrophysics at Princeton, Robert Thurman, the well known Buddhist Studies scholar at Columbia (and father of Uma Thurman), Walter Lewin, well-known professor of physics at MIT, Richard Muller, professor of physics at UC Berkeley, and many others. Even Science magazine has this week carried an article on the scandal. It seems that Piet has a rock-solid case against the IAS, however, and this is only going to make the IAS look very bad.

In the September 1 issue of Science magazine, Simon Melov of the Buck Institute for Age Research published a study indicating the use of two drugs, synthetic versions of catalase and superoxide dismutase in worms lengthened their life span by 33% by acting to thwart damage caused by free radicals. They are currently starting a study to see if the same effect occurs in mice.

Paul Perry (Alamut) posts the following excerpt from an email he received from Ian le Cheminant:

Don Juan portrays an alien mind, inimical to our well being, that feeds on human awareness. What's more, the better for us to serve its purposes, it controls our consciousness. In fact it is the consciousness we think we are. Don Juan's portrait is like that of the worm waving to the birds from the top of a piece of grass. (This line relates to worms infected with a virus that takes over control of the worms' behavior.) Don Juan says that the idiocy of the normal human consciousness is an implant that renders us docile food for our masters.
"The idiocy of the normal human consciousness" is not just idiocy but in fact he is referring to the very idea of ordinary "self" that comprises what appears to be who we are. It's an amusing conspiracy theory to imagine that this is actually an alien implant... it certainly seems to be quite alien in a way.

October 28, 2000

Just got back from Miranda July's performances in Olympia and Seattle, who, along with Zac Love and Astria Suparak presented excerpts from a new Joanie 4 Jackie Co-Star Tape, Some Kind of Loving, and The Swan Tool, a new multimedia piece which I helped with (did video compositing, assembly, and some editing). It was great to see all the elements put together, and to see the crowds in Olympia (Miranda's old haunt) turn out enthusiastically for the show. Miranda is touring down the coast, including the Bay Area and Los Angeles; see here to find out when the performance will be near you.

I also visited with the ever-charming Khaela Maricich, an Olympia artist, and had fun helping her make some postcards advertising the closing party for her art show in Seattle at Speakeasy. The show is 6:30pm at 2304 2nd Avenue on Sunday, November 5. Expect Khaela and her friends to do some singing and a little bit of performance art.

It's funny to see obscure local things highlighted in national media... like Kill Rock Stars or the Bijou Cafe... An L.A. Times article today highlights the Gore-Nader dilemma and interviews people from the Northwest, including Olympia-based Kill Rock Stars' staff member Maggie Vail:

And out in Olympia, Wash., at the Kill Rock Stars independent recording label, Maggie Vail says her colleagues talk of little else. "My sister switches back and forth every day" between Nader and Vice President Al Gore, she says. When did Vail decide she had to go for Gore? "Probably just in the last week."
as well as covering a conversation between Vice Presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman at the Bijou Cafe right here in Portland:
In a striking tableau Friday in Oregon, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman sought to win over one Nader supporter as he visited the Bijou Cafe, an organic eatery in downtown Portland.

He spent several minutes trying to convince Mike Manning, 40, that voting for Gore is the wiser course. "I understand that its not an easy decision," the Connecticut senator said, standing next to Manning, who was perched on a stool eating breakfast. "Obviously our feeling is that most of the Nader people--not all, but most of the Nader people--if Nader were not in, would probably vote for Al Gore and me as opposed to Bush . . . just because of the difference on issues like environmental protection or consumer protection, [abortion] choice or money in politics.

"I know Ralph really well. Hes actually from Connecticut. And weve had a friendship relationship for a long time, and Ive admired him a lot of the time, but I guess Id urge you to think about how youll feel on Nov. 8 and you wake up and George Bush has carried Oregon and is president because a lot of people voted for Nader."

Manning, a bread truck driver and father of three, was unconvinced.

"I have to look in my childrens eyes when they look at me and say, Why are species dying? " he told Lieberman. "And . . . I think we need to really back off of the corporate push for money and the growth economy. I dont mind paying more for gas if its going to save a species."

October 25, 2000

From a New York Times article posted today on a relatively quiet day in the Middle Eastern conflict:

The Israeli Foreign Ministry's Web site crashed today under a coordinated assault by thousands of supporters of Palestinians who called it up simultaneously. In Beirut last week, the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, or Party of God, said that its Web site had gone down under a similar attack by Israeli hackers. Hezbollah said its webmaster was designing counter-measures.
There just seems to be something unutterably amusing about this, but I can't put my finger on exactly what it is.

October 24, 2000

Mayan CalendarSome calendrical thoughts. Susan was saying that she was at Powell's and she saw all the new calendars for 2001; she remarked that she was a little surprised because somehow unconsciously she wasn't really expecting 2001 --- she had kind of been thinking that it would be 2000 and that would be it. We talked about calendars for a while, how they were once more closely associated in our minds with coordinating our lives with that of the Heavens, tracking the sun, moon, planets, and stars: forming the core of early science, astronomy, astrology --- and now we just think of them as ways of scheduling our lives.

I was so bored in elementary school that from second through fourth grade I would do all of the homework for the year in one burst in the first month. I did this with a friend of mine (Steve Hall) and the teachers then let us go out and play for most of the school day (i.e., during the time that the other kids were doing spelling or math drills, we'd be out in the field playing because we'd already finished them). Thinking back on it it really sounds wacky that they'd let us do that, but it was a small town and I guess they were rather flexible with the rules.

Though it was fun to play outside with my friend Steve the fact is I really wanted school to end. I hated school (I didn't hate to learn -- I hated the fact that what they were teaching was so uninteresting most of the time. I got much more from watching Nova and reading books on my own time.) So I decided, each year, to make a special calendar with which I could, at a glance, instantly determine the exact number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the last tick of the clock on the last day of school. I covered an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper with tiny figures and tables from end to end and somehow I would be able, with this device, to make the instant calculation. It's strange because right now I have no idea how I did it or what was contained in all the tables and charts, but it was relatively involved as I recall. Even at the time I always forgot how I had done it in the previous year, so I had to sort of reinvent it each time. The funny thing was each year it seemed to come out more or less in the same form (or at least it seemed very familiar when I was done with it).

Somehow having this little paper device gave me great comfort. "110 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes until the end of the school year," I would quickly tell myself whenever the ennui got to me. And then, for some odd reason, it didn't seem so bad.

But I finally put an end to my boredom in tenth grade, and since then I've never been bored. I'll tell that story another time.

October 19, 2000

Been doing a lot of video editing lately, mostly for Miranda July's new multimedia piece, The Swan Tool. She's performing the intial version of it tomorrow night at the Cinematexas festival. Adobe Premiere is a fairly unreliable program, I might note. And it is awkward to use. But, you can do quite a bit with it, despite these flaws. I do wish Adobe would do a major rewrite of the thing, though.

Paul Perry inspires me to note some other stricken words:

The title to a Buddhist teaching text written by Steven Tainer is "Contemplating Reality" (sic). Steven said he felt that he wanted to make sure that people understood that he meant to use the word reality with a certain caveat or reservation.

Heidegger wanted to communicate beyond words, so he took to giving his students demonstrations. For example, one day, he wrote the word Being (Sein) on the blackboard:

Then, he crossed it out:
Actually, he X'd it out, as I heard the story, but there's no <xout> tag in HTML.

October 15, 2000

elevator sheenToday I went into a rarely-used elevator by myself; outside there were many loud and boisterous people. I wanted a respite so I could visualize new ideas. I stood against one wall and tried to listen to what Virginia Woolf called "the rhythm". This particular elevator had two cool blue panels covering the wall opposite me, with a slight vertical space in between. As I leaned back and looked into the distance, I felt images from my mind play themselves out vividly against them. I thought to myself, I'd really like to stay here a bit longer --- but how? It's an elevator, meant for temporary residence. The elevator reached its destination and the doors opened to another floor filled wth people, and I hit the button to go back up --- at least I could maintain my meditations a few more moments.

Then it occurred to me, why shouldn't I simply stay in the elevator after the doors shut? Like the refrigerator when you close the door, it's not something one ordinarily gets to see. I rode the elevator back up, the doors opened again, and then I just waited until they closed. Then, there I was, in an elevator in a state which I had never experienced: when it thinks that it is empty, and it has no task in particular to perform.

What will it do now, I wondered? I imagined it might just stay at this floor --- or it might go down to the bottom. It decided to do the latter, and so I found myself again riding in the elevator down, but this time it was moving not in response to any human request; it was following its own patterns. But I was riding along with it. It reached the ground floor and instead of opening its doors to receive new charges, it just sat there, doors silent and shut, with I encompassed within it, a hidden visitor.

Quiet. I felt my way into the space of this elevator, which now seemed to me to be an entire universe, one which human beings were not meant to see. It did not feel claustrophobic or constrained; rather, I felt the walls disappear, and I imagined light, glowing brighter with each second, pouring silently in through the panels across from me. I stood in attentive appreciation for several minutes, until, sadly, the elevator returned to service and trundled back up again, and I stepped out when it reached those who had called it to them, and strolled out as though nothing were out of the ordinary. The people I walked past on their way in to the elevator had no idea where I had been.

October 13, 2000

When the Zen master Bodhidharma came to China, legend has it that he met with the Emperor, who thought of himself a devout Buddhist. The Emperor asked him, "I have built many temples and fostered Buddhism. What merit have I accumulated by so doing?" Bodhidharma said, "None whatsoever." The Emperor was puzzled, but proceeded to ask, "What is the most holy phenomenon?" Bodhidharma answered, "In Heaven and on Earth, there is nothing that can be called holy." The Emperor, perturbed by this apparently sacreligious answer, demanded, "Who are you who appears before me?" Bodhidharma replied, "I do not know," and he left. The Emperor asked his advisor, "Who was that man?" The advisor, a more discerning man than the Emperor, replied, "He was a living example of the principle of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion." The Emperor, now feeling sorry, said, "Call him back!" The advisor said, "Even if you send all your horses and men after him, he will never come back." This is the story I thought about when I heard of the violence in the Middle East recently, over things like holy sites and relics and old temples. Yes, of course, it's nice to preserve these old things. But reality is right here, now, all around us. It's not located in the past, in some objects, or places.

October 12, 2000

If you got an anonymous email from "" you are not alone; for some reason, this prankster seems to be going around reading weblogs and then sending anonymous and incoherent rants to them under the cover of this remailer. I discovered his scam because he accidentally sent two rants to me, one of them intended for "Sharon" (don't know whose blog that is), complaining about her advocacy of Ralph Nader, and one aimed at me (I won't bother summarizing his banal comments). Anyway, just a warning to those who got an email from this guy, he seems to be in some sort of pointless grinding-of-the-gears kind of obsession.

Gulag of ChumpsA long while ago my friends (primarily Susan, Jeff, and Darlene) made a funny web site of art and poetry and humor they called The Gulag of Chumps, which I deposited on my personal account on an old conferencing system called The WELL. The WELL staff unearthed these pages and featured them a few weeks ago, but then, to my amazement, Salon found them yesterday and actually linked to them from their home page on the left sidebar, for a day (the link is gone now). Quite an unexpected and welcome surprise, even though a little embarrassing, since those pages contained all sorts of outdated email links, they use some web design techniques which we wouldn't use today, like frames, etc. I quickly fixed the links, a bit too late since they took the reference down this morning. But I did a triple-take when I saw "Gulag of Chumps" on Salon ... I thought I must be dreaming. "Somebody in the news decided to use that name?"

October 7, 2000

What I have discovered, obvious to me now, is that not only is it possible to in some sense drop one's conceptual superstructure and allow one's being to come forward (from a certain point of view), but in this journey (in which one never leaves home and, in fact, never moves at all) into the absolute ground of Being one can, in fact, bring back with you some treasures which can appear in the form of thoughts, or messages, as it were. These messages are remarkably coherent and understandable, even though they arise from that realm which is itself not, in fact, expressible or understandable in ordinary terms, at all. The message is not in and of itself the insight; the insight is beyond words, nevertheless you can have a message, and it can be quite clear, precise, and specific to the conscious mind. This is strange because we are used to thinking of ideas as coming from what appear to be other ideas; not just sort of emerging as it were from the apparently unknowable.

On a completely frivolous note, some glitches in a New York Times article today resulted in the following humorous sequence:

Kostunica's comments came after talks with Greek ������ ��� ���� � � ������� � ��������������� � � ��� esident support.

Papandreou expressed his admiration for the peaceful transition that the Yugoslavs accomplished and said � � � ��� ��半����� �������� ���� ������������ ���� � �� � ���

I guess they had some difficulty translating Papandreou's remarks.

October 6, 2000

Back from a remarkable retreat at which I began to discover some very deep insights into the nature of my particular being. It's interesting that the first set of insights I had while doing this sort of Zen and Taoist practice were relatively abstract; general insights into the constructed nature of the self and of concepts of objects, and so on. These were very valuable, but more recently I have had more concrete insights into my own actual situation, in particular. The strange thing is how obvious they seem to be in retrospect; they were simply too obvious and too close to be able to see them. We miss the obvious, every day, that which is closer than the nose on your face. Too close to see clearly, until we stop using conceptual props to see and just directly (in some sense) see our actual situation. Of course what one is "doing" there isn't seeing in the usual sense of the word, but more like dropping one's reliance on one's constructs to enable being to express itself in some sense more directly.

Came back to read the news about Yugoslavia. I don't know exactly why, but for some strange reason tears always come to my eyes when I read or see a story about people who are in the position of being instruments of authority who come to recognize that their situation is untenable and they need to reform themselves or give up. This particular passage from Paul Watson's article in the L.A. Times brought involuntary tears to my eyes:

The special police, whose sharpshooting skills would make them useful in any attempt to violently crush street demonstrations, turned in their equipment and said they were leaving because, according to the newspaper, they could "no longer be accomplices in this kind of police work and could not bear the newly created situation" in the aftermath of the election.

Police Col. Zivko Trajkovic, commander of the Serbian Interior Ministry's Special Anti-Terrorist Squad, was among a number of police officials reportedly fired Sept. 29.

October 1, 2000

Have you heard of this study that there is evidence that tofu causes or accelerates brain aging? The study indicated that eating tofu twice a week in middle life can cause a 2.5x increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Although I am Japanese-American, I never liked tofu much, so I welcome this study... but I want to warn my friends about this --- you might want to switch to other sources of vegetable protein. I certainly will.

On the way to a Taoist meditation retreat in Sonoma County, California, visited Monty and Jane, who live in solar house completely off the grid in Southern Oregon with their daughter and two dogs. Had a wonderful time visiting with them and another old friend, Andy Dunn, a writer, who is always hilarious and always in the know about things local and global.

Monty is a programmer and he recommended that I check out the <bigwig> programming language, a new server-side Web development language with some fascinating features, one of which is its metamorphic syntax macros, a scheme which allows you to extend the grammar of the language in a powerful way.

While watching their baby daughter play with her toys, it occurred to me to think about toys that somehow encourage children to think in context-sensitive ways. It seems that most toys involve the children identifying objects, matching shapes; but what about context? While we were talking about this, Jane brought up the work of Gregory Bateson. A book I haven't yet read on Bateson's ideas which some recommend: A Recursive Vision : Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson.

Monty also turned me on to the new 3D printing technology: for example, the ThermoJet 3D solid object printer. There are several new 3D printing technologies; some applications include being able to print replacement parts for machines, or print shoes, etc. It is actually possible to even print objects like a chain using some of these technologies.