Sunday, May 31, 2015

“Rightwing Nuthouse: The Right's 5 Biggest Disasters This Week”

“The Right's 5 Biggest Disasters This Week”
By Janet Allon 

“1. Scott Walker becomes early front-runner for the Todd Akin “legitimate-rape” award. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker thinks that women who want to have abortions should be required to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds first because they are “lovely.” Not the women, the ultrasounds. They are, the GOP presidential aspirant said, “a cool thing.” He shared this deep thought with conservative radio host Dana Loesch, then bragged that, of course, his end game is to prevent abortions altogether. Because forcing women to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds is not quite intrusive enough—he’d like to also dictate when they become mothers. “If (most people) saw that unborn child (they) would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child,” he said, tipping his fairly obvious hand.

Then he blamed the media for making it sound like passing a law forcing women to have ultrasounds when they don’t want or need them is somehow anti-abortion. Ha! Cuckoo, right? “Most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time that pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.”

So Scott Walker would like to order a round of “cool” ultrasounds for everyone, except of course the people who might actually need them, like uninsured pregnant women who are planning to have the baby. Because providing needed medical care, now that would be socialism.

2. GOP Maine governor Paul LePage has a teeny tiny little meltdown over not getting his way. It takes a mature leader with a steady temperament to lead a state... well, that’s one way to go, anyway. Or you could elect someone like Paul LePage, who this week promised to veto every piece of legislation sponsored by Democratic lawmakers in the state until he gets his way. His way is a constitutional amendment banning the income tax, and he wants that god-dang legislature to pass it. Or, frankly, he’s just going to take his toys and go home.

“The governor of Maine is going to make sure that every bill that comes down from the House and the Senate with a Democrat sponsor, will be required to have a two-thirds vote. Because I'm going to veto every one,” he said in a press conference, inexplicably talking about himself in the third person at first. “And I did a bunch this morning.” Interestingly, after this hissy fit, he said his Democratic nemeses in the State House are behaving like children and need a “playpen.”

Read more here.

3. Bill O’Reilly just comes out and says people who don’t agree with him are idiots. Bill O’Reilly got some jarring news this week. A new Gallup poll showed that the country is evenly spilt between liberal and conservative leanings. He had a ready explanation, though. “I believe only about 50 percent of the American people take the time to understand important issues,” he explained, slowly so that his viewers could understand him. “Half the country does not; they are simpletons, unwilling and unable to discipline themselves into formulating a philosophy of life.”

Bill, really not nice to insult the people who watch your show that way. It’s all the fault of the entertainment industry, he continued. “The stars are lined up in favor of liberal thought, and that is a powerful influence.” But wait, Bill. You’re the only star in our firmament. 

O’Reilly particularly has it in for that dastardly show "Modern Family," which has somehow made it seem “mainstream” to have a “gay lifestyle.” Yeah, why does every one like that show so much? Just because it's funny. Is that it? Now you people like to laugh? “Some who support gay marriage have branded the opposition as bigots,” O'Reilly whined. “A powerful, but unfair, indictment.”  Hmmm, care to elaborate on how that is not fair, Bill?

One sign that everyone who does not think like he does are idiots is the re-election of Barack Obama. Dumbo Americans failed to “grasp” Obama’s politics, O’Reilly said. Sucks to be the smartest guy in the universe blathering endlessly to idiots.

4. Colorado Republican has a novel idea for St. Patrick now that Ireland has approved same-sex marriage. Just because he got elected to the Colorado State legislature doesn’t mean TV evangelist Gordon Klingenschmitt is giving up his day job of spouting insane anti-gay rhetoric. Klingenschmitt was a tad bummed about the news that Ireland recently and overwhlemingly approved gay marriage. “There was a time when it was said that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland,” Klingenschmitt told viewers of his not-to-be missed “Pray in Jesus Name” telecast. “And now I’m concerned that the snakes have returned to Ireland. And when I say snakes, I’m not talking about physical snakes, I’m talking about the demonic spirits inside of some of the people you see parading their sin in pride around the country, rejecting not just the Catholic Church but rejecting Jesus Christ himself.”

So, comparing gay people to snakes. No, that's not hate speech. Klingenschmitt is known for his entirely sane takes on news events, like when he suggested that the stabbing of a pregnant Colorado woman was probably lordly retribution for the fact that abortion is legal. Or when he posted a petition on his website citing seven ways a Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay rights legally “harmed” Klingenschmitt’s traditional, and no doubt wonderful marriage to a woman. He also once accused a gay opponent of wanting to be like ISIS and behead Christians right here in America.

(Voters in Colorado, you got some ‘splaining to do.)

5. Phyllis Schlafly: Women enjoy the wage gap. Anti-feminist crackpot Phyllis Schafly proved once again this week that she has never actually spoken to a single woman in her life. She has written another book, (hooray, what the world needs now is another Phyllis Schlafly book! She has written, oh,  like, 20 of them! Turning 90 has not slowed her down one bit!) The new one is called “Who Killed The American Family.” It’s a whodunit, of course, and as Right Wing Watch points out, "Spoiler: It’s not just the gays.”

Though there are many co-conspirators in the murder of the family, Schalfly zeroed in on an odd one during the interview: “The free trade people who have done the work of the feminists by getting rid of [middle class] jobs.” Okay, a little confused. Is this uber-Republican against a free market and free trade? And since when did feminists make it their mandate to get rid of middle class jobs? We must have missed that meeting.

Did someone say jobs? That reminds Schafly of the gender pay gap, which she said is actually something that women like. Unequal pay is a turn on. “Women like to marry a man who makes more than she does,” she explained, patiently, again, “so then she can take time off and work fewer hours when she has something she’d rather do like have a kid and look after her children. So the pay gap, really, is something that women like.”

Schlafly has an interesting list of co-conspirators which she shared with VCY America’s very informative show “Crosstalk”: No-fault/unilateral divorce, U.N. treaties from bureaucrats who don't understand our way of life, expensive college loans and the family courts. Also, there’s welfare reform, globalism vs. homemakers, psychological disorders, advice from newspapers, over-medicating children, and the influence of television and more. 

She would have mentioned the Internet, but she does not know what that is. There’s also the kitchen sink. And the gays. Did we mention the gays?”

Musical Interlude: Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”

Tron Syversen, “Moonlight Reflections”

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Seen one galaxy, seen 'em all? Not on your life: The Hubble Space Telescope has captured lots of fantastic pictures of spiral galaxies during its 20-plus years of operation, as you can see in our lineup of "Hubble's Greatest Hits." But I have a feeling that today's image of the galaxy NGC 4911 will be joining the hit parade. This jewel and the other gems in the setting are part of the Coma Cluster, a gathering of galaxies 320 million light-years away from Earth in the northern constellation Coma Berenices. You can make out the wispy tracks of NGC 4911's outer spiral arms, which are being pulled out by the gravitational tug of the neighboring galaxy just to the right (known as NGC 4911A). In today's image release, the Hubble Heritage team says that the material stripped away from the central spiral will be dispersed throughout the galaxy, fueling the creation of new stars.
Click image for larger size.
The cluster is home to nearly 1,000 galaxies in all - and the gravitational interactions involving all those galaxies spark starbirth galore. In NGC 4911, you can see the sparkles of newborn star clusters sprinkled amid iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen. And if you look closely at a higher-resolution view of the scene, you'll spot dozens of galaxies in the background where that story of creation is being repeated countless times.

This picture is the result of 28 hours' worth of exposures made over the course of three years, using Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys. Some of those exposures were made in 2006 and 2007, before the ACS broke down and the WFPC2 was replaced. Others were made in 2009, after the ACS was fixed and WFPC2 was replaced by Wide Field Camera 3. All those exposures were put together for the Hubble Heritage project. For more pictures from the new, improved Hubble, check out our slideshow of latest, greatest Hubble hits.

"What We Might Have Been..."

“No star is ever lost we once have seen,
We always may be what we might have been.”

- Adelaide Anne Procter 

"Time Passes..."

"Time passes in moments. Moments which, rushing past, define the path of a life, just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen? To consider whether the path we take in life is our own making, or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed? But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And, seeing those choices, choose another path?"
- Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, "The X-Files"

"The Time of Your Life: Learning to Slow Down"

"The Time of Your Life: Learning to Slow Down"
 by The DailyOm

"Throughout our lives, we are taught to value speed and getting things done quickly. We learn that doing is more valuable than merely being, and that making the most of life is a matter of forging ahead at a hurried pace. Yet as we lurch forward in search of some elusive sense of fulfillment, we find ourselves feeling increasingly harried and disconnected. More importantly, we fail to notice the simple beauty of living. When we learn to slow down, we rediscover the significance of seemingly inconsequential aspects of life. Mealtimes become meditative celebrations of nourishment. A job well-done becomes a source of profound pleasure, no matter what the nature of our labors. In essence, we give ourselves the gift of time—time to indulge our curiosity, to enjoy the moment, to appreciate worldly wonders, to sit and think, to connect with others, and to explore our inner landscapes more fully.

A life savored slowly need not be passive, inefficient, or slothful. Conducting ourselves at a slower pace enables us to be selective in how we spend our time and to fully appreciate each passing moment. Slowness can even be a boon in situations that seem to demand haste. When we pace ourselves for even a few moments as we address urgent matters, we can center ourselves before moving ahead with our plans. Embracing simplicity allows us to gradually purge from our lives those commitments and activities that do not benefit us in some way. The extra time we consequently gain can seem like vast, empty stretches of wasted potential. But as we learn to slow down, we soon realize that eliminating unnecessary rapidity from our experiences allows us to fill that time in a constructive, fulfilling, and agreeable way. We can relish our morning rituals, linger over quality time with loved ones, immerse ourselves wholeheartedly in our work, and take advantage of opportunities to nurture ourselves every single day.

You may find it challenging to avoid giving in to the temptation to rush, particularly if you have acclimated to a world of split-second communication, cell phones, email and overflowing agendas. Yet the sense of continuous accomplishment you lose when you slow down will quickly be replaced by feelings of magnificent contentment. Your relaxed tempo will open your mind and heart to deeper levels of awareness that help you discover the true gloriousness of being alive." 

"A Dent In The Universe..."

"Listen to me. We're here to make a dent in the universe.
Otherwise why even be here?"
- Steve Jobs

Chet Raymo, “Salt And Nerves”

“Salt And Nerves”
by Chet Raymo

“I like to think that every day offers at least one unique revelation, some one thing seen or experienced that has not been seen or experienced before, at least not in the same emotional state, in the same context, in the same slant of light. So I walk wary, as the poet Sylvia Plath says, "ignorant/ Of whatever angel may choose to flare/ Suddenly at my elbow." Nature seldom disappoints.

Let me introduce you to another poet, my colleague here at the college, Anna Ross. In the particular poem I want to share she is walking with a companion and comes upon the bleached skeleton of an elk, its upturned ribcage "picked white as crocus tips in the long grass." An animal skeleton, in a place where such an encounter is not unexpected. But this skeleton, "skull nosing/ the green suggestion of water/ in the run-off ditch" brings the walkers up short. They see their house in the distance, and the weather coming east, "skinning the gray jaw-lines of the ridges." The poet's language holds the elk in a context of earth and sky: "skinning," "jaw-lines."

The angel flares. "Do we find these things," asks the poet, "or are they in us like salt and nerves?" This of course is the fundamental question of philosophy: Do we perceive reality objectively, or do we create reality? The scientist and the poet stake out their claims somewhere along a spectrum of objectivity/subjectivity, and hone their tools accordingly. Anna Ross asks the question - do we find these things or are they in us? - and lets it hang there, unanswered, in the pregnant air, as she and her companion turn back toward home, encountering, as they do, a grouse in the path, "a frenzy of dust and wing-beat," and chicks that rise, "hang uncertain," and veer away.

The question goes unanswered, but the title of the poem tells us all we need to know: "Evidence." Those elk bones, the weather, the gray jaw-lines of the ridges, the grouse and her chicks - mute evidences of the only thing that matters, the angel, the revelation, the sudden gift of grace that comes unexpectedly - I quote Plath again - "thus hallowing an interval/ Otherwise inconsequent/ By bestowing largesse, honor/ One might say love."

The Daily "Near You?"

Reading, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by.

"A Gathering of the Tribe"

"A Gathering of the Tribe"
by Charles Eisenstein

"Once upon a time a great tribe of people lived in a world far away from ours. Whether far away in space, or in time, or even outside of time, we do not know. They lived in a state of enchantment and joy that few of us today dare to believe could exist, except in those exceptional peak experiences when we glimpse the true potential of life and mind. One day the shaman of the tribe called a meeting. They gathered around him, and he spoke very solemnly. "My friends," he said, "there is a world that needs our help. It is called Earth, and its fate hangs in the balance. Its humans have reached a critical point in their collective birthing, and they will be stillborn without our help. Who would like to volunteer for a mission to this time and place, and render service to humanity?"

"Tell us more about his mission," they asked. "I am glad you asked, because it is no small thing. I will put you into a deep, deep trance, so complete that you will forget who you are. You will live a human life, and in the beginning you will completely forget your origins. You will forget even our language and your own true name. You will be separated from the wonder and beauty of our world, and from the love that bathes us all. You will miss it deeply, yet you will not know what it is you are missing. You will only remember the love and beauty that we know to be normal as a longing in your heart. Your memory will take the form of an intuitive knowledge, as you plunge into the painfully marred earth, that a more beautiful world is possible.

"As you grow up in that world, your knowledge will be under constant assault. You will be told in a million ways that a world of destruction, violence, drudgery, anxiety, and degradation is normal. You may go through a time when you are completely alone, with no allies to affirm your knowledge of a more beautiful world. You may plunge into a depth of despair that we, in our world of light, cannot imagine. But no matter what, a spark of knowledge will never leave you. A memory of your true origin will be encoded in your DNA. That spark will lie within you, inextinguishable, until one day it is awakened.

You see, even though you will feel, for a time, utterly alone, you will not be alone. I will send you assistance, help that you will experience as miraculous, experiences that you will describe as transcendent. For a few moments or hours or days, you will reawaken to the beauty and the joy that is meant to be. You will see it on earth, for even though the planet and its people are deeply wounded, there is beauty there still, projected from past and future onto the present as a promise of what is possible and a reminder of what is real.

You will also receive help from each other. As you begin to awaken to your mission you will meet others of our tribe. You will recognize them by your common purpose, values, and intuitions, and by the similarity of the paths you have walked. As the condition of the planet earth reaches crisis proportions, your paths will cross more and more. The time of loneliness, the time of thinking you might be crazy, will be over.

You will find the people of your tribe all over the earth, and become aware of them through the long-distance communication technologies used on that planet. But the real shift, the real quickening, will happen in face-to-face gatherings in special places on earth. When many of you gather together you will launch a new stage on your journey, a journey which, I assure you, will end where it began. Then, the mission that lay unconscious within you will flower into consciousness. Your intuitive rebellion against the world presented you as normal will become an explicit quest to create a more beautiful one.

In the time of loneliness, you will always be seeking to reassure yourself that you are not crazy. You will do that by telling people all about what is wrong with the world, and you will feel a sense of betrayal when they don't listen to you. You will be hungry for stories of wrongness, atrocity, and ecological destruction, all of which confirm the validity of your intuition that a more beautiful world exists. But after you have fully received the help I will send you, and the quickening of your gatherings, you will no longer need to do that. Because, you will Know. Your energy will thereafter turn toward actively creating that more beautiful world."

A tribeswoman asked the shaman, "How do you know this will work? Are you sure your shamanic powers are great enough to send us on such a journey?" The shaman replied, "I know it will work because I have done it many times before. Many have already been sent to earth, to live human lives, and to lay the groundwork for the mission you will undertake now. I've been practicing! The only difference now is that many of you will venture there at once. What is new in the time you will live in, is that the Gatherings are beginning to happen."

A tribesman asked, "Is there a danger we will become lost in that world, and never wake up from the shamanic trance? Is there a danger that the despair, the cynicism, the pain of separation will be so great that it will extinguish the spark of hope, the spark of our true selves and origin, and that we will separated from our beloved ones forever?"

The shaman replied, "That is impossible. The more deeply you get lost, the more powerful the help I will send you. You might experience it at the time as a collapse of your personal world, the loss of everything important to you. Later you will recognize the gift within it. We will never abandon you." Another man asked, "Is it possible that our mission will fail, and that this planet, earth, will perish?"

The shaman replied, "I will answer your question with a paradox. It is impossible that your mission will fail. Yet, its success hangs on your own actions. The fate of the world is in your hands. The key to this paradox lies within you, in the feeling you carry that each of your actions, even your personal, secret struggles within, has cosmic significance. You will know then, as you do now, that everything you do matters. God sees everything."

There were no more questions. The volunteers gathered in a circle, and the shaman went to each one. The last thing each was aware of was the shaman blowing smoke in his face. They entered a deep trance and dreamed themselves into the world where we find ourselves today."
※※※
"Who are these missionaries from the more beautiful world? You and I are surely among them. Where else could this longing come from, for this magical place to be found nowhere on earth, this beautiful time outside of time? It comes from our intuitive knowledge of our origin and destination. The longing, indomitable, will never settle for a world that is less. Against all reason, we look upon the horrors of our age, mounting over the millennia, and we say NO, it does not have to be this way! We know it, because we have been there. We carry in our souls the knowledge that a more beautiful world is possible. Reason says it is impossible; reason says that even to slow - much less reverse - the degradation of the planet is an impossible task: politically unfeasible, opposed by the Money Power and its oligarchies. It is true that those powers will fight to uphold the world we have known. Their allies lurk within even ourselves: despair, cynicism, and resignation to carving out a life that is "good enough" for me and mine.

But we of the tribe know better. In the darkest despair a spark of hope lies inextinguishable within us, ready to be fanned into flames at the slightest turn of good news. However compelling the cynicism, a jejune idealism lives within us, always ready to believe, always ready to look upon new possibilities with fresh eyes, surviving despite infinite disappointments. And however resigned we may have felt, our aggrandizement of me and mine is half-hearted, for part of our energy is looking elsewhere, outward toward our true mission.

I would like to advise caution against dividing the world into two types of people, those who are of the tribe and those who are not. How often have you felt like an alien in a world of people who don't get it and don't care? The irony is that nearly everyone feels that way, deep down. When we are young the feeling of mission and the sense of magnificent origins and a magnificent destination is strong. Any career or way of life lived in betrayal of that knowing is painful, and can only be maintained through an inner struggle that shuts down a part of our being. For a time, we can keep ourselves functioning through various kinds of addictions or trivial pleasures to consume the life force and dull the pain. In earlier times, we might have kept the sense of mission and destiny buried for a lifetime, and called that condition maturity. Times are changing now though, as millions of people are awakening to their mission all at the same time. The condition of the planet is waking us up. Another way to put it, is that we are becoming young again.

When you feel that sense of alienation, when you look upon that sea of faces mired so inextricably in the old world and fighting to maintain it, think back to a time when you too were, to all outside appearances, a full and willing participant in that world as well. The same spark of revolution you carried then, the same secret refusal, dwells in all people. How was it that you finally stopped fighting it? How was it that you came to realize that you were right all along, that the world offered to us is wrong, and that no life is worth living that does not in some way strive to create a better one? How was it that it became intolerable to devote your life energy toward the perpetuation of the old world? Most likely, it happened when the old world fell apart around your ears.

As the multiple crises of money, health, energy, ecology, and more converge upon us, the world is going to collapse for millions more. We must stand ready to welcome them into the tribe. We must stand ready to welcome them back home.

The time of loneliness, of walking the path alone, of thinking maybe the world is right and I am wrong for refusing to participate fully in it... that time is over. For years we walked around talking about how wrong everything is: the political system, the educational system, religious institutions, the military-industrial complex, the banking industry, the medical system - really, any system you study deeply enough. We needed to talk about it because we needed to assure ourselves that we were not, in fact, crazy. We needed as well to talk about alternatives, the way things should be. "We" should eliminate CFCs. "They" should stop cutting down the rain forests. "The government" should declare no fishing zones. This talk, too, was necessary, for it validated our vision of the world that could be: a peaceful and exuberant humanity living in co-creative partnership with a wild garden earth.

The time, though, for talking merely to assure ourselves that we are right is coming to an end. People everywhere are tired of it, tired of attending yet another lecture, organizing yet another discussion group online. We want more. A few weeks ago as I was preparing for a speaking trip to Oregon, the organizers told me, "These people don't need to be told what the problems are. They don't even need to be told what the solutions are. They already know that, and many of them are already in action. What they want is to take their activism to the next level."

To do that, to fully step into one's mission here on earth, one must experience an inner shift that cannot be merely willed upon oneself. It does not normally happen through the gathering or receiving of information, but through various kinds of experiences that reach deep into our unconscious minds. Whenever I am blessed with such an experience, I get the sense that some benevolent yet pitiless power - the shaman in the story - has reached across the void to quicken me, to reorganize my DNA, to rewire my nervous system. I come away changed.

One way it happens is through the "gathering of the tribe" I described in this story. I think many people who attended the recent Reality Sandwich retreat in Utah experienced something like this. Such gatherings are happening now all over the world. You go back, perhaps, to "real life" afterwards, but it no longer seems so real. Your perceptions and priorities change. New possibilities emerge. Instead of feeling stuck in your routines, life changes around you at a vertiginous pace. The unthinkable becomes commonsense and the impossible becomes easy. It may not happen right away, but once the internal shift has occurred, it is inevitable.

Here I am, a speaker and a writer, going on about how the time for mere talk has ended. Yet not all words are mere talk. A spirit can ride the vehicle of words, a spirit that is larger than, yet not separate from, their meaning. Sometimes I find that when I bow into service, that spirit inhabits the space in which I speak and affects all present. A sacredness infuses our conversations and the non-verbal experiences that are becoming part of my events. In the absence of that sacredness, I feel like a smart-ass, up there entertaining people and telling them information they could just as easily read online. Last Friday night I spoke on a panel in New York, one of three smart-asses, and I think many in the audience left disappointed (though maybe not as disappointed as I was in myself). We are looking for something more, and it is finding us.

The revolutionary spark of our true mission has been fanned into flames before, only to return again to an ember. You may remember an acid trip in 1975, a Grateful Dead concert in 1982, a kundalini awakening in 1999 - an event that, in the midst of it, you knew was real, a privileged glimpse into a future that can actually manifest. Then later, as its reality faded into memory and the inertial routines of life consumed you, you perhaps dismissed it and all such experiences as an excursion from life, a mere "trip." But something in you knows it was real, realer than the routines of normalcy. Today, such experiences are accelerating in frequency even as "normal" falls apart. We are at the beginning of a new phase. Our gatherings are not a substitute for action; they are an initiation into a state of being from which the necessary kinds of actions arise. Soon you will say, with wonder and serenity, "I know what to do, and I trust myself to do it."

"All Is Not Lost..."

"If you can't answer a man's arguments, all is not lost;
you can still call him vile names."
- Elbert Hubbard

Psychology: "If You're Busy, You're Doing Something Wrong"

"If You're Busy, You're Doing Something Wrong:
The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers"
by 

"The Berlin Study: In the early 1990s, a trio of psychologists descended on the Universität der Künste, a historic arts academy in the heart of West Berlin. They came to study the violinists. As described in their subsequent publication in Psychological Review, the researchers asked the academy's music professors to help them identify a set of stand out violin players - the students who the professors believed would go onto careers as professional performers. We'll call this group the elite players.

For a point of comparison, they also selected a group of students from the school's education department. These were students who were on track to become music teachers. They were serious about violin, but as their professors explained, their ability was not in the same league as the first group. We'll call this group the average players.

The three researchers subjected their subjects to a series of in-depth interviews. They then gave them diaries which divided each 24-hour period into 50 minute chunks, and sent them home to keep a careful log of how they spent their time. Flush with data, the researchers went to work trying to answer a fundamental question: Why are the elite players better than the average players? The obvious guess is that the elite players are more dedicated to their craft. That is, they're willing to put in the long,Tiger Mom-style hours required to get good, while the average players are off goofing around and enjoying life. The data, as it turns out, had a different story to tell...

Decoding the Patterns of the Elite: We can start by disproving the assumption that the elite players dedicate more hours to music. The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50). The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice - the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability. This might not be surprising, as the importance of deliberate practice had been replicated and reported many times (c.f., Gladwell). But the researchers weren't done.

They also studied how the students scheduled their work. The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day. A graph included in the paper, which shows the average time spent working versus the waking hours of the day, is essentially flat. The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods. When you plot the average time spent working versus the hours of the day for these players, there are two prominent peaks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In fact, the more elite the player, the more pronounced the peaks. For the best of the best - the subset of the elites who the professors thought would go on to play in one of Germany's two best professional orchestras - there was essentially no deviation from a rigid two-sessions a day schedule. This isolation of work from leisure had pronounced effects in other areas of the players' lives.

Consider, for example, sleep: the elite players slept an hour more per night than the average players. Also consider relaxation. The researchers asked the players to estimate how much time they dedicated each week to leisure activities - an important indicator of their subjective feeling of relaxation. By this metric, the elite players were significantly more relaxed than the average players, and the best of the best were the most relaxed of all.

Hard Work is Different than Hard to Do Work: To summarize these results: The average players are working just as many hours as the elite players (around 50 hours a week spent on music), but they're not dedicating these hours to the right type of work (spending almost 3 times less hours than the elites on crucial deliberate practice), and furthermore, they spread this work haphazardly throughout the day. So even though they're not doing more work than the elite players, they end up sleeping less and feeling more stressed. Not to mention that they remain worse at the violin.

I've seen this same phenomenon time and again in my study of high achievers. It came up so often in my study of top students, for example, that I even coined a name for it: the paradox of the relaxed Rhodes Scholar. This study sheds some light on this paradox. It provides empirical evidence that there's a difference between hard work and hard to do work: Hard work is deliberate practice. It's not fun while you're doing it, but you don't have to do too much of it in any one day (the elite players spent, on average, 3.5 hours per day engaged in deliberate practice, broken into two sessions). It also provides you measurable progress in a skill, which generates a strong sense of contentment and motivation. Therefore, although hard work is hard, it's not draining and it can fit nicely into a relaxed and enjoyable day. Hard to do work, by contrast, is draining. It has you running around all day in a state of false busyness that leaves you, like the average players from the Berlin study, feeling tired and stressed. It also, as we just learned, has very little to do with real accomplishment.

This analysis leads to an important conclusion. Whether you're a student or well along in your career, if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you're chronically stressed and up late working, you're doing something wrong. You're the average players from the Universität der Künste - not the elite. You've built a life around hard to do work, not hard work. The solution suggested by this research, as well as my own, is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you're done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day."
- http://www.sott.net/

The Poet: William Stafford, "Ask Me"

"Ask Me"
by William Stafford

"Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden, and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Musical Interlude: Justin Hayward, “The Way of the World”

Justin Hayward, “The Way of the World”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Massive stars, abrasive winds, mountains of dust, and energetic light sculpt one of the largest and most picturesque regions of star formation in the Local Group of Galaxies. Known as N11, the region is visible on the upper right of many images of its home galaxy, the Milky Way neighbor known as the Large Magellanic Clouds (LMC). 
Click image for larger size.
The above image was taken for scientific purposes by the Hubble Space Telescope and reprocessed for artistry by an amateur to win the Hubble's Hidden Treasures competition. Although the section imaged above is known as NGC 1763, the entire N11 emission nebula is second in LMC size only to 30 Doradus. Studying the stars in N11 has shown that it actually houses three successive generations of star formation. Compact globules of dark dust housing emerging young stars are also visible around the image.”

The Poet: Rolf Jacobsen, "When They Sleep"

"When They Sleep"

"All people are children when they sleep.
There's no war in them then.
They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.

They pucker their lips like small children
and open their hands halfway,
soldiers and statesmen, servants and masters.
The stars stand guard
and a haze veils the sky,
a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.

If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.
God, teach me the language of sleep."

- Rolf Jacobsen,
"The Roads Have Come to an End Now"

Chet Raymo, “Thinking Like A Tortoise”

“Thinking Like A Tortoise”
by Chet Raymo

“The average lifespan in a hunter-gatherer society is 32 years. If you think you'd like the simplicity and ecological integrity of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, be sure to take your mobile phone and not wander too far away from a hospital. Culture, medical and biological science in particular, changed things dramatically. A century-and-a-half ago life expectancy at birth was 50 years, with child mortality being the most significant limiting factor. By the time I was born, life expectancy at birth was pushing 70 years, with the age-range 14-65 accounting for most mortality. These days it's the fact that us old folks are living longer that accounts for the ever-increasing life expectancy. A US citizen who makes it to 60 can reasonably expect to live another 25 years.

The survival curve is becoming, as they say, more rectangular. More and more people survive childhood and middle age, then we all fall of the mortality cliff together. Which brings us, I suppose, to the "fiscal cliff." More of us are on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Young workers pay to keep us oldsters ticking. By the time they reach our age, they can probably expect to live to 100. Or forever. How will we deal with that as a society?

Our species spent most of its evolutionary history as hunter-gatherers, ready victims of natural predators, pathogens and each other. Natural selection presumably optimized our biology for a quick, risky rise to sexual maturity followed by an early demise. Now it's decades of science versus millions of years of tooth and claw. I invite you all to my 85th birthday party, seven-and-a half years hence. BYOE. (Bring your own Ensure.)”

"An Exquisite Balance..."

“It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas… If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you… On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.”
- Carl Sagan

"A Mad World..."

“Where does one go from a world of insanity?
Somewhere on the other side of despair.”
- T.S. Eliot

Max Ehrmann, "A Prayer"

"A Prayer"

"Let me do my work each day;
and if the darkened hours of despair overcome me,
 may I not forget the strength
that comforted me in the desolation of other times.

May I still remember the bright hours that found me walking
over the silent hills of my childhood, 
or dreaming on the margin of a quiet river,
when a light glowed within me,
and I promised my early God to have courage amid the
tempests of the changing years.

Spare me from bitterness and from the sharp passions of unguarded moments.
 May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not, may my thoughts and actions
be such as shall keep me friendly with myself.

Lift up my eyes from the earth, 
and let me not forget the uses of the stars.
Forbid that I should judge others lest I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of the world, 
but walk calmly in my path.

Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am; 
and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope.
And though age and infirmity overtake me, 
and I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams,
teach me still to be thankful for life, 
and for time's olden memories that are good and sweet; 
and may the evening's twilight find me gentle still."

- Max Ehrmann, "A Prayer"

"Your Radiation This Week, May 29, 2015"


"Your Radiation This Week"
by Bob Nichols

(San Francisco) May 29, 2015 – "Good Day, this is “Your Radiation This Week.” These are the recorded Radiation Highs that affected people this week around the United States and in your neighborhood. Let’s get right to it.

*Listed in Counts per Minute, a Count is One Radioactive Decay Registered by the Instrument. Partial Counts are noted. Uncounted radiation would make the actual Count higher. 50 CPM is an alert level.

RADIATION   CPM*   CITY STATE

398  CPM  Concord, NH Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined.
320  CPM  Boston, MA Partial Radiation Data Only.
220  CPM  New York City Partial.
458  CPM  Raleigh, NC Partial.
288  CPM  Atlanta, GA Partial.
470  CPM  Miami, FL Partial.
241  CPM  Chicago, IL Partial.
464  CPM  Ft Wayne, IN Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
266  CPM  Indianapolis, IN Partial
-  CPM St Paul, MN NON-REPORTING
356  CPM  Lincoln, NE, Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
241  CPM  Des Moines, IA Partial.
363  CPM  Aberdeen, SD Partial.
550  CPM  Rapid City, SD Partial.
308  CPM  Kansas City, KA Partial.
260  CPM  Tulsa, OK Partial.
558  CPM  Little Rock, AR Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
471  CPM  Dallas, TX Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
453  CPM  San Angelo, TX Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
343  CPM  Lubbock, TX Partial.
374  CPM  South Valley, NM Partial.
535  CPM  Albuquerque, NM Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
355  CPM  Grand Junction, CO Partial.
496  CPM  Denver, CO Partial.
871  CPM  Billings, MT Partial. HIGHEST
493  CPM  Phoenix, AZ Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
687  CPM  Tucson, AZ Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
190  CPM  Las Vegas, NV Partial.
406   CPM San Diego, CA Partial.
299  CPM  Los Angeles, CA Partial.
824 CPM  Bakersfield, CA Gamma and Beta Radiation Combined CPM.
219  CPM  San Francisco, CA Partial.
466  CPM  Spokane, WA Partial.

City Leaders this Week: Billings, Montana emerges as the winner with just a Partial Rad Report and 871 CPM. They are followed very closely by Bakersfield, California at 824 CPM, and Bakersfield had a Combined Rad Report, too! As varied as the Rad numbers are it's anybodys guess as to what city or town will hit 1,000 CPM first. Stay tuned and we ll keep you advised on Your Radiation This Week.

Nuclear Armageddon: I was just wondering whether or not to say something about Nuclear Armageddon; but, then the ever-popular chant if we don 't do this, then horrible things will happen is cut short. As if we can future-tense Extinction. If we don't do this, then Nuclear Armageddon will happen in the future. Well, that might be a motivating thought for some; but, it is not real. This is what everybody says, they are wrong of course. Nuclear Armageddon has already happened, probably sometime in the 1980's. Maybe these people did not have enough math and science in school; or learn to think for themselves. After all, this not rocket science. In fact, people are making the faith-based assumption that Nuclear Armageddon might be somewhere in the future rather than accepting that it has already happened; because they aren 't dead already, I guess. People are just fooling themselves. The Nuclear Armageddon door has already opened and slammed shut behind us, 70 years of the nuclear age is all it took.

As for the future, this is as good as it gets. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we promise to be good: this is it, it is over. It is all downhill from here for humanity, all the way to Extinction.

Summing it up: Years ago at the start of the nuclear age 50 Counts Per Minute (CPM) was considered an Alert Level. Now Billings Montana reads 871 this week on the Geiger Counter, Bakersfield, California had a reading of 824 CPM on the Geiger Counter, a device that measures the level of Radiation. You can see other high radiations counts above. Did you ever think that any city or town in the United States would hit 800 CPM of Radiation?"
Sources:
1. The Radiation charts and graphs of the EPA at http://www2.epa.gov/radnet Don 't skip the 2 in www2.
2. The EPA based reporting of NETC.com, an LLC.
3. * This station s Radiation equals combined Beta and Gamma Radiation. Note: Not all locations have reporting Beta Radiation Monitors. Gamma Radiation Monitors are functioning at all these locations.
4. "If you pollute when you DO KNOW there is NO safe dose with respect to causing extra cases of deadly cancers or heritable effects, you are committing premeditated random murder." John W. Gofman, Ph.D., M.D. (1918-2007), associate director, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 1963-1969). "Comments on a Petition for Rulemaking to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission", May 21, 1994.
5. CPM. Although we can t see it, taste it, smell it or hear it we can measure radiation and observe its effects. One way to measure radiation which the United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] has chosen to use on its radiation websites is in Counts Per Minute. Each Count is One Radioactive Decay.  Quote from the "Your Radiation, This Week. Apr 3, 2015."
8. Thanks to Robert Kroller, Columnist, for his article "Nuclear Realism."
-http://www.veteranstoday.com/

ENENews:
"US Gov’t: Melted fuel most likely burned through containment at Fukushima reactors; We’re concerned about failures underground.“Where did it leak out? How did it leak out? We don’t know.” Expert: "Corium may have flowed into reactor buildings, burned through floor." (PHOTOS & AUDIO)"
- http://enenews.com/

"Surge in whale deaths along West Coast. Experts: “So many in such a small area is setting off alarms. We really don’t know what’s going on.” Professor: “I’m not sure this is just a natural event. There may be a disease in ocean.” Gov’t: “We’re not even concerned about it.” (VIDEOS)"
- http://enenews.com/

"Nuclear official warns of explosions at Fukushima plant. Gases accumulating in sediment underneath highly contaminated water; Spark caused by static electricity could ignite hydrogen blast."
- http://enenews.com/
"We don't know..."; "We really don't know..."; “We’re not even concerned about it.”
Really?

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "My Orchid Spirit (Extragalactic)"

Liquid Mind, "My Orchid Spirit (Extragalactic)"
- https://www.youtube.com/

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Believe..."

“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.”
– Stephen King

"These then are my last words to you: 
Be not afraid of life. 
Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact." 
- William James

Musical Interlude: Ray Charles, "Imagine"

Ray Charles, "Imagine"

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Connecting the Pipe Nebula to the colorful region near bright star Antares is a dark cloud dubbed the Dark River, flowing from the picture's left edge. Murky looking, the Dark River's appearance is caused by dust obscuring background starlight, although the dark nebula contains mostly hydrogen and molecular gas. 
 Click image for larger size.
Surrounded by dust, Antares, a red supergiant star, creates an unusual bright yellowish reflection nebula. Above it, bright blue double star Rho Ophiuchi is embedded in one of the more typical bluish reflection nebulae, while red emission nebulae are also scattered around the region. Globular star cluster M4 is just seen above and right of Antares, though it lies far behind the colorful clouds, at a distance of some 7,000 light-years. The Dark River itself is about 500 light years away. The colorful skyscape is a mosaic of telescopic images spanning nearly 10 degrees (20 Full Moons) across the sky in the constellation Scorpius.”

"One Summer Night..."

Click image for larger size.
 
"One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will."
- Rachel Carson

Chet Raymo, "Probing The Soul”

"Probing The Soul”
by Chet Raymo

“More than three centuries ago, Pascal said: "Man considering himself is the great prodigy of nature. For he cannot conceive what his body is, even less what his spirit is, and least of all how body can be united with spirit." Pascal lived at the dawn of the scientific era, but his words still ring true. We have sent spacecraft to the planets. We have listened to signals from the dawn of time. We have unraveled the mystery of starlight. We can even conceive what the body is. But the deeper human mystery remains: What is the spirit, and how is it united with body?

There is a sense among neuroscientists, psychologists and artificial intelligence researchers that the riddle is ripe for solution. Powerful new imaging technologies make it possible to probe the living brain- watch the orchestra play, as it were, even as we listen to the music of thought. More powerful generations of computers provide analytical tools to model the complexity of neural circuits. Subtle refinements of molecular biology and chemistry let us fiddle with the machinery of the soul.

A philosopher colleague of mine worries about the experimental manipulation of consciousness. As we learn more about the brain's chemistry, he foresees increasing reliance upon drugs to control our mental lives- a pill for this, a pill for that. "Increasingly, there's no room for us to talk to one another about our lives," he says. "No room for our histories, our stories, our art; no room for ourselves."

The self has become another object to be investigated, analyzed and manipulated, he says, nothing more than a flickering image on a brain scan monitor as electrochemical activity flares up, dies down, perhaps under chemical control. "Science is squeezing us to spiritual death," he groans, with the deflated spirit of an unreconstructed romantic.

Of course, all knowledge holds potential for abuse. But my colleague's pessimism is unwarranted. As Pascal said, "Man considering himself is the great prodigy of nature." The discovery that our spirits are inextricably linked to electrochemical processes in no way diminishes our true selves. We still have histories, tell stories, make art. We love, we cry, we respond with awe to the marvelous machinery of cognition. And, when necessary, we arm ourselves chemically against the devils of mental illness.

Many of us seem to believe that anything we can understand cannot be worth much, and therefore- most especially- we resist the scientific understanding of self. But the ability to know is the measure of our human uniqueness, the thing that distinguishes us from the other animals. Understanding the machinery of the spirit does not mean that we will ever encompass with our science the rich detail of an individual human life, or the infinitude of ways by which a human brain interacts with the world. Science is a map of the world; it is not the world itself.

We can all agree with the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who thousands of years ago wrote: "You could not discover the limits of soul, not even if you traveled down every road. Such is the depth of its form."