Saturday, December 31, 2005

Friday Pet Blogging | A Day Late

Oh man! This whole recovery thing has me forgetting which day is which. I cannot believe I missed Friday Pet Blogging yesterday. As many visitors here know by now, I had an emergency appendectomy two weeks before Xmas. Fortunately, the docs caught it before it ruptured (but it was close), and the post-surgery coincided with my vacation time. So, in honor of this downtime, I share pics of Milo and Otis doing their level best at maximizing their own downtime.

Milo wedges between blanket and pillow to grab some sun.

Otis finds some shade and sun.

In the new year, I will endeavor to make the pet posts in a more timely fashion.

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of the 12-30-20005 pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Jazzy Christmas Eve

Jazz (Running Scared) has a heatfelt Christmas Eve post in which he talks about his neighbor, Bill, and contrasts Bill's Christmas Eve with his own:
[N]o matter how much I keep myself embroiled in politics and social bickering on a daily basis, it never for a moment crossed my mind to think that someone would chastise Bill for being politically incorrect, or for not saying "Happy Holidays" instead of invoking the dreaded "C Word." Bill is celebrating Christmas as best he knows how and was just wishing a Merry Christmas to anyone who passed his door. Here I am on Christmas eve day. Between fits of dashing around trying to clean the house for company who are coming on Tuesday, I was running back to my computer to check CNN and run through my blogroll for any late breaking political news about which I might be able to rant. What kind of way is that to spend Christmas Eve? It occurs to me that Bill probably knows a lot more about Christmas than I do. It's going to give me a lot to think about on my way to the in-laws.
That's pretty much the payoff, but you really should read the whole long and poingnant post, just to get a better picture of Bill. I don't know the man, and I've never been in Jazz's neighborhood, but I feel like I could walk down my street and find Bill's house right around the corner. And I want to.

The Devil Made Me Post This

Tim Boucher, of the Gnostically inclined Pop Occulture, has posted an interesting riff on The Role of Satan in Universalism. Sample quote:

[T]his is a rather more nuanced view of Satan’s purpose than simply “evil incarnate.” Rather than just saying he’s evil, it asks us what the purpose of evil could be. And it suggests that perhaps the purpose of evil is simply to challenge us to become better, rather than to simply drag us down into the muck. We might even go so far as to consider Satan as the “house player” in a casino, or “playing against the computer” in a video game. In order to enjoy a game and learn from it, we need someone to pit ourselves against. If there is no opponent, then there is no challenge to overcome and no opportunity for growth.

Hmmmm. Satan as a self-help guru or life coach. There are stranger things!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Friday Pet Blogging | Sigh

Great start to the weekend. Milo is not feeling well. He's not exactly blocked, but he was having enough trouble that we felt the need to take him to the Emergency Vet ... and then to our regular Vet. Hopefully, he will get some, *ahem*, relief this afternoon and so won't have to spend more than a few hours there. Alone. If you can spare a moment, please think some good, healthy thoughts for our boy, Milo:

Milo Feels Kind of Yucky. :(

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Friday Pet Blogging | Substitution

I prepared this on Thursday night. Hopefully I will remember to publish it Friday morning. During my hospital stay for an emergency appendectomy last week, Mrs. Brainwise made sure that I had a little companionship. The boyz (Milo and Otis) could not come to me, nor I to them, so Mrs. Brainwise purchased a substitute kitty from the hospital gift shop. He now resides on our Yule Tree, which is also my recovery tree this year:

My Hospital Buddy ... My Yule Tree Decoration

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Recuperating

Hello Prophets and Mad(wo)men. I returned from my "guest" stay at the local hospital on Friday afternoon. I have quite a bit of catch-up to play now -- and, of course, I need to recuperate from the surgery -- but I wanted to make a quick post to let folks know that I am at home. I will work on posting a summary of my appendiventure, but for now I want to thank the following folks:
  1. First and formost, I thank my wife for her tireless help and support during the whole ordeal. And for all she continues to do now that I am at home.
  2. I thank my family and friends for their concern, prayers, and support.
  3. I thank my blogosphere friends for all the well wishes.
  4. And last, but certainly not least, I thank the folks at Sky View Medical as well as the staff at Grandview Hospital for their fine work.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Appendix B

From Mrs. Brainwise: A blogger I will never be ... but I must tell you all that Mr. Brainwise had his appendics removed in emergency surgery on Tuesday night (12-13-05). He is recovering just fine now but computer work will be put off for a bit. Thank you

Monday, December 12, 2005

Piled Higher and Deeper

Nope, I'm not referring to the standard joke about a Ph.D. I'm talking about all the snow we got on Friday. In my latest cat blogging entry, I promised to post some "snowy pics ." Well, I've grouped some of the best on my Flickr account:
Winter Fence Keeps Silent Vigel Click for photos from Dec 9, 2005 storm
Let me know what ya think.

Trust Me

From Science Daily (with original release here):
Trust Building Hormone Short-Circuits Fear in Humans

[snipped from news release]

A brain chemical recently found to boost trust appears to work by reducing activity and weakening connections in fear-processing circuitry, a brain imaging study at the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has discovered. Scans of the hormone oxytocin's effect on human brain function reveal that it quells the brain's fear hub, the amygdala, and its brainstem relay stations in response to fearful stimuli. The work at NIMH and a collaborating site in Germany suggests new approaches to treating diseases thought to involve amygdala dysfunction and social fear, such as social phobia, autism, and possibly schizophrenia, report Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D., NIMH Genes Cognition and Psychosis Program, and colleagues, in the December 7, 2005 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. "Studies in animals, pioneered by now NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel, have shown that oxytocin plays a key role in complex emotional and social behaviors, such as attachment, social recognition and aggression," noted NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D.. "Now, for the first time, we can literally see these same mechanisms at work in the human brain." ...

[Read Full Article]

I don't know what to make of this. Oxytocin certainly seems to be a workhorse in the body, especially in women -- natural Oxytocin influences activities related to birth and lactation (and it has even been linked to establishing maternal behavior). At least, according to this Bowen person at the Colorado State University. And some folks are advocating Oxytocin's role in maintaining relationships, calling it a hormone of love. That might lend some credence to the idea that this hormone can affect a person's trust level (willingness to trust someone, not the level of trustworthiness he inspires in others). I am certainly uncomfortable with scientists mucking about in this area. I guess you could say I don't trust them (heh). But think about it ... if chemists can synthesize a compound that inclines anyone who ingests it to be more trusting, then how long will it be before said compound is abused? I'm not typically prone to conspiracy theorizing, but imagine for just a moment, if you will, another five or so years down the road. Administering certain levels of Oxytocin to the general public has been approved and found to be "safe." Perhaps Oxytocin -- or a manufactured derivative -- will be added to a regularly consumed product, much like Flouride in toothpaste. Or it could be released into the air in confined spaces, such as cublicles and fast food restaurants (refer to the snif test in the news release). People feel OK. They trust the media and their elected officials. They don't question what is going on in the world. Goodness me. Could this already be happening? More about Oxytocin: Note: Oxytocin should not be confused with the unrelated drug OxyContin (a pain-killer).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Monkey See, Monkey Do, so what?

From Knight Ridder Newspapers:
Monkeys show gender differences in toy preferences

[snips from the article]

Just like human boys and girls, male monkeys like to play with toy cars while female monkeys prefer dolls, a research project has shown...

..."Human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," Richard Haier, a neuroscientist at the University of California in Irvine, wrote in the journal NeuroImage.

In the monkey experiment, researchers put a variety of toys in front of 44 male and 44 female vervets, a breed of small African monkeys, and measured the amount of time they spent with each object.

Like little boys, some male monkeys moved a toy car along the ground. Like little girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll's bottom. Males also played with balls while females fancied cooking pots. Both were equally interested in neutral objects such as a picture book and a stuffed dog.

People used to think that boys and girls played differently because of the way they were brought up. Now scientists such as Alexander say a creature's genetic inheritance also plays an important role.

"Vervet monkeys, like human beings, show sex differences in toy preferences," Alexander wrote in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. "Sex-related object preference appeared early in human evolution," she said...

[Read Full Article]

That's great work folks. Now, can someone tell me exactly why they were compelled to do this research (and if any of my tax dollars went for it)? And can any of these scientists explain why my 6-year-old niece enjoys playing with trains, cars and Barbie© dolls?! And does any of it really matter one freaking iota in the grand scheme of things??? I personally do like research about children and thinking/playing. But I like research that shows how children learn. Why they mimic. And how we can help them reach their full potentials. I could care less about gender differences and children (although I have seen research that shows a child knows his/her gender -- and some of the societal rules and roles for that gender -- by age three and that saddens me). Let children be children. Let them gravitate to toys and activities in their own way and time. And for the gods' sakes, don't be freaked out if a child does not conform to your notions of what a good little boy or girl should want to play with. Me? I am waiting for my niece to be old enough for a chemistry set, which is "traditionally" a boy's toy. I don't care. My niece is intelligent and curious, and I can hardly wait to introduce her to fun home chemistry stuff. (And, no, if it turns out that she does not like chemistry, then I won't push it on her.)

Friday Pet Blogging | Curl

I prepared this last night, so I could publish it bright and early this morning. But then, with shoveling out and such (for the last three hours or so), I forgot to change it from "draft" to "publish". So, despite my efforts to post a cat blogging photo first thing this morning, once again, I am posting after 10am. I'll post some snowy pics after I upload them to Flickr. Needless to say, this guy didn't help with clearing the driveway at all:

Otis ... Recharging

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Fire & Ice

Via Knowledge News Email:
Volcanic Fire Under Glacier Ice Some 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) north of Antarctica is an island--Montagu Island--in the treacherous waters of the South Atlantic. This is no place for people, or penguins even. A glacier blankets the island land. And beneath the glacier, actually creating the island, is an active volcano. Now scientists have satellite pictures of the volcano--Mount Belinda--spewing fiery lava down toward the icy sea. In just four weeks' time, the lava, traveling in a 100-yard (90-meter) flow, has released massive amounts of glacier-trapped water into the ocean and built up 50 new acres of land, as the molten rock slides into the water and cools. Scientists expect the changes to be dramatic. A decade ago, lava from a volcano in Iceland melted enough ice to create the second-largest flow of freshwater on the planet. At the time, only the Amazon River sent more freshwater toward the sea. Scientist John Smellie, of the British Antarctic Survey, says, "How hot rock interacts with ice is so poorly understood. This opportunity to monitor a live eruption and see how it affects ice cover is priceless." Dr. Smellie also says he would "give his right arm to be down there right now."
Mount Belinda Erupts -- NASA Image -- click for story and pics
Image Credit: NASA / Jesse Allen / Earth Observatory / HIGP Thermal Alerts Team + Full Resolution

Kung Fu Monks Go Modern

From the Los Angeles Times:
Shi Yongxin wears a bright yellow robe and heavy prayer beads and lives in an ancient shrine high up in the mountains of central China. Yet he spends a lot of his time traveling in a chauffeur-driven jeep, jet-setting around the world and hobnobbing with Hollywood types. No wonder some people call him a CEO in a monk's robe. As abbot of the world-famous Shaolin Temple, the holy land of kung fu, Shi indeed plays multiple roles. His latest is executive producer of a $25-million movie about the life and times of the legendary fighting monks that is set to hit cinemas in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also has a reality TV project in the works, a kind of "American Idol" for kung fu masters.
I wonder if they'll have a Simon Cowell-type judge on that reality show. If so, he or she will have to have some pretty impressive credentials -- and fight cred -- to poke fun at and insult potential kung fu masters. Otherwise, there will be some interesting footage for the blooper reel.

A Zen Story

A brash young man watched a sage drawing water from the village well. Slowly, hand over hand, the old man pulled up the wooden bucket of water. After some time the young man left and returned with a pulley, and excitedly explained how to use it, and how easy it would be to draw water by cranking the handle. The old man refused:
“Were I to use a device like this, my mind would congratulate itself on being so clever, and then I would quit putting my heart into what I was doing. . . . If I don’t put my heart and whole body into my work, my work will become joyless. And how, then, do you think the water would taste?”
-- Zen Calendar Workman Publishing

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quotable | Torn

open quoteEvery morning I awaken torn between the desire to save the world and the inclination to savor it. -- E. B. White, American essayist and literary stylist (1899-1985). He is best known for The Elements of Style, and three award-winning children's books: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

Chrismukkah: Evangelize Your Secular Holiday Sensibilities


"Deck the halls with lots of tchotchkes, Fa la la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to eat latkes, Fa la la la la la la la L'Chaim!"
Chrismukkah is now upon us, or so the good folks at chrismukkah.com[dead link] would have us believe. And the Chrismukkahans want to help you celebrate a Merry Mish-Mash Holiday. For example, you can build your own Matzoh House (as long as you buy the Merry Mish Mash Holiday cookbook)!


 
You can plan a special Chrismukka Nosh[dead link]: invite some friends over for a Noel Nosh and a hot cup of Meshugga Nog. You can also read the Chrismukkah blog[dead link] and submit your own Chrismukkah stories[dead link]. Now, maybe this whole Chrismukkah thing is a joke. Maybe they really are trying to support interfaith families. But their only serving a portion of the population by narrowly focusing on Judeo-Christian celebrations. If they really want to go interfaith, they have to add Solstice, Yule [Heathen Yule, Wiccan Yule], Bodhi Day, Zarathosht Diso and probably a dozen or so others that I've missed. That would change the thrust of their site ... and force them to really come up with a snazzy name. And while you're checking out Chrismukkah, don't forget about Chrismahanukwanzakah (which I blogged about last year). The "Angel" link uses the song from last year, but not the cool animation. I guess they dropped it for all new stuff this year. That's too bad, the graphics on the original were outstanding.

Update 2014-12-09: Seems that chrismukkah.com is no longer with us. It went down sometime after 2009 (you can see some archived blog posts here), and the domain is currently parked by GoDaddy. And good luck getting your hands on that cookbook. It's currently out of stock moderntribe.com.

Monday, December 05, 2005

PBDR: You Can Dance ... If You Want To ...

Apparantly, this thing (Partner Ballroom Dance Robot) was news back in June of this year, but I'm only finding out about it now. engadget has another photo. And I'm curious, does anyone else find this thing the least bit disturbing?
story.ballroom.afp.jpg I'll bet his mother is thrilled that he found a nice, um ... robotic ... girl.
And the folks at Tokhuro University aren't the only ones interested in robotic partners. Kosuge & Wang Laboratory is working on -MS DanceR-.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Color me ... Gone (for the Weekend)

I probably won't be blogging this weekend, which won't be much of a change for me, really. But as opposed to the usual reason (um, just not getting around to it), I don't think I can blog this weekend. I'll be away and I doubt I'll have Internet access. Where am I going? (Ahhh, what a question, eh). I am attending a retreat during which we will discuss the topic of "Our Religions of Origin." Let me know if that piques your interest at all. If so, I'll post a summary upon my return to the blogosphere.

I.A.D. -- There's Help for the 'Net Addict!

Do you know what Internet Addiction Disorder is? Well, neither do I (though Mrs. Brainwise might argue that I am a tad too familiar with it). But I came across this story about it yesterday:
Hooked on the Web: Help is on the Way

By SARAH KERSHAW Published: December 1, 2005 www.nytimes.com

THE waiting room for Hilarie Cash's practice has the look and feel of many a therapist's office, with soothing classical music, paintings of gentle swans and colorful flowers and on the bookshelves stacks of brochures on how to get help. But along with her patients, Dr. Cash, who runs Internet/Computer Addiction Services here in the city that is home to Microsoft, is a pioneer in a growing niche in mental health care and addiction recovery. The patients, including Mike, 34, are what Dr. Cash and other mental health professionals call onlineaholics. They even have a diagnosis: Internet addiction disorder...

[Read More]

Friday Pet Blogging | Hacking

When Otis jumped into my lap the other night, I thought, "Aw ... how cute. He wants to help me with my work." There he was, pretending to know what he was doing as he swatted at the keyboard and tried to reach the mouse:

"And when I press this key, all the catnip in the world will be delivered right to my door!"

Cute, right? And I kept thinking it was cute and humorous ... right up until I checked my credit card bill and found over 20 charges for cat toys, fresh catnip, and a video I don't even want to mention. *

Who the blankety-blank-blank showed him how to use PayPal?!

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Check the M&O Archives for previous Milo & Otis appearances.
  3. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.

    * Um, just in case it wasn't obvious ... the pic is real, but the story is a joke. No, Otis does not know how to order merchandise via the web. At least, I don't think he does. Milo, on the other hand ...

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    A Simple Creed

    open quoteI believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows. -- Henry David Thoreau, American author, naturalist, pacifist, tax resister and philosopher (1817 - 1862)
    Henry David Thoreau, photograph published circa 1879. Enlarge Henry David Thoreau, photograph published circa 1879.
    As a writer, Thoreau labored over his work, writing and re-writing -- and then re-(re-)writing several times over -- until he finally expressed his thoughts to his satisfaction. The end result may not betray all that effort, since he seems to say so much with so few words. And, although many of Thoreau's statements have the easy brevity of a modern soundbite, a thoughtful reader can reap treasures of layered meanings and nuance in every paragraph. Take, for example, the quote that leads today's entry. Thoreau lists only three beliefs, and does so in brief. There is no explicit mention of a divine being. No trace of a nod to a personal savior. But I submit to you that these words carry more power and a deeper mystery than any creed or oath in 2000 years of christendom. On a literal level, the "forest" he refers to here means, of course, an actual forest. An outside wooded area. On deeper, metaphoric levels, this "forest" wherein Thoreau places belief refers to Nature, and the mystery and power that reside therein. What is the mystery in a forest, in Nature? As Robert Frost wrote, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep." Standing just outside the forest, your sight cannot penetrate to its heart. "What is in there?" you might wonder, or, more to the point, "what is it hiding? What dangers lurk there?"As for the power of Nature, look to the trees themselves. Branches that sway and bend with the breeze, but do not break. Roots that, over hundreds of years, can break down stone. In the right circumstances, and it doesn't take much (though it is a careful balance), trees and other woodland plants are highly resilient. And they can live hundreds of years, outstripping individual humans, or their societies, in their longevity. That is, of course, unless threatened by those human societies (see campaigns to save Old Growth forests in the U.S., Australia, and Sweden, for example). The forest can also represent the mythic "descent into darkness," through which the hero faces a crisis, or turning point, and achieves greater self-knowledge. Refer to Joseph Campbell's books The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1948, 1972), Myths to Live By (1972), The Masks of God (4 vols, released 1959-1968). Or, if you are short on time, just do a 'net search on "Hero Quest Cycles" and/or "Joseph Campbell." That will turn up lots of interesting reading, such as the concept of the Monomyth, an essay on Beowulf and Star Wars, and Linda Griggs' Hero Quest Cycles. I've barely scratched the surface of forest symbolism, and that is as it should be. So now I will leave the forest in the middle of my ponderings and turn to the meadow. This open space is still part of Nature, but it is more inviting, perhaps it feels safer. With wide vistas, one can see to the heart of a meadow, and beyond. It does not seem to hold any secrets. But that is, of course, its secret. The meadow may still have some part of Nature at its heart -- it is not tainted with human dwellings. But it is Nature tamed. The woodland cleared. The meadow is the boundary, perhaps, between the mysterious forest and the oh-so-safe structures of human civilization. I meditate now upon the phrase, "...the night in which the corn grows." To believe in that night is to believe so many things, particularly now that the growing season has passed. This is a hopeful statement, full of promise. Full of awe and respect for the power and wisdom of our true Mother, the Earth. And the night itself, domain of the Moon, plays yin to the sun's yang, represented here by the golden yellow of corn kernals. This phrase is also a knowing nod to humanity's first true currency and wealth: grains. The cultivation and storage of grains helped early communities grow and thrive -- from ancient Egypt, to the Mayans, to Indian tribes of the Northeastern United States. It is not just an army that travels on its belly. Hmmmm. Starting today, I will stake my belief in Thoreau's forest, meadow, and night for my own creed. And I don't mean this in a dogmatic sense, for the world is sorely drenched in dogma as it is. I merely want to explore what it means to believe in these things, perhaps only for a week ... maybe until the end of this year. I don't know what will come of it, and I don't particularly care. But for some reason, I feel I will be all the better for having d0ne it. For more about Henry David Thoreau, I invite you to check out the Wikipedia entry on him, as well as their collection of external links.