I have a "Zen Calendar". I don't use it as such (what, with F12 and all), but rather as a scratchpad. I just pulled off May 24th, which had been there for quite some time, revealing the following Sunday, which had a wonderful koan which I had seen before, but the power of which had escaped me at the time:

A monk traveled a long way to visit Master Nansen. The monk found him by the side of the road, cutting weeds.

"What is the way to Nansen?" asked the monk.

Nansen answered, "I bought this sickle for thirty cents."

The monk said, "I did not ask about the sickle, I asked the way to Nansen."

Nansen answered, "I use it to full enjoyment."
I like this one a lot. I came to this blog entry because I felt compelled to say how I interpreted it*. It was brilliant! I had to share the experience.

But, as I typed out my thoughts, they lost their meaning... it became difficult to express! Everything I typed seemed to miss the mark. Yet the meaning was still so clear to me!

This is why I love koan.

* Of course, good koan open up to many levels of meanings, sometimes all at once. I don't mean to say this is "the" interpretation of the koan. I also realize that koan are supposed to defy meaning... the "nonsense" of them is supposed to be part of what wakes you up: the swift spiritual kick to the head.

Cognitive Bias

You're probably familiar with cognitive bias. It's one of my personal favorite incarnations of psychology, and someday I'm going to really study it as completely a I can. It's the primary reason I'm comfortable being a skeptic.

Today, a fellow skeptic (errr, skepchick, as it were) pointed me to this video:

...Despite the fact that you know what he's singing (well, mostly), having the text there convinces you he's saying something else.

Plus it's just damn funny. There are other wonderful examples of this on the web, including a few that aren't quite so safe for work. : ) Finding them is an exercise left to the listener. ; )

What do YOU Think Happened Today?

A quote from Brian Eno, 15 years ago, while trying to predict what the world would be like today [via]:

News is understood to be a creation of our attention and interests (rather than “the truth”) and news shows are redesigned as “thinktanks,” where four interesting minds from different disciplines are asked the question, “So what do YOU think happened today?”

Door to Hell

That's an underground fire in Uzbekistan [via].  Cool, in a photogenic way.  But then I realized...

it has been burning since 1972!

Pardon my language, but... holy fuck!!!

I hope I can safely assume that Rolfe or James will soon have a module ready to run for this setting?  : )


...I took a bunch of videos while in Hawai'i earlier this year, and thought I would share a few. ...I'm not used to doing this, however, so... consider this a test. : )


I promised not to talk philosophy on this blog, but I lied. I'm compelled to post this.

Through a series of events that I won't go into (but some of you may be aware of), I have come to think of myself as a skeptic. ...This wasn't a label I bothered to use up until this year... it just never occurred to me: "scientist*" was enough.

It turns out there's a rather large community of skeptics on the web. I've taken to following some of them... but I find most of them off-putting, since they're too big into bashing Christianity. ...Not that I don't appreciate a good religion-bash now and then, but most of these people just won't shut up about it. It gets tedious.

So last night, I watched a movie that community skeptics are really excited about. For me, watching it drove home a lot of the thoughts I've had about skepticism on the web. Namely, I like the idea, but I don't think many of the proponents really "get" it. ...And I think they miss a few key points. I want to make three here:

  1. In this movie, as elsewhere, there's a mantra that things like homeopathy "don't give any facts". ...What they mean to say is that they don't give any scientific facts. And there's a big difference. It's a fact that they dilute their compounds incredibly. It's a fact that Sally Suckerman took the stuff and was feeling better within a month. ...And so on. They give facts, it's just that the quality of the facts is non-scientific. Some people actively avoid scientific facts... if they are doing so by choice, there's nothing we can say to convince them otherwise. But to say they are giving no facts at all is just... well... unnecessarily hurtful. Maybe this is a tiny point to make, but it's something that bugs me.
  2. There is little focus on the influence belief has on health, performance, and quality of life. Often, believing is enough. I point to Derren Brown (a hard-core skeptic) for evidence.
  3. There's a lack of thorough skepticism about science itself. The movie I mention makes lots of references to science that is harmfully biased, like the pharmaceutical industry. Skepticism only works if you can apply to yourself and those you trust.
I like being a skeptic, and I like that it seems to be a concept that is spreading. ...But I think we have to apply some of our own rules to ourselves if it is going to have any lasting meaning.

That said, there are some wonderful points in Skeptoid's movie. I loved his analogies for not teaching pseudo-science is science classes. I love that he snuck in black holes at the center of the universe as one of those "cool things" that may or may not be provable. (I'm not convinced black holes are what we think they are.) I think he did a good job of highlighting the most important falacies. It was a well-produced video, with a very steady camera and some cool graphics in the clinical trial section. And I really loved his explanation of how theories always have room for improvement! In fact, I think that was a point that needed to be stressed even more. I think that's the underlying virute of skepticism, science, and critical thought... and it should be sung to the mountains. ; )

Okay, that's off my chest. Now back to less controversial matters. : )

* Well, "supportive of science".

The Edge of Electronic Music

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't have any readers with their ears to the ground of electronic music... so you probably haven't heard of the monome. It's a new instrument that's just a bunch of buttons.

JUST a bunch of buttons.

Most musians have said "uh-huh, boring," and moved on. Yamaha believes in it, and has created a version called the Tenori-on. But other musicians have embraced it... and look at the beautiful music they've created!

There is, of course, more of this stuff available on the web, though this guy (girl?) appears to be the most skilled that I've seen.

(...And the little red box on the far side of the table is a Korg Mini KP... a very cool little effects-processor.)


I find it obnoxious that Kucinich's impeachment is being blown off.

I'm of the mind that impeachment is imperative.

Using Psychology to Aid Alzheimer's Patients

Fake bus stop keeps Alzheimer's patients from wandering off- The patients start to wander off, they see a bus station and stop to catch the bus.  Nursing home workers come by, tell them the bus won't be by for a while and invite them back inside for coffee and in a few minutes the Alzheimer patient forgets he ever was waiting for a bus.

[copied verbatim from here]