You Decide

Always decide for yourself whether anything posted in my blog has any information you choose to keep.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


"The Dalai Lama is a cookie monster

"The Dalai Lama is a cookie monster

"A new book about the Dalai Lama claims the religious leader has a weakness for chocolate chip cookies.

It claims he secretly eats cookies in the evening when most Buddhists are supposed to be fasting.

The book, written by the Dalai Lama's friend and travelling partner Victor Chan, is full of previously unknown titbits.

It reveals he keeps an airgun near his bed to scare away hawks who eat the smaller birds he likes to feed.

According to The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys, the Buddhist leader also likes to have the BBC world service playing in the background when he is meditating."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


"Stay Young! Stay Foolish!"

Link came in my Sylva Mind Newsletter.   

Steve Jobs gives inspiring speech "Stay Young! Stay Foolish!"

"This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

"I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much."

Saturday, June 18, 2005


"Blalock's Beauty College Has Got Your Back"

Borrowed from PowerlineBlog.
"Blalock's Beauty College Has Got Your Back"

I saw this story on television last night, then forgot about it until it showed up on InstaPundit tonight. This is part of Glenn's wonderful "pack, not a herd" series. A masked gunman tried to hold up a beauty school in Louisiana and lived to regret it:

[Beauty school employee Dianne] Mitchell tripped the robber as he tried to leave and cried aloud "get that sucker" as the group of about 20, nearly all women, some wielding curling irons, bludgeoned him until police arrived.

"You can tell the world don't mess with the women here," said the 53-year-old who manages the Shreveport beauty school in the 5400 block of Mansfield Road.

Jared Gipson, 24, of Shreveport was charged with armed robbery, Shreveport police said. He will be booked into the City Jail once he is released from the hospital.

The would-be robber was removed from the scene on a gurney. May all criminals fare equally poorly.

Posted by John at 10:15 PM | Permalink  "

Friday, June 17, 2005


"How We're Heading Back to the Future

I'm always the optimist who sees our current economic restructuring as positive making it ripe for entrepreneurs, visionaires who're willing to take a chance on themselves rather than bemoan changes which were set into motion 50 years ago.

"How We're Heading Back to the Future

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds

"Set the wayback machine for 10,000 B.C. What does the world look like?
Except for cave bears and saber-tooth tigers -- both pretty much extinct by this point anyway -- the scale is pretty small. The biggest human organizations are band- and tribe-level: At most, a few hundred people, but far more often a few dozen. The line between work and play is pretty blurry. Some things are clearly work, and some things are clearly play, but many are in-between and people go from one to another as circumstances dictate, not according to a schedule. Agriculture hasn't been invented yet, though people brew beer from wild grains, and are starting to notice that if you plant the seeds they'll come up in the same place next year, making it easier to brew beer. (What, you think people invented agriculture for bread?)


What material possessions exist are homemade, except for a very small amount of stuff purchased from itinerant traders carrying a few rare luxuries. Children aren't sent off to school, but hang around the adults as they go about the business of the day. A few activities, like big-game hunting, are off-limits to the kids, but in general they grow up quickly, and are a part of what goes on.


Even in these caveman days, there's plenty of technology around. Humans are tropical animals, and without technologies like fire and clothing most of the world would be off limits. Finely wrought flint tools are capable of impressive feats (how do you think those saber-tooths and cave bears became extinct?) but there aren't any machines as we'd understand them. Probably the most sophisticated device in general use is the spear thrower. The biggest organized human events are mass hunts and the occasional clan gathering. They're limited in size and duration because you can't feed that many people by hunting and gathering in one place for long, and it's hard to store much food: It goes bad, or it's eaten by vermin.


Fast-forward a few thousand years and not all that much has changed. Advances in agriculture and organization make some difference: More people can live closer together, thanks to the higher efficiency of farming over hunting and gathering, (though because farming is hard work, those people are usually worse-nourished and harder working than the hunters and gatherers). There's still not much in the way of sophisticated machinery. There are tools a caveman wouldn't recognize, but nothing he couldn't figure out in a few minutes.


Things stay pretty much this way, in fact, until the Industrial Revolution. Agriculture, written language, and metals allow big empires to organize large numbers of people, but not very efficiently. Doing things on a large scale is usually less efficient than cottage industry, because coordinating all those people is so much trouble. You can build big things, like the Pyramids, or the Great Wall of China, but at enormous cost, and only by making people choose between hauling bricks or being killed.


But the Industrial Revolution changed things. Improvements in organization, communications, and machinery meant that it was often much more efficient to do things on a large scale than on a small one. Adam Smith noted this in his famous description of a pin factory in The Wealth of Nations.


Division of labor allowed large groups to be organized in ways that were actually more efficient than smaller groups, or collections of individuals acting independently. Big machinery allowed big jobs to be done, but because the machinery itself was big it could only do big jobs efficiently. When the smallest efficient steam engine is big enough to power a whole factory, it doesn't make sense to use it for anything less: the cost is the same, but the return is smaller. Thus the "minimum efficient scale" turns out to be pretty big. And you need a lot of capital for these big operations, which had its own implications, financial and otherwise.


Most of the developments of the 19th and 20th Centuries followed this pattern. You can't run a railroad as a family business. The same is true for steel mills (the Chinese Communists tried, disastrously, with their "little steel" program, but learned better) and, after the very earliest days of the automobile industry, an auto factory -- outside of a few shops serving NASCAR, or very rich car collectors, people don't build cars one at a time any more.


Big organizations doing big things: It's the story of the 19th and 20th Centuries. In fact, it was so much the theme of those centuries that it's easy to forget what a departure this was from the rest of human history. But it was a huge departure, brought about by the confluence of some unusual technological and social developments.


And it was a mixed bag. On the one hand, it made people in industrialized countries a lot richer. On the other hand, it created a lot of social strain, as traditional ways of living were disrupted by the new ways of doing business.


William Blake's "Dark Satanic mills" weren't as bad as they're remembered today -- if they had been, people wouldn't have flocked to them. Or maybe it's fairer to say that, bad as they were, they were still better than life as a subsistence farmer. But they were very, very different.


Parents and children were separated. Husbands and wives were separated. "Work" became something separate from the rest of life, and itself became different. An old-style blacksmith made a plowshare or a sword from beginning to end. A worker in Adam Smith's needle factory, or Henry Ford's automobile factory, performed a single repetitive task with no real connection, emotional or intellectual, to the overall product. And although factory workers did much better economically than peasant farmers had done, their share of the proceeds was trivial compared to that of the people who financed and ran these large capital-intensive operations, people who became known as "capitalists."


This led to talk about worker "alienation," and the problems that resulted from separating labor from ownership of the means of production. This was the foundation of Marxism, and of efforts -- universally disastrous -- to replace capitalists with government-controlled capital in communist countries. Government replacements for free-market capitalists were, if anything, more rapacious, but much, much worse at actually producing wealth. Much of the 20th Century was spent in making this clear in various unfortunate and frequently lethal ways.


But even in capitalist countries, people were unhappy to a degree, though at least they were richer and didn't have to worry about gulags. The large-scale operations hit their zenith at mid-century, with American business revolving around huge entities like General Motors and IBM. Economists like John Kenneth Galbraith began arguing that big corporations were protected from failure by their size, and that the kind of massive organization and information-processing available to these huge concerns meant that smaller businesses couldn't possibly compete. Bigger was better, and the managerial class "technostructure" that ran these big corporations would be the real source of power, without having to worry about crude things like profits.


This turned out not to be the case. Even as Galbraith's book was appearing, the seeds of change were taking root. The New Industrial State came out in 1966. The year before, in the 35th anniversary issue of Electronics magazine, Gordon Moore had first proposed "Moore's Law" -- essentially, that computing power was doubling every year-and-a-half, and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future.


It was a while before the impact of this trend on Galbraith's formulation became obvious, but the growth of cheap computing power has already undercut the importance of big organizations in many, many areas. That cheap computing power is now being coupled with cheap manufacturing -- including, increasingly, what Neal Gershenfeld calls "personal fabrication," in his book, Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop - From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. (I wrote about that last week) But even without the kinds of progress that Gershenfeld describes, manufacturing, including custom manufacturing, has gotten cheap and versatile enough to neutralize many of the advantages that large organizations once held.


For activities that, ultimately, are about processing information, the computer revolution itself has drastically reduced the minimum efficient scale. A laptop, a cheap videocamera, and the free iMovie or Windows Movie Maker software (plus an Internet connection) will let one person do things that the Big Three television networks could only dream of in Galbraith's day, at a tiny fraction of the cost. The same laptop with a soundcard, a couple of microphones, and software like Acid, Cubase, or Audition can replace an expensive recording studio. Change the software and it can replace an office full of Galbraith-era accountants with calculators, pencils and paper, or even with access to big 1960s mainframe computers. This observation is commonplace now, of course, but its implications for Galbraith-era economics have gotten somewhat less attention. It's not just that fewer people can do the same work, it's that they don't need a big company to provide the infrastructure to do the work, and, in fact, they may be far more efficient without the big company and all the inefficiencies and stumbling blocks that its bureaucracy and "technostructure" tend to produce.


Those inefficiencies were present in Galbraith's day, too, of course. People have been making jokes about office politics and bureaucratic idiocies since long before Dilbert. But in the old days, you had to put up with those problems because you needed the big organization to do the job. Now, increasingly, you don't. Goliath's clumsiness used to be made up for by the fact that he was strong. But now the Davids are muscling up without bulking up. So why be a Goliath?


That is the question that many people are asking themselves, and as technology moves toward smaller, faster, and cheaper approaches in man, many areas we're likely to see an army of Davids taking the place of those slow, shuffling Goliaths. This won't be the end of big enterprises, or big bureaucracies (especially, alas, the latter) but it will represent a dramatic reversal of recent history, toward more cottage industry, more small enterprises and ventures, and more empowerment for individuals willing to take advantage of the tools that become available. In some ways, the future may look more like the distant past than the recent past. It's not surprising that it may also seem to operate on a more human scale."

Thursday, June 16, 2005


"Animal extremism versus human rights

Am very relieved to see this happening, agree with law enforcement assessment of them. 
"Animal extremism versus human rights
Michael Fumento

June 15, 2005

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) say they’re just animal lovers. In reality, they call humans “a cancer” and demand we all become vegetarians. They also say that all animal testing – necessary for discovering new drugs and critically important treatments – be eliminated. “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk

Indeed, PETA’s latest target is the world’s largest medical research contracting lab, Covance, which has a facility in Vienna, Va. They’ve accused the company of committing horrors with laboratory monkeys, claiming they have video footage to prove it. Yet bizarrely that which they’ve released shows no such thing – making a monkey out of PETA.

A PETA infiltrator made secret tapes of the animals and their handling over an 11-month period. The group chopped that down to a select 28 minutes, and then cut it further to just a few minutes which it displays on its website – presumably “the worst of the worst.” Yet other than a tap on the head, we see nothing more beastly than cursing at some unruly animals. One clip depicts a monkey pacing in its cage. Oh, my!

Apparently PETA hopes you’ll pay more attention to its captions supposedly explaining what’s going on than you will to the actual video – and that you’ll be shocked that lab animals are actually used in experiments rather than treated as pets. But that’s not abuse.

“If that’s the worst they’ve been able to find,” says Foundation for Biomedical Research President Franki Trull, “I’d have to guess Covance has a first-class facility.” Certainly nobody has a greater interest in protecting those animals than Covance. Real abuse would also violate the Animal Welfare Act and the USDA Animal Welfare Regulations and Standards – and send drug companies to other labs.

Despite this backfiring stunt, however, PETA remains both savvy and dangerous. Fortunately, lawmakers and PETA targets – including Covance – seem to be finally realizing how serious the PETA and animal rights problem is.

Last month the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Senate that animal rights extremists, along with eco-terrorists, pose one of the most serious and fastest-growing national terrorist threats. Unlike such organizations as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), PETA takes no credit for such actions as torching laboratories. But it does support them both vocally and financially.

“Would I rather the research lab that tests animals is reduced to a bunch of cinders? Yes,” Newkirk has said. “I will be the last person to condemn ALF.” PETA vegetarian campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich says “blowing stuff up and smashing windows” is something PETA doesn’t do “but I do advocate it.”

PETA has donated to the Earth Liberation Front, a certified terrorist group that, according to the FBI, along with the ALF and other ecoterror groups has committed more than 1,200 criminal acts causing more than $110 million in damage. It paid $70,200 to an ALF activist convicted of burning down a University research laboratory. During sentencing, the federal judge implicated Newkirk in the crime.

Individual victims of PETA campaigns have usually been afraid to fight back, lest they draw more attention to the charges against them. But Covance may be setting a new trend.

Its initial reaction to the allegation was anything but denial. Rather, “If and when we receive these materials, we will immediately review the allegations” it said, and “thoroughly examine the complaint to determine if there are any credible issues we need to address."

Only after this review did the company file suit against PETA for fraud and conspiring to harm its business. The suit also demands that PETA and its infiltrator hand over the full set of tapes, so we can see what was left on the cutting room floor.

It’s about time that somebody hit back at these fanatics who compare the deaths of broiler chickens to the Holocaust. “I’m getting a sense that institutions that chose not to sue in the past because didn’t want to draw attention to themselves are really saying now, ‘Enough already!’” Trull told me. “That’s encouraging because bullies only pick on you if you think they won’t fight back.”

Michael Fumento (mfumento - at - is author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, and a nationally syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.

Artlcle also appeared on Tech Central Station

Monday, June 13, 2005


"Man blows flat up with insect spray

Another candidate for the Darwin awards.   Crazy

"Man blows flat up with insect spray

"A German man used so much insect killer that he blew himself up when a spark from his computer ignited the aerosol spray.

Walter Mueller, 36, from Schleswig-Holstein, caused more than £100,000 of damage and debris flew up to 100 metres away.

But, amazingly, he was not badly hurt and was released from hospital after treatment for minor injuries.

Mueller had closed all the windows and emptied several cans of extra strong insect-spray before sitting at his computer to surf the internet.

A spark of electricity ignited the powerful fumes, causing an explosion that demolished the flat and blew out all the windows.

Several neighbouring apartments were also damaged but none of the other residents were injured. The street outside had to be closed for several hours."

Tuesday, June 7, 2005


"Clearing Deep Throat"

Found the following commentary on which lead to a clarification of the altruistic motives of Felt.  Article at bottom .. bold blue underlined print is live links.
"Edward Jay Epstein is the brilliant essayist and author whose meticulous 1974 Commentary essay "Did the press uncover Watergate?" suggested that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. Now he has established Edward Jay Epstein's Web Log. At the site he is writing for those of us who wish to continue our Watergate studies as his humble students. Check out his most recent post: "Clearing Deep Throat" (and keep scrolling down)."
"Clearing Deep Throat 
"Journalists cannot hope to approach an accurate rendering of an event without revealing their sources. Every source who has supplied a journalist with a part of a story has selected that bit of information, whether it is true or false, for a particular purpose. That purpose may be to advance his own career, to advance the interests of the agency he works for, to discredit an enemy, to advance an ideological agenda, or simply to assist a reporter. The bits of information thus supplied can be properly evaluated only in light of the circumstances and context in which it was given. It is not enough simply to present the assertion of an interested party— even if it can be shown that it is "accurate," in the trivial sense of "accuracy" (which simply means correctly specifying the details touching on the event). One must know who made the disclosure and, ideally, why he made it to that particular individual at that particular moment in history. Concealing such information from the reader amounts to a deliberate disguising of the event itself, since such a process hides all the interests that selected, shape and possibly distorted the disclosures. To be sure, concealing the interests behind the disclosures of sources often serves the self interest of the journalist by making more likely that his sources will continue to provide him with information for public disclosure. This makes his job much easier, but at the same time it prevents any independent evaluation of his work, and omits what might be a critical part of the event.

Consider, for example, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’ celebrated Watergate stories– described on the jacket of their book, All The President’s Men, as "the most devastating political detective story of the century." For 30 years, they kept secret one of their principal sources, Deep Throat. Only now, three decades later, does Woodward intensify this mysterious information provider as W. Mark Felt, the FBI’s Associate Director (until he resigned in June 1973). Felt had begun his career at the FBI in 1941, according to his autobiography, as a disinformation officer. When J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, it was Felt who took over a number of the most sensitive ones, including one entitled "Black Bag Jobs," the FBI term for its secret burglaries. Following the arrest of the Watergate burglars in June 1972, and the confession of Alfred C. Baldwin III, a former FBI agent, outlining to the FBI the full scope of the wire-tap conspiracy, Felt had a real concern that other illegal back bag jobs he had himself authorized, including warrentless and illegal break-ins into the homes of relatives of political radicals, could be exposed in the Watergate investigation. (Seven years after Watergate, Felt was convicted in Federal court of "unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other to injure and oppress citizens.") So there is some reason to assume that he was not acting out of pure altruism, when he contacted Woodward and other journalist and helped steer their stories.

Enter Donald H. Segretti, a young lawyer who had been playing "dirty tricks" on various Democrats in the primaries, but had nothing to do with illegal break-ins. Instead of telling Woodward about the extensive electronic eavesdropping that Baldwin had revealed to the FBI, Felt supplied Woodward with FBI "302" reports (containing interviews, phone-call records, and credit card records.) Believing Felt that these dirty tricks were an integral part of Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein wrote story after story about, even postulating that there were fifty other Segretti-type agents, all receiving information from Watergate-type bugging operations. It turned out this was at best a detour. (Segretti served a brief prison sentence for such "dirty tricks" as sending two hundred copies of a defamatory letter to Democrats), and Felt’s "50 other agents" never materialized-- except in a Woodward and Bernstein story .

To be sure, Felt directed Woodward to a number of more profitable areas, such as the destruction of documents by his superior at the FBI, L. Patrick Gray III. Less than 2 months after he supplied Woodward with this story, Felt was out of the FBI. He had evidently lost his power play. What this Machiavellian game involved, though an important part of the Watergate puzzle, was obscured so long as Woodward hid the fact that a high-ranking FBI executive was his source.
The conversion of Deep Throat into a mythic hero who helped journalist duo defeat the governmental Goliath is a tribute to the literary skills of Woodward and Bernstein."

Tuesday, June 7, 2005


"Woman, 91, Teaches Purse Snatcher a Lesson"

"Woman, 91, Teaches Purse Snatcher a Lesson

"TOLEDO, Ohio - A purse snatcher picked on the wrong 91-year-old, police said. Katherine Woodworth started swinging her purse at the man and hit him until he ran away, police said. He had walked up to her in a department store parking lot Saturday afternoon and told her that he was going to take her purse.

"I didn't have my hearing aid in, and I thought he said that he was going to take my pulse," she said. "Then he said it again that he was going to take my purse and I said, 'No, you're not.'"

The small woman with gray hair and glasses turned angry.

"He just made me mad," Woodworth said. "I wasn't really thinking, I just hit him."

Woodworth's moves impressed Sgt. Tim Hanus.

"I'm kind of surprised and amused," he said. "She let him have it just hard enough to scare him off."

Another woman in the parking lot noticed the struggle and took a description of the suspect's vehicle and a license plate number.

Police arrested Matthew Spradlin, 20, of Walbridge. He also was accused of stealing a purse at a grocery store, where employees accused him of trying to take a woman's purse off her shopping cart. He was charged with robbery, felony theft, assault, aggravated menacing, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Hanus said women Woodworth's age shouldn't try to fight off attackers. Woodworth said she didn't think her age was much of a factor.

"I'll be 92 in August and I guess I've got more nerve now than when I was younger," she said."

Thursday, June 2, 2005


Zen and the Art of Being a Jedi

Link to this article came via my Silva Ultramind Newsletter.  Very good read!!

"Zen and the Art of Being a Jedi

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were great men—guardians of freedom and justice—who were in touch with nature. These men were known as Jedi, and they had a deep understanding of how the world really works. A Jedi is not a Buddha. But many of the practices and concepts that are part of their art can be found in the Buddha’s teachings. In developing Star Wars, George Lucas has drawn on many religions, myths, and cultural practices from all parts of planet Earth. As we will soon see, the roots of the Jedi can be found in Asia.


Clear Your Mind
In Star Wars, we often hear Jedi masters, such as Yoda and Qui-Gon, telling their pupils to clear their minds or to "let go." This is one of the most basic principles in Buddhism.

Through the act of meditation, those who want to touch the Buddha are encouraged to clear their minds of all thought and to become aware of the moment. This can be done through breathing meditation. When beginning breathing meditation, it is helpful to count from 1 to 10. This helps you clear your mind of other thoughts and pulls you into the moment. Once you are in the moment, the next thing is to be "mindful." This means that you are aware of what you are doing, of your body, of the moment.

Breathing meditation was actually seen being practiced by Qui-Gon in The Phantom Menace. Near the end of the film, during the climactic battle with Darth Maul, the two become caught in a corridor of doors that open and close, apparently on a timer. As they approach the final door, Darth Maul gets through but Qui-Gon doesn’t. Instead of yelling at or taunting Darth Maul through the force field, Qui-Gon simply kneels, closes his eyes, and breathes calmly. He is quieting his mind and collecting himself. He is truly in the moment.


There's No Time Like the Present
One of the problems that we all face in the modern world is that we are always dwelling on the future and the past. Our lives are so hectic that we are always being pulled in many directions at once. We get so caught up in what happened at work last Wednesday or what we are having for dinner tomorrow night when the guests come over that we forget to be aware of the moment. For us, the flow of time is very real and we are locked into a vicious cycle of birth and death, beginning and ending. We dwell so heavily on these first and last moments that we forget to live in the here-and-now.

The Buddha taught that these are only concepts, not true reality. What we believe is reality is subjective—it is what we make it. To be caught up in concepts is to be out-of-touch with the moment. If you are concerned with concepts, theories, and ideas, you can’t see the true nature of things.

Seeing the true nature of things is one of the keys to being Jedi. Abandoning preconceptions, avoiding being caught up in past and future, and focusing on the present are all things that Jedi masters teach their apprentices.

At the beginning of The Phantom Menace, when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are in the meeting room aboard the trade federation vessel, Obi-Wan begins thinking about things yet to come. Qui-Gon tells him to keep his mind focused on the here-and-now. In response, Obi-Wan says, "But master Yoda says that I should be mindful of the future." Qui-Gon replies, "Yes, but not at the expense of the present." He is teaching his student to be aware and mindful. In Buddhism, this known as Right Mindfulness.


The Circle of Life
Ever since the first film, Star Wars: A New Hope, it has been taught that everything in the universe is interconnected. The details of how this works have changed with the development of the series, but the basic principle has stayed the same. I titled this section "The Circle of Life," but when we speak of interconnectedness, both in Star Wars and Buddhism, we speak not only of living things but of non-living things as well.

In A New Hope, Obi-Wan taught Luke that if he let go of his thoughts he could "hear" the Force speaking to him, guiding him. He said that this is because everything is connected through the Force. Later, in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda teaches Luke of the interconnectedness of all things, that Luke and the rock are one in the same. Finally, in The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon finds himself explaining this principle to young Anakin. This is where Lucas changed the concept a bit.

In the first three films, the Force was presented as a mysterious power that simply flowed through the universe. But in The Phantom Menace it is presented as the result of a symbiotic relationship between living things and microscopic organisms called medichlorines that reside in all living cells. But regardless of this change in position on Lucas’s part, the concept remains the same. We are all part of one another. Everything in existence is interdependent on everything else. Everything contains everything else. A flower, for example, contains not only flower elements like a stem and petals, but also stardust, the earth, and the gardener. In Buddhism, this interconnectedness of all things is known as Second Dharma Seal.

As Qui-Gon explains this to Anakin, he says that these micro-organisms speak to us and tell us the will of the Force. When Anakin says that he doesn’t really understand, Qui-Gon encourages him by saying, "When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you." Again, this returns us to Right Mindfulness and being aware of and in touch with the moment.


Hate Leads to Suffering
If you had to sum up the goal of Buddhism in just four words it would be "the elimination of suffering." The purpose of the practices taught by the Buddha—The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path (Right View, Right Thinking, Right Mindfulness, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Diligence, Right Concentration, Right Livelihood)—is ultimately to identify, come to terms with, and eliminate suffering.

Suffering can be caused by many things. The desire for something you can’t have can cause you to suffer. A physical ailment can cause you to suffer. Exposure to things that can water the seeds of fear and hate that we all posses can cause you to suffer. In order to achieve nirvana, you must identify and eliminate all suffering. Nirvana is, in fact, the elimination of not only all suffering but also all concepts, all thought.

In The Phantom Menace, when Anakin faces the Jedi Council, Yoda questions him about his mother. "Afraid to lose her, I think," he says. Anakin responds by saying, "What does that have to do with anything?" To this Yoda replies, "Everything! Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering… I sense much fear in you."

What Yoda was telling him is that being controlled by fear makes it impossible to eliminate suffering and find happiness. The Jedi are aware of this and, because of the danger posed by the "dark side" of the Force, they identify and train Jedi soon after birth, before they have time to know fear, anger, or hate. As we already know, Anakin ultimately will allow his fear to get the best of him and lead him to the dark side.


A Jedi is not a Buddha. There are many aspects of the Jedi that are mystical and supernatural—the ability to move objects with the mind or the ability to see things before they happen, for example. These are not principles or teachings of Buddhism. It is not the aim of this article to convince you that the Jedi are space Buddhists. But many elements of Buddhism have been incorporated into the Jedi, and it is very interesting to see how this aspect of Lucas’s sci-fi epic relates to our earthly culture.

The aforementioned examples are merely a sampling of Buddhist principles that appear in Star Wars. There are many others. If you are so inclined, I invite you to learn more about Buddhism and explore its connection with Star Wars on your own. Please click here to view a list of suggested reading and continue to explore Zen and the Art of Being Jedi. May the Force be with you, always."


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