Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

My Hand
Me improvising on the piano for about a minute

words I wrote in California

Red Words is a short poem I wrote on the ineffectiveness of language at times to communicate what people mean.  It's also a pun on the word "read".  Soda Man was inspired by listening to the random sounds during a gentle rain shower.

Red Words

 Red words hit me across the face,
 Slide down my Chest,
 And on to the ground.

 There they lie around my feet,
 Red words.

 This is not that.
 That is this.
 Is is is.


Soda Man

Soft sounds of showers
Hisss of tires
A door slams
The soda man ferries his cargo.


Great spirits were once born.
They lived great lives.
Dead, they live, still, now.


The Trees Know

A tree
Does not need Man
To make a sound
When it falls.

It already knows
The sound of one hand clapping.


Mt. Diablo

Line of craggy live oak
Rides along the spine
Of the devil.

Ripping open the blue-gray sky
Spilling its guts
Of thick, swirling fog.

Seemingly seething
Such wisps of

One of my favorite pieces of music by Eric Whitacre, Sleep:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Showing compassion towards evil people

I once sued a miserable, pernicious harridan named Cleatus for defamation of character, because in collusion with my old ex-wife, she falsely accused me to my employers of felonies I never even came close to committing, and I felt compelled to defend myself.  Well defend my character in court I did, as there wasn't a stick of evidence of any crime.  However this horrible woman hired the most expensive law team in LA at $750/hour and was able to take advantage of a "whistler blower" protection law not intended for the likes of her, but intended for people who actually need it, and so even though I was able to prove I was innocent of the crimes she falsely accused me of and that therefore there was grounds for defamation of character, she got off Scott free - worse than that actually, I had to pay her attorney's fees.

I walked away with my faith shaken in the legal system: It was not there to protect me against the proven crimes of others against me.  I came away thinking that often the better lawyer does really win.

Well I found out this year that this poor, hateful old woman finally died.  I discovered that before she died, she'd spewed forth on the Internet further hate speech about others, so in some way it was comforting to see that she was an equal opportunity hater.  I wasn't just singled out.

One thing I did notice from this experience: Hateful people seem to attract other hateful people, and likewise loving people attract other loving people.  It seemed Cleatus attracted other hateful people to her.  I suspect this may be a valid generalization of hateful people.

I have to admit it, but I experienced a sense of elation when I learned of her passing.  As far as I could see, this woman made the world a much worse place for others, and the world is better off for her passing.

Now I wonder if I would personally benefit from showing compassion towards this woman, learning how she suffered, and what drove her to do the horrible things she did.  Perhaps I might even find the nice things she did and left behind.

I don't now how to embark on this process.  How would I do that?  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Band Member

Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona
I was fortunate enough in the early 1980's to spend a week at Canyon Ranch, a luxurious health spa in Tucson, Arizona.  They have a big steam room and one day I walked in and had the whole room to myself.

Until this guy walks in and sits down across the way.  "How do you make this thing hotter?" he asks.  So I show him how to crank the steam, and soon the room became mostly opaque.

"So what do you do?" asks the guy, as he tucks his long hair into a shower cap on his head, that made him look bald.  I start telling him about my computer software company, what I'm working on.  He's really interested in what I'm doing and asks a lot of questions.  It's nice when someone, a complete stranger especially, takes a sincere and genuine interest in finding out who you are.  After a while, I thought I should ask him what he did, and so I asked: "So what do you do?"  Our conversation went something like this:

"I'm in a band," he says.  I've been in a few bands too, and so I figure his band is currently touring in Tucson, and hanging out at this great spa between gigs.

So I ask, "Are you playing somewhere local here in Tucson?  Maybe I can come out and see you?"

"No, we're getting ready to go on a big tour - collecting our strength, getting clean and sober, but still having fun.

"I used to play clarinet, flute, sax, and keyboard in some bands.  Not in a band now though.  What instrument do you play?"

"My voice - I'm the lead singer."

"Cool!  What's the name of your band?  Maybe I've heard of you?"


"Wow, yeah I remember listening to you in high school.  Love your stuff.  You look pretty young for your age.  How old are you?

"I'm 40."

"Wow, you look great for your age!  You look a lot younger.  What's your secret?"

He pauses for a moment, looks me right in the eyes, and with a serious expression says, "Plenty of pussy!"

And with that, he jumps up completely naked, while pulling his showercap down over his eyes, and then starts jumping around like a demented pogo stick.  "Look!  I'm a giant bouncing condom!" And then he starts singing a giant bouncing condom song, heads out of the steam room, and off into the distance, still singing the song.

Steven Tyler

2006 Clive Davis Pre-GRAMMY Awards Party
February 7, 2006 - Beverly Hills, CA

I liked Steven Tyler a lot during our one chance encounter, naked, in a steam room in Tucson, Arizona in the 1980's.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

My moments of joy today

We should all pay special attention to the things in life that bring us joy.  So in this blog posting, I'm going to tell you about my day, and where the most joyful parts of it were.  At the end, you'll see a pattern to the things that give me joy.  If you've read earlier postings in this blog, you'll see that I earlier discovered that what gives me joys is being of service to other people.  And sure enough, that's the number 1 joy for me today.

#1 Joy Today: Aikido!  Yeeha!!!  I was talking about martial arts with one of my friends, and ended up suggesting she try Aikido since I am a black belt in that art, and previously checkout out our local East Bay Aikido on a number of occasions before and really liked it, I also just happened to have one of their pamphlets with me and so I gave it to my friend.

Turns out she went last Saturday, liked it enough to come back a second time, and sure enough she loves it.  So she came up to me to thank me for giving her that information.  I hope she sticks with it.  It would transform her life, as it has mine.  +2 on joy today because I was able to be of service to another, and I know that's what brings me the most joy.

#2 Joy today: Figuring out what that funky digital looking sticker was on this bike rack.  I found this near 23 Grant Street today, near Union Square, San Francisco.  So I pointed my Android Google Goggles application at that and let's see what this is...

So, Goggles brought me to to a series of screens that asked me to sign a petition saying I'd properly recycle my mobile phone when I no longer needed it, and that when they received 10,000 signatures, they would plant 10,000 trees.  Seemed harmless enough, so I signed up.  Now I'm helping plant 10,000 trees.  All started when I tried to lock my bike up and saw the weird digital sticker.

#3 Joy today was snapping this picture of myself after getting my first haircut in a year and a half and then sending it to someone.  I think my hair is now 3-4 inches shorter than it just was, having grown for a 18 months without any cut.

#4 Joy today was continuing to make positive progress on my job search.

#5 Joy today was sailing the open seas on the good ship WATA across the Bay from the Ferry Building in San Francisco to Oakland, a 20 minute trip.  You walk in and see the bar at the back of the boat and think maybe a white wine, or an IPA, or maybe even one of their surprisingly good bloody merry's would be right tasty about now.  Go up to the top of the boat and sit in the sun and the wind and see scenes like this:

#6 Joy today was discovering the first truly bicycle friendly bit of BART I've ever seen:

My bike in BART

What do you think?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Even futher into the future

If we look even further into the future, we're starting to get into the realm of quantum computing, where traditional computing assumptions break down because problems that used to be intractable are now solvable instantly.  In particular, our U.S. government is most alarmed about this because it means that all our cryptographic secrets can no longer be kept secret.  In case you didn't know, our government considers cryptography to be on a similar level as nuclear arms - secret information is a very powerful weapon!

So, wikileaks will seem like a leak in the bucket by comparison, when all encrypted information can be cracked.  What will we find out then?  Did we find aliens at Roswell?

But even more interesting than that, I believe that large scale quantum computing should assure in a new golden age of computer science, one that redefines what is possible.  It's hard to even imagine what might be possible.  When you combine nanotechnology and quantum computing together, you appear to bring about near god-like powers of creation.  What are the limits really?  Why isn't everyone in the world studying this?  OK, I know the U.S., England, Israel, Russia, Japan, and China are.  Something will explode out of this research.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Further into the future

As we go further into that future, the glasses and headphones are somehow merged with our own sensory systems so that we don't perceive those as separate from our bodies.  A surgical approach would call for embedding something that inputs the appropriate auditory and visual information directly into the brain.  However, there may be non invasive approaches possible, that rely on transmitting information in other means.  Those would have some advantages, and perhaps some disadvantages as well.

Another interesting question is whether we want to rely on our use of our eyelids as a way to shut out visual information.  What if we project visual information directly to the optic nerve or directly to the visual cortex.  At some point down the road, we'll be advanced enough to do this sort of thing (either that, or we'll have reverted to prehistoric monkeys, or something in between, I don't know.)  If we bypass the eyelids, we'll need to give the operators a virtual eyelid switch to close their eyes and give their brains a chance to catch up.

And so imagine you were hiking up in the High Sierras, and your augmented reality visual input was somehow transmitting into your visual field, and so you saw a ghost image of another group in front of you.  A text cloud over the group tells you they hiked this route 2 years before you.  So you gesture out with your hand to try to contact any member of that group to get a live connection.  A few rings later, a member of that group is now in front of you live, willing to talk with you about that hike you're on, willing to give you advice.  They check out the weather systems, and with their expert knowledge route you around a pass to get the best hiking in for the day

The near future

At some point in the near future, our mobile phones will evolve as follows:

  1. Mobile phones will have sufficiently high speed bandwidth to support any application we'd want to imagine, including augmented reality applications that I'll get to later.
  2. They will all be capable of recording unlimited audio, photos, and video, all tagged by your exact position on this planet, and storing that in the cloud.
  3. They will support 3-factor authentication, including something like iris scan or thumb print to securely authenticate the identify of the holder of the device.
  4. The will carry their own cash value, independent of any bank or country, but redeemable at any bank.
  5. Of course you'll be able to use them to get into trains, BART, movie theaters, and what's next?
  6. They will support interactive natural language voice conversations in your own native language with an artificially intelligent agent, who does your bidding on the net.  "Make me an 8pm reservation at the best sushi restaurant you can find within 30 minutes driving distance.  And don't forget to invite my wife!", and your restaurant reservation confirmation flows through your system message stream and your wife receives the invitation.  But on your wife's mobile device, it routes the directions from her work place to the restaurant, so when she gets in her car she's all set to go.  (Must pay homage to Steve Jobs and the Knowledge Navigator concept here.)
  7. They will integrate with our smart TVs, which will really be nothing more than mobile phones with very large screens, and different user interfaces to take advantage of the greater distance and different interaction mechanisms.  We'll probably carry our content rights in the cloud, authenticating with our mobile devices, able to project our content in a multitude of places like on walls, big screen TVs, entertainment systems, and of course, our 3D glasses.
  8. Gestures not touching the display device directly will begin to play a larger part in our device interactions, coming first from the video gaming sector, but then moving on to smart televisions and eventually our mobile devices.  You'll just point and grab at your phone without actually touching it to tell it to pick up a call.  Or if it's ringing in your pocket, just tell it to "shush!"
  9. The display screens will eventually be able to project on any wall surface, controlled by your mobile device.  You'll see the Doppler weather projected on your wall, you'll see the lunar eclipse projected on your ceiling, and so on.
  10. They will plug into all cars and be your entire GPS and entertainment system, though there will be quite a fierce battle for that throughout the decade and it will take a while for a good solution to emerge.
  11. Wireless battery charging will become a phenomenon.  For example, Starbucks might give you free wireless device battery charging along with free WIFI.
  12. 3D Interfaces will be common, and eventually without the need for special glasses.  Real advances in 3D user interfaces won't be made until 2017 or 2018 though.
  13. Augmented reality will continue to percolate on as an interesting discipline without gaining huge market value until perhaps closer to 2020, when inexpensive portable glasses and audio devices will be available that will project augmented 3D audio and spacial reality, mediated by our mobile devices.  Then the value of this field will explode, and those with good position will be poised to take great advantage of the revolution.  There will be applications to improve driving skills, find the best lane at the super market, GPS navigation will never be the same, help you play golf, and perhaps even teach you how to mambo.
  14. A more cybernetic type of reality could emerge, because the reality our senses are constantly taking in, is literally being modified by computer software to enhance that reality with additional information our senses could never perceive, such as satellite imagery, ideal drive lines on the golf course, estimated wait times at each isle on the super market - the possibilities are endless.  Can you think of a few?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Be Here Now

Be here now.
For nothing is worth more
Than this day
We live today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Do or do not. There is no try.

"Do or do not.  There is no try."
I keep trying to "just do" and not just to "try".  Unfortunately, that's not working for me.

"Bring it on, Yoda"
When we try, we are actually doing something: We are rewiring our brains to do something new.  This takes practice, also known as "trying".  We're focused not only on the doing, but on the learning and rewiring process.  Once we are done with the rewiring, the rewiring is done and we're just doing.  Although, the learning will likely still continue.

We all start by trying though.  You can't execute a round-off, backhand spring, back flip without trying a few times first.  I mention that one because I can actually do that, at least I did the last time I, um, tried.

We can get attached to the trying part.  We just need to remember that at some point, we stop trying and let all the practice take over.  Then we're doing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ideal Lovers

"The ideal lovers could leave each other on any day.  They choose to be with each other every day."

--David Levine, 1981

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nothing and No Things

Over the last few months and years, I have slowly but surely been getting rid of nearly all of my stuff.  I am now left with a small fraction of my previous possessions.  At some point I realized that I was engaged in a spiritual quest to rid my life of meaningless clutter.  I felt like I was dragging all this stuff around with me.  Having stuff takes its toll: I had to pay for space to keep it, protect it from theft, clean it, repair it, look at it, organize it, think about it, look at it, and just have it take up my mental space.  I so much more enjoy having a clean slate and empty space, filling it sparingly with just the most valuable possessions.

George has a really funny take on it:

A house is just a place for your stuff
--George Carlin

Annie Leanard's The Story of Stuff shows the dark, evil (yes evil) side of our corporate materialistic culture.

Nora Dunn's great article on How to get rid of all your crap comes pretty close to describing what I'm going through - many people have gone down this path before I can see.

I am finding that it's an intense spiritual quest, that mirrors and reflects itself in my personal life in many ways.  Getting rid of stuff opens the way for possibilities in my life.

I recently read a talk given by Wade Davis, and in that talk he says that his favorite people to hang out with are the true nomads of this planet - living in some pretty remote parts of the world.  He says that nomads can't afford to have much stuff in their life, because that would weigh them down.  Wealth in such cultures is measured by the strength of your personal relationships, not by the things you've accumulated and drag around with you.  There certainly is something to that.

There is also the issue of living rightly on this planet and sheparding her resources for the future, and having less stuff is part of a more sustainable culture.   Our American culture - as perceived through the current official / governmental economic lens - is overly materialistic and can only thrive by destroying our world.  We all know that this is wrong, and yet we struggle so mightily against a governmental and world wide culture of consumerism, materialism, and greed that threatens the health of this planet and of our very own lives.  By having minimal stuff, I feel I'm setting a good example of how to live a more sustainable lifestyle on our spaceship Earth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Integrating your relationships

When two people develop a deep relationship, the character / essence / feeling that each has regarding the other is unique among all other relationships. It doesn't matter whether that is a platonic friend or romantic friend or a parent or child, the same concept holds: The way you feel with your friend Fred is different from the way you feel with your friend Sally because you do different things together, you have a different history, a different shared language. It's a unique finger print in our mind - the emotional and total feeling of what it feels like to be with a particular person.

So when you have two deep friends who have never met, and then meet, it is a collision and merging of worlds that causes a deeper integration of formerly separate parts of yourself into a more integrated whole. It also allows your friendships to deepen even further, as your friends become friends with each other (maybe), and learn more about you by meeting another close relationship of yours.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Recovering Joy

When I was born, I knew nothing of this world. My developing brain contained built-in genetically programmed circuitry tuned to living on this planet with others of my species, and as I experienced the world, this circuitry became activated. I'm talking about circuits like Broca's area and Wernicke's area. It's the brain's ability to literally rewire itself at a sub-atomic level growing new neurons and new connections with existing neurons - nanotechnology and quantum physics - that's truly amazing. So my brain also began to grow new, un-pre-programmed circuitry in response to my early environment. As I matured, I chose more and more in what way I wanted my brain to develop. More recently, I am much more explicitly conscious of how I want my brain (substitute mind or soul or spirit if you like) to develop. See my blog posting below.

That type of description of the brain, in terms of how neurons rewire themselves, completely leaves out what it feels like to be a thinking, feeling human being - the phenomenological experience. Lets go back to the new born again, but approach it from the feeling side rather than the neuron side. Throughout history, people have speculated about the subjective phenomenological experience of the newborn infant. When all its needs are met, the newborn infant appears gentle, peaceful, and happy. When a newborn is hungry, it suffers and we care for it to relieve the suffering. If I try to reach back into my earliest memories, I believe that as a newborn infant, there is nothing in the way of experiencing full on joy, except having basic needs met like food, warmth, being held, and so on. Breast feeding is pleasurable to the newborn, but that's not the same thing as its underlying joy and happiness. And here's where I think we conflate pleasure and joy - we experience pleasure from, say breast feeding, and then the resulting lack of suffering allows us to experience the underlying joy.

As we mature, we learn how to care for ourselves by developing our own brain circuitry to obtain our own food, prepare it, have relationships, earn money, pay taxes, stay healthy, take care of children, and on and on. We become attached to things like good health and money because we spend so much time trying to achieve these things. When we don't have those things, we suffer due to our attachment to these things. We experience the lack of these things with some combination of fear, stress, sadness, anxiety, depression, and anger.

Then as an adult, we believe that achieving all these goals will restore our underlying joy. Unfortunately I don't think that's the case - all that achieving these things (food, money, etc.) brings us is momentary pleasure when we get what we want, and suffering when we don't. A problem with our culture is that we're focused more on fleeting pleasure than on stable joy, so we tend to ride a roller coaster of pleasure and displeasure, at the whim of our circumstances, and we forget that the pleasure we are seeking is not the same as the joy we were born with.

For some of us, at some point during our darkest hours, we discover that we've lost our joy, and this starts a spiritual quest that results in being "reborn" in the sense that we get in touch with the joy we were born with. This rebirth process requires shedding our attachments to the things we've been pursuing for pleasurable purposes. Once we do that, we can still experience the pleasure of those experiences, but we're not attached to them, so we don't suffer so much when we don't get what we want. "You can't always get what you wa-ant, and if you try sometime you find you get what you need."

Others of us do not require such a dark journey, and naturally develop the ability to have a deep and joyful life. It seems both paths lead to the same place.

If we're not careful, we can end up where we started after our "re-birth", unless we're practicing appropriate spiritual practices. There are many types of practices that work, but I think they all boil down to one simple underlying practice: Being grateful for each and every day we live, and loving those around us and lending them our spiritual eyes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Growing neurons for joy

When we focus our attention on something with enough energy and for long enough, our plastic brain grows new neurons and literally rewires itself in response to the growing information about the subject of our attention. This has been observed in functional MRI scans under experimental conditions (reference: http://en.scientificcommons.org/53402167).

What I'd like to know is, how do we decide what to focus our attention on? Is it too simple to answer in response to that "That which gives us happiness and joy?" If I do that, will I literally rewire my brain to experience more joy? I'm thinking the answer to that is "yes".

When you read this, you may think I'm talking about momentary pleasure that you might experience from good food, drugs, sex, money, and so on. That stuff is certainly pleasurable, and that stuff is good (in moderation, and in the right circumstances), but that's not what I'm talking about when I talk about happiness and joy. I'll have to blog about what I think happiness and joy really are at some point, but not now. (Update: I did here.)

So, in the morning, I spend a moment thinking about how I am going to further my personal joy and happiness this day, and then at the end of the day I see if I've done it. I know I get joy from being of service to others and loving others, so every day, I see how I can do that.

Once a week or so, I pray that I will find opportunities to love those around me.

I'm reading about it and writing about, and trying to live it. Hopefully I'm growing neurons for joy. I know it will take a life time and I have so much to learn.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Who am I really?

Layers of an onion
That are pealed back one by one
The layers I present to you as time unfolds.

And then you've consumed a lovely onion
And you think to yourself,
"Self, that was a lovely onion."

But the onion is not me.
The onion was just the metaphor.

You look at my words and my actions,
and you think to yourself,
"Self, why is this that? What does that mean?"
But my words and my actions,
They are not me.

We intertwine our bodies
In most intimate ways
Feel mystical union with each other.

But my body is not me.

We engage with each other
In the dance of life
Touching each other's life purpose
Helping each other grow
In ways we can not do ourselves.

Yeah, that is me.

For the time being anyway.
For these are just words too.