the root of brilliant sanity

from turning the mind into an ally by sakyong mipham:

If we want to undo our own bewilderment and suffering and be of benefit to others and the planet, we're going to have to be responsible for learning what our own mind is and how it works, no what beliefs we hold. Once we see how our mind works, we sewe how our life works, too. ...

The more we understand about ourselves and how our mind works, the more the mind can work.



  • jason says the colors he chose for the third floor bathroom are peach fade and divine pleasure; the previously reported colors of serene peach and bridal veil are actually for the second floor bathroom. with all due respect to my matrimonial state, I:ll take divine pleasure over bridal veil any day.


putting the spring in UW:s spring break requires heading somewhere far south of madison. bill & I took the bus out of madison to chicago:s union station then got on the city of new orleans. when we got off the train 18 hours later sure enough, it was spring. ahhh.

trains are the perfect place for a major reading binge, I started cryptonomicon on the trip down, and for meeting people. we had dinner with a woman who designs the costumes for a mardi gras club in new orleans, the all-female mystic krewe of shangri-la. it:s a huge undertaking, with > 500 members in a parade with 25 floats. I didn:t think to ask the obvious question --- where does she keep the 30+ costumes that she:s worn in all those parades over the years? or maybe the goodwill in new orleans does an incredible business in sequins and feathers.

we stayed in a nice but cheap guesthouse right next to audubon park and near tulane and loyola. it was wonderful walking in the park under cypress trees hanging spanish moss, enjoying the green of spring and the soft warm air. there were dozens of egrets and herons roosting on a little island in a slow moving river. there was a small neighborhood with a good independent bookstore (the maplestreet bookshop) and a couple of coffeeshops right nearby (the university influence). we ended up in starbucks every morning (oh, the shame) because our dial-up connection didn:t work from the hotel and starbucks has phone jacks and power outlets installed under the tables.

the highlight of the trip (after the phone jacks at starbucks) was the day we spent walking through the swamps and along the bayous in the barataria preserve in the jean lafitte national historical park. we rented a car and walked on the trails ourselves --- much nicer the boat tours (although we didn:t actually take a boat tour, so I can:t be certain). the dark motionless water and the moss covered trees created an uncanny stillness yet the swamp was crawling with all kinds of crawly swimmy things, some with quite large teeth. we went on three separate boardwalk trails, each with a different mix of vegetation and a different texture. unfortunately, we exhausted the camera:s memory and battery by midday, but here:s (more than) a few pictures of the swamps and bayous of barataria preserve.

the french quarter was lovely but crawling with all kinds of crawly drinking things wearing lots of shiny plastic beads. we wandered around, listened to music on the street, consumed the requisite cafe au lait and fried dough products with sugar at cafe du monde. we walked along the mississippi, went to the aquarium, and watched the 3D imax movie ocean wonderland. we are lazy tourists, so we missed the cemetery and the mardi gras exhibit on jackson square. bill ate a lot of catfish, fried and blackened, and I ate a lot of vegetables and pasta.

we arrived at the train station absurdly early (like old people) so we could be first in line to get on the train so we could get the one seat in the chicago bound car that has power outlet. we succeeded, and spent the afternoon moving back north through the swamps on the edge of lake pontchartrain. after dinner I read and bill worked a bit on his laptop. then the train rocked us to sleep. when we woke up in the morning it wasn:t spring anymore.



I feel like I:ve been neglecting my blog, and today is my day to deneglect it. unfortunately, the deneglection effort is being hampered by some mysterious keyboard behavior in alpha tk, the editor that I use to write the html that is blog-o-rama. (/. sig: My keyboads not woking popely.) more on my keyboard woes later. in the meantime " is now located above the 2 key, which doesn't make a difference in the text part of an html document, where the " is better written as " (which itself has a nice recursive html representation), but it's quite inconvenient when it comes to links and formatting. the single quote has wandered off somewhere as well.

so no links for now, even though I have quite a backlog of interesting political stuff to pass along. of course, you can wander over to news.google.com yourself for a ringside seat on the ongoing brawl provoked by richard clarke:s assault on the bush administration:s record in fighting terrorism. the best thing about the presidential campaign so far is that it has broken through the cone of silence that smothered public debate for most of the bush administration.

it:s been about 2.57 weeks since my last update from rivendell. a few tidbits+

  • today is orelia:s birthday. she is 23 and more fabulous everyday. right now she:s out shopping for something to wear for tonight:s bday celebration at the club majestic.

  • matt:s birthday is tomorrow.

  • jamie came back from albuquerue with a great place to live for next year, and five, count em, five, job offers. you go girl.

  • carolyn made taco pizza for dinner hours after she got back from her trip to new zealand. she is the platonic ideal of a cooperative housemate made incarnate.

  • ann has gotten off the waiting list and into laurel yourke:s ongoing creative writing workshop starting next monday. the first chapter of building the potato palace will be critiqued 3 weeks from now. ann also filled an entire black plastic trash bag with old clothes to go to st. vinnies, and more went into the trash. however, this has had no visible effect whatsoever because the remaining clothes/crap quickly expanded to fill all the available space in accordance with the gas law of closets.

  • bill kicked off rivendell:s post inspection renovation campaign with a partial demolition and reconstruction of the third floor bathroom. matt and brian were on hand to help put up on the drywall. jason was in charge of paint selection+ serene peach for the walls and bridal veil for the ceiling and trim. ann helped out with the plastering, priming, painting and clean-up. bill:s music room is next, it has more extensive plaster damage but is a smaller space with fewer fussy painting details.

  • riven-renovations czar nathan has gotten bids for tuck-pointing the outside of the house from every masonry contractor in a 600 mile radius of madison. after reviewing the estimates, he:s decided to look into outsourcing the work to india.

  • it:s still soggy garbage season in madison, but a few little nobby bits that may eventually turn into leaves are starting to form on some trees. it rained solidly for a couple of hours last night. by this morning the ice on the lake had retreated halfway to the other shore, leaving a perfectly still gray expanse under a hazy sky.

  • as if soggy garbage weren:t enough, drunken yahoo season is upon us as well.


crypto update

on page 759/918. I'm ready to find out what happens in the end of cryptonomicon. but I'm pacing myself because a 159 page reading binge would seem really decadent. there's something for everygeek in cryptonomicon: in particular, a brilliant rant about the numerological perfection of the Qwghlmian scale and an allocation mechanism for family heirlooms that involves moving the items around a parking lot representing cartesian coordinates, for bill & me, respectively. and then there's stephenson's insights into the nature of nerdliness:

Your younger nerd takes offenses quickly when someone near him begins to utter declarative sentences, because he reads into it an assertion that he, the nerd, does not already know the information being imparted. But your older nerd has more self-confidence, and besides, understands that frequently people need to think out loud. And highly advanced nerds will furthermore understand that uttering declarative sentences whose contents are already known to all present is part of the social process of making conversation and therefore should not be construed as aggression under any circumstances.


reading material

the train ride to and from new orleans provided long lovely stretches of time for guilt- and distraction-free reading. ahhh...

cryptonomicon is 900 pages of sprawling interconnected storylines filled with gore and geeks and the occasional equation or algorithm. I'm about half way through right now --- if I'm not careful my brain is going to become a wholly owned subsidiary of this book for next week. in new orleans I made sure to leave it in the room to avoid the temptation to binge-read all day.

...Andrew's life had been fractally weird. That is, you could take any small piece of it and examine it in detail and it, in and of itself, would turn out to be just as complicated and weird as the whole thing in its entirety.

nelson algren's a walk on the wild side reads more like a series of character sketches drawn on the dark underbelly of america than a novel. it picks up steam as it goes along, winding through railyards, whorehouses, prisons then back home to the dustbowl.

...Then the brokers began jumping off rooftops with no greater consideration for those passing below than they'd had when their luck was running. Emperors of industry snatched all the loose cash on which they could lay hand and made one fast last run. Lawyers sued one another just to keep in practice.

And every bughouse had one little usurer hidden away in a cell all his own where he did nothing but figure percent with his fingernail on the wall, day after day after day.


"It's awful when it's like this," Dove thought, "and it's like this right now."


"True I ate well. But that was only to keep up my strength for the sacrificial ordeal of my days. For I never knowingly harmed a fellow creature unless he got in my way. I never took unfair advantage unless it profited me. ..."

algren provides his own epigraph:

The books asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives. Why men who have suffered at the hands of other men are the natural believers in humanity, while those whose part had been simply to acquire, to take all and give nothing, are the most contemptuous of mankind.


guess who's the flip-flopper-in-chief?

one thing I like about john kerry is his willingness to take bush & his cronies head on. the kerry campaign has a blog-like website called Dbunker that rebuts the lies and distortions of the bush campaign. excerpts from a recent entry:

FICTION: John Kerry is a 'flip-flopper'.

FACT: The Republican spin machine has accused John Kerry of being both 'consistently liberal' and a 'flip-flopper'. They can't even get their spin straight. ... George W. Bush, on the other hand, leads what John Kerry calls "the biggest say one thing, do another administration." Here's a list of Bush flip-flops:

FLIP: Bush opposes campaign finance reform.
FLOP: Bush signs campaign finance reform.

FLIP: Bush opposes and stalls a 9/11 commission.
FLOP: Bush supports it.

FLIP: Bush is against deficits
FLOP: Bush's policies create the highest deficits ever.

FLIP: Bush opposes an Iraq WMD investigation.
FLOP: Bush grudgingly supports it.

FLIP: Bush is for free trade.
FLOP: Bush supports tariffs on steel.

FLIP: Bush is for states' right to decide on gay marriage.
FLOP: Bush then proposes amending the Constitution so they can't.

FLIP: Bush first says that 'help is on the way' to the military.
FLOP: Bush cuts Veterans benefits.

FLIP: Bush says he'll provide money for first responders (fire, police, emergency).
FLOP: Bush dramatically shortchanges law enforcement.

FLIP: Bush says he'll take care of the environment.
FLOP: Bush then guts laws that protect the environment.

FLIP: Bush talks about helping education.
FLOP: Bush increases mandates while cutting funding.

FLIP: Bush said he would demand a U.N. Security Council vote on whether to sanction military action against Iraq.
FLOP: Bush then changes his mind and announced he would not call for a vote.

FLIP: Bush said the "mission accomplished" banner was put up by the sailors.
FLOP: Bush later blames his advance team.

molly ivins goes into more detail about bush's flip-flopping, especially when it came to providing support and medical testing for firefighters in the wake of 9/11:

Remember when?
Bush record replete with rewritten histories and chucked promises

failure is impossible is an independent website devoted to exposing bush's campaign lies as well as his regular old lies:

"Lie" isn't an adequate word for what Republicans say. We need a new term; I propose anti-truth, as in, "There are lies, damned lies, and Republican anti-truths." Like matter and anti-matter, Republicans and the truth just can't occupy the same space. What they say goes all the way through and past "untrue" into the realm of turning reality inside out, tying a knot in it, and yanking hard.



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news from rivendell

  • jamie is this month's kitchen goddess. saturday morning she made waffles, which were very yummy and best of all sitting there on a plate waiting for me & bill when we came down to the kitchen. then she made enchilada casserole and chili con queso for dinner and cleaned the kitchen after 4 days of dinnerless neglect. and saturday's waffles were just a practice run for the waffle extravaganza that jamie prepared for brunch on sunday -- waffles & berries & cinnamon apples & pineapple & bananas & toasted coconut & toasted walnuts & warm maple syrup & homemade whipped cream. and eggs too, baked in the oven in a bain marie with cheddar cheese & chives. either jamie really loves us, or she's really trying to avoid her schoolwork.

    more jamie news: she'll be finished with grad school in a matter of weeks. she's going to albuquerque for spring break, she & micheal are going to look for an apartment and do a lot of bikram yoga.

  • julie came by for a visit on saturday so we could all meet imogen. julie has been wanting a dog for a long long time, and made sure to get an apartment that takes pets. imogen is a rescue dog who may have been abused so julie is making up for lost time in the love and affection dept. also, she helped jamie make dinner so she can be this month's assistant kitchen goddess.

  • jason got his letter of acceptance from the UW on saturday. jamie & I got to haul his sleepy ass out of bed at 11:00 AM to open it. except that he didn't really need to open the letter because it said "YES!" in red letters on the back flap. call me old fashioned, but doesn't that take the fun out of it? college acceptance letters for the instant gratification generation.

    more jason news: he's finishing his degree at MATC this may; he's seized control of the paint chips for the ongoing improvements at rivendell; and he had a date after the house meeting on sunday. late breaking news: jason just got his tax refund. that would imply that jason has already filed his tax return.

  • orelia is getting the most awesome graduation present (from me (& bill)) but she can't open it until she graduates in may. bwa-ha-ha!

  • sara is going to door county with her mother over spring break. she's applied for the writing fellows program at UW. meanwhile she has plenty of papers of her own to write.

  • andrea is going to michigan over spring break to work on a habitat for humanity project. I think there should be a reality tv show about habitat for humanity, they could call it "making spaces." wouldn't it be way more awesome to see a family move out of a shelter into a real home than to watch someone burst into tears after discovering that a lunatic with a hot melt glue gun has attached 3,000 plastic flowers to her bathroom ceiling?

  • nathan will be bonding with his power tools in andrea's absence.

  • bill will be riding on the city of new orleans this spring break. meantime, he's making a lot of noise and reading a lot of novels about merlin and king arthur.

  • matt doesn't get a spring break. but his birthday is coming up soon...

  • ann is happy to be heading south into redbud and dogwood (and alligator and swamp) country for spring break. she has nordictracked through 9 movies: mystic pizza; almost famous; romeo & juliet; romeo & juliet; westside story; 42nd street; koyaanisqqatsi; the princess diaries; flashdance.

  • comella's 1 1/2 year old nephew alden came to the house meeting on sunday. he's has big big eyes and curly hair and eats a lot of celery for such a small person.

  • hunter needs to go on a diet, according the veterinarian. newsflash: hunter may not be the only creature living at rivendell who could benefit from a few months of science diet.

  • orelia, jamie, ann & bill took an online quiz to find out how old their inner child is. orelia, jamie and ann all plan on being a fireman-princess-veterinarian when they grow up. bill wants to be a scientist. jason did not take the quiz, but we suspect that his inner child is 45.

  • the house was inspected by the city. we had a work day the weekend before --- it was really nice to have a lot of things cleaned up and reorganized at once. jason went to town on the kitchen and carolyn and jamie revamped the tv room. orelia, ann and carolyn were the soggy garbage patrol. bill was on doorknob detail. the inspection went very well, considering the age and condition of the house. the really big project will be tuckpointing and painting the outside.

  • the weather sucks. day after day of gray and cold with no sign of spring, unless you consider mud and soggy garbage to be signs of spring. it's janumarch according to orelia's friend mark and fscking janumarch according to orelia.

swing states in 2004 election

I found this list of swing states in an article which has since disappeared back into the swirling electroplasm of the internet. I got a few comments on it at the AnybodyButBush2004 forum at orkut: one person thought oklahoma should be added, another that florida is quite likely to go for kerry. I'll be doing my best to make sure WI goes for the democrats this year.


  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin


  • Washington
  • Oregon


  • Pennsylvania
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire


  • Nevada
  • New Mexico


  • Tennessee
  • Arkansas

Less likely to be won by Kerry, but close enough to consider

  • Florida
  • Arizona
  • West Virginia


say it with me...
ah-nee-bah-dee but bush

moveon.org is collecting pledges of time to counteract bush's enormous war chest of cash. 6407940 hours have been pledged so far, 36 by me (I pledged one hour a week until the election).

Take Back the White House!

President Bush has already raised hundreds of millions for his bid. Our great hope is in our collective power to get out the vote. We'll work via the Internet, the telephone, and face-to-face conversations with voters. And we'll take back our democracy, city by city, block by block, and voter by voter. Are you in? Sign the pledge

short on time? how about donating some money?

john kerry for president

moveon's political action committee

geov parrish at working for change lays it out so clearly that I've excerpted most of his column here. bush & co. used a relentless campaign of innuendo, slander, deception, and outright lies to fabricate support for their invasion of iraq, we would be foolish to expect different from them in the battle for the presidency: we're in for a long ugly fight.

This year's presidential race is going to be the most important the United States, and the world, has seen in decades. At least. And it is going to be very, very nasty. Liberals had better stop being nice, stop being complacent or cynical or despairing or disengaged, and take your gloves off. Now.

Like it or not, the president who came in promising to unite us has created, in only three short years, the most polarized and the most bitterly politically divided country since Reconstruction. His team has created more anti-American hatred around the globe than has ever previously existed in history. Those same political strategists have shown that they will stop at virtually nothing to gain and exercise power, and will do so almost exclusively to enrich their hyperwealthy friends and feed their warped ideological crusades -- crusades that, if presented honestly, would be rejected by the vast majority of their countrypersons and the rest of the world.

This is a war. It's being fought like one, whether or not we participate, and we are all targets. We'd better start acting like our asses are on the firing line. They are.

I don't hate George W. Bush; I do hate what he has done and is still doing to our country and to my planet, and I do intend to do everything in my power to ensure he and his cabal don't have another four years to abuse their public trust. But now comes the hard part. The excitement and headlines of the Democratic primaries are over. It will be a long, hard slog to November, interrupted only by two party conventions/infomercials and the power of the White House to control the headlines of a news media whose critical thinking muscles are atrophied beyond recognition.

We can already see how this will go. If you have any doubt how the White House will attack John Kerry, look at its last great sales job: the invasion of Iraq. For months, we were besieged with exaggerations, accusations, planted stories, and outright lies. No fib or rationalization was too ridiculous; as soon as one was disproven or shot down, three more were trotted out. Eventually, some stuck, for a while. But more to the point, the White House wore down public skepticism just enough, and just long enough, that their raw power could do the rest. If it all turned out to be a fraud, who cares? This is what ruthlessness looks like.

John Kerry has decades' worth of votes and public statements from which this sort of malicious playbook can be stocked, and the attacks have already begun. The question is one of perspective: by virtue of sheer scale and audacity, George Bush's crimes against the public trust dwarf any policy reversal John Kerry, or most any other politician, has ever contemplated. But if Kerry and his supporters wring their hands and spend the next eight months answering every charge and talking nobly of future public policy, they'll deserve to lose. The issue this year is nothing other than George Bush's attack on 300 million of us, his betrayal of what is best in and about America: front, back, and center.

Defense doesn't win wars. And that's what this is: war, one we didn't start, for nothing less than the future of the country, the world, even. The six billion of us without any trust funds to finance our tickets to Mars are pretty well stuck with this one planet. We'd better start acting, all of us, like no one government, let alone one politician who says he talks regularly with God, has the right to recklessly endanger it and the lives of so many of the people on it. Get angry about it. You should be.

ps: this is the first payment on my pledge of an hour a week to defeat bush...

not so current events

hugo weaving talks about who would win in a fight between elrond and agent smith:

"Elrond slashes his sword up and down if you squeeze his little legs together. Agent Smith, on the other hand, simply wields a pistol at the end of an outstretched arm.

"Elrond's got the movable pieces. And he's also bigger," Weaving says, after due consideration. "Smith, on the other hand, has got a gun. But then, Elrond's immortal..."

my completely partisan picks: elrond over agent smith, and astronauts over cavemen.


I wasn't going to devote more electrons to urban outfitters utterly lame voting is for old people t-shirt, until I read about their other bright marketing ideas:

Earlier this year, a T-shirt featuring the slogan "Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl" surrounded by dollar signs was taken off shelves and redesigned after complaints from the Anti-Defamation League. And last fall, a board game called Ghettopoly -- in which playas could collect $50 for getting their neighborhoods hooked on crack -- was pulled after the game sparked outrage and protests.

at what point do "mistakes" like these accumulate into a truthful depiction of a corporate point of view? BTW urban outfitters ceo richard hayne is a big republican campaign donor.


Artificial Networked Neohuman
Manufactured for Accurate Repair and Intensive Assassination

that's my cyborg name, brought to you by the creators of the geek hierarchy. (I prefer the unabridged version.) whoever the brunching shuttlecocks are/were, they get extra points for referring to the web as "a massively multiplayer open mic night for the aspiring writer/artist/poet/revolutionary."

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