Archive for February, 2007

The Singularity Is Near

This is why they decided to invent Discovery Informatics ….

Neat Video….

Barriers, Redemption, & Karma

Following in the vein of the liberal arts as a tool for critical thinking, another tale for the reader.

Barriers are built for the purpose of keeping people/things from gaining access to something, whether it be a village, an economic opportunity, or University. Self-defense, self-interest, or self-improvement, all require effort to achieve. The return to school was no different. Given my documented history (recorded for posterity in the Office of the Registrar), I had to overcome institutional resistance to the notion of my return. Having overcome this obstacle…..

Redemption is the price one must pay for overcoming the Barrier of Re-Admission. As noted in Wikipedia’s discussion on Christian redemption: “After one’s sins are forgiven, the individual’s suffering can reduce the penalty due for sin.” I am re-admitted, but I must pay for my past sins. Here, the penalty is not the absence of educational opportunity, but acknowledgement, during the present, that my previous acts were worthy of punishment. Having re-gained the opportunity for education, I must pay for my omissive acts of earlier decades. This penance comes, in part, through my mandatory enrollment in a class designed to help students who are currently adrift in the Bermudic Triangle of academic confusion, lost motivation, and social distractions…..

Karma is the Buddhist/Hindu concept which says, if I may be brief, that our past acts have future consequences. As I sit in my “penance” class, I am forced to listen to excuses, snores, the chatter of text-messaging, insolence, and the pearls of wisdom that drop from the professor’s mouth. That she speaks the Truth is lost on the class. That I know she speaks the Truth, and that I am the manifestation of that Truth, is also lost on the class. That I am forced to observe, closely, the kind of behavior that was a hallmark of my earlier college experience, is perfect Karmic justice.

It may be that I have been put on Earth to teach someone else this valuable lesson, only they’re not listening.


Eat A Peach

To steal a phrase from Academe, “The value of a liberal arts education, and the purpose of college, is to teach students to think, to link, and to create”. Already, in this first semester, two professors have made reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy, a subject that this student had never before encountered.

In a nutshell, or “precis” as Professor P******* says, Bloom developed his hierarchy of thinking in the 1950s “as a means of expressing qualitatively different kinds of thinking”. The levels are:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

Well, I think we are moving up the ladder, so to speak.

Recently, our English class has been reading poetry (did you notice, dear reader?); one of our readings was T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“. Among other elements, the poem contains references to earlier works of literature and art. In doing the “google” part of my homework, I learned that The Allman Brothers album “Eat A Peach” had been inspired by a line in the Eliot poem: “Do I dare eat a peach?”. Fair enough, the world of music shares the universe with the world of literature and art, and it’s nice to know that my favorite Georgia cracker had some book learning.

Last night, in reading “The Legend of MiaoShen” for my Religion class, I came across a passage where the Buddha tells MiaoShen that he will provide her with a “magic peach” for a journey, and that

When you have eaten it, you shall henceforth experience neither hunger nor thirst; old age and infirmity will never assail you, and you shall live for endless ages”.

Well, the light bulb went on for this student. Of course Eliot would have been familiar with Daoism, of course he would have read this famous tale, and of course the theme of eternity found in the “magic peach” would resonate in his poem about time.

So, Duane got it from Eliot, and Eliot got it from Daoism. And now, I get it. I get an example of the linkage of art, literature, and religion across 2,000 years; I get that a famous piece of music (at least for my generation) is inspired by a famous piece of literature, which is inspired by an ancient symbol in Chinese religious thought.

I wonder what else is out there?

The New Valentine’s Day

I expected things to be a little different around the campus on this journey. After all, it’s another generation’s turn to make the rules, establish the standards, and call the shots. But expecting something does not make the experiencing of that thing any less interesting.

Valentine’s Day is a case in point. According to Wikipedia,

The day is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of “valentines.” Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid…

…which tracks pretty closely with my understanding of the event. Of course, mere love notes are not considered a sufficient expression of eternal love and adoration in my marriage, so, to the cocktail of cash flow must be added flowers and outside entertainment. But my understanding is no different from other men…until I encountered the modern orthodoxy of a politicized ritual in the Halls of Academe.

Here’s a modern, feminist take on The New Meaning of Valentine’s Day that pierces my heart…

In Roman mythology, Cupid’s arrows pierced the hearts of unsuspecting mortals causing them to fall deeply in love. Today, cherubic Cupid is a common symbol of Valentine’s Day, a holiday celebrating romantic love. While most women still welcome Cupid’s attack — or at least a box of chocolates — some feminist groups seek to transform Valentine’s Day into V-Day, an occasion to raise awareness about violence against women.

V-Day originated from Eve Ensler’s controversial play, “The Vagina Monologues.” The play consists of vignettes describing the experiences of numerous women’s vaginas: from heterosexual and lesbian sex to child birth, with a focus on violence and rape. The V-Day website states that “V-Day’s mission is simple. It demands that the violence must end. It proclaims Valentine’s Day as V-Day until the violence stops.”

No matter what you think about the play, raising awareness about violence against women is a worthy goal. Ensler’s depiction of the horrors of a Bosnian rape camp highlights the appalling abuse too many women suffer in today’s world.

But why the assault on Valentine’s Day? The clear implication is that violence and male/female relations are somehow naturally linked. It’s part of a disturbing strategy by the women’s movement — and particularly by women’s-studies departments on college campuses — to convince women that traditional institutions like marriage are inherently patriarchal and oppressive.

So this is Valentine’s Day on my campus. A week of the “Vagina Monologues”, rape prevention and awareness issues, and a sex-toy party for the co-eds, who are invited to “spice up their love life” with some unmentionables. Guess I’ll be getting off lightly if all I have to do is buy supper and a few roses.

I wonder if the college will, according to tradition, be holding Sadie Hawkins Day later this Spring?

So Who’s Fooling Who?

We wear the mask that grins and lies
Through chains of fog and smoke
With you we have no special ties
Vision blurred and speech hindered
Not even you have the courage to approach
We scare you because we’re different
We scare you because we’re unique.
You want us to be afraid
You want us to be inferior
And even in your game of love vs. hate you wanted us to play
Even then we laughed and shouted
For we knew that we would come a very long way
From dusk til dawn we’ve triumphed even over you
Still now you stare and you wonder
How could they possibly do the things they do?
For we wear the mask that grins and lies
So who’s fooling who?
Because we know you don’t know shit
Because we are strong and we are courageous
And we always find our way through
Beautiful and bold with heads held high
We wear the mask that grins and lies.


Summer’s End

We sat together at one summer’s end
And took it to heart that we’d only be friends.
We said all was well and we walked away
To haunting reminders of that summer’s day.

What seemed to be fixed now only seems broken
By the words that were then so easily spoken.
What once seemed to be what would set us both free
Now only gives way to a thirst not to be.

For if my old lover is now my friend,
Then why did affection all suddenly end?
If we as lovers no longer must be
Then pray I this cup be taken from me.

We gained not a friend but lost our own souls
Attempting to rid us the smallest of woes!
The chill of the night goes down, down my spine
When lying and mourning him, only to pine.

What have I now but this small pen in my hand?
How will it ever stir change with this man?
We passed on the way and his eyes said it worse–
Our pride will remain our love’s only curse.

We sat together at one summer’s end
And took it to heart that we’d only be friends.
But realized we not how lovers will burn!
For each other with passion we now only yearn.


The Dream

In the dream, I enter the house.
It is cold and dark inside.
I creep inward as if I were a mouse,
Daring to make the slightest sound
That would give my presence away.

As I continue to make my way inward,
I find that this house in which I dare enter
Is filled with a strange presence.
The air is suffocating me.
I cannot breathe,
I cannot move.

Questions arise in my mind.
Why is this house angry?
What have I done to be treated so?

I find myself breathless and motionless,
Desperately seeking my way out.
I wake up.
I am freed from the oppression of an angered house.
I am freed from the oppression of everything,
I am freed from the dream,


“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
The term informavore (also spelled informivore) characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food. George A. Miller [1] coined the term in 1983 as an analogy to how organisms survive by consuming negative entropy (as suggested by Erwin Schrödinger [2]). Miller states, "Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy, so the mind survives by ingesting information. In a very general sense, all higher organisms are informavores." - Wikipedia

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