Sunday, April 30, 2006

All our corporate business having been concluded Saturday night, I gave myself Sunday to explore Arizona a little bit. I checked out of the Biltmore, rented a car and drove north out of Phoenix on Interstate 17.

Heading north, I gained elevation, first 2000 feet, then 3000 feet, and the temperatures dropped from the 90s to the 80s. I got off the interstate at State Highway 69 and drove toward Prescott Valley,gaining elevation to 4000 and then 5000 feet. In Prescott Valley, I cut across to AZ 89A and up Mingus Mountain, eventually peaking at around 7100 feet (temperatures in the low 70s). The town of Jerome (Geronomo?) precipitously clings to the north side of the mountain, offering spectacular views. I recommend a visit to Jerome if you're ever in the area.

Heading down off the mountain, I could see the Red Rocks country of Sedona and environs ahead. Sedona is probably overdeveloped and overrun, but once there I found the natural setting beautiful, if one can ignore all the overhead electric wires. The picture above was taken in Sedona.

From Sedona, I headed back toward I-17 on AZ-179, and eventually back to Phoenix before the sun set. I'm holed up here tonight in a Holiday Inn before my plane flight back to Atlanta tomorrow.

I took a lot of pictures, beyond the one above, but for some reason Blogger isn't letting me upload them right now, so they'll have to wait until later in the week.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sustainability

Phoenix is the second-fastest growing city in the United States and already the fifth largest. The population of Phoenix increased more than 34 percent in just the past decade. The climate is great, the people friendly, and the quality of life seems quite high. Unfortunately, from a water perspective, the city is totally unsustainable.

Phoenix obtains most of its drinking water from the Salt, Verde, and Colorado Rivers. The Colorado River water is channeled to Phoenix through a canal system called the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which also serves Tucson and other municipalities. With more than 20 million people drinking Colorado River water every day, water usage is at or beyond the river's capacity. If development continues at the same rate or in the event of a drought, a large-scale water shortage among Colorado River users would be likely, leaving users to turn to area groundwater supplies, which are already in perilous condition.

Increased groundwater pumping to support population growth in south-central Arizona (including the Tucson and Phoenix areas) has already resulted in water-level declines of between 300 and 500 feet in much of the area. Land subsidence was first noticed in the 1940s and the ground level has sunk as much as 18 feet in some areas near Phoenix, indicating considerable and potentially irreversible impacts on aquifer storage and conductivity. In other words, even if the water were to be pumped back into the ground, the reservoir capacity is gone. Additionally, lowering of the water table has resulted in the loss of streamside vegetation.

The situation is similar in cities like Las Vegas and Denver, and there is no obvious quick or easy solution. They're simply going to run out of water someday, and the people will either have to go thirsty or move away.

Coming - to a town near you - 20 million former Colorado River drinkers!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jump Day

I caught a flight this morning from Atlanta to Phoenix for the annual corporate get-together for my company. Four-hour flight, aisle seat (middle empty), no complications.

It's a beautiful day in Phoenix - sunny (as always), warm in the sun, cool in the shade. It might actually get chilly this evening.

The meeting is in the (wonderful, fabulous) Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa. Beautiful southwestern architecture, pools everywhere, great food and the bathroom alone in my room is larger than the entire hotel room I stayed in at New York. It's a pity they actually expect me to show up at the meetings.

I didn't last year. Alert readers might recall that at last year's meeting in San Francisco, I came down with the flu and spent the entire time holed up in my room in the (wonderful, fabulous) Fairmont Hotel. It turned out to be one of the worst weeks in my life - illness, missing the meeting, breaking up with L., etc.

I've been healthy thus far, so I guess things are already better than a year ago (what a difference a year makes?). The meetings are actually not unpleasant, and it's good meeting all my colleagues from other offices again (especially the European and Asian ones). The Welcome Cocktail Reception and Light Dinner is still yet to come (I'm blogging this during a break), so there's still more fun to be had.

As long as I don't pick up avian flu or anything.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Music Review: Dark Side of the Moog

Wish You Were There - The Dark Side of the Moog is probably Namlook's best known series of recordings - it's certainly the first one that I had heard and it's certainly the longest: ten CDs (TDSOTM I through X), plus an Evolution of TDSOTM compilation CD.

This series is basically a set of collaborations with Klaus Schulze, legendary electronic musician and co-founder of Tangerine Dream. Tangerine Dream was obviously a big influence on Pete Namlook. 1974's Phaedra was one of the the first albums to feature the now classic sequencer-driven sound - the title track relied on the use of the Moog analog sequencer as a substitute for bass guitar - and kicked off the whole Berlin School genre. It reached the Top 10 in the UK with virtually no air play, only by strong word-of-mouth. Tangerine Dream's early albums played a pivotal role in the development of bands such as Kraftwerk, although their later albums were more in the New Age genre.

Tangerine Dream's early sound can be heard in many Namlook recordings. The first TDSOTM recording (1994) sounds so Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze, it's hard to hear exactly what Namlook's contribution was. It's as if the student gave the whole session over to the teacher. Also, even though the series title is a Pink Floyd pun (the album is subtitled "Wish You Were There") it's hard to find any connection between the Tangerine Dream sequencer sounds of the album and Floyd's more eclectic approach to music. But in any event, a fun little CD, especially if you're a fan of spacey electronica.

A Saucerful of Ambience - The second entry in the TDSOTM series came out in 1995 and opens with a long sequence of environmental/ambient bird and insect sounds and slowly builds into a sustained space groove. In this case, it sounds like Namlook created the "house," the environment for Schulze to then explore with his Moog, sort of like the Fripp and Eno collaborations of the 1970s.Phantom Heart Brother - 1995's third installment in the TDSOTM series would make good Halloween music - all spooky whistles and atmospherics. The Dark Side, indeed.Three Pipers at the Gates of Dawn - In 1996, the duo of Namlook and Schulze became a trio for the fourth TDSOTM CD with the addition of prolific and eclectic bassist and producer Bill Laswell, another electronic music legend (he produced Herbie Hancock's Rockit). Laswell's influence on this recording is profound - this CD is much more rhythmic and driven than the previous three free-form recordings, like a shot of cappucino into the absinthe. This is the first in the series of collaborations that truly sounds collaborative - Namlook's ambience with Schulze's sequencing with Laswell's rhythms - three distinctive contributions to one organic whole.Psychedelic Brunch - The fifth TDSOTM installment, 1996's Psychedelic Brunch, opens with a bit of a surprise - it's introduced by Robert Moog himself! "My name is Robert Moog," he announces, "and my email address is realmoog@greenbrier.com. I would like to present to you, The Dark Side of The Moog."

Oh, how happy Namlook must have been! In the studio with legends Klaus Schulze and Bill Laswell, and having Robert Moog not only announce his project, by name, but even give out his email address! It's the most heterogeneous of the albums, ranging from long synthesized strings passages, to kick-ass electro beats to spooky outer space sounds.

So that's the first half of the TDSOTM series. There is a conceptual continuity throughout, as well as a continued growth and progression (TDSOTM V could not have come out before III). However, there's hardly a lick of Pink Floyd to be heard anywhere other than the titles. I'm not sure if I'll review the next five CDs here, as I might well be on to other things by then.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The mind is restless, unsteady,
hard to guard, hard to control.
The wise one makes it straight,
like a fletcher straightens an arrow.

How good it is to rein the mind
Which is unruly, capricious, rushing wherever it pleases.
The mind so harnessed will bring one happiness.

Your worst enemy cannot harm you
as much as your unguarded thoughts.
A well-directed mind creates more happiness
Than even the loving actions of your parents.
- Shakyamuni Buddha

The Great Sage of India speaks the truth here (he always does). During last night's Zen Service, my mind raced through all manners of self-destructive and self-limiting thoughts, even as I was sitting at the attendants' seat behind the drum and gong. At the end of the period, I struck the gong, bowed to the alter, and turned to face the sangha, feeling unworthy to be standing there.

Until the first question was asked, and all the negativity flowed out of my body as compassion for the one asking replaced it. The impermanence of our mental states, the capriciousness of our mind, could not have been more apparent to me than at that moment.

We create our own heavens and we create our own hells, and we don't even realize that we're doing it.

The goose that was sitting on her eggs on the artificial island outside my office building is gone, and I haven't seen her parading little goslings around, either. Perhaps her eggs cracked, their shells rendered too thin from pesticides and poisons in the environment, or perhaps she lost a late-night battle to a opossum. I'll never know - she didn't leave a note.

In the afternoon, I heard the distinct honking of Canadian geese, and saw two fly past my third story window (through the trees and past the blue jay nest, which is still doing quite well, thank you). They made a second pass before moving on. It was probably her and her mate, trying to decide what to do next (the ultimate empty nest syndrome): Continue on with their migration to Canada? Try to start a new batch of eggs? Go back to Mexico? Or just kill a little time here in The ATL?

About this time last year, when I was in San Francisco, I saw a sign with the ancient Zen proverb, "The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection on the lake, for the water has no mind to receive their image." Which reminds me that the geese are not thinking any of these thoughts, they are not grieving, they are not killing time.

They're just being.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Get Email

It's been an interesting day for email. First this:

From: Debashis Bose
Sent: Apr 24
Subject: I will call the police

I will call the police if u send me any more spam---


I have no idea who Debashis Bose is. But then, later, I got the following, apparently from beyond the grave. It seems my late father has been reincarnated as a Neo-Con:

From: Hart, Bill
Sent: Mon 4/24/2006 2:24 PM
Subject: FW: one chain will not break

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances, is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155 mm Howitzer. He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march. He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.

He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low. He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all.


He has seen more suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime. He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them. He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful. Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom.

Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years. He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood. And now we even have woman over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so. As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot. A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.

Prayer wheel for our military - please don't break it. Please send this on after a short prayer. "Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen." When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our ground troops in Afghanistan, sailors on ships, and airmen in the air, and for those in Iraq.

There is nothing attached. This can be very powerful. Of all the gifts you could give a U.S. Soldier, Sailor, Coast Guardsman, Marine and Airman, prayer is the very best one. I can't break this one, sorry. This is a ribbon for soldiers fighting in Iraq. Pass it on to everyone and pray.


I swear I'm not making this up.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Self Portrait

In heaven, that's all they talk about: the ocean, the sunset - how fucking wonderful it is to watch that big ball of fire melt into the ocean.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dogen's advice is sound if you want to get along. It doesn't really apply if the aim is to get at the truth.

On the contrary, I believe that Dogen’s advice is sound if you want to get at the truth. His advice is more than a guide on how to get along, but also on how to abandon one's own egotistical biases.

In argument, all that typically happens, outside of the most extraordinary of circumstances, is that each party feels compelled to defend their own position and digs down deeper into their existing beliefs, and rarely finally convinces the other.

Think about it: have you ever really won an argument? Oh sure, you might walk away thinking “I really told him,” but did you actually convince him that your position was correct and that his was not? And wasn’t your conviction that you “won” based only on your own terms and set of beliefs, but from another point of view the other party might be perceived as the “winner?”

So in "argument" all that is really accomplished is a stubborn reinforcement of one’s own ideas and perceptions. To get at the “truth,” one needs to set all preconceptions and egoism aside. Argument and debate is not the way to do that. Dogen’s advice, as a part of the Buddha way, is.

After all, what is “truth?” Nothing can count as a reason for holding a belief except another belief. If justifying our beliefs can be only a matter of squaring them with other beliefs, then the sole criterion for a set of beliefs' being true is that they form a coherent web, a picture of knowledge known as holism. And different people interacting with the dynamic, ever-changing world might well find themselves with distinct but equally coherent holistic webs of belief - a possibility known as incommensurability. In such circumstances, who is to say what is true and what isn’t?

Reason can never produce truth, as reason is merely a product of one’s own individual web of beliefs, and a universal, absolute truth, by definition, transcends any one such web. The Buddha way, however, is to arrive at this universal, absolute truth by the dropping away of all egotistical viewpoints. Dogen taught that to study the Buddha way is to study the self, and that to study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is allow mind and body to drop away and directly experience all the myriad truths of the universe.

So if one’s aim is to arrive at the truth, argument should be set aside and we shouldn’t bother ourselves challenging diverging points of view. Instead, clear your mind of all preconceptions, and look at the world as it really is.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Music Review

But enough about birds - it's once again time to bore you with "What I've Been Listening to Lately"Pete Namlook & David Moufang - Koolfang II (Gig In The Sky) and Koolfang III (Be Aware) - I can't find Koolfang I, but the sometimes cheesy, sometimes jazzy Koolfang II and III don't sound like Namlook at all. If you're looking for a chilled-out, loungey atmosphere with guitars and emotive lines of fairly minimalist jazz, something summery that would go down well at some parties or just to tap your feet to as you sip at a long dry white wine and watch the sun set, then these are the recordings for you. However, be forwarned - the titular cut on 1995's Gig in the Sky, the last cut on the CD, features five or six minutes of silence (homage to Cage?). Nothing is wrong with your stereo - it's supposed to be silent. Fuerteventura on 2005's Be Aware is like lying on a Canary Island beach in the late evening, but marred by excessive "too sexy for this band" vocals. However, the atmospheric vibe will still give you the feeling of being on a lonely beach with your one true love, and a beautiful guitar part appears in the middle.

Pete Namlook & DJ Criss - Sequential - A 1993 limited edition of 500, Sequential is one of the Fax classics. Highlight of this mix of ambient and trance include the shimmering beauty of Everything Is Under Control, as well as the fairly well-known masterpiece Lost In The Sea, the classic title track, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Most of the tracks are of a more refined nature than the 4Voice stuff of the same period- the drums are not quite as thunderous but are instead slightly more subtle. Squelchy basslines abound and, all in all, this is pretty funky stuff.

Pete Namlook & DJ Dag - Adlernebel - In 2000, DJ Dag was Namlook's latest studio playmate, and their first collaboration, Adlernebel, is a slickly produced trance album that shows promise of a good musical chemistry. The Forgotten Trail features spiraling flamenco guitars and chilled beats that leave the listener with the warm feeling of happy summer evenings spent with loved ones. The last track, You Gotta Hold It In Your Lungs Longer, George, mixes hard trip-hop beats with the sounds of ganja smoking and repetitions of the title phrase.

Pete Namlook & Dr Atmo - Silence and Silence III - The classic pairing of Namlook and Dr Atmo, 1992's Silence delivered four slowly evolving 10- to 22-minute pieces of chilled minimalistic ambience. Omid/Hope opens with slow strings welling up, interrupted by Namlook's analogue squeals and voice adding some affirmative soundbites:

You are right.
Yes.
Silence.
I am beautiful.
And all is beautiful around.
You bring life.
The heartbeat of life.
We are all part of the Universe.
Seasons will come and go.
The silence of the universe.

Next up is Garden of Dreams, which transports the listener to a world of lush atmospherics built around the familiar Namlook vocal pad sound. This is haunting gothic-style ambience, describing a deep and exotic place. In contrast, the next track, Santur, takes us to a Middle Eastern place, complete with guitar, vocal and rhythm parts. Finally its left to the shimmering Trip to take us some place else entirely. A cyclic track that builds and builds with its hypnotic groove, like a vast black hole pulling the listener in with repetitive spirals. If you only buy one Fax album, this should be it (provided you can find it - only 500 copies were printed). Silence II came out in 1993 and I still can't find a copy, and Silence III was released in 1998.

Gotta go. Ted Kennedy in on The Daily Show tonight.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It being spring and all, I've been meaning to blog about birds for days now.

It probably started early this week (the urge to blog about birds, that is, not birds themselves - they started eons ago). Two blue jays decided to build their nest in a tree right outside my office window. There are no branches between their nest and my window, so I can see them clearly - it's almost like an avian ant farm.

They weaved the nest out of the usual twigs and grass and things, and the male would sit back and watch as the female would set herself in it and swish herself around a little bit, trying the nest on for comfort. Then, they'd make some adjustments, and she'd jump back in, obviously forming the nest for her comfort for the long task ahead of laying and setting on her eggs.

But the geese have the lead on her. Two Canadian geese have also made their annual appearance at my office building, their third by my counting, and are starting their third family there.

My office building is a little over-landscaped for a modest six-story business center. Although it's your standard glass-and-steel corporate cube, it's surrounded by two ponds, a fountain, a fake waterfall and even a little (20-yard) whitewater river. Totally superfluous,and probably a squandering of water resources if I thought about it.

But anyway, it fools the geese. For the third year, they've landed here on their Mexico-to-Canada winged migration, and have once again chosen a faux island in one of the ponds to lay their eggs. I suppose the female feels safe out there surrounded by water where raccoons and opossums and, most importantly people, can't bother her.

So she's been sitting out on her island for a few weeks now, almost as if in a trance (hibernating?). I haven't seen her leave once, and she just sits there staring into space. Very Zen.

Her mate hangs around the lower pond, biding his time, like an expecting father in a maternity ward. The other day, as I was driving back from lunch, he was waddling down the middle of the sidewalk, just minding his own business, like some executive off to Starbucks for his morning latte.

Silly goose.

Anyway, I expect their chicks any day now. Last year, they paraded them all over the parking lot, Mom in front, Dad in back, seemingly proud to show off their brood.

So they're old pros at this, and I don't worry for them like I do the jays. Today, they fought off a curious squirrel, twice, all shrieks and pecks and flapping wings. I worry the squirrel might come back for mischief after the eggs are lain. I worry about other birds robbing their nest, and snakes, etc. But if all goes well, I guess Momma Jay will soon set down and lay her eggs, incubating them with her warmth, and afterwards I'll get to watch them feed their chicks, then teach them how to fly.

I'll keep you posted on how things progress.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Few Loose Ends

In case you missed it, concerning last week's ominous photo of a bleak landscape, kit said:

Welcome to beautiful Kazakhstan, gateway to the stars! The picture was taken near Site 110 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. You're right, the scene is a relic of the Cold War. Baikonur was originally constructed as an ICBM base. Today, it's the hub of the Russian manned space program, and is responsible for supplying crews and cargo for the International Space Station.

That decaying structure is building MZK, a fueling complex for the abandoned Buran space shuttle program. You can see part of the launch gantry on the far left of the big photo.

The spacecraft being rolled past MZK is a Soyuz launch vehicle. I'm not sure if it's one of the manned Soyuz-TM rockets or a Progress supply vehicle. It's not a missile, though.

What a stark place, beautiful in a very "sabi" way. I found a Quicktime VR movie that lets you zoom and pan around close to where your picture was taken:
http://www.russianspaceweb.com/baikonur_r7_360.mov

Save the file to your local machine so you can view it fullscreen. The resolution is good. If you look hard enough, you will be able to positively identify building MZK.


Strangely -- perhaps even appropriately -- it was from this otherworldly site that humankind took its first baby steps into the cosmos.

In an open letter to George Bush, Sean Penn said:

Many of your actions to date and those proposed seem to violate every defining principal of this country over which you preside: intolerance of debate. . . marginalization of your critics, the promoting of fear through unsubstantiated rhetoric, manipulation of a quick comfort media, and the position of your administration's deconstruction of civil liberties all contradict the very core of the patriotism you claim.

Concerning my on-line debate with K concerning the science of climate change, Zen Master Dogen said:

Even if you are speaking rationally and another person says something unreasonable, it is wrong to defeat him by arguing logically. On the other hand, it is not good to give up hastily saying that you are wrong, even though you think that your opinion is reasonable.

Neither defeat him, nor withdraw saying you are wrong. It is best to just leave the matter alone and stop arguing. If you act as if you have not heard and forget about the matter, he will forget too and will not get angry. This is a very important thing to bear in mind.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The science (of global warming) is not agreed upon. Simply saying it is so doesn't make it true.

Ignoring dissenting viewpoints - as many scientists and those in the media are attempting to do, is part of the problem.


But not ignoring dissent does not mean accepting any dissenting opinion that happens to come along, either. I agree that simply saying something is doesn't make it so. And apparently, the science of global warming is not agreed upon by everyone. However, among scientists who publish their results in peer-reviewed journals, there really isn't any debate.

But don't take my word for it - Naomi Oreskes had a short paper in a recent issue of Science in which she reports on her review of peer-reviewed climate science papers from 1993 to 2003. Her results are stark: Not a single peer-reviewed scientific paper challenged the consensus that climate change is being driven by human activities. Not a single one. She concludes: "Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen." Here's a link to her article.

But "60 accredited climate change experts" recently wrote an open letter to the Canadian Prime Minister arguing against the hypothresis of global warming. Here's a link to their letter.

How can this be? How can there be such a clear consensus in the literature, and yet, dissent from "60 accredited climate change experts" in an open letter? The answer's simple - firing off an open letter isn't the same as publishing research in a peer-reviewed journal. Moreover, although they claim to be "accredited experts in climate and related scientific disciplines" (emphasis added), many, such as Dr. Ross McKitrick, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Guelph, have rather tenuous claims to being "accredited climate change experts."

In fact, in the magazine Energy and Environment, Dr. McKitrick, along with his collegue Dr. McIntyre, claimed to have found "grave errors" in Dr. Michael Mann's "hockey stick" research, including calculation errors, data used twice, and a computer program that generated a "hockey stick" out of any data fed to it—even random data.

The science fiction author Michael Crichton took great delight in that the flaws in Mann’s work were not caught by climate scientists, but rather by outsiders — in this case, an economist and a mathematician. So which is it? Are they "accredited climate change experts" or are they outsiders? For their sake, I hope the latter, because when they tried their hand at the former, they didn't fare very well.

Crichton claimed that McIntyre and McKitrick had to go to great lengths to obtain the data from Mann's team, which obstructed them at every turn. But in any event, Crichton declared that McIntyre and McKitrick thoroughly discredited Mann and the whole "hockey stick" controversy, and that any continued reliance on the research was unwarranted.

Well, funny thing: it turns out that under testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, each detail of the issues raised by Crichton, McIntyre and McKitrick was addressed, and Mann's data, methodologies and computer programs all turned out to be publicly accessible. Further, there was controversy about the type of "peer review" undertaken on the paper by McIntyre and McKitrick before its publication in Energy and Environment, as well as whether the alleged “errors” that they report are in fact real, and indeed whether the work of McIntyre and McKitrick was itself replicable.

"Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models," the 60 scientists say, and Bob Carter, an Australian geologist and another signature on the open letter, goes even further by claiming that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase, there was actually a slight decrease, "though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero."

Well, this is true only on the basis that 1998 was the hottest year ever on record, at least since 1890, and not surpassed until . . . 2005. Anything following the hottest year on record will seem like cooling trent by comparison. But the six hottest years on record have all occurred in the last eight years. After 2005, 1998 was the second warmest, followed by 2002, 2003 and 2004. And there's an important difference between 1998 and 2005: the strongest El NiƱo of the past 100 years lifted the average 1998 temperature, whereas the record warmth last year was not buoyed by such an effect.

So what observational data is not matching the models? It's one thing to write an opinion piece in the newspaper without providing any supporting data, or to shoot off an "open letter" to the Canadian Prime Minister, and it's a whole other thing to provide one's research, data and conclusions to scientific journals for rigorous peer review.

It's obvious that the letter from the "60 accredited climate change experts" is just good old Dr. McKitrick and his cronies playing tit-for-tat on a game they started, and frankly, at which they are faring rather poorly, as the rest of the scientific community remains unconvinced by their arguments and accepts the reality of the situation. So, while there's room for many points of view, some views are based on science, and others are based on, apparently, wishful thinking.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The debate on global warming is over, at least according to last week’s Time magazine, and humans are the cause of at least most of it. According to a recent poll, 71% of Americans already believe that global warming is occurring.

It seems kind of sad that the global-warming debate should have to be refereed by Time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided plenty of warning and evidence in 2001. But consensus, even among thousands of scientists from all over the world, was not enough to sway the Bush Administration, the U.S. Congress, or a recalcitrant public. Perhaps Katrina, Rita and Wilma, melting ice, and a whole lot of weird weather have moved the people. However, there's still this immense disconnect between the information available and the level of public outrage. Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the new book Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change thinks there are three major reasons for this:

  • First, there’s catastrophe overload. The end of the world has been going to come several times, and yet we’re all still here. So it’s: “Wake me up when the real end of the world is coming.”
  • Then there’s, “If this were really as bad as you say, I would feel it by now. There’d be water lapping at my first-floor windows.” The problem is that the climate operates on a very long time lag, so if you wait until there's water lapping at your first-floor windows, you can be sure there's going to be water lapping at your second-floor windows. The message still hasn’t gotten out that changes 30 or 40 years from now are already inevitable. There is warming in the pipeline already.
  • And then there’s the question of what to do. People don’t like to confront problems they don’t have a clear answer to. And the answers here - to the extent there are answers - are very, very complicated. They’re very hard. We know what causes people to be overweight, and we can’t even stop that! And with global warming it’s not as simple as “eat less, lose weight.” It’s “do a million things.” And we have to do them on a global scale, and that’s pretty daunting. It’s very much easier to pretend the problem doesn't exist.

However, we can meet this challenge - we can address global warming and invigorate the economy simultaneously. But technology alone will not solve this global problem. It also stems from a crisis in leadership. The U.S. must accept its role as an environmental leader in the world and act like one. But the lack of leadership on climate change and energy policy by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and their cadre of oil executive cronies, borders on malfeasance.

If there's one person who could do something about the issue, it’s George Bush. It's nice to say we're addicted to foreign oil (we are), but oil’s only part of the problem. We're addicted to coal, too. It's one thing to point out the problem, but it's a totally different one to find a solution. He could have easily have said, "We need to conserve, and we need to find new carbon-free sources of energy, and here's 20 or 30 billion dollars to start doing it." But he didn't do that. Since he didn't put any money behind it, no one takes it very seriously. That's how Washington works: No money, no commitment.

More than 60% of our greenhouse gas emissions emanate from the transportation sector and from powering buildings. That’s all “low-hanging fruit.” In the U.S., we have not improved motor-vehicle efficiency in 20 years. By implementing greater energy efficiency, more renewable energy sources, and shifts in policy, we can decrease our emissions by 50% over the next 25 years, while jump-starting the economy. Energy-efficient automobiles, lighting, and refrigeration, together with wind power, photovoltaic roofs, biofuels, and geothermal heat pumps, are the future. The companies and countries that lead in these industries will gain competitive advantages and employ millions in productive manufacturing jobs with good wages.

America is absolutely crying out for political leadership. John McCain has been pretty upfront on this issue, but he hasn’t really been listened to on this issue. Schwarzenegger has been out there sounding the alarm. But America really need someone in a position of national leadership, Sen. James Inhofe or somebody, to stand up and say, "I have seen the light, I am convinced we need to do something." George Bush could have been that person, but he chose not.

The dilemma is scientists feel uncomfortable with advocacy, journalists feel uncomfortable with advocacy, and the advocates are ignored. Environmental groups have been marginalized, stereotyped as Chicken Littles. Then there’s this feeling on the right that the left is using global warming to achieve ulterior ends: slowing economic progress, redistributing wealth, etc.

Talking to the Dutch minister for the environment, Kolbert noted that in America, he would have been considered far left, but he was, in fact, a member of the Center Right party. His views were that the industrialized world is obviously going to have to cut its carbon emissions way, way down. The developing world is going to be using a lot more carbon, and how could we say they can't? After all, our own wealth is based on that. You might have thought she was talking to a member of Greenpeace, but he was a member of the ruling party in the Netherlands. Kolbert concludes that the level of political discourse in the United States is considered by a lot of the rest of the world to be just plain wacky.

In fact, the U.S. has been so absurd on this issue - so criminally negligent – that a lot of people are now saying that if George Bush hadn't withdrawn from Kyoto, Kyoto never would have been ratified. The Europeans were content to shuffle along indefinitely, but when Bush actually pulled the plug and said, "We're not participating," they stepped up to the plate and said, "We're going to do it." So in a weird sort of way, his recalcitrance has unified them, and now they're committed to that path.

Hybrid-electric cars are a key bridging technology for the automobile industry. Many hybrid vehicles are already on the road, yielding 50–100% better gas mileage than their earlier gasoline-only models. But imagine adding another electric battery to the system so that you can “fill up” on electricity at night. According to Lester Brown in Plan B 2.0, the cost of wind energy at off-peak hours will be equivalent to driving on $0.50 per gallon fuel. With a plug-in hybrid, mileage will increase from 50 to 75–100 mpg, depending on the ratio of short commutes to long-haul trips. On the long hauls, drivers will still enjoy 50 mpg and a 500–600-mile range. Now, dream that your plug-in hybrid is also a flex-fuel vehicle burning E-85 ethanol (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) made from cellulose. Fuel efficiency, with respect to GHGs, has just skyrocketed to more than 200 mpg of fossil gasoline.

It’s not a dream: Toyota will be coming out soon with a plug-in hybrid, and flex-fuel cars are already on the road. Transportation accounts for about 25% of our primary energy usage and GHG emissions. We could cut that in half relatively easily with leadership and a dedicated public.

Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change ends with the chilling words: "It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

As Canon Sees It . . .

The renter is in the condo, the checks are in my bank account, God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

I'm off for the weekend up to Jeff's lodge in North Carolina. Jeff and his new bride, Karina (note to self: don't call her "Katrina") are already up there and I was supposed to leave a half hour ago. I haven't met Karina yet, even though they got married over six months ago (I'm a bad friend) and I haven't been to the lodge in well over a year, so I'm packing my Canon EOS 630 and my Olympus C-5050, my zafu and some back issues of The New Yorker for a nice quiet weekend of socializing, photography, meditation and reading.

Gotta get going. Please enjoy the brevity of today's blog.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Music Review - Namlook XV-XIX, and Jet Chamber I-V

Having enjoyed the 4Voice series, I've been working my way through more Pete Namlook recordings. However, when I got to New Organic Life, I almost quit the project altogether.

New Organic Life was released in February 2001 as an edition of 2000 copies by "Namlook XVI" (Pete took to numbering each solo release by adding the Roman numeral to his last name, not the title, so on his first solo release, 1993's Astrogator, he was just "Namlook," but his second, The Dutch Side of the Milky Way, was released under the name "Namlook II," and so on all the way up to New Organic Life by "Namlook XVI," and beyond).

First of all, let me warn you that there's absolutely nothing organic sounding about New Organic Life. I suppose that the title's intended to be ironic and that it's supposed to sound like some sort of futuristic airport with giant engines, power turbines, hovercrafts and hydraulic lifts moving about, but frankly it sounds more like you're inside of a giant vacuum cleaner that's operating underwater, like SpongeBob SquarePant's reversible leaf blower. And every track sounds the same.

Do you remember Paul Kanter's Blows Against the Empire? Remember the third cut on the second side, Home, which was a bunch of sound effects resembling the engine room of a starship? If so, you're starting to get close to the sound of New Organic Life. But now imagine Home played at 1/4 speed and coming from somewhere down the block. Now, imagine this going on for a full CD. Voila, New Organic Life.

Namlook XVII followed up on this release in September 2001 with New Organic Life II (only 2000 copies, again) and guess what? It sounds exactly the same! Just more whoooosh, with no rhythm, melody or identifiable samples. Now, I'm not at all adverse to the avant garde, and can listen to some pretty outre music, but for the life of me I can't hear anything in NOL II different enough from NOL to justify another full-length CD. It really sounds like some generic product, 60 minutes of "stuff"; not music, not art.

So what does Namlook XVIII do in October 2002? Why, he releases New Organic Life III! In this third installment, Namlook at least advances the sound a little bit, and adds some analogue noise over the cavernous, vacuum-cleaner sounds. By the time he gets to "Russia's NOL in Space", the second-to-last cut, he even throws in something that comes close to being an actual melody! But any pleasure one can derive from this CD is just in contrast to having suffered through the first two - after two hours of swhooshy static, any change is welcome.

If you're looking to start a Namlook collection, I suggest that you avoid the New Organic Life series. If the idea of avant electronica with an organic sound appeals to you, check out Future Sounds of London's Lifeforms instead.

But as I was saying, these three CDs almost put me off of Namlook altogether. So imagine my surprise when, with a sigh, I dropped a copy of 1999's Free Your Mind into the CD player. It turns out that this one is something of a fusion CD, full of vocals and distinct jazz, Latin and Afro influences. How could Namlook XV even be the same musician as the Namlook XVI through XVIII responsible for New Organic Life? About the only thing that could have brought me back to the Namlook camp after three CDs of NOL would have been some funky, spacy, occasionally quite sexy fusion with a world-beat rhythm, and that's what Free Your Mind delivers. It's really too bad there's only 2000 copies of this floating around, as opposed to the 6,000 copies of NOL I-III.

Inspired, I then jumped into 2004's Music for Urban Meditation, Namlook XIX's first solo recording after the NOL series. The music here is exactly what the title implies - ambient, but with a rough-around-the-edges, urban feel to it. Like the NOL recordings, there's no real melody or rhythm, just the changing textures of the music, but unlike the NOL recordings, the textures do change. Good background music for a night alone in a big city, or for, well, urban meditation.

But if you really want your money's worth from a Namlook series, and you can't find Free Your Mind, check out Jet Chamber I through V. I cringed at the name, anticipating the Jet Chamber sound was going to be more of the NOL aircraft-exhaust-from-hell sound, and was again surprised to hear Namlook actually jamming out with collaborator Atom Heart. I've expressed doubt before as to whether Namlook's collaborators are really other people, or if he's actually the only musician, but on these recordings, you can hear a true exchange and interplay between two creative minds.

"You know what I miss?" asks a vocal sample on Jet Chamber V. "I miss green. Trees and grass and everything. I love green." It's almost as if, after the ironic artificiality of New Organic Life, Namlook missed the truly organic, and wanted to sink his teeth into some grooves and just bounce ideas and exchange riffs with Atom Heart. These recordings can probably best be classified as drum and bass, but don't expect anything from Namlook to be typical of any genre. However, these are thoroughly enjoyable CDs, released between 1995 and 2000, in limited sets of only 1,000 to 2,000 each, so good luck finding them.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Woo-hoo! I think I found a renter for the Unsellable Condo in Vinings!

I got a call Tuesday about the ad I have running in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I showed him the unit today, and he liked it - in fact, he's ready to move in this Saturday. Twelve-month lease.

He's a young guy, but seems to be responsible enough.

It will be nice to finally start getting some cash flow out of the former money pit. I just need to check the references, see that the check clears, and we're all set.

I also need to shut off the utilities still in my name, inform the Post Office of the new address, and cut some new keys. Oh yeah, and fix the leaking garbage disposal.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This may be the most frightening picture that I've ever seen.

I have no idea where this picture was taken. I found it on a Russian-language Live Journal site (at least I think the language was Russian - the letters were Cyrillic). So that suggests that this picture was from that part of the world, but then again, it could be Montana.

This picture has an almost hypnotic, hallucinatory effect on me, and I can't really tell why. Remember the scene in Dr. Strangelove where Slim Pickens rides the falling bomb like a bronco? This picture has that same effect on me.

First, there's the utter desolation of the landscape - not a tree in sight, no real greenery to speak of. And there's no people - this is an industrial landscape, not a place for mere humans. And that sky, so bleak, so cold, so unforgiving. . . .

Look closer. Examine that building on the left. Here, let me bring it in a little closer:Who could design a building like that with so little regard for appearance? Who would? And it's as if someone thought, "Gee, the building's a little too cute. Let's tone it down a little with a really bad paint job - a few splashes of various tones of battleship grey, and the rest we'll just leave concrete brown."

What's a building like that for, anyway? I see a pile of dirt in the foreground, plus a rusting 10,000-gallon storage tank and some trailers or bunkers that appear to be missing the glass from their windows. Notice the dump truck is driving past the building - no roads actually go there. It's too forbidding.

Wait! There's a train leaving the building carrying something:Some sort of rocket. Is it a vehicle for a manned space mission? Could be, but the surroundings suggest that it might also be some sort of weapon. Or espionage. I can't conceive of any good use that missile might be put to.

And where is the train taking the missile? The tracks look like they just loop back around in the foreground again, as if anything wouldn't want to be seen coming directly out of that sinister factory, but instead meanders around a bit to escape its terrible gravity.Nothing lives here. No birds, no people, no trees, no animals. The ground is covered with scraps of metal debris. Desolation. This is death. And this death is producing some sort of rocket, and taking it . . . somewhere.

All of this sounds like some sort of Cold War throwback - and it could be. Maybe this is Iran's new nuclear warhead. Maybe its the WMDs finally discovered. Maybe it's a covert US military operation, and maybe that banging at my door is the Secret Service coming in to take me away for posting classified pictures and maybe

Monday, April 10, 2006

There's a lovely passage in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, where Shunryu Suzuki notes that the water above a fall is very peaceful and calm, as is the water below a fall, but in the waterfall itself, the water is wild and chaotic. It is as if in the waterfall, individual drops of water become separate from the mass, and become afraid for their lives. "What will happen when I reach the bottom?," they worry. "What will happen when I splatter and die?" In fact, what happens is the drops become reunited with the whole again, just like before the fall, and once more everything is serene and lovely.

Our lives are like this. Before we are born into this world, there is no fear, for we are part of the whole. After we die and are reunited with the whole again, we once more return to serenity. It is only in this life when that serenity is lost, and we worry and have great fear. Only when we're not united with the whole. And out of this unwholesome fear and ignorance arises suffering and the suffering we cause to those around us.

That's not to say that life is bad. In fact, it is the most precious gift there is. So we shouldn't squander it in fear of the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. We should marvel at the opportunity to participate in the thrilling plummet over the edge, and the opportunity to witness the mystery of it all. Appreciate your life!, as Maezumi Roshi would say.

Life and death is the great matter; impermanence is swift. So keep your eyes wide open, have no fear and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I took pictures of the azaleas in the back yard last Tuesday, but apparently I was more interested in blogging about taxes than flowers. Now they've already largely faded - you can see that the pink bush toward the middle had already started to drop its blossoms, and by now, most of the rest have followed suit.

You can also see that I still haven't removed last autumn's leaves from the flowerbed or trimmed the ivy. This weekend offered the perfect opportunity to catch up on the yardwork, but I must admit that the backyard still looks the same - I used the time to spruce up the Unsellable Condo in Vinings.For those who don't recall, I made an offer on the house I'm living in now about eight months before the owners were scheduled to move out, thinking that I could surely sell the condominium I had been living in in that eight-month period. Well, eighteen months later, it was still unsold, and twenty-four months later, I finally took it off the market. There's a classified in this week's Atlanta newspaper offering the UCV for rent - $1,000/month, washer/dryer included, no condo fees. Wanna rent a condo?

The ad cost me $245 for 10 days, and so far I've only gotten two calls - one from a single mother of two who declined when she heard it didn't have an upstairs and downstairs, and the other from a newlywed couple who sounded like they were shopping around for a mansion (they were very specific in their inquiries, by room, about the number of square feet).

Anticipating more traffic next weekend, I went over today to clean the place up a bit. It's been unoccupied for two years now, and needed a good vacuuming and dusting. Also, I've known for a long time that the master bath's toilet handle needed replacing, so I stopped at Home Depot on the way for a replacement part.

The setback occurred when I found that the garbage disposal wasn't working. The last persons to spend any time in the unit were housepainters re-doing the living room, and it seems they washed their brushes in the kitchen sink and over the months the latex paint set up in the disposal and jammed the gears. So the majority of the day consisted of removing the unit (wiring and plumbing), taking it apart, freeing up the gears, rebuilding the unit, and replacing it (wiring and plumbing). The water in the trap stunk like sewage, so of course it spilled out and ran all over the cabinet under the sink. Frankly, I was surprised when I finally turned the power back on and the disposal actually worked.

Although now it's leaking. I guess the gasket around the rotors either gave way or else I didn't replace it right, but in any event, I didn't have the patience to remove, repair and replace it again today, so I left it in place (it at least looks functional) and will tackle this task again when I finally find a renter. Honestly. I will not lease the place out with a leaky disposal.

I realize this might be the most mundane post in the blogosphere (why are you reading this?). Other blogs are offering witty comments on pop culture, titillating details of Saturday night's dates, and insightful perspectives on current events. Whereas I'm talking about leaky garbage disposals. But that's the way the world is - others may be seeing great films and bands, having hot sex and rocking the world, while I'm squatting under kitchen sinks wondering if I left the circuit breaker on or off.

And that's just the way it is. I'd love to be more entertaining, but why should you have it any better?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Once upon a time, there was a brave and powerful king in India named Abenner, who, after many years of fretting about having no heir to the throne, eventually had a son named Josaphat. At the time of his son’s birth, the king was told by an astrologer that the infant prince would one day grow up and become a Christian saint and give up his throne. This news greatly upset the king, who was reluctant to lose his crown prince to the new religion spreading across his realm. He therefore ordered that the Christian faith be banned entirely from his kingdom and he locked the prince away in the palace, providing him every luxury imaginable so he would grow up never having any desire to come into contact with the outside world.

When Josaphat reached adulthood, he found the cloistered nature of his existence unbearable and pleaded with his father to release him from his captivity and let him go outside the palace walls. The king, who could see that his son had grown into a handsome and intelligent young man, did not wish to see him suffer needlessly and so he eventually agreed to his request. The prince quickly learnt that while the world outside was indeed a very beautiful place, it was also marred by much sorrow and suffering. Josaphat eventually came into contact with a monk by the name of Barlaam, who converted him to the Christian faith.

King Abenner could see that half of the prophesy had already been fulfilled. Upset by this turn of events, he continued to try to obstruct his son's path. In one instance, he attempted to have his son seduced by one of his concubines. The temptress came to Josaphat and appealed to his desire to save souls from eternal damnation by promising that she would convert to Christianity if only Josaphat would just sleep with her that night.

At first this greatly inflamed the young prince’s passions, but eventually he managed to bring them under control, and he was then able to resolutely reject the beautiful lady’s advances. Josaphat had defeated all temptation and remained pure and committed to his new faith. Eventually, King Abenner himself converted, turned over his throne to Josaphat, and retired to the desert to become a hermit. Josaphat ruled the kingdom for a time, but having no interest in earthly matters, he soon abdicated the throne and spent the remainder of his days with the old monk Barlaam, living as a religious recluse.

The story of Josaphat and Baarlam was popular in the Middle Ages. Both Josaphat and Barlaam were canonized in the Roman Catholic Church and recognized among the Eastern Orthodox. November 27 is still recognized as St. Josephat’s day. The only problem is that St. Josephat is obviously the Buddha.

While many of the particulars of the story have changed to suit the Christian faith, the story's Buddhist origins remain highly recognizable. Siddhartha Gautama was also an Indian prince whose birth was accompanied with a prophecy that he would become a great holy man (although not a king). He was also protected from the outside world by his father, but on leaving the palace he recognised that the world was full of suffering. He sought to pursue an ascetic life and to reach enlightenment but during this process he was subjected to many attempts to deflect him from this path. While he sat meditating under a banyan tree, Gautama was tempted by the demon Mara who sent his three beautiful daughters, Tanha (desire), Raga (lust), and Arati (aversion), to try to seduce him. After resisting these temptations, the prince attained Buddhahood at the age of thirty five.

It wasn’t until the 19th century, when the Buddhist scriptures finally began to be translated into European languages, that the connection between the two stories was noticed. Without any historical evidence to prove the independent existence of St. Josaphat, the Buddhist origin of the story is now generally accepted by Catholics.

Josaphat's name derives from the Sanskrit term bodhisattva via the Middle Persian bodasif. Scholars have traced the name from second to fourth-century Mahayana texts to a Persian version, where bodhisattva was changed to Bodisav; to an Arabic version, where the names became Budhasaf or Yudasaf; to an Eleventh Century Georgian version where the name becomes Iodasaph; to a Christian Greek version (Ioasaph); and from there to Iosaphat or Josaphat in Western European languages.

So "Josaphat" is "bodhisattva," and the Buddha is a canonized saint in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. So we American Buddhists can go undercover, blending in with the crowd by declaring ourselves followers of St. Josaphat. "Josaphatists?" "Josaphistas?" "Josaphians?" (I prefer "Josaphecians.")

Anyone up for joining the First Church of the Josaphecians?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Surely, these are end times. The signs of the apocalypse are all around us for those who can see:

1. In Oregon, a cat gives birth to a one-eyed kitten, a true cyclops.

2. Paleontologists have found the missing link between fish and land animals, a finned creature with rudimentary elbows, hands and toes. In addition to confirming a major transition in evolution, the fossil is a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin's theory.

3. Archeologists have found the long-lost Gospel of Judas, which turns the historical and theological teachings of the other Gospels on their heads. Discovered in the 1970's in a cavern near El Minya, Egypt, the document circulated for years among antiquities dealers in Egypt, then Europe and finally the United States. It moldered in a safe-deposit box at a bank in Hicksville, N. Y., for 16 years before being bought in 2000 by a Zurich dealer, Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos and was given the name Codex Tchacos. When attempts to resell the codex failed, Ms. Nussberger-Tchacos turned it over to the Maecenas Foundation for conservation and translation. The manuscript will ultimately be returned to Egypt, where it was discovered, and housed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo. The Gospel of Judas is only one of many texts discovered in the last 65 years, including the gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Philip, believed to be written by Gnostics. The Gnostics' beliefs were often viewed by bishops and early church leaders as unorthodox, and they were frequently denounced as heretics. The discoveries of Gnostic texts have shaken up Biblical scholarship by revealing the diversity of beliefs and practices among early followers of Jesus. Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton who specializes in studies of the Gnostics, said in a statement, "These discoveries are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion, and demonstrating how diverse and fascinating the early Christian movement really was."

4. Scooter Libby admits that it was George W. Bush, the "President" of the United States, who authorized the leak of CIA files to the press, which makes Russ Feingold's call for censure seem downright anemic: the man should be immediately arrested for espionage, treason and contempt of Congress, incarcerated and impeached. In an interesting footnote to this, W. got into a confrontation with a heckler at a speech today over the illegal wiretapping the "president" authorized, and he said he would not apologize for listening in on phone and e-mail conversations of Americans talking to people with suspected al-Qaida links. W. either still doesn't get it, or more likely, is deliberately confusing the issue - it's not about whether or not it's the right thing to do (for the record, it's not), it's about whether or not the "president" is lawfully allowed to order illegal wiretaps (he isn't). Bush broke the law, and needs to be held accountable for this, as well as for the CIA leaks. And to think, Clinton was almost impeached for lying about whether or not he had sex with an intern.

But, anyway, the surest sign of all that the apocalypse is upon us is:

5. Apple Computers are going to start running Windows software.

What's next? Flocks of birds flying upside-down, plagues of locusts, Wormwood?