The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

My Photo
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Finding The Mystery of Love

For those of you who want to see the full series of excerpts from Marc Gafni's The Mystery of Love, start with the February 19th blog entry which can be found in the February 2006 archive. Look to the left of this page for the Archives section.

For those of you who are unable to find this book on the remainders table at World's Biggest Bookstore (or any other bookstore, for that matter), the good news is that it is available at the Toronto Public Library, the Vaughan Public Library, the Newmarket Public Library, and the Oakville Public Library. (It is NOT available at the Mississauga Public Library, the Brampton Public Library, the Richmond Hill Public Library, nor the Markham Public Library. Have I overlooked any other local libraries?)

Apparently the book is still available from Indigo as a trade paperback – visit here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Open Source Revolution

This article discusses how powerful and pervasive the Open Source movement has become...

Why does Microsoft constantly fall on its face when it comes to operating system deadlines, while Linux continues to cruise along popping out one release after another?

Linux has evolved as much in just two years as Microsoft has tried, and failed, to evolve Windows from XP to Vista over what looks to be more than four years, now, of active development.

The software revolution has already happened, and open-source has won.

Microsoft is now a dinosaur in the software world. They are heading towards extinction. The way they develop software is outdated, outmoded and ineffectual. And they are probably too big to change their ways.

Linux continuously evolves and improves. New versions come out several times a year. But with Microsoft's Windows, you have to wait years for a new release, in the case of Windows Vista more than four years!! This is no way to develop product for the information age.

Movie Review (with spoiler): V for Vendetta

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

People should not be afraid of their governments;
governments should be afraid of their people.

V for Vendetta is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen! At the moment it is my pick for the Best Film of 2006. What a wonderful experience it was to take in this cinematic ambrosia!

V for Vendetta is a political thriller. It is also a cautionary tale for our times, as fear and rage and helplessness are leading us down the road to fascism. It questions ideology and government and the abuse of power. It asks when can violence ever be justified. It is the first subversive film released since 9/11 and it raises our awareness of what’s going on in our society today.

The time is around the year 2020. The United States are embroiled in a civil war. Britain is under the grip of a fascist government in the wake of terrorism (100,000 people had been killed in a biological attack). The government seeks to protect the people from themselves by imposing curfews and restricting free speech, by suppressing homosexuality and controlling the media. If you own a copy of the Koran, for example, you can be executed.

From this political world springs a mysterious man behind a mask. He is trying to foment rebellion, to get the British people to rise up against the cruel and ruthless regime of Chancellor Adam Suttler (John Hurt). He begins by blowing up a famous landmark, The Bailey, on November 5th. He promises to blow up the Parliament Buildings one year hence and he asks the people to gather to witness the event.

The man, known as V, saves a young woman named Evey and enlists her to his cause. As she begins a journey of self-discovery, she becomes an unlikely ally in his fight against the government.

V is driven by personal vendetta, as well. The reason he wears a mask (and gloves) is because his entire body was burned in a violent event in his past. The history behind this event is a key cornerstone of the story.

Hugo Weaving (Lord Elrond; Agent Smith in The Matrix) gives a superb performance as codename V. His performance is all the more remarkable because we never see his face, which is hidden behind the Guy Fawkes mask throughout the entire movie. Through his voice and his body language, he gives a performance that I would compare to Olivier!

Natalie Portman, as Evey Hammond, gives the best performance of her impressive career. In my opinion, this is an Oscar-calibre role but I suspect she won’t even be nominated. For shame!

One of the amusing things I noticed in V for Vendetta is that everyone in the world watches JVC flat panel televisions. And all the police forces use Dell computers. Either this is a consequence of product placement or director James McTeigue had a hidden message in there <grin>.

The action sequences are terrific as V masterfully uses his knives to dispatch his enemies. While special effects are well-executed to highlight the knife action, the really spectacular effect is reserved for the destruction of the Parliament Buildings which is absolutely jaw-dropping. I was absolutely in shock and awe!!

If you never see another movie this year (and that would be foolish because Superman Returns and X-Men III are coming), you must at least go see V for Vendetta. I hope this film gets Best Picture at next year’s Oscars (but I doubt it).

The DVD release is a long ways off and already I am in pure agony waiting for it. I want to watch this film again and again and again and again...

I think I’ll catch it in IMAX in a couple of weeks...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why Are You Running?

The great master Levi Isaac of Berdichev was walking his usual route in the marketplace. Along came a man rushing madly to somewhere and bowled the master over. “Why are you running so fast?” asked Levi Isaac as he got up.

“Well,” said the man, “I need to make a living.”

Levi Isaac asked, “Why are you working so hard to make a living?”

Well, no one had ever asked our mad dashing friend such a question, and he was at a loss as to how to respond. “Well,” he stuttered – and then a lightbulb went off. “I am working so hard in order to make a living for my children.” It seemed to be a fine answer, and the master wished him a good day.

Twenty-five years go by. Again the master is walking on the same path in the marketplace. Again, he is bowled over by a rushing passerby. Masters are consistent, so the same conversation ensues. And again it concludes with the man saying, confidently, “I am rushing so much in order to make a living for my children.”

Levi Isaac looks deeply into his face. He realizes that this is the son of the man who had bowled him over twenty-five years ago. Turning his eyes heavenward, he asks God, “When will I finally meet that one child for whom all the generations labor so mightily?”

These gentlemen running through the market each justified their labor in terms of their children. Though supporting children is a very good reason, it is still insufficient. Every “reason” is ultimately an excuse. Even kids may be used as excuses, a violation of the erotic quality of lishmah. It is only enough to respond, “I am running for the sake of running, working for the sake of working!”

- The Mystery of Love

We live in a world where everyone is madly dashing about trying to fulfill their busy schedules. It creates a lot of stress, resulting in stress-related illnesses, road rage, sleep deprivation, loss of libido...the list is endless. But more importantly, all of this goal-oriented behaviour is a major distraction from erotic living.

I know that a lot of you people are suffering from work-related stress. It all starts with an unhealthy attitude (based on materialism, consumerism, greed, addiction, etc.). To relieve this stress, you must work for the joy of working, find peace and flow in your daily activities. Work in a zen-like fashion. It is often said that if you love what you do, it is not “work.” How easily we forget this.

Try to appreciate every little thing you do at work for its own exquisite beauty, whether it’s writing code in your editor or answering phone calls and emails or attending meetings or filling out reports. (I know, it will be very tough!) If you can get to that zen-like place, the work flow in your daily routines will become an erotic experience.

Do things for their own sake, this is what Gafni is saying. (Kushner would concur.) Be in the moment of every experience. There is no future and there is no past – there is only the present moment. This was one of the very first lessons I learned when I started my therapy and my reading.

It all begins with your attitude.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Coincidentia Oppositorum

The lover’s art most clearly modeled by the sexual is the merging of the masculine and the feminine. Although it is often expressed in the merging of man and woman, it is by no means limited to that expression. For to the Hebrew mystics the sexual union of man and woman both models and participates in the more primal union of Shechina (the divine feminine) and Tiferet (the divine masculine). Masculine and feminine express the two essential forces of the universe.

In Chinese Taoist thought we would call these forces the yin and the yang, whose integration is the source of all harmony. In Hinduism we speak of Shiva, the male fire deity, and his consort Shakti. Their union brings blessing to all the worlds. Nicolas of Cusa, the Christian mystic scholar, labeled this universal merging of the masculine and feminine coincidentia oppositorum, the union of opposites.

There is a core paradigm in Hebrew mystical sources and many other traditions that provides a clear reality map for integration. It is the trinity of stages: simple; complex; simple.

Simple: Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water
Complex: Enlightenment
Simple: After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water

The linchpin of the idea is that the third stage and the first, although externally similar, are really worlds apart. For stage three deeply integrates the new consciousness of stage two. So while the simplicity of stage one might be symptomatic of someone who is naïve, superficial, and even irresponsible, the simplicity of stage three is an expression of someone who is deep, wise, and responsible.

Another image of this pattern is drawn directly from the world of love and eros.

Stage one: falling in love. Initial ecstasy. Head over heals. Love conquers all. Fairy tale.

Stage two: falling out of love. Pain, alienation, disappointment, even betrayal. Boredom. Ennui. Yet if you have the courage to stay, you can return to stage one, but so much higher.

Stage three: Transcendence. Joy. Quiet bliss. Passion born of commitment. Ecstasy.

We have now arrived at the heart of the matter. What is the difference between masculine and feminine?

The core cosmic intuition of the Hebrew mystic Isaac Luria offers a deceptively simple paradigm. Men are lines, women are circles. Or more accurately, a line is a masculine image and a circle is a feminine expression.

Lines and circles in various permutations and balances are the DNA of spiritual reality. The unique blending of their energies give contour, character, and depth to every unit of existence. It is a blending in which neither the circle nor the line ever disappears.

Both energies – that of the masculine line and the feminine circle – are essential. Each one held by itself has its own unique and terrible shadow.

Pacifists are usually circles. Lines correctly point out that had pacifism won the public debate at the time of World War II, the terrible evil of Nazism would now rule the world. Rigid fundamentalists are usually lines. A demarcating characteristic of fundamentalism is the belief that strict adherence to law is more important than compassion. In fundamentalist societies women and the feminine always suffer the most. This shadow is affecting the entire world today in the form of Islamic fundamentalism.

Many cultural and political debates today revolve around lines and circles arguing with each other. George Bush and many Republicans, for example, are lines, while Ralph Nader and the environmentalists are circles. John Lennon is a circle, while Rush Limbaugh is a line. Each side thinks the vision of the other will bring disaster to the country and ultimately the world. Each accuses the other of being immoral and blind. Both are correct.

The deep truth is that only an integrated vision that holds both circle and line can be both moral and visionary. It is the line quality in George Bush that cancels a critical environmental treaty that could have protected the earth, and the circle quality in Ralph Nader that is so often morally blind to core distinctions between good and evil when unpacking his fanciful foreign policies.

We need to fully embrace the truth of the line, then roundly challenge it with circle consciousness, only to reembrace the line from a more supple and rounded place.

Similarly we need to rejoice in the circle, only to bisect it with the challenge of the line, all in order to come back to the circle in a more balanced, honest way. This is the spiritual pattern of the three levels that we introduced in the beginning of our discussion.

- The Mystery of Love, by Marc Gafni, pp. 183-190

Everything is coming together. I understand! When I was a martial arts practitioner, I was exposed to the yin/yang concept. I saw how beautiful and powerful it was, but I did not really appreciate its significance. Here, I can see that we need to integrate the two halves of our brains in order to achieve unity with the universe. We need to understand that doing things the masculine way is terribly self-destructive and very wrong. But doing things the feminine way is not enough, either.

Today we struggle to create a new consciousness in stage two. The old ways of doing things, like going to war because it is more expeditious than futzing around with hate-filled Muslims, are immoral.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

War is Always Evil

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.”
Jimmy Carter

You really seem to love throwing up this example. To answer your question, WWII was probably the only “justifiable” war in human history, and even that is debatable. At any rate, I don’t know what I would have done. But my inability to answer the question does not obviate the lessons that great spiritual leaders have tried to teach us over the generations. It does, however, illustrate how difficult it is to deal with general issues of human conflict.

That such issues are difficult does not imply that the “easier” solutions, based on violence, are the morally correct or good ones. It is human nature to go for the easy or obvious way out, but the obvious is not always right. As history teaches us relentlessly, violent solutions, i.e., war, exact a high price. It is always debatable whether the price would be higher by pursuing a peaceful solution. Gandhi would have had much to say about this, I’m sure. He exemplified the peaceful approach but it has not been embraced by the world at large. I wonder if this is because we have not had enough examples to support it, and to strengthen our faith in it.

The world is trapped by its fear of failure, by its lack of faith and imagination. What if the peaceful approach doesn’t work? What if we can’t uncover the practical means to make it work? We could open ourselves to total destruction. This is the fear, the fear that we may not know what we are doing.

(The fear is also that a peaceful solution has costs. But would these costs be higher than in war? And what if the costs are higher? Does that make war a better solution? Is this how we measure success – by how economical it is in terms of lives lost? What about the cost in terms of our spirituality? The sickness in our world stems from our belief that physical survival trumps spiritual survival.)

We feel comfortable with war because it is something we understand; we know how to wage war – the practical means are well-understood. Innumerable tomes have been written about warfare. We know it can work because we have seen it work time after time in the countless wars of human history. Military victory is measurable in the material sense. We can see it, touch it, smell it. It is real. But we don’t realize that there is a spiritual cost.

What if we could make peaceful solutions work? This was the question I posed earlier. How would we know that violence is the better way? Without more examples of peaceful solutions in human history (and they are depressingly few in number), we cannot answer this question.

In the end, we have to have the courage to try, to take a leap of faith. We have to believe in the goodness of human beings. We may be disappointed. We may fail. But the alternative, that of violence, is not free of disappointment and failure either. Violence is simply something we know, and know too well.


On 3/23/06 11:36 AM, "Sobotic Research" wrote:

And so I ask you again: How would you have dealt with Hitler?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Right-Brain Revolution

Getting us to make peace between right and left hemispheres (and between mind, body and world) is what the Right-Brain Revolution is really all about.

If you look at a normal brain you will see that it is a double organ. The two hemispheres look pretty much the same. The whole point of the revolution, however, is that the right one functions very differently from the left one and that we generally remain unaware of its powers.

The most widely publicized support for it comes from split-brain research. Roger Sperry and Ron Myers began experiments with animals in the late 1950s in which they severed the corpus callosum of animals. They found that the animals remained remarkably normal and that each separate hemisphere could be trained to respond in opposite ways to the same situation.

Findings from this early research were supported and expanded with stroke victims, patients in whom an entire hemisphere had been surgically removed, patients who received unilateral electro-convulsive therapy for severe depression, and volunteers who allowed half their brains to be temporarily “put to sleep.”

What we now know about the human brain hemispheres is summarized in general terms as follows:

  • The left brain experiences the world, stores information, thinks and speaks in words and symbols. The right brain does all this with images and feeling, not words.
  • Every baby relies on images and feelings before he learns to speak. His world is a right-brain world. As he matures each hemisphere develops its own highly organized information-processing system. By about age six, laterality is established and the corpus callosum has developed, allowing the possibility that the two systems will communicate and work cooperatively together.
  • The left brain processes information one bit at a time while the right brain processes many bits at the same moment. The left brain is thus rather slow. We tend to be aware of what it is doing, so we call it “logical thinking.” The right brain can be very fast – so fast, in fact, that we are usually unaware that it is doing anything. So we view the process as merely a “gut reaction,” intuition or inspiration, and not really thinking at all.
  • The left brain is good at analysis – at breaking things down, making lists and either/or decisions and, I suspect, at identifying enemies and making war. The right brain is good at synthesis – at putting together disconnected ideas or fragments (like jigsaw puzzles or maps of the world), composing music (and listening and dancing to it), making love and, I suspect, at establishing trust and making peace.
  • The left brain has no feelings. In fact, people operating without their right brains are described as being computer-like in all they think and do. Such people are talkative, giving extensive and detailed answers to questions; however, their voices are dull and monotonous and they neither show nor recognize playfulness or enthusiasm. They remain acceptably cheerful and optimistic, expressing no anger or fear, even when the reality of the situation they are in is terrible. Does that not remind you of many of our current political figures? The right brain has the whole gamut of feelings. Without a working left hemisphere, people use gestures and facial expressions and, when they do speak, will express (often in colorful fashion) anger, frustration and other intense emotions.
  • The left brain is referred to as dominant, conscious and masculine. The right brain is referred to as non-dominant, unconscious and feminine. In our society, people can appear normal and function quite well with only their left brains. (Politicians do it every day, or try to.) The fact that an entire hemisphere is not missed implies that we normal people are “unconscious” of the work of at least half our brains.
  • Split-brain patients function quite normally. This suggests that “normal man” functions with two separate minds and that he has not established effective interaction between his two inner hemispheres.

Such knowledge is the foundation of the Right-Brain Revolution. Summarized in one sentence it is: The brain hemispheres do experience, process and express information differently, the left working slowly with words and the right working quickly with images and feelings, its work being largely ignored by ordinary people. The champions of the revolution believe that we can become conscious of right-brain activity and that we can, by getting our hemispheres to cooperate, learn a constructive way of thinking.

- Curing Nuclear Madness, by Frank G. Sommers, M.D., pp. 74-76.

I apologize to Dr. Sommers for excerpting such a large tract but I want to illustrate some rather large concepts and correlate them with other materials that I’ve read.

I believe that far too many people in our society are operating without the full cooperation of their right brains. This is consistent with Marc Gafni’s view that people have lost their connection to eros and thus are unable to function ethically. They are full of fear and anger (whose origin is the brain stem). They rely on their left brain function to decide the fate of nations, whether it is in the realm of nuclear armaments or the defence against terrorism. They’ve suppressed their compassionate side and allowed the “rational” side to dominate their decision making. It’s as if their corpus callosum has been severed.

But if you confront such people and tell them that they’re operating without their right brains, they give you a puzzled look. As Dr. Sommers points out, these people are not even aware that they are functioning with only half a brain. They appear to be normal. They are even high achievers. And these are the people we elect into high office (the PMO or the White House)!

And this explains the terrible decisions that have been made in recent history with regards to nuclear proliferation and the war on terrorism. Gafni put it best: “Virtually every crisis at its core is a failure of imagination.” Without the assistance of their right brains, without the human component of their self-actualization, our leaders cannot imagine a humanistic solution to our most dire problems.

Dr. Sommers’ book also harmonizes with Harville Hendrix who says:

Each society has a unique collection of practices, laws, beliefs, and values that children need to absorb, and mothers and fathers are the main conduit through which they are transmitted. This indoctrination process goes on in every family in every society. There seems to be a universal understanding that, unless limits are placed on the individual, the individual becomes a danger to the group. In the words of Freud, “The desire for a powerful and uninhibited ego may seem to us intelligible, but, as is shown by the times we live in, it is in the profoundest sense antagonistic to civilization.”

But even though our parents often had our best interests at heart, the overall message handed down to us was a chilling one. There were certain thoughts and feelings we could not have, certain natural behaviors that we had to extinguish, and certain talents and aptitudes we had to deny. In thousands of ways, both subtly and overtly, our parents gave us the message that they approved of only a part of us. In essence, we were told that we could not be whole and exist in this culture.

Indeed, many in our society are not whole human beings. They are high-functioning people with a stunted emotional and spiritual side. In other words, their right brains are not fully integrated with who they are. They cannot engage their imaginations. They cannot feel. And the reason is not difficult to understand – eros has been compromised, probably since childhood.

This story illustrates the above point so beautifully.

Read this as well.

Nuclear Madness and Terrorism

I found a book that pre-dates Marc Gafni’s The Mystery of Love by about twenty years which touches on many of the same topics of erotic living, sensuality, imagination, connectedness, and becoming fully human. It’s called Curing Nuclear Madness, by Frank G. Sommers, M.D. (Dr. Sommers is a founding member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.)

Although the book focuses on the threat of mutual annihilation, it is surprisingly relevant to the current terrorist threat and the United States’ war on terrorism. It points to the emptiness that people feel in their lives and that they so desperately try to fill through pseudo eros. It highlights imagination and internal imagery as a fundamental means of effecting a humanistic solution to our problems.

It’s also a good source on psychology and brain function and how these things relate to the real world. It would make an excellent adjunct to Marc Gafni’s book.

On the subject of our societal emptiness, Dr. Sommers writes:

Desperate and tormented in our inner world, we reach out for anything that promises help. Sharp businessmen and advertisers know this well and use the knowledge to keep us buying – anything to make us more alluring, secure and successful. That is, anything to make us “appear” that way. After a day’s unsatisfying work, how many of us stream home in subway, bus or car bombarded to the level of sensory overload by ads and jingles inspiring us to consume more, always more? Onward, homeward to the isolated, less than ideal family in a house that instantly reminds us of mortgage payments and unmowed blades of grass, where we can relax by watching the evening’s dose of violent television and, between killings and rapes, being urged to buy beer, deodorants and pantyhose. Or home to the lonely apartment in the city, feeling our need to come home to someone but suppressing the pain. There we can indulge in the fantasies of a richer, more creative life around the corner. But, as time passes, how may of us get to round that corner? Why not just settle for a remote control device for the TV or a computer to play games with? Those games, I am told, are great fun. One can even play out World War III.

Is it not time to focus our attention on the insidious emptiness in the lives of so many so-called normal people? Is it not time to bring back physical pleasure, personal contact and love?

There is a common wisdom among all the books I’ve been reading. They point to the spiritual emptiness that is endemic in our world. They explain how our desperate attempts to fill the void lead to stress and anger, to violence and hate (both self-hatred and the hatred of others). They raise awareness that it is our loss of eros, our loss of connection to that which makes us human, that skews our behaviour and perverts our choices, such as how to deal with terrorism.

“Every ethical failure comes from the absence of eros.”
Marc Gafni

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Re: Violence versus Spirit, cont'd

The War on Terrorism is remarkably like the War on Drugs, another of the US government’s great follies. Rather than attacking the problem at the root, they attack the “facilitators” of the drug problem: the drug lords, the drug trade, the supply side. If you correctly address the people’s demand for self-medication, the drug problem goes away all on its own. It is the people who feed the drug trade, who support the drug lords. Without customers, they go out of business.

Al Qaeda are the equivalent of the drug cartels. They feed on the people, draw their strength from the people. Their millions of supporters worldwide give al Qaeda their reason to exist. Al Qaeda are the facilitators, not the source of the problem. It is folly to focus largely or entirely on Osama. Take away al Qaeda’s social support and terrorism loses its bite.


"What you fail to grasp in your plaintive bleatings about civilisation and humanity is that WE represent civilisation and humanity and Osama and his ilk represent a total lack of both and in fact a complete, total, unending hatred of both."
- Sobotic Research

This is precisely the message I’ve been trying to get across to you folks. James (aka "Sobotic Research") exemplifies the problem, the sickness, that has gripped our society, our leaders, our populace. These people lack imagination. They lack faith in humankind. They are unable to visualize a humanistic approach because they’ve lost their connection to eros, to their own sensuality, to the universal life force. They cannot see; they are blind to the possibilities of the human spirit. They come from an emptiness deep within themselves and thus all they have in their possession are anger, fear, hatred, distrust, hopelessness, desperation, greed...all of which lead to violence as the only means of problem resolution. When the only tool you have is violence, every problem looks like violent conflict.

These words, the meaning of these words, will be lost on James, because he doesn’t have the facilities of his right brain to help him process them. He doesn’t have the erotic basis to expose his feelings, his humanity. All he has is the cold, pragmatic logic of problem resolution, based on the pseudo eros that springs from his inner void. He is fundamentally unable to integrate the two halves that make us whole human beings.

As I said, James is only the archetype. You can find more of his example throughout our society...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Re: Violence versus Spirit

Don’t be an idiot. The terrorist threat is nothing like Hitler and Nazi Germany. You seem to forget that “Osama and his ilk” are only a SMALL percentage of the MILLIONS of people who hate the West and who SUPPORT al Qaeda (the millions of people from whom al Qaeda draws their strength). Whatever the agenda Osama and his ilk may have, you have to look at the collective psyche of the millions of supporters, the millions who resent the West. While you may have some insight into the thoughts of Osama (and even that is highly doubtful, since you don’t know him personally and you are ill-equipped to perform an actual psych profile of the man), you cannot by any stretch of the imagination speak for the millions around the world. If al Qaeda did not exist, some other similar movement would arise, simply because the problem is not al Qaeda itself, nor Osama himself, but the attitudes, beliefs, and feelings of a much greater number of people.

Your attitude is an extremist reaction to extremism. It so clearly demonstrates how you, and many other people (especially the conservatives), have truly lost their connection to eros. It strongly suggests that you possess very little human compassion, and that whatever you do have is totally overwhelmed by anger and distrust and lack of faith in humankind. You do not try to understand human nature – you leap into an immediate conclusion without letting your right brain moderate the mental process. My theory is that you can’t help it, that for whatever reason your corpus callosum has degenerated, preventing you from balancing your viewpoint with imagination, visualization, and feelings. Don’t feel bad, though, because you are not alone – you share this syndrome with Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and just about everyone in the spiritually repressed, conservative right wing of the American population (and Canadian population, for that matter).

I stand by my belief that civilization need not be in danger from this threat ***if*** we do the right thing. We are nowhere near the point where it’s a choice between ethical behaviour or our very survival. Such extremist thinking does not serve mankind well and only shows how truly disconnected you and your ilk are.

You read my words and, yet, you do not understand. Your capacity to appreciate how truly lost we are as a society, spiritually and erotically, has been severely diminished. You do not understand that the very actions of the Bush administration and the supporters of the war is a further extension and continuation of this basic, deep-to-the-core spiritual void. All the philosophies that espouse love and compassion and understanding have it right – we need to return to our humanity in order to truly solve our human problems. The key is to recognize when is a threat amenable to a peaceful approach and when is a threat only resolvable with the worst case scenario of violence.

In the case of current terrorism, that worst case scenario, that path of last resort, that adoption of a violent solution, is not even close to being justified, not when we have the opportunity to pursue a peaceful course of action.


On 3/20/06 1:58 PM, "Sobotic Research" wrote:


Bulls**t. You insist upon not seeing the truth about what is going on. Osama and his ilk Do NOT WANT the hatred removed. It is their only reason for existence. They do not have 'fears' they want allayed. They want only one thing - complete and total destruction of civilisation as we know it. This has nothing to do with fears, better future, love, compassion, right brain, left brain, or anything else.

Had you shown 'love and compassion' and understanding to Hitler and tried to explain to him why his view of Jews was wrong, and offered him a better future, that still had Jews in it - it wouldn't have done a damn bit of good no matter how long you kept it up!!!!

The ONLY thing you can offer to Osama and his ilk is a world completely free of civilisation, where butchery of anybody you choose at any time is the accepted morality and the only right anybody has is the right to live only at the pleaseure of and in conditions dictated by Osama and his ilk and the right be killed at any instant for any reason.

What you fail to grasp in your plaintive bleatings about civilisation and humanity is that WE represent civilisation and humanity and Osama and his ilk represent a total lack of both and in fact a complete, total, unending hatred of both.

Yes, it is true that sometimes there are wars and it is true that people die in wars and sometimes many, many innocent people die but unfortunately civilisation has a cost.

Is my approach and my belief immoral? Should we never have to bend and sometimes break our morals in order to win this war? I stand by my earlier statement: "What good is morality if none of the moral are left alive?"

Wake UP!!!

Violence versus Spirit, Part 2

The insurgents in Iraq are not all foreigners. Many of them – I daresay, most of them – are Iraqis. They are legitimate citizens of the country who have a different vision for their future. The significance of this profound statement of fact seems to be lost on the world.

The United States are fighting against, and killing, Iraqis. They have taken sides in the internal affairs of another country. And therein lies the immorality of the Iraq War.

The situation is comparable to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Rather than taking sides, the Americans are there serving as intermediary, as peace brokers. But in Iraq, they’ve taken sides, helping Iraqis to kill Iraqis. This is because the United States are trying to impose their brand of democracy in this region of the world. Geopolitical adventurism. The very reason why we in the West are hated.

In post-Saddam Iraq, we should leave their people to determine their own fate. Even if we agree that it was a good thing to get rid of Saddam, we should stay out of the civil war that is brewing there. We should respect their internal politics. (The Americans, of all people, should understand this. What if an external power had interfered in the American Civil War? How would the Americans have taken this?)

If the United States feel they need to intervene, at most they should be invited to act as intermediary, not take sides. The budding democracy there will stand or fall on the strength of the people. There is enough anti-Americanism in that country that the United States should respect their wishes and get out.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Violence versus Spirit

Read the story on the third anniversary of Iraq War at Pulse24.

On the third anniversary of the Iraq War, I would like to share some thoughts on how we express our humanity with respect to the war on terror...

There are basically two approaches we could have taken to fight terrorism. The first approach is the one the United States have taken: apply brute force, using a war hammer, against the problem. The gist of this approach is that we spread democracy through the application of military power. It is based on anger, i.e., past hurt. It is based on fear. It is based on left brain thinking (which is essentially non-humanistic). It treats the enemy as non-human, or less than human. It is fundamentally an anti-human approach.

The result, after three years, is that the war on terror has been very costly, both in terms of money and in lives lost. Afghanistan and Iraq remain unstable. US and Canadian forces are expected to stay in those countries for a long, long time. And despite all of this effort, we have every reason to expect more devastating terrorist attacks in the near future.

The total cost of the wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) is in the hundreds of billions of dollars and many thousands of lives (on both sides). The campaign will take decades to play itself out. It may require subsequent wars against other countries. And we are still not safe.

The second approach is a humanistic one. It treats the enemy as human and in so doing we stay true to our own humanity. It says that, for whatever reason, the supporters of terrorism (who number in the millions) resent the West. They hate us. It doesn’t matter whether or not we believe they have a legitimate gripe. The point is, they resent us. The second approach, then, seeks to remove this hatred. It seeks to allay their fears and give them hope for a better future – but not through violence or the military spread of democracy. It is based on love and respect, not anger and blame. It is based on right brain thinking, on feelings of compassion and understanding.

We can do this by changing our geopolitical policies. We can do this by NOT interfering in the internal affairs of foreign countries (militarily or clandestinely), by providing the economic and technological aid to uplift their people. We can do this by educating their peoples on the ways of democratic freedom, not an easy task, I grant you. We can do this by showing love for all of humankind, not just for a privileged subset. We can do this peacefully, in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi.

The result of this, it should not surprise you, is no different from the first approach. It will also be very costly. It will cost hundreds of billions of dollars (possibly more than we spend on prosecuting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq). It will cost lives but not soldiers’ lives (just as in the first approach, we can expect more terrorist attacks). It will take a long time to see a positive outcome, decades for sure.

So, both approaches are costly. Both approaches cost lives. Both approaches will take decades to see a good outcome. Neither approach guarantees our safety in the near term. What’s the difference between the two??

The difference is that one is counter to our humanity and the other is true to what makes us human, being in touch with the “God point,” the “life force,” eros. The difference is that the first approach is based on intellectualizing the world, while the second approach requires a feat of imagination. Left brain versus right brain.

The first approach reflects the spiritual illness that has pervaded our society and our civilization throughout history and especially in recent history. For all the intellectual and technological accomplishments of our times, we are empty at our core. We have lost our connection with the universe; we have lost our state of unity.

Is it not time for us to reclaim our humanity, our connection with the universe?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Suffer to Live

At the conclusion of When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, Harold Kushner says that Ecclesiastes learned three key lessons to giving life meaning:

1. Belong to people – share your intimate life with others.
2. Accept pain as part of your life.
3. Know that you have made a difference, know that your life mattered.

I take exception to No. 2, however, even though I know that Kushner speaks the truth:

Our son Aaron was born the week that President John Kennedy was shot, and I remember a tearful Daniel Patrick Moynihan saying after the assassination, “When you’re Irish, one of the first things you learn is that sooner or later this world will break your heart.” It was one of the first things I learned from Jewish history as well, and I would learn it more personally over the course of our son’s brief life.

Why do hundreds of young people who seem to have so much to live for take their own lives every year? Why are there “epidemics” of teenage suicides, often in happy families, in affluent communities, incidents not necessarily born out of despair or hopelessness but seemingly random tragedies which leave families shattered and high schools and entire communities feeling haunted?

For that matter, why are middle-aged and older people driven to take their own lives, often when they find themselves faced with the prospect of serious illness or scandal? I suspect that the answer has to do with our society’s attitude toward pain. From the outset, we have been told that for every pain, there will be a pill we could take to make the hurting stop. In essence, we have been promised a pain-free life.

Yet pain is part of being alive, and we need to learn that. Pain does not last forever, nor is it necessarily unbearable, and we need to be taught that. Most of all, we have to learn to trust our own capacities to endure pain. We can endure much more than we think we can; all human experience testifies to that. All we need to do is learn not to be afraid of pain.

Gee, that’s easy for Kushner to say... I’ve lived my entire life afraid of pain. I’ve lived my entire life trying to avoid pain. Pain is NOT an option!

And when I hurt, I become very angry, raging against the universe like The Incredible Hulk. This, for better or worse, is the core of my being, the heart of my existence, and the essence of my personality. Prick me, do I not bleed? Hurt me, do I not rage? In suffering, I am the Destroyer of Worlds.

I cannot afford the luxury of pain...

Welcome to 2006, Mr. Dell. Your customers are waiting.

Read this LinuxToday story.

In 2000-2001, most of the people using Linux were the hard-core hobbyists, geeks, and developers. They were still having religious wars about vi vs. emacs, for goodness' sakes!

The fact is, when Dell tried selling Linux desktops in 2000, they were too early. The interested market at that time was still in the early-adoption phase and, as the open source community can be, rather contentious (now we're all polite and civilized-like).

Absolutely right. In 2000, the enterprise simply wasn’t ready for Linux. Or more to the point, Linux hadn’t evolved sufficiently to meet the needs of the enterprise.

Today the story is much different. Linux is technically better than Windows and it is almost as polished, thanks to GNOME and KDE. It’s not quite there yet – Linux needs another year or two before the last remaining burrs are scraped off. But it is tantalizingly close... :-)

Did Dell get burned? I'm sure they did. But the fact is, they are basing their arguments now on events of six years ago. Today, the entire environment in and around Linux has changed. Enterprise adoption rates are growing strongly. Small- to medium-size markets are starting to take a look at Linux as a better desktop solution. There is, now, a real demand for pre-loaded, supported Linux machines. And Dell should understand that the vast majority of these business customers will not care which Linux Dell wants to support.

Six years in this industry is an eternity. The Linux landscape has changed ENTIRELY. The enterprise is ready for Linux – witness all the stories in recent years of Linux adoption by municipal governments and enterprises in Europe and North and South America. Linux uptake in the enterprise space is accelerating!

The fact is, Dell's refusal to sell Linux boxes is not about Linux's popularity or Linux support issues. It's about being in bed with Microsoft. Dell cannot afford to piss off Microsoft lest they lose their tremendous price discounts on Windows and Office software.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Going Mobile, Part 2

I discovered a really neat service for my Palm TX (and for any mobile computer that has an Internet connection). It's called Avvenu and it lets you access files on your server computer from anywhere on the planet. You must install Avvenu on your server, which should remain online all the time so that you can access it remotely. You can then download files, view files, or even upload files. It's great, and it's free!

Now, whether I'm in Mongolia, Nepal, Australia, or Antarctica, I can stay in touch with "home base," as long as there's a wireless hotspot nearby. Shades of Mission: Impossible.

My brother has a great little application program for your Palm called ChemTable. It provides detailed information on every element of the Periodic Table. The presentation layout is highly configurable. It has garnered much international praise, especially from people in the scientific and military community (private communication only). Check out the reviews here and here.

I just ordered a 2GB SD card for the Palm. It will allow me to store hundreds of MP3s and play them through my iPod earbuds. This effectively renders my iPod mini obsolete!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Palm TX Review

The Palm TX is a PDA with built-in Wi-Fi capability. I tested this capability in my home, which has a WEP-encrypted wireless network. I also tested it downtown Toronto at various free hotspots. The Palm passed with flying colours.

However, performance is less than impressive. The Blazer web browser takes quite a while to download a graphical web page. If all I want is textual information, I prefer to switch to "Fast Mode," which does not download images – it really speeds up web browsing.

The VersaMail email client works well. But on one occasion, switching to VersaMail caused the Palm to reboot. I have not been able to reproduce this behaviour.

While playing Solitaire once, the program suddenly and unexpectedly restarted the game I was playing. Again, I have not been able to reproduce this.

I guess what I'm saying is that the Palm is not 100% rock solid. There are occasional glitches. But from what I gather from user reviews at CNET, the Palm is much more robust and reliable than the Pocket PC. So on the whole, I am pleased with the Palm's reliability.

The Graffiti handwriting recognition works well, though it does require a little bit of practice to avoid frequent recognition errors.

I found the touchscreen to be a little, um, touchy. It's very easy to accidentally register more than one touch activation when you only intend one – this is very evident during scrolling.

The Palm Desktop on my iMac G5 works well. HotSync works well.

Battery life is very good, although using Wi-Fi may drain the battery much quicker. Recharging the battery is amazingly quick – from 60% to 100% takes about an hour. Because Li-ion batteries are happiest when they're recharged frequently and kept relatively close to fully charged, I would not let the charge drop below 60%. I would also recharge the battery at least once a week. In this manner, you will maximize the lifespan of the battery.

One negative is that the built-in battery is not user-replaceable. This means that when the battery finally dies, your Palm TX is history. It also means you can't replace it with a longer-lasting battery.

The device comes with a flip cover that inserts into a slot on the left side. I've heard that the nylon stitching on the cover may scratch the finish on the case. At any rate I found the flip cover rather intrusive. I dispensed with it.

The Palm TX is beautifully and solidly built. The deep blue plastic case is almost metallic in feel – at first, I thought it was magnesium. It has a nice heft to it, weighing in at 5.3 ounces. I love the feel of this device. The Palm TX comes with a lovely chrome stylus, which feels heavy and solid.

The LCD screen is absolutely gorgeous with bright, vibrant colours. The Palm TX comes with a screen protector, but installing it without getting trapped air bubbles is extremely difficult. I've ordered a replacement screen protector (the Ultra Clear version) from Brando Workshop in Hong Kong – it's supposed to be one of the very best on the market.

The Palm TX also exhibits terrific industrial design. It's something I might expect to come out of Apple's design labs. By comparison, the Pocket PCs from Dell and HP are downright uggglyyy.

I give the Palm TX a rating of 9/10.

Going Mobile

Toronto Hydro plans to turn the entire downtown core into a giant wireless Internet hotspot!!! For the full story, go here.

In anticipation of this event, I got myself a handheld device with Wi-Fi capability. I felt it was high time I entered the 21st century.

The choice of handheld came down to either the Palm TX or the Dell Axim X51. At CNET, the Palm TX is highly rated by both the editors and users: 8.0 and 7.3, respectively. The Axim X51 gets 7.4 and 5.9, respectively. The more expensive X51v scores a little better with users (6.4).

Reading the user reviews of the Axim is very revealing. Apparently, Windows Mobile 5.0 is very buggy – par for the course from Microsoft. Moreover, the X51v has an absurdly short battery life, probably due to the 624 MHz processor (the faster the clock speed, the greater the battery drain).

I chose the Palm TX for several reasons:

1. It's much more stable than the Axim X51. Stay away from Windows Mobile 5.0!

2. It's much cheaper than the Axim. I bought the Palm TX for $345. Dell charges $499 for the X51v and $399 for the X51 (it was recently on sale for $359).

Oh, and by the way, the $399 X51 has a puny 240x320 LCD. The Palm has 480x320, a much nicer screen.

3. The Palm TX supports the Apple Mac platform. Windows Mobile does not. I use my Palm with my iMac G5.

4. It has excellent battery life. It looks a lot nicer too (great industrial design!).

5. The strength of its reviews. According to reviews, the Axim X51 is rubbish.

So, if you're looking for a Wi-Fi handheld, the Palm TX is the only product on the market worth your consideration.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


We have, all of us, an erotic need to give, to contribute in a meaningful way to individuals as well as to our larger communities. We are driven not only to small acts of giving but also to great acts of sacrifice and heroism. We all desperately need to feel that our lives matter, that they are possessed of something essential, meaningful, and valuable. The unheard cry for meaning is always a desire to give. We are hardwired for giving. We long for not so much what we do not have as for what we do not give. We are unable to feel that essential sense of fulfillment that comes from a life that matters unless we feel we are making some significant contribution to our larger community.

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product of a life well lived. That life must include profound loving/giving or it simply cannot satisfy us. Life cannot be lived without a cause that is larger than life itself. There is a profound human need for sacrificial action for the sake of the larger community. We ignore this need at our own peril. If we do not honor it with creative and ethical expression, then we or our children will be seduced to sacrifice to the manifold pseudo altars of repression, fundamentalism, and extremism.

The major reason that we stop giving and loving beyond our circle of protection is that it hurts too much. We know that if we open our hearts, they will all too often get trampled and trashed.

We basically feel powerless and that we cannot really change anything. Once that belief is internalized, a self-protective mechanism kicks in. We cannot tolerate a situation in which our circle of caring is far larger than our circle of influence. When we feel that our ability to experience hurt is far greater than our ability to alleviate the pain, then we simply turn off. The dissonance becomes too great to bear. The gap between our perceived ability to be hurt and to help is simply too wide to traverse. So we narrow our circles of caring to only those we feel we have the ability to help. But to do so, especially in a world where graphic images of pain daily invade our lives, we need to shut down our hearts. Powerlessness corrupts. We need to know that each of us by ourselves, and even more powerfully as a community, can make a difference for love.

- The Mystery of Love

It occurs to me that we limit our caring to those close to us. Outside of that circle, we give lip service to caring but we don't really care about others. We don't go out of our ways, we don't sacrifice a lot, for people we don't really know too well. We might argue that this is human nature, but Marc Gafni is (correctly) suggesting that this innate need to care and to give has been driven out of us or deeply suppressed. In other words, our true nature has been corrupted.

It is possible, as Robert Kennedy reminded us in the 1960s, to change the bottom line. Instead of a gross national product measured in purely economic terms, we could have a bottom line in which loving, human dignity, value, and uniqueness were factored into the equation. A company that was highly profitable financially but insensitive to human dignity in measurable ways should not be given the same benefits or should be taxed at a higher rate!

We think this is absurd because we have internalized the pathologies of our generation. Erich Fromm and Viktor Frankel have already reminded us that entire societies, including our own, can be profoundly imbalanced. We need to remember their teaching – otherwise we will experience the pathologies of spirit of our generation as our personal failures. If we feel emptiness in the mad drive for success, it is not because we are neurotic but because the success is an empty goal. If we feel powerless and frustrated, it is not because we need treatment. Quite the opposite; because our societal norms need to be changed it is often a symbol of our sanity and inner balance when we have not succumbed to the superficial values touted by our society.

- The Mystery of Love

Our society is indeed greatly out of balance. I like the phrase "internalizing the pathologies of our generation." We are so into ourselves that we do not really care about the welfare of others. In particular, I am referring to the millions of disenfranchised and impoverished people around the world who hate the West, who are jealous of the West, who aid and support terrorism against the West. These people we do not care about; they are beyond our help; they do not deserve our help.

They are to be beaten down and suppressed. They are to be tightly controlled. This is the antithesis of love and eros.

And for that reason, the terrorism will not stop.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Books and Predestination

In When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough – The Search for a Life that Matters, Harold Kushner writes about the Book of Ecclesiastes. He says that of all the books in the Bible, this one is special and unique. The author of the book, says Kushner, is a man who was lost in life, despite all the wealth he had and all of his searching for knowledge and understanding.

This morning I arrived at Ecclesiastes’ conclusion near the end of Kushner’s book:

The wise old man who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes began by telling us of his disappointments. Neither wealth nor learning nor piety gave him the satisfaction of knowing that his life would mean something, not in his lifetime nor beyond it. But he did not write his book only to share his frustration with us nor was it included in the Bible to persuade us that life is in fact pointless.

My mind tells me that the arguments for the meaninglessness of life are overwhelming: injustice and illness and suffering and sudden death, criminals getting away with murder while good people die in shame and poverty. My mind tells me to give up my quest for meaning because there isn’t any.

If logic tells us that life is a meaningless accident, says Ecclesiastes at the end of his journey, don’t give up on life. Give up on logic. Listen to that voice inside you which prompted you to ask the question in the first place. If logic tells you that in the long run, nothing makes a difference because we all die and disappear, then don’t live in the long run. Instead of brooding over the fact that nothing lasts, accept that as one of the truths of life, and learn to find meaning and purpose in the transitory, in the joys that fade. Learn to savor the moment, even if it does not last forever. In fact, learn to savor it because it is only a moment and will not last. Moments of our lives can be eternal without being everlasting. Can you stop and close your eyes and remember something that happened for only a moment or two many years ago? It may have been a view of a spectacular landscape, or a conversation that made you feel loved and appreciated. In a sense it did not last very long at all, but in another sense it has lasted all those years and is still going on. That is the only kind of eternity this world grants us.

What is life about? It is not about writing great books, amassing great wealth, achieving great power. It is about loving and being loved. It is about enjoying your food and sitting in the sun rather than rushing through lunch and hurrying back to the office. It is about savoring the beauty of moments that don’t last, the sunsets, the leaves turning color, the rare moments of true human communication. It is about savoring them rather than missing out on them because we are so busy and they will not hold still until we get around to them.

When we come to that stage in our lives when we are less able to accomplish but more able to enjoy, we will have attained the wisdom that Ecclesiastes finally found after so many false starts and disappointments.

What’s especially striking about this passage is how similar it is to what Marc Gafni has been telling us. The Mystery of Love is about eros, about erotic living. It is about being fully engaged with life, about being “on the inside” of an experience, about embracing the fullness of presence. It’s about being connected with the world, being connected with your fellow man, being connected with life!

And this is also a theme that comes out of Harville Hendrix’s book, Getting the Love You Want. From the time we were in our mother’s womb, there was a connection with the universe. But in the process of being raised by our parents and of growing up in a cold, heartless society, this connection was severed, suppressed, or otherwise beaten out of us. I refer you to here.

Kushner’s words hit home because I am beginning to experience them! I strive to be supremely relaxed and in so doing I can be more “in the moment” of my experiences. I am starting to feel a “connectedness” that has eluded me my entire life. I no longer obsess about wealth – the fact is, I didn’t really need to worry about money since the early 1990s when I owned my own home and I was debt-free. I am now able to let go of my logic – for too long, I’ve held on too tightly to my intellectual worldview. I am more in touch with my feelings.

Kushner’s words also imply erotic living!

I was at the World’s Biggest Bookstore yesterday and I sat down to read an excerpt from a book I found on the promotional shelves called Happiness Is, by Shawn Shea.

Shea writes about John Merrick, aka “the Elephant Man.” He says that at the end of his life Merrick claimed to be happy, despite all the suffering he endured – the constant physical pain, the continuing ridicule, the social isolation. Merrick found happiness in the everyday joy of discovery, of experiencing the awe of life.

I was moved by that story. John Merrick is an example for us all.

How propitious and serendipitous it has been for me to have encountered these books in the past six months – Getting the Love You Want, The Pursuit of Happiness, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, The Mystery of Love, Happiness Is. There seems to be a predestination at work here. (I resist the notion of this being a divine act!)

At any rate, I am being transformed...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

How to Shop for a Core Duo Laptop, Part 3

Okay, time to wrap up...

What have we learned?

We’ve learned that, in terms of user satisfaction, Apple and Lenovo are tops and Toshiba is average. Everybody else (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) is either average or crap.

We’ve learned that Dell is not to be trusted. A price differential of $800 is highly suspect.

We’ve learned that Lenovo is very, very expensive and we do not have any idea why this is so.

We’ve learned that Toshiba is my favourite laptop brand because I am such a smart consumer.

Now let’s move on to our final judgment: The Mercedes of Core Duo Laptops...

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (200772U)
2.0GHz Intel Core Duo
15” display 1400x1050
ATI Radeon X1400 w/128MB
1GB memory
100GB hard drive
DVD burner (unknown speed)
1.2” high
5.4 lbs
WinXP Pro
Fingerprint reader, 3 USB 2.0, DVI out, ExpressCard,

(See this review of the ThinkPad.)

Toshiba Tecra A7 (PTA71C-LL201E)
1.83GHz Intel Core Duo
15.4” Widescreen display 1280x800
ATI Radeon X1400 w/128MB
512MB memory
100GB hard drive
DVD burner 8X
1.4” high
6.0 lbs
WinXP Pro
Fingerprint reader, 4 USB 2.0, FireWire,
RGB, S-video, 5-in-1 card reader

Frankly, I prefer Widescreen and that ALONE favours the Toshiba. But the Toshiba is also $1,120 cheaper!!! Plus, the 4 USB ports and the card reader are nice.

The ThinkPad has double the memory, is marginally faster (9%) and is a little more portable. There is reason to believe that the ThinkPad has the highest quality construction and durability, thereby justifying its high price.

An honourable mention goes to:

Apple MacBook Pro
2.0GHz Intel Core Duo
1GB memory
100GB hard drive
DVD burner 8X
15.4” Widescreen display 1440x900
ATI Radeon X1600 w/256MB
1” high
5.6 lbs
2 USB 2.0, FireWire, DVI out, ExpressCard, Bluetooth

If you don’t need Windows, the MacBook Pro is $500 cheaper than the ThinkPad and the specs are similar. Too bad the Apple doesn’t have a fingerprint reader, though.

So, what’s your pick for the Mercedes of Core Duo Laptops?

How to Shop for a Core Duo Laptop, Part 2

There has to be a reason for the $800 price difference between Dell and the second cheapest Core Duo laptop (from Toshiba).

We must remember a key principle of economics: TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

Having read through the user opinions of Dell laptops at CNET, I learned that a common complaint was the quality of the LCD display. "Light leakage" at the bottom of the display was a frequent complaint. Apparently the flat panels that Dell sources for their laptops are subpar.

C'mon, we all KNOW how Dell can sell their Inspiron 6400 for $800 less than anybody else! THEY CUT CORNERS. Lots of them. It may not be apparent to us when we take it out of the box and turn it on for the first time. But eventually we will understand why the laptop is so cheap.

I saw a story once about why Dell was so successful. They've fine-tuned their business model to be as efficient as possible. They've cut costs to the bone. The story posited that Dell may not be able to sustain their growth because there is NO MORE ROOM for efficiency. Like all the other players in the market, their profit margins are already razor-thin.

So how do you s'pose they can undercut all their competitors by $800? STAY AWAY FROM DELL LAPTOPS!

We can learn a lot about the quality of laptops from last year’s PC Magazine Reader Satisfaction Survey (visit here). You can download the survey results for notebook computers (in PDF format) from here.

In terms of Reliability, Apple, Fujitsu and Lenovo/IBM rank at the top. Gateway is at the bottom.

In terms of Tech Support, Apple and Lenovo/IBM score top marks. Sony and HP/Compaq are at the bottom.

Across the board, Toshiba is pretty much average. Gateway, HP/Compaq and Sony generally suck.

Fujitsu looks promising, though. Maybe I should give these guys a serious look.

Supposedly Dell has pretty decent Tech Support and Repairs but I still don’t trust them.

How to Shop for a Core Duo Laptop

I tried to compare models with similar configurations – same screen size, same hard disk size. Available in Canada as of March 8, 2006...

Dell Inspiron 6400
1.66GHz Intel Core Duo
15.4” display 1280x800
Intel GMA 950 w/512MB shared video memory
1GB memory
100GB hard drive
1.4” high
6.2 lbs

Toshiba Satellite A100 (PSAA9C-JH200E)

1.66GHz Intel Core Duo
15.4” display 1280x800
ATI Radeon X1400 w/128MB
1GB memory
100GB hard drive
1.6” high
6.0 lbs

Sony FE-Series (VGNFE550G)
1.66GHz Intel Core Duo
15.4” display 1280x800
Intel GMA 950 w/224MB shared video memory
1GB memory
100GB hard drive
1” high
6.2 lbs

Apple MacBook Pro
1.83GHz Intel Core Duo
15.4” display 1440x900
ATI Radeon X1600 w/128MB
1GB memory
100GB hard drive
1” high
5.6 lbs

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (20075HU)
1.83GHz Intel Core Duo
15” display 1400x1050 (not Widescreen)
ATI Radeon X1300 w/64MB
512MB memory
100GB hard drive
1.0” high
5.4 lbs
CD-RW drive (not a DVD burner)
WinXP Pro (not Home Edition)

Core Duo laptops from Hewlett-Packard are conspicuously absent in Canada!!

So here’s the bottom line:

If you want THIN, Sony, Apple and
Lenovo are your choices. Not coincidentally, they tend to be the most expensive.

If you want VALUE or the LOWEST PRICE, Dell is a slam-dunk.

If you want PERFORMANCE, Apple and Lenovo are good with the 1.83GHz Core Duo and high resolution screens. Not surprisingly, they're the most expensive.

If you want Widescreen, Lenovo is NOT your choice.

If you want to run Windows Vista some day, Toshiba and Lenovo are your only choices. (Stay away from "integrated graphics!")

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Right Time

Perhaps it’s the right time for me to absorb this message. I’ve long resisted the idea of religious faith. Up till now, my only “reality” has been the one that springs from my intellect, not from my heart.

People have told me this message before. But I was not ready to receive it. And even if I did receive it, I’m not sure I’d know how to make the transition.

But there’s no question I’m more “spiritual” now. I must however find my own way to “God”...

When I was a seminary student, the student body was divided into two camps: the rationalists, who approached the tradition with their minds, as something to be understood and explained; and the mystics, who approached the same tradition with their souls, as something that could never be understood or explained but only experienced. I was strongly in the rationalist camp in those days. We looked down on the others as medieval mystifiers who would never be taken seriously by a congregation of college students. They dismissed us as bearers of a dry, arid legalism which would never reach beyond the top three inches of a person, enlightening the mind but never engaging the soul. We rationalists believed back then that if we could explain religion to people and show them how it made sense, they would be persuaded. After all, we would be dealing with intelligent, reasonable people. Why shouldn’t they listen to reason? We failed to understand that faith, like love, loyalty, hope, and many of the most important dimensions of our lives, is rooted in that vast, dark, irrational area where reason cannot reach and man’s intellect cannot venture.

Today, I am twenty-five years older and wiser, and in fulfillment of Jung’s prediction that in mid-life we go back and fill in the spaces we left blank when we were growing up, I find myself quoting Judaism’s mystical tradition as much as its rational one. Time and again, I turn to books I had no patience for during my student days. I have come to appreciate the value of customs and rituals that “don’t make sense.” There is a cycle of daylight and darkness, of mind and emotion in my inner world even as there is in the world around me. Sometimes our life’s task is to shed light where there is darkness, to make sense of the things that happen to us, to find connections and explain them. But sometimes our life’s task is to accept the darkness, the things that cannot and perhaps should not be explained, as part of the world we live in.

- When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough – The Search for a Life that Matters, by Harold Kushner, © 1986, Pocket Books, New York, p. 111

Yes, I’m filling in the spaces I left blank so many years ago. I’m reading books that I never would have opened prior to my retirement! I’m becoming somewhat mystical.

Like Kushner, I used to be a “rationalist.” But as my good friend Ted pointed out to me not too long ago, I’m mellowing, Dude. I’m starting to see that love is the way. The sickness in our world, as revealed by the fundamentalists (both Christian and Islamic), the neo-conservatives like Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz, the consumerists like 90% of our population, the drug addicts, the lovelorn Gen-Xers, and so on, arises from a basic and profound loss of eros in our lives. And no amount of rationalization nor intellectualization is going to cure it.

I’m finally starting to grow up...

Crisis of Imagination

In the next stage of our journey we will outline ten paths of Hebrew tantra. In each of these paths the starting point will be the sexual. In each chapter we will identify a unique quality of the sexual that models the erotic. These include creativity, pleasure, imagination, transcendence, surrender, union, and many more.

These erotic qualities are manifested in our world most powerfully in the sexual arena. Sex tells us that these qualities are a genuine option in our lives. Once we know they are possible – for we have experienced their potent presence in our sexuality – we can begin to realize them in other aspects of our lives. We need to be lovers beyond the bedroom, even as the sexual hints at the way. This is the redemption of the Shechina. The end of the exile.

Virtually every crisis at its core is a failure of imagination. Some years back, I took off three years from "spiritual teaching" to get a sense of what the world tasted like as a householder. I took a job at a high-tech company and from that relatively nondemanding perch began to rethink my life and beliefs.

During this period, I did a bit of consulting with Israeli high-tech start-up firms. Truth is, I had little good advice to offer, but some of the high-tech entrepreneurs who had been my students would call me anyway. At one point, I received a call from a small start-up firm in Ramat Gan, Israel. The problem: They were almost out of venture capital, their market window seemed to be rapidly closing, and their research and development team was simply not keeping pace with their need for solutions.

Apparently, the problem lay with the elevator. The company was on the top floor of an old warehouse. The elevator was small, hot, and inordinately pungent. By the time the R & D teams would get through the daily morning gauntlet of the elevator they had lost some of their creative sparkle. The president was convinced that this experience dulled their edge just enough to slow down the speed and elegance of their solutions. What to do? I have to confess to you, dear reader, that I had not the slightest idea.

Our meeting was on Friday. As was my custom, I went home for the Sabbath and consulted with my own private consultant, my then-eight-year-old son, Eitan. When I asked him what I should tell the company, he laughed and said somewhat mockingly, "It's simple, Dad – cookies." I did not find this particularly funny. I raised this subject with him several times, to which he would only respond, with maddening gravitas, "Cookies."

Finally I gave up on him. Several days later I went to tell the president I had found no solution. I was going up the same malodorous elevator when in a blinding flash I realized what Eitan meant. Cookies! Of course! We had all been focused on elaborate ways to fix the elevator or to move locations. Eitan – with the simple brilliance of a child – reminded us of the true issue at stake. The crux of the matter was not the elevator, it was how the R & D team felt when they left the elevator. So what to do? Cookies. We set up a table with juices, fruit, and healthy cookies right outside the elevator. So even though the ride up the elevator was terrible, people would spend the whole ride eagerly anticipating the goodies that awaited them. No one else could envision Eitan's simple yet elegant solution because their imagination was "stuck in the elevator." A simple paradigm shift was inspired by re-imagining.

Like so many of eros's expressions, we fear imagination, for imagination holds out the image of a different life. It challenges our accommodations to the status quo. It suggests that all of the compromises upon which we have based our lives might not have been necessary. Our fear of imagination is our fear of our own greatness. So we work hard to kill it. We tell children to grow out of it. "It's only your imagination," we tell them, as if this was somehow an indication that "it" was therefore less real.

It was Albert Einstein's gift of imagination that allowed him to formulate the concept of relativity. Einstein literally imagined what it would be like to travel on a beam of light. What would things look like? What would another traveler, on another beam of light going in the opposite direction, look like to him? Without leaps of imagination, no growth is possible and the spirit petrifies in its old frozen masks.

- The Mystery of Love

Friday, March 03, 2006

Eros and Addiction

I happened to come across this Macleans article by accident and it seems especially relevant in view of Marc Gafni's book that I'm reading. My impression from the article is that our society is very ill spiritually. People flit in and out of casual relationships with nonchalance and they are afraid to commit.

Jillian Strauss says:

There is this idea that newer is better. I think that you can't help sometimes but relate that to your personal life and think, well, this person is great, but maybe there is somebody else out there who might be better. I can meet a more attractive woman or a more successful man. I heard it repeated over and over that people were afraid of "settling" because "somebody better might come along."

We do live in such an immediate gratification time. So that when you first start dating, or are into a relationship for a couple of months, when it gets dull, or when it gets hard and requires a bit of effort, there is a temptation to think: "Oh, this might not be right. Let me find someone else."

But for our generation, we want the fun, we want the immediacy, but we don't want to ride out the slow times, or the rough times.

People are unwilling to remain in the emptiness and work their way through to self-discovery and personal growth. Marc Gafni puts it best this way:

Eros is about feeling the fullness of being, the opposite of emptiness. Every human being has met emptiness, that feeling we experience late at night, home alone or in the hotel room we return to after a long day's work on a business trip. We enter the room and are often overwhelmed by intense feelings of emptiness. We flip on the cable or order up dinner and entertainment – anything not to stay in the emptiness. Indeed the sentence that I probably repeat to my students more than any other is: "Life is what you do with your emptiness."

In our society, which sadly defines human beings as consumers and not lovers, denying the emptiness is the primary strategy for coping with it. We are sold ful-fill-ment at every turn and in every guise. We buy, buy, buy, hoping that one of the hawked elixirs might finally full-fill us. And yet the emptiness lingers.

This is the great paradox of emptiness. The first way to approach emptiness must be not to fill it but simply to be mindful of it. To notice the emptiness. The goal is to move beyond the void to the fullness of eros and Shechina. Yet paradoxically you can only access the fullness of being if you are willing to stay in the emptiness long enough to find your way. The path to eros is filled with detours to pseudo eros, but they are all dead ends. When we are so desperate for fullness, when the emptiness hurts too much, these detours seduce us off the path, often spinning us to painful places where we never wanted to go.

Addiction is, at its root, the inability to stay in the emptiness. So we rush to fill the emptiness with whatever gives us the quickest hit of pseudo eros. Pseudo eros is virtually always addictive. Pseudo eros has many disguises – sex, food, public acclaim, drugs, work. Goethe was right when he defined addiction as anything you cannot stop doing. We are all addicts.

What Jillian Strauss is really talking about is our society's pursuit of pseudo eros. Our lack of true eros leads us to search for it in all the wrong places and the pseudo eros we engage in is responsible for our addictions, which include sex, casual relationships, consumerism, antidepressants...anything to kill the pain, any way to fill the emptiness.

Eros and Eyegazing

There's a new speed dating craze called Eyegazing where, instead of talking to a stranger for several minutes, you stare into his/her eyes without exchanging a single word. (Visit here for more information.) This sounded rather hokey to me until I came across this passage from Marc Gafni's The Mystery of Love:

When I lead prayers at our retreat center overlooking the Sea of Galilee in Israel, we often do a face-to-face prayer. In this prayer, people sit in twos and read Psalms to each other. They each are singing praises to the God point in the other. Before we start the chanting, I begin by asking each pair to look deeply into each other's faces. "Begin by being wordlessly present for each other. Experience the full presence of another waiting for you."

After the uncommon sessions of looking into another's face many people have come up to me in tears, in joy, in awe, each with a different story. But they all share a common theme. "First I felt uncomfortable. I kept shifting my gaze. Looking at her necklace, her earlobes, her hair, but it was so hard to look at her face. Finally, our eyes fell into sync. It was uncomfortable, but we kept at it. Eyes – brown, with freckles of color. A funny, imperfect face. And then suddenly, something gave. A rush of emotion. A moment of release into the other person's gaze." Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. But when it does, you never forget it.

Have you ever looked, really looked, into another person's face? Have you ever witnessed that moment when the soul comes rushing up from its inner chambers and opens wide the windows of the eyes to see you, seeing her? To greet you like the daylight? This is the mystery of love, of the eyes and their eros.

It does not surprise me. The eyes are the most honest and involuntary expression of your emotions. With the exception of sociopaths, you cannot hide the feelings that flicker in your eyes – they will always give you away.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Eros and Art

There is a wonderful Balinese saying that goes something like, “We do not have art – we do everything as beautifully as we can.” When we build ugly cities where beauty is abused and people are depersonalized and then build a beautiful art museum, the Shechina is in exile. We exile the eros of beauty to the constricted precincts of formal art. The same is true of music. Music is not limited to symphonies or rock concerts. We are all musicians, and life is overflowing with music. Are you familiar with the off-Broadway show Stomp? There is no dialogue: it is all music and dance. The catch is that no musical instruments are used. The “instruments” are adapted from the fabric of everyday living: pots, pans, brooms, sinks, faucets, garbage can lids, bottles, bags, newspapers, hands, feet, virtually every part of the body – all of these are used to make music. The implication is stunning: We usually limit art to formal work by people we call artists, just as we limit music to formal instruments and musicians. Formal music and art need to model the erotics of sound and beauty in all aspects of our lives and not just in their narrow provinces. Music and art need to pervade all of life. Every moment is a canvas and possesses its own melody.

Just as it is nonerotic for art to exist only in a museum, so too it is nonerotic for love to exist only in a small circle of caring. When we fall in love with one woman or one man to the exclusion of all other people, Shechina is in exile. When you are truly erotically engaged then through the love of one comes the love of all. For true love partakes in the essential connectivity of being. Unity is not divisible; it is holographic; in every moment of love are the lovers and all the love in the world.

- The Mystery of Love

Eros and Advertising

Paradoxically the place that understands this erotic secret well is in the world of advertising. Even when television programs are bland and insipid, advertising is often erotic. We all realized long ago that advertising uses the sexual as a primary tool in its campaigns. Somehow we are meant to associate the beautiful woman with the sleek car.

Moralists often accuse the advertisers of a great moral wrong in this kind of advertising. After all, advertising seems to falsely suggest that we will somehow get the girl if we buy the car. I think we have all figured out that the girl does not come with the car. Rather, the implication is far more subtle. On some level this kind of advertisement actually intuits the secrets of the cherubs. The profound implication of the girl/car nexus is that the sexual eros expressed by the girl is a model of the kind of eros the driver wants in his means of transportation. This profound and true idea drives much of advertising.

It is perhaps more than a telling coincidence of language that these glamorous women are called models. An obvious shoo-in for our theme! For essentially they are illustrators of the metaphysical (and physical) fact that sex models the erotic. Their sexual allure is used to pull at the erotic strings of our soul. When we buy into the ad we are chasing not the sex it displays but the eros modeled there, the eros we so deeply if subconsciously quest after. Models then become a handy visual and linguistic reminder of the fact that all we are really after is some good eros.

Mind the Gap
The Gap’s ad campaign in the fall of 2001 shows slender stylish young ladies with a caption underneath that says, “My First Love.” The reader/gazer/consumer expects some sexually provocative image or story to follow. Then comes the wonderful twist that makes this ad stand out. We see a picture of the model with a book – “My first love – Anais Nin,” or with a tape, “My first love – the Ramones”...or a photo, “My first love – my mom.” What the Gap ads effectively did is suggest an explanation of the erotic beyond the sexual to include art, music, and personal nonsexual relationships. The ad plays off the Western mind, which expects the sultry story to fill in the blank of what is “love” or what is erotic. The Gap is ever so subtly suggesting that the Shechina needs to be liberated from the merely sexual. You can live erotically in all areas of life.

While we give kudos to the Gap for intelligent, soul-broadening advertising, it is understandable that all too often Madison Avenue goes wrong by manipulating eros rather than serving eros. That is to say erotic manipulation is used to sell us products we don’t need or want. Madison Avenue feeds on our eros-starved soul purely for the sake of uninhibited profit. That is not the exile of the Shechina, for indeed sex and eros are not split. It would be more accurate to describe Madison Avenue as pimping the Shechina – making her a prostitute, selling her wares to support “the Man.”

- The Mystery of Love