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I recently composed a piece on my first year in the Partners for Healthier Weight program. The full post is here:



Oct. 22nd, 2012 11:08 am
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Is there a reason why I can't go more than 20 entries into the past on my friends page on LJ anymore? There's no more "older" entries link, and if I manually change the URL to skip=40 or whatever, nothing is displayed.

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I just wrote up a detailed overview of a book I recently read which rang some loud bells for me throughout. I tried to provide enough info in the overview that you don't actually have to read the book! But it's still totally worth reading if you're interested in the topic, because it's really well-written and contains a lot of fascinating stories in it.


Legit clinical psychs like [livejournal.com profile] vision_serpent probably wouldn't get much from this book, because it's really written for the layperson. But I thought it was very good.
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Surprising well-done recasting of Radiohead albums as arcade music from the 80s. Annoying after awhile, but engrossing to hear how faithful they were to the original recordings.
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I just read this lyric in a recent issue of Lapham's Quarterly and thought it was great. From "Silver Dagger," a traditional American ballad from the 1930s that Joan Baez covered in the 60s, apparently.
Don't sing love sounds, you'll wake my mother,
She's sleeping here, right by my side,
And in her right hand, a silver dagger.
She says I can't be your bride.

All men are false, says my mother,
They'll tell you wicked, loving lies.
The very next day, they'll court another,
Leave you alone to pine and sigh.

My daddy is a handsome devil,
He's got a chain five miles long,
And on every link a heart does dangle
Of another maid he's loved and wronged.

Go court another tender maiden,
And hope that she will be your wife,
For I've been warned, and I've decided
To sleep alone all of my life.
Also, on this page of the pretty excellent audioblog Broken Silence, have a listen to Starfucker's cool interpretation of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It's… fun!

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Dr. Sharma, an Edmonton, Alberta-based obesity researcher (and I think bariatric surgeon?) posted a short but excellent entry about the pernicious effects that weight-loss reality shows like The Biggest Loser promote negative and incorrect attitudes about the obese.


He describes one of the conclusions reached by researchers who conducted a study on this show as follows:
Interestingly, amongst the participants, those who had lower BMIs and were not trying to lose weight had significantly higher levels of dislike of overweight individuals following exposure to The Biggest Loser compared to similar participants in the control condition.

These results clearly indicate that anti-fat attitudes increase after brief exposure to weight-loss reality television, especially perhaps in people with lower BMI.
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So I posted an article yesterday about a book review I'd read about a brain researcher named Michael Gazzaniga, and then this morning I got a Google Alert for my name which referred to the article. But it tagged my LJ version of the article instead of my own personal writing site, which I don't totally understand but whatev…

But the real kicker I don't get is that when I Googled the reviewer's name and the author's name together, the third result on the SERP was my LJ article. But I'm totally positive that my no-traffic/no-inbound-linked LJ post about this book could possibly be that high on Google's search results. And sure enough, when I Googled the same thing on my iPhone, my article was nowhere to be found in the search results.

So, my question: does Google spoon-feed me my own writing in search results I make from my own heavily cookied, Google-indexed web browser? And if so, why? Because I could be sitting here thinking, "YES, this is AWESOME, I'm #3 Google result on this search" and it is totally and completely bogus.

See for yourself:


This LJ post of mine isn't on your search results page, is it?

(BTW, for the non-geeks out there, a SERP is a Search Engine Results Page.)
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University of Victoria philosophy professor Jeffrey Foss, himself author of a book called Science and the Riddle of Consciousness: A Solution, reviewed this recent book by scientific researcher Michael Gazzaniga in Saturday's Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Gazzaniga's book looks at the ancient question of whether or not humans have free will from an interesting angle: namely, by asking who's actually in charge of synthesizing the data in our brains which ultimately result in decisions being made. More specifically, he transforms this question through his profound scientific understanding of the human brain. To begin the discussion, Professor Foss explains: "[The human brain] is at least the surface at which our consciousness (or soul) contacts our body, even if it is not, as Gazzaniga believes, the very engine of our consciousness (though he admits we currently do not understand how consciousness emerges from the brain)."

Gazzaniga examines this question by reviewing the fascinating research that he and others have conducted on split-brain patients whose left and right brain hemispheres can no longer communicate with each other due to a separation (often surgical, employed to treat extreme epilepsy) of the corpus collosum, which is the body that transmits data from one side of the brain to the other.

(Technical sidebar: The Wikipedia article on split-brain provides a useful overview of how the right and left hemispheres of the brain work together, wherein the left hemisphere (typically considered analytic or logical) and the right hemisphere (typically considered holistic or intuitive) each controls and receives sensory inputs from the opposite side of the body. In split-brain patients, there's a sort of cognitive breakdown in the way that objects are perceived or understood by one side of the body when picked up or perceived by the opposite hemisphere of the brain; studying this breakdown has allowed Gazzaniga to develop insights into the way the two hemispheres interact.)

From Jeffrey Foss's review of the book comes these interesting insights:
Gazzaniga (with his teacher, Nobel laureate Roger Sperry) discovered the split in human consciousness that results from splitting the human brain into right and left hemispheres, a split that consciousness itself doesn't even notice. We have accepted our internal divisions long, long ago, and have, over the millennia, used them to explain our capacity for good and for evil. But whereas we can actually feel ourselves being influenced by Mars or Satan or our combative instinct, no amount of soul-searching can reveal to split-brain patients the resulting rent in their very selves.

The explanation for this is quite simple. The left brain, where language processing occurs, is the mechanism of the soul searching itself, and cannot, in split brains, access or report the activity of the right brain and its input into the brain-as-a-whole.

The brain, split or unsplit, has no centre of control, no centre of consciousness, no centre period: no self. Gazzaniga marshals countless scientific studies of the brain that reveal it to be a rag-bag collection of specialized modules for everything from facial recognition and counting through to distinguishing self from other.

It's quite amazing how these modules make us identify the thoughts and actions of our brain as our own, even when the cause is known to be external control of our brain via transcranial magnetic stimulation. It's quite amazing, that is, to think that our sense of self is achieved by some dozens of such modules working in loose formation with one another -- in the absence of any real self at all.

So, as Gazzaniga and the many scientists of his sort see it, they, you and I are but the imaginary focuses created by our nervous systems in order to better serve the evolutionary demand of our trillions of component cells to survive and reproduce.
I'm deeply drawn towards scientific research which reveals what I find to be essential truths about the nature of consciousness and self: namely, that we possess no particular, identifiable self as such, and that the myriad thoughts and insights that we attribute to a seemingly separate entity called "our self" are simply a collection of evolution-serving, neurochemical, electrical and biological processes that are in place solely to continue the species, and not for any particularly meaningful purpose higher than that.

I find these insights to be enormously liberating. It gives me the license to stop worrying about what's happening; to loosen up my expectations over the way I think things should be; and to allow myself to just let go and let things unfold as they will, because "I" have no control to exert over the system. The universe is taking care of itself without any express input from "me," so why don't I just stop worrying about it?

Foss adds a sidebar to his review listing five essential books on the question of free will:
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman (2011)
Freedom and Belief, by Galen Strawson (2010)
Freedom Evolves, by Daniel Dennett (2003)
How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker (1997)
The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation, by Matt Ridley (1996)
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This zoomable model of the universe is really fascinating.


It goes all the way to the smallest theoretical particles and out to the boundaries of the observable universe. Totally stunning.
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From a recent episode of one of my favourite satirical podcasts by the darkly hilarious stand-up comedian and comedy writer David Feldman:

The worst thing I ever did to my father-in-law was marry his daughter. Happy Anniversary... It's Feb 3rd, which is our 22nd anniversary, and I'm proud to say that I can still fit into her wedding dress.

The Florida primary was Tuesday and Newt Gingrich lost big, but Newt is not dropping out. He assured his supporters that he's not leaving, because his race for the presidency is not some cancery chick he's tired of banging.

Mitt Romney was unapologetic about going negative in this week's Florida primary. Mitt said, "When taking fire, I shoot back." Mitt learned that the hard way during the Vietnam War, when he was a brave Mormon missionary in Paris.

In that same interview Romney said, "A leader can focus on the very poor, but that's not my focus." If elected, Romney won't focus on the poor, unless you count creating more of them.

Romney won big on Tuesday by spending millions telling Florida that Washington has stop thinking every problem can be solved by throwing money at it.

This week, voters in Nevada go to the polls, and Mitt Romney looks like he's going to win big after picking up an endorsement from Donald Trump. Donald Trump and Mitt Romney are living proof that there is no limit to what you can achieve in this great country of ours, so long as you're willing to have incredibly rich parents.
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(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)

This article in today's Nonduality Highlights (Issue #4483, edited by Mark Otter today) contains a great article about meditation by Adyashanti, who is one of the clearest speakers on contemporary Nonduality practicing these days. His website is here if you want to check out more of his stuff or if you happen to live somewhere that he's giving satsang.
True meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrender, pure silent prayer. All methods aiming at achieving a certain state of mind are limited, impermanent, and conditioned. Fascination with states leads only to bondage and dependency. True meditation is abidance as primordial awareness.
Read more... )
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Was reading the New Orleans Jazz Festival line-up this morning, which is filled with a bunch of weird-ass shit having very little to do with jazz:


The Eagles, Tom Petty, The Beach Boys, John Mayer, Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine, Feist, My Morning Jacket, Steve Earle, Ani DiFranco, Foo Fighters, Bonnie Raitt... Some of those acts I wouldn't mind seeing, but only God knows why they're at the New Orleans jazz festival.

Anyway, I came across this cool video on Herbie's artist page for the site:


I love bassist Dave Holland's facial expression around the 4-min mark; his face finally betrays what he's thinking: "Jesus Herbie, you're on fucking fire, man." Love it. Love that 1980s Yamaha DX-7 synth on stage, too. This must be an older video because Herbie mostly plays on a Yamaha Motif these days, I think.

Pat's solo is pretty inspired, too. What is that solar-panel-looking thing at the bottom of his guitar's body?
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It's great!!! Via [livejournal.com profile] willowing's FB. In response in part to comments like this from Dan Savage's often excellent column:
I am thoroughly annoyed at having my tame statements of fact—being heavy is a health risk; rolls of exposed flesh are unsightly—characterized as "hate speech."
The ending to Lindy's rebuttal is brilliant:
But most importantly: I reject this entire framework. I don't give a shit what causes anyone's fatness. It's irrelevant and it's none of my business. I am not making excuses, because I have nothing to excuse. I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight. That then I will be a real person and have finally succeeded as a woman. I am not going to waste another second of my life thinking about this. I don't want to have another fucking conversation with another fucking woman about what she's eating or not eating or regrets eating or pretends to not regret eating to mask the regret. OOPS I JUST YAWNED TO DEATH.

If you really want change to happen, if you really want to "help" fat people, you need to understand that shaming an already-shamed population is, well, shameful. Do you know what happened as soon as I rejected all this shit and fell in unconditional luuuuurve with my entire body? I started losing weight. Immediately. WELL LA DEE FUCKING DA.
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It's an excerpt from St. Augustine's Confessions from ca. 397, dealing with the perception of past, present and future. This portion of Augustine's Wikipedia page sets some interesting context for the part which I'm about to transcribe:

The latter part of Augustine's Confessions consists of an extended meditation on the nature of time. Even the agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell was impressed by this. He wrote, "a very admirable relativistic theory of time. ... It contains a better and clearer statement than Kant's of the subjective theory of time - a theory which, since Kant, has been widely accepted among philosophers."[44] Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine's belief that God exists outside of time in the "eternal present"; that time only exists within the created universe because only in space is time discernible through motion and change.

I'm not sure exactly where the following excerpt comes from in the entire work, for I read it in a literature review called Lapham's Quarterly and its exact placement in the original text was not noted there. What I have before me also appears to have been translated into ordinary modern English, while several of the translations I saw online are in a sort of archaic format with a lot of entreaties to "O Lord" and the like. This excerpt is very clean and simple, and I really appreciate how lucidly it describes how our perception of time informs the nature of our very existence. (At least, that's how I read it!)

If the future and the past do exist, I want to know where they are. I may not yet be capable of such knowledge, but at least I know that wherever they are, they are not there as future or past, but as present. For if, wherever they are, they are future, they do not yet exist; if past, they no longer exist. Do wherever they are and whatever they are, it is only by being present that they are.

When we describe the past correctly, it is not past facts which are drawn out of our memories but only words based on our memory pictures of those facts, because when they happened they left an impression on our minds by means of our sense perception. My own childhood, which no longer exists, is in past time, which also no longer exists. But when I remember those days and describe them, it is in the present that I picture them to myself, because their picture is still present in my memory.

Whether some similar process enables the future to be seen, some process by which events which have not yet occurred become present to us by means of already existing images of them, I confess, my God, that I do not know. But at least I know that we generally think about what we are going to do before we do it, and this preliminary thought is in the present, whereas the action which we premeditate does not yet exist because it is in the future. Once we have set to work and started to put our plans into action, that action exists, because it is now not future but present.

By whatever mysterious means it may be that the future is foreseen, it is only possible to see something which exists; and whatever exists is not future but present. So when we speak of foreseeing the future, we do not see things which are not yet in being, that is, this which are future, but it may be that we see their causes or signs, which are already in being. In this way they are not future but present to the eye of the beholder, and by means of them the mind can form a concept of things which are still future and thus is able to predict them. These concepts already exist, and by seeing them, present in their minds people are able to foretell the actual facts which they represent.

Let me give you one example of the many from which I could choose. Suppose that I am watching the break of day. I predict that the sun is about to rise. What I see is present, but what I foretell is future. I do not mean that the sun is future, for it already exists, but that its rise is future, because it has not yet happened. But I could not foretell the sunrise unless I had a picture of it in my mind, just as I have at this moment while I am speaking about it. Yet the dawn, which I see in the sky, is not the sunrise, although it precedes it; nor is the picture which I have in my mind the sunrise. But both the dawn and my mental picture are seen in the present, and it is from them that I am able to predict the sunrise, which is future. The future, then, is not yet; it is not at all; and if it is not at all, it cannot possibly be seen. But it can be foretold from things which are present, because they exist now and can therefore be seen.
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Very funny.

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Ffunny Ffrends: straight, heavy-handed backbeat with a creative, juicy hook and haunting vocals

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Bicycle: Another creative hook, nearly classical-inspired with an odd-meter feel and a straight rock beat underneath

Hooray For Earth - True Loves: ethereal, thoughtful, bassy and sophisticated white-man funk with cool sound and vocal effects and an actual melody

The Cool Kids - Penny Hardaway (feat. Ghostface Killah): new hip-hop with clean and fresh-sounding string samples, straight-up emceeing with former Wu-Tang member Ghostface guesting on the mic

The Cool Kids - A Little Bit Cooler: infectious, spacious, rocking, medium-tempo club banger with crisp and lighthearted emceeing on top

The Cool Kids - One Two: another medium-tempo banger with a verrry funky old-school synth bassline that needs to be heard more

Beastie Boys - OK: new Beastie Boys track from their new 2011 album, featuring a fresh and inventive synth hook, some terrific retro sound clips and the Beasties rapping like only they know how
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A woman and a baby were in the doctor's examining room, waiting for the doctor to come in for the baby's first exam.

The doctor arrived, and examined the baby, checked his weight, and being a little concerned, asked if the baby was breast-fed or bottle-fed.

"Breast-fed," she replied.

"Well, strip down to your waist," the doctor ordered.

She did. He pinched her nipples, pressed, kneaded, and rubbed both breasts for a while in a very professional and detailed examination.

Motioning to her to get dressed, the doctor said, "No wonder this baby is underweight. You don't have any milk."

"I know," she said. "I'm his Grandma. But I'm glad I came..."


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Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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