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19 Oct 07:38



I love this forever.

17 Sep 20:17

Zen Economics

by Brad

Actual on-point commentary from Mr. Warner, with little to no fluff.

Buddhist MoneyA couple days ago my friend Gesshin Greenwood forwarded this article from Tricycle Magazine to me. The following is my response to her. As you will note, I was unable to reread the Tricycle article before sending this reply. I have decided not to reread it before posting this on my blog, so there may be some discrepancies between how I remembered the article and what it actually says. I don’t think those need to be corrected because sometimes criticizing one’s impressions of an article like this are just as valid as criticizing the article itself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that interview in Tricycle you sent me. I think the guy makes some interesting and valid points. I think in some ways he is correct and in other aspects he may be looking at things the wrong way. I’m having a bear of a time getting on line right now, so I can’t go back to the article and check specifics. I’m just writing this from memory.

He talks a lot about what the Buddha would do. I think somewhere in the interview he acknowledges that this is an absurd question. But then he keeps on speculating anyway. I’m not sure he gets into why that’s an absurd question.

It’s an absurd question because you cannot separate any person from their historical circumstances. As Dogen says, “being is time.” In Star Trek: The Voyage Home, the crew of the Starship Enterprise leaves their historical circumstances and travels back to 20th century San Francisco. That kind of stuff is fun in movies, but it’s not real. Still, we tend to speculate about such stuff all the time. What would Jesus do? What would the Founding Fathers say about gun control? Would the Buddha advertise his summer retreats in the back pages of Shambhala Sun?

But the Buddha as a person is inextricably bound to the times in which he lived, just like Jesus and the Founding Fathers. If you actually try to think the question of what he would do if he were alive today through it becomes impossibly complicated. Who is going to explain to the Buddha what Shambhala Sun is? Or even what a magazine is? Who is going to teach him English? Who is going to explain the past 2500 years of human history to him? Who is going to tell him about The Beatles, Hitler, Napoleon, Louis XIV? Mohammed? Jesus? Who will explain to him how contemporary banking systems work? It just goes on and on.

That being said, maybe we can try to understand why the Buddha recommended his monks to live by begging. Was it because there was some kind of virtue in begging or in poverty? Is there? Is being poor in and of itself virtuous? Is begging? Lots of people are poor beggars without being particularly noble. I can’t see anything intrinsically good in it.

I don’t think he was teaching the value of poverty and begging. I think he was teaching the value of understanding that every human being lives by the support of the human community. We call certain people “independently wealthy” but that’s a misnomer. No one is independently wealthy. All wealth derives from the human community. Wealth cannot be created in any other way.

So-called “independently wealthy” people are people who take more from the human community than they actually need. They are far too often not much more than a drain and a burden on the rest of us. The Buddha knew that because he lived the first part of his life as one of those people.

What’s worse is that being wealthy is often just wasteful. Lots of people these days not only have more than they need, they have more than they can possibly use. They waste the resources of the human community in a way that really ought to be a crime. They’re kind of like cancer. Cancer occurs when one part of the body grows absurdly large at the expense of the rest of the body and thereby kills its host organism and then dies because that which supported its growth dies.

Of course not every wealthy person is a cancer on society. Some rich people do great good with their wealth. They often support art, music, and even Buddhist teachers. And I suppose people who make $5000 wristwatches need someone to support them too.  It’s just that far too many times, great wealth simply ends up sucked into a bottomless black hole where it benefits no one, not even the one who supposedly possesses it.

The Buddha was trying to teach his followers not to be like that. He was trying to teach them to take only what they needed from the community and to understand how they depended upon that community. He wasn’t trying to teach austerity and pain. He was trying to teach them that they could be comfortable and happy that way.

The guy in the interview talks about how Buddhist meditation teachers work these days in the current economic system. They advertise. They get interviewed. They write books and try to sell them. This is, of course, what I do too.

I’ve often felt weird about all of this. I feel guilty every time I charge people money for leading a retreat. Right now I’m traveling through Europe like I do every year, leading retreats, giving talks, doing interviews and all the rest of that. I kind of hate it and I kind of love it.

Different sorts of jobs require different levels of fame and notoriety. When I worked in the international division of Tsuburaya Productions I didn’t need to be very famous. I did need to cultivate a reputation among the people I did business with as being dependable and competent. But I didn’t have to be famous.

As an author, I have to be famous in order to make a living. There have been a few exceptions to this rule, but those are all extraordinary cases. Most teachers also need to be famous. The only way you can make a living as a teacher without being famous is by being part of an institution. In that case, the institution itself provides the necessary fame. For example, a professor at Harvard University doesn’t need to be all that famous herself because Harvard University is famous.

The Buddha was famous. He and his monks were supported in a large part because he was famous. The guy in that interview talks about how Buddha was supported by a patron, as were many teachers like him. But why did those patrons choose to support them? How did they even know they existed at all? The Buddha didn’t take out ads in Shambhala Sun or appear on Oprah’s Super Spiritual Sunday show. But I’m sure he did a certain amount of what we would retrospectively call advertising.

I also recall that the author says he is director of some center for Buddhist studies and gets paid a stipend. I wonder how he got that position. I wonder if he expects all of us to get positions like that. I wonder how many jobs like that even exist. Should all Buddhists seek those kinds of jobs? Would the economy support a world full of people working for centers for Buddhist studies?

So we have no idea what Buddha would do if he were alive today. But we do have to figure out what we will do. We have to figure out what we’re comfortable with and what feels ethical to us.

I work for a living. I put in more hours nowadays each week than I ever did when I had a so-called “real job.” I deserve to get paid for what I do. When I had a “real job” I never felt guilty about working and getting paid for it. But now I do — all the time, It’s a drag. I don’t like it.

Guys like that guy in the interview are good at making people like me and you feel guilty about what we do. But is it useful? Does it help anyone?

I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!


September 16, 2015 Hebden Bridge, England TALK AND DISCUSSION at 7:30pm

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP

September 21, 2015 7:30pm Newcastle, Northern Ireland SHIMNA INTEGRATED COLLEGE (Zazen & Dharma Talk)

September 22, 2o15 6:30pm Belfast, Northern Ireland THE DARK HORSE (Talk: Punk Rock Commentaries on Zen)

September 23, 2015 7:00pm BELFAST ZEN MAITRI YOGA STUDIO (Zazen & Dharma Talk)

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 1-DAY RETREAT

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”


Every Monday at 8pm  zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 9:30 am zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

Your donations are important to me. They are my main source of income, far more than book royalties or retreat fees. You are my patrons. Thank you for your support!

15 Sep 10:08

Enlightenment and Cat Poop

by Brad



Crum in his box looking cool.

I’ve had a few male cats in my life. There was the late, lamented Shithead who would hump my foot every morning. There was Crum who lived with me in Akron and liked to bite my then-girlfriend’s toes in the morning when she slept over. There was Boy Kitty with whom I shared an apartment in Philadelphia. I am currently co-owned by Cosmo who also owns my friend Nina.

One thing all these cats had in common was this. Often, they’d wake up in the morning seeming sort of grumpy and listless. They’d mope around like that for the early part of the day. Then they’d disappear for a little while and suddenly reemerge all happy and bouncy and ready to take on the world. Before I caught on to the pattern I’d sometimes wonder why the big change. Then I’d smell it. They’d gone to the litter box and taken a big, big poop.

I don’t know if female cats do this too. I lived with one for a while, her name was Girl Kitty, and never saw her do it. Maybe it’s a dude thing.

But at any rate, I started thinking about so-called “Enlightenment” the other day and I realized it was just like when my cat friends poop. We may want to run around the house and bounce off the walls for a while after it happens, but we’re really just responding to the blessed feeling of relief that ought to be our birthright, but for reasons unknown is not.

Somehow we’ve become a species that lives in a constant state of constipation. We just fill and fill and fill ourselves with shit and have no idea how to get rid of it. Not only do we not know how to get rid of it, most of us don’t even know it’s shit and that what we’re supposed to do with it is dump it. Instead we hold our buttholes tightly shut, fearing to ever let go of so much as one precious drop.

Oh, a few people have managed to let a bit of it go. You’ve got spiritual celebrities like Ken Wilber and Deepak Chopra who have farted once, got terrified by the smell and tightened their buttholes up even more than the rest of us, but who have nonetheless spent the rest of their lives theorizing about what pooping might be like. You’ve got guys like Ekhart Tolle who have shit their pants once and insist on walking around years later in the very same trousers, inviting suckers to come have a whiff. They describe the chafing and burning discomfort of leaving all that smeared on their bums as if it’s glorious evidence of cracking the ultimate secret.

Scholars of Buddhism and spirituality are people who have never pooped or even farted themselves (because that would make them biased) but inhale deeply the farts and poops of others. These they then describe in great detail to people who also have never pooped or farted.

A real Zen Master* — as opposed to a dork like me — is someone who has not only figured out how to take a poop regularly, but even knows the value of using toilet paper and washing soiled undergarments. Often people make the mistake of thinking that just because these folks don’t stink, they therefore must not have actually pooped.

Me, I’m still learning how to clean myself properly and eat the kind of diet that allows me to get more regular. Someday I might get it right.

Sometimes someone asks a Zen Master, “Master, I think I pooped once. Let me describe it to you so you can tell me if it was poop or not.” They are dismayed to be told that if they actually had pooped, they wouldn’t need to ask.

So-called “Enlightenment experiences” only seem so special to us because we’ve never known anything but constipation, and have never known anyone who wasn’t constipated. Instead, we celebrate constipation as if the fact of being bloated with our own shit is evidence of great accomplishments.

In a way, then, in the land of the constipated, someone who knows how to poop actually is worth our attention and even some degree of reverence. But it’s not because they’ve achieved something extraordinary that the rest of us could never accomplish. It’s because, unlike the rest of us, they have understood how their body is actually supposed to function when it’s working right.

One of these days, once the knowledge of how to poop becomes something we teach to our children and spread around the world, we’ll look back on these current days with fascination. We’ll wonder how people back in the early 21st century and before ever managed to live at all without ever pooping in their entire lives. We’ll no longer view someone who knows how to poop and even how to clean themselves up afterward as some kind of amazing figure.

We’ll know that people like the Buddha weren’t godlike beings capable of extraordinary powers beyond those of ordinary people, but were actually people who understood what it was like to be truly and deeply ordinary.


*”No one masters Zen” – Kobun Chino Roshi

I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!


September 16, 2015 Hebden Bridge, England TALK AND DISCUSSION at 7:30pm

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP

September 21, 2015 7:30pm Newcastle, Northern Ireland SHIMNA INTEGRATED COLLEGE (Zazen & Dharma Talk)

September 22, 2o15 6:30pm Belfast, Northern Ireland THE DARK HORSE (Talk: Punk Rock Commentaries on Zen)

September 23, 2015 7:00pm Belfast, N. Ireland BELFAST ZEN MAITRI YOGA STUDIO (Zazen & Dharma Talk)

September 24, 2015 7:30pm Belfast, N. Ireland Oh Yeah, Belfast (Q&A)

September 27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 1-DAY RETREAT

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”


Every Monday at 8pm  zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 9:30 am zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

Your donations are important to me. They are my main source of income, far more than book royalties or retreat fees. You are my patrons. Thank you for your support!

08 Sep 20:02

***There is free shipping until Monday in my Society6 shop!***


I really dig her work.

***There is free shipping until Monday in my Society6 shop!***

08 Sep 06:42

Forcefed Horsehead - Bloodshine (Official Music Video)

Created by Ivar Myhrvold
06 Sep 19:04

Learning to Sketch vs. Sketching to Learn


paging bl00

Sketching Lab is an annual design conference in San Jose, Costa Rica that promotes the design process and visual communication techniques for students and young professionals in creative industries. Every year, Sketching Lab covers the basics of how to draw, and this year I hosted a session that explored the WHY of sketching aka applied sketching or as I like to call it, "Sketching to Learn." Here are 5 lessons from this year's session:

Sketching Lab participants "Sketching to Learn"

1. Sketching is a form of communication 

Sketching communicates thoughts, tangible things, emotions and innovative ideas without words. Like verbal languages, the sketching alphabet can be arranged and rearranged into visual dialogues and even longer cohesive stories with a variety of purposes.

2. Sketching has an audience

Your audience will inform the purpose of your sketch, which ultimately will inform the type of sketching style or level of fidelity. For example, if we are in a brainstorm with our classmates or colleagues, the ideal sketch is loose and open to interpretation. It should capture the idea in a few gestural lines without much detail, that way your colleague can build on your original idea and make it even better. However, if your sketch is too tight, rigid and looks finished, then others won't feel as compelled to build on it.

"Dialogue with a Sketch" by Bill Buxton helps to illustrate a non-verbal conversation and ultimately the flow of an ideal brainstorm.

3. Sketching is a universal language

At the Sketching Lab, we usually have a mix of English and Spanish speaking participants, so naturally there are a few words or phrases that not everyone can comprehend in their second language. The one way that ensures all participants understand is through a picture or sketch that captures the idea in its purest form—proving that sketching is our universal language.

Sketching Lab participants communicating visually

4. Sketching has rhythm

The speed at which we sketch can greatly influence the type of output or content we create. As a general rule, fast and sporadic sketch rhythm usually equates to more gestural output that stems from emotion and feelings. Whereas a slower sketch rhythm equates to more pragmatic output that stems from a cerebral approach. Either way, each sketch rhythm has its own superpower. For instance, the fast and loose style lends itself more towards form exploration and the slower and tighter style allows your brain to keep with the rhythm of the sketch, thus informing it and solving problems in real time.

Sketching Lab Cofounder, Jose Gamboa, demonstrating sketching rhythm using his Sketch Aerobics methodology

5. Sketching to learn

Also known as "failing fast," is all about developing meaningful ideas by way of iterating through an abundance of throwaway ideas. Through this process, the sketch becomes merely a vehicle for thought. Remember, learning to sketch is only a skill, but sketching to learn is applying that skill to create something meaningful.

"Sketching to Learn" exercise where the participants created 10 second sketches on post-it notes of a chorreador (Costa Rican Coffee Maker) design evolution.

04 Sep 08:44

Knife Week: Higonokami History

It's Knife Week at Hand-Eye Supply! Get 25% off all knives in stock with the code "KnifeWeek2015" now through Saturday 8.29.15!

To celebrate, let's re-meet the Higonokami, a simple Japanese knife with a samurai pedigree. Higo no kami means 'Lord of Higo,' referring to both the region where the knives originated and a title once given to venerated samurai. The knives have been popular throughout Japan since their introduction in 1896. Today they are only made by a tiny handful of smiths, and officially by just one maker: Mr. Motosuki Nagao, the 4th and last generation of blacksmiths to make this knife.

For hundreds of years Japan's warrior classes were the only people allowed to carry weapons like swords and axes, and the craftsmanship of those weapons is world famous for good reason. But in the Meiji era of the late 19th century the samurai were a quickly fading social class. Mounting showdowns against the royalty the samurai ostensibly served and an unsuccessful stand-off against the US Navy pushed the country to modernize rapidly, shedding the storied sword-carrying order of the old feudal system and outlawing large weapons entirely. In this context, the talented guilds of swordmaking blacksmiths turned their trade towards small goods that escaped classification as "weapons." Small pocket knives used by farmers and craftsmen? Fair game.

The story goes that in the mid-1890s, the now-knife-making blacksmith Sadaharu Murakami was approached by a tool wholesaler who had a small folding knife in a style he wanted to sell en masse. The resulting version of the knife was a simple and versatile design: a high carbon 'white steel' blade housed in folded brass scales, with no locking mechanism and a single tang to open and close. The tough and affordable design quickly gained popularity. A new knife-making guild was created shortly after and the name "Higonokami" was trademarked for the handy little knife, signifying that only members of the guild could produce it. And so the knife and membership in the Higonokami guild boomed.

At the height of its popularity the Higonokami, or higo, was a pocket companion for anyone from carpenters to school children. The easy to sharpen, long-lasting blades and small hand-friendly shape made them useful for anything from preparing drafting materials to sharpening pencils to enjoying lunch.

Sadly, a sword-based national tragedy brought knife sales and use to a grinding halt in the 1960s. With even greater constraints on knife making and ownership, the Higonokami guild dwindled. Today there is a single solitary smith working under the traditional Higonokami handle. Motosuki Nagao (alternately spelled Motosuke in our English-bound parts of the internet) is the last Higonokami blacksmith, and he can trace his craft lineage through his family back to the knife's origin over 100 years ago.

Small knives in the higonokami style are readily available throughout Japan, but true Higonokami using the traditional high quality white steel blade and construction are easily spotted. First, they still come in a distinctive yellow, blue and gold box, marked with their name. Second, they don't sport the stamped image of a Samurai, as cool as that is. Those close copies are tellingly called "Higonaifu" - higo style knives. Third, due to the high output of his single-man shop, knives made by Motosuke Nagao are all slightly imperfect. 

Their hand-crafted nature is clear when you compare even two—the tension of the joint varies, the appearance of the finishing on the blades is different, and almost every knife arrives with the telltale scratches and markings of something individually handled. In our opinion, this distinctiveness is a price worth paying if you want a pocket sized grandchild of the samurai sword. 

Available in Brass, Black, and the baby-sized Mame. $18-$35 at Hand-Eye Supply.

04 Sep 08:42

What Kind of Fabric Can Stop a 2x4 Launched From a Pneumatic Cannon at 100 M.P.H.?


More Dyneema, but this time for houses rather than feets.

Texas Tech University's National Wind Institute is the place to go when you want to study how to mitigate tornado and hurricane damage. One of the toys they've got in their testing labs is a crazy pneumatic cannon that can fire, well, anything you can stuff into it, at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

In the following video, they load the thing up with a freaking 2x4 and fire it clear through a brick wall. Afterwards they fire another 2x4 into a fabric tape at the same speed, and watch what happens:

So what the heck is that stuff? That's Dyneema, trademarked as The World's Strongest Fiber. Dyneema is a trade name for UHMwPE, a/k/a Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, which is reckoned to be tougher than Kevlar, and pops up in similar places like bulletproof vests. Produced by Dutch material science firm DSM, Dyneema is also used in ropes, slings, nets, sailcloth, cut-resistant gloves, and even specialty jeans and motorcycle clothing.

Though it was developed in the '60s, Dyneema doesn't seem to have the same brand recognition that Kevlar does. But that may be changing. Remember the Swiss Barefoot Company whose tough-as-nails outdoor socks we showed you a few years ago? Turns out they've now ditched Kevlar for Dyneema:

That Kickstarter campaign, which sought $10,000, has currently netted $233,826 with 12 days left to pledge. That's gotta be the first 20x-funded Kickstarter campaign we've seen that involved socks.

You can learn more about Dyneema here.

04 Sep 08:37

Knife Week: ISO the IXL British Army Knife


They make a version without a marlin-spike as well. Also available for way less than inflated HES prices.

It's Knife Week at Hand-Eye Supply! Get 25% off all knives in stock with the code "KnifeWeek2015" now through Saturday 8.29.15!

The IXL British Army Knife is a gleaming example of what traditional craftsmanship looks like in the modern age. These unusual knives have been in production since the mid-1800s, predating those flashy red Swiss doodads by around 40 years. They are still made in Sheffield, England, the region long considered the birthplace of modern stainless steel production and the gritty heart of British steelworks for over 700 years. 

The British Army Knife is distinctively shaped and distinctively useful, having descended from stout "workman's" knives used by English coachmen, craftsmen and soldiers in the early 1800s. The strikingly angled 2.25-inch sheepsfoot blade is blunted for safety, particularly nice when working in close proximity to others, or while on a moving vehicle or boat. As a modern bonus, its stubby length makes it street legal in the UK and other countries with a strict 3" blade limit.

These oddly shaped multi-tools have barely changed over the last century-plus, and are as simple and nearly indestructible as their predecessors. The biggest changes were the late-1800s addition of the can opener, which allowed soldiers to crack into their newly tinned field rations, and the switch to stainless steel in the 1910s was immediately appreciated by users in the damp British outdoors.

In addition to the sturdy sheepsfoot blade and can opener you get a built in screwdriver bit, and a thick forged marlin spike. Marlin spikes are an essential tool for anyone who sails, but also come in handy for anyone with knot picking, tie-down-tying, or general knife-unfriendly prying and scraping in their lives. Despite the chunky addition of the spike, the handle is slim and wide. No tube-like handle of the generic multi-blade knife here, just a surprisingly thin and surprisingly grippable palmful of stainless scales.

During WWI and WWII, Joseph Rodgers was the primary manufacturer of these knives (which is still mentioned on their retro-rad packaging). The IXL Army Knife torch is now carried on by Egginton group. Originally "Egginton Bros. Ltd.", the group formed in 1872, and has sought to preserve the once ailing Sheffield cutlery industry ever since. If the British Army Knife is any indicator, they're doing a great job. 

Grab your own pocketful of British tradition for $52, over at Hand-Eye Supply.

04 Sep 08:33

When Stormtroopers Keep You Warm: Design Teacher Repurposes Spent Gas Canisters as Sci-Fi Stoves


Do I like these? Yes. Yes I do.

Alex Dodson describes himself as "a technology teacher at a secondary school tasked with inspiring the next generation of designers." We've no idea what he does in the classroom, but we're guessing his sideline business, "Burned by Design," takes care of the "inspiring" part.

UK-based Dodson has artistic talent, welding skills, an appreciation for sci-fi movies and ready access to discarded gas canisters. These four elements have led him to create the rather unusual series of wood-burning stoves you see here.

Instructor that he is, Dodson isn't shy about sharing his process; indeed, he's posted multiple Instructables on how he puts them together. The Stormtrooper one alone is fascinating:

"My biggest challenge was trying to create the sides on the helmet, I was struggling for what to make them out of," Dodson writes. "I ended up using the top section of a large gas bottle and it turned out great."

Dodson sells his creations on eBay and will ship them as far as Australia. He also accepts orders on his Facebook page, with prices ranging from £220 to £300 (US $343 to $468. Business is apparently brisk; a local newspaper from Barnsley, Dodson's neck of the woods, reports that "one customer in the USA has just ordered 30 [of Dodson's] patio heaters and says it is only his first of what will be many more orders." Not too shabby, considering Dodson only started making these last October, when he bought his first welding rig.

What we'd like to see him tackle next: Barbecue grills!

04 Sep 08:26

A Mathematician's Elliptical Pool Table


More on Loop.

For nearly 40 years, the Snooker and Pool Table Company of Essex, England has been producing bespoke billiards tables in a variety of styles. But this year they received a commission that must've had them scratching their heads: The client wanted a table shaped like an ellipse.

That's because the client, Alex Bellos, is a somewhat eccentric mathematician who wanted a way to physically experience a basic principle of geometry:

Of course, having a custom table made seems like a lot of trouble to go through, just to confirm something discovered by the Greeks some millennia ago. So Bellos also designed a game that could be played on the table:

The first Loop tournament was held earlier this summer, and Bellos hopes the game will spread. In addition to traveling with the table to "venues, festivals and schools," Bellos will facilitate with orders for those who wish to buy their own.

04 Sep 08:24

No Bridge, No Problem: Drive Fast Enough and You Can Cross a River in a Car


next time you need to cross a lake...

Years ago there was a hoax video showing people running across water. Their claim was that if you picked up enough speed in advance, you could pull a Jesus for a dozen steps or so. It turned out to be viral marketing and I'm glad I can't remember what the product or company was.

These guys in Iceland, however, are the real deal. They pick up enough speed in advance to make it across the surface of the water. However, they're not on foot; they're driving jeeps, off-road buggies, motorcycles and snowmobiles. Take a look at these maniacs:

It's true that the water's not super deep, but when you do it wrong you will sink, as we saw.

The Formula Off-Road Hydroplaning Competition is held in Hella, Iceland. Being an American east-coaster, I'd say it looks like "a lot of" fun. My west-coast counterparts might choose a different expression to put between the quotes.

And it's all for a good cause: These Icelandic Formula Off-Road events, as they're known, are fundraisers for Icelandic rescue teams. I think it's safe to say that if you get stuck out in the hinterlands, these are the guys you want coming for you.

04 Sep 08:19

Blazing Fast Rescue Action: Japanese Firefighter Tech Rope Speed Competition


This is pretty crazy. Note that care for the ropes is part of the competition.

There's no country in the world that has lax firefighters, but in Japan, the prevalence of traditional wooden structures adds an element of increased urgency. And while some team members of a Japanese firefighting brigade are trying to put the fire out, other members have to climb and crawl into the burning structures to pull potentially unconscious victims out.

Rope plays a large role in Japanese rescue operations, and the amount of drilling they do with the stuff is evident in this "Japan Tech Rope Rescue Competition."  The speed with which these guys move is nothing short of insane. Enjoy, and apologies in advance for the soundtrack:

04 Sep 07:59

Watch a Master Bladesmith Make a Kitchen Knife Out of Meteorites



Talk about an in-demand craftsman: After knifemaker Bob Kramer was first featured in Saveur Magazine in the '90s, he was so deluged with orders that it took him ten years to catch up. Of all the certified Master Bladesmiths in the United States—there were 67 when he started out, and now just over 120 of them—Kramer is the only one who specializes in kitchen knives. "I have devoted my life," writes Kramer, "to the single-minded pursuit of crafting the perfect kitchen knife, and I am so grateful to those who appreciate my work."

When Anthony Bourdain went to visit the lone craftsman in his Washington-state shop, Kramer had something special in store for him. Not only would he make a knife before Bourdain's eyes, he'd make it using a chunk of meteorite. Watch the master as he makes a knife from outer space:

04 Sep 07:58

Simple, Effective DIY Mosquito Trap Made with a Box Fan


This is pretty odd, but apparently effective.


Summer's almost over, but mosquitoes still have at least another month to feast on your flesh. Is there anything worse than trying to fall asleep, then feeling something brush against your ear while you hear that little buzz and you start slapping your own head?

I tried making that one DIY mosquito trap going around, the one with the soda bottle and the yeast. It didn't catch anything and I never bothered to refresh the yeast. But this trap below looks like a veritable death squad for mosquitoes, and I'm struck by how simple it is: 

I wonder if this would work with a Dyson fan, or if those are too quiet to attract the 'skeeters? In any case, here are the original fan traps the video above is based on, and an additional solar-powered model:

04 Sep 07:52

A drat repository for rOpenSci


This is pretty convenient.

We're happy to announce the launch of a CRAN-style repository for rOpenSci at

This repository contains the latest nightly builds from the master branch of all rOpenSci packages currently on GitHub. This allows users to install development versions of our software without specialized functions such as install_github(), allows dependencies not hosted on CRAN to still be resolved automatically, and permits the use of update.packages().

Using the repository

To use, simply add to your existing list of R repos, such as:

options(repos = c("", getOption("repos"))

(If you don't have any default CRAN mirrors selected yet by getOption("repos"), you may want to add one now). You can also include this line in specific install.packages() requests:

install.packages("taxize", repos = c("", ""))


Our goal in creating a CRAN-style package repository (yes, it's confusing that we use the word "repository" to describe both an individual package source in a GitHub repo as well as a collection of package binaries on a CRAN-like repo... sorry) was to provide users with a way to install the latest development versions of rOpenSci packages that offered an easier and more seamless alternative to the widely used method of devtools::install_github(). This would be particularly useful for updating all packages at once, or installing development versions that depended on other versions of packages not yet released to CRAN. As an added benefit, we also wanted a system that would allow us to compute anonymized download statistics, analogous to what RStudio provides for it's CRAN mirror. Getting this all to work required the introduction of a few additional technologies.

drat and drat.builder

While the basic structure of a CRAN-like R repository is simple, and used by both platforms such as RForge and individual developers, kudos really goes to Dirk Eddelbuettel's drat package for really making this automated, simple, and fun. While drat makes it easy to toss individual packages into a CRAN-like repo (which we often refer to as a drat repo), we needed an easy & automatic way to add a whole list of packages, given their GitHub repos. Rich FitzJohn's new drat.builder package does precisely this; handling the downloading of packages with some clever record-keeping to avoid building and adding packages which have not changed since the last time the drat repo was built. The sources for building the rOpenSci packages repository can be found in our "drat" GitHub repo:

Dynamic package lists: ropkgs

With rOpenSci, we wanted to take this one step further. No one wants to have to maintain one more list that must be updated every time a package is successfully on-boarded to the project. Scott Chamberlain's work with ropkgs provides a convenient way to query the rOpenSci software suite, automatically generating a list of available rOpenSci packages, and filtering them on relevant metadata, such as those that are in good status and installable condition, like so:

out <- ro_pkgs()
good <- out$packages$status == "good"
installable <- out$packages$installable
pkgs <- out$packages$name[installable & good]

The magic of continuous integration: CircleCI

With ropkgs, drat and drat.builder, we now have everything we need to automate the building of the CRAN-like package repository. Now we just need some computing resource that can do the hard work of pulling down all the GitHub packages, building the repository, and securely sending off the binaries somewhere they can be downloaded. Continuous Integration systems turn out to be perfect for this. My favorite CI platform at the moment is CircleCi, for several reasons particularly relevant here:

  • it has a rich API which includes support for POST requests which can trigger a build without making commits to GitHub
  • it supports custom Docker containers, allowing us to just download a container with most or all the dependencies we need to build packages, etc., without having to wait for them to install manually from source first.
  • it has a convenient web interface for providing secure credentials we'll need to publish the binary repository to GitHub or Amazon.

Circle has other advantages too, like great live help and the ability to ssh into your CI run to troubleshoot when all else fails, but otherwise works like most other CI platforms. More on that another day. You can see the daily builds here: CircleCi, which are triggered by a simple POST request running as a cron job. The circle.yml configuration file appears in the project's drat repo -- check out how simple it is!

Publishing to Amazon

The last step would be getting download logs; which is somewhat more complicated than it sounds. drat conveniently already handles pushing packages to GitHub's gh-pages, a free and easy way to provide static hosting. This is free and easy, but isn't ideal, particularly for large and frequently updated package collections. Also, it is impossible to get download logs from this approach. To avoid these issues, we settled on pushing our package repository to a static site hosted through Amazon's S3 data storage "buckets." It's not free, but for at most a few gigs of space we'll need it's still very cost effective. In particular, S3 buckets can generate their own log files, which provides a way to count package downloads.

Secure communication with Amazon S3 system is accomplished using the very nascent / actively developing aws.s3 R package from the awesome cloudyr project.

Parsing the download logs

Amazon's S3 logs are rather raw and require some good ol data tidying work to transform them into the conveniently parsed, tidied and IP-address-anonymized format used by RStudio's download logs. Eventually this too can be accomplished by the CircleCI builds, but at the moment is too computationally intensive for them. A script for this work-flow can be found in the project repo, parse_s3_logs.R. As the data accumulate we should be able to start publishing the tidy logs.

This project is still in it's early days, and as ever, we welcome feedback, problems or ideas on the issues tracker.

Now go ahead and install or update some packages from the shiny new!

04 Sep 07:48

Spending and income report 2015 from Jan 1 to August 31

by Bob Crowley


02 Sep 03:16

EL-P - For My Upstairs Neighbor


Mums the word.

2012 - Cancer For Cure
02 Sep 01:10

Success is Not Success

by Brad

Such an odd man. This actually isn't all that bad, it just needs editing.

BrianI’m on retreat right now and can’t post. Here’s a fragment of a self help book I started to write but never finished. I was getting sick of being poor and thought, “If Deepak Chopra can make a million from writing shitty, useless self help books, maybe I can make a quarter million writing a good, useful one.” Alas, in the end I couldn’t do it. Here’s a bit of what happened when I tried.

*   *   *

If you want to write a popular self help book you need to appear to be a successful person according to the lowest common denominator definition of what constitutes success. This is why they always look like such a bunch of dweebs, at least by my definition of what constitutes looking like a dweeb.

They’ve all got $400 haircuts that somehow manage to still look idiotic. They’ve got expensive suits. They’ve got trophy wives with flowing blonde hair by their sides. When they speak they’re surrounded by symbols of opulence. There’s always a lot of dark brown wood behind them, and a few ferns. They’re sitting on a plush red chair. There are some ferns nearby. The ceiling is high. The audience the camera pans across is well groomed and nicely attired. There’s a bit of echo on their deep an resonant voices.

The message is subliminal as well as overt. You too can be successful just like me.

But how have they achieved this success? By and large they have achieved their success by selling others the idea that they’re successful. And, in fact, they might not actually even be as successful as they look, at least not at the outset.

Hollywood uses this very same technique all the time. Years ago I worked for Tsuburaya Productions, a Japanese film and television production company. When I first joined the company we had a US-based licensing and distribution agency located in Los Angeles. This agency wasn’t really making a whole lot of money for the home office. In fact we were constantly sending them big checks to cover their expenses. Of course there’s nothing at all sinister about this. You often run a business at a loss in the hopes that eventually it will turn a profit.

But I clearly recall a moment that really shocked me at the time, although now it makes perfect sense. Our US-based agency was going to represent us at a television trade show in Cannes, France. When it came time to book their hotels the president of that company insisted that we book him into a high priced suite at one of the most expensive hotels in the city. At the time, this sounded outrageous to me. Why did he need to stay at a hotel like that? He could still do his job just as efficiently even if he stayed at the local YMCA. After all, he wasn’t doing business from his hotel room. He was doing it at the trade show.

But he was right and I was wrong. It matters a lot in the TV business to project the image of success. It was important that every aspect of the president of our US-based agency’s visit to Cannes, France should appear to be done from a standpoint of security and wealth. That way the people who he was trying to sell our shows to would imagine that they too could enrich themselves by buying our programs.

Hollywood is full of people driving cars they can’t afford, eating dinners they can’t afford, living in houses they can’t afford and so on and on just to create an impression. And this often works. When the rock band KISS first started the fact that they wore make-up on stage helped hide the fact that they were also their own roadies. The Who used to build giant dummy speaker cabinets just to make their stage set up look more impressive.

Spiritual development coaches do precisely the same thing when they try to sell you their various secrets for success. They play on their audience’s greed. Greed is a powerful motivator. And people will pay good money in the hopes of finding ways to turn their greed into riches. But it usually only turns the audience’s greed into riches for the performer.

But is the “success” they’re selling really success at all? This is the crucial question, as I see it. Does “success” as it is measured by the society at large really create deep and lasting happiness?

The ancient Buddhist sutras are very clear in their condemnation of greed. Christianity, too, is full of cautionary tales about the desire to acquire wealth and power. I think all the great religious traditions have an aspect of this in their teachings to one degree or another.

But why? Didn’t the Eighties teach us that greed is good? What’s wrong with wanting a big house and a nice car? What’s wrong with wanting the finer things life has to offer? Isn’t that what makes us happy? The commercials on TV certainly seem to tell us so. And you know you can’t say something on TV if it’s not true. Can you?

This aspect of Buddhism always baffled me when I first started practicing. I wondered if the Buddhist masters were teaching austerity for the sake of austerity. What was so great about poverty?

When I first started practicing Zen meditation I was a struggling punk rock musician. I knew what poverty was. It was getting paid $40 for a gig you drove six hours to play. And that meant $40 for the whole band, not $40 per member. Poverty meant not having health insurance and not being able to go to the doctor when you were sick. It meant eating Top Ramen instant noodles for dinner five nights a week because they sold for twenty-five cents a package. It meant living in a dump of a house where the gas and water were constantly being shut off because nobody could afford to pay the bills. Poverty sucked ass.

New MonkeesThere was a point in the mid-eighties where I was not only willing to sell out, I was desperate to do so. I heard they were having auditions for a TV show called The New Monkees (you’ll have to scroll way down on this link but it’s worth it). It was a shitty idea, typical Hollywood nonsense. There was no way in Hell a show like that was ever going to catch on and I knew it. But I also knew that it could be used as a springboard to getting me the hell out of Ohio and into contact with people who might help me make some kind of career for myself.

So I campaigned hard for a role. I sent the producers a letter each day extolling my merits to be in their show. I made each letter brief, to the point and as creative as possible. Some were postcards. Some contained little weird trinkets or videotapes of skits. Each one was a unique expression of what I thought I could bring to their project.

As a result of this campaign I was granted a very rare private audition with the producers. I didn’t have to stand in line with all the others at the big cattle call in Manhattan. Instead, I went to an office the day before that and was ushered into the presence of the very movers and shakers themselves.

Unfortunately I froze up at the audition. Oh I was bad! I was shy and nervous and I sang off key. Well, I always sang off key. I also had a totally sixties inspired haircut and outfit. When I saw the people the producers actually picked I realized that they wanted the most stereotypically Eighties looking guys possible. My god, you never saw such mullets in your life! Blech!

But one odd things I noticed was that one of the guys they chose was very nearly a dead ringer for me, only more conventionally handsome and with possibly the most embarrassing mullet in the history of embarrassing mullets (he’s on the far right in the photo). But he was blond like me, skinny like me and, like me, he even came from Akron, Ohio. I wonder what ever became of that guy.

I was terribly disappointed when I was not picked as a New Monkee. Although these days I feel like I really dodged the bullet on that one. Their music was some of the worst Eighties pop rock pap imaginable. I’d have hated playing that garbage. I’ve heard that the TV show had a couple funny moments, but I couldn’t get through the horrendous production values enough to catch any of them.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’m no stranger to greed. I wasn’t then, and I’m not now. I wanted success. I wanted riches. I thought that would make me happy.

Now I realize how lucky I really was. I guess the four guys that got chosen for that show did OK in life. But if I’d gone that direction I would have missed out on things that ended up being so much better. I don’t think I’d ever have gone to Japan or done the deeper Zen training I did there. I’d never have worked for the coolest monster movie making company in the world. I probably wouldn’t be writing books now. And I love writing books more than just about anything else.

If I had been successful according to the definition I held back then I wouldn’t have been successful at all.

The reason the Buddhist sutras tell us to shun greed isn’t because the writers were poor people who wanted the rest of us to be just as miserable as them. Quite the contrary. Buddha himself started off life as a very wealthy and powerful individual. He gave up a life of creature comforts and cash to go on a spiritual journey because he knew for a concrete fact that money and power do not lead to happiness.

The problem with defining success and then making your efforts to achieve that thing you’ve defined is that you never really know if what you’ve defined as success really is success. To me the word success implies that life here and now is not good enough. Sometimes hear of people who define themselves as successful. But what that most often means is that they’ve finally stopped striving for something other than what they have right now.

More often than that, though, you hear of people who have achieved what most of us think of as the pinnacle of success, but who aren’t happy at all. Kurt Cobain committed suicide when he was one of the wealthiest and most beloved rock stars on the planet. Howard Hughes went insane in his mansion. Elvis, the King, died on his throne, his body full of drugs he took to try and deal with his success. Other successful people have crashed in far less spectacular ways, but have crashed nonetheless. It’s such a common story we’re rarely surprised when it happens.

The real fact is that real success is not measurable according to some kind of outside definition of wealth or fame or comfort. Real success is learning how to harmonize with the life you have right here and now.

This doesn’t mean being complacent or accepting a bad situation. Once you are in harmony with what actually is, you can see the most efficient way to improve your situation. You can begin to act in this concrete moment to make your life better right now.

I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!


August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany SCREENING OF HARDCORE ZEN MOVIE WITH TALK

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 8t, 2015 Helsinki, Finland  LECTURE Mannerheimintie 5, 5th floor Mannerheim hall 5:30pm

September 9, 2015 Malmi, Finland

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP (sold out, but there is a waiting list in case people cancel.)

September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”



All of these events will still happen each week while I’m away.

Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

* * *

Help me not have to write self help books! Your donations are important. I appreciate your on-going support!

01 Sep 10:51

Or Unicycles, For That Matter


I find septum piercings absurdly attractive. I don't know why.

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

Personal bias: I think everyone should get septum piercings

31 Aug 21:49

The Chains We Forge In Life: Part Two

by Christopher Wright
Little Dresden Freedom House, January 7, 1984

“First thing you have to understand: I'm not anyone's leader.”

Roland is lean almost to the point of emaciation. He has no body fat at all—just lean, pale skin and ropy, knotted muscles. He wears a dirty white tank top shirt, black jeans, and heavy work boots. His hair is cut short and dyed green. His face is angular with high, sharp cheekbones; blue eyes peer out from underneath thick dark eyebrows.

CB has seen him somewhere before. He can't place it.

“I'm serious,” Roland says. “I'm not a leader, I'm a guide. I figured out how to deal with myself a long time ago, and I managed to do it without killing anyone—which is incredibly lucky, considering what I can do. All I care about is getting you to the point where you can get a handle on what you do to the point where you don't hurt anyone, including yourself.”

“That's it?” CB doesn't bother to hide his skepticism.

“That, world peace, and the occasional cold beer,” Roland says. “Look, I won't pretend there isn't more to me than that. I have opinions and I share them. But you don't have to agree with them for me to help you. You could be a fucking Democrat or Republican for all I care, I'd still help you. That said, I have a little speech I give everyone before I start, and if you want my help you have to listen to it first.”

31 Aug 21:49

The Chains We Forge In Life: Part One

by Christopher Wright

Do not look inside the bag.


“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” -Jacob Marley, A Christmas Carol

The Thorpe Industries supersonic cargo plane looks more like a space ship than an airplane. At least, it does to CB—it's an argument he'd briefly had with Robert, back in the old days, starting when he made the offhanded observation about a prototype design. Robert had taken it upon himself to disagree.

“It's all smooth and bubble-like,” CB says. “I've never seen an airplane look like that before. It's… spacey.”

Robert shakes his head. “It's aerodynamic, which would be completely irrelevant for a spaceship. Spaceships fly in space. They don't need to deal with the friction involved in tearing through a gas at 800 miles per hour.”

“Spaceship,” CB insists. Robert wisely lets the matter drop.

Now CB and his group are riding in the passenger cabin of the thing itself—the schematic he'd seen in Robert's lab—and he still thinks the same thing.

Spaceship. It even hovers.

Six men and two women sit around a table in the passenger cabin. One more man is laid out on a couch in the small recreational area at the far end of the cabin, unconscious, an IV sticking out of his arm. A seventh man—or what's left of him—has been stuffed in a black-and-yellow biohazard sack and is propped up against the cabin kitchenette. He's not dead, but his current state is non-conscious and, in a direct quote from his only conscious teammate, “visually disturbing.”

29 Aug 14:41

Run The Jewels Give Advice To Teenage Girls


I kind of love this.

Run the Jewels' Killer mike and El-P offer advice to teenage girls in a new video for Rookie Mag. Rookie Mag has an interesting series called "Ask A Grown Ma...
28 Aug 06:37

Killer Mike - Untitled (Official Music Video)

SUBSCRIBE to MORE Music Videos: Killer Mike and Scar star in a series of art historical tableaus. Dir...
28 Aug 01:13

UW Bothell associate profs, student find rare geometry pattern


More on that new pentagon tiling.

  • University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern ...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern of irregular pentagons that could have applications in crystallography, self-assembly machines ... or bathroom tiles.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

SHARE: facebook Twitter icon Pinterest icon Linkedin icon Google+ icon Email icon |  PRINTER-FRIENDLY  |  COMMENTS


  • University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern ...

    Genna Martin / The Herald

    University of Washington Bothell campus associate professors of mathematics Jennifer McCloud-Mann and Casey Mann discovered a new geometrical pattern of irregular pentagons that could have applications in crystallography, self-assembly machines ... or bathroom tiles.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

  • Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

    Courtesy photo

    Example of the pentagon tile pattern.

BOTHELL — One person's idle doodling is another's mathematical breakthrough.Two mathematics professors and one of their former students at the University of Washington at Bothell have made a discovery in mathematics that could have applications in crystallography or self-assembling nanomachines.Or it could provide an interesting tiling project for the bathroom floor.Their discovery is in an esoteric branch of geometry called tessellation, or tiling of identical shapes that can cover a two-dimensional plane with no gaps and no overlaps, out to infinity.Casey Mann and Jennifer McCloud-Mann are both associate professors of mathematics at UW Bothell. They're also married to each other.The Manns and a former undergraduate student, David Von Derau, have discovered a pattern of tiling convex irregular pentagons.It's only the 15th tiling pattern for pentagons ever discovered, and they only did it with the help of a computer program that Von Derau wrote.Pentagons present a unique problem in geometry.Tiling can be easy to grasp at first, but it gets complicated quickly.There are only three regular polygons — shapes whose interior angles are the same and the sides are the same lengths — that tile in a plane: triangles, quadrangles and hexagons.They are convex shapes, meaning all the interior angles are less than 180 degrees.It's easy to tile triangles and quadrangles because we've all seen graph paper, or been stuck on a boring phone call with a pen and notepad handy.It's a little trickier to envision tiling with hexagons, but imagine a honeycomb, snowflakes or (if you're a certain nerdy sort of person) a battle map from a role-playing game.But that's it for the regular polygons. Now it gets complicated.Even with irregular shapes included, it can be mathematically proven, for example, that there are exactly three kinds of convex hexagons that can tile a plane, Casey Mann said. One is regular, two irregular, meaning their angles and sides are of different sizes.“It can also be proven that if you have seven sides or more you can't tile a plane with them. They can't fit around corners,” he said.It's possible to tile an irregular pentagon, however. It's just not easy to figure out the correct pattern.It also cannot be proven how many different tilings of pentagons exist, Mann said. There might be just 15. There might be an infinite number.“The truth is we just don't know. Pentagons really are the odd one,” he said.The first five pentagonal tilings were discovered in 1918 by a German mathematician, Karl Reinhardt. Then Richard Kershner, of Johns Hopkins University, published a paper in 1968 that identified three more and said that was all of them.After an article appeared in Scientific American magazine in 1975, several people took it as a challenge. One reader named Richard E. James III found a ninth pattern, and Marjorie Rice, an amateur with only a high school diploma, found four more a couple of years later.The 14th pattern was found in 1982 by Rolf Stein of the University of Dortmund, Germany, and that was it for the next 33 years.The latest discovery came about with advances in software modeling.The Manns proved a mathematical theorem that showed there were a finite number of symmetrical forms in a tiling pattern.That emphasis on symmetry was the key, Mann said. If a pattern composed of multiple irregular pentagons could be shown to be symmetrical, then it could tile the plane.“That told us we could write a computer program to search for them,” he said.Von Derau, who now works as a programmer and researcher for Viavi Solutions in Bothell, said he was finishing his degree in math and needed an elective credit.His choices were geometry or independent research supervised by Mann.“Because I didn't want to take geometry, I asked him if he had a research project he needed help with,” Von Derau said. “It's kind of ironic.”The program, running on a University of Washington computer cluster, found the tiling pattern in a few hours' time, Mann said. The symmetrical pattern is composed of 12 identical irregular pentagons.Finding more patterns — if they exist at all — will require searching for much more complex symmetries, and that's going to take much more computing power and time.“We're basically reducing the problem to the only way you're going to find a new one is if it's really exotic,” Mann said.“There might end up being an infinite number of types, there might be 22 types,” he said.The Manns soon hope to submit a paper on their discovery to ArXiv, an online scientific database.Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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26 Aug 03:25

unfortunately for your side, GRR Martin was caught handing out the real trophies to the people the SJWs unilaterally crowned winners after the ceremony where they gave out no award. Oops! your arrogance will always be your undoing


The puppies are indeed so fucking sad. via TPO

I tell you, it has been seriously amusing to watch the narrative take shape around this.

Background: George R. R. Martin has been attending WorldCon since 1971, I believe when he was up for a Campbell (new writer award). He did not win, but as no more than six people are considered finalists for this honor each year and each writer has at most two years of eligibility, he recognizes this as such a signal honor that he lists it on his website alongside his awards and other honors.

(Contrast this with Larry Correia, who seems to feel like his own Campbell nomination constituted a contract that was broken when he didn’t win it.)

A few years after that, Martin, being a frequent flyer on the Hugo ballot, instituted what he called the Losers’ Party, for all the nominees who don’t win. There are alcohol, and ribbons. It sounds like a lot of fun, and of course, it’s all in good spirit… it is an honor to be nominated, and the Losers’ Party just reinforces what rarefied air one breathes in making it to the ballot.

This year, Mr. Martin decided to hand out his own award, which he calls the Alfies, after Alfred Bester (the author, not the Babylon 5 character named after the author). 

He apparently made them out of hood ornaments, which award trophies are often mockingly compared to. That right there should tell you how serious this business was.

Now, Mr. Martin is not the president of science fiction and fantasy. He does not occupy a position of leadership or authority with WorldCon. He is not affiliated with the Hugos except insofar as they are occasionally affiliated with him. This party that he instituted is a Hugo tradition, but it’s not a Hugo institution. In short, the party is no more an official ceremony than a guy who looks like Drunk Scary Santa Claus is an official presenter, which he is no more than the hood ornaments he’s passing out are official trophies.

George R. R. Martin, in his private capacity as an individual human being, thought he would have some fun and recognize some individuals he thought could use some recognition/a laugh.

And a few Puppies “caught him” doing it, and immediately started casting around for “evidence” and wringing their hands with glee over the thought that they’d found proof that the Hugo award ceremony was a scam, that the fix was in, that the real awards were being handed out by Drunk Scary Santa Claus to the people ordained by the hive mind…

It’s funny, but you know, this is the difference between the Sad Puppies and everybody else. 

All along, people have been telling the Sad Puppies that if they don’t like the tastes of the broader fandom that selects the Hugo Awards or they don’t like how the awards are administered, they’re welcome to go make and give out their own awards.

The Puppies, meanwhile, not only demand complete control over these awards right here, they’re outraged at the idea that someone they disagree with can just up and decide to give out an award they don’t have any influence over.

If you want proof positive that the Puppies won’t be happy until everything is under their control, if you want the ultimate refutation of their cherished PR myth that they are anti-authoritarian, look no further than this: the epic tantrum they threw over a private individual taking it upon himself to hand out trophies he made as he saw fit.

25 Aug 22:06

A (VERY close) detail from page 384 of Family Man, now...


Good page.

A (VERY close) detail from page 384 of Family Man, now online!

{high-resolution and notes on Patreon}

19 Aug 21:30

Do Chewing Sounds Make You Crazy?

by Megan Cartwright

I am definitely a misophoniac, and it has definitely caused me problems. Not super severe, but yeah. via A.Kachmar.

When I first read a description of misophonia, my reaction was: Other people have this?! This intense, angry reaction to everyday sounds like chewing, lip-smacking, sniffing, and pen-clicking—sounds that other people can ignore?

My second reaction was: Damn. I just diagnosed myself off the Internet.

And my third reaction was: Wait. I’m a science writer and a scientist. So I’ll do the (moderately) rational thing: corner some scientists who study misophonia and ask them some questions. Like, what do we know about misophonia? Can we treat it? And should we actually be calling it a disorder, on par with major depression and bipolar disorders?

I started at PubMed, the massive database of peer-reviewed scientific articles maintained by the National Library of Medicine. But compared to the hundred thousand hits I got for searching on major depression disorder, a search for misophonia pulled up only 26 articles. Most were published in the past few years.

One of the few labs that have published on the subject is run by author, TED talker, and neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran. When people from an Internet support group for misophonia first contacted the lab, “we were kind of skeptical,” says doctoral student Miren Edelstein of the University of California, San Diego. “Nobody had heard of this disorder” back in 2011, and people often asked to have their unusual ailments studied by Ramachandran.

But when Edelstein and her colleagues interviewed 11 volunteers from the support group, they were struck by the common patterns. Each volunteer reacted intensely to what Edelstein describes as “chewing, mouthy sounds” made by adults. When she exposed people with and without misophonia to trigger sounds like loud chewing, sniffing, and lip-smacking (urgh), both sets of people reacted negatively. The people with misophonia just reacted more—indicating, perhaps, that misophonia might just be at the extreme end of a normal distribution. Perhaps the people with misophonia had unusually strong neural connections between sound-processing parts of their brains and their limbic systems, which help regulate emotion.

The volunteers knew their aggressive reactions were inappropriate and outsized. They told Edelstein how they’d developed coping mechanisms, such as leaving the room, avoiding certain situations, using headphones, and even mimicking their trigger sounds to mask the noise. Some of these coping mechanisms negatively affected their work and home lives.

The strong distaste for “chewing, mouthy sounds” and coping mechanisms sounded eerily familiar to me, although my coping strategies weren’t seriously affecting me. But this study only looked at 11 self-selected volunteers. What about misophonia among the rest of us?

One team has examined how common misophonia is in a general population. In 2014, clinical psychology doctoral student Monica Wu, psychologist Eric Storch, and their colleagues at the University of South Florida surveyed 483 undergraduate students about misophonia symptoms.* That’s not to say that these 483 students perfectly represented the world: Almost 60 percent were white, more than 80 percent were women, and 100 percent were participating in the study to get extra credit for their psych classes.

Wu and her colleagues found that a full 20 percent of the students reported what the researchers considered clinically significant misophonia symptoms. The Florida students with significant symptoms had “this extreme reaction to really selective sound stimuli,” says Wu—stimuli like the mouthy noises described in Edelstein’s study. They also used similar coping mechanisms. Sadly, half of those with clinical symptoms—about 10 percent of all the students—reported that they had significant trouble functioning at school and work. That high of a number surprised me at first, but then again, I can totally understand why people don’t talk about what feels like a crazy, aggressive overreaction to lip-smacking (urgh).

Intriguingly, Wu also found that misophonia symptoms tracked with symptoms of the psychiatric conditions anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I could understand people feeling anxious and depressed because of misophonia. But I was surprised by the connection to OCD, an anxiety disorder involving intrusive thoughts and the overwhelming need to soothe them with coping behaviors. However, Wu’s study wasn’t the first to suggest a connection between mental illness and misophonia.

In 2013, psychiatrist Arjan Schröder and his colleagues at the University of Amsterdam proposed that misophonia should be classified as a new psychiatric disorder. They suggested categorizing it on the spectrum with OCD. They had examined 42 patients who self-referred with misophonia, and found a consistent syndrome: Specific sounds triggered an aggressive response and socially isolating coping mechanisms. Schröder told me that almost half of these patients also met the criteria for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

So if misophonia is a psychiatric disorder, I wondered, could it be treated with medication or therapy?

Not necessarily. Wu has reservations about prescribing medication before we know more. But when it comes to therapy, she has some qualified hope. Her team reported successfully treating two young patients using cognitive behavioral therapy—a well-established form of psychotherapy that helps patients recognize distressing thoughts and develop healthier behaviors in response to those thoughts.

However, not all misophonia researchers agree that misophonia should be regarded as a psychiatric condition.

It’s an “extreme, inaccurate, and improper approach” to treat misophonia as a psychiatric disorder like OCD, says Emory University otolaryngology professor Pawel Jastreboff. He and his collaborator and spouse, Margaret Jastreboff, coined the term misophonia in 2001. They argue that misophonia is a form of decreased sound tolerance. He says they have seen hundreds of misophonia patients and that very, very few had any sort of psychiatric condition. Indeed, Jastreboff believes that the Dutch psychiatrists incorrectly linked misophonia to OCD because, he says, they were studying “psychiatric patients to start with, and some of them have misophonia.”

The Jastreboffs propose that misophonia is actually a learned response. They suggest that people with misophonia have learned to associate a negative reaction to something they originally considered just annoying—such as the culturally inappropriate sounds of bad table manners. Based on this idea, the Jastreboffs have been treating patients with a form of desensitization therapy. In this therapy, the person with misophonia is gradually retrained to associate positive experiences with formerly negative triggers—for example, by smelling and eating delicious cookies while in the presence of a noisy eater.

“Misophonia definitely can be treated successfully,” says Pawel Jastreboff, “but it is important to know how to do it.” In 2014, the Jastreboffs reported that 152 out of 184 misophonia patients—83 percent—had significant improvement after going through the desensitization therapy.

I still had reservations after I read their paper. Their study was observational, instead of the gold standard: the randomized control trial. All of the Jastreboffs’ patients were treated with the same therapy, so we can’t compare their improvement with what might happen naturally over time in untreated people or what would happen in people treated with other therapies. Plus, the study seemed ripe for a placebo effect because the scientists were asking people to self-report how they’re doing when they knew they’d just gone through months of desensitization therapy.

Not to say that Pawel Jastreboff is unaware of these limitations. “It would be a good idea” to evaluate therapies through controlled trials, he says, adding that “somebody hopefully will do that in the future.” For now, the Jastreboffs are both stymied by the “ten million dollars” he says it would take.

To be honest, this debate about the treatments and nature of misophonia didn’t surprise me. It’s a pretty new disorder, and not much research has been done on it. When there’s still so much uncertainty in the tiny community of misophonia researchers, is it actually helpful to refer to misophonia as its own separate disorder?

The scientists studying misophonia believe so, because of the terrible effects they see in their patients. The University of Amsterdam’s Schröder says that his patients “experience severe symptoms and frequently cannot function anymore.” They can’t eat dinner with their families, work effectively in big offices, or live happily with their spouses. Wu also sees significant impairment among kids with misophonia. In a previous case she worked on, the young patient couldn’t go to school and couldn’t even talk with the child’s mother, who made trigger sounds. And Edelstein reported that at least one of the 11 volunteers she interviewed had contemplated suicide.

In his 2013 study, Schröder and his colleagues wrote that they were proposing diagnostic criteria and psychiatric classification to “improve recognition by health carers and encourage scientific research” into misophonia. Getting misophonia recognized in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as some researchers are advocating, would certainly help in other ways, including the practical. “It helps with insurance,” says Wu. Furthermore, naming and identifying a disabling behavior as misophonia, she says, “does help in terms of giving it a face” and legitimacy to skeptical family and friends.

So what’s an Internet-self-diagnosed misophonic with a healthy dose of skepticism supposed to do?

Personally, as someone who doesn’t have much impairment beyond the occasional spike of extreme irritation, I plan to wait out the years of scientific discussion and debate. But after hearing about patients who are isolated, depressed, and even contemplating suicide, I definitely want to say this: There is help out there for people who are suffering and need someone to talk with.

And I hope that knowing about misophonia helps others who didn’t know there are other people who really can’t stand chewing, sniffing, and lip-smacking (urgh). 

*Correction, Aug. 19, 2015: This article originally misidentified Eric Storch as a pediatrician. He is a psychologist who works in a pediatrics department.

18 Aug 20:16

Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions: Part XVI - Live Archives

by (Craig Hayes)

This is a little over wordy, but still.

Written by Craig Hayes.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.

I’ve made it my mission in life to write about all of Sunn O)))'s releases that are available on Bandcamp with this Monoliths and Opinions series. Obviously, documenting the band's exploits in such a way suggests that I am a big fan of Sunn O))). Or that I am a very lonely masochist, with far too much time on my hands. Either way, I should point out that writing this series isn’t a back-breaking task that’s been imposed upon me.

I want to make that clear because there are people out there who would view this Monoliths and Opinions project as some kind of cruel and unusual punishment. They’re the kind of people who think that Sunn O)))'s music is torturous and tedious. Some of those people like to complain very loudly about that online as well. And, not so long ago, I watched a few of those folks launch into some stinging criticism of Sunn O)))'s set at this year's Temples Festival in the UK.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

I think that Sunn O))) confounded and crossed the line for some at the Temples Festival is a wonderful indictment of the band’s continued importance. I see Sunn O))) continuing to ruffle feathers in this day and age as a hugely positive sign. Lord knows we need more music that challenges us, tests our temperaments, and isn’t baited with blatant commercial hooks.

Still, it's also important to note that a defence of Sunn O)))'s music isn't necessarily needed or even wanted by the band's critics. We all have bands we simply love to hate no matter what anyone else thinks. We all piss and moan about those bands. And no amount of explaining or clarifying the appeal of those bands is going to convince us to change our opinion one iota.

Really, in the case of providing any explanation for a series like this Monoliths and Opinions project, all I can say is that I'm not indulging in any duplicitous or disingenuous antics here. I'm not trying to sell Sunn O))) to you. Nor is any neurotic or unhealthy fixation keeping me preoccupied with Sunn O)))'s oeuvre. I've simply been fascinated by the unconventionality of Sunn O)))'s music since I first heard the band 15 years ago.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

I discovered Sunn O))) via the band's ØØ Void album, which was released in 2000. ØØ Void resonated with me because it spoke directly to that part of me that had been utterly entranced by Earth's Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version album way back in 1993. Of course, Sunn O))) have mentioned the debt they owe to Dylan Carlson's famed band many times over the years. And it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Earth invented the entire drone or ambient metal genre.

At the heart of it, ØØ Void appealed to me because it was very different to anything being released at the time. (Both in metal and experimental music circles.) It felt like a fresh challenge. One where Sunn O))) stripped their music back to the purest and rawest essence of the riff. That was bold, bruising, and inherently idiosyncratic and defiant. Sunn O))) dared you to make it through ØØ Void. I loved that about Sunn O))). Still do. And I imagine that's the same reason that many of the band’s fans continue to tune in.

That said, I completely understand why some people remain utterly perplexed by Sunn O)))'s appeal. Fact is, Sunn O)))'s music is not easy on the ear or accessible. Sunn O))) deal in drone, and drone is an acquired taste and niche musical medium at the best of times. Drone is something you feel (or not) at an instinctual level. And if you happen to feel that drone is monotonous, featureless and dull, then you'll clearly be left wondering how anyone could enjoy any of Sunn O)))'s protracted tracks.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

There are no halfway measures with Sunn O))). It's all in or nothing at all. And Sunn O))) unquestionably use provocative musical techniques that could easily lead to a hostile response. We all know how irritating it is to encounter music that immediately rubs us the wrong way. And the soundscapes that Sunn O))) explore are formidable.

Sunn O))) frequently ignore musical mainstays like rhythm or melody. They deal in teeth-rattling distortion, feedback, and subterranean vibrations and reverberations. The band's songs are performed at an incredibly slow pace. And there is absolutely nothing about Sunn O))) that is going to appeal to fans of turbo-speed rock 'n' roll.

Hell, there’s not even an easy entry point into the band's catalogue. Sunn O)))’s most popular album, 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions (the album's title summing up the band's aesthetic perfectly) did find favour with a wider audience on release. But, even then, Monoliths & Dimensions was still an imposing album with made zero compromises made for the listeners comfort therein.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Still, no matter the critical adoration or their expanding fanbase, Sunn O)))’s music remains easy to mock or dismiss because that's the way many eccentric forms of artistic expression are routinely treated. A lot of challenging art (and music) is immediately scoffed at. And that frequently reveals more about the underlying values of the scoffer than it does the essence of the art.

Often, gripes arise to mask confusion about the meaning behind avant-garde works of art. None of us like to feel that we're missing the point and, sometimes, it's simply that misunderstandings occur because we're not aware of the particular lineage or history behind off-kilter works of art or music.

Weird music is tough to unpack. To conceptualise. And to appreciate.

However, alternatively, having an aversion to Sunn O))) might not be the result of any of the above issues. Some folks just hate the band because they find them mind-numbingly boring. And there’s nothing complicated about that at all.

I get that too. It's that age-old aversion to music you just find fucking tiresome. And that's exactly how I feel about deathcore. Or screamo. Or goregrind. Or pirate metal. Or most symphonic or folk metal. Or [insert some truly awful band like Dream Theater or Soulfly right here].

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

For me, the allure of Sunn O)))’s music is that it sounds and feels like a form of orchestrated chaos kicking down those famed doors of perception. The band's sub-harmonic and frequently nerve-tweaking pursuits offer a very powerful experience if you're willing to give yourself over to the band’s music. Immerse yourself in Sunn O)))’s universe and the band’s sojourns become transcendent journeys. There's a jaunt beyond the stars here. A trip to higher plane or another dimension there. Or just a steep dive into the very darkest pits of Hades.

It's really no different to getting lost in or swept away by any other musical form that affects you deeply. Albeit, with Sunn O)))'s mode of transportation being of the more leaden-footed and monolithic variety. Of course, making an effort to understand why fans enjoy Sunn O)))'s music is not on the radar for many of the folks who like to complain about the band. They're often just really pissed because Sunn O))) represents an arm of experimental metal that’s skirted close to wider acceptance.

Certainly, although Sunn O))) are never going to a hugely popular band in commercial terms, many of the group's fans do reside outside of metal's borders. We all know that some folks feel very aggrieved when an outré metal band gets paid any attention by the mainstream media. And we’ve all seen groups like Deafheaven or Liturgy get vilified in quarters of the metal media for turning up on pages of the mainstream press.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The point to keep in mind is that Sunn O)))'s founders, Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, are not casual metal tourists or newcomers to making in-your-face music. See Khanate, Burning Witch and Goatsnake for proof of that. Nor have O'Malley and Anderson committed some crime against the underground by finding themselves under the spotlight. If anything, O'Malley and Anderson are forging ahead with a distinctly underground attitude by continuing to make challenging music. That’s a laudable feat, I would have thought. Even if you didn't happen to like the noise being made.

Sunn O))) does speak a very unorthodox musical language. Stretching riffs out to infinity while destroying many routine musical motifs sees the physicality of sound often used as a key instrumental component. As a result, a pressure-wave is frequently at the forefront of the band’s sound. Yet, O'Malley and Anderson have always been open to explaining exactly what is it they're doing and, more importantly, why they're doing it without any pretentiousness. In fact, some of O'Malley and Anderson's interviews have been incredibly open and frank and they've subsequently made for truly fascinating insights into the world of explorative music.

Of course, in the end, there’s just no pleasing some folks. Discussions of why and how Sunn O))) make all that noise are of little value to someone who's not going to read them anyway. Obviously, not everyone appreciates everything. And we wouldn't want a world overflowing with sycophants anyway. Some people just instinctively hate the fact that Sunn O))) is deemed interesting or worthy of coverage. And I imagine a negative reaction pleases O'Malley and Anderson just as much as a positive one.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Ultimately, to my eyes and ears, the whole point of Sunn O)))'s music is to provoke a visceral reaction. And Sunn O)))’s latest Bandcamp venture, a live archive page filled with dozens of concert recordings, is guaranteed to do that.

In fact, for people who find Sunn O))) perplexing, boring or downright annoying, the 77 shows available on the band's live archive page are sure to be a horror show beyond measure. I've been a fan of Sunn O))) forever. And I’m certain I want the band's The Iron Soul Of Nothing collaboration with Nurse With Wound to soundtrack my funeral. But, even then, fandom assured, Sunn O)))’s live archive page still fills me with dread.

It would be a huge challenge to try and pick apart every individual recording on Sunn O)))'s live archive page. So I won’t be reviewing them one by one here. Honestly, writing about the particulars of each one of those live recordings is too much for this old man. But I will say this: The shows on Sunn O)))'s live archive page date back to 2002. They are unmixed and unmastered––i.e presented in their rawest state. And if you're a fan or critic of the band, you'll know exactly what to expect.

There's hooded figures shrouded in fog wielding huge riffs and making a gloriously ear-splitting racket on every one of those live recordings. There are plenty of guests and collaborators adding their own thunderous elements too. And you could certainly look at the sum total of those live recordings as a rather awe-inspiring riposte to Sunn O)))’s critics.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Every one of those live recordings features all the fundamental Sunn O))) elements that folks gripe about writ large and goddamn loud. Which, I have to admit, I kind of love about the band. I love that Sunn O))) have never made any excuses for cutting their own weird and cacophonous path into the hinterlands of experimental music. Pick up any of the recordings linked in this essay, or any other from the band's live archives page and you'll certainly be greeted by different points of exploration. However, what you are facing, in overwhelming abundance on that live archive page, is exactly the same vast wall-of-noise that provokes such intense reactions every single time Sunn O))) takes the stage.

For me, that means Sunn O)))'s live archives page contains untold manna from the Gods of sonic subversiveness. For others, that page might well be Hell on earth. Both are entirely understandable reactions. And both are reactions that I think O’Malley and Anderson would wholeheartedly approve of.

The Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions series.

17 Aug 22:57

Detail from page 383 of Family Man, now online!{high resolution...


For everyone.