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Viewing entries posted in 2005

Money is not wealth

30 December 2005 | 1 Comments | Tags: ,

I recently read an interesting article by Paul Graham on how to make wealth. He advocates working really, really hard in a start-up for a few years and (maybe) getting a huge pay-off from the effort (or ending up with nothing, if the venture, like ever so many start-ups, fails).

However, an interesting point he makes is the distinction between wealth and money. Wealth is what we are really after, while money is just the exchange medium for wealth we use in today's society. All the money of the world would be of no use to you if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing to buy. Similar, if you had a machine (or surabi cow) that could create anything you desired, you would have no need for money.

Graham writes:

Until recently even governments sometimes didn't grasp the distinction between money and wealth. Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations) mentions several that tried to preserve their "wealth" by forbidding the export of gold or silver. But having more of the medium of exchange would not make a country richer; if you have more money chasing the same amount of material wealth, the only result is higher prices.

Similarly, on a smaller scale, many people chase after money, when what they actually desire is wealth. Wealth is whatever someone values and therefore wants to acquire.

Graham falls into the same trap that ensnares practically everyone. He reasons:

Create things that people desire => make money => buy things you desire => objective accomplished.

In reality the following happens:

... buy things you desire => desire more => buy more => desire more => buy more => never become truly satisfied

The spiritual solution is given in BG 2.70: instead of trying to create more and more wealth we should practice minimizing your desires (and since annihilating desire is impossible, replacing it with a higher taste - BG 2.59). That way, even if we don't have the luck (good karma) to be part of a successful start-up, we'll still be supremely wealthy. We'll be able to buy all the things you want, even with a modest income, because we'll desire less stuff than the common manipulated-by-marketing consumer. Even better, we'll also will gain permanent, spiritual wealth.

All material wealth is eventually destroyed by the effects of time. However, spiritual advancement lasts forever.

Devamrita Swami: what to do in life

21 December 2005 | 4 Comments | Tags:

download
Verse: BG 5.21-22
Place: ISKCON Leipzig, Germany
Time: 44 min.

Summary:
This is a very provocative verse. Krishna rejects all false pleasure. Shouldn??(TM)t there be a balance between both false and real pleasure? Physiologists say that repression can be damaging to the psyche.

No! Would you make a balance with real and counterfeit money? A yogi has better things to do than enjoy false pleasure. And, by the way, psychologist is the profession with the highest suicide rate.

Detachment requires training. We must know what is good, what is bad and get a taste of the real, unlimited pleasure obtainable by concentrating on the Supreme. Such spiritual pleasure is far, far higher than the highest material pleasure (sex life). It is worth the small inconvenience necessary to obtain it. Material pleasure simply traps us.

Questions:

  • What is the role of intuition when choosing a guru?
  • How to employ the material elements for the atma-tattva?
  • Why do you wear a watch? Time does not play a role for Krishna! You??(TM)re under the same material stress and time pressure as everyone else. Isn??(TM)t that a contradiction?
  • What does it mean to serve Krishna?
  • But Krishna talks of two yogas: jnana and bhakti?

On infinity: in the universe and Krishna

17 December 2005 | 2 Comments | Tags: ,

I just listened to an interesting interview with John Barrow, a cosmologist and mathematician who talks about his book: The Infinite Book : A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless.

He explains how the Universe may or may not be infinity and outlines a theory where our particular Universe is finite, but there exists an infinitely old realm of unlimited parallel universes beyond ours. We will however, never know for sure, since, in order to get information from those other Universes that information would have to travel faster than the speed of light, which is, of course, impossible (according to Einstein).

This theory sounds remarkably similar to the view of the Universe given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Maha-Visnu is in the infinite spiritual causal ocean where time does not exist and generates unlimited finite Universes just like ours.

Barrow also explains how there are different sized infinities (as discovered by Galileo Galilei). There are, in fact, an unlimited number of infinities, each larger than the next. The infinite infinity is mathematically impossible (as shown by Georg Cantor, but hypothetically possible for a meta-physical being such as God.

There are several statements in Vedic literature that the spiritual energy is three times larger than the material energy (SB 2.6.20 and Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya-lila Chapter 21 Verses 51, 55, 56, 57, 87). Devotees always told me that these statements were not to be taken literally. I was however never satisfied with that explanation. However, using Cantor??(TM)s mathematics of infinite sets, it is indeed perfectly reasonable to talk about multiple differently sized infinities.

Bugs fixed (part 2)

17 December 2005 | 58 Comments | Tags:

I??(TM)ve just fixed some more bugs in this website. For some reason the last few lines of some of my modified WordPress theme files got cut off and replaced with a garbled server error message. Weird (or: hackers!?). If this website looked a bit strange over the past few days, then that was the reason.

Anyway, it's all working again now (and more secure, too). Enjoy.

(Note: I've also changed the layout slightly. Tell me what you think.)

Devamrita Swami: finding your own path

16 December 2005 | 2 Comments | Tags:

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Place: ISKCON Leipzig, Germany
Time: 19 min.

Summary:
Why struggle so hard for material enjoyment which is temporary in nature? Erich Honecker, for example, thought that the Berlin wall would be there 100 years from now. 6 months later: both he??(TM)s gone and the wall is gone.

There is an attitude of: "just be as happy as you can, focus on the pleasure and don??(TM)t be negative, just follow your heart and intuition". French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus said: "Don??(TM)t try to lead me, don??(TM)t try to follow me, just walk with me through the chaos".

However, in any practical situation no one actually does that. For example, when going on a walk in forest we make a plan, take a map and follow the official path established by forest rangers.

Krishna consciousness is the authorized way. The Vedic literature is the torchlight of knowledge that allows us to see the whole picture of what is going on, instead of stumbling blindly in the darkness of ignorance.

Mumbai temple: counsel and care

14 December 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

Namahatta has a great article from HH Radhanath Swami. He talks about the counselor system in the temple in Mumbai, Chowpatti. It sounds like a great place. A perfect situation where everyone is super nicely cared for. The article is well worth reading.

Vedicsoc: session #9

14 December 2005 | 1 Comments | Tags:

This week's Vedicsoc session was different. As a follow on from Sunday's Gita reading I advertised a Bhagavad-Gita Q&A. Unfortunately the interest of the student community in such things is practically zero these days. Well, two, to be exact. I taught a very quick yoga class (some breathing and 10 sun salutes), followed by an extra long japa session (18 minutes of chanting of the maha-mantra).

Then we had what ended up being a two hours long discussion. I found myself battling mayavadi conceptions throughout most of that time. However, even given Prabhupada's authoritative purports the two guys that came did not accept. Ultimately we came to some intricate (irrelevant) detailed questions about the nature of the time which I could not answer. I stressed that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. But, alas, the maha-mantra of today's society is: "never commit to anything".

Still, we parted favourably (and I sneakily gave both of them a gift of a MP3-CD filled with Krishna conscious talks lectures).

How to build a word-of-mouth marketing campaign

13 December 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

Forrester magazine has an interest short article on the subject. View it here.

Devamrita Swami: why understand the creation according to the Bhagavatam?

13 December 2005 | 4 Comments | Tags:

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Verse: SB 2.10.1
Place: ISKCON Berlin, Germany
Time: 59 min.

Summary:
There is always change. The body changes, the government changes (Devamrita Swami tells some stories of preaching in the DDR, former East Germany) and people become bewildered.

Srimad Bhagavatam however allows us to conquer the darkness of ignorance, the conception that the world is here for our enjoyment, and understand that all energy has an owner who (at least) likes be acknowledged. Devotion can come later. Devotees as devoted as Mother Yasoda can even conquer Krishna.

The creation is supreme exhibition of artistry. It is so expertly arranged that it looks like no one is behind it. It is like an expert manager who sets things into motion without people noticing it was actually him. Things generally progress from subtle to gross. It is like that in management, male/female relationships and many other things.

Don??(TM)t get caught up in all the changes, attacks of material nature and material desires. Srimad Bhagavatam gives both knowledge and detachment.

Questions:

  • How is it that if we stop practicing Krishna consciousness in this life we can continue from where we left off in the next life?
  • How to convince someone that God didn??(TM)t give them this world for their enjoyment?
  • My understanding is that you should only have a relationship to Krishna, not anybody else, is that right?

Origami

12 December 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

The ancient Japanese art of paper folding has come a long way since the time of ancient Japan. Using computers to calculate the folds necessary Robert Lang creates some amazing origami artwork. Check it out here.

Origami Lion

Gita Jayanti Sunday

11 December 2005 | 1 Comments | Tags:

Gita Jayanti was today. I invited some of the Vedicsoc crew over to my flat for a reading of the Bhagavad-Gita. Three guys from Vedicsoc attended.

We started off taking (ekadasi) prasadam. I made the following:

  • Chinese leaf salad
  • Sago Pilaf
  • Tomato chutney/sauce
  • Potato wedges
  • Sweet potato pie (the speculation buckwheat pastry turned out quite good)
  • Luglos

I was intending to make a few more preparation, but ran out of time. I??(TM)ll try better next time.

So, anyway, after chatting for a bit we got into reading the Gita. Three hours later: a deep feeling of peace pervaded the atmosphere, everyone was blissful, spiritually satisfied and saturated with transcendental knowledge.

I found the austerity of the reading extremely rewarding. The Bhagavad-Gita is such an amazing book. So much knowledge!

Devamrita Swami: Jihad versus McWorld consciousness

9 December 2005 | 53 Comments | Tags:

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Place: Nienburg, Germany
Time: 69 min.

Summary:
Jihad consciousness is the traditional, village culture, not necessarily exclusive to Islam. It is any group of people that value their cultural uniqueness and ethnicity. These kinds of people want to fight the ongoing globalization by any means.

McWorld consciousness is the global consumer culture. Global brands, global food, global pop-stars, global morality (make up your own religion and do whatever feels right). These people look down on the primitive tribespeople. The McWorld is ruled by big business. It is good business if everyone wants the same food. Big Macs can then be mass produced in large quantities for large profits.

Both types of consciousness are merely polished animal life. They are in what is known as ??oesilpa jnana??. Higher than that is ??oebrahma vidya??, or knowledge of a spiritual reality beyond the bodily identification. However, that is just the beginning, the kindergarten, of spiritual knowledge. Higher than that is knowledge of ??oeparamatma??, the Supersoul. The peak of knowledge is knowledge of ??oebhagavan??, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This level includes all the lower levels.

Questions:

  • How can this absolute knowledge manifest in our daily lives?
  • In the Bhagavad-Gita it says that a householder must perform his duty? What is this duty?
  • How can be become perfect if our karma is in the way?
  • When following the spiritual path there are often so many obstacles, impediments and unfortunate circumstances that one gets confused. I have so many problems with my children that I can no longer believe in God.
  • Is it possible to enlighten the Jihad and McWorld people with real spiritual knowledge?

Vedicsoc: session #8

7 December 2005 | 2 Comments | Tags:

The Vedicsoc session was interesting yesterday. One of the students from last week liked the Power Yoga so much that she enthusiastically brought one of her friends along. Word of mouth is the best advertising. Altogether four people attended the session.

I taught I rather good slow-deep aerobic class that was well received. We then chanted the Hare Krishna mantra for a while on beads. This was received with some suspicion. Then, coming to the discussion, the two new girls affirmed that they were perfectly happy with their life and did not want to have anything to do with any spiritual process or ??oereligion??. Yuck! (though I explained, or at least attempted to explain, that it was actually a very scientific process)

They continued to affirm: ??oewe like passion and are perfectly happy with our lives as they are. We like stress: it gives us the opportunity to learn to manage our time better.??

I tried loads of approaches to introduce them to spirituality, but no chance. They almost certainly won??(TM)t come back next week. In any case, they have gotten a lot of benefit from their brief exposure to Krishna consciousness.

Devamrita Swami: Krishna is full of paradoxes

7 December 2005 | 3 Comments | Tags:

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Verse: Damodarastaka prayers, verse #2
Place: Dortmund, Germany
Time: 48 min.

Summary:
Krishna is the most beautiful little cowheard boy. He is also the Supreme Lord. He is full of paradoxes: here is God and he is hungry, attention seeking, wanting to be fed, stealing butter, fearfully running away, being caught and bound up by his mother. Only in Vrindavana, where no one thinks of Krishna as God, can such intimate pastimes take place. Brahma and Siva can??(TM)t relate with Krishna in such ways. Our goal in the month of Kartika should be to understand this Krishna.

Questions:

  • Was Krishna really afraid, or was he just putting on a show?
  • Isn??(TM)t it impossible to understand Krishna?

Bugs fixed

7 December 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

I've just fixed some bugs in this website. Some dead links in the picture gallery now work. The entire site should now display better in Internet Explorer ... and if you are still using Internet Explorer:

Get Firefox!

Polish

5 December 2005 | 19 Comments | Tags: ,

In today??(TM)s world it is not enough simply to offer some service or product. Products and services are very quickly becoming commoditized, so one must offer some extra value in order to stand out of the crowd. One??(TM)s offering needs to be polished. Here are some examples:

Mac OS X is a very polished computer operating system software: much more so than Windows and much, much more so than Linux (which might have all the features, but lacks the glitter). Polish may seem irrelevant to someone who just wants something that will get the job done, but most people want more. My parents were certainly impressed at the rotating cube fast user switching effect on their Mac mini. That sort of good impression is much more important than the ability to open a file a few milliseconds more quickly.

A good yoga teacher will not just show the yoga asanas (postures). He or she will give a running commentary, tell jokes, tell stories, correct the students??(TM) postures, offer complements to the students when they perform a difficult asana, play background music, light incense, in short, offer a whole polished yoga-experience. Anyone can, after all, do gymnastic exercise.

Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra is easy. You just say the words. However, attentive chanting is difficult (at least for me). The aim is to be so fixed in one??(TM)s attention and cry out with such sincerity that Krishna can??(TM)t help but take personal notice. Even chanting just one mantra in such a pure fashion can make someone completely Krishna conscious in an instant. All material contamination is brushed aside. Someone like me however is far away from that stage of shininess and needs to keep polishing. Luckily, practicing the chanting is the very means of polish.

On intelligent design

4 December 2005 | 9 Comments | Tags: ,

I heard a researcher make the following comment in a recent mp3 lecture I was listening to: ??oeThe fact that all species use DNA as their means of copying and reproduction is the single most compelling proof of the theory of evolution.??

Juxtaposing that with the following: ??oeThe fact that computers all use transistors is the single most compelling proof that they came about by random mutations of silicon ore.??

Devamrita Swami: the highest thing

4 December 2005 | 1 Comments | Tags:

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Verse: SB 4.29.36-37
Place: Goloka Dhama, Abentheuer, Germany
Time: 56 min.

Summary:
Material happiness is altogether miserable and blinds one to the real goal of life. This should be our mission statement. Of course, we??(TM)re not kill-joys who look down all happiness. A devotee is meant to be jolly. At the same time there should not be spiritual hedonism.

Prabhupada set the standard: there was a controversy in Los Angeles where devotees where only reading certain intimate sections of Prabhupada??(TM)s books. Prabhupada was furious when he found out.

The highest level of spiritual life is not to become a rasika, but to sacrifice for preaching. This is the actual mood of the gopis in Vrindavana. The highest level of Krishna consciousness: love in separation.

The austerity of leadership is the greatest sacrifice. Co-operating with other leaders is especially difficult. More difficult than controlling sex desire. This is why Prabhupada established the GBC. It is radically different from the traditional matha system of one person being the acharya. ISKCON however is bigger than any one person.

New email strategy

3 December 2005 | 7 Comments | Tags:

(Warning: this is going to be kind-of technical)

I??(TM)ve just changed how I deal with email. Here is what I did:

I opened two accounts using Google??(TM)s free Gmail service. I then set my university email account to forward all messages I get to one Gmail account. I then set that Gmail account to forward all messages it gets to the other Gmail account (but does not archive it). This second Gmail account applied various filters and labels to all incoming messages. Newsgroup messages are, for example, automatically archived upon receipt. That way they don??(TM)t clog my inbox, but I can search them quickly and easily using Google if I need to. I then also set all my private email account to forward to email to this second email account.

To check email I simply download from the second Gmail account using Microsoft Outlook and POP, or, if I??(TM)m traveling or am at University, just log into Gmail. When I??(TM)m in University, I download from the first Gmail account and set Gmail to archive the messages I have downloaded. That way my work machine only gets PhD related email.

The end result: All my email is backed up on one Gmail account, my University email and private email are separated, I have a nice email web interface I can use when on the road and both my home and University PCs get copies of all email relevant to me at those locations.

Now, all that was left to do was to create a backup of all my old email. After some trying I used to University??(TM)s SMTP server to and Mozilla Thunderbird (using an extension called Redirect, which has the ability to bounce email messages) to forward all my old email to myself in the newly setup Gmail accounts. I don??(TM)t think the University was too happy about my suddenly spamming their server with the 20000 (don??(TM)t ask) emails I??(TM)ve received in the past year and a half. Anyway, it??(TM)s for a good cause and they haven??(TM)t blocked me yet.

This all worked well. I now have all my old email stored in Gmail for instant access wherever I go.

Devamrita Swami: Questions & Answers

1 December 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

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Place: Goloka Dhama, Abentheuer, Germany
Time: 38 min.

Questions:

  • The king and householder Maharaja Rantideva didn??(TM)t teach spiritual knowledge directly, so how can we learn from him?
  • How will someone learn from the reactions to their bad deeds in past lives if they can??(TM)t remember them?
  • How can we possibly offend Krishna? Who are we to be able to offend God?
  • How to be so compassionate that we accept other??(TM)s suffering?
  • Was Citraketu??(TM)s insulting Lord Siva and being cursed by Parvati Krishna??(TM)s arrangement?
  • When and how do we get the mercy of the devotee?
  • What is the nature of ??oerealization???
  • How can we change our tactics to better connect with present-day people?
  • How do we understand the Bhagavad-Gita where Krishna says that he who explains him to the devotee is most dear?
  • Krishna is self-satisfied and has only created this material world for our sake, but he arranged for Jaya and Vijaya??(TM)s falldown so he could have a good fight. Isn??(TM)t that some selfish desire on his part?

Vedicsoc: session #7

30 November 2005 | 9 Comments | Tags:

I taught a full 90-minute power yoga session this week in Vedicsoc. A total of four people attended. Two new guests came. Both were attracted by the prospect of intense exercise and not really interested in the Vedic knowledge. That??(TM)s the point of the power yoga aspect of atma-yoga: to be mainstream and attractive to common-joe-consumer. The new guests could however be persuaded to engage in some purifying mantra-meditation at the start of the session and also engage in some purifying prasadam taking at the end.

I??(TM)m continually surprised that, despite the general state of disrepair of my body, I manage to execute the yoga asanas I teach for longer than any of the (obviously serious unfit) students. Maybe I??(TM)m just getting extra power from an unseen source. Who can say?

The Joel Test: better software development

29 November 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags: ,

Joel Spolsky, a prominent blogger and CEO of a small software company, wrote an article on a 12 steps for better software development. The article is from the year 2000, but still relevant today.

The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code

While a University's main purpose isn't exactly software development, computer scientist researchers do frequently have to do programming. Here's how my research group rates based on Joel's criteria:

# Do you use source control?
- Yes (well, half the time, at least for the main project)

# Can you make a build in one step?
- No

# Do you make daily builds?
- No

# Do you have a bug database?
- Yes (finally)

# Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
- No

# Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
- What's a schedule?

# Do you have a spec?
- What's a spec?

# Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
- Hell no.

# Do you use the best tools money can buy?
- No way (our PCs don't even have CD-burners)

# Do you have testers?
- The users are the testers, aren't they?

# Do new candidates write code during their interview?
- No

# Do you do hallway usability testing?
- Kind of

So: 2.5 / 12.

Not the greatest of scores. Now, I could try to revolutionize the University: transform the stale, old practices into a new high-tech, high-productivity environment that students and researchers love to work in. March into the dean's office demanding that he break down the establishment, write essays, post flyers, complain to everyone in the department ...

Or I could just tolerate and leave the country as soon as possible ...

Devamrita Swami: Krishna consciousness is the only way

28 November 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

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Verse: SB 4.29.35
Place: Goloka Dhama, Abentheuer, Germany
Time: 49 min.

Summary:
"To become free from material misery one must take to Krishna consciousness". Is this a sectarian or even fanatical statement? Why not respect everyone??(TM)s paths equally?

Not discriminating between various different spiritual paths is covered impersonalism, Devamrita Swami explains. Our career is to understand Krishna. His personal qualities, likes, dislikes, etc. We have to get over the fear that we are being sectarian by focusing on Krishna.

You may object: "Not Krishna!", but if not Krishna, then who? What other solution is there? Where else is there so much specific and detailed information about God?

Srila Prabhupada was a master teacher. He made the most complex subject matters very easy to understand. His books are practical, goal oriented and certainly don??(TM)t contain any foggy, new-age statements. Don??(TM)t just read his books once. Everyone should have the experience that they can read Prabhupada??(TM)s books over and over again and realize the ever freshness of devotional service.

Questions:

  • Preaching is sometimes difficult because we have the Krishna stigma attached to us.
  • I realize I need a deep understand of the philosophy, but isn??(TM)t endeavoring for knowledge a material activity?
  • We see that a lot of older devotees are fading away, especially now.
  • What about other Vaisnava disciplic successions? Why stay in ISKCON?

Semantic web vs. world

27 November 2005 | 34 Comments | Tags:

from http://www.ftrain.com/ProcessingProcessing.html:

World: I'd love to make my web site smarter, link things together more intelligently.

Semantic Web Research Community: Sure! You need a generalized framework for ontology development.

World: Okay. That'll help me link things together more easily?

SWRC: Even better, it will lead to a giant throbbing robot world-brain that arranges dentist's appointments for you! Just read the Scientific American article.

World: Will that be a lot of work?

SWRC: No. But even if it is, we will blame you for being too stupid to understand why you need it.

World: Huh. I guess so. But I don't understand why I need it, exactly.

SWRC: That is because you are too stupid. It's fine, we have your best interests in mind.

World: I don't want to nag, but while I read a book on set theory, how about those fancy links?

SWRC: Well, if you insist, and can't wait, there's always XLink.

World: Aha. That looks handy...except, oh, there's no easily available implementation. And I'm not really sure what it's supposed to do.

SWRC: That is because you are lazy and stupid.

World: Ah well. Do you think I should apply for grants for the development of my little web site Ftrain.com? Just enough for a monthly unlimited Metrocard would be a help.

SWRC: We will have all the grants! Be gone with your bachelor's degree from a second-tier private liberal arts college! And where is your RSS feed?

World: Sorry.

SWRC: Slacker! Bring me more graduate students, I am hungry!

Slaughter: lessons learnt

27 November 2005 | 3 Comments | Tags: ,

When you come up with a new idea, for heavens sake, don??(TM)t present in a public forum: envious, self-obsessed people will cut you down to make themselves look good. Instead, talk to as many people as possible one-to-one. Get their feedback and slowly perfect the idea, so that, when it comes time to present it, everyone in the room already knows all about it and agrees with your plan (and there was no reason anymore to actually give the presentation).

Researchers will try to help each other up to a point, but everyone very much looks out for their own prestige and publication count. This is very different from working in a company: there maximum teamwork is encouraged. ??oeWorks well in a team?? is never in the job description for a researcher, but very much a critical skill for any corporate employee. Firms are in the research game so that the company as-a-whole can make more money. Universities are also in the research game to make more (government grant) money, but it??(TM)s more every man/woman/student for himself/herself.

There is more freedom in academic, but also more competition. Whereas employees in the corporate world are slaves, but at least don??(TM)t need to worry about someone stealing their good ideas.

However, whatever the field of work, the politics and social manipulation is often much more important than actual skill. I might as well try to learn (or renouce it all and live the worry free, easy life of a saint).

George Best: taste for sense objects remains

26 November 2005 | 85 Comments | Tags: ,

The death of superstar footballer George Best was the talk of the office yesterday. I??(TM)d never heard of the guy, but apparently he had all kinds of problems. One of my colleagues remarked how amazing it was that despite having a liver translate and knowing that any alcohol could kill him, he still could not give up drinking.

I picked up a Bhagavad-Gita from my desk, opened it to verse 59 in chapter two and handed it to her. It certainly got her thinking. She read the verse about five times and then studied the purport.

In the end she asked if one had to be vegetarian to practice this process. I explained it??(TM)s a natural result of the practice and not really a big deal. She replied that she just liked the taste of meat too much: anyway, It??(TM)s natural to eat meat, right? I didn??(TM)t press the argument (and she does like the prasadam that I make every week).

She asked a few more questions, but then got distracted by her laptop (IBM Thinkpad) spontaneously rebooting itself.

Acupuncture (part 4)

26 November 2005 | 1 Comments

I went to see Dr. Philip Weeks two days ago. It just so happened that I had an appointment just after that stressful presentation of mine. And yes, the stress certainly damaged my digestion.

Philip started off by burning Chinese herbs on various acupuncture points on my body. He would light the herb-powder, let it smoke and burn until it became uncomfortably hot on my skin, then quickly lifted it off. Burning the herbs apparently re-kindles the digestive fire in the body.

He also did some normal acupuncture on me. He stuck on needle in my forehead (third eye chakra) to release the stress I??(TM)ve been subjected to. He also did the usual points around my lower legs. Some points on my chest were troublesome. I??(TM)ve lots so much weight that there wasn??(TM)t enough muscle for the needle to trigger the chi flow. The needle were just (slightly) painful, without the strange tingling feeling of a successful acupuncture point.

Still, Phil was satisfied with the overall effect of the treatment. I feel a bit better today ??" I think. But then I do always feel a lot better straight after acupuncture treatment, but it wears off after a week. Ideally, I??(TM)d have acupuncture every week until my body gets the point and starts behaving the way it should. But alas, we don??(TM)t live in an ideal world.

Philip said that acupuncture is very good at inducing healing when you know exactly what the problem is. His Vega testing machine is very good at diagnosing illnesses, toxins and poisons. He can then use acupuncture to fix the problem, if the patient??(TM)s body does not respond to more high-tech homeopathy-type treatment. On top of that come various herbal tinctures that Phil mixes and prescribes.

I??(TM)m now taking a whole slew of herbs to try and get this broken down body machine working again:

Oregano complex kills yeast in my gut. That fungus better watch out! It also produces a strange oregano smell/burp about an hour after taking it.

Digestive enzymes are very powerful. They cause the food I eat to be digested earlier in the colon, thereby hopefully reducing the colonic irritation and increasing the amount of nutrients I absorb. They should allow me to gain some much needed weight. Something is certainly happening. I feel quite tired (more than usual) after eating and kind-of weird. I had a stomach ache last night. We??(TM)ll see how this develops.

Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in my digestive system.

Clay and slippery elm powered lines my colon wall, reducing irritation and allowing it to heal. It also stop diarrhea by expanding and almost crystallizing in contact with water. The clay-mesh slows the digestive process and forms clumps with any liquid.

Chickpea protein powder is a good source of protein (which my body desperately needs to build itself back up) that is not dairy related (since dairy products are difficult for my body to absorb in its current state).

Finally, detox tea, as the name implies, reduces toxins in my body. Always good.

Slaughtered by logicians

25 November 2005 | 3 Comments | Tags:

I gave a lunchtime presentation yesterday. It was the same event that my colleague got hammered at last week. Only this time practically the entire research group attended: about 35 people.

My presentation was about the potential future direction of my research. I had planned to talk about how I could incremental classify otherwise unmanageably large ontologies. However, I was barely past the first powerpoint slide when one professor started pointing out flaws in the formal language, logic and approach I was suggesting. I attempting to carry on, but as I went on, the audience of experts (Manchester is the world leader in automated reasoning/classification) pointed out more and more flaws and areas I had not yet though through sufficiently.

Very soon it didn??(TM)t matter what I said. No one was listening anymore. I had some genuinely good ideas, but by they were buried under the initial barrage.

I was surprised at the bloodlust with which I was set upon. My (wrong) assumption was that I could present my idea to a friendly group of fellow researchers to get useful feedback and advice. Instead, every tiny inconstancy and imprecise use of terminology was berated.

Advice from my supervisor (he couldn??(TM)t make it to my talk because he was out of the country at the time, but got emails expressing concerned from practically every researcher who was there): ??oeYou??(TM)re too far along in your career to get away with presenting half-baked ideas (though he said it was very good when I rehearsed the presentation with him the week before). Some of these people are so certain that they are right that they are very difficult to convince otherwise, even when they're wrong, which actually happens quite often??. I have to be super-rock-solid in knowing my stuff. Even with these so-called ??oefriends??.

My supervisor was supportive and impressed that I was not completely emotionally shattered by the experience. Note: I was certainly shattered, but chanting the Hare Krishna mantra the next morning drew all the emotion out of me and fixed my consciousness. My body is another (ongoing) story: more on that tomorrow.

I still think that my idea for incremental classification would work, but now it is probably best done in a different way by someone other than me. Also, now everyone in the department thinks I??(TM)m an idiot and don??(TM)t know what I??(TM)m talking about (and lots of people feel really sorry for me for being ripped apart so severely). So, I??(TM)m going to change the direction of my research away from the hard-core description logic to a more practical/maintenance focus.

Someone today asked me if the experience has put me off. It certainly has put me off logic. If becoming a logician turns people into a blood thirsty vampires, that??(TM)s not a career path of choice for me. I also prefer doing things which are of practically use. Formal logic can get rather theoretical.

So, in the end: my armour is cracked, my body is wounded, but I??(TM)m still alive. Time to regroup and fight a new battle on another day.

Devamrita Swami: Pariksit questions the rasa-lila

24 November 2005 | 1 Comments | Tags:

download
Place: Heidelberg Temple, Germany
Time: 41 min.

Summary:
Emperor Pariksit asks Sukadeva Goswami: Why is the maintainer of moral principles breaking these very principles by dancing with other people??(TM)s wives in the middle of the night?

The answer is that spiritually super-powerful people (like Siva and Vishnu) transgress ordinary piety and impiety. Krishna is in everyone: everything and everyone belongs to him. He does not accumulate karma. Everything he does increases the pleasure of his devotees.

Questions:

  • The four Kumaras refused to get married, so Brahma created other children to increase the population of the Universe. All these people were pure devotees. So therefore, is family life spiritual?
  • Please say some more about how we need to be ready to hear about the rasa-lila and can??(TM)t just jump straight to it.
  • Please say some more about the position of the gopis??(TM) husbands.

Vedicsoc: session #6

23 November 2005 | 0 Comments | Tags:

Not much to report on for Vedicsoc today. None of the new people from last week came. However, three of the regulars attended. Slow-deep stretch yoga was so relaxing that it put two of the attendees to sleep. Oh well. I repeated the discussion from last week, since this was an (almost) entirely new audience.

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