Archive for November, 2008

Tibet Update 5

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

MOUNT EVEREST DRAMA IN CHINA

It could only happen under totalitarianism: the world’s most iconic mountain is under the heavy hands today of Chinese police.

The Associated Press reports that Chinese officials say they are targeting crime at base of the mountain, which lies on the border between China and Nepal. It is part of the mythic Himalayan Mountains, which encircle several nations including India and Tibet. Still, the move smacks of something more sinister: Since when do we have armed police surrounding Yellowstone?

BEIJING – China’s border police have significantly beefed up their presence at the base of Mount Everest amid rising visitor numbers and increasing cases of theft, prostitution and gambling, state media reported Tuesday.

The influx of people to the area has brought increased crime to the north face of Everest, and Chinese authorities last year pledged to boost the police presence following reports of thefts of food, oxygen tanks and climbing gear.

Visitors to Everest also complain about unethical guides, tricksters selling defective oxygen bottles, prostitution and gambling on the Tibetan side.

A former police post housed in a trailer has been upgraded to a full police station, complete with a modern 19,375-square-foot (1,800-square-meter) facility situated at 17,060 feet (5,200 meters), according to the report on the Tibet Daily’s Web site.

READ MORE HERE

Meanwhile, Tibetans in India are asked to show extraordinary patience as they recommit to the “Middle Way” as encouraged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.


READ THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STORY HERE

FD RETURNS DECEMBER 2

Special Tibet Update 4

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Tuesday, Nov. 25: Special Update from Tibet

Chinese police appeared in force in a Tibetan village, determined to show China’s intentions to control the country on the heels of a week-long conference of Tibetan exiles in northern Inida.

This story comes from the Associated Press, by Harles Hutzler, AP writer —

XIAHE, China – Chinese paramilitary police with riot shields and batons abruptly took up posts Monday on the main street of this Tibetan town, disrupting the bustle of Buddhist pilgrims in a reminder of China’s determined control of the region.

With some Tibetans pushing harder against Chinese rule, the communist government is determined to pacify the area.

The show of force Monday was meant to deter unrest while a local court sentenced a group of Tibetans for taking part in large anti-government protests in March in Xiahe, a small town abutting a sprawling complex of golden-roofed temples. MORE

Read the story here

UPDATE: Read another AP account here, with map of the area

Tibet Update 3

Monday, November 24th, 2008

On Sunday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama repeated what he calls the Middle Path for Tibet, that is, resisting the call for independence but pressing for autonomy.

This Middle Path, he says, is the only way for now, but he warns that the next 20 years could be a time of great danger if Tibetans make the wrong decisions.

He also said yesterday that he had no plans to retire. That is great news for the world. He is 73 years old, and says, “It is my moral responsibility till my death to work for the Tibetan cause.”

It reminded me of the words I heard from him, spoken with fierceness, that he would work for others “until my death.”

Since 1950, the Chinese have brutally subjugated Tibet and now are infiltrating the land of snows with junk culture — similar to the way we have infected the world with fast-food restaurants and franchises. China has brought the globe its own oppressive “first-world”-type hegemony, which combines totalitarianism with capital and wealth. As the world becomes richer, it becomes much more dangerous and potentially bad. Let’s face it: Evil with money is genocide.

You get similar results whenever you combine ignorance, spiritual and intellectual, with riches. Among those Gandhi noted in his Seven Blunders of the World that Lead to Violence: Wealth without Work, Commerce without Morality and Politics without Principle.

To read more about His Holiness, visit www.dalailama.com and click on “news.”

MSNBC has several articles: update on conference here

HH rules out retirement here

Read before Clicking

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

TECH THURSDAY

Just this morning I almost sabotaged myself by trying to open a strange zip file message … I thought it was from the US Post Office, where I’d sent a letter last week and requested a delivery confirmation. I had a tracking number to check, but caught up in the whirl of the pat few days, I lost the scrap of paper recording the information. I just presumed the email was about my letter.

Silly me!! I broke every rule in the email Rulebook. I was a sitting duck. First of all, the message wasn’t even addressed to me. Second, if I’d looked closely, I would have seen the message was from UPS and not USPS.

The email message said my package could not be delivered because the address was incorrect. I needed to pick it up at their office within 10 days or I would be charged $10 a day. I needed to open the attached receipt. Which was a .zip file, a form of compressed file.

When I tried to open it, I was asked if I wanted to use an executable, or program file, such as Internet Explorer to open it. I said yes, without even thinking.

As we all know … hello!! … the most dangerous thing you can ever do is open an .exe file from someone you don’t know.

Fortunately, it wouldn’t open. I tried all sorts of programs to read the file … Word 2007 even a spreadsheet program … but nothing.

I checked the original address and it looked correct. Throughout, I’m asking myself, Did I give the Post Office my email address? I use it so often I just assumed I had.

Finally, I realized the sender was UPS — not USPS — and the message was addressed to mpseare. In a flash, it became obvious I was just a click away from doom and disaster.

I exited out of the attachment, deleted the .zip files from my hard drive and trashed the email.

Turns out UPS has posted a special alert about this virus. You can read about it on their Web site. I’ll also try to forward the email to them.

How many basic rules did I break?

1. Never open attachments from people you don’t know or recognize

2. Never try to open executable files from sources you don’t recognize

3. Don’t open messages with fake return addresses. The sender, supposedly info@ups.com, did not match the reply-to line, which was kej(at) bobgoldpr.com

4. Pay attention. I should have recognized that UPS is not the same as USPS.

5. Pay attention. The message made reference to a package I sent Nov. 1. I should have instantly remembered I sent the package much later than that.

The final rule? Count your blessings. Sometimes you can do something stupid and somehow avoid disaster. The computer gods must be looking out for you.

UPDATE: Trend Micro, my antivirus program, cleaned the virus out of the message before I downloaded it to my hard drive. Sing the praises of Trend Micro.

Tibet Update Day 2

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

The news from Dharmsala, India, today is not unexpected as a group of Tibetans living in exile continues a week-long summit on the future of Tibet.

Younger Tibetans call for independence and standing up to China, while older Tibetans continue to support His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s traditional “Middle Way” approach.

His Holiness is leaving the summit discussions to the participants, and will meet with them on Sunday.

China meanwhile is threatening that any calls for independence will be doomed.

Chinese forces invaded shortly after the 1949 communist revolution and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid an unsuccessful uprising.

Large numbers of Tibetans remain fervently Buddhist and loyal to the Dalai Lama. If the exiles choose a more confrontational approach, Tibetans living under Chinese rule would bear the brunt of any government response.

The Dalai Lama’s envoys to the recent talks with Beijing said in a statement that they had presented China with a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their autonomy needs within the framework of China’s constitution.

The plan calls for the protection for the Tibetan language and culture, restrictions on non-Tibetans moving into Tibet and the right of Tibetans to create an autonomous government.

To read more, here is the Associated Press article by Ashwini Bhatia

Tibet Update

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Today marks the first of a week-long series of meetings for Tibetans living in exile in Northern Tibet. During the next few days, about 500 of that nation’s leaders-in-exile will discuss, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, their political and spiritual leader, what next steps they might undertake.

Last summer’s Olympics were a time of sadness for many reasons. Those long two weeks showed the world that bullying and oppression were good spectacle. No way could I sit and enjoy anything about them, from the Olympic Village, to the opening and closing ceremonies, when I knew they were created from blood and iron.

Now that the dust has finally settled on those horrible games, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is at last speaking again about his profound sadness at the outlook for his native Tibet. Since his forced escape in 1959, he has longed for a better situation for Tibet and Tibetans. Instead, the Chinese government has moved in more ethnic Han Chinese people, bombed and bulldozed sacred Buddhist temples in Lhasa, beaten and harassed monks and commercialized the Tibetan lands once known as Shangri-La.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has watched and suffered. He has heard from Tibetans who call for the use of force to reclaim their land. Yet he has consistently advocated a peaceful solution worked out with Chinese officials known as the Middle Way.

A few days ago, His Holiness issued a message announcing that talks had collapsed, and a meeting of Tibetan people would take place soon. Those meetings began today.

His message said, in part,

Taking into account the inspiring courage being shown by people all over Tibet this year, the current world situation, and the present intransigent stance of the government of the PRC, all the participants, as Tibetan citizens should discuss in a spirit of equality, cooperation and collective responsibility the best possible future course of action to advance the Tibetan cause. This meeting should take place in an atmosphere of openness, putting aside partisan debate. Rather, it should focus on the aspirations and views of the Tibetan people. I appeal to everyone concerned to work together to contribute as best as they can.

This Special Meeting is being convened with the express purpose of providing a forum to understand the real opinions and views of the Tibetan people through free and frank discussions. It must be clear to all that this special meeting does not have any agenda for reaching a particular predetermined outcome.

His Holiness has demonstrated to the modern world that saints and prophets live among us, but they are unfortunately as routinely scorned and put to death as in ancient times.

Trail Run

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Yesterday another perfect autumn day and despite the chores that could use my attention, I escaped to the woods of Goose Creek State Park outside Washington.

I wore my running shoes and ran through all the park trails, about eight miles. My overall pace was about the same as walking (no trail records here!!) but I went at a brisk running clip. I started at Tar Kiln Trail, the newest trail at the park which just opened last year. It is a nice flat trail, with fascinating tar kiln sites marked along the way. These were places where sap from the pine trees was collected by slowly cooking the wood. The sap was sold for tarring ship keels and the like. An important trade in Colonial America.

From there, I scooted to the Observation Deck on the old Mallard Creek Trail, then to the other side of the park. I passed the old cemetery, that dates to the 1880s. From there, onto one of my favorite trails, the Goose Creek Trail.

That second hour of running went by very fast. By then, I reached Ivy Gut Trail and into my third hour of running, started to feel strange … my legs were numb and the tree roots began to torment me … I saw people where sunlight hit the tree branches. My mind had no thoughts. One foot in front of the other … breathe …

I wrapped up at about 2h 20 min, and it took another 15 minutes to meander along the marvelous boardwalk back to the Visitors Center. In all, about 2h 30 minutes. When it was over, I didn’t want to stop running. I felt on top of the world … what a great return for a slender time investment!!

No doubt the ibuprofen helped and today, I’m not nearly as stiff or tired as I could have been.

Running is a special pursuit, that takes me out of this world and into a state of bliss … if I can just get past the first half-hour or so. For devotees, running is a deeply held commitment.

Recently I’ve watched movies about Steve Prefontaine, the spirited University of Oregon runner who set records an taught us all how to push ourselves. He died tragically in a car accident before he could compete in the 1976 Olympics.

“Without Limits” and “Prefontaine” tell his story. While they take a predictable approach, this runner is worth learning about.

Excessive Desire, Excessive Harm

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Figuratively Speaking Friday

In all the world, one human trait is to be feared above them all: Greed.

So today, let’s look at that simple word, and figure out why it covers such a tangle of lethal drives.

Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, holding a place of dishonor with Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Anger, Sloth and Pride.

Mohandas Gandhi, also known as Mahatma or “great souled” spoke of the Seven Blunders of the World that Lead to Violence. Among them are “Wealth without Work” and “Commerce without Morality.” Aka, Greed.

Greed is also known as avarice, and is one of the Ten Things to be Avoided in Tibetan Buddhism.

The great-souled Milarepa, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s holy teachers (1052- 1135 c.e.) writes,

If ye do not obtain the Light of Inner Peace,
Mere external ease and pleasure will become a source of pain.

If ye do not suppress the Demon of Ambition,
Desire of fame will lead to ruin and to lawsuits.

The desire to please exciteth the Five Poisonous Passions,
The greed of gain separateth one from dearest friends,
The exaltation of the one is the humiliation of the others.

As often the case, this word Greed, so harsh and full of consonant sounds, has a Germanic origin. It is derived from the primary word greedy, from the Old English graedig, from the German.

Greed means and intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power or food. Greedy means an intense and selfish desire for something.

The operative qualifier here seems to be “selfish.” We all like having things, making money, enjoying material pleasures. But, however, when a person places desire for material pleasure or gain, especially excessive gain, above other human welfare, it becomes greed. That’s where the danger lies — in causing harm to others. Not harming others (ahimsa) is a another basic principle valued throughout the world.

Avarice is extreme greed for wealth or gain. It comes from the Old French, from the Latin avaritia, from avarus “greedy.”

As if regular greed weren’t bad enough!!!

Ode to Joy

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

TECH THURSDAY

A report earlier this week was music to my ears: Researchers in Maryland have discovered that the body physically responds to music. The study was reported by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore researchers during the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in New Orleans this week.

The study’s results appear on the university’s Web site.

Music serves as my rock, my foundation, my steady ship. But in the past say two years or so, it’s become something else: my sanctuary. When I need to get away from everything, I’ve learned that hearing Claude Debussy is taking a plane ride into tranquility.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. The study showed that when people listened to music they perceived as pleasant, it caused tissue in the inner lining of their blood vessels to dilate (or expand) and increase blood flow. A 2005 study found a similar response to laughter.

“We had previously demonstrated that positive emotions, such as laughter, were good for vascular health. So, a logical question was whether other emotions, such as those evoked by music, have a similar effect,” says principal investigator Michael Miller, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The relaxation of the blood vessel lining was considerable — up to 26 percent. Ironically, when the study subjects listened to music they perceived as unpleasant (in this case, heavy metal), their blood vessels’ inner lining was constricted by up to 6 percent.

In a personal way, this was vindication for my reliance on music. Turns out I’m not just loafing when I sit in bed listening to Pascal Rouge’s Suite Bergamasque. Or, when I’m cleaning the house listening to Madonna (honestly, that’s my favorite de-stressor).

In my senior college year, I took several upper-level French literature courses, and became heavily involved with our campus’s Anti-Apartheid movement. My days were packed and I routinely closed down the Undergraduate Library at 2 a.m., returning the next day at 8 a.m.

My one joy every day was listening to Joe Jackson’s Night and Day. Every afternoon when I took a break, I’d play it straight through. Day side to Night side.

I have that album on my iPod, with the same scratch on “Slow Song” that’s been there for 26 years. Those songs give me intense joy, and I always thought Joe Jackson’s masterpiece somehow made me feel … better.

Now I have the science to prove it.

TOMORROW: Figuratively Speaking Friday

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

A study of two novels
The Gold Bug Variations
and Darconville’s Cat

Why these two novels? They capture the elusive qualities that for me, take a novel beyond its words and make it a sublime window on humankind. One succeeds; one fails.

First, the failure.

Darconville’s Cat, by Alexander Theroux. I was so excited to find this book!! A great title, a tormented, intelligent narrator, a nontraditional structure. A cat in the title!! The plot, however, took the novel south and I kept reading, disappointed, nearly to the end.

Critics didn’t necessarily pan the book, nor have readers. Some sing its praises. Still, I felt betrayal, because of the books shabby plot, its superficial, cliched and sexist approach.

The narrator is a writing teacher at a Virginia girl’s school. Who falls in love with a student. Who is crushed when she leaves him.

First rule: Please, unless you’re Paul Auster, do not write about writers!!

After several solid chapters, once his girlfriend leaves him, the narrator falls into a funk, and so does the novel. In meandering chapters, the narrator vents, as you might say; expectorates in several thousand words.

The biggest indication that this book has failed? The fate of the beloved cat of the title is completely unresolved … in the middle of a rant, the narrator mentions that the animal ran away. There is no emotion, no sense of grieving or loss, not even a speed bump for the feline.

If you’re going to put a cat in the title, then you better be prepared to make it mean something.

Now, the success.

The Gold Bug Variations, by Richard Powers. Another novel written in a nontraditional form. Richard Powers is a fascinating writer. He studied physics, then instead of going off to calculate quantum projections, realized he wanted to write. He has worked as a computer programmer in addition to his writing.

His 2006 book The Echo Maker was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

The plot focuses on a trio of DNA researchers, but as the name implies, Bach’s Goldberg Variations are also involved … music and its power over us. Like the great book (I’ve never finished) Godel, Escher and Bach, the Gold Bug Variations incorporates themes of all stripes — love, passion, science, melody, human striving and failure.

The framework, however, is striking for its unexpectedness. Anyone can write a love story set on a college campus (or a Virginia girl’s school). But who can pitch a love story among DNA researchers, with a beloved music-loving older scientist in the mix to give it heart?

In the end, despite the science, The Gold Bug Variations captures what it is to be human, to love and to hope, to search and to discover.

Do I feel touched by Mr. Powers’ work? Absolutely. Do I feel betrayed by Mr. Theroux’s? Yes.

Novels are profoundly complex, emotional creations. Until a writer can be humble, we cannot succeed. I believe Mr. Powers brings that humility to his work, and that’s what gives it life.