Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"A Mongolian language website with an overview of daily used links."

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Narrative

"By better understanding how life stories are built...people may be able to alter their own narrative, in small ways and perhaps large ones...

"'When we first started studying life stories, people thought it was just idle curiosity — stories, isn’t that cool?' said Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern... 'Well, we find that these narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.'

"Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative construction. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list, studies find; and they rate legal arguments as more convincing when built into narrative tales rather than on legal precedent...

"During a standard life-story interview, people describe phases of their lives as if they were outlining chapters, from the sandlot years through adolescence and middle age...

"Depending on the person, the story itself might be nuanced or simplistic, powerfully dramatic or cloyingly pious. But the point is that the narrative themes are, as much as any other trait, driving factors in people’s behavior, the researchers say.

"'We find that when it comes to the big choices people make — should I marry this person? should I take this job? should I move across the country? — they draw on these stories implicitly, whether they know they are working from them or not,' Dr. McAdams said."

--Benedict Carey in The New York Times


"Dear Friend of F.I.R.E.,

"The Flagstaff International Relief Effort (F.I.R.E.) needs your help now! We are urgently trying to raise $15,000 to make the 2007 distribution trip happen.

"We have over 20 tons of warm winter clothing, educational and medical supplies ready to send to Mongolia. One container is full of warm winter clothing, including over 10,000 hand knit items. The second container is full of educational and medical supplies.

"We need $15,000 by July 15, or we will not be able to ship the containers and will have to cancel the distribution trip.

"When the 2 containers arrive they will be met by a team of clothing and medical volunteers who are standing by, ready to buy their tickets and pay their own expenses to conduct medical training and distribute the items to orphanages, hospitals, schools and thousands of needy children and their families.

"Please help us to...

--Personally distribute 8 tons of clothing, including over 10,000 hand knits, to over 10,000 of Mongolia's poorest children and families.
--Assist over 1 dozen schools with educational supplies and English books.
--Provide 450 boxes of medical supplies to 14 rural hospitals and clinics.
--Train medical professionals at over a dozen hospitals.
--Send children to school, aid the disabled, warm the cold....

"A donation of just $20 from each person who receives this letter will take us to our goal. Any assistance you can provide will be tremendously appreciated.

"I am confident that with your help we will be able to complete another successful distribution trip to Mongolia, continuing to help the most vulnerable members of society to improve the quality of their lives. Please help us in this time of urgent need to deliver these supplies and training.

"Thank you!
Meredith Potts
Executive Director

"P.S.Please send tax deductible contributions to the address below by July15, 2007. You can also donate directly from the internet. Please use the link below.

"P.P.S.To view a 5 minute video clip of our 2005 distribution trip please use the link below.

Flagstaff International Relief Effort (F.I.R.E.)
107 N. San Francisco St., Suite 4
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Office: 1-928-779-1966
Fax: 1-928-774-5562

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sri Chinmoy

Went with Marc today to listen to some guy speak at the UB Palace. "Who's speaking?" I wanted to know. "Some spiritual teacher."

Six full-size buses were parked in front of the UB Palace, each bearing a computer-printed A4 sign "Shri Chinmoi" in the windshield.

The UB Palace was packed. It turned out it was not a lecture or a reading, but a musical concert, and it was free.

It also turned out to be farcical. Set up on the stage were many Indian stringed instruments and flutes along with several electronic beat-boxes reminiscent of my brother's old electronic Casio keyboard that he had when we were kids in the '80s. Some old dude doddered around onstage between the instruments, sitting with one and playing on it until he seemingly got bored and then moving on to another one. I can only describe the stringed instrument playing as "awful" (this is the land of the morin khuur, after all, and no Ravi Shankar was this guy); I couldn't tell if he was trying to play music on the stringed instruments or just trying to tune them. The electronic sounds were cool, but they didn't seem like anything that I couldn't have produced myself after 20 minutes with a keyboard. On a few occasions, choirs of sari-clad folks from the theater seats congregated in front of the stage and sang a tune.

After the concert, the buses in front loaded up with the people in the saris, most of whom had European facial features. I was mildly interested to find out who this old guy was. I said "Hello" to one older pale-skinned lady in a sari, but she avoided my eyes. I heard a few of the sari people speaking Russian.

Anyway, I got home and googled this "Shri Chinmoi" guy. I discovered that President Enkhbayar awarded him the Friendship Medal last Wednesday. I also discovered that he is a con-man cult leader:

"Inside the entrance there's a picture of the grimacing Sri lifting a barbell with one arm; the caption says it weighed 7,063 pounds. That's right--7,063 pounds. With one arm. The Sri has lifted elephants and airplanes with one arm too. A man with a beer belly looks at the picture and says 'So how come this guy isn't in the Guinness book of records?'"

"The Toronto Council on Mind Abuse alleged that Chinmoy has misrepresented his status regarding the UN."

"The guru holds meditation meetings at the UN building in Manhattan, but has no official 'delegate' status."

"Sri Chinmoy labeled a visit to Japan he undertook as 'a delegation of about 100 members of the United Nations and Sri Chinmoy,' despite the fact that there was no official backing of this trip. Other events of Sri Chinmoy's organization, including concerts and sporting events, have attempted to portray an official connection with the U.N."

"Arnold Markowitz, director of the New York Jewish Community cult hotline and clinic said, 'Sri Chinmoy has produced the most psychiatric casualties of the meditation groups that I've experienced.'"

"Other national cult watchdog groups and mental health professionals also alleged Sri Chinmoy heads a 'destructive cult' with as many as 1,500 devotees."

"His followers engage in intensive chanting and meditative trances, adopt a distinctive dress, and avoid contact with non-members. Disciples address him as 'The Supreme.' Sri Chinmoy claims to have super-normal powers - including having written 843 poems in 24 hours, created 16,031 paintings in one day, and lifted 7000 pounds with one arm."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Guests from Overseas
(Заморские гости)
Nicholas Roerich
1874-1947 Russian

Ernst is writing a biography of Roerich.

I first saw this painting at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in 1999. I purchased a print of it, the first print of a painting I had ever bought.

The Internet Sacred Text Archive

"...the largest freely available archive of online books about religion, mythology, folklore and the esoteric on the Internet."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Red Wheelbarrow

"The Red Wheelbarrow"
William Carlos Williams
1883-1963 American

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Center for the Study of the First Americans

"North, Central, and South America were the last continents to be populated by humans."

The Center for the Study of the First Americans features a photo gallery of sites in the United States, Mexico, and Russia.

The Problem of Other Minds in Machines

If I cannot know whether another human experiences a mental life in some way comparable to my own, how can I know whether a machine experiences one?

"It looks as if no scientific answer can be expected to the question of how or why we differ from a mindless body that simply behaves exactly as if it had a mind. The good news is that this difference makes no objective difference; the bad news is that it continues to make a subjective difference, one that cannot be explained away."

--Stevan Harnad, "Other bodies, Other minds: A machine incarnation of an old philosophical problem," Minds and Machines, 1991

Sheered Off

"What is the greatest thing in the world?" Ah Chun demanded with abrupt irrelevance.

Mamma Achun pondered for a moment, then replied: "God."

He nodded. "There are gods and gods. Some are paper, some are wood, some are bronze. I use a small one in the office for a paper-weight. In the Bishop Museum are many gods of coral rock and lava stone."

"But there is only one God," she announced decisively, stiffening her ample frame argumentatively.

Ah Chun noted the danger signal and sheered off.

"What is greater than God, then?" he asked. "I will tell you. It is money. In my time I have had dealings with Jews and Christians, Mohammedans and Buddhists, and with little black men from the Solomons and New Guinea who carried their god about them, wrapped in oiled paper. They possessed various gods, these men, but they all worshipped money...."

--Jack London, “Chun Ah Chun”

Monday, May 07, 2007

American Gulag

Guantanamo Bay in National Journal

"But then there's the prisoner's Casio watch. According to the Defense Department files, his watch is similar to another Casio model that has a circuit board that Al Qaeda has used for making bombs. The United States is using the Qaeda-favored Casio wristwatch as evidence against at least nine other detainees. But the offending model is sold in sidewalk stands around the world and is worn by one National Journal reporter."

Mongolia Investment Forum in New York

Here is an article on investment in Mongolia from The UB Post last month. The adverse effects of the Windfall Tax law are mentioned as expected, but there are also some surprises, such as concern over the railway and the idea to export energy to China.

"Entree Gold has drawn-down their investment by around 50 percent since 2002. The Western Prospector Group withdrew over US$3 billion capital outlay from the country after the windfall profits tax was adopted hastily last year...

"There are 15 strategically significant mineral deposits, where government participation is indefinite...

"Another barrier in trading with Mongolia is surface transportation links. Most of the cargo traffic is carried by the railway. Mongolia’s railway gauge is different from Chinese railway system, which has a standard gauge of 1,435 mm while it is 1,524 mm in Mongolia. Each carriage has to be lifted in turn to have its bogies changed...

"'We are looking principally at four sectors of the Mongolian economy. The first one is upgrading the railway. It would cost US$129 million to upgrade and increase the capacity of the railway system. It’s considered to be a key constraint of the Mongolian economy’s growth,' said James Hallmark, Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Country Director for Mongolia...

"'The windy southern province in Gobi, which shares a border with China on the south, is a good place to build wind power stations and export the energy to China... We should export energy to China rather than coal,' said Alan Fontaine, CEO of Newcom Group."