Gringo Manaba

Adventuras y Fantasias or Fantastical Adventures

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Archive for March, 2006

Cleansing the Second Soul

Posted by glasscastle on 29th March 2006

Back
when the Dowbrigade was a rambunctious young refugee from Ivy academics
we  served an extended apprenticeship
with a middle aged San Pedro shaman in a tiny seafront town in the middle
of the Atacames desert on the Pacific coast of South America.

Eduardo Calderon was the name of the Shaman, but he
went by the Nom de Mago of "El Tuno". He was an accomplished master of
an amazing gamut of traditional knowledge of plants, marine biology,
substances
and states of consciousness.  Like most accomplished masters he
was highly secretive and jealously possessive of his arcane lore, loved
to play tricks and jokes on supplicants, patients and patrons alike,
and believed that acolytes must suffer years of demeaning mindless physical
toil before proving themselves worthy of enlightenment.

As you can probably imagine, the Dowbrigade made a lousy
disciple.  Despite an undeniable natural inclination towards the
mystical arts and a demented sense of humor that El Tuno seemed to enjoy,
we were an utter failure at things like mental discipline, unwavering
focus and the aforementioned demeaning physical work.  But we wanted
very much to learn the secrets behind the Shaman’s undeniable power,
and so we hung around, and hung on to El Tuno’s every utterance searching
for scraps of wisdom.

One of the difficulties was that it was hard to tell
when the Master was being profound, and when he was joking around or
being intentionally misleading, or simply mundane.  But one thing
he said repeatedly stuck in our mind, and over the years we came to see
it as the key to enter a whole world of metaphysical truth.

"Never forget, my son, that the most dangerous part
of cleansing yourself is the second soul."

What, we wondered, is the "second soul"? Why is cleaning
it so important? Try as we would, we could not remember any mention of
a "second soul" in the canonized teaching the mage had been doling out,
bit by bit, over the months.  Nor could we remember a mention in
the seemingly random, trance-induced ramblings which escaped his lips
when he drank the cactus juice or the flower powder, or the vine extract
he used in his magic. Of course, this only convinced us that the second
soul was a master-level concept, understanding of which would elevate
us from our lowly accolytehood to a more exalted and advanced station.

However, as the months ran on it became clear that mastering
the mystical arts and gaining enlightenment was going to take longer
than Anthro 348, (Shamanistic Practices in the Americas), the year-long
survey course that had led us to El Tuno in the first place, a. Eventually,
our resolution weakened by Coca-Cola deprivation and some scented letters
from old girlfriends
back in Boston, we bid a heartfelt farewell to our teacher and abandoned
the pursuit of esoteric knowledge for a while.

We never forgot about the second soul, however. It haunted
our dreams, our meditations and out prayers.  Every epiphany, every
breakthrough, every life crisis we went through, we tried to relate it
to the second soul.  We literally spend years, cumulatively, trying
to crack the nut El Tuno had left us with.

Finally, about five years ago, we returned to Peru to
speak at a conference and look up old friends, we took a chance and headed
out to the desert again to look for out old mentor.  To our surprise,
we found him exactly where we had left him, in a decaying blue cement
structure at the foot of a cliff, hard up against the rolling waves of
the Pacific. It was a low, one-story frame, painted a faded blue, with
no doors in the doorframes or glass in the windows, euphemistically
painted with the legend Restarante California. Incredibly, he remembered
us.

After an hour of reminiscing and a fantastic sea snail
cebiche prepared by his latest student, a young woman named "Sirena",
we got down to business.  "Tuno," we began, trying not to whine,
we have spent the last 15 years thinking about one of the things you
told us all those years ago, and we finally think we understand the meaning
of the second soul."

"It must mean that after the seeker for truth overcomes
all of his past indiscretion, all of his pride, conceit, base instincts
and wrong thinking, and truly opens and cleans out his soul, he is still
not ready for enlightenment.  For within the soul of man there is
a secret, second soul, invisible to the outside world, and even to himself.  Only
by complete surrender to the ultimate power can that power do what no
individual human being can do on his own – clean the second soul. Absolute
faith and submission are necessary for this, and absent them the soul
can be destroyed in the process – hence the danger."

We looked at our old teacher hopefully, wanting, after
all these years his approval and blessing.  He looked back at us
with a mixture of wonder and pity.

"Once again, my son, you have completely missed the
point.  If you will remember, I only passed on this advice when
you were overdue for a shower, damp and dirty from the heat and the tasks
you were performing. I was referring to the task of bathing yourself.
In the shower a man first washes his face and his hands, then his arms
and his torso, then his genitals and finally his legs."

Only then does he get around to the essential task of
cleansing the feet, which requires him to stand on one foot at a time.
First he lifts up one foot, and carefully soaps and washes it over and
under. Here is the danger.  If the first foot is not completely
rinsed off, putting it down to raise the other foot for washing can appreciate
a tragedy, For if that foot is soapy an slippery, you will surely fall
and hurt yourself while "cleansing the second sole."

No wonder we didn’t make it as a Shaman…..

Posted in Prose Screeds | Comments Off on Cleansing the Second Soul

Tierra Incognito

Posted by glasscastle on 23rd March 2006

In a few short hours the Dowbrigade is off to San
Francisco. Our first trip since the Bad Run medical evacuation from South
America. This one, however, should be a Milk Run.

We have never spent more than a few hour
stop-over in the city by the bay,
and
are
looking
forward
to
a relaxing
week poking
around. We
will try to blog as we go, assuming we can find some free wireless hotspots
in town.
Gotta be, right? We have no idea what to expect or where to go…..

Posted in Friends and Family | Comments Off on Tierra Incognito

Pope’s Vintner Sells to the Devil

Posted by glasscastle on 22nd March 2006

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It seemed like the perfect gimmick:
a celebrity porn star would launch her own wine, with her alluring picture
on the label.

Savanna Samson did just that, but when it received a score of 90 to 91
out of 100 by wine guru Robert Parker, the project became serious. It turns
out Samson, the star of "The New Devil in Miss Jones," has produced
an exceptional wine, becoming the toast of two industries: wine-making
and pornography.

The seriousness of the idea was lining up a respected wine maker. So she
convinced Italy’s Robert Cipresso — also a vintner to the Vatican — to
join the project.

Samson went to Tuscany and tasted dozens of Cipresso’s Italian-grown varieties,
then she selected a mix of 70 percent Cesanese, 20 percent Sangiovese and
10 percent Montepulciano. She ordered over 400 cases.

The result is Sogno Uno, a 2004 vintage of an Italian red wine packaged
under the Savanna name with a label of Samson in a see-through gown. It
was launched last month.

Parker has been called the most influential wine critic in the world, and
a score of 90 to 95 denotes "an outstanding wine of exceptional complexity
and character."

from Reuters

Let’s get this straight. This guy Cipresso makes
wine for the Pope, and for the Devil in Miss Jones? Isn’t that a little
like
selling uranium to the Israelis and the Iranians? Also, although
many of our favorite writers were alcoholics, isn’t it amazing that Robert
Parker has enough time to be the most influential wine critic in
the world, in between writing all those Spenser novels?

Posted in Wacky News | 1 Comment »

Techno-Lust Retarded

Posted by glasscastle on 22nd March 2006

It’s getting to be that time again. The old CPU seems
sluggish, despite regular maintenance and spring cleaning, and we have
access to software our hardware can’t handle. It happens like clockwork,
every three years or so, and starts as a mild but nagging interest in
the latest offerings from Apple. Within six months or so it usually evolves
into focused lust for one particular configuration, which like all true
lusts gradually aggravates until it becomes intolerable until consummated.

This time, however, we are at a loss. The new Intel
Macs are intriguing, although we learned long ago to eschew the first
iteration of any major revision of hardware or software.  Plus,
universal binary versions of the tools we use daily, (Office, Photoshop
and Dreamweaver), will not be available until late ’06 or early ’07.
Meanwhile, even Apple advises against using Rosetta emulation to run
"Professional level" aps like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro.

Plus, we still love the iMac’s gorgeous 17-inch screen
on the infinitely adjustable articulated neck. The screen is as bright
and brilliant as the day we took it from the carton, and we love it more
than any screen we have ever had. Why? Because of the neck.

Sometimes, early in the morning, after an industrial
mug of Flor de Manabi coffee, we are wont to sit up ramrod straight,
and need the screen high and tight. Other times, like late at night,
watching some pirate video or reviewing a movie for possible classroom
use, we slump in our chair like Caligula at a seder, and need the screen
down low and dirty. Sometimes we keep it at a respectable distance and
keep our spectacles on, sometimes, for detail work, we whip off our glasses
and pull the screen right up to our eyeballs.

Unfortunately, Apple no longer makes a model with an
articulated neck.  The new iMacs have a one-piece processor/screen,
which can be tilted, but not raised or lowered, or moved closer and further
away. We even looked for third-party monitors, figuring we could get
a Mac mini or G5, but could find no reasonably=priced monitors as elegantly
articulate as the iMac’s.

So our question is this: Is there any way to connect
a new computer to the iMac and just use it’s screen? Some kind of screen
sharing or remote desktop? How about a direct connection from the new
computer to the video card on the iMac, which unfortunately has no video-in
port? How long will we have to wait for infinitely resizable windows
floating in thin air, a la
"Reboot"?

Posted in Technology | 2 Comments »

Whale Songs Animal Language

Posted by glasscastle on 21st March 2006

The songs
of the humpback whale
are among the most complex
in the animal kingdom. Researchers have now mathematically confirmed
that whales have their own syntax that uses sound units to build phrases
that can be combined to form songs that last for hours.

Until now, only humans have demonstrated the ability to use such a hierarchical
structure of communication. The research, published online in the March
2006 issue of the Journal of
the Acoustical Society of America
, offers
a new approach to studying animal communication, although the authors
do not claim that humpback whale songs meet the linguistic rigor necessary
for a true language.

"Humpback songs are not like human language, but elements of language
are seen in their songs," said Ryuji Suzuki, a Howard Hughes Medical
Institute (HHMI) predoctoral fellow in neuroscience at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and first author of the paper.

With limited sight and sense of smell in water, marine mammals are more
dependent on sound–which travels four times faster in water than air–to
communicate. For six months each year, all male humpback whales in a
population sing the same song during mating season. Thought to attract
females, the song evolves over time.

Suzuki and co-authors John Buck and Peter Tyack applied the tools of
information theory–a mathematical study of data encoding and transmission–to
analyze the complex patterns of moans, cries, and chirps in the whales’
songs for clues to the information being conveyed. Buck is an electrical
engineer who specializes in signal processing and underwater acoustics
at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and Tyack is a biologist
at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

from the Howard
Hughes Medical Institute press release

listen to live and recorded whale songs here

Posted in Weird Science | Comments Off on Whale Songs Animal Language

Ferarri Followup

Posted by glasscastle on 21st March 2006

MALIBU, Calif. — A Los Angeles County sheriff inspects
the wreckage of a rare Ferrari Enzo that crashed on the Pacific Coast
Highway Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006, in Malibu, Calif. The red Ferrari, estimated
to be worth more than $1 million, was going at least 100 mph when the
driver lost control and struck a power pole, investigators said. Sheriff’s
investigators identified the owner as Stefan Ericksson, 44, of Bel Air,
who escaped the wreck with only a cut lip. (03/03/06 AP photo)

We reported
this accident
the day after it happened, with a picture of
a mint Ferrari. This
is the first photo we’ve seen of the actual accident. BTW, did they ever
find Dietrich, the German aquaintance who was driving and who ran off
into the hills?

Posted in Serious News | 1 Comment »

Full Exposure

Posted by glasscastle on 20th March 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela – More than 1,500 Venezuelans shed
their clothes on a main city avenue Sunday to pose for American photographer
Spencer Tunick, forming a human mosaic in front of a national symbol:
a statue of independence hero Simon Bolivar.

As Tunick shouted commands through a megaphone, nude people of every
shape, size and skin tone gathered on the avenue and stairs in front
of the statue just before dawn.

"There are some people over there with clothes, get them out of
there!" said
Tunick, an artist from Brooklyn, N.Y., who has been documenting groups
of nude people in public places around the world since 1992.

Occasional cheers and movements in the enthusiastic crowd made shooting
tough at times, Tunick said.

"It was difficult to work because the people were so exuberant,
so it took a little bit longer, but I got what I wanted," he said
after the session.

"The body represents beauty, love and peace. There was a lot of
beauty and energy in the people today."

from the AP

Dear Mr. Tunick, The People’s Republic of Cambridge
cordially invites you to stage your next nude photo shoot in Harvard
Square. The contrast between the copious layers of intellectual
pretentiousness and lack of clothing will be delicious. Of course, the
aesthetic appeal of naked Cantabridgian flesh will compare unfavorably
with that of Caracas, Brussels, Brazil and Spain, although we may give
London a run for its money. May we suggest the steps of Memorial Church
in Old Harvard Yard, where diplomas are traditionally awarded, as a potential
shoot site….

Posted in Photos | Comments Off on Full Exposure

Fake Ass Shit

Posted by glasscastle on 18th March 2006

The classic internet scam involving the wife/financial
advisor/secretary of the Minister of Finance of Nigeria/Kenya/Uganda,
who needs access to a foreign bank account to tidy up the funds.The continued
variations on this scam must mean it’s sucking in somebody,
although its hard to avoid asking oneself "Why would a government minister
in Africa want to give ME millions of dollars?"

A
new wrinkle on this scam recently hit home.  Our
22-year-old
son
, who was out of work and looking for a job at the time,
received a US Mail Express Mail envelope from California printed with,
in large letters, "Extremely Urgent – please rush to addressee" and bearing
$14.40 in postage. This was clearly not conventional spam.

Inside were what appeared to be 9 US Postal Money Orders
for $950 each. He also got emails which followed the familiar pattern,
money in Africa, need to get it out, need help, God led us to you. He
was supposed to send 90% and keep 10%.

Of course, our son barely had enough in the bank to
pay the rent, he was foraging daily in our frig, so he couldn’t send
them anything.  Their emails, dripping in "Praise Gods!" and "Glory
to the Lords" and other evangelical balderdash, started asking for 50%,
30%, anything. Meanwhile, bereft of funding, our son decided to try cashing
a few of them.

Of course, they are counterfeit. He is probably lucky
he decided to deposit them in his bank account.  If he had tried
to go into some "Checks Cashed" storefront he probably would have been
held a gunpoint until the police arrived. As it was, he was given a good
talking to and charged fees as though he had deposited bad checks. They
closed his account, but opened him another one. The schmuck.

We say that only because he waited until after he had
deposited the first batch to tell his dear old Dad what he was up to.
One of the rare occasions on which our experience and knowledge of scams
could have aided a loved one, and it went by the wayside.

So how did they get his data stolen? Where did they
get his info to start the scam? Turns out a week before we had posted
his Resume on Craig’s List, and it had included his address and email
(not phone). That’s all they needed.

Of course, one has to question the judgment of criminals
who try to rob people who have no jobs, who in our experience
usually have no money, but they must have gotten enough suckers to send
them enough money to make it a worthwhile scam,The money orders were
certainly realistic enough, although the numbers must be fake.

The ad on Craig’s List did get our son a job, but it
also got him into trouble and cost him money. Caveat
emptor.

Posted in Friends and Family | 5 Comments »

A Country That Could Only Be Ruled By a Monster

Posted by glasscastle on 18th March 2006

Five towns in rural Vermont have passed resolutions calling for the Impeachment
of President Bush
. For what? The list of his sins grows
weekly but includes malfeasance, misfeasance, lying, extortion, withholding
evidence, illegal fundraising, misinforming Congress, illegal slush funds,
persecution of US citizens, but worst of all, gross incompetence resulting
in a squandering of US resources, thousands of American lives, tens of
thousands of other innocent lives, and a betrayal of American ideals
it will take us generations to recover from.

As far as we are concerned, the only question left is who will do time and who will be alowed to slink off into the shadows and cesspools of historical ignominy.

But exhibits A-Z remain the instigation and prosecution
of the war. Four and a half years after 9/11, three years after the invasion
of Iraq,
and our enemies are more numerous and more fiercely dedicated to our
destruction. Usama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
are all still at large, podcasting and video blogging to fame and iconhood
in the Muslim world.

Correct us if we are wrong, but didn’t we just 60 years
ago, take on the most powerful evil empire in the history of the earth,
led by evil incarnate Adolf Hitler,
as well as the Italians of Il Duce and the millions of fanatical Japanese,
and vanquished them absolutely. And did it between December 7, 1941 (Pearl
Harbor Day) and the Japanese surrender in 1945?

And our involvement in World War 1 was even shorter! The United States
declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. The final Armistice was signed
on Nov. 11, 1918, just two and a half years later.

And these were WORLD wars! We thought technology and
smart weapons was supposed to SHORTEN wars, not lengthen them. We thought
the
Israelis
were pointing
the way to the
future with the economical 6-day war, or the Yom Kippur war, largely
completed over a holiday three-day weekend.  This is clearly the
way to go.

But, NOOOOOooooo, George had to get us bogged down is
a quagmire of Nation Building, amidst dysfunctional local government,
sectarian violence and mounting hatred
of the obvious outsiders reigning over the whole sad, miserable landscape-
US.

We have to face it – Iraq is not now and probably never
has been a cohesive country in the modern sense of the word. It is an
artificial construct
created
less than 100 years
ago out of the rubble of the Ottoman empire and handed over to an extended
family of Arab nomads
so that western oil companies would have somebody to negotiate with about
the extraction of precious black lifeblood the world has come to depend
on.

It contains irreconcilable centuries-old antagonisms,
feuds, rivalries and hatreds between Sh’ites, Sunnis and Kurds which
have only been contained
temporarily by iron-fisted regimes, repression and violence.

At the trial of Saddam Hussein we have heard again and
again that he was a monster of historical proportions, and it is undoubtedly
true. But
the Western powers that created Iraq created an Abomination of a country
that could only be ruled by a monster.

Sadly, as is becoming increasing clear, now we have
become that monster.

impeachment article from the Boston Globe

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

Dr. Dolittle at Darpa

Posted by glasscastle on 17th March 2006

The Pentagon’s defence scientists want to create an army of cyber-insects
that can be remotely controlled to check out explosives and send transmissions.

The idea is to insert micro-systems at the pupa stage, when the insects
can integrate them into their body, so they can be remotely controlled
later.

Experts told the BBC some ideas were feasible but others seemed "ludicrous".

A similar scheme aimed at manipulating wasps failed when they flew off
to feed and mate.

The new scheme is a brainwave of the Defence Advanced Research Projects
Agency (Darpa), which is tasked with maintaining the technological superiority
of the US military.

from the BBC

Darpa, of course, are the clever darlings who really invented
the internet (get real, Al Gore), named at that embrionic stage Arpanet.
Not all their
projects, however, have turned out quite that well…

Our favorite part of the article is a breif review of other US attempts
to use animals in warfare. To wit:

ANIMALS IN WARFARE

WWII: Attach a bomb to a cat and drop it from a dive-bomber on to Nazi
ships. The cat, hating water, will "wrangle" itself on to
enemy ship’s deck. In tests cats became unconscious in mid-air

WWII: Attach incendiaries to bats. Induce hibernation and drop them from
planes. They wake up, fly into factories etc and blow up. Failed to wake
from hibernation and fell to death

Vietnam War: Dolphins trained to tear off diving gear of Vietcong divers
and drag them to interrogation, sources linked to the programme say.
Syringes later placed on dolphin flippers to inject carbon dioxide into
divers, who explode. US Navy has always denied using mammals to harm
humans

also from the BBC

Incomplete list. We are reminded of the strange
and somewhat sad case of Richard Hernstein, know among Harvard undergraduates
back
in
the day as the "Pigeon Professor."

Hernstein, who as a grad student had demonstrated
his slavish dedication to the advancement of science and blind obedience
to
his Harvard mentor, B.
F. Skinner, by volunteering his firstborn son while still an infant
to be placed in a "Skinner Box" in a Harvard Psych lab, basically a featureless,
neutral environment, a padded white sterile capsule, where every stimuli
could
be controlled,
measured and observed, would later become famous for his controversial
work linking intelligence with genetic (and racial) differences between
indivuals.

But the most bizarre chapter in his career occurred
during the Korean War when his early work with visual acuity, intelligence
and pigeons
came to the attention of the boys in the Pentagon. Probably Darpa, if
it existed back then, or its predecessor. At the time they were hard
at work on the seeds of the technology that would later come to be
know
as
"Smart
bombs";
guided missiles, laser guided bombs, camera-in the-nosecone weapons,
heat-seeking, etc.

Back in the 50’s, though, they were still groping for ways to self-direct
the explosives, and one of the ideas they were exploring was animal-directed
bombs. Pigeons have excellent eyes – they can spot a tasty morsel of
regurgitated fried dough from hundreds of feet in the air. Hernstein
had shown that pigeons could be trained to peck at certain shapes on
a piece of paper, in a photograph, or on a touch-sensative screen.

The idea was to have a bird in the nosecone of each
bomb or missile, pecking at an image of the target projected on a screen
from the nose
of the missile, and steering it accordingly. According to Hernstein himself
during and aside in the course we took from him (and the only thing
we remember from that course), the result of three years of top secret
research
and several million taxpayers dollars was the realization that although
the pigeons performed well, accuracy was not within acceptable limits.

Interesting, and the focus of the third year of
research, was the fact that if THREE pigeons were lodged in each bomb,
and their pecking triangulated, the
resulting accuracy WAS within the target range. However, with
three pigeons and all of their necessary equipment, there was no room
left in the bomb for explosives. Another brilliant innovation wrecked
on the shoals of martial realities.

The butterflies sound promising, though…

Posted in Weird Science | 1 Comment »

GOD ALMATY

Posted by glasscastle on 17th March 2006

ALMATY
(Reuters) – Burglars in Kazakhstan locked a funeral parlor employee in
a coffin and kept him there unconscious while rummaging for cash in the
shop.

Serik Sarsenbayev said he was on his own late at night when two masked
burglars burst into the parlor and beat him until he fainted.

The thieves then nailed him into a wooden coffin and carried on their search
for a money safe, he told Reuters by telephone from the steppe town of
Temirtau.

He was later freed by the driver of the parlor’s hearse.

The thieves made away with the equivalent of $23,000 and remain at large,
the daily Express K reported.

from Reuters

What if he hadn’t woken up in time, and had suffocated?. Or worse, been
buried alive, only to wake up in the dark, trapped….Stories
like these bring up early, unpleasant memories of scary
movies
and things
that went bump in the night. Also unanswered questions. Why did
the Hearse driver find him? Why does a funeral parlor have $23,000 in
cash lying around? What’s the difference between fainting and passing
out? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted in Wacky News | Comments Off on GOD ALMATY

Banned in Boston

Posted by glasscastle on 17th March 2006

American artist Spencer Tunick has photographed and
filmed masses of people in the nude in dozens of public places from Finland
to Australia, and now he is looking for at least 2,000 volunteers in
Venezuela.

Organizers said Tunick had chosen a street in Caracas for his human art
installation, and was asking volunteers to show up and strip on Sunday
morning.

"I chose a location to me that was beauty and chaos combined _
organized chaos," Tunick said Thursday. "I’d probably be arrested
for doing this and charged with a crime in half of the United States,
so I’m honored to be here in Caracas and not be arrested."

The New York artist has been documenting assemblages of naked people
in public places since 1992, and has been arrested multiple times in
the United States while doing so.

We can’t imagine why….

from Breitbart

Gallery of other Tunick work

Posted in Wacky News | Comments Off on Banned in Boston