Sunday, August 4, 2013

JEP's Week in Review - Week 31, 2013

You know, there is some cool stuff on the internet, and I come across it kind of often.  I was thinking about trying to put up a sort of Top 10 things I come across or learn every week.  A blog would probably be a better forum for this but, hey, I think I’ve got a bigger audience here.  So here’s the inaugural Week In Review:

1.    Philosopher’s Quote
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire
2.   Random Animal Fact Learned This Week
Snakes smell with their tongues.  I guess the nostrils were just kept on the off chance that one day they would have the opportunity to party with Keith Richards.

3.   Reason to Celebrate Next Friday

Singapore’s Independence Day!  On August 9th, 1965, the city ofSingapore was kicked out the country of Malaysia, making it the only country in the world to gain its independence unwillingly.  For this occasion, I recommend celebrating with the Singapore Sling.

You might also want to try making a plate of Singapore Noodles, a dish made famous by late British Author Pete McCarthy in his hilarious opus, “McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland
a tale which introduced me to Pete’s Rule of Travel  #17:  “Never try to score dope from Hassidic Jews because you are under the impression that they are Rastafarians.”  It’s a great book.  I highly recommend it!

4.   The Fact of the Week that I will just accept at face value and not research further:

In addition to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, there is something called Ninja Scouts that my six-year-old daughter Fairen has, unbeknownst to me, been attending for years in the middle of the night while we are all sleeping.  Do not even bother trying to look this up because they are Ninja Scouts for crying out loud! They are so secretive that even the internet can’t find them!  Besides, why would you even try to prove me wrong on this point?  Do you even WANT to live in a world where there is no such thing as Ninja Scouts?
5.       Random Fact About a Foreign Culture

The Sikh religion has taught from the start that all humans are equal, regardless of race, gender or religion and this equality is so enshrined that in 1675, the ninth Sikh guru, Tegh Bahadur, was beheaded for defending the religious freedom not of Sikhs, but of Hindus that were being forced to convert to Islam under the reign of Aurangzeb.  This is the only instance in history where the leader of one religion sacrificed his life to protect the adherents of another religion. ( )

6.       An Exotic Food You Probably Have Never Tasted

Chermoula Sauce ( ).  A staple seasoning from Morocco to Libya, this paste is one of the cornerstone flavors across North Africa.  Though it is typically used for fish among the Berber peoples, the flavor is spectacular on chicken and I have seen it widely used on lamb as well.  I am even willing to try it on beef though this is not typical destination for it, though I am not sure if it is because the flavors don’t mesh or if it is because the desert climes of the southern Mediterranean are about as hospitable to raising good cattle as the Pakistani madrassa school system would be towards raising good Israelis.

7.       Best Conversation I’ve Had this Week

Colleague:   My son is now three months old.  All he does now is sleep, eat, drink and fart.

Me:               He’ll be right at home at camp then if he ever decides to take up deer hunting.

8.       Unexpected Thing I Discovered While Fact Checking

The Story of Texas Ellen.

A Friend of mine posted a Meme about the story behind coins placed on veterans’ tombstones and the meaning behind the various denominations.  Having spent 7 years in the military myself, I had never heard of this and suspected it to be a nice story, but like most of these things I see on Facebook, completely bogus.  So I started to look into it.  For the record, I did not confirm or dispel the coin story so that is inconclusive, but the headstone pictured proved more interesting than the story.

The headstone shown on the post was for an Ellen Wilson, who died in 1855 at the age of 33.  Now it would have been unheard of for a woman to be serving in the military in 1855 and as for dying in battle, the United States was not at war in 1855.  A closer look at the headstone revealed that she had a nickname “Texas Ellen”.  Now women in 1855 did earn themselves nicknames, usually because they worked in prostitution.  This caused me to try to look REALLY close at the picture where at the very bottom of the headstone I could barely make out the words “house of ill fame”.

So I looked up Ellen Wilson and found the story behind the tombstone ( ).  Anyway, despite her profession, Ellen Wilson was highly regarded in Coloma Texas, mainly because of her efforts to comfort those afflicted by smallpox and cholera during epidemics of 1852 and 1853.  After she was killed by a jealous admirer who was a tragically poor marksman (he was gunning for a romantic rival but killed the object of his desire instead), she was afforded an honor not typically given to working girls of the time – she was buried WITHIN the fence of the city cemetery.

This kind of begged another question though.  If, as originally said in the article, a penny placed on a soldier’s grave means that it was visited, a nickel means you went to boot camp together and a quarter means you were with the poor soul when he died, what are all the coins on a working girl’s grave supposed to mean?

9.       Question to Meditate on for the Next 7 Days

Is there really free will or are our actions simply chemical and electrical responses the human brain makes after formulating conclusions based upon a wide array of sensual stimuli and lending credence to the concept of Fatalism, the belief that our paths are essentially predetermined?  And if I have no real free will, can I use that as a reason to excuse random acts of bad behavior?  “Sorry honey, the ambient temperature was 76 degrees, the humidity was 68%, I had 7.6 hours of sleep saw three blue jays in a dead oak tree and smelled the distinct scent of burnt matches for no particular reason whatsoever.  We all know that whenever this happens in that order, I drink seven beers and a quarter bottle of tequila and then lose my pants in front of someone that can negatively impact your career.   It’s not my fault really, my brain is just hard-wired that way and I had no control over it.  Seriously, look it up.  Baruch Spinoza wrote all about it!”

10.   Reasons to keep on Living for the Next 7 Days


Taking the kids canoeing for the first time on the Ausable River, the premiere of the last 8 episodes of Breaking Bad, and experience the hopes and high expectations of yet another year of Detroit Lions football before our dreams of Superbowl stardom are crushed in mid-September.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, “IT’S FREAKIN’ SHARK WEEK PEOPLE!!!!!”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is the March Towards Artificial Intelligence a Technological Advancement or an Inevitible Step in Evolution?

So, I stumbled across an article about the creation of brain-powered prosthetics and was hit with an epiphany of just how staggering this development is.  Though inconceivably complex to most of us, this is an advancement with incredibly deep implications for the future of humanity.  The fact that we now have the ability to wire up a paralyzed woman so that she can feed herself using her own brain signals in much the same way she would have used them to move working arms means that we are taking the very first, tentative steps towards decoding the “operating system” of our minds, the DOS of our id as it were.  If we can do that, it is only a matter of time before we can decode the human brain, accessing the organic memory, allowing our thoughts, our memories, our personalities, our deepest secrets, in essence our very souls to be read, downloaded and stored in devices made not by nature, but by industry.

Many of the consequences of this are obvious such as the detriments to our privacy and the susceptibility to mind control by outside entities, but the potential advantages are equally mind-blowing.  Can you imagine learning how to play guitar like Eric Clapton just by downloading the ability directly into your head from the internet?  Learning a foreign language fluently in a matter of seconds rather than years?  And what about going back to the body parts?  With this technology, you could even replace your perishable organs as they wear out, transforming yourself from a fragile carbon-based life form into a silicon-based one that is virtually immortal, a being finally able to conceivably conquer insurmountable challenges such as interstellar space travel.  This is a development that would have a cataclysmic impact on higher evolution itself, accelerating the process without the inconvenience and loss of potential that results from death!

And if life eventually leaps from an organic to a quasi-mechanical state, would we inevitably lose some of the true pleasures we experience in human form?  With our needs based on recharging rather than nourishment, we would lose the need to eat and all the joy we derive from that.  And without the need to reproduce biologically, would the ability to love also become a casualty of evolutionary advancement?  Would our teenagers be locking themselves into bathrooms with copies of Popular Mechanics instead of something published by the successors to Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt?

Or would we be interconnecting on far deeper level, our minds networked together so that we all share every piece of information intelligent beings have ever documented, across continents, planets and even galaxies, bringing up the complexities and intricacies of the theories of quantum physics just as easily as we can now pull up the chorus of our favorite songs in our present manifestation?  Would robotic life have tolerance for a traditional human existence, seeing us affectionately as a developing manifestation of itself, a higher being in larval form akin to what a caterpillar is to a butterfly, or would it regard us as a destructive infestation to be exterminated for the safety of its more resilient species?  And if we were networked, what would it do to our individuality?  Would that prove fatal to the last vestiges of what made us human and turn us into a sort of futuristic mega-organism, driven to manipulate our environment strictly for the benefit and goals of the entirety with total and complete disregard for the welfare of the singular entity, making us behave more like a colony of ants than the collection of diverse ideas and mindsets that created it?  For that matter, without the biological needs of eating and reproducing, would the species even need to manipulate the environment, transcending the requirement for a physical embodiment altogether and existing purely in some sort of omnipresent, observatory cyberian plane, thriving only upon a constant influx of insight, sensation and experience in a state of digital nirvana of sorts?  And once there, what could possibly be the next step?  Creating matter from what is otherwise a conceptual existence until it creates a mass so dense that it explodes in a force powerful enough to destroy everything in existence and starting the process all over from scratch?

Sorry about that.  It’s quite a leap I know.  I’m not on drugs or anything this evening, that’s just the way my mind works on those very few occasions that I find myself completely home alone with nothing good on TV.
Wow.  I can’t believe you really read all this.  If I thought you were going to do that, I would have used words with fewer syllables.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


My household has been visited by tragedy. My daughter, Regan, left her iPod in her mother's car who then proceeded to drive this car all the way to Downriver while she worked this weekend. Regan will not see her beloved device until Tuesday. Somehow this is all my fault and I have been getting the silent treatment about it ever since this egregious situation came to light. I would appreciate that you all put all of the mojo you people were sending to comfort those who have lost loved ones, starving children in Africa or those suffering from incurable and heinous diseases towards my daughter, who will be spending not one, not two, BUT THREE WHOLE DAYS without listening to Selena Gomez and The Scene on a portable music device. As for me, well I guess I will be OK. Over the course of my life I have been punished with A LOT of female induced silent treatments and have learned to cope by seeking solace in uninterrupted television viewing. I will get through this.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tools for the Terabyte Buddhist: The Guatamalean Duck Sucker

This is my go-to drink. Uber-refreshing and adequately intoxicating, it is simple to make and an awesome antidote to reality. I would like to say I invented it myself, but it is so simple I have to assume that someone out there figured out how to make one of these before I did. If they did though, no one bothered to name it so humanity is now cursed with an awesome elixer with a seven-syllable moniker because some hapless inebriate in Michigan likes to get all fancy with the dictionary when he's drinking.

Fill tall glass with ice.
Add two shots of Bacardi Silver Rum.
Add the juice of 1/2 lime.
Top off with 7Up.
Repeat until you are enjoying life as much as this guy:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Omelet of Zen

When I was in Japan, I was exposed to Buddhism and caught a mild case of it.  It was left untreated for almost two decades though and it is now to the point where it is completely incurable.  Now considering most of my audience is sure to be Caucasian Judeo-Christian types, you can rest assured that Buddhism did not compel me to shave my head (my hair actually left on its own volition years ago), dress in our table linen and head to the airport to start selling pencils.  That was the result of accidentally mixing tequila and some prescription anxiety medications.  What Buddhism did compel me to do though  was meditate.  I will likely give you the story of my conversion later, but I can tell you that it was meditation that introduced me to Buddhism and caused me to seek out more about it.  And before you go thinking that meditation can cause one to reject Christianity and seek solace in foreign religions, let me ensure you that it can not, and does not want to, do any such thing.  I had a very eye-opening experience in a church when I was 13 or 14 that had effectively turned me into an atheist, and was drawn to Buddhism to fill the void because of its tenets encouraging free thought, tolerance and open-mindedness.

Anyway, I might consider myself a Buddhist, but it does not mean that I consider myself a good one.  I do meditate, trying to clear my mind and focus upon the big questions of existence such as why are we here, what the purpose is of our existence, what happens after we die and what I can really do to make a positive impact on those around me.  Sometimes I feel I get so close to the answer, like I am right on the cusp of Enlightenment, where the complete understanding of The Universe and The Incomprehensible Nature of God is right at my fingertips and I feel completely at peace and calm and totally at one with the Divine, but right as I am at the precipice of THE ONE ultimate revelation, I fall right asleep.  Every freakin’ time.  I certainly hope the Dalai Lama is better at this than I am.

Last night it was almost the same story.  I was THERE.  I was at the edge of the infinite, on the verge of uncovering something deep, revealing and life-changingly* profound when I felt it starting to slip.  I was drifting off into sleep, and quickly.  Realizing what was happening yet again, I started to become distressed, a state of mind that is absolutely fatal to the meditative process.  Of course, the more distressed I became, the quicker I was being forced from all that I was seeking.  As I was falling past the point of no return, I was spiritually writhing, reaching out wildly, grasping for a realization, anything, anything at all that would convince me that I was on the right path, a simple sign that the keys to breaking the cycle of Samsara and universal enlightenment were out there and attainable by a mere mortal such as myself!

And I emerged, not into sleep but fully awake and aware.  And with an Epiphany.  I awoke with the realization that Chimichurri, an Argentinian condiment made of parsley and garlic that I usually put on steak, would go great on eggs scrambled with onions and cheese.  I don’t know where that came from, but *POOF!*, there it was.  It was like the cosmos had given me a glimpse of the opening quatrain of some future Martha Stewart Suttra.

But you know what?  It was true!  Chimichurri eggs ROCK!  I made them this morning after my workout and they were absolutely FANTASTIC!  It made my morning, put me in an awesome mood and really set the tone for making the rest of the day just as good as my breakfast was. 

On the surface, that really has nothing to do with Buddhism, and yet it has everything to do with it.  State of mind is everything when it comes to happiness and contentment.  Longing for something that you just cannot seem to attain causes distress and dis-harmony while peace and solace can be found in just learning to appreciate what you have and make the best with what you have around you.  Of course, you should always work towards what you want and strive to attain it, but not at the expense of enjoying what you already possess.

So in the end, it appears that I was denied Nirvana and given eggs as some sort of cosmic consolation prize.  Sometimes I think Buddhism is the perfect vehicle for me to keep my mind active and push the boundaries of my intellectual capacity.  Other times I think it was bestowed upon me just to give me a means of screwing with my own head.

*I am completely aware that “changingly” is not really a word.  I just do not care because nothing else really works in that context so Daniel Webster can bite me.  While we are at it, “savancy” (the act of being a savant) should be a word also and is the main reason I just can’t take those Grammer Nazis seriously.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The First Step in a New Direction…

…I guess starts right here!  I am checking out the new Blogger templates here and I must say that I AM impressed.  New layouts.  New features.  New gadgets.  Now all my little corner of the blogosphere needs is new content.

This is my second foray into blogging.  My freshman effort, The JEP Report, ran for four years.  It was mildly successful, garnering a few dozen loyal followers, a few dozen transient followers, and 35,000 total visits.  According to The JEP Report’s Site meter, it is still getting regular traffic, but from what I can tell it is from one lone fanatic in South Korea who reads the site over and over several times a day.  I am genuinely concerned about this person’s mental state however as prolonged exposure to my incessant hyperbole can have seriously detrimental effects on an individual’s psychological well-being.  Seriously.  You should see what it is doing to my kids.

Though moderately entertaining, The JEP Report completely lacked focus, possessing the attention span of a hyperactive Chihuahua in the throes of a virulent methamphetamine overdose.  One week it did politics.  One week it did fiction.  One week it did movie reviews.  One week it did current events.  One week it did pasta recipes.  When I ran out of ideas, I just recounted tales of some of the stupid stuff I did while drinking.  This time around, I think I need to stop doing that.  Stop topic-jumping, I mean.  I can’t really quit doing stupid stuff while drinking as it is the only pastime I have that I am actually any good at.  I should have graduated summa cum laude from Inebriated State.  One would think drunken shenanigans would be a perfect subject for me to blog about then, but the reality is that it is very, very difficult to do so.  Mainly because if you have done it correctly, there should not be very much for you to remember when you are finally sober enough to sit upright behind the keyboard without projectile vomiting partially digested chunks of beer nuts through your nostrils all over the monitor.

So what should the focus of The Terabyte Boddhisattva be?  Basically, it is inspiration, and how one can find enlightenment through the internet.  Now, does that mean that I think my mind can suddenly open up and truly become one with the Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path, break the cycle of Samsara and lose my sense of Self as I encounter the soothing embrace of Nirvana while surfing Youporn, Groupon and checking out pictures of cute cats with spelling issues on Facebook?  Of course not.  What I think I can do however, is the limitless resources of the internet to better myself, my family, my community and maybe my readership by learning to navigate the vast expanses of Cyberia.

So what makes me think I can do positive, beneficial and life-changing things using the web?  Well, I have already done it.  5 months ago, I finally came to the realization that I was at a tipping point when it came to my health.  I had grown so overweight that I hit the point where I could no longer get my socks on myself.  After realizing that I was packing 50 extra pounds, I used the internet to research a means to lose weight and set about doing so.  The web provided me with the expertise, and through various means of social networking, the encouragement and inspiration I needed to get it done.  It only took 3 months, but I dropped the 50 pounds, and with it the lack of flexibility, my sleep apnea, chronic heartburn, cholesterol and blood pressure issues.  I gained a ton of energy, vitality, mental sharpness and now feel a solid ten years younger.  I figured if I could monumentally change my body in such a short time, what else could I improve?

The truth is I don’t know, but what I intend to do here on TTB is find out.  I am going to strive to better myself using the resources at my disposal, open my mind to new ideas, learn new skills, and see just how much I can improve my quality of life and meet my goals using the technology available at my fingertips.  If I fail, it’s back to tall tales of drunken exploits and a full on assault against writer’s block with tequila and Ex-Lax.