An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

30 January 2005

Do I believe in destiny? Do things happen because they’re meant to be?

Perhaps. This creed works well when it inspires me to faith. Just the possibility of meaning and a harmony in our world is a profound consolation.

But I will not try to read the signs, or attempt to determine whether this or that is "meant to be".

Faith can be at once humbling and uplifting. But to pretend to know the mind of God - this is just arrogance.

-Josh Mitteldorf

29 January 2005

Studies of global climate change make more intensive use of computers than any other scientific project. The world’s fastest supercomputers have been applied to the task. Still, wide uncertainties in predictions of future climate change are due in large part to limitations in computing power. We need an even bigger supercomputer.

A British research group has the idea of using thousands of desktop computers, all working simultaneously and coordinated over the internet. People have volunteered their computers when not otherwise occupied. Like a screensaver, the program runs in the background. As you read this, 28,000 computers around the world are crunching numbers and reporting back to the climate change project.

This week, the project’s first results were published in the journal Nature. You can volunteer your computer at

28 January 2005

As head of the United Nations Millennium Project, Jeffrey Sachs has advocated a plan that would have a profound impact on human misery and the poverty and deprivation that is its root cause. Surprisingly, the cost of the program he espouses is tiny by First World standards; only because of entrenched politics in the West is it even controversial.  He has been seeking to sell the idea to a country obsessed with terrorism using the very plausible notion of a fringe benefit: that the great majority of the violence we fear so much is rooted in poverty, and would evaporate if we would ameliorate some of the greatest inequities in the distribution of wealth. In his own words:

"I think when Americans know what could be the fight against malaria or in helping farmers grow more food....they'd want to do more....What would surprise Americans is how cost-ineffective some of our strategies are. For example, a couple of years ago, we gave a half a billion dollars of emergency food aid to Ethiopia. That was very noble and humanitarian, and vital at the moment. But we'd do a lot better if we were investing in Ethiopia's food productivity, rather than simply responding to disasters...."

[Ed note: of course, the same principle applies to tsunami relief]

"It really is pennies on the hundred dollars, 20 or 30 cents on the hundreds dollars - absolutely a manageable sum for results that would provide a vast boost to our security, help to stabilize a very unstable part of the world, and, of course, do what Americans first and foremost would like to do, which is to save lives and help people stand on their own feet."

27 January 2005

Mozart was born this day in 1756. By his own report, he consciously composed no music, but simply wrote down what he heard in his head: "Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, I hear them all at once. What a delight this is! All this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing, lively dream." Yet he would have us believe that "Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."


26 January 2005

"Many, if not all, discoveries are accidents that are noticed and then made meaningful by the discoverer." 
- Jay Raymond

A student of art and of life, Jay Raymond is the last man standing in the people's movement to keep the Barnes Art Collection at its original location in Dr Barnes's Victorian home.

25 January 2005

"I confess that there is nothing to teach: no religion, no science, no body of information which will lead your mind back to the Tao. Today I speak in this fashion, tomorrow in another, but always the Integral Way is beyond words and beyond mind. Simply be aware of the oneness of things."

- Lao Tzu, Hua Hu Ching,
tr. Brian B. Walker

24 January 2005

In an era when most political programs address only issues of short-term survival, the UN Millennium Project stands out as visionary.  This bold document, detailed, convincing and heavily footnoted, attacks head-on the resignation that says "it has always been thus", and dares to say, "things can be different".

Millennium goals include ending hunger and halving world poverty, in conjunction with environmental goals of conservation and curbing fertility.

For far less than rich nations now spend on their defense budgets, programs addressing poverty in the third world can provide a measure of real security, while affirming the universality of human empathy.

"In the next decade, more than 500 million people could escape from poverty and tens of millions could avoid certain death if the United States, Japan and other rich countries kept their promises to vastly increase development aid to the world's poorest countries".  For the developed world, the cost would be about half of 1% of our GDP.