Star Trek Cell Phones

Attention Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola: why have you not taken a simple flip-phone cell design and embellished it just a wee bit to make it into a faux Star Trek ™ communicator?

Doesn’t need the touch-screen, or even a lot of 4G features. Even if it just worked as a cell phone, people would buy them just for the coillectors’ value. Done well, we’d all just like using them because they’d be small and easy to carry, but have a cool factor beyond description.

It’s worth licensing. Even if you never get around to making the bluetooth version chest communicator badge – which is an automatic up-sell.

And no, I wouldn’t consider the Star Trek Communicator iPhone app a substitute for this physical item.


A little Klout produces a bunch of Tea (samples)

Klout is a Twitter sub-system designed to gather statistics about “reach” or basically how big of a network does your individual tweets, Facebook comments, and Google+ streams add up to, if combined.

Interestingly enough, a couple of days ago I received a puffy envelope in the mail

10-packs of Lipton Instant Tea & Honey, and a Notecard from Klout

with the following contents: 10-packs of Lipton Instant Tea & Honey (Mango Pineapple flavored) with coupons and a little notecard that reads:

Dear Influencer –

A little bird told me you’ve got a ton of Klout! Your audience trusts you to create great content, and you tell it like it is. Your influence has earned you this Klout Perk! Enjoy and let us know if you have any feedback.


Joe Fernandez, Founder & CEO and the Klout team

At 5 calories per 8 ozs. mixed beverage, it’s light, but a lot sweeter than I care for

Yamaha A-series Acoustic Guitar from Facebook Contest 2011

– so I use them at 1/3 concentration (1 packet per 24 ozs. water). But the ingredients are natural-ish, and every so often being on the Internet leads to quite surprising rewards (e.g. I won an A-series Yamaha acoustic guitar on a Facebook contest last year, which was a first for me.)

IOUG Podcast 23-MAY-2012 – For the week

IOUG Podcast 23-MAY-2012 – For the week of May 23rd, 2012: Oracle Releases New Desktop Virtualization Portfolio Upda…

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Dharma/Karma)

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast
Dealing with Dharma and Causes of Karma
The Perpetual Cycle of Karma
Please Do Not Feed the Bears

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Dharma/Karma)


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Dharma, simply put, is Nature’s law.  The way things are meant to be in Nature. The way water flows to its lowest point, choosing the path of least resistance, and gradually dissolves that which impedes its progress.

Describing what Karma is would be perhaps like a sack you carry with you through life. Though unlike a regular sack that can only get heavier, a Karma sack can become lighter than air, or like a balloon, lift you up when filled with more positive (light or floating) things than negative (heavy) things.  How do you end up carrying things around in your Karma sack? By performing actions that break Nature’s law (the Dharma concept we described earlier) you increase the heavy things.  By performing actions that reinforce Nature’s law, you increase the positive light things, and can even get rid of some of the negative heavy things you accumulated earlier.

So let’s say, for example, that the Natural state of two people is simple co-existence – that is, they really don’t affect one another, and each person lives independently. An example of negative karma would be doing something towards that person that resulted in them having a negative experience, like lying, cheating or stealing from them.  A positive karma element might be helping the other person, teaching the other person, or giving something to them.

A religious element to Buddhism would be the concept of reincarnation, or living with the consequences of what you have done before in past lives, and taking into consideration that your daily actions impact the lives of your future self.  But even further than that, Buddhism also takes into consideration all spiritual influences, positive and negative, of every person you have affected for ten generations before the here-and-now.  For practical purposes, this prevents someone from simply rationalizing, “Okay, I’m being really bad in this life. But so what, It’s mine to live? I one day die, and no one else suffers.” Buddhism teaches that compassion and suffering (or positive and negative karma) is a spiritual inventory that is continuously inherited from generation to generation. To put it really simply – if your life today is really horrible, it’s probably not just your own current actions that led to it being negative. You might be experiencing the result of ten generations of similarly negative lifetimes that have passed the burden on to you. Or looking at this in a strictly psychological manner, the selective experiences of your own ancestors, through parenting practices and behavioral modification, have resulted in how you tend to react to things.

So what do you do with this sack full of negatives? You start performing positive karma actions and help balance all the negatives that you’re carrying. This process is what we refer to as “cutting karma” or more accurately “cutting negative karma.” You might consider the beginning steps being similar to filing your taxes – you need to embrace and accept your own personal liabilities as well as assets. Being able to look into a mirror and accept what you see is an important breakthrough. Instead of immediately becoming critical and determining what you want to change (which becomes ego-centric or self-centered) accept what you see and see if you can have gratitude for what you have been given as a person.

Another critical step towards changing karma is to also respect others – do not let your own negative elements affect other people.  While this is a relatively complex idea in concept, I found one of my first beginning questions about buddhist practice to be quite enlightening.

I asked, “What do buddhists do with a homeless person asking for money?” I already knew the principle of reducing your attachments to material things, like money. So it seemed sort of logical that you might just give it away to a needy person. Instead I was challenged with a different perspective: the homeless person has a heavy burden of negative karma. You add to that negative burden by reinforcing the person’s behavior, like pouring gasoline to put out a fire. Does the giving of money to that person lessen your guilty feeling about not doing something for them? (showing another self-centered action) Remember, you cannot really change anything or anybody else other than yourself. The same is true of everyone else. They must want to change themselves and also take steps to make the changes happen.  It’s also important that helping a person does not necessarily mean making things easier for that person.  Asking for a hand-out doesn’t signify the person wants to change what they’re doing, but asking for a job, or for some advice just might get them started on a new path.  These days, when encountering someone asking for money, I’ll usually suggest they do something for someone that might result in a payment, like offering to play cards, or fortune telling, or simply being a good listener, rather than relying upon someone’s guilt..

I’m reminded of a simple instruction made by park rangers to tourists in Yellowstone National Park – Please do not feed the bears.  Why? Is it because we would make the bears fat? Actually it’s because it creates unnatural expectations. The first time a previously-fed bear comes upon a tourist unwilling to feed them, it will get angry and frustrated, and result in dangerous and unpredictable outcomes.  Did you think the bear was unable or unwilling to forage for its own food? Bears that figure out that it’s easier to open up a trash can, or break into a garage for its food, instead of finding and catching prey become dependent on that source. Humans are not that far from the bears in that respect.

So, you have to be very aware of your actions, especially related to how this balance of Karma works. Think carefully about how your actions can unexpectedly generate negative Karma for another person or thing. To serve others and your own self (and ancestors), one of the basic tenements of good behavior, we must also be aware of the appropriate forms that service can take without creating more negative burden in the process.

Detour Improv Theme Song

Detour Improv Comedy Show Theme 2012

Because…when you’re sitting in the audience waiting for a show to begin, you like a little jingle to make your merry mind start hummin’!

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Bridging Beliefs)

Blending Buddhism with other Beliefs and Religions

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast


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Within our sangha (or buddhist community) there are to be found Christian Buddhists, and Catholic Buddhists, Jewish Buddhists and many other forms of post-Common Era dual-belief system alignments, sometimes even Agnostic and perhaps Atheistic Buddhists. So what’s the explanation for this? Or how do these belief systems co-exist?

Broadly speaking, and vastly simplified here for the purposes of discussion, most belief systems have historical development roots in three specific eras: Before Common-Era, Common-Era and Post Common-Era.  Buddhism and many others were organized in the Before Common-Era period, preceding the development of the Roman Empire by about 400 years, where civilization in general marked a change towards political rule over monarchies. During these monarchies, there would have been people who were questioning why things were the way they were, much as we continue to do today.  A few among those people chose to write down their thoughts on why the order of things and life existed, and what part does an individual play among the continually turning wheels of life as it marched on incessantly.

Some religions are centric towards a deity figure, and specific in their traditions, symbolism, and rituals towards respecting that deity.  Buddhism, similar to Confucianism following the teachings of Confucius, and Taoism regarding the teachings of Lao Tzi and Zhuangzi, follows the teachings of Shakyamuni (also known as Gautama and Siddhartha.)  These were people, not deities, and although eventually imbued with character descriptions matching how one of the purest form should be, they were and continue to be acknowledged and respected as having started out the same way you or I did – they were born, grew up and old, and eventually life passed away.  A philosophy is borne from people asking themselves, why do we live? How can we be happy? What makes us sad? And proposed answers become the fundamentals of that philosophy.  Thus, a philosophy is sort of a guidebook to how you can live your life following certain principles and having a particular positive outcome (which in Buddhism’s case is Nirvana, or a place of never-ending happiness, contentment with one’s self and others, and a sense of purity.)

As long as the way in which you exercise these principles does not conflict with your own spiritual beliefs, there shouldn’t be a conflict between them.  For example, we have laws that make it illegal and punishable as a crime to kill another person. We can abide by that law, which may not part of our spiritual belief system, and still remain true to our own beliefs. Since laws and regulations are concerned with what you cannot and should not do, philosophies provide the guidance of the complimentary – what you can and should do as a person among society. Consider a philosophy as a reinforcement to what your belief system prescribes already, in a way that can be exercised and practiced each and every day, with everyone around you, whether friend, family or even strangers and enemies.

For example, from the Bible, Matthew Chapter 7 Verse 12, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Shinnyo-en Buddhism expresses the practice principle as, “Place yourself into the other person’s shoes.”  This applies to all actions, words and opinions that affect another person. Shakyamuni came from a wealthy family that was blind to the poverty surrounding them in their own community. That’s why he felt it was important to attempt to see what the other person sees, and let that shape your actions.

Some beliefs place an emphasis on voluntary service, that is not to seek compensation for efforts provided. Buddhism emphasizes the minimization of your own ego in your actions, so you would not be performing the voluntary service with expectations of recognition for the service by others, nor being self-serving in your motivation for why you are volunteering.  At the same time, there is acceptance for those unable or unwilling to volunteer their services, and simple hope that by providing an example of how to improve the world by making efforts, without concern or motivation for recognition, everyone can benefit and live in a nicer world.

Buddhism is basically a philosophy which encompasses a variety of traditions, practices and beliefs about how to make this world into an ultimately better place for everyone.  Buddhism strives to create harmony amid diversity – to respect and appreciate differences in others, and accept that as the way things are in Nature. These actions become a way of living, and whether that is defined as a religion or philosophy is simply a matter of definitions.

IOUG Podcast 04-MAY-2012 – For the week

IOUG Podcast 04-MAY-2012 – For the week of May 4th, 2012: IT Security begins with Human Capital Management Learning …

Recording Audio Podcasts (HowTo)

Besides the basic requirements to create some kind of recorded audio file (WAV/MP3), you’ll need a place on the web to share the file. It would have to be preferrably a regular public filesharing point because you don’t want search engines to miss your uploads because authentication (login) is required to access the file (the search engines can read the MP3 Tag information and add it to the search keywords to find your podcast).

WordPress provides this as an add-on annual fee for the extra storage required – video requires one additional fee, as well.  If you’re self-hosting a web site or your blog, you can probably already just store the podcasts in your existing “Media” Library folder.

For audio quality, I use a number of different recording techniques depending on what location I happen to be during production. The highest sonic quality used for recording the intro and outro mix segments of my podcasts come from a high-quality large diaphrame condenser microphone (Audio-Technica AT4050) at close range with a pop screen.

Here’s an example of that microphone’s recording quality:

2012-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

For remote recording in quiet surroundings, I have been using a binaural microphone set from Sound Professionals MS-TFB-2 – these intra-ear microphones are good to use in situations where you want to capture exactly what your own ears are hearing (and will record your voice through your own bone structure, as well).

A sample of this recording technique, fed into a EDIROL R-09HR digital recorder with built-in condenser power (not phantom power – it’s a smaller voltage required by ultra-mini condensers) sounds like this – note a slightly more hollow sound:

2012-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Most recently, I’ve been experimenting with an Andrea Electronics SB-205B (Ear bud with stereo “beam” microphones).  When combined with the free downloadable software, they do a pretty good job of rejecting ambient noise, though there is still a less full sound to the vocal timbre even when using low-power settings for the “beam” control and noise reduction activated (without the noise reduction, they will pick up all your ambient noise quite well).

IOUG Podcast 04-MAY-2012

Recording and actual post-production is using open-source Audacity, which has easy-to-use plugins for Noise Reduction, a reasonable Compressor (equalizes volume and peaks), and a Normalizer (for setting the overall peak volumes to standard zero decibel (0db) levels).  Occassionally, I use the Echo filter to add ambience to a segment. Audacity can produce the final MP3 with all of the text tag fields completed, but you’ll need an MP3 tag editor to add the associated graphic icon that is used by many mobile Podcast players and iTunes. Otherwise , you’ll always see a generic Avatar icon next to your podcasts. Also, don’t forget to upload this to the same Media Library section of your blog, and set it as the Featured Image of your podcast blog posting. This step will assist in maintaining a consistent image for search engines and iTunes album art purposes.

Finally, I employ Google’s to provide a multi-source compatible RSS feed (and optimize Search Engine results) for the resulting WordPress feed (which is simply a filtered feed for the Category “Shinnyo Podcasts.”) That allows easier and formatted submission to publication sites like iTunes, and maintains a consistent subscription presence for all supportable podcast reading methods (Google Reader, Microsoft Live, browser-based RSS readers, etc.)

For this site, I’m using the native WordPress plugin support for Audio files – you just insert a plain string into your post, and it produces a small Java player instead of the string – “<left bracket> audio http://pathname/filename.mp3 <rt bracket>” I include a direct-link to the MP3 file as well, which allows search engines to read the tags.

[Addendum 23-May-2012] Noting ADA-compliance would be useful, I have added the text transcripts of my audio podcasts to the blog posts. Thanks to for pointing out the benefits.

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

  • Enlightenment is a Universal Truth
  • Redefining Wants versus Needs

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Subscribe to Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

One of the key ideas in the Nirvana Sutra, the principal sutra of Shinnyo-en, is that all living beings possess buddha nature. This means that all sentient beings are naturally endowed with the qualities of a buddha; all people possess the potential to become spiritually “awake” or enlightened. The sutras teach that this universal potential to attain buddhahood lies buried deep in the heart and mind of each individual. Forgetting about this inner treasure can result in personal unease, discontent, and dissatisfaction with life, as well as suffering or pain for oneself and others. Our naturally awakened nature can be overshadowed by ignorance, which leads to greed, anger, and other negative emotions that can result in wrongful deeds or actions (also known as negative karma) that cause oneself or others to suffer.

In Chapter 12 of the Nirvana Sutra, there’s a little story about how this works:
There was once a poor woman who lived in a continual state of struggle and poverty, unaware that gold was hidden in her house. One day a visitor happened by, told her exactly where the gold was, and dug it up. Although at first the woman found it impossible to believe the visitor, when she saw the gold she was overjoyed and felt deeply grateful.

Just as the woman in the story was completely unaware of the treasure buried inside her own house, many people do not realize that they have a buddha nature, or the potential for enlightenment, within themselves.  We should each strive to make our inner goodness apparent. This becomes possible by learning to act with kindness and wisdom and letting go of anger, jealousy, and other attachments—the principal causes of human suffering.

If you think about it, many times you feel unhappy when you can’t get what you think you want.  But what if you changed what it is that you want?  Maybe you already have, what you really want, and everything else is simple envy. A thoughtful concept related to anger was once said as, “offense is not offered, but yours to take.” That is, your perception as to whether something is good, bad or otherwise, is yours to control and change. By modifying your perceptions and judgements, you change the way you perceive the world. It’s a very powerful thing you have, isn’t it? It’s the ability to change yourself that results in change around you.

Meditation on such points and simple, consistent practice allows one to gradually recognize and experience the radiant buddha nature within ourselves and others. Forgiving both yourself and others for mistakes and learning to judge less and observe more. Through mutual and equal respect for for the innate goodness in each person, we can begin to realize the harmony amid diversity that creates a better world for all of us.

There are thousands of examples of people around us defying the impossible through persistence and courage. Even the Rolling Stones observed over 40 years ago, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need “