Stanford campus photo from above

2/28/2003

New pictures of our house in Durham, NC have been uploaded. Taken using my new camera.
Well, just a quick general update. I've decided that I'm not headed to grad school anytime soon. I had been feeling stressed and low energy in general as I had been worrying about my future, politics, war etc. So I went and saw an Ayurvedic doctor who I knew from my undergraduate studies. She has helped me get my diet and everything back on track, so I'm feeling healthier in general now. Basic plan is to teach at TIP at Duke with Erin this summer, finish up working at Duke research labs at the end of the year and then take a hiatus from the working world for a while and do some Vipassana retreats and probably just live at one of the meditation centers in California for a while, few months, however long it takes until I'm ready to leave. I want to get back into meditating again and just immerse myself in introspection and Eastern wisdom for a while before making any more major life committments (like grad school or a career).

2/25/2003

The Data Psychologist
In other news, Melnicki sent me some great new music which I am slowly going through. It's great and a bit overwhelming to get a bunch of new music all at once! Thanks!
So should I do it?



-----Original Message-----
From: fengym [mailto:fengym@ht.rol.cn.net]
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2003 8:28 AM
To: Charles Eesley
Subject: Re: Inquiry


Dear Mr. Eesley,

Thank you for your reply and your picture. That is really a good picture you sent me.

I can understand perfectly well that you have other options under consideration. But please hear my case.

First of all, if you have never visited China, a year in the capital city of China will be a great learning experience. The city, and for that matter, the country is undergoing immense changes during the past decades and I am sure you will find it worthwhile to spend one year before you start your career. Who knows, you might even find a good career opportunity in China! This year, we have a young Chinese American under our employment. She graduated from university last year and decided to spend one year in her childhood home before she goes back to graduate school this fall. She is enjoying her life here. If you like, probably I can ask her if she would like to share her experience with you.

Secondly, the University of International Relations is a small school. You will find a small and compact campus, filled with friendly students and staff ready to make you feel really at home. Ths school is also located 500 meters from the Summer Palace, the best preserved imperial garden in China and one of the World's Heritage Sites. You can have a nice view of the Palace from our new classroom building! A visit to this palace, and many other places of interest around the city will be an enlightening experience.

Third, you will find the students intelligent and eager to learn. We enroll brilliant students from all parts of China to learn English with us. Although some of them may have problems in the beginning, most of them work hard and make good progress under the direction and help of the teachers. I believe you will also find the experience of helping Chinese students learn English a worthwhile cause. As a young man yourself, I am confident that you will also be able to learn something from communicating with the future of China.

I hope this message may help you decide. If you have any questions concerning our school and the potential job, please feel free to ask.

Yours sincerely,

Feng Youmin.

2/11/2003

Well, at least now we know how it all ends . . . and to think, atoms are only a small percentage, crazy.

Universe to expand for ever


This will mean that eventually all matter in the Universe will be scattered ever more thinly and, as the stars go out and the galaxies fade, all will become an ever-cooling thin gas.

At least technology is doing something useful.

2/08/2003

This is one of the most fascinating things I've come across on the web in a while (at least in the past few weeks). The Karuna Group

2/07/2003

Healing with Whole Foods is such an excellent book on nutrition from a holistic perspective, I just had to mention it as I've picked it up and been reading it some more tonight.

2/06/2003

I came across a wonderful quote today. It was sent by a Chinese grad student here out to an email list I'm on for a group called "Science, Society, and Self" (or 3S). I've been fascinated with the group of mostly Chinese students from various grad school backgrounds from the sciences to literature to philosophy meeting on different topics each week. This is part of why I love being at this school, these kinds of things just spring up here. They were discussing conceptions of the self and the immune system and the language of modern biotechnology. At the end in a response to thinking too deeply into it, one guy wrote this at the bottom of his response. I obviously ate it up, especially the last line.

"And I disagree with Lili's suggestion that we not worry too much.
Instead, I would rather be prepared to leave no stone unturned --
including the ones I stand on. For otherwise, when I hear you call "bowl"
what is a cup for me, I may find you ridiculous; when you insist, I may
find you dogmatic; when you explain, I may find you unintelligible; when
you give up, turn around and leave, I may read incommensurability written
on your back.

Be prepared to leave no stone unturned but live happily."

2/04/2003

This article from NYTimes.com
Finding Happiness: Cajole Your Brain to Lean to the Left
February 4, 2003
By DANIEL GOLEMAN

All too many years ago, while I was still a psychology
graduate student, I ran an experiment to assess how well
meditation might work as an antidote to stress. My
professors were skeptical, my measures were weak, and my
subjects were mainly college sophomores. Not surprisingly,
my results were inconclusive.

But today I feel vindicated.

To be sure, over the years
there have been scores of studies that have looked at
meditation, some suggesting its powers to alleviate the
adverse effects of stress. But only last month did what I
see as a definitive study confirm my once-shaky hypothesis,
by revealing the brain mechanism that may account for
meditation's singular ability to soothe.

The data has emerged as one of many experimental fruits of
an unlikely research collaboration: the Dalai Lama, the
Tibetan religious and political leader in exile, and some
of top psychologists and neuroscientists from the United
States. The scientists met with the Dalai Lama for five
days in Dharamsala, India, in March 2000, to discuss how
people might better control their destructive emotions.

One of my personal heroes in this rapprochement between
modern science and ancient wisdom is Dr. Richard Davidson,
director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at
the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Davidson, in recent
research using functional M.R.I. and advanced EEG analysis,
has identified an index for the brain's set point for
moods.

The functional M.R.I. images reveal that when people are
emotionally distressed - anxious, angry, depressed - the
most active sites in the brain are circuitry converging on
the amygdala, part of the brain's emotional centers, and
the right prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for
the hypervigilance typical of people under stress.

By contrast, when people are in positive moods - upbeat,
enthusiastic and energized - those sites are quiet, with
the heightened activity in the left prefrontal cortex.

Indeed, Dr. Davidson has discovered what he believes is a
quick way to index a person's typical mood range, by
reading the baseline levels of activity in these right and
left prefrontal areas. That ratio predicts daily moods with
surprising accuracy. The more the ratio tilts to the right,
the more unhappy or distressed a person tends to be, while
the more activity to the left, the more happy and
enthusiastic.

By taking readings on hundreds of people, Dr. Davidson has
established a bell curve distribution, with most people in
the middle, having a mix of good and bad moods. Those
relatively few people who are farthest to the right are
most likely to have a clinical depression or anxiety
disorder over the course of their lives. For those lucky
few farthest to the left, troubling moods are rare and
recovery from them is rapid.

This may explain other kinds of data suggesting a
biologically determined set point for our emotional range.
One finding, for instance, shows that both for people lucky
enough to win a lottery and those unlucky souls who become
paraplegic from an accident, by a year or so after the
events their daily moods are about the same as before the
momentous occurrences, indicating that the emotional set
point changes little, if at all.

By chance, Dr. Davidson had the opportunity to test the
left-right ratio on a senior Tibetan lama, who turned out
to have the most extreme value to the left of the 175
people measured to that point.

Dr. Davidson reported that remarkable finding during the
meeting between the Dalai Lama and the scientists in India.
But the finding, while intriguing, raised more questions
than it answered.

Was it just a quirk, or a trait common among those who
become monks? Or was there something about the training of
lamas - the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of a priest or
spiritual teacher - that might nudge a set point into the
range for perpetual happiness? And if so, the Dalai Lama
wondered, can it be taken out of the religious context to
be shared for the benefit of all?

A tentative answer to that last question has come from a
study that Dr. Davidson did in collaboration with Dr. Jon
Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress
Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical
School in Worcester.

That clinic teaches mindfulness to patients with chronic
diseases of all kinds, to help them better handle their
symptoms. In an article accepted for publication in the
peer-reviewed journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Drs. Davidson
and Kabat-Zinn report the effects of training in
mindfulness meditation, a method extracted from its
Buddhist origins and now widely taught to patients in
hospitals and clinics throughout the United States and many
other countries.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn taught mindfulness to workers in a
high-pressure biotech business for roughly three hours a
week over two months. A comparison group of volunteers from
the company received the training later, though they, like
the participants, were tested before and after training by
Dr. Davidson and his colleagues.

The results bode well for beginners, who will never put in
the training time routine for lamas. Before the mindfulness
training, the workers were on average tipped toward the
right in the ratio for the emotional set point. At the same
time, they complained of feeling highly stressed. After the
training, however, on average their emotions ratio shifted
leftward, toward the positive zone. Simultaneously, their
moods improved; they reported feeling engaged again in
their work, more energized and less anxious.

In short, the results suggest that the emotion set point
can shift, given the proper training. In mindfulness,
people learn to monitor their moods and thoughts and drop
those that might spin them toward distress. Dr. Davidson
hypothesizes that it may strengthen an array of neurons in
the left prefrontal cortex that inhibits the messages from
the amygdala that drive disturbing emotions.

Another benefit for the workers, Dr. Davidson reported, was
that mindfulness seemed to improve the robustness of their
immune systems, as gauged by the amount of flu antibodies
in their blood after receiving a flu shot.

According to Dr. Davidson, other studies suggest that if
people in two experimental groups are exposed to the flu
virus, those who have learned the mindfulness technique
will experience less severe symptoms. The greater the
leftward shift in the emotional set point, the larger the
increase in the immune measure.

The mindfulness training focuses on learning to monitor the
continuing sensations and thoughts more closely, both in
sitting meditation and in activities like yoga exercises.

Now, with the Dalai Lama's blessing, a trickle of highly
trained lamas have come to be studied. All of them have
spent at least three years in solitary meditative retreat.
That amount of practice puts them in a range found among
masters of other domains, like Olympic divers and concert
violinists.

What difference such intense mind training may make for
human abilities has been suggested by preliminary findings
from other laboratories. Some of the more tantalizing data
come from the work of another scientist, Dr. Paul Ekman,
director of the Human Interaction Laboratory at the
University of California at San Francisco, which studies
the facial expression of emotions. Dr. Ekman also
participated in the five days of dialogue with the Dalai
Lama.

Dr. Ekman has developed a measure of how well a person can
read another's moods as telegraphed in rapid, slight
changes in facial muscles.

As Dr. Ekman describes in "Emotions Revealed," to be
published by Times Books in April, these microexpressions -
ultrarapid facial actions, some lasting as little as
one-twentieth of a second - lay bare our most naked
feelings. We are not aware we are making them; they cross
our faces spontaneously and involuntarily, and so reveal
for those who can read them our emotion of the moment,
utterly uncensored.

Perhaps luckily, there is a catch: almost no one can read
these moments. Though Dr. Ekman's book explains how people
can learn to detect these expressions in just hours with
proper training, his testing shows that most people -
including judges, the police and psychotherapists - are
ordinarily no better at reading microexpressions than
someone making random guesses.

Yet when Dr. Ekman brought into the laboratory two Tibetan
practitioners, one scored perfectly on reading three of six
emotions tested for, and the other scored perfectly on
four. And an American teacher of Buddhist meditation got a
perfect score on all six, considered quite rare. Normally,
a random guess will produce one correct answer in six.

Such findings, along with urgings from the Dalai Lama,
inspired Dr. Ekman to design a program called "Cultivating
Emotional Balance," which combines methods extracted from
Buddhism, like mindfulness, with synergistic training from
modern psychology, like reading microexpressions, and seeks
to help people better manage their emotions and
relationships.

A pilot of the project began last month with elementary
school teachers in the San Francisco Bay area, under the
direction of Dr. Margaret Kemeny, a professor of behavioral
medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.
She hopes to replicate Dr. Davidson's immune system
findings on mindfulness, as well as adding other measures
of emotional and social skill, in a controlled trial with
120 nurses and teachers.

Finally, the scientific momentum of these initial forays
has intrigued other investigators. Under the auspices of
the Mind and Life Institute, which organizes the series of
continuing meetings between the Dalai Lama and scientists,
there will be a round at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology on Sept. 13 and 14. This time the Dalai Lama
will meet with an expanded group of researchers to discuss
further research possibilities.

Though open to the public, half the seats will be reserved
for graduate students and academic researchers. (More
information is at www.InvestigatingTheMind.org.)

As for me, I am taking all this to heart. An on-again,
off-again meditator since my college days, I have become
decidedly on again. Next month, my wife and I are heading
to a warm spot for two or three weeks of meditation
retreat. I may never catch up with that sublime lama, but I
will enjoy trying.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/04/health/psychology/04ESSA.html?ex=10453
78061&ei=1&en=dac19be2e33d3621

2/03/2003

I thought this was good. Recent editorial in the Duke student newspaper.

Column: So long as men can breathe...

Nick Christie (Removing the Glossy Sheen)
February 03, 2003

She is beautiful.

The woman sitting across from me is stunning. The light reflects off her skin in a way that simply pulls your gaze to her face. Though you love to see her smile, and to see the glow of her cheeks, your eyes are easily distracted.

That's because her eyes are looking into yours, and then you're lost. They are intelligent, inquisitive and playful. Whether you're in a crowed restaurant or an empty parking lot... it doesn't matter. When you're lucky enough to look into them, your peripheral vision is pretty much nonexistent.

If you bring yourself to look away for an instant and take a step back, her lean silhouette stands out against whatever background. You find yourself way too envious of her suede jacket. Sure, it's an unfeeling, unthinking, inanimate object... but it's lucky enough to be draped over her neck and shoulders. Not a bad life.

She is gentle.

Words like malice and cruelty don't even exist in her vocabulary. She sees the world in a compassionate light and knows no other. She speaks of her passion to be productive not because she feels guiltily altruistic, but because she'll genuinely enjoy helping others. Simple as that.

Occasionally she'll get a little flustered, frustrated at one of the world's many problems. It's a beautiful thing. Her head cocks just a touch to one side, and she'll blink in the most adorable, seductive of ways. She'll look back, now confident of what she's trying to articulate, and you just have to smile.

"What?" she asks.

"Nothing. Sorry, please keep going," you say with a slight shake of your head. She continues making her point, but as much as you want to listen to her words with rapt attention... well, you just can't stop smiling.

This column is about love, or actually the pursuit thereof. A lot of people at Duke talk about not having time for a boyfriend or girlfriend, that they have too many things going on or a career to think about. Love will have to wait.

I think my fellow Duke students are idiots. There isn't anything better or greater than love, than having someone to share life with.

"All days are nights to see till I see thee," Shakespeare wrote in his 43rd sonnet. "And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me."

What I want most in life is to be able to say those words to someone and truly mean them.

Luckily for me, the woman described above really does exist. She is not a figment of my imagination or a literary creation. She is, I think, the most special woman I've met in last six months, maybe even in a full year. That's a strong statement, I know, but I think it's true.

I've been in love twice in my life, although it's been awhile (the last time was sophomore year). The cool thing about having been in love is that you remember these weird fragments, so that when someone else comes along with the potential to be truly amazing, you get little flashbacks. When you find yourself engaged in a glance, a smile or an intense conversation, you have these moments where you pause.

It's not deja vu. No two women are alike, and so your feelings for everyone you meet, particularly anyone unique and special, are not easily comparable. But, there is this kind of recognition. You feel that, and your senses perk up.

I felt that Thursday night. I felt it hard.

The night had come to an end. We sit looking at each other. Honestly, although I should be nervous, I'm not. The feeling is actually more like... bemusement. I want to see what happens next because it's sure to be interesting.

She leans over and plants this awkward kiss on my cheek. She had moved toward the windshield, so her lips just kind of glance off my face. I get presented a broadside view of her cheek in return, which I'm totally unprepared for. I've been fantasizing all night for her lips or her neck. Anything else is a letdown.

I get the point.

"So, you'd prefer to keep this platonic," I say earnestly, hoping to keep all disappointment hidden until I get out of the car.

She nods.

Always direct, I go a step further. "Can I have aspirations?" The words mean nothing, though. It's my eyes. The look is one of the most delicate you can give. You aren't pleading, and you're not really asking either. What you're doing is making a declaration: I like you... a lot. You're not some infatuation. You are someone I want to pursue with all the force and concentration I can muster.

She pauses.

"Well, I'm actually kind of dating two guys right now, as legitimately as you can."

Okay, I'll admit that was a little surprising. But I've heard stranger things, and besides, I'm focused and confident.

I don't even miss a beat. I run my fingers through her hair, slightly grazing her head. "Well, then you don't need a third... have an awesome night."

In my room, I'm choosing my music carefully--the right combination of passion and sadness, but without that moping quality. I feel surprisingly great.

Yes, I'm really sad. After all, this beautiful human being isn't going to become my girlfriend anytime soon and probably not ever. That sucks. But, I feel lucky. I had spent a magical evening with an extraordinary woman, and I had said everything I wanted to say just about exactly how I wanted to say it.

There are no regrets.

Actually, there is one more reason why I feel lucky. A question hits me as I close my eyes and lean back on my couch, absorbing Barber's Adagio for Strings as its violins fill my room.

Who would I rather be right now? One of those two guys with whom she'll be kissing and caressing this weekend or me, alone in my room?

Easy choice.

I could never share her. I could never share anyone so special.

Nick Christie is a Trinity senior and associate sports editor for The Chronicle.
After having viewed his record collection page earlier, I finally got around to exploring some of the rest of Matt Melnicki's website.

For any of you who don't know, Matt and Mike are going to be moving to San Fran in March, and as they are two of my very favorite people on the planet, it's killing me that I can't easily pick up and move there with them as I can think of nothing better than exploring all that the Bay area has to offer with these guys!

But I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I just might get into grad school in that area and be in the area after all. It's something of a long shot, but who knows. We'll see how it goes, wish me luck!
Came across a great quote in a book called The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
- Nelson Mandela

2/01/2003

What is this?? Ok, I'm sorry, I grieve for those astronauts, I feel sorry for their families. But did Bush, our so-called president really just quote Isaiah, a character from the Bible in this speech? This thing sounds way too much like a sermon. Sort of like the State of the Union did at the end the other night. This is ridiculous!