I’m not really interested in any big way in juggling, but it’s always been one of those “I wish I could…” things. I’ve tried juggling a bit and even looked at the Klutz juggling book but it never really clicked for me.

But a friend sent me this amazing video of comedian Chris Bliss doing a juggling routine in time to the music of the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers.”

And then I passed it on and a friend sent a link to juggler Ben Jennings: check out his videos.

It’s funny how memes come your way, so I figured I’d pass it on, and since juggling is one of those things I’d long ago written off as something I can’t do, I’ll add it to the list of things I will try to learn, right after I’m a bit more proficient in French ๐Ÿ˜‰

Reminds me of one of my favorite fortune cookies: “As soon as you feel you’re too old to do something, do it.”


Programming the Universe

Apropos of my Dance of the Universe post, I saw this article in Wired Magazine about a forthcoming book called “Programming the Universe.”

Life, the Universe, and Everything
Seth Lloyd is the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with. Between gulps, the MIT prof will impart the details of how the universe really works. And if you order another, he’ll give you a summary of one of the most mind-boggling ideas emerging in science today. His new book, Programming the Universe, is a plainspoken tale of how the universe is – tell me if you’ve heard this before – one very large quantum computer. – Kevin Kelly

WIRED: I hear you’re a quantum computer repair guy.
LLOYD: Yes, I am a quantum mechanic! Those darn quantum computers break all the time.

You’ve jumped from working on quantum computers to saying, oh, by the way, the universe is a gigantic quantum computer.
When you zap things with light to build quantum computers, you’re hacking existing systems. You’re hijacking the computation that’s already happening in the universe, just like a hacker takes over someone else’s computer.

What is the universe computing when we are not hijacking it for our own purposes?
It computes itself. It computes the flow of orange juice as you drink it, or the position of each atom in your cells.

Um, how many times have you seen The Matrix?
Sadly, only once. In The Matrix, what you see is fake – a simulation of bits – which is only a facade of what is real beneath it. But our universe is a simulation so exact that it is indistinguishable from the real thing. Our universe is one big honking quantum mech anical computer.

When did you first start having these visions?
It’s not a new idea, or my idea. The notion that the universe is a computer is as old as Isaac Asimov’s story The Last Question in the ’50s and work by computer scientists Ed Fredkin and Konrad Zuse in the ’60s.

How do you explain Programming to your kids?
I tell them that it says everything in the universe is made of bits. Not chunks of stuff, but chunks of information – ones and zeros.

Do they believe you?
My daughter Zoey says, “No, Daddy, everything is made of atoms, except for light.” So I tell her, “Yes, Zoey, but those atoms are also information. You can think of atoms as carrying bits of information, or you can think of bits of information as carrying atoms. You can’t separate the two.”

I’ve just put on your magic glasses, and looking around I see that, oh my gosh, everything is computing. Is this just fashionable?
Computers are our favorite metaphor at the moment, so maybe we see everything as com puters. But this view is not that facile. Statistical mechanics, which underlies all chemistry, grew out of the realization that the world is information. The mathematical definition of a bit was first postulated not during the 1930s and ’40s when Claude Shannon and Norbert Weiner started information theory but by James Clerk Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann during their 19th- century explorations of the nature of the atom. They were working on thermo dynamics, but they discovered that the world was made of information.

Would it be fair to say the universe is a mind?
You could use that metaphor. And if you did, then you and I and my cat are its thoughts. But the vast majority of the universe’s thinking is about humble vibrations and collisions of atoms.

You seem to be saying that the concept of the universe as one huge quantum computer is not just a metaphor – it’s real.
Absolutely. Atoms and electrons are bits. Atomic collisions are “ops.” Machine language is the laws of physics. The universe is a quantum computer.

Where is this all headed?
Some folks think life and technology and mind can keep expanding forever. Others say it can’t. We are still not clear on that.

Is there anything we can be clear on?
If I have one new message to convey in my book, it’s that the universe is a system where the very specific details and structures in it are created when quantum bits de-cohere – choose one path out of multiple possibilities – and that this process is identical to quantum computation. That is what I mean by programming the universe.

“Programming the Universe : A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos” (Seth Lloyd)

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Meditation Timer

When I started meditating it was often difficult to know when to end. I didn’t want to have to be worrying about the time. When I’d set an alarm of some sort it was often jarring and unpleasant.
So I searched for a nicer way to signal the end of the meditation and found that the sound of a bell worked nicely, and I got one on MP3.

Then I was able to set up a playlist with an appropriate amount of silence for the mediation, and then the gong would ring.

For example, I set up the following if I wanted to meditate for 20 minutes:

  1. 30 Seconds of silence
  2. gong sound
  3. 5 minutes silence
  4. 5 minutes silence
  5. 5 minutes silence
  6. 5 minutes silence
  7. gong sound

This way I got a little bit of time to get settled, then a gong to start off with. Then 20 minutes of silence, then a gong to end with. I used a file of 5 minutes of silence so that I could set up different playlists for different lengths of time.

This worked very well, and could be adapted for use on a CD, if you wanted to. That is, just burn a CD with the appropriate tracks of gong or silence depending on how long you want your mediation to be.

I have a Palm Pilot that can play MP3s and has a speaker, so I just set up playlists like above and used them to time my meditations. (Nowadays, I found a great alarm program, Palmary Clock, that has a timer that can use an MP3 as the alarm sound, so I use that with my gong sound.)

Since I’ve heard that people are looking for a tool like this, I’m posting the gong sound I use and the tracks of silence in various lengths for you to download and use as you wish. I’ve included two different gong sounds. The first has the little “tap” before the striking of the gong, which I prefer. The second is just a gong sound.

Mindfulness Bell
Meditation Gong
Silence – 1 Minute
Silence – 5 Minutes
Silence-30 Seconds

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Another Worthwhile blog: The Lazy Way to Success

I had a moment to catch up on some blog reading recently. One of the blogs that I subscribed to a while ago, but left unread was The Lazy way to Success. After catching up on his last 6 or 8 posts, I see that It’s a worthwhile read, so will read it regularly now. I don’t have time to comment on any of his individual posts right now, but I think you’ll find it a worthwhile read, so I’m putting it in my “Worthwhile Blogs” list (which you’ll find on the left side of my blog’s homepage)

Pay it Forward

I ran across a column by Tim McGuire that I thought would be worthwhile to share with you. In it, he exhorts people to make a positive difference in others’ lives without expecting anything in return. It’s the concept popularized by the book “Pay It Forward” (by Catherine Ryan Hyde), and subsequently the movie).

(Normally, I won’t recommend any books, movies, sites, or anything here without reading, seeing, or trying it myself. But in this case, the concept stands on its own from the book and movie. The Pay it Forward DVD is on my shelf, ready to be watched. I’ll report back when I do.)

I especially like the concept of giving significant, life changing, help. That is, holding the door for someone, or dropping some change in a hat isn’t enough. You really need to find a way to make a big difference in someone’s life, and not expect anything in return.

For many years at my current and previous jobs, I’ve mentored interns. Tim mentions that his son is an intern and is getting real value from his internship mentor. I can only hope that I’ve done the same for some of my interns.

And I’ll be on the lookout for more worthwhile things to do for people. Maybe you will be too…?

Take ‘you’ out of the equation and see what happens
by Tim McGuire

While Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors, I have never known him to be a philosopher. This quotation of his has been impossible to escape, since I read it on one of those quotation desk calendars: “If you’ve done well in whatever business you are in, you should spend at least half your time sending the elevator back down.”

“Sending the elevator back down” is a sensational image to illustrate our debt to young people and to people who have not achieved the success some of us have enjoyed. I hope I have sent the elevator back down with some of these columns that reflect my 30 years of mistakes and lessons in a corporate environment. When I teach at universities and in the seminars I conduct I am trying to use what I’ve experienced to help others.

One of my closest friends enjoyed a sensational newspaper career, but often it seems he relishes the successes of the people he mentored or tutored more than he appreciates his own accomplishments. When he brags on the accomplishments of “his people,” it is obvious “sending the elevator back down” is one of the great joys of his life. His wife is proud of what he’s done for other people, but I know she has raised her eyebrows more than once over his intensity in helping people get jobs, promotions and honors.

My youngest son is about to graduate from college and he’s doing his final “for credit” internship. He’s on top of the world because he has encountered a reporter and a producer at a TV station who do not regard him as a mere piece of meat passing through their halls. They not only value him, they are intent on teaching him.

Both men have counseled Jeff about his career and helped him with his audition tape even when it requires a lot of extra time. They have worked hard to make sure Jeff has a variety of assignments and learns everything he will need in the work world. Both those men know that “sending the elevator back down” is rewarding for them and for Jeff.

This whole concept is similar to the one set forth by Catherine Ryan Hyde, the author of the book “Pay it Forward,” which was later made into a movie starring Kevin Spacey. My e-mail friend, Karen Hoffman from St. Louis, whom I have written about before, is an ardent advocate of “Pay it Forward.”

She said Ryan Hyde “had an experience with her old car catching fire, late at night, in a high-crime area. Her car was saved by strangers in that area rushing toward her. (At first she wondered if they were coming to harm her) then they left before she could thank them.” Hoffman says that was the beginning of the concept behind “Pay it Forward.”

Hoffman wrote me this: “Tim, if the premise behind ‘Pay it Forward’ were embraced, in your lifetime you would choose to do three significant things to help someone else (more than a random act of kindness) and the people you helped could not do anything in return for you, but you request that they pay it forward to three people in their life …”

Hoffman wrote, “Think of the math on this…3 x 3 = 9x 3 =27 x 3 = 81 x 3 =-243 x 3 = 729 x 3 = 2187x 3 = 6561 x 3 = 19683 x 3 = 59,049 = 177, 147 x 3 = 531, 441 x 3 = 1,594, 323 x 3 = 4,782,969 x 3 = 14, 348, 907 x 3 = 43,046,721 etc.”

Both the math and the premise are staggering. In a “me-first” world the concept of truly changing other people’s lives with genuine kindness is not one that is easily embraced. Yet, think of what the concept could do just in your own workplace. An atmosphere that encouraged and accepted “sending the elevator back down” and “paying it forward” would create high-performance and spiritually rewarding workplaces, which could change American capitalism.

Dreaming can be good for the soul.

TIP FOR YOUR SEARCH: So much of the workplace is based on “If I do a good thing for her, she will repay me by doing X.” Think about how transforming it could be if you did nice things for other people with no expectation of being repaid or gaining some sort of advantage.

RESOURCE FOR YOUR SEARCH: “Pay It Forward” (Catherine Ryan Hyde)(Pocket, 2000)

“Pay It Forward” (Catherine Ryan Hyde)
“Pay It Forward” (Warner Home Video)

Update: I just ran across this very apropos quote:
“The point is not to pay back kindness but to pass it on.”
Julia Alvarez

Children’s books on Death

A few years ago, my wife and I came across two books that talked about death and dying in just the way we’d like it to be presented to our kids. We read them to them back then, but realized that we should probably keep these books on hand. The kids have aging grandparents, and we thought they’d be comforting as everyone encounters death one day. So we bought both of them and tucked them away for that eventuality.

Yesterday we pulled them off the shelf, as we learned that my wife’s cancer has become terminal.

And the books were, indeed, comforting, and gave the kids a way of thinking about death and dying.

So, for those out there with kids, I highly recommend these two books:

“Badger’s Parting Gifts” (Susan Varley)

“Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth” (Douglas Wood)

Looking back, I wish we hadn’t kept them tucked away, but had read them every once in a while. Death is really just a part of life, and doesn’t need to be shunned.