Category Archives: humor

Why the Many-Worlds Interpretation Makes Time Travel Possible

I’ve been obsessed with time travel since I watched “Back to the Future” and possibly before that. To a curious mind, not being able to go back to, say, the time of the dinosaurs and actually see them is incredibly frustrating. Despite my fascination and probably everyone else’s, time travel wasn’t seriously entertained as a possibility until the early twentieth century, when our new theories about space-time seemed to allow a new batch of crazy possibilities.

Emmett Brown

Unfortunately, having crazy hair and talking very fast doesn’t make you smart.

The whole “serious science” talk about time travel got started with General Relativity. To be more precise, with Special Relativity it already became demonstrably true that time travel is possible, though only to the future: if you travel at close to the speed of light, you will age less than the people around you and thus will be able to see the future. Unfortunately, you may not be able to go back, which makes the whole thing a lot less attractive.

The idea of backwards time travel, however, turned out to be lot more problematic. In this case and despite what Doc Brown said in Back to the Future, it’s not enough to travel at 88 mph on a Delorean to disappear into the past. However, General Relativity does provide us a way to go back: since space-time is curved, one can imagine different regions of space-time located at different being connected by “bridges,” which are normally referred to as wormholes.

Time travel hypothesis ; using wormholes.

Time travel hypothesis ; using wormholes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So yes, General Relativity allows for time travel, apparently. But combining Relativity with Quantum Mechanics does not. In 1993, Matt Visser proved that the only method for keeping the two mouths of a wormhole open (feeding it exotic matter) will either collapse the wormhole or make the mouths repel. So there went most people’s hopes for time travel, including mine.

Of course, there were already some of very powerful arguments already against the possibility of time travel, of which I will mention a couple. The first is by Stephen Hawking, who uses a modified version of the Fermi Paradox: he argues that the fact that we’re not seeing any travellers from the future means time travel is not possible: otherwise, the place would be packed with people from other epochs! The second is the classic grandfather paradox: if you could go back to the past you could kill your grandfather and thus never be born, which is impossible since you have been born.

English: Stephen Hawking during the press conf...

Stephen Hawking after destroying my childhood dream. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You will be amazed, then, to hear that my recipe for time travel solves all of these technical hurdles and skilfully avoids all the paradoxes. It just requires a huge amount of one single thing: luck.

Here’s the idea. There is a non-zero probability that, for example, a pink elephant materializes in the middle of your room. The chances are slim, admittedly, but they are there. Not only that: if you believe in the Many-Worlds Interpretation, then in fact one such elephant has materialized in your room in some parallel universe you’ll never get to see, since you’d need a humongous amount of luck.

Now, that elephant could also have materialized at the time of Julius Caesar’s assassination, for example. In fact, the MWI tells us that one of them did, though sadly we are not in that branch of time, so we don’t get to hear about how Caesar got flattened by a huge pachyderm. And where I say “elephant” I could also say “you:” there is a non-zero chance of you having materialized during Caesar’s murder. This means that you have actually materialized, but you will never get to experience that because it would require a huge amount of on thing: yes, luck.

English: Pink Elephant No, it's not a festive ...

Yup, Caesar was murdered by this in a parallel universe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main idea is that nothing (except for overwhelming odds) prevents you from disappearing here and magically appearing in the past, thus feeling the continuity a time traveller would feel. Hence, no wormhole is required and therefore we just don’t care what happens to wormholes. So there, Matt Visser.

How does this theory avoid both the grandfather and Hawking’s pseudo-Fermi paradoxes? Well, here’s the thing: in this scenario, it doesn’t matter if you kill your grandpa. In fact, you can kill all of your family for all I care. All this means is there will be a bunch of universes where you will never be born. In fact, there has really been no change: the possibility of your magically appearing and killing a lot of people was there from the start. You haven’t affected the universe in any way.

So why isn’t our planet full of visitors from the future? Simple: since there are a myriad of presents, the odds of a visitor from the future landing in ours are astronomically small. In fact, they become astronomically small because of the fact that the probability of someone appearing out of nowhere is very, very close to zero. Remember, it’s the same as for the pink elephant.

Summarizing:

  • Time travel is possible.
  • You will never experience it unless you’re very, very lucky.
  • There is actually no travelling involved, since it is already hard-wired into the make-up of our universe.
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Big Science Magazine

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with my move and quite stressed and moody (sorry if it shows in the comments). I’ve also been working on a video-game to teach physics, writing my novel and preparing a new webpage. Yes, I’m a bit hyperactive. Yes, you read right: a new webpage. In this case, I made the design myself, which explains why it looks like crap.

Onion 2

Just like the onion.

Anyway, it’s called “Big Science Magazine” and it’s like The Onion but about science (and mostly for scientists: I’d say at least half the jokes will be undecipherable by laypeople, sorry). It’s the place where I go when the seriousness of this blog becomes too much to bear.

There is very little content so far (I’ve written around 15 posts in 3 days) but some of you might enjoy it.

Just thought I’d let you know.

Sciencespeed!

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The Louder You Sound, the Better

A recent study by the University of Washington has confirmed what most rational people suspected for long: a measured rhetoric and a credible argument are no match for a boisterous remark. If you want to convince people, you just need to yell more than your adversary while looking more confident and free of doubt. This explains, among other things, why a seemingly endless stream of lunatics has managed to get millions of followers throughout the ages: if you’re crazy enough, you’ll be able to give your sweeping statements the fervor, passion and conviction only nutjobs are capable of.

The authors used twitter for their research. They originally intended to track economics pundits, but realized economic predictions had no deadlines and thus were hard to track. Instead, they used sports: they followed a number of different sports pundits and looked at the nature of their predictions, how confident they sounded (by looking at the kind of words they used) and the accuracy of their predictions.

Here’s the shocking result: predicting the outcome of every single game in the playoffs right will get you, on average, 3% more followers. Being loud and boisterous will get you 20%. So there. Stop bothering with the arguments and yell.

Sonic Super Villain

Sonic Super Villain (Photo credit: samlavi)

(Another interesting side not is that both aficionados and professionals scored lower than pure, dumb chance in their predictions. That is: if you want to know the result of the next match, it’s better to listen to a die.)

This research has finally given the motivation I needed to change the tone of this blog. From now on, I will CAPITALIZE WHAT I BELIEVE and end every post with a HELL YEAH! If people disagree with me I’ll tell them to SHUT THEIR PIE-HOLE because THEY DON’T KNOW SHIT. When I popularize science, I will make sure to say OUR THEORIES ARE RIGHT AND EVERYTHING ELSE IS BULLSHIT and, when I touch on politics, I’ll show my contempt for those LIBERAL PIECES OF CRAP.

Oh, and let me tell you, IF YOU DON’T THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA THEN SCREW YOU BECAUSE WHAT THE HECK DO YOU KNOW, YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?

Maybe I’ll add some grammar mistakes too, for good measure.

It shows passion.

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How to Write a Good Spam Comment

Dear spam commenter,

I see you’re having some trouble coming up with spam comments that won’t be immediately trashed. You are probably wondering why: aren’t people interested in Louis Vuitton bags? Don’t they want their websites optimized for search engines? Don’t they need a loan? Fortunately for you, I am here to help you achieve excellence in the art of spam commenting, so that you may reach a higher percentage of blogs and finally manage to sell some rip-off bags. You’re welcome.

The first thing you should know is comments normally don’t have a title, especially not in bold. So, when I see something like: “<strong>Google…</strong>” at the beginning, I (and pretty much everyone else) get suspicious. You see, Google doesn’t leave comments, because Google is not a person. You can tell because it doesn’t have a surname: people have surnames. This may seem surprising to you, but is common knowledge among the folks that have a website.

Louis Vuitton portemonnee

Louis Vuitton portemonnee. Just gotta have it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another tell is your lack of spelling skills. You’d think that a company with the ability to spam thousands, if not millions of blogs, would have enough money for a spell-checker, mainly because those come for free. However, most of your messages display an appalling lack of knowledge of the English language. A well-written spam message would have much greater odds of being accepted.

Then there is punctuation. Or, more exactly, there is a lack of it. Here are some tips for your next batch of spam goodness:

  1. First letters in a paragraph have to be capitalized.
  2. long paragraphs which have no punctuation but seem to go on for long like this one are hard to read and barely make any sense especially if they have strings of seemingly pointless data and stuff nobody cares about I really don’t see the point on these comments please stop
  3. A string of never-ending commas doesn’t qualify as punctuation.

Oh, and “definately” is not a word.

The way I see it, good spamming has to look like an actual comment, so that the owner of the blog is fooled into publishing it. In this respect, I have seen some moderately clever attempts. For example:

“This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!”

Apart from the obvious lack of writing skill, your comment sounds unnatural and way to unspecific. Here’s a better take on the same idea:

“This was awesome! I just shared it on Facebook. My wife’s gonna love it.”

See? It sounds much more natural. One may actually believe it was written by a real person: the mention to the wife, for example, adds depth and realism.

A typical spam mail from summer 2011. A click ...

A typical spam mail from summer 2011. A click on the image in the mail would lead to an unsafe website or invoke the download of a computer virus. The image as such is harmless. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another way to get the blogger to think this is a real comment is to criticize. Criticizing, though, is quite a difficult enterprise if you don’t know what the post is about. So I have to give it to you for trying with things like:

“I’ll complain which you have copied materials from an additional source…”

The problem, again, is it sounds quite unnatural. Not only that: when you start your message with “payday loans” you kind of lose your credibility. A better take on the same would be:

“This is just a shameless rip-off from Wikipedia.”

See what I did? A lot of blog posts are actually shameless rip-offs from Wikipedia, so this is more than plausible. The word “shameless” suggests anger, which in turn suggests the presence of someone being angry, instead of some bot. With this you could go wrong in many places, but you can ensure a higher percentage of bloggers will actually publish your comment (certainly higher than whatever ridiculous percentage you’re getting now).

In my humble opinion (this is dedicated to Tongue Sandwich) the trick for getting your spam published is to say something absolutely generic that sounds tailored to that post in particular. A little like cold reading. One possibility would be to spam the whole “humor” section with something like:

“This was hilarious! I was laughing out loud from the first paragraph to the last.”

You can hardly go wrong with this one, except for those posts that only contain a picture. For the philosophy section, something like this would be applicable to 90% of the blogs:

“The fact that this is in the philosophy section is an insult to the name of philosophy.”

I’m sure you get the gist. Anyway, you probably are too busy spamming to take the time to create good comments, so I’ve decided to help you out and do your work for you. Yes, I’m that nice. Here’s a selection of possibilities, which I encourage you to copy and use at your discretion. I am sure my readers will contribute with more.

“That was bloody brilliant. Could you point me some further reading?” (Asking questions signals an engagement with the article)

“I hear ya bro.” (I’ve somehow always wanted to reply with this comment to long, wordy posts on Wittgenstein).

“This post reeks of dissatisfaction. It seeps through your words and impregnates your whole writing style like a slimy, unhappy tar. You could definitely use some Louis Vuitton bags.”

“Some piece of advice for you: never give up, stay positive, believe in yourself.” (Given the number of times I’ve seen this written by non-spammers, I would have no problem believing this came from a real person. You may look like an idiot, but a non-spamming one).

And the one that I really, truly wish you wrote:

“Hi, this is a spam message. I have no talents or skills and I am forced to make a living by selling SEO tools. So please download my plug-in so I can install a Trojan horse in your PC and steal all of your credit card passwords. Thanks.”

By the way, if you haven’t yet, check out this “spam poem” by Chasing Wild Geese.

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Why Do We Kiss?

My wife has bursts of inspiration. The latest one came yesterday when, all of a sudden and without much to do with whatever it was we were talking about, she burst out: “why do people kiss?” At the beginning I stared at her, unsure of what she meant. Then she elaborated.

“It’s pretty gross if you think of it. Why would we want to stuff our tongue in some other person’s mouth? What’s the point?”

I then decided I’d do some research and write a post about it. And here we are.

One could of course answer we kiss because it’s pleasurable, but that’s not much of an answer. After all, why is kissing pleasurable? Why kissing and not poking your knee, for instance? Sex is pleasurable because it leads to reproduction. So what’s the purpose of kissing? What lead evolution to make us want to exchange saliva with another human being? Why does it turn us on? That’s what I set out to answer.

Xena kissing Gabrielle on the episode "Th...

Xena kissing Gabrielle on the episode “The Quest”, during Season 2. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t take long to find the scientific explanation (which is probably closer to a wild guess) for the phenomenon. Apparently, kissing brings us physically closer to the other person, which allows us to inhale their pheromones more easily. We can then gauge these pheromones and decide whether they are a good match for us. And how do we decide? Apparently, it all has to do with the immune system. We tend to select for mates that have the opposite kind of immune system to ours, so that our offspring will have a more complete set. Therefore, when there is “chemistry” between two people, all that’s really happening is their immune systems fit like a puzzle. How our body uses pheromones to decode this information, I have no idea, but it seems logical that different immune systems would lead to the production of different kinds of pheromones.

There’s another explanation for kissing that I personally find disgusting. In primitive societies, it would be customary for mothers to chew their baby’s food and then give it to their child from their mouths. Yes, just like a kiss. This mother-child bond would then transfer to the adult age, where the grown-up person would associate the exchange of fluids with the pleasure of receiving nourishment from their mother.

And the more I think about someone spitting chewed-up food in my mouth, the more I feel like puking.

Two small children kissing.

Two small children kissing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This latest theory explains the curious fact that not all humans kiss. In fact, 10% of human population does not kiss: it’s just not a custom in their societies. This points to kissing being more cultural than instinctive.

Finally and as a curious anecdote that I can personally confirm, kissing in Asia does not have the cultural significance it does in the west. Parents rarely kiss their children (at least not after they come of age) and kissing is mainly restricted to the sexual area. It is usual for girls to practice kissing with their roommates when they’re in their 20s and get their first boyfriend, since they haven’t had the occasion of doing it with their families. In Manchuria it used to be customary for mothers to perform oral sex on their babies, which was not considered a sexual act. Kissing in public, however, was frowned upon.

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Scenes in the life of the Great Philosophers (and Jesus)

This is a small play I wrote while I was living in Paris, 7 years ago. A lot of it is quite juvenile, but some of it made me smile, maybe precisely because it is so juvenile. I thought some of my readers may have a laugh. The religious parts are a bit of a cheap shot, but some of the other stuff is salvageable.
Also, this does not have any historical rigor and does not intend to portray the characters in a way that is fair. It is entirely based on prejudice and misunderstanding. That’s why it’s (kind of) funny.
Characters:

Plato
Socrates
Jesus
Mary
Joseph
God
Snobby Client 1
Snobby Client 2
Kant
Kant’s mum
Nietzsche
Nietzsche’s mum
Wagner

Portrait of Socrates. Marble, Roman artwork (1...

Portrait of Socrates. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scene 1: Plato’s adolescence

Setting: Plato and Socrates sit on a rock overlooking a lake. There’s a suave breeze. Mid-spring. Sunny but bearable.

Socrates: And so, the people inside the cavern believed their world of shadows was the true world. But then, an outsider came in to warn them of their error. And you know what they did?
Plato: What did they do, master?
Socrates: They didn’t believe him. They said he was mad and rebellious, for he was spreading dangerous ideas. So they decided to get rid of him and killed him.
Plato: That’s terrible!
Socrates: Yes, my dear pupil, terrible. But what do you think we do when someone comes to our little cave and tells us there is something else outside? We feel threatened and also dispose of the stranger. Fortunately, there’s something we can learn from this tale if we think about it carefully.
Plato: That truth is a powerful weapon that should be handled with care?
Socrates: No, my dear pupil, that’s not the answer.
Socrates puts his hand on Plato’s lap, inviting.
Socrates: The answer is you and I must come out of the cavern.

Scene 2: Jesus’s childhood

Setting: Joseph is at his workshop, Jesus at the door, Mary is in the living room cleaning up. They all yell to each other in order to be heard.

Joseph: Jeez! Come help me in the workshop, we’ve got some benches to make!
Jesus: But dad, I’m teaching the doctors!
Joseph: Stop with the fancy excuses and come right away, you brat!
Mary steps in, protective.
Mary: Why do you treat him like that? The poor kid’s done nothing to you!
Joseph: What, now I have to raise your bastard and also be nice to him?
Jesus: If you keep treating my mother like that, I’ll tell My dad and he’ll make sure you rot in hell!
Joseph: Well, you can tell Your dad to store his almighty Dick in the Holy Arch! And now come and help me with the bloody benches!
They start working on the benches. Some customers come, they are quite snobby.
Snobby Client 1: Oh my God, this place is sooo dirty!
Snobby Client 2: Yes, but the furniture’s just divine…

Scene 3: Jesus returns home

Setting: Heaven. God sits on his almighty throne, Jesus sits on a chair in front of him, looks embarrassed.

God: What? You got crucified?? Bloody Hell! I told you to go and redeem them, not to let them bully you! You’re the Son of God, for My sake!
Jesus: I just thought that, if I managed to convince them to love each other…
God: Stop it, I’ve heard enough! You preached Universal love! Are you out of your mind? What are you, some kind of hippie? Holy shit, man! Thank Me there are no drugs in the 0th century, otherwise you’d have ended up hooked on acid…
Jesus: Well, there were some cacti in the desert.
God: Brilliant! Abso-fuckin-lutely brilliant! Any other nice surprises in stock for your old man?
Jesus looks at the ground and shakes his head, embarrassed.
God: There’s something else, isn’t it? Just tell me what it is already!
Jesus: I-I also summoned the Holy Dove and made tongues of fire rain upon my followers, to give them the gift of knowledge…
God: Jesus-Christ! You made a bloody Pigeon spray crap over your pupils? That’s great. No, really, that’s just great. That wasn’t a metaphor of some sexual practice, was it? I mean, You’re not a homo or anything weirder, are you? You know it’s a sin, right?

English: , Prussian philosopher. Português: , ...

English: , Prussian philosopher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scene 4: Kant’s childhood

Setting: Kant and his mum are in the kitchen; Kant has a big plate full of liver in front of him. He obviously doesn’t like the food and he fiddles with it. His mum is getting nervous.

Kant’s mum: Eat up, kid! We don’t have all day!
Kant: But mum, why should I eat all the liver? I don’t like liver!
Kant’s mum: You should eat it because it’s good for you, now stop complaining!
Kant: You mean good as in good taste, or good as in ‘I wish that eating liver became a universal moral law?’
Kant’s mum: Shut up, kid.
He eats the liver.

Scene 5: Grown-up Kant and Mum

Setting: Kant mum’s kitchen again, this time over a cup of tea. Kant looks sad, as in being a sad person in general.

Kant: I just wrote a book proving the existence of God.
Kant’s mum: Now that’s great, dear. Want some cookies?
Kant: No, thanks, it’s still one minute till five. And I wish you would pay me more attention…
Kant’s mum: And I do! I just offered you cookies, didn’t I?
Kant: I was telling you about my book!
Kant’s mum: But Emmie, you’ve already written tons of books! They are all the same!
Kant: The same!? I just proved there is a God, mum!
Kant’s mum: Didn’t you already prove he didn’t exist in that other book? What was its name…
Kant: A critic of pure reason. But what I proved there was that metaphysics is not a science, because it doesn’t contain propositions which are both synthetic and a priori…
Kant’s mum: Fancy names, fancy names… Oh, Emmie, why do you have to be so complicated?
Kant: Because I’m a philosopher, mum. And also a German.
There’s an awkward silence, the coo-coo clock rings 5.
Kant: Can I have some cookies now? It’s five o’clock already…

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scene 6: Nietzsche’s University Years

Setting: Nietzsche gets home and is greeted by his mother.

Nietzsche: Hey mum, guess what I got at Uni!
Nietzsche’s mum: What did you get, darling?
Nietzsche: Syphilis!

Scene 7: Nietzsche and Wagner, wild party years

Setting: Nietzsche and Wagner are in a bar, mildly drunk. Nietzsche seems a bit down, he has his head between his hands.

Wagner: Hey, Fred! What’s the matter, pal?
Nietzsche: Lou just left me for some bloody poet with too many gambling debts.
Wagner: You mean Rée?
Nietzsche: Rée, man.
Wagner: He left you for Paul Rée? I can’t believe it! The guy doesn’t even have a moustache!
Nietzsche: She read a sentence in my notes and got mad at me.
Wagner: You mean the one about women and…
Nietzsche: That one.
Wagner: Yeah, that would explain it.
Nietzsche: Man, I’m gonna start writing in aphorisms from now on. That way I can always say I meant something else when I blow things with some mad Russian chick…
Wagner: But then, how about the millions of people who will read your work through history and have no clue what you meant?
Nietzsche: Bah! As if anything I said was so important. I bet you in a hundred years there will be no values left to destroy…
Wagner: How can you be so cavalier about this!? What if, who knows, one day some crazy politicians misunderstand your books and use them to justify the massacre of millions of people?
Nietzsche: I’ll take my chances. Besides, politicians don’t read. Speaking of reading, what do you think about Schopenhauer?
Wagner: Bless you. Think about whom?

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Prophecies for the 21st Century

Yesterday I had a revelation. As I was dining spaghetti with my fine wife, one of them got stuck in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die.

And then it happened: a miracle.

His Noodly Majesty Himself came down from the skies and pulled the spaghetti from my already unconscious body. I gasped for breath and thanked him with every fiber of my soul. And then He talked to me and said: “Be fruitful and multiply. Especially 12 x 9.”

Before He left, He granted me Wisdom. He let me see the past and the future: what was and what will be. And to His Truth I shall bear witness.

Navidad Pastafari

Navidad Pastafari (Photo credit: zentolos)

Here’s my list of prophecies for the 21st century. They shall come to pass.

  1. Physicists will finally discover the Theory of Everything. It will predict absolutely everything except for stuff that’s actually useful for this universe. There will be great debate among physicists on whether it is “real science,” “great science” or “a great way to pass the time while we wait for funding.”

    The resemblance is uncanny

    The resemblance is uncanny

  2. Kimg Jong-Un will die a ridiculous death and people will make fun of him even more than now. Which is hard.
  3. The world will see an unprecedented increase in wealth that will be almost exclusively owned by 0.1 % of the population. The rest will be pretty pissed.
  4. There will be substantial progress in philosophy. Great arguments will be put forward proving the existence of free will without a doubt. Other equally good arguments will be put forward against it. The same will happen to the theories of mind, causation and the possibility of Artificial Intelligence. A complete agreement between any two philosophers will not come until the end of the 23rd century.
  5. The Nobel prize in Chemistry will be awarded to the first chemist to admit that chemistry is just applied physics.

    God the Father 11

    ET… Ouch… (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

  6. God will finally show Himself and reveal that he actually did create humans in His image, except for creationists who, in His own words, “were a freak accident.”
  7. The US will have a new president that will promise all kinds of cool stuff and then do nothing about it.
  8. There will be a huge debate on the legality of private ownership of siege tanks. The NRA will argue that owning siege tanks should be legal and that what we need are siege tanks in every school, to protect the children from bad guys in other siege tanks. The debate on home-owned nuclear weapons will happen 50 years later.
  9. Everybody and his brother will have a drone. They will be used mostly to spy on your significant other and to take dirty pictures of people in the shower.

    gay pride, roma june 7, 2008.

    gay pride, roma june 7, 2008. (Photo credit: l3m4ns)

  10. Gay marriage will finally be accepted by the Vatican after the Pope comes out of the closet. Some bishops will suggest adapting the image of Christianity accordingly, but will finally come to the conclusion that a lot of their symbolism is “pretty gay already.”
  11. A super-human intelligence will be finally created. It will always be very depressed while complaining that nobody understands it.
  12. Public health coverage will include faith healing, crystal therapy and homeopathy. In the words of a high government representative, “it’s cheaper than an MRI and the poor bastards can’t tell the difference.”

Have you also been touched by his Noodly Appendage? What has He revealed to you?

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Some Buddhist Humor

I talk about Buddhism often and many of my readers are familiar with it. That’s why I thought they will probably enjoy this much more than the average person. Anyway, here’s a list of jokes about Buddhism that I hope will make you smile:

  1. What did the Buddhist say to the pizza chef?
    Make me one with everything.
    (The pizza chef prepares it and gives it to the monk. The monk pays him and asks for the change. The hot dog vendor says: “Change comes from within”.)
  2. How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?
    Three – one to change it, one to not-change it and one to both change-and not-change it.
  3. How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?
    None, they are the light bulb.
  4. How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A tree in a golden forest.
  5. Wherever you go, there you are.
    Your luggage is another story.
  6. Breathe in. Breathe out.
    Breathe in. Breathe out.
    Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.
  7. Q: How much “ego” do you need?
    A: Just enough so that you don’t step in front of a bus.
    ~ Shunryu Suzuki
  8. If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
  9. Why can’t a Buddhist vacuum under the sofa?
    Because he has no attachments.
  10. “A Zen master once said to me, ‘Do the opposite of whatever I tell you.’ So I didn’t.

And here are some images:

zen bday 3710957239_77543c1ba5 tumblr_m8nek8pi8X1rc2oeao1_250 buddhist_compliment_321115

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Some Advice on Advice

One thing that has shocked me of my short stage in cyberspace is how quick some people are to give advice on all sort of topics. I have also noticed that, when disagreeing, many commenters will use the word “wisdom” or imply somehow that what they are telling you is wise.

I probably do that myself. Heck, we all do. It’s human nature. But, in my discharge, when I give advice I try to say something along the lines of: “this worked for me,” meaning “I have no idea whether it will work for you, it is just a suggestion.” So maybe I don’t give advice. I give suggestions. Or maybe I’m just as holier than thou as the next guy. Who knows. Maybe this whole post is about giving advice to my readers and commenters.

God, how I hate myself.

Wisdom

Wisdom (Photo credits: www.roadtrafficsigns.com)

I don’t know why advice makes me so defensive, but it does. When someone says to me “here’s some wisdom I’ve acquired over the years” I can’t help but think: how can you be sure? Does the fact that it’s taken you years make your point any more believable? (By the way, I am guilty of doing this myself. I’m just analyzing my reaction when someone else does it to me.) Using the word wisdom or implying you possess any makes you seem like you understand life better than the rest of us; that, unlike the rest of us mortals who struggle in the dark while trying to find out what the heck we’re doing here, you have it all figured out. And this would piss anyone off, for one of two reasons:

1. If it is really true, other people who haven’t figured it all out will be probably jealous. Jealously leads to anger and anger leads to the Dark Side of the Force.

2. If it is not true (which is overwhelmingly likely) then you sound deluded at best and pedantic at worst.

Another thing I realized is people who really have something to say, people whose disagreement has some substance to it, will never disagree in this way. They will say something like: “Good point. Have you thought about this?” or “I see what you mean, but how about…?” and then they will crush your whole line of reasoning with an elegantly posed question. That is the kind of disagreement that I treasure. Many of my posts have been utterly destroyed in this way. It has forced me to change my mind. And there’s nothing better than that.

A triangular graphic representing a "hier...

A triangular graphic representing a “hierarchy of disagreement” from clear refutation to mere vituperation, based on the essay “How to Disagree” by Paul Graham. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I was speaking about advice. (One day I’ll write a post about disagreement and probably hang it in the home page somewhere.) Now, the way of giving advice that irks me the most is the judgmental one. When people give you this kind of advice, they not only imply they know life better than you do: they imply they are better persons.

Maybe because, as I was growing up, I really struggled trying to find a valid morality, when people come and tell me their morality is better than mine it really, really gets to me. It’s probably my problem. But maybe it bugs you too. This way you won’t feel so alone.

So here’s an example of a judgmental comment that would get on my nerves:

“You should care about how you perceive yourself, not how other people think of you.”

Now, this comment is probably right. I have no quarrel with its content. However, who are you to tell me what is important in my life? What if I want to live my life obsessed by what others think about me? This would also piss me off more if it was directed at me (as in “this is what David Yerle should care about”). As a general statement (I think people should care about this instead of that) I could probably bear it. Another similarly annoying (to me) comment would be:

“This post is so negative. You should always try to stay positive.”

Thought

Some high-minded advice (Photo credits: www.mysafetysign.com)

What if I don’t want to? What if you’re wrong and it turns out research shows that you shouldnt try to stay positive? Could you please not come here and copy and paste a line from the latest (cheap) self-help blog you visited? Thank you.

The most annoying comments, though, are those who tell you, without any qualms whatsoever, that you are a bad person for thinking as you do. If they add insults, though, I don’t get so upset. The whole thing is so over the top that it just makes me laugh instead. Also, in that case I feel no remorse when I press the “Trash comment” button.

So now I just re-read the whole article and had this horrible feeling that I’m being even more judgmental than the comments I’m criticizing. Crap, I’m giving advice on advice.

So much for irony, huh?

Any advice?

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