Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Future of the Mind

The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the MindThe Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Projecting advances in neuroscience based on physics.

In The Future of the Mind, Michio Kaku approaches brain science from a physicist's perspective. He evaluates predictions and possibilities using the laws of physics as his primary guide to whether or not projections are realistic or not, and how quickly they may come to fruition.

The first two chapters are a brief history of neuroscience, a discussion of brain anatomy, technologies and equipment that are used to study the brain, various models employed in explaining how the brain works, and how to define consciousness and what it means to be human.

The bulk of the book, the middle chapters, deals with various aspects of neuroscience and advancements that have taken popular imagination such as mind-reading, telekinesis, artificial improvements to the brain, mind-control, and more. With each Michio discusses a brief history of the topic, current science, various future possibilities, what physics might allow, and the legal and ethical ramifications.

The final chapters deal with the more abstract ideas of consciousness beyond attachment to a physical body, including a physical brain. He provides various scenarios in which "immortality" might one day become possible based on physics.

The book is a fascinating journey into the past, present, and future of the mind - the brain and consciousness. It is written in plain English (i.e., no heavy technical or medical jargon), though previous familiarity with the topics (medical and physics) no doubt will improve comprehension. In addition to people interested in learning more about the brain and the future of neuroscience, I think this book will be of interest to science-fiction fans. Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Searching for the ecology of the gospel accounts

IMG_1689When I originally planned my trip to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico it was to attend a week-long course in coming to grips with who Jesus is to each person. Due to lack of enrollment the course was cancelled. I could have taken a refund and paid out $125 to Alaska Airlines to redeposit the airline miles. Instead I opted to continue the trip with a slightly different objective.

One of my objectives became to read through all four gospels. Not study them, but to just read them. In Christian circles that I grew up in, and probably is many others, Bible reading and Bible study are essentially synonymous. A person reads a small section of the text and studies it, whether it is for theology or for devotional purposes. I can’t recall ever encountering suggestions to just read it without any other motivation.

The other objective became to contemplate the definition of “gospel.” I think that too often, the gospel is defined in terms of Pauline writings. And/Or it is defined primarily in terms of the crucifixion, and in the process reducing the value of the rest of Jesus’ story. The common definition for the gospel is the means through which salvation is afforded to sinners, or some variant of this. Components might include steps to salvation, a “sinner’s prayer”, theories of atonement, discussions about justification and sanctification, and so on.

These two objectives came together during my time of retreat. My larger objective became a search for what the gospel writers intended when they each wrote their “Gospel according to…” I wanted to discover the forest of the gospel, rather than get sidetracked by the individual trees. I wanted to see the topography of each of the paintings of the gospel. I wanted to feel the contours and textures. I wanted to actively sense the nuances of each author’s take on what the gospel meant to him.

cebI read through the gospel accounts during a span of about three days, during each of their morning and evening periods. I read them in the Common English Bible translation, a translation involving around 120 scholars and whose intent was to render the biblical text into present-day common English syntax. I resisted the temptation to refer to lexicons, concordances, dictionaries, and commentaries. I wasn’t reading to study. I was reading to simply read. They were probably originally read aloud in one extended sitting. That’s kind of what I wanted to emulate, though I chose to not read it aloud.

During the course of my reading, it was fascinating to recognize the different emphases of each of the Synoptic gospels. I recognized the differences in ordering of stories and teachings, differences in what was included or not in each, and the huge difference between the Synoptics and John.

IMG_1687I found that for which I was seeking. I found the forest of each gospel. In the Synoptics, the gospel is that the Kingdom of God/Heaven has arrived through Jesus. Each writer has his own spin on this theme, but it is all about the Kingdom. In John the gospel is that Life has come to be offered abundantly to all who choose to accept it. At least that is what I took away from my time of reading.

I would like to encourage Christians to take the time to set aside Bible study for a few moments and take some time to just read some of these narrative books in their entirety as a work of literature. Take time to discover the forest. Discover the ecology of the work. Only then will the individual trees make sense as they were meant to be.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A few travel and photography apps I find useful

I have an iPad (3-gen) and an iPhone 5. During my recent trip I found the following apps to be useful for my needs. (In no particular order.)


As long as you have some kind of an Internet connection, Flipboard is one of the most efficient ways of browsing your social media feeds.

Onavo Protect

When connecting to an unprotected WiFi access point, and especially if you are going to do any kind of sensitive transactions, you really need a VPN. Onavo Protect is a free VPN app.

Google Maps

I’m sure many people already have this. I used it for giving me walking directions about Santa Fe. It performed well. Also useful for connecting to dining and entertainment reviews.


I’ve been using TripIt for all my trips for about two years now. I find it very useful to make sure all the gaps (cars, lodging, other transportation, entertainment, etc.) are filled in by allowing me to see everything in one timeline. There is a subscription to the Pro version that provides real-time flight alerts and other upgraded features. It can be used via desktop computer at


It’s the official travel companion to Alaska Airlines. If this is your airline, you need it. Since Alaska Air offers free in-air WiFi access to its website, the app contents will update too, as you’re in the air. It integrates with Passbook to offer electronic boarding passes at places so equipped.


Easiest way to make restaurant reservations as long as the restaurant is connected to this service. It sends reminders so you don’t forget your dinner appointments.


It reads RAW files, has plenty of global adjustments as well as many detail correction tools. It can save files to the original resolution. I found it to be all I needed to work on my DSLR files (imported via Apple’s camera connection kit). No laptop needed. And Photogene is a whole lot cheaper than desktop photo editing software.


Photographers crave the golden hour and we want to know where the sun will rise and set. Sol gives you all that plus the civil, nautical and astronomical twilight times. There is no excuse to be caught unawares once you have this app.


Photogene is great, but it isn’t quite as simple to use as Snapseed. For nearly all my iPhone captured photos, I sent them through Snapseed for quick adjustments. It doesn’t offer as much control or detail as Photogene.

Day One

Nice journaling app. It can automatically insert your current location and weather, and if you have an iPhone 5s it can capture activity and steps. It allows text to be fully formatted and a picture to be inserted with each entry. The journal can be accessed via Mac software, and can be exported as multi-page PDF for printing and archiving.


It is an activity tracker for the iPhone. As long as it is enabled it records all your movement using the iPhone sensors and location services. It does require a connection to its servers where movement data is uploaded in order to analyze the data. It does a pretty good job of figuring out whether you are walking, running, cycling, or moving via some kind of vehicle.