This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, July 15, 2005

One Year Anniversary

I know y'all can't really remember the time before the Epth Nation Blog, but July 19th is only the one-year anniversary. Next week I'll be re-running the best bits from the last year, with new commentary on them. It'll be great, and also less work for me. It's a clip show for blogs! Yay!

But seriously, thanks to all of those who read this stuff and especially those who have commented on things. I write all this for me, not for you, but it's good to know there are other people that enjoy it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Greasemonkey, That Funky Monkey

What if you could force every web page you visited into displaying exactly as you want it to?
What if you could get rid of every web annoyance, like pop-ups and news site registration?
What if you could change web pages in ways you didn't think of but now that you think of it sound really cool?
What if you could do this right now?

The thing is, you can, but it's a little complicated. Not a lot, just a little. And if you do it, you'll see a cute little monkey face at the bottom of your browser.

I'm talking, if you hadn't guessed already, about "Greasemonkey", which is only available as an extension to Mozilla Firefox right now (that's the only place I've ever seen it, at least). It is a simple work of complete genius. What it does is take little snippets of code (called scripts) and apply them to the web pages you visit. You can add or subtract (and modify) whatever scripts you can find, and make them apply to all pages or just specific ones. I feel like the last two sentences are boring, so I'm not going to tech out any more on you. Perhaps the best way to tell you what greasemonkey can do is pointing you to this page, which has a massive and ever-growing list of scripts that are already available for download into greasemonkey's engine of web genius. Some highlights, from my own life:
  • You know those newspaper sites that make you register before you see an article? Well, now instead of opening another browser tab and going to, I have a little thing pop up inside the page when I run my mouse over the form -- bugmenot comes to me, and I don't have to open up a new browser window. Those of you who know me know I don't like hassle, and this saves a lot of hassle.
  • I have forced all ESPN articles to display in "single page view", instead of having to click on to the "next page" link 5 times. More hassle destruction.
  • You know those annoying Google ads that I keep forgetting to remove from this page? I can hide them in any page I visit, just so I don't have to look at their ugliness.
  • And many, many more.
If you're talented, you can even write your own scripts and install them. This is something I haven't tried, but it does open up a world of almost obscene possibilities. I could decide I don't want to ever see a cussword on the internet again. I could decide I want every viable address listed on a web site to come with a link to its Mapquest map. I could make the internet better, bucking the current downward trend.

For a while now, the internet has been run by people who are attempting to sell-promote-advertise something. Everywhere you surf, you see this -- from ESPN to the NY Times to to to Blogger to blogs themselves to this blog you're reading right now. What greasmonkey does is put you in charge of what you see again, so you control what promotion is thrown at you. It's revolutionary. It could ruin the internet as we know it.

But for now, only us cool people have it. Soon, somebody is going to come up with a super user-friendly version of greasemonkey that will get everybody and their grandpa on board. At that point, the internet will change, because the ad-annoyance model is something everyone hates. I don't know if the change will ultimately be good or bad, but it is coming. Fear the monkey.

(aww...lookit him down there...he looks so cuuuuute).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Some more news

First of all, let me reiterate something: Arrested Development is a great, great show. I've been watching the Season One DVDs since my wife's been away and there is a point in the middle of that first season where every single joke they try works. It's funny, and clever, and smart, and I like it.
Go out and buy the DVD set and watch it next year -- it'll be on Monday nights. Go, AD! Beat that NFL!

Now, the news:
It looks like Tony Blair found out what we found out after Oklahoma City: not all terrorists are born somewhere else and sneak into this country, some of them are born and raised here. They also now think that these were suicide bombings after all. There has been a lot made of the English ignoring the problem of Muslim extremism and hoping it goes away. That's bad. There can also be the opposite problem, however, as my former congressman from Wisconsin is trying to demonstrate by making the Patriot Act permanent. This guy doesn't like that, but with a name like, you would figure he's going to be critical of stuff.

Kenny Rogers was totally right, the press sucks. Not only did the person who wrote the article not include whatever question the first lady was answering when she said, "Sure, it would be nice to have another woman on the bench," or whatever she said. Then they go and beat President Bush down with it. What a bunch of jerks. Only blue-staters would have this much disdain for the reader. If you see a cameraman on the street filming something today, please do us all a favor and assault him. Texas Rangers fans will then give you a standing ovation, and other morons in the press will start to make you a martyr. You will get booed at the all-star game, however. You take the good you take the bad you take them both and there you have, well, you know.

This is my favorite headline of the day so far: Drivers Swerve to Avoid Corpse. I just goes to show that a pickup truck is not the same as a hearse, even in the great state of Texas.

Speaking of Texas, something kinda funny happened to me yesterday. I was outside for lunch, thinking it was a nice day, about 90 degrees and partly cloudy. That's already pretty strange, thinking that 90 degrees is nice. When I got home after work, I learned that it had been 100 degrees out at noon! I have been fully desensitized to the blast furnace that is Dallas. I think I'm actually evolving to a higher form of mammal, one with thicker skin or something. Hey, people believe stranger things -- did you not see my last post?!

The Space Shuttle is going up today. Having lived through two Space Shuttle tragedies in my lifetime, I am understandbly a bit nervous. As I have told many-a-time, the 1985 explosion was a crazy thing, man. They were sending that teacher up in space, so like every American student was taking time out of class to watch the launch. I mean, they set up TV's everywhere. And then that happened. It was just horrifying. Thankfully, I was out sick that day.

If you use Firefox, patch it. Speaking of Firefox, I need to talk to you people out there about Greasemonkey and how it's going to change the internet forever. That will be soon, maybe today.

Forget about all those other "spare" terrorist bombing victims, let's concentrate on this pair of attractive American sisters who got hurt. Favorite quote from the doctor:
"When somebody blows you up, it's not a real good day."
When Jesus comes back to judge us as an American people, this type of beauty-focus is going to be the first thing he mentions. Not abortion, not O.J., not Madonna, this. Thank about that.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Long-Awaited Answer to the Question...

What the (bleep) Do We Know?

An admittedly derisive review

There are some important pieces of information the viewer needs to know before jumping down the “rabbit hole of death” that is What the( Bleep) Do We Know.

1) The three filmmakers studied at “Ramtha School of Enlightenment.”

2) This school is run by Ramtha, who is not a real person, but is a “spirit” channeled by the Zsa Zsa-looking JZ Knight.

3) There is nothing in the film that suggests this is the case – in fact, the only time JZ Knight is mentioned is during the credits. She is referred to solely as “Ramtha” during the main part of the film.

4) To get the most out of this film you have to be simultaneously super-skeptical about some things and super-accepting of others. To put it another way, the film doesn’t really believe its final statement that “Agreement is not necessary – thinking for one’s self is.” It seeks to choose for you what to be skeptical of (matter, Monotheism) and what to accept (positive thinking, Pantheism).

5) There is no 5), but that’s ok. You create your own reality, so make something up.

Once we know that, we can get on to the “movie”, which is about 80% crackpot infomercial and 20% the uninteresting story of a deaf photographer who cheerfully goes insane and sees things that aren’t really there, like CGI cells partying and a black boy who can go back in time. The infomercial part consists of 10-15 “experts” giving documentary-type lessons (unchallenged by any interviewer, I might add) about various subjects that the Church of Ramtha finds important. As the “experts” are speaking, CGI graphics are used to demonstrate and illuminate what is being said, both to the Deaf Photographer (played by Acadamy-Award-winning and token deaf actress Marlee Matlin. One wonders how much of Ramtha she believes in) and to the audience, which unfortunately means us. The filmmakers try to relate it all to Marlee’s storyline, but sometimes they go off the map and just tell us whatever they want to no matter if it relates to anything or not.

The film is divided into two main sections: The Quantum Physics section and the Peptides section. For purposes of philosophy and keeping my interest, the first part is about 150 times better than the second part. It starts out with a discussion on the surprising craziness that is quantum physics, which is not a problem until they start inferring things from it they have no right to infer, and then calling it “science”. For example, does the fact that all matter is made up of little particles that are moving around (and in fact is made up mostly of empty space, at least on a basic level) mean that nothing is real? This film thinks it does, or at least claims to early on. As we’ll come across later, claims that matter isn’t real always come with enough caveats and disclaimers (because everything is made up of, well, matter) to make the claims virtually meaningless.

The first time we see who I’ll call the main “expert” in the movie, a thirtysomething man (Dr. Joe Dispenza, a fricking Chiropractor who graduated from “Life University” – is that near “Bovine University”?) sitting in what appears to be a cabin, he says “Much of what we take for granted in the world simply isn’t true.” He uses the tired example of the flat earth – we thought the earth was flat, then found out it was round. What I’ve never understood about this particular line of reasoning is how it can ever be applied to anything. You see, whenever he applies that argument, it can be thrown right back in his face. If he uses it to open people’s minds up to the fact that matter doesn’t exist as we know it, we can throw it right back at him and say that whatever he concludes about matter is likely to be false as well. And so it goes. If you think about it, it’s just a nothing argument designed to get people to be skeptical of everything. Or just the things of which you want them to be skeptical.

I’ll warn you right now that this movie is hard to follow, and therefore so is this review. The first part skips around all over the place, throwing statement after statement at you to break down your belief in reality and get you to believe that nothing is real. It actually goes in reverse, starting with the idea that nothing is real and then gives meager “scientific” evidence to back that up. The thought pattern is roughly:

  • What’s happening within us will create what’s happening outside of us (so, our attitude affects how others react to us? You don’t say!)
  • What we see and what we remember affect our brain in the same way (of course they do. What does that prove?)
  • We see more with our eyes than we are able to “consciously project”, so says Ramtha, who could not look more like a gypsy if she were sitting in front of a crystal ball. She just looks shady. (our eyes are designed to focus on one thing. This is good. Peripheral vision is peripheral for a reason.)
  • The Indians couldn’t see Columbus’ ships approaching because they had never seen ships before, or so an “expert” (Dr. Candace Pert, PhD, who teaches at Georgetown U(!))tells us, and calls it a “Wonderful story she believes is true.” (of course you believe it. It fits right into your philosophy.)
  • The Indians couldn’t see the ships because our minds don’t see everything that’s in our field of vision. Only the stuff we can make sense of gets through to our brain. (So, the movie’s point is that those ships didn’t really exist? I’m confused. They seem to be sending mixed messages.)
  • Particles of matter pop in and out of existence all the time – the only way we can know they are there is if we’re looking at them. (Is this true? This seems like an overstatement of some scientific principle or crazy theory I don’t know.)
  • “The universe is mostly empty,” says the Indian in the funny hat (Dr. Amit Goswami, Physics Prof. at the U. of Oregon(!)). This means that it must not exist in the way that we believe it does. (instead of making grand pronouncements about how matter is not real, how about we study matter to find out how this “emptiness” can produce solid objects? Why do we have to jump to crazy conclusions that fly in the face of all logic?)
  • Basketballs (and everything else) are made up not of synthetic leather or rubber, but of “thought and information”. (I think they’re thinking of NBA Live 2005. Actually, if the situation is as this movie describes it, my last “season” of that video game is as valid a reality as the last season of the real NBA. Yay! The Bucks won the championship after all! I’m going to hang a banner right now.)
  • Deaf people should never cuss (ok, that’s not the movie’s point, it’s mine. But it’s just so…jarring to hear Marlee garble a profanity.)
  • “In quantum physics, you can go back in time.” As that booze hag Ramtha points out, “We remember the past and affect the future.” Otherwise, the past and the future are identical. This brings us back to the point about memory and experience affecting the brain in the same way. They must be the same thing, then. (See what I mean? Jumping to inappropriate conclusions. The DVD should come with a “Jump to Conclusions Mat”.)
  • “The material world around us is just possible moments of experience.” They show that matter can be in two places at once by digging up that one experiment with the “colored light”. (ok, maybe that light can be in two places – but how about studying why instead of applying that to all matter? Can this computer be in two places at once? This gun sitting on my table? Can I beat a murder rap with this argument somehow? And what does “possible moments of experience mean”?)
  • The body is a “4-layered bio bodysuit” that holds the spirit, like in that Police song. I forgot who said this in the film, but it’s in my notes and I had to mention it. Why four layers? (I’ll find a fifth, don’t worry.)
  • A suited man (John Haeglin of Maharishi U. – yes, it’s that Maharishi, the one who hung out with the Beatles. And yes, David Lynch has been sucked into all of this. Grr.) tells us that crime went down 15% in Washington D.C. when a bunch of people started thinking happy thoughts there. (Just a thought – how do you scientifically study this to make sure it’s not just a spurious connection? You can’t. But feel free to believe in Maharishi U. anyway.)
  • Armin Shimerman (sp?), the Ferengi from “Star Trek”, creepily shows up and points out an exhibit on the lovely water-thought experiments of a man appropriately named “Emoto”. Apparently, Emoto studied the effect of different emotions on glasses of water. The Ferengi then points out that the body is 90% water, which overshoots it by at least 20%, but oh well. Oh, and the exhibit happens to be in a subway. What’s up with that? (Emoto is almost universally discredited by scientists, not that it necessarily matters. But can we really come to any conclusions even if his experiment is true?)

It is at this point that the second part takes over, but I want to touch on something that I’ve always thought about quantum physics. We know that quantum physics is valid, right? We’ve done the experiments, verified the results, done the math, etc.? We don’t know what it means, but we know it’s really part of how our world works. We also have Newtonian physics, right? That’s what in large part our physics is based on. It’s why our buildings don’t fall down on us and why certain basketballs end up in the hoop and certain ones don’t. Why can’t we just reconcile the two somehow? Why does what’s going on at the subatomic level have to mean that this table doesn’t really exist? The thing is, it does exist, and Newtonian physics applies to it. Is it so wrong to have different physics apply to different sizes of things? I’m just sayin’.

The second part is all about things like “creating your own reality with your mind” and “thinking disease away” and “addiction is a sexual fanatasy” (not making this up) and “We are God” and blah blah blah. It’s presented in a way that jumps around from idea to idea a lot, and incorporates “what we’ve learned” from the first half of the movie.

We start out with Cabin Boy, the chiropractor, telling us that he wakes up every day and “intentionally creates his own reality”. He says that we just need faith in the power of our mind, and we’re too “immersed in defeatist thinking” to change reality. We just need to learn how. I love this. If I was able to create my own reality, I’d be eating steak every day that I’d never have to buy – it would just materialize in front of me when I was ready for it, tender, juicy, and medium-rare. But that’s not exactly what they mean, is it? We have to “learn how” to create reality, by learning how these things work. But if it’s my reality and matter is an illusion, why can’t the world work how I want it to work? I want it to give me some steak. Would Dr. Joe Dispenza be able to create me a steak? If he’s God, he sure could.

This is why we ultimately die – to stop us from wasting our time on these fruitless notions of being “gods”. We humans can do a lot, maybe even some things with our minds. I don’t know. All I know is the only reality we create is what we think, say, and do. The only reality we are responsible for is the consequences of those thoughts, words, and actions. If I get up in the morning and say, “I’m going to get some money today,” and have done it just today, not fruitlessly for the last two weeks, and a $500 check comes to me out of the blue in the mail somehow, that still was not me creating my own reality. Another entity (human spirit in a “bio-suit”) had to send that check to me, for reasons that are entirely their own. I didn’t make that happen, but someone wants me to think I did. Who could want that? Hmm…I don’t know…let’s see…who could it be….

(anyone who remembers the SNL Church lady skit can insert the finishing word here. I don’t feel like writing it. I realize this last paragraph could make me seem as crazy as the people on this movie. I’m sorry for outing myself, but hey, at least I’m thinking, right? That’s what the movie wanted, right?)

So at this point in the movie I was like, “somebody get this blonde chick away from me” (referring to JZ Knight, creator of Ramtha), and I got real tired of everything real fast. I don’t want to relive it any more, but I will say that Marlee Matlin goes to a wedding where she learns that: our emotions can literally kill us by attaching “peptides” to our cells; “Our mind literally creates our body” -- therefore she can make herself thinner with her mind (that quote was from a fat woman, btw. Can’t she create something a little thinner?); love is just another wacky emotion to become addicted to; people with I.V.’s can polka; our cells have wacky personalities all their own that come out when “peptides” affect them; some of our cells are disturbingly attractive; and, going crazy is a positive personal change. At one point, Armin Shimerman shows up in her bathroom mirror, which causes her to laugh at nothing and spread toothpaste all over the bathroom and get naked write runes all over her body. If those things don’t add up to crazy, then I don’t know what does. She’s finally happy in her crazy created world, and the movie’s credits reveal exactly who the “experts” were, The Chiropractor, JZ Knight’s imagination, and professors from: Columbia, Penn, Oregon U., Thomas Jefferson U., Georgetown, Harvard, Stanford, and Arizona. Is this crap-grass philosophy being taught at all our universities? Cancel the education funding now!

I will close with a word about the Theology of this movie: Don’t. As in, don’t think, don’t protest, don’t believe in anything you’ve been taught except those things that were taught to you by JZ Knight. Her and her Irish henchman (who is a Christian – no, really – you can tell by the church in the background) tell us that “At the deepest level, all is one”(Monism), “We are all gods – how did that get taken out of Religion?” (Pantheism), “Religion has done all this harm” (Misreading-Historyism), “All you need is faith like a mustard seed” (Using Scripture For Your Own Endsism), Christianity has an “ugly, superstitious, backwater concept of God” (I don’t have an –ism for this one), and finally, “There is no such thing as right or wrong.”

Isn’t it possible that there is?