28 January 2023

Tipping point on EVs

Anyone who doubts that the tipping point of conversion of the world's auto fleet to electric vehicles is upon us needs to explain how of the top ten global sellers, only two, the Tesla Model Y and the Tesla Model 3, showed increased sales. The Camry, Corolla, F-series Ford pick ups, CRV, RAV-4... all the internal combustion models, saw declines in sales. All  of them. And, here's the thing: Tesla just cut the price of the Model Y and the Model 3 substantially, and Tesla is about to release its next-generation subcompact (dubbed "Model 2" or "Model A" but likely to be named something else), which will sell, after subsidies, for as little as $20,000 in the US. And, while other than Chinese BYD no other automaker can produce enough EVs to meet demand, the fact is that demand for nearly all EVs is exceeding demand for gas powered cars, across the board. 

26 January 2023

Katie for Senate!

What? It's 2023, not 2024! But people are running already. I'm no longer a Californian, so I guess I should stay the hell out of it, but I would vote for Katie Porter over Adam Schiff for Senate in California. I think her kind of probity and intellectual virtuosity is exactly what is needed in the Senate. All this presumes that Feinstein will finally step down... I consider it a stain on her career (one of several) that she failed to step down last time. But, come to think of it, if she doesn't, it won't matter. In California's Jungle Primary, I'd say Feinstein has about zero chance of retaining her seat at this point, since other Democrats have already announced they're running to replace her, and at her level of mental infirmity, she simply cannot mount a credible campaign. 


24 January 2023

A little planetary rhapsody

The constellation Cetus, the Whale or Sea Monster, can be seen around this time of year in much of the Northern Hemisphere, despite being a "southern constellation," and thanks to the Earth's axial tilt, which gives us a view of a good percentage of the sky at one time or another when it's clear throughout the year. I first picked out Cetus's stars about 50 years ago, and even then I was particularly intrigued with the relatively inconspicuous star Tau Ceti. It's not much to look at with the naked eye. Slightly orange yellow, once you accustom yourself to distinguishing the colors of stars. It is one of the "Bayer" stars, named after the astronomer Bayer who gave the brighter stars in the sky greek-letter  + constellation name designations (in Latin genitive case) back in the early 17th century. 

But TC was one of the subjects of Frank Drake's 1961 Project Ozma, where he first tried to listen for signals from possible extraterrestrial intelligence. This is because, the thinking went, such signals are likely to attenuate, so would be most likely detected, if at all, only from nearby sunlike stars, which might have planets and life much like Earth. (Others have since expanded this view, but no signals have yet been found, and some of us have already concluded that they may well never be found because they aren't there). Anyway, Tau Ceti was thought to be one of the better candidates. It's somewhat smaller than the Sun, but is the closest solitary G-type dwarf, albeit somewhat "later" in the parlance, meaning dimmer and smaller than the Sun, at about 78% solar mass. It's about 12 light years, which is close in stellar terms, although that's something like 75 trillion miles, so it's not close by any human standard. We will not have the technology to actually go there for a very long time, and will never be able to travel back and forth the way you go to Europe. Some will disagree with that, but they are engaging in wishful thinking; the speed of light is an absolute speed limit and it will never be possible to travel to nearby stars in less than years. Likely we will have the technology to send some kind of robot probe, on a long, long journey, long before we could actually try to travel to Tau Ceti or other nearby stars. But even that is not currently in the offing. Our knowledge of stars and star systems comes from ground based telescopes and satellites; currently the best investigation is from the James Webb Space Telescope and some other space based platforms.

Technically Tau Ceti is a G8 dwarf, which is dimmer and smaller than the Sun's G2 class. These classes don't tell you everything about a star. Tau Ceti is older than the Sun, at about 6 billion years by most estimates, and is lower in metallicity, meaning preponderance of elements heavier than helium. That would affect the chemistry of the planets it has. In 1961, it was thought that only solitary stars like the Sun would likely have planets, although it was known even then that the majority of stars are found in systems with at least two stars. (Not the majority of systems, but the majority of stars. Many smaller, red dwarf stars are solitary, so the slight majority of systems are solitary, but since by definition even a binary system has two stars, the stars in binary and multiple systems do outnumber the singletons. Turns out even stars in multiple systems almost always have at least some planets anyway). 

In 1973 when I spotted Tau Ceti in a dark winter sky and thought about what might be there, we really knew nothing. Now, thanks to huge advances in exoplanetology, it's fairly certain that Tau Ceti has at least five planets, and likely all of the ones so far detected are in a class of planets that, by chance perhaps or for unknown reasons, does not exist in the Solar System, namely so-called Super Earths. Super Earths are defined as rocky "terrestrial" planets larger than Earth in both diameter and mass, but enough smaller than so-called Ice Giants like Neptune and Uranus in the Solar System, which have sufficient gravity to retain hydrogen and helium in their atmospheres, to not have that kind of atmosphere. Hydrogen and helium escape from the atmospheres of planets like Earth, so they tend to have thinner atmospheres made up of other gases. Turns out, from the investigation of now thousands of planetary systems, Super Earths are very, very common. Most planetary systems have at least one, and frequently they are much closer to the star even than Mercury is to the Sun, especially in the cases of less massive stars. We have now realized that the Solar System is actually rather unusual, even for stars of the approximate mass of the Sun, and not even taking into account the extremely unusual planet Earth, with its huge moon and... highly developed life. Also, by far the majority of stars in the Galactic population are smaller...most of them much smaller... than the Sun, but almost all of them have planetary systems. Whether the Sun's higher than average metallicity has anything to do with its distribution of planets and what those planets are like is the subject of a lot of research but is not at all well understood at this point. 

So, Frank Drake's 1961 investigation now appears pretty quixotic. There is no particular reason that Super Earths could not have life; indeed it has been speculated that planets between 1.1 and 1.5 Earth Masses might actually be somewhat more hospitable to life than Earth, all other things being equal. But other things usually aren't equal, and in all the searching and investigation, an approximate endeavor all around in any case, we have yet to come across a really close analog to Earth, in terms of mass, distance from its star to give approximately equal "sunlight," etc. Not that these parameters are well known or easily confirmed, and equally important questions arising about composition of the planet and its potential oceans and atmospheres is mostly still in the realm of speculation. But planets with 3 and 4 times the mass of Earth, which is most of Tau Ceti's planets, seem unlikely to host life similar to Earth's, as their atmospheres are likely to be extremely dense, like Venus's. Whether high gravity alone would be a major obstacle or not is unknown. (TC may well have a "Jupiter" or "Super Jupiter" further out; planets distant from the star can be hard to detect so there's a selection bias). But, still, most systems just don't include a planet with all the "goldilocks" characteristics to have liquid water and stable temperatures for ultra-long periods of time, which seems to be what made complex life on Earth possible. 

There are other reasons for believing that complex life like ours is actually pretty rare. We don't know enough to rule out a range of biochemistries, but a good deal of work on the possible origin of life on Earth suggests that the range is far from infinite, and that conditions have to be fairly circumscribed by planetary conditions, and remain stable for long periods of time, for evolution to work its magic and produce complex macroscopic life. See any discussion of the Fermi Paradox for reasons other than direct observation to infer that the evolution of complex life and intelligence is very probably quite rare in the universe. 

So, you may ask, what is my point? Just this: let's not lose sight of the wonder of it all. Tau Ceti is a real place. It has real worlds. They're not just like our world, but they have existed for longer than the Earth, presumably, and we have no idea whether some form of life might have originated on one or even two of them, where liquid water could exist on their surfaces. And it is just one of countless stars... literally countless. There are about 400 billion stars in the Galaxy alone, and the observable universe (not the entire universe, just the part you can see from here) contains about that many entire galaxies, each with tens of millions to up to a trillion or so stars (like our nearest big galactic neighbor, M31 in Andromeda, which as about 1 trillion stars at roughly 2 million light years' distance). The universe is actually more diverse than most science fiction writers over the years have imagined. And it is out there, in a sense, waiting for us. Apparently, in terms of conscious living beings, mostly empty, but nonetheless are real as our world, made of the same stuff, governed by the same physics and chemistry. We as a species are like a petulant child, obsessed narcissistically with our own petty concerns and narrowly perceived world. If we could but look out at the stars and realize that our job for the present is to learn to live with each other in peace and sustainable technology on the only world anywhere near here that can sustain us, we can dream that one day we will actually begin the long future where the stars are real places, where our descendants and successors may go, and find a whole universe of wonder we can scarcely dream of. We can, if we can just get through this toddler phase of rampant stupidity and short-sightedness, emerge into a maturity of an almost limitless future, where what it means to be human and aware will evolve and grow in ways we can't imagine. 

20 January 2023

Stupid, deliberately evasive report on the Dobbs leak

 I frankly don't much care who leaked Dobbs, because I generally prefer transparency anyway. And any misconduct involved pales in comparison to what I consider the rank evil of the opinion itself, and its hideous arrogance in addition to the plain and devastating effects it will have as "the law of the land." But here's the thing: to me it is obvious that the draft opinion was almost certainly leaked by someone on the right, not by one of the clerks or justices on the so called left, which I prefer to think of as the "Centrist Minority." There is no left in American government, by and large and certainly not on the Supreme Court. Anyway, the Supreme Court's embarassingly, even shamefully, inept investigative report fairly stinks of the inference that it was not only someone on the right, but very likely one of the justices or someone very close to one of the rightist justices. It's clear the investigators didn't even ask them anything. Someday we will probably know. My money would be on Alito himself, probably concealed by some sort of shenanigans. If not him, then Thomas or Ginni Thomas. I have no evidence for this, just a hunch, but this is what I expect history will reveal. 

19 January 2023

Buy forever stamps

 Most people don't use 1st class mail much anymore, which is one of the reasons the USPS is struggling. But I actually do; including for volunteer political mailing. So I just bought a shitload of FOREVER stamps from usps.com, since they're 60¢ each till the end of this week, but will be going up to 63¢ thereafter. That actually makes it a good deal to buy a few years' supply... my sweet spot was about $235 worth. OK, not a huge big deal, but everybody likes a bargain. And, I submit, US 1st class mail is still a bargain, even at 63¢. I still have maybe 300 or so stamps I bought over the years with the FOREVER logo, an idea I actually advocated for before they adopted it... sort of a way for them to borrow money at modest interest. And since probably a significant percentage of stamps that get issued and sold are never used, it makes financial sense to the Postal Service too. 

18 January 2023

Congressman Nadler is taking this suggestion seriously

Apparently, this is a very real suggestion which would actually work. Rather than let the nihilistic crazies in charge of the House wreck the world economy and America's credit (and possibly even permanently tank the status of the USD as the world's reserve currency), the Administration could use an obscure but perfectly valid law to mint a single coin, with at least a small amount of platinum in it (that's actually in the law). The denomination could be $1 trillion, or any other amount deemed sufficient. This could then be deposited in the Federal Reserve and used to fund already authorized spending until sane adults are again able to address the issue. Whereupon, it is to be fervently hoped and expected, they will eliminate the debt ceiling once and for all. 

This is technically not debt, it's the equivalent of "printing money," but it's expected any inflationary effect would be far less than the devastation that might very well result from a first-ever default. Just coming uncomfortably close in 2011 is estimated to have cost taxpayers over $18 billion in increased interest payments, which is just wasted money from a public welfare point of view. 

17 January 2023

Renewable Energy Future

Now and then, it's good to stop and take stock. It seems already clear that in the near term, the best prospects for renewable energy, especially for transportation, is the greatly reduced cost and increased efficiency of solar cells and batteries. Hydrogen fuel cells, which require hydrogen to be produced at huge cost both of Co2+Methane emissions and just plain cost, are not a good solution. Natural gas and coal as "bridges" should be considered at the end of their usefulness already: nowhere in the world should new fossil fuel plants be built, and the cessation of production of fossil fuel burning engines should be a near term goal. Stationary and mobile batteries and solar cells continue to get cheaper and better, so electric ground transportation and solar power production are very promising. Lowered cost and safer nuclear power plants appear to be feasible, and further down the road fusion power plants may prove feasible. It now appears that conversion to carbon neutral energy production in by 2050 to 2060 is going to be feasible, with most of the transportation using battery electric technology. Ocean going ships may be feasible using combination solar/wind/battery with electric propulsion. Air travel is problematic and may require the manufacture of carbon neutral fuel from biomass, but net zero is likely feasible. Artificially manufactured turbojet fuel can be produced, at least in principle, that generates no net CO2. 

It begins

Worldwide EV Price War. Tesla just cut the price on the Model Y crossover model from $65 to $52K, less the $7.5K rebate. This makes it cheaper, for example, than the Hyundai Ioniq 5 in the US. This is still somewhat expensive for a car, but when you factor in longevity and cost of operation, these cars are now more economical than comparable gas powered cars on the basis of life of car overall cost, and, frankly, it's not even close. 

16 January 2023

Beautiful MLK Day «Letter from an American» (Heather Cox Richardson)

This kinda made my day. 

You hear sometimes that, now that we know the sordid details of the lives of some of our leading figures, America has no heroes left.

When I was writing a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, where heroism was pretty thin on the ground, I gave that a lot of thought. And I came to believe that heroism is neither being perfect, nor doing something spectacular. In fact, it's just the opposite: it's regular, flawed human beings, choosing to put others before themselves, even at great cost, even if no one will ever know, even as they realize the walls might be closing in around them.

It means sitting down the night before D-Day and writing a letter praising the troops and taking all the blame for the next day's failure upon yourself, in case things went wrong, as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did.

It means writing in your diary that you "still believe that people are really good at heart," even while you are hiding in an attic from the men who are soon going to kill you, as Anne Frank did.

It means signing your name to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence in bold print, even though you know you are signing your own death warrant should the British capture you, as John Hancock did.

It means defending your people's right to practice a religion you don't share, even though you know you are becoming a dangerously visible target, as Sitting Bull did.

Sometimes it just means sitting down, even when you are told to stand up, as Rosa Parks did.

None of those people woke up one morning and said to themselves that they were about to do something heroic. It's just that, when they had to, they did what was right.

On April 3, 1968, the night before the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a white supremacist, he gave a speech in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 1966, King had tried to broaden the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality into a larger movement for economic justice. He joined the sanitation workers in Memphis, who were on strike after years of bad pay and such dangerous conditions that two men had been crushed to death in garbage compactors.

After his friend Ralph Abernathy introduced him to the crowd, King had something to say about heroes: "As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about."

Dr. King told the audience that, if God had let him choose any era in which to live, he would have chosen the one in which he had landed. "Now, that's a strange statement to make," King went on, "because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around…. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars." Dr. King said that he felt blessed to live in an era when people had finally woken up and were working together for freedom and economic justice.

He knew he was in danger as he worked for a racially and economically just America. "I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter…because I've been to the mountaintop…. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

People are wrong to say that we have no heroes left.

Just as they have always been, they are all around us, choosing to do the right thing, no matter what.

Wishing you all a day of peace for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2023.


Dr. King's final speech: 


15 January 2023

The state of the auto industry

It's a bit of a cliché to say "numbers don't lie." But there is fundamental truth in it. And here's what the numbers show:

  • Worldwide, and in North America, the only segment of the new auto market that is increasing is the electric vehicle segment, and no automaker is currently able to keep up with demand. All other segments have had decreased sales year/year as of 2022. The oft repeated mantra touted by CEOs of companies like Toyota and BMW that people "don't really want EVs" is just not true. People really really want EVs and they can't get enough of them. 
  • None of the legacy makers can produce enough EVs to meet demand. The Cadillac Lyriq, introduced to great fanfare, sold less than 1500 vehicles in 2022. Not because of lack of demand, but because they can't produce anywhere near enough to meet demand, which causes price gouging in America's ridiculous dealer sales system. Ford has over 200,000 orders for its electric pick up truck, but can't anywhere near meet that demand. So, as you would expect, people are canceling orders. Tesla sales, especially in California, are breaking records. 
  • Tesla and BYD (Chinese) are currently the only automakers in the world that have done the legwork sufficiently that they can make EVs at scale and make a profit on them. Tesla projects over 1 million EVs in 2023, quite realistically, and intends to ramp up from there to however many there is demand for. They have a huge plant in Shanghai and another in Texas, waiting to be expanded. One reason other makers cannot match this growth for now is that both VW and GM (for example) had close to $1 billion in recall and warranty chargeoffs in the last year, whereas Tesla's was not only much less in dollars, it was less than 10% of that on a per car basis. EVs are just much more reliable than ICE cars, cost less to operate, and last longer without mechanical failures on average. (Batteries are part of that, lasting longer and maintaining reliability better). Tesla will benefit from the US tax rebate, whereas the Chinese will not, so this is a huge plus for them, especially in North America.  
  • Batteries are following something similar to Moore's law in the current industrialization phase. Technologies are emerging that allow production at scale for a fraction of the cost of even ten years ago, and new battery designs will not require increasingly expensive rare materials like lithium and cobalt. (A design already in preproduction replaces lithium with sodium, which is virtually inexhaustible and cheap). The only companies that are already in development of the latest, most efficient and cheapest battery technologies are the Chinese makers and... you guessed it... Tesla. This is likely to become the competitive edge in the next few years. Something similar is happening with solar cells; new technology allows them to be about 5% the weight, and to be made into flexible rolls that can be glued to almost any surface, so future EVs will get a significant fraction of their power from sunlight as they're running.  

I've talked about this before, but here's what this all boils down to. The legacy automakers worldwide, all of them, are at a competitive disadvantage resulting from the biggest industrial disruption in the auto industry since about 1920, currently underway. Some, like VW, BMW, Mercedes, Tata, Hyundai Group, Ford, and GM, are at least working vigorously to catch up and some of them will likely succeed. Chinese makers, with heavy subsidies, and particularly BYD, and Tesla, are clear leaders. Much of Tesla's manufacturing, development and sales are in China. The Japanese, who have all missed the boat on this and are all very far behind in EV development despite having been early adopters and developers of hybrid technology, are in very, very serious jeopardy and Japan's entire economy is likely to be massively disrupted in the next 5 years. Toyota and BMW made a huge mistake in sticking with hydrogen fuel cell technology R&D (which GM abandoned over a decade ago), when it's clear that the infrastructure costs are just not going to allow this technology to be competitive. 

Japanese EVs that do exist, such as the Nissan Leaf and the BZ3 or whatever the hell Toyota calls it, are being made in small numbers at a loss, and are not particularly good compared to the Koreans, Chinese, and Tesla, or even the Europeans. Toyota stopped production of their car, which is just not competitive... along with the Subaru rebadge version. They say they are looking at an overhaul of the EV project, which is great, but about a decade too late. Honda is getting GM to make EVs for them, since they have nothing in the pipeline. Mazda's EV is so pitiful they are hardly selling at all and it's just a hollowed out ICE design with glommed on EV componentry, so it's highly inefficient and low-range. The Japanese bet heavily on hybrid technology, but it's clearer than ever that hybrids, including plug-in hybrids, are only a stopgap... the future of the auto industry is electric, where the infrastructure, still inadequate, is being rapidly developed and is relatively easy and cheap to build out. There's power everywhere, already, after all. And the cars are already good enough to replace gas cars across the board. 

It's a brave new world, but it's a safe bet that the huge majority of new cars in 2030 will be electric, and the largest automakers in the world will probably be Tesla and BYD. GM and Ford are poised to survive, probably, but VW and Toyota, both of which have absolutely massive debt, will be in real trouble, probably with vastly shrunken market share. It is even possible that several of the Japanese makers (like Mazda and Nissan, which are losing share fast), will be bankrupt. Stellantis (Fiat/Peugeot/Citroen/Chrysler) is in deep trouble. A mark you may see more of is Volvo... why? Because Volvo is now Geely, a Chinese company that is pretty far along in EV production and development. The Germans are experiencing growing pains and high costs, but at least they seem to be working on the problem assiduously and not just ignoring it and hoping it will go away, which is what the Japanese appear to be doing. The legacy makers, including the Japanese, do obviously have a lot of institutional wherewithal, so it's certainly possible that they will rapidly turn around and still be competitive, but if that's going to happen, they have to make up for a lot of lost time, starting yesterday. 

But, hey, let's remember. This is all pretty much good news. The conversion of transportation to electric power, which can and will be produced from nonfossil carbon neutral sources in the future, is just necessary for the global enterprise needed to combat the looming climate catastrophe. Disruption is inevitable. Governments can help their industries face reality and get the job done, but the bottom line is that it is already happening, and those that bring up the rear will lose out. 

Next up: air transport. Gotta get busy on that front. That one's gonna be hard. Might have to use carbon neutral manufactured fuels, which could make air transportation relatively more expensive. Ocean going transport might be easier, but that development is barely started too.

06 January 2023

Clavichord Nearing Completion


My Silbermann replica 61 key unfretted clavichord, nearing completion in Pennsylvania in the workshop of master harpsichord/clavichord builder Douglas Maple. (Not yet strung). 

05 January 2023

Red Lentil Flat Bread (Masoor dal chilla)

I came across this extremely simple starch substitute (well, it's starch, but also protein and no grain). It's used in the Middle East a lot. Somewhat like socca but actually easier and more versatile.  

Half-recipe suitable for one or two: 

½ cup red lentils, also called masoor dal, picked over to remove gravel, etc., although nowadays that's hardly necessary if using packaged product. Do not use green or brown lentils, these are a different plant! 
1 cup warm but not hot water
½ tsp. salt
a little oil if you like
any seasoning or herbs you may want, or none

Soak the lentils in the water for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature (you can actually keep this soaked lentil mix in the refrig. for up to several days, but not the mixed batter, which will harden if left too long). 

If water is standing on top of the lentils after 3 hours, pour off excess, but there probably won't be any. 

Put in blender or use immersion blender and blend thoroughly until the consistency of pancake batter. If too thick, add more water, but only a little at a time. You do not want the batter to be runny. 

Heat nonstick skillet (it really has to be nonstick) to fairly high temperature, as if you were making pancakes (because you are). 

Pour about a 5" circle of the batter and move pan back and forth evenly to spread out to a large round pancake. Return to heat and brown for about 3 min., lifting the edges with a large silicone or nonscratch spatula . When the underside is browned a bit (about 3 min.), slide all the way under and turn over. Cook another minute and remove. Can be eaten warm or cold, under sauces or stews or with jam, butter, peanut butter, any way you would use bread. Will keep a decent texture a day or two and is resilient enough that you can even use it to make something like a gyros or wrap. And no gluten, of course; the resiliency is from the legume proteins. No eggs or baking powder necessary. 

You could make this with yellow lentils but not conventional lentils, which are a different variety and possibly even a different species (several cultivars are designated variously, all derived from the wild species Lens orientalis). Red lentils are conventionally split like split peas while brown lentils remain with their covering intact. They don't really behave the same way. Chickpeas (chana dal) work, too, but the result is stiffer, and is essentially socca (chickpea flatbread, usually made under broiler or in oven but otherwise similar). 

The lentil batter hardens easily and can be hard to clean off utensils, so soak anything right away in warm water to make cleanup easier. 

None of the many varieties of new world bean Phaseolus, including pinto, black beans, great northern, white beans, cannellini, black-eyed peas, etc. will work; they all require much longer soaking and don't readily cook as pancake from raw batter. 

Good News on Solar Power

Sam Evans, the Electric Viking on YouTube, has noted an interesting development amidst a moderate global economic recession, which is actually quite good news. Due to the intense price competition among Chinese manufacturers faced with excess capacity and weak demand, the price of solar panels has dropped about 30% in the last year. This caps a decade of declines whereby electric panels are approximately 90% cheaper than a decade ago. 

At these prices, the commercial and residential production of solar electric power will prove cheaper than any fossil fuel production. And for the future of the climate, this is very good news indeed. 

01 January 2023

The (very brief) Lovingkindness Sutra.

As I believe I've made clear to my farflung correspondents, I am a secular Buddhist, meaning I think of it, oversimplifying a bit, as a philosophy rather than as a religion (although of course it is a religion for many). Thinking about the "Four Immeasurables" I was discussing recently, I chanced to ask the ChatBot ChatGPT about it, and it gave me a contemporary translation of the Metta Sutta ("Lovingkindness Sutra"), traditionally the teachings of the historical Buddha, Shakyamnuni, himself, in a contemporary translation, done by the Theravada monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Here it is:

"This is what should be done By one who is skilled in goodness, And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright, Straightforward and gentle in speech. Humble and not conceited, Contented and easily satisfied, Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways. Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful, Not proud and demanding in nature. Let them not do the slightest thing That the wise would later reprove. Wishing: In gladness and in safety, May all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be; Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, The great or the mighty, medium, short or small, The seen and the unseen, Those living near and far away, Those born and to-be-born, May all beings be at ease! Let none deceive another, Or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill-will Wish harm upon another. Even as a mother protects with her life Her child, her only child, So with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings: Radiating kindness over the entire world Spreading upwards to the skies, And downwards to the depths; Outwards and unbounded, Freed from hatred and ill-will. Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down Free from drowsiness, One should sustain this recollection. This is said to be the sublime abiding. By not holding to fixed views, The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision, Being freed from all sense desires, Is not born again into this world."

Happy New Year, and may these thoughts be of benefit. (I take the last lines a tad metaphorically, but there is real wisdom here).

"Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it."
― Spinoza (Ethics)

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone. In our weekly men's meditation, we recite the "Four limitless ones" chant, in a version I believe derives from Chögyam Trungpa, or at least the Shambhala tradition. It goes as follows (based on the Buddhist brahma-viharas, or limitless ones; metta (lovingkindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (equanimity): 

May all beings enjoy happiness, and the root of happiness. 
May we be free from suffering, and the root of suffering. 
May we never be separated from the great happiness, devoid of suffering.
May we dwell in the great equanimity, free from passion, aggression and prejudice. 

This is traditional now, and I know it by heart, but today I was thinking, it somehow isn't quite right, especially the third one, so I presumptuously offer this "re-write," and extend it as a wish to everyone I know and don't know. 

The Four Limitless Qualities (rewrite)

May all beings be happy, and know the root of happiness.

May we be free from suffering, and know the root of suffering.

May we experience joy when others are joyful.

May our minds repose in equanimity, free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.