“Whole Motion” by Derek Beres

I’ve read a couple different places that the most successful people in America read around 60 books per year. It isn’t because they have more free time, it is because they use their time in a way that allows them to consume more. I don’t know if there is a specific direction of causation between success and reading, but I would be willing to bet that they are a feedback loop.

Anyway, I am trying to up my reading and want to read one book per week. That’ll bring me to 52 books, I think the other 8 will come from the Audiobooks I listen to. I may never get caught up on Game of Thrones but maybe I’ll find tools and methods that help create the success I want. As I finish books I plan on writing a brief summary of what I read. Having a blog post in mind helps me really study the material and reviewing it helps me retain the information.

So, my first book is “Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body for Optimal Health” by Derek Beres. I can’t remember if someone recommended this book to me or if it just popped up on my Goodreads feed because it matched my interests, but I’m glad that I got a hold of it. Beres views health and human optimization in a similar way that I do. Our different areas of life cannot be compartmentalized and that healthy practices in one area can positively impact other areas. For example, regular physical exercise can improve cognitive abilities and mental health. Our body is one unit that includes a lot of different parts that depend on each other.

Beres divides his book into three parts: Setting the Stage, Movement, and Mind. In Setting the Stage he runs through his hypothesis, that we are meant to move, change is good, the body and mind are tied together, and that regeneration (rest, stretching, etc) is a necessary and often neglected part of health. To back up his hypothesis, Beres provides just enough scientific research and biology refresher to support his claims without getting overly technical (though he does provide a lot of references for further reading). I actually really appreciated this approach.

In the second section, Movement, Beres starts providing concrete things that we can each do to add more healthy movement to our lives. Nothing in this book requires any special equipment, each physical exercise can be done in the home with body weight. While each of the subsections could be performed in isolation, it is actually beneficial (and one of Beres’ arguments) that health comes from utilizing all the techniques. Nothing in here is magic or a silver bullet. On the contrary, Beres reminds the reader many times that everybody is different, but the variation from each subchapter does work to reinforce healthy habits and provide variety to the workout.

The second section, Mind, moves us into non-exercise related habits. Meditation, healthy eating, flow states, music, community, and technology are all addressed. This section was really beneficial to me and I enjoyed the practical advice that he gave. Some stuff (like eating healthy and meditation) I was familiar with but the benefits of certain types of music and community were kind of new.

Overall, I loved this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in finding some concrete steps to get a little more out of their life. Beres does a great job of providing evidence for his theory and reminding us that we are animals that evolved in a different environment and that by being aware of that and embracing play and nature we can improve our lives. Health isn’t about ripping muscles or fast marathon times, it is about improving the quality and quantity of our time in this beautiful universe.

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Week 3: Stop Thinking About It

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

Alright, this last week or so has been kind of a gagglefuck. I was out of town for work part of last week and then we had Couchsurfers all weekend. It really messed up my routine (I know I am making excuses) but I think the break did me some good. I feel much more motivated.

So, quick update on Week 2. I basically did not accomplish anything that I set out to do (womp womp). But that’s okay. I can’t change the events of last week any more than I can change the 2016 Presidential election or the burning of the Library of Alexandria, all I can I do is move forward and live in the moment.

The focus of Week 3 is “Stop Thinking About It”. Basically, I need to do the things that I think about doing or say I am going to do. This week reminds me of a chapter of Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday called “Talk, Talk, Talk”. I probably highlighted more sections of that chapter than any other in the book, but this was my favorite passage:

The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.

Basically, if you are talking about doing something then you probably aren’t doing it. We all have projects and dreams and desires in our life that we talk about doing “someday”, at least I do. In fact, I have a list of things to do sitting right next to me that seems to grow every day. Some of them I can finish in a day and some require serious commitment.

Here is my current list:

  • Write “Forward Tilt” blog post (well hell, things are looking good right now)
  • Complete Coursera course on Nutrition (started)
  • Nude sunbathing in backyard
  • Transfer book into ePub/Kodo format
  • Record Audiobook
  • Complete Excel Course
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Complete “Yoga for Men” course on Udemy
  • Dig up weeds and junk by back shed and prep soil for gardening
  • Finish taxes
  • Study for driver’s license test
  • Register at the local VA
  • Find social groups (ideas: Freemasons, Unitarian Universalist Church, Softball league, Board Game and D&D Game nights at local comic shop, Running and Cycling clubs)
  • Locate a Half Marathon this fall
  • Try out new art mediums
  • Master a fire dancing technique (poi, staff, or hoop)
  • Clear non-work emails
  • Schedule a dental appointment
  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Mail books to friend in New Orleans
  • Organize tool closet
  • Transfer seedlings into bigger containers
  • Finish second draft of Linneria
  • Find a 3x a week workout plan

The action item for this week is to pick one thing that I’ve been thinking or talking about doing and do it. Seems pretty simple.

Unfortunately, I have a history of overplanning early on and burning out quickly. I’d like to say “hell yeah, I can get all these done in a week” but I don’t know if I have the mental stamina for that. Instead, I am going to pick one big project that will be my top priority and focus all my energy on completing that this week. I think seven days is enough time to accomplish the Audiobook recording of my book. That is probably the project that most accurately fits the definition of something I’ve talked about but haven’t done. I’m excited to report back in a week with my progress.

 

Linneria 287-III (Part 6)

Now that my first book has been completed I’ve decided to try and write some fiction. This is my first attempt at it. I’m not sure how much I will write every day, but I plan on at writing something for this story every day this week. We shall see how it goes.  (Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5)

*Tara, wake up. There is a problem*

SAMs voice echoed into Tara’s tired mind. She looked at the clock on her console and realized that she had only been asleep for 1.5 days. I’m awake, what’s wrong?

*I’ve detected military troops and aircraft moving into this region. Local news broadcasts are saying that it is a multi-national joint exercise*

Hmm, okay. Did our visitors contact anyone?

*Negative. I detected no transmissions out of their home related to us*

Maybe it is a coincidence. Maybe it really is just a joint military exercise.

*Unlikely. The primary military force is coming from the superpower on the other side of the planet. I’ve searched their databases and there was no mention of a military exercise until yesterday.*

Shit. Well, either this nation-state is being invaded or they are coming for us. 

*It is likely the latter.*

Okay, how long do we have?

*Unknown, but I will be able to provide a 2-hour warning. Would you like me to prepare our weapons?*

The worst case scenario had arrived. Tara could go down fighting, and probably kill hundreds with her superior technology before she ran out of energy or the creatures resorted to atomic weapons, or she could follow Directive 1.

No. There is no fighting our way out of this one. The loss of life would be catastrophic and it would mostly be innocent people. No. I won’t do that. Can we get a message out to the SLC?

*Not for another 14 hours, unless we take control of their satellite.*

Okay, we are going to do that. Take control of the satellite and send all the information we have. If the creatures become hostile or if I must initiate Directive 1 then I want you to send a warning back home. Let our people know that Linneria 287 has hostile creatures and only observation from outside the solar system is advised. Oh, and do your best to cover your tracks. It would be nice if the creatures had no evidence that we were ever here.

*Understood.*

The next two hours passed slowly for Tara. She went for a walk outside the ship and thought about home. She always knew that this type of thing could happen but it seemed so unlikely. Death, murder, machines of war, violence… those things didn’t happen anymore. They were simply historical stories, pushed to the dustbin of history such as slavery, racism, monarchism, democracy, capital punishment, and every other violent attempt by one group of people to control another group. But here she was, likely going to die on a planet that looked like home but was so very different, and there was nothing else to be done.

*Tara, I’ve intercepted a coded military transmission. The soldiers will be here in two hours. They have orders to collect any technology or lifeforms, use of deadly force is authorized.*

Okay. I’m going to lay under these large trees for a while. Let me know when they are a few minutes away.

She lay down and smelled the air and found herself awestruck at the beauty around her. The plants and animal sounds were strange and unfamiliar, but there was something about them that comforted her. Life would go on, even if hers would not. She drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face, knowing that she was going to die doing what her species was meant to do: explore.

*They are approaching, would you like to see them?*

She nodded and instantly a projection came out of the craft and cast itself upon the ground. There before her was a live feed from one of the drones that SAM had sent out to scan the area. Three large, black machines flew through the air towards her. She had never seen war machines outside of a museum, they terrified her. She didn’t recognize the craft and she didn’t know what the white “US” lettering meant, but the phallus shaped objects under the wings could only be weapons.

Okay. I guess it is time. SAM, initiate Directive 1. Total time 60 seconds.

Nearly instantly the nanobots in her body released chemicals into her bloodstream. She felt love, euphoria, and peace, as she sat on the snow. The colors of the strange world around her got brighter and she began to giggle for a few final seconds before her life ended, the last voice she heard was SAM singing her a lullaby.

Her nanobots and their cousins that inhabited her ship began breaking down her body and the ship. They made quick work and soon everything was converted into their base elements, and then even the base elements were reduced to electrons, protons, and neutrons. The only evidence that she had ever existed on Linneria 287-III was a small patch of land that was missing some snow, but even that would be smoothed over with the next storm.

Linneria 287-III (Part 5)

Now that my first book has been completed I’ve decided to try and write some fiction. This is my first attempt at it. I’m not sure how much I will write every day, but I plan on at writing something for this story every day this week. We shall see how it goes.  (Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4)

Tara stood in awe in the shadow of the two creatures. Her mind had trouble processing everything that was happening. As far as she knew, she was the first person of her species to interact with an alien life form, but she was terrified. These creatures were large and loud and could kill her easily if she angered them. SAM insisted that they were rational, but they looked more like beasts than an intelligent life form, and they seemed as scared as she was.

When she emerged from the ship the two creatures recoiled in fear, but upon seeing her small size they began to look more sure of themselves. Their weapons were hanging loosely at their sides when she spoke to them.

“Peace. I am peaceful. I mean no harm,” the harsh language came out slowly and stuck in her throat as she tried to make out the words. Despite the slow pace of her words the creatures seemed to understand.

“What are you?” the large one asked.

“My name is Tara, and I am a scientist from another world. My ship has crashed and I am stranded here. Please, I mean no harm but you cannot tell anyone you found me,” she said. She hoped she sounded sincere but her knowledge of the language wasn’t strong enough to master the nuance necessary with verbal communication.

The two creatures spoke softly to each other while keeping an eye on her. She couldn’t hear them with her ears but SAM filled her in on the discussion.

*They are trying to decide what to do. Scans indicate that they are afraid, but they are calming down. The smaller creature wants to leave but the large creature is reluctant to turn his back on you.*

The seconds passed slowly and Tara took the opportunity to observe this new world. It was beautiful, the white snow reminded her of her home, but the trees high above her were strange and made her feel a little claustrophobic. The sun was warm on her skin and she longed to strip off her outfit to run through this new land.

“Are you injured? Do you need clothing or food?” the smaller one said, turning to Tara. The voice was softer than before and seemed to be sincere.

“No, thank you. I have all I need,” Tara said.

“Okay… we will leave you in peace,” the large one said.

Tara sighed audibly and started to return to her ship. SAM, make sure a drone follows them and stays near their home. I want their communications monitored. If there is any chance that they report us we will need an advanced warning.

*Agreed… Tara, it is very likely that they will report you. We should prepare for that contingency. You know that Directive 1 is the only option*

I know… Directive 1 was the only option if the nation-states were informed of her presence, but she tried not to think about that.

“Wait, can I ask you a question?” the small one said, approaching Tara slowly with their arms open wide.

“Sure,” Tara said.

“Have your people visited our planet before? We have ancient legends about creatures visiting our land and giving us knowledge and gifts… most people they are just myths, but I think they might be more,” the smaller one said with a hint of hope in their voice.

“No, I’m sorry, my people haven’t been here before. In fact, I’m one of the first of my species to travel beyond our solar system. It is possible that some other advanced lifeform has been here before, my people have similar myths, but it wasn’t us.”

The frown crossed the smaller one’s face. “Oh, okay, thank you. We will go, but if you need anything please feel free to visit our home. It is just over the ridge a few miles from here. Can you find it if you need us?”

“Yes, I can find you. Thank you for keeping this secret. I will be in contact before I leave,” Tara said.

*You can’t contact them again.*

I know, but it feels strange to just say good-bye. This is a momentous occasion for both of our species.

The two creatures smiled and went back the way they came. The large one occasionally looked back at Tara with a look of confusion and distrust.

*Drone launched and following the creatures.*

Good. Broadcast a report of this interaction home. I’m going to try to get some rest.

*Understood. I have found a satellite in orbit that I can use to transmit a signal to the SLC once a day without notice. In an emergency, I can take control of the satellite, which will give us a transmission window of approximately 9 hours but we will likely be noticed.*

Okay. Broadcast when you can do so without being noticed. This isn’t an emergency.

Back at their cabin, the large creature hunched over a computer. The screen showed images and articles about alien lifeforms and spacecraft. The sources were hardly credible but no credible sources existed for this type of research. The creature emitted a deep groan of frustration, none of the information available matched the alien lifeform that they had encountered. Tara’s skin color, the shape of her ship, and her small stature didn’t match up with any previous reports of alien interactions.

Eventually, the smaller creature convinced the larger one to go to bed and the two lay awake, restlessly thinking about the way their day turned out.

Half a world away a report is printed up and given to a military leader. The report showed an abnormal computer search conducted in a rural area of an allied nation-state. With a few commands, troops were mobilized, satellites were redirected to an isolated patch of snow near the northern pole, and propaganda was put together to justify any death or damage that would soon come. The military leader smiled and laughed, a loud and uncomfortable sound filled the room.

Linneria 287-III (Part 4)

Now that my first book has been completed I’ve decided to try and write some fiction. This is my first attempt at it. I’m not sure how much I will write every day, but I plan on at writing something for this story every day this week. We shall see how it goes.  (Part 1Part 2, and Part 3)

The pair of creatures moved quickly towards Tara’s spacecraft in relative silence. They occasionally exchanged grunts as they moved across the familiar terrain, their long legs moving quickly as their large, pale eyes scanned the land ahead. They both had bright yellow hair on their heads that shone almost as brightly as Linneria itself did low on the horizon.

They slowed as they approached the spot where they had seen Tara’s spacecraft set down. They scanned the treeline and surrounding area, unable to locate the craft now that it was camouflaged. They started grunting again, this time the larger one seemed to dominate the conversation and its arms moved quickly in cadence with its voice.

Tara sat in her ship watching the view screen in silence, she was holding her breath even though she knew that her ship was soundproof.

SAM, can you understand what they are saying?

*Affirmative. Sensors are recording their conversation. They are unable to locate the ship and are trying to decide what to do next. Would you like me to put their conversation on the internal speakers?*

Negative. Just let me know if they see us or make a decision… They are a lot hairier than the images you showed me before.

*They appear to be wearing the flesh and fur of some of the semi-sentient beings that live in this area. Scans indicated that the outside temperature is too cold for them to survive long without artificial protection.*

The first statement made Tara almost vomit in her mouth. Wearing the flesh of sentient beings? It was hard not to be disgusted at such barbarism, but Tara was old enough to remember when her species ate the animals of her home planet. It had been nearly 100 years since gaining pleasure off the suffering of sentient beings became socially unacceptable and she sometimes wondered why it took so long for her own species to find harmony with the natural world.

What are those things they are holding?

*Primitive firearms. They pose no threat to the ship, our gravity field will hold, and your body armor will protect you as well. Though, there will be momentary discomfort if you are hit with it*

Then SAM added, almost as an afterthought *It is unlikely that you would survive a shot to your head*

“Great…” she said out loud. There was some comfort in knowing that her suit would protect her from any real damage and that the nanobots would shut off any pain receptors that are activated from a wound, but death could still come if the clearly violent species outside her door were to attack her in the open.

*It appears they have spotted the ship and are moving closer*

Shit. Okay. Play the audio through the speakers, let’s see what we have here.

Immediately, Tara could hear the creatures guttural voices loud and clear. “Hello! Is anyone in there!” the larger creature grunted loudly.

“Do you need any help?!” the smaller creature said, a little more softly than the other one had.

“I think we should call someone, someone from the military or something. It looks like a broken satellite,” the larger one said to the smaller one.

Fuck. That’s the last thing we need. SAM, run an analysis of our options and advise. 

*The likelihood of us remaining undiscovered if the authorities are notified is less than 0.1%. Furthermore, it is virtually guaranteed that one of the more violent nation-states would take control of you and this technology if we are discovered. The best option is to eliminate the two creatures.*

What?!?! I’m not going to kill them just because they happened to be in the wrong place. No, what is the second best option?

Tara knew that this was one of the reasons people were still sent on space missions. It is easy to send robots, but robots act too rationally at times and are unable to thrive in areas where nuance and diplomacy are needed. When dealing with irrational biological beings you needed other irrational biological beings to find the best outcome.

*Given my analysis of the culture of this region and initial brain scans of the two creatures, there is a 54% chance that you may be able to convince them to keep this quiet if you talk to them and explain the situation.*

Well, it looks like we are about to make first contact with a new sentient species. So much for  Directive 4. Alright, slowly open the front hatch.

Tara’s viewscreen disappeared and the hatch in front of her opened with a slight hiss. The star’s light started to fill the cabin and, just for a moment, the warm air reminded her of home. She took a deep breath as her lungs, with the help of the nanobots, adjusted to the thick air.

Once the hatch was open she stood up, smoothed out her uniform, and started towards the light.

Wish me luck, SAM.

Linneria 287-III (Part 3)

Now that my first book has been completed I’ve decided to try and write some fiction. This is my first attempt at it. I’m not sure how much I will write every day, but I plan on at writing something for this story every day this week. We shall see how it goes.  (Part 1 and Part 2)


*Target landing location identified. Northwestern edge of the largest continent. The weather is comfortable, it is primarily populated by non-reasoning animals, and there is plenty of plant life available to convert into food. The nation-states for the region are generally peaceful and egalitarian*

Wonderful. Thanks, SAM. Upload the top five languages for the planet and all local languages within the target area.

“Hopefully, I won’t need to speak to anyone…” she said out loud. In the relative silence of the spacecraft, her voice sounded strange, almost hollow. She stretched her mouth and tongue and realized that the muscles of her face were stiff and sore from disuse. She hadn’t talked in years.

*Beginning data transfer*

Tara’s body went slightly rigid as the languages flooded her brain. She felt light-headed and euphoric as new neurons were built and tested in her brain. After a few moments it was over and she understood how to converse in a dozen or so new languages. She practiced for a few minutes with each languange and tried to get her muscles accustomed to the movements. Her brain knew how to converse, but each movement felt foreign to her body. It would take some time before she could fluently speak, even with the nanobots doing all they could, but at least she would be able to understand what she saw or heard.

Ugh, I still hate that feeling. 

*I know, but we didn’t have any other option, would you like to see a photo of the intelligent life on this planet?*

She barely thought Sure when two images appeared on the screen in front of her. The images shimmered and slowly moved in a circle, showing Tara every angle. They also slowly changed color to display the variety of skin, hair, and eye tones for the species.

They’re kind of ugly, aren’t they?

*According to our understanding of aesthetics, yes they are. They long arms and legs, and oversized eyes make them appear unbalanced.*

That’s what it is, the eyes. They are so large and come in so many different colors. I wonder why they evolved that way?

*Would you like me to search their databases for their hypothesis on eye development?*

No, I’m just thinking out loud. I guess we better get on with it. SAM, land the craft.

Almost imperceptibly, Tara’s spacecraft began drifting towards the planet below. Tara’s view was dominated by the large, blue and green planet and she couldn’t stop thinking of how much it resembled her home. Sure, the blue was a little brighter and the planet had a deadly ring of deserts around the equator, but if she squinted she could almost pretend she was making an emergency landing home instead of crashing into a potentially deadly situation.

The ship rocked and vibrated as it entered the atmosphere. The hull and gravity shield was able to protect her from nearly anything, but the ride was still rough.

Then, it was over and laid out before her was the planet’s curving horizon. The snow capped mountains provided plenty of places for her to lay down her ship and stay hidden for a couple of years until a rescue ship arrived. It would be a boring few years but between SAM and the resources on the ship, she knew she could sleep most of the time.

The ship landed gently on the side of a non-descript mountain right along the treeline. SAM launched a handful of drones which began scanning the area for danger and camouflaging the ship.

Alright SAM, begin monitoring local media to see if anyone saw us come down. If we’re lucky, nobody recorded anything and we can just wait things out.

On a neighboring mountain, two creatures hunched behind a tree and stared across to Tara’s landing spot. They grunted to each other and waved their lanky arms dramatically. Their voices got louder and louder until, finally, the larger one sighed in defeat. They grabbed their weapons and headed towards the fallen craft.

Linneria 287-III (Part 2)

Now that my first book has been completed I’ve decided to try and write some fiction. This is my first attempt at it. I’m not sure how much I will write every day, but I plan on at writing something for this story every day this week. We shall see how it goes.  (Part 1 is available here)


SAM woke Tara gently with the sounds of the beach. She was dreaming of home and the crashing waves fit perfectly with what she was experiencing. SAM, of course, knew she was dreaming of home and provided stimulation that would help her transition into the waking world as seamlessly as possible.

Report SAM, how is everything looking?

*9.75 hours have passed. Data upload to the SLC is complete and erased from internal hard drives. I have a summary report about the Linneria 287-III and the dominant species whenever you are ready.*

Sounds good. Fill me in on the planet.

*Linneria 287-III is approximately 80% the size of our home world and is made up mostly of water. The poles are a moderate temperature but most of the planet is uncomfortably hot, though the dominant species appears to live nearly everywhere except the poles. I would assume their tolerance to temperature is very different than yours. Absent a violent death, they live approximately 70% of what your lifespan would be without Longevity Technology*

Longevity Technology, or LT for short. Tara was 145 years old, which means she remembered when people died from disease and old age. In fact, as an astronaut, she was one of the first people on her planet to get the nanobots implanted in her that kept her alive. Even as SAM communicated with her ship and processed all the information, the nanobots that made up SAM were constantly scanning her body for cancerous cells, harmful bacteria and viruses, and anything else that could age or kill her. When anything dangerous was detected the nanobots killed it and recycled the biological material for other uses. If she didn’t face a violent death she would live forever.

Immortality was likely for everyone back home. With the exception of a few religious zealots, everyone had embraced LT. It was implanted in everyone at birth and eliminated disease nearly overnight. It also had the added benefit of encouraging peace, when immortality became a possibility it became more difficult to get people to die or kill for a cause. He people quickly became good at finding peaceful solutions to complex problems when death was no longer inevitable.

SAM, how technologically advanced is the species and what do they call themselves?

*There are over one hundred separate languages spoken on the planet with no universal designation for the species. They have discovered nuclear fussion and are accelerating quickly towards LT, AI, and unlimited energy, but the progress is not guaranteed. There are several major nation-states who seem willing to annihilate the species in order to assert dominence. The majority of the people appear peaceful, but there is a fascination with violence and many view elected officials and the nation-state as religious figures*

Kara sighed audibly. That all sounded too familiar. Her own species was not much different 100 years ago. She was always a little surprised that they had pushed passed their primal tribalism and found a way to unite in peace. But they had, and hopefully the residents of Linneria 287-III would be able to as well.

*You are receiving a message from the United Space Science Authority, it states: Analysis of situation complete. Rescue underway, ETA 3.98 years. Initiate Directive 4*

Directive 4 – Land on the planet and observe. Stay hidden until help arrives.

SAM, locate an ideal place to land, the primary concerns are stealth, an ability to transmit to the SLC, and access to food and water.  Activate thrusters and bring us into orbit around Linneria 287-III, and try to keep us on the starside to minimize any chance that we will be noticed. 

Linneria 287-III (Part 1)

Now that my first book has been completed I’ve decided to try and write some fiction. This is my first attempt at it. I’m not sure how much I will write every day, but I plan on at writing something for this story every day this week. We shall see how it goes. 

—–

Tara woke to the sound of a loud siren and flashing red lights. Even with her post-hypersleep grogginess she knew something was wrong but she couldn’t concentrate with all the alarms blaring.

Silence alarms, she thought, and the alarms went silent.

*Good morning, Tara. Would you like a situation update?* A deep, familiar voice echoed through her mind. SAM was her internal computer system and it was linked directly to her spacecraft.

She didn’t actually “hear” SAM, but the nanobots that flowed through her blood stream stimulated the part of her brain that translated sound when it communicated with her. There was no sound but she felt like she heard something. She had the option of telling the computer to just upload everything into her mind, giving her instant knowledge, but that type of communication always creeped Tara out a little. Instant knowledge felt too much like relying on a hunch, instead she preferred the minor delay of having explicit communication with her computer.

Good morning. Yes, a situation update would be lovely.

*We have exited hyperspace on target but the ship has sustained some damage. Our drive is broken beyond repair and thrusters have limited power, though our solar panels are still functional and the nearest star is starting to recharge everything. Life support is functional.*

How far are we from Linneria 287-III? Tara asked. Linneria III was her destination, a small planet that circled the star Linneria 287. The newly developed United Space Science Authority had discovered signs of advanced life from Linneria 287-III several years earlier and dispatched Tara to observe, though it only felt like a couple of weeks had passed since she received the orders to venture out into this new solar system.

*Approximately two days if we continue to drift on course, or we can enter their gravitational pull in approximately 12 hours if we use thrusters.*

Is there any chance of returning home?

*Negative. I have already relayed a distress signal to the SLC satellite circling the solar system, but best case scenario is it will be 3.75 years before someone will arrive.*

Huh. Well that’s unfortunate. Tara couldn’t help but shrug. She knew the risks when she took this mission, but the chance to be the first person to observe a new species was such an adventure and she couldn’t turn it down. How are our cloaking systems doing?

*Physical cloak is not operational, but we are still invisible to all forms of electronic scanning.*

Hmm, hopefully nobody on the ground is pointing their telescopes directly at us.

*It is unlikely that the primitive species on the ground has the capabilities to see a craft this size. We should be safe as long as we stay in high orbit.*

Okay, life support is good but how about food and water?

*The solar-to-water convertor is functional and there are enough rations for 1.5 years.*

Shit. Okay, that’ll be a problem for later. Continue broadcasting all the information you have to the SLC and begin uploading all the information you can get from the planet. Begin uploading any digital databases available from their satellite networks. We might as well do our jobs and find out all we can about the civilization on this planet.

*Confirmed. It will take approximately 9 hours to upload all the information on the planet.*

Sounds good. I’m going to get a little sleep, wake me when all the data is downloaded or if something else happens. Good night SAM.

“Buddhism: Plain & Simple” – A Review

Title: Buddhism: Plain & Simple
Author: Steve Hagen
Pages: 159 (including Appendix)
Rating: 5/5 Highly Recommended

It is hard to me to pinpoint exactly when I started to have an interest in Buddhism. I remember learning about it in a high school religion class, but that introduction was little more than “it isn’t really a religion but it kind of is”. I was a hardcore Christian at that time and I have no doubt that I saw Buddhism as simply another Satanic ruse to steal souls from Heaven.

In the decade and a half since high school, my interest in Buddhism has bubbled in my subconscious. I’ve purchased several books about it but rarely finish them. As much as I am interested in Buddhism the works I’ve read seemed unnecessarily vague and complex, I felt like the authors were playing tricks with words instead of just coming out and saying what Buddhism is.

Buddhism: Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen is the opposite of that.

Hagen does a fantastic job of stripping away the ceremony and tradition and supernatural side of Buddhism and gets to the core. He does a great job explaining what the foundation of Buddhism, to simply see the world as it is and to live in the moment. After finishing this book I couldn’t help but see incredible similarities between Buddhism and the Stoic philosophy that I know and love. I can’t help but wonder if followers of Buddha somehow interacted with the Ancient Greeks and helped influence Stoic thought. It seems plausible that in the 200ish years between the life of Buddha and Zeno’s teaching at the Stoa Poikile someone would have made it from India to Greece.

Buddhism and Stoicism are both tools that work to find the truth about the world and encourage rational action in response to the truth. They are about helping individuals live better, happier, more satisfying and authentic lives. This is unlike the faith that I grew up in that demanded obedience to rules and discouraged intellectual inquiry. Buddhism explicitly rejects any hard rules and recognizes that the world is fluid and nuanced and diverse circumstances can easily turn rules into tools of injustice.

Mostly, I enjoy that Buddhism does not need to conflict with scientific discovery. As the Dalai Lama said in the foreword to Destructive Emotions:

I have often said that if science proves facts that conflict with Buddhist understading, Buddhism must change accordingly. We should always adopt a view that accords with the facts. If upon investigation we find that there is reason and proof for a point, then we should accept it.

Here was a system of spirituality that didn’t conflict with the natural world, and I believe that is why Buddhism will end up outlasting many of the religions of today. I am still far from an expert on Buddhism, but Buddhism: Plain & Simple laid the groundwork for me to continue my pursuit of knowledge in that direction. It is an easy, quick read that is made up of relatively short and succinct chapters. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in understanding this life philosophy.