A different kind of trilogy

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been on a Zen kick lately. So I was pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks to learn about a book called The Unfettered Mind by a 17th-century Japanese Zen Master called Takuan Sōhō. It’s actually a collection of three essays or letters to a master swordsman, Yagyū Munenori. They offer advice and philosophy combining both Zen buddhism, and swordsmanship, perhaps an odd combination given that non-violence is core Buddhist tenet.

However, The Unfettered Mind is not the only such work in this vein. Yagyū Munenori himself wrote a book called The Life-Giving Sword, possibly inspired by this work. His contemporary and rival, the legendary Miyamoto Musashi, also wrote a book fusing the art of swordsmanship and the discipline of the mind: The Book of Five Rings.

Together these three books make for a sort of trilogy, combining martial arts and Zen practice. I worked my way through The Unfettered Mind over the last week and have The Book of Five Rings waiting on my bookshelf. And yes, I did find The Unfettered Mind quite enlightening, though I suspect it will take me a few more readings to really grasp the various nuances.

Sunday Selection 2013-05-05

Happy Cinco de Mayo and Orthodox Easter everyone. Last week has been a bit quiet as far as reading is concerned. I have a hefty backlog in my RSS that probably won’t get cleared till next week. But here’s the pick of what I did read and discover:

Around the Web

10 Rules of  a Zen Programmer I’ve been doing meditation on a regular basis over the past few weeks and it’s been an interesting experience. I definitely feel calmer throughout the day and it’s getting easier to sit down and focus on tasks I would normally procrastinate on. This article agrees closely with both what I’ve been experiencing while meditating and as a programmer. I’m not a Zen practitioner, but you don’t have to be one to use the information this article provides.

I’m still here: back online after a year without the Internet This is the last (I think) in a series of articles by a journalist who spent a year offline. It’s an interesting read, though it ends on a very weak note. The author’s experience seems to agree with my own views on the matter: the Internet (and technology in general) is a tool and it’s up to us to use it best. Using it, or not using, is not suddenly going to make us a better or worse person. It’s up to us to use these tools according to our desires and help realize our potential.

Star Wars: Online review culture is dotted with black holes of bad taste This articles looks at the rise of popular review sites (focusing on Yelp and Amazon) and discusses how the reviews on these sites are often less then helpful to the point of negating the importance and usefulness of a review. There’s research going on at Cornell on better analyzing online reviews and review systems so this article was particularly interesting to me. While there’s something to be said for the usefulness of multiple opinions from different viewpoints, sometimes you just want an authoritative answer from an expert about the quality of a service and product, and that’s increasingly difficult to come by.


Tomato.es As the end of the semester approaches and the amount of stuff I have to get done explodes, I’ve been starting to use the Pomodoro technique to keep on top of things. Tomato.es is a simple timer that counts off 25-minutes intervals. If you sign in using Twitter or Github, you can keep a record of what you’ve been doing in those intervals.