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The Longest Now


Blogs.harvard, wrapped: an ecosystem snapshot as the lights go out
Friday June 30th 2023, 1:37 pm
Filed under: citation needed,fly-by-wire,indescribable,meta,Not so popular,null

¡Blogs.harvard is closing its doors for good!

Today is nominally the last day it will be editable, though it will stay up for archiving and export for another month. The WordPress dashboard lately has hadan expandable bar in the corner titled ‘Recent Updates’, but I’d never expanded it to see that it was local news about the platform, so this came as a surprise.

 

Checklist:

1)  ping people who still need to migrate
2)  draft final blog post, honoring the network

In the early days of blogging, Dave Winer was an energetic advocate of the form, as something important for writing and communication and not just another modern pastime.  He set up the first version of Blogs@Harvard while he was a Berkman fellow (a Manila instance hosted by the Berkman Center, at blogs.law.harvard.edu), and started blogging there as well as at Scripting News. It moved to WordPress in 2007. The community revisited it in 2011 to reaffirm the value in keeping it online. (JP, as the head of the center, warmly summarized the project history to date at that point)

Over the next decade, new blogs were only created by Harvard affiliates. In 2014, technical maintenance of the blogs moved to the Harvard Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication, and the domain changed to blogs.harvard.edu.  In 2018 its maintenance shifted to Harvard University Information Technology, and any old blogs run by authors who were not affiliates were closed [and taken offline, if they had not set up an archive]. This also affected a number of past affiliates who no longer had university or alum email addresses, including the pathbreaking info/law and j’s scratchpad, blog of the founding organizer of the Blogging Group.

Now the rest are being shut down.  While bloggers still at Harvard can migrate to the existing sites.harvard.edu, with a bit of effort, they are not being migrated by default, and most have not migrated.  Those without new posts in the past year were not notified of the change.  This also affects people like Doc Searls, a long-time pillar of free software and the open web who we’ve been lucky to have in the local eddy, whose active projects live on nearby.

There are plans for a full archive to be preserved; let’s make it one befitting this decentralized community, which has hosted many students and practitioners of digital creation and archiving.  Going through the archiving process myself reminds me of the [extraordinary, wonderful]  service of the Wayback Machine, which may also let us restore former blogs currently hidden behind its veil.

 

Checklist:

3)  Salvage old drafts
4)  Make a proper export

It is a curious sensation to revisit my old tempo of posting by seeing the proportionate tempo of unpublished drafts; some quite good and close to completion, but written in a week or month when many other works were going out.  These days I would publish a good three-section post without hesitation.  Most drafts removed or published; new “unfinished draft” category added.

I am also reminded that fully half of the links from over 5 years ago are no longer online; other websites having a much shorter time-to-linkrot than this blog family.  Again, Wayback is not only a default salvation but one of the only options; if it disappeared, readers, researchers, and historians would be entirely out of luck (short of bring up one of the Wayback mirrors).  If you are in a position to host a full mirror (currently around 100PB), please get in touch with the archiveteam or the Internet Archive.

Exports should be easy, though mine is not small.  Preserving the directory structure on import requires a target style that uses the same schema for dated posts.  Alternately, I could scrape the entire site into a .wacz file and restore its public appearance exactly as it stands today, then move to a different format for a future blog.  I’d like something more collaborative by nature; easy to have a cohort working together.  I have hopes that Tana could be turned towards this end, as shared writing is naturally a more social activity than just linking to one another’s blogs (and even here some of the best outlier blogs here have been multi-author, during times when many were active together)

Project Information

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Right to the City on Communities over mere Commodities
Monday May 08th 2023, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,popular demand

Right to the City maintains a Homes for All campaign that has done some excellent research into city housing crises across the US.  My favorite report from their network is this catalog of alternative models and their uses, which has gotten hard to find online:

People-driven alternatives to an unjust housing system (2018) (local copy)

(more…)

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Elementary creature cards: a funny game of math and logic
Thursday April 20th 2023, 4:02 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,noetic,Seraphic,zyzzlvaria

I’m trying to track down physical creature cards, a logic puzzle that started w/ the Elementary Science Study project (in Newton!) & was riffed on for decades.  The visual and mathematical puzzles became quite involved; including combinations of shading, geometry, topology, number theory, and more.  Creatures were also creatively named: Mokes, Snorpes, Gligs, Wibbles, Shlooms, Bleeps, Quarks, Trugs, Zyzzes, Mellinarks…

If you run across these somewhere, please reach out and get in touch.  I would like to reprint some of the professionally done sequences, and perhaps expand on the idea.

Example (via Amber Case).

Discussion:

https://twitter.com/metasj/status/1584695567846109184

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Kostoff, reprised: peer review secured again, everything is fine.
Wednesday May 11th 2022, 10:18 am
Filed under: chain-gang,citation needed,metrics,poetic justice,unfinished draft

In the end, Elsevier retracted Kostoff’s anti-vax article, along with a pro-ivermectin study in the same issue that was similarly statistically-challenged.  (It was that ivermectin study that led me to discover the issue in the first place, via scite.ai)

But not before his article dominated media and social media references to the Journal for months; and the author parlayed his peer-reviewed work into a DailyClout essay that was even more extreme, and did a tour on the social media anti-vax circuit. Thousands of people spent time debunking this nonsense, including a dozen on PubPeer alone.  Millions of people saw references to it on social media.

The editor-in-chief who regularly published his own articles (or added himself as author to articles in his journal) stepped down as EIC, but continues to edit other toxicology journals and publish research at a healthy clip of three articles a month. Global understanding of COVID-19 is advancing steadily, with no further confusion or misdirection whatever. Everything is fine 🐶🔥

 

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The Kostoff knowledge: Elsevier fakes peer review of COVID click-bait

The Kostoff knowledge v.14

Updates: Elsevier retraction (5/9), concern (12/17). EIC Tsatsakis removed. (~3/25).
Analyses by Schneider (10/6) & Morris (10/14). Kostoff’s article is top 1% by Altmetric.
K. publishes 3× more extreme version (10/13). Tox.Rep’s CiteScore grows 5% in Oct.
15 of Kostoff’s last 18 papers written w. Tsatsakis, the other 3 in Tsatsakis journals.

Earlier this month, Elsevier‘s Toxicology Reports (CiteScore 6.4, top quintile) published a special issue on the COVID-19 pandemic.  Its includes a remarkable article by Kostoff, et al., claiming that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is, “extremely conservatively“, 5x as likely to kill people over 65 as it is to save them, and even more harmful to younger people. (Kostoff, et al., Tox. Rep. (2020), 7, 1448-1458)

This echoes the fraudulent claims of German homeopath Harald Walach, who briefly published a similar article in MDPI Vaccines in June, before it was promptly retracted.  A few of the most outrageous claims are listed below. None of this is subtle – unbelievable assertions start in the second paragraph of the abstract; the lead author has no past experience in the field; and the article puts “pandemic” and “vaccine” in scare quotes, and makes regular use of bold italics to emphasize points that are exaggerated.

This is why we have peer review, and editors, to distinguish research from polemic. Access to a reliable + competent body of reviewers is, in theory, a primary service that giant publishers like Elsevier offer to editors. Another is their name: being an Elsevier journal means you will be taken seriously out of the gate, and added to the major indices.

We should all be concerned that our publishing model allowed such a deceptive essay to be given the veneer of legitimacy – for weeks now, without correction.  And we must hold both journals and publishers accountable for fraud that they support or legitimize – through deceptive practice, lack of claimed review, or inaction.

I want to come back to this, and discuss ways to remedy this, and some current steps in the right direction.  But first let’s look at this instance in detail – as the errors were the most obvious that I’ve seen, related papers have been retracted in recent months, and it is impossible to imagine even casual peer review missing them.  And because, as we will see, this particular Elsevier journal has been gaming the system for some time.

Article-level fraud (by the authors)

1. Extensive misuse of VAERS data: VAERS is an open public registry of unvetted self-reports of health events occurring after vaccination. Most events are not caused by vaccines, but this is a starting point for further analysis. Doctors are supposed to report any deaths or hospitalizations occurring within a week of vaccination, regardless of potential causal link.

The very openness of this data has led to it being widely cited in anti-vax propaganda, misinterpreting VAERS as a catalog of known harms and side-effects. (“Don’t Fall for VAERS scares“)

(more…)



FSF splits up, dithering til only a Stallman corps remains
Thursday April 01st 2021, 12:34 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,Uncategorized

The FSF, bastion of advocacy for free & open software and the need for copyleft in general, split up last week – dividing its community in a lasting way.

At the end of the 2021 LibrePlanet conference, surprising staff and speakers and attendees, RMS announced he was returning to the Board.

In the immediate aftermath, all of the external conference keynotes, some former FSF trustees, and a number of other free software community leaders, published an open letter calling on the entire FSF Board to resign.

Since then:
* A number of large organizations withdrew their support for the FSF, including Mozilla, RedHat, EFF, and Creative Commons
* A number of GNU and other free software projects have signed the letter, including GCC, GNU Radio, GNU Mailman, X.org, and Tor
* A number of FSF staff gave notice, including the ED, Deputy ED, CTO, and President.
* Their most meticulous board member resigned.
* A member of the FSF staff was appointed to the Board.

Some 3000 people signed the open letter; another 4500 6000 signed a letter in support of Stallman. That split is likely to last, and to define the Foundation as it hires new leadership and looks for new Trustees.

(more…)

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Teaching a poodle to make certain requests of his human partner
Sunday November 01st 2020, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The following is a lovely essay by John Lubbock on learning to communicate better with dogs by teaching them language to express concepts. It was first published in Nature in 1885 and included in his delightful On the Senses, Instincts, and Intelligence of Animals (1888)

That the dog is a loyal, true, and affectionate friend must be gratefully admitted, but when we come to consider the psychical nature of the animal, the limits of our knowledge are almost immediately reached. I have elsewhere suggested that this arises from the fact that we have tried to teach animals, rather than to learn from them—to convey our ideas to them, rather than to devise any language or code of signals by means of which they might communicate theirs to us. The former may be more important from a utilitarian point of view, though even this is questionable, but psychologically it is far less interesting.

Under these circumstances it occurred to me whether some such system as that followed with deaf mutes, and especially by Dr. Howe with Laura Bridgman, might not prove very instructive if adapted to the case of dogs. I have tried this in a small way with a black poodle named Van.

I took two pieces of cardboard about 10 inches by 3, and on one of them printed in large letters the word [ F O O D ],  leaving the other blank. I then placed two cards over two saucers, and in the one under the “food” card put a little bread and milk, which Van, after having his attention called to the card, was allowed to eat.
(more…)

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Forging Social Proof: the Networked Turing Test Rules the First AI War
Friday September 25th 2020, 2:51 pm
Filed under: citation needed,fly-by-wire,Uncategorized

A few years ago I wrote about how our civilization was forfeiting the zeroth AI war — allowing individual attention hacks, deployed at scale, to diminish and replace our natural innovation and productivity in every society.  We gained efficiency in every area of life, and then let our new wealth and spare time get absorbed by newly-efficient addictive spirals.

Exploit culture

This war for attention affects what sort of society we can hope to live in. Channeling so much wealth to attention-hackers, and the networks of crude AI tools and gambling analogs that support them, has strengthened an entire industry of exploiters, allowing a subculture of engineers and dealmakers to flourish.  That industry touches on fraud, propaganda, manipulation of elections and regulation, and more, all of which influence what social equilibria are stable.

The first real AI war

Now we are facing the first real artificial-intelligence war — dominated by entities that appear as avatars of independent, intelligent people, but are artificial, scripted, automated.  

What is new in this? Earlier low-tech versions of this required no machine learning or programming: they used the veil of pseudonymity to fake authorship, votes, and small-scale consensus.  In response, we developed layers of law and regulation around earlier attacks — fraud, impersonation, and scams are illegal.  AI can smoothly scale this to millions of comments on public bills, and to forging microtargeted social proof in millions of smaller group interactions online. And these scaled attacks are often still legal, or lightly penalized and enforced.
(more…)

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Out with a whimper: the .ORG heist averted, and its aftermath
Saturday May 02nd 2020, 11:27 am
Filed under: chain-gang,international,Not so popular

A quick positive update on the .ORG fire sale: at the end of April, ICANN rejected the proposed sale of .ORG to Ethos Capital. (EFF summary).  That is likely the end of this particular takeover bid, though the registry is still at risk of a reprise while it remains under current management.

Leading up to this:

  • NTEN and allies launched the SaveDotOrg coalition in November, including EFF, Wikimedia, and others. An extended advocacy campaign from many fronts included lawmakers in DC and in California, where ICANN is headquartered.
  • ICANN asked ISOC for additional background information.
  • In January, a new charity (CCOR) was founded to offer a not-for-profit alternative willing to take over .ORG from PIR.
  • California AG Xavier Becerra wrote a critical letter to ICANN about the sale.
  • On April 30, ICANN rejected the sale

Epilogue:
– In June, SaveDotOrg repeated its request to ISOC to implement contract protections for .ORG, to make it less tempting as the object of a future corporate takeover. ISOC declined.
– In July, the Ethos site listed Fadi Chehade as Co-CEO of the fund, after initially not listing him on the site at all.

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The .Org Fire Sale: How to flip a .TLD in speed and secret
Monday December 02nd 2019, 12:13 am
Filed under: %a la mod,fly-by-wire,international,meta

Part 2 in a series.  (See also Part 1: The Great Dot Org Heist.)
Updates: Moz letter, El Reg, registry agreement, ISOC forumletter, Wyden

Ethos Capital seems on track to complete their takeover of .org early next year.  ICANN claims it is powerless to stop the acquisition. ISOC president Andrew Sullivan suggested nothing but a court order would make ISOC change their minds. (If the sale concerns you, you can write to the Virginia state DA, who has to approve the sale via the Orphans Court.)

There are still many unanswered questions. Sullivan’s presentation of the offer to the ISOC Board highlighted a need for speed and secrecy. Details were redacted from the board minutes, and have been released grudgingly. Only last Friday did the price of the acquisition ($1.1B) finally emerge, which ISOC insists is a good price (or was before the price caps were lifted), but which most consider well below the market value of .org. (For reference, here’s PIR’s 990 and annual report:  $90M revenue, $60M gross margin, 77% renewal rate).

Sullivan shared some conflicting thoughts in an interview with The Register: he thinks not many people care about the sale; public pushback has been strong; the sale would not have happened if there had been public discussion.

Mozilla has compiled Questions about .org into a public letter, asking both ISOC and ICANN to answer them before concluding this sale.

Measuring the worth of a legacy registry

While there is a range of estimates out there for the true value of .org, the sale price is on the low end under conservative assumptions.  (more…)



Trump’s tee-totalling: why are so many meetings held on the golf course?
Sunday December 01st 2019, 6:17 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,citation needed,fly-by-wire,international

It is time we stop talking about “golf time” as leisure time away from the presidency, and start treating it as a primary channel for meetings, negotiations, and decision-making. (See for instance the last line of this remarkable story.)

Trump’s presidential schedule is full of empty days and golf weekends – roughly two days a week have been spent on his own resorts, throughout his presidency. Combined with his historically light work schedule, averaging under two hours of meetings per day, the majority of small-group meetings may be taking place at his resorts.

He has also directed hundreds of government groups, and countless diplomatic partners and allies, to stay at his resorts and properties.

On his properties, his private staff control the access list, security videos and other records.  They are also able to provide privacy from both press and government representatives that no federal property could match.

How might we address the issues involved with more clarity?

Paying himself with government funds

To start with, this is self-dealing on an astronomical scale: the 300+ days spent at his golf clubs and other properties have cost the US government, by conservative estimate, $110 million. The cost of encouraging the entire government to stay at Trump properties is greater still, if harder to estimate. (more…)

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Cancer as dogma / five unrestricted growth hacks sure to bloat your host (DNS Edition)
Friday November 29th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Aasw,chain-gang,fly-by-wire,Not so popular,unfinished draft

A sidebar, while listening to public arguments in favor of the .org heist by those who would profit from it

1. Primary markers of cancer in organisms:

The progression from normal cells, to cells that can form a detectable mass, to outright cancer, is called malignant progression.

2. 90% margins

Industries with 90% or higher profit margins (often: marginal profit margins, where there was some up-front cost doubling as barrier to entry and hand-waving excuse for continuous rent increases) are all deeply inefficient and non-competitive.  That should be what you (or any economist) would suspect, yet people continue to say things like “I’m not actually against the 95 percent profit margins or even caps if the market for broadband were competitive. Unfortunately

The rise of these industries eat collective surplus and productivity, and funnel the fruits of new technology into the hands of organizations that think this sort of resource allocation is healthy. This gives them ample resources to expand their work, into new markets and topics, and to train new industries to adopt their techniques. 90% margins become 99%, until all available shared resources are captured by this network. In other words: cancer.

Here is the head of ISOC, convincing himself and others that a well-meaning private equity firm will not unreasonably raise rates for use of their namespace monopoly. “Given registries must announce price increases for renewal 6 months in advance, and domains can be registered at current prices for up to 10 years, any operator seeking to increase prices dramatically would certainly lose customers without producing any increased revenue.

This is not so.  Renewal rates are quite price-inelastic (it costs > 100x the annual registration cost to change one’s domain on all sites and materials, and breaks existing links).  Incentivizing people to hurry up and register for 10 years at once would produce a surge of revenue, not a decline.  New domains can have prices raised with no warning, which would simply raise new domain rates for TLDs across the industry: likely bringing in more revenue as well as support from other registries (.org / .net /.com are among the few TLDs that can unilaterally affect industry rates)

(more…)

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ICANN races towards regulatory capture: the great .ORG heist
Saturday November 23rd 2019, 6:13 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,fly-by-wire,international,Not so popular

Updates: EFF letter, PIR’s update; IGP’s insider take; ICANN resolution;
Ways to act, Reg essay x2Ohashi, Tim Berners-Lee response;
Letters from
ISOC(😇), Ethos(🌈), and a banker (🚩🚩📜)
(See also Part 2: How to Flip .org)

Ethos Capital, a new commercial investment firm founded in the past few months in Boston, has 2 staff and only one pending investment: a deal to acquire the 501c3 non-profit that currently runs the .org domain (valued at a few $B), for an undisclosed sum. This was initiated immediately after ICANN decided in May, over almost universal opposition, to remove the price cap on .org registrations with no meaningful price protections for existing or future registrants.

This seems to run afoul of a range of ethical, ICANN, ISOC, and non-profit guidelines.  It is certainly the privatisation of a not-for-profit monopoly into a for-profit one, which will benefit ISOC and a few individuals by inconveniencing millions of others.  I have questions:

  • Do affected parties have recourse?
  • Other than polite letters, do any responses have teeth?
    • Maybe: Official complaints have been filed, but don’t expect results.
    • Chronic optimists can .. take part in ICANN and ISOC governance
  • Has anyone currently at ICANN + ISOC made substantive comment?
  • Vint Cerf said: ‘Hard to imagine $60/year would be a deal breaker for even small non-profits.
    • How did we get to Net pioneers embracing 99% profit margins?

For more backstory, read on…
(more…)



Raw Ought: Norms as Frames for Life and Thought
Thursday August 22nd 2019, 10:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

…and Models of Enrageousness.

Fjordic Norway is a mix of lush beauty, arable land, and impassable terrain — rivers, lakes, and steep mountainsides, interlaced like the fingers and planes of so many hands intertwined in four dimensions.

Today that part of the country is striped with tunnels through the mountains, over 1000 in all, some over 20km long.  Tunnel-construction is a norm there, permeating many aspects of life.  Driving for a few hours outside of Bergen, I passed two being constructed from scratch; and at a few points had to follow a lead car through five that were under construction and so were staggering traffic to work on them.

The overall understanding of road usage and travel was different.  And national commitments to construction were made decades at a time.  Different approaches to innovation have led to quite divergent models of practice.

 

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Generalized classification of claims’ meaningworthiness
Thursday January 03rd 2019, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,ideonomy,knowledge,meta,wikipedia

Generalizing a Foucault comment from 1970 on accepted shared knowledge, truth, and power:


The system of [assigning value to statements] is essential to the structure and functioning of our society.  There is a constant battle around this – the ensemble of rules according to which [valued and devalued statements] are separated and specific effects of power are attached to the former.  This is a battle about the status of truth and the practical and political role it plays. It is necessary to think of these political problems not in terms of science and ideology, but in terms of accepted knowledge and power.

Here are a few propositions, to be further tested and evaluated:

  1. Let τ be a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, [evaluation], and operation of statements.  A system linked in a circular way with systems of power that produce and sustain it, and with the effects of power which it induces and which extend it.  A regime of systems.  Such a regime is not merely ideological or superstructural; its [early stage] was a condition of the formation and development of its environment.
  2. The essential [social, political] problem for designers and maintainers of τ is not to criticize its ideology or [relation] to science, or to ensure a particular scientific practice is [correct], but to ascertain how to constitute new politics of knowledge. The problem is not changing people’s beliefs, but the political, practical, institutional regime of producing and evaluating statements about the world.
  3. This is not a matter of emancipating τ from systems of power (which would be an illusion, for it is already power) but of detaching its power from the forms of hegemony [social, economic, cultural], within which it operated [when it was designed].
  4. These [political, social, economic, cultural, semantic] questions are not error, illusion, ideology, or distraction: they illuminate truth itself.

I have been thinking about this in the context of recent work with the Knowledge Futures Group and the Truth & Trust coalition gathered around TED.

(from an interview with Foucault first published in L’Arc 70.)

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Perec’s Valène’s dreams : Life: A User’s Manual’s story concept hoard
Wednesday January 02nd 2019, 1:31 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,Glory, glory, glory,ideonomy,Seraphic,Uncategorized

And a second catalog of tales, with fewer interconnections : Valène’s incomplete catalog of 179 stories from the Fifty-First chapter of Life, A User’s Manual, a life-work of Perec, poetic puzzlemaker and one of the great writers of the 20th century, lovingly translated into English by the meticulous David Bellos :

1   The Coronation at Covadonga of Alkhamah's victor, Don Pelage

2   The Russian singer and Schönberg living in Holland as exiles

3   The deaf cat on the top floor with one blue & one yellow eye

4   Barrels of sand being filled by order of the fumbling cretin

5   The miserly old woman marking all her expenses in a notebook

6   The puzzlemaker's backgammon game giving him his bad tempers
(more…)

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Journey to the West : Wu Cheng-en’s Magnum Opus, from the Ming era
Sunday December 09th 2018, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the spirit of winter cataloguing:  Journey to the West, an ancient novel by Wu Cheng-en, has some spectacular chapter titles, which give the sense of the work without spoiling its story.  If you have read the work they remind you of it, but if you have not it is hard to know what to make of the couplets.

The work has been translated and interpreted constantly over the past 4 centuries; most recently in a series of films; but the texture of the original and its chapter structure is my clearest memory of it.  The poetry of the original has been hard to capture in translation; seen too in the title translations.  This version is from Yu’s 2012 revised edition.

Journey to the West 

Volume 1  

1 The divine root conceives, its source revealed;
  Mind and nature nurtured, the Great Dao is born.

2 Fully awoke to Bodhi’s wondrous truths,
  He cuts off Māra, returns to the root, and joins Primal Spirit.

3 Four Seas and a Thousand Mountains all bow to submit;
  From Ninefold Darkness ten species’ names are removed.

(more…)

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