Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Six seconds

Six seconds seems like an odd period, don't you think?  We usually deal in multiples of 5, except for the six degrees of separation and friendship that are said to chain from anyone individual to any other.  But I keep running into six seconds.

I think the first was the overlooked and underrated book "QR: The Quieting Reflex"(1982) by Charles Stroebel, MD.  Quieting and relaxing are one aspect of many practices for health and self awareness.  The books "The Inner Game of Tennis" (1974) by Timothy Gallwey and "The Relaxation Response" (1972) by Herbert Benson, MD relate the subjects of lack of physical and mental tension to the ability to see my internal states and feelings for what they are. But Stroebel emphasized that in any handy interval of just 6 seconds, waiting for a red light to change or a phone to be answered, I can practice searching out tension in my body and relaxing it away.

Then, I ran into six seconds again when reading about isometrics, squeezing my muscles just as tightly as I possibly can.  Doing so strengthens the muscles I tense.  I read that German researchers found that 6 seconds of the tightest possible tension was enough to increase strength.

Then, the other day, I searched "six seconds" with Google and was surprised to find quite a few results.  Among them was some sort of emotional assessment that I could perform or maybe others can perform on me or for me in 6 seconds.  Evidently, I can be certified or trained or tested or something for a fee of $150.

Another possible type of six seconds activity has to do with the emerging interest in "interval training".  An old idea in physical training but a new one for elders is a series of bursts of high intensity "trying very hard" physically for a run or biking or swimming or some other activity for a short period.  Usually more than 6 seconds, I admit, but the very peak of effort might be about that short.  Repeatedly reaching maximum effort and then slacking off but not stopping can achieve high levels of fitness.

Some of the Google search results state research that book, movie and questionnaire reviewers and those holding job interviews tend make up their minds yea or nay in 6 seconds.  

During the past year, I have read of people from the US, Britain and Russia who believe that slowing one's breathing rate is good for the mood, the mind and the body.  If I inhale slowly for 6 seconds and exhale at the same speed, that comes out to 12 seconds for a complete breath or 5 breaths a minute which is a slow rate.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Regular observations of my life

On each page of my blog, there is a tool in the lower left corner to find any of the 1812 posts I have written.  That time/outline shows that the first pages were written and posted in 2008 but I didn't start posting regularly until April, 2009.  By now, I am accustomed to asking myself what has been happening in my life and what I have been thinking about lately.  I grasp the fact that cutting the lawn can be described in those three words or it can be sketched and stretched into several hundred words, getting into subjects of lawns, grasses, native species, water use and conservation, ethics, landscaping and all sorts of extensions and imaginative developments.

I would think that waking up to the need each morning to decide what to write, getting into a topic, writing, listening to it read aloud in a search for errors and omissions would implant all that effort in my mind. But surprisingly, I can spend an hour or two researching, composing, checking and then 4 to 8 hours later, I can't even remember the subject that I wrote about.  Like many other people, I am hoping I never lose my good memory, my understanding of my native language, my ability to use a keyboard and to observe my own life and experiences, internal and external.  I don't like to measure things or worry about my health unless I have some call to do so.  I don't know any good reason to suspect my memory is much worse than it was when I was 10 or 20 years old but it may be.


In the extreme upper right corner of each blog post in the online form of Blogger,

the Google blogging service that hosts my blog pages, there is a search window that is quite useful.  When you have written 93% of the days since April, 2009, you have written down many comments and mentioned many books and notions.  It may be that I have actually emptied my brain and that I cannot think of any new thought.  I don't mind reruns and revised opinions, just as I don't mind boring friends with re-telling old stories that I have already told, often to the point that the friends can tell the story as well as I can.

I have confidence that I can write a post of 200-400 words on just about any subject but I like to write on things that matter to me, that my heart is in.  When an idea comes to mind that seems like it would make a good blog post, I add it to my blog ideas lists.  I have 4 lists since I start a new one once it gets too long and unwieldy.  The four together hold 635 notes for blog posts.  The first one was a look at formal names, nicknames and family names, such as Grandma that can all refer to the same person.  The most recent one is a reminder that if you let a bonobo ape (smaller version of a chimpanzee) kiss you, you will get a "French" kiss.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Monday, July 28, 2014

Working with change and time

Our choices in life are not just passive acceptance or flat resistance.  We can also use analysis, what Socrates called for in his statement "The unexamined life is not worth living." When we use our capacities to wonder, to speculate, to question, to use our curiosity, we get interesting and provocative results.

Plus, we can throw in a little respect for time.  Internal change is working in us, on us and around us all the time.  It may just take a decade to see it and even then, pictures and journals may be needed.  After we see change, we have our first round of reaction, usually negative: oh, no, overcrowding!  Advertising for stuff I don't need! Deterioration!  

After a little reflection and a little intense questioning, we find that some aspects of the change are positive and hopeful.  Beyond that, we realize that we have actually achieved some things of worth.  Also, we have benefited from some very good breaks.  Among other things, we have had experiences of not liking a person, a food, some art or tv but coming, over time, to develop a fondness or maybe even a reliance on that same person or food or art or device.  Sometimes, we are fickle but sometimes, it just takes a while to learn the good side, or the use, or the way to fit a change into our lives.

There is a difference between acquiescence and learning to benefit from changes. We can make use of both, adjusting to a new arrangement and actually employing new tools, engaging with gusto in new activities, seeing with new eyes, living with new understanding

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My inner critic

My inner critic: I don't like people who go on and on about themselves when I want to go on and on about my life. But my inner critic immediately steps in when I start to write.  Are my life and activities sufficient as a topic?  Shouldn't I at least make my statement a rhyming one?  Should I add a sound track, maybe rap or Mozart?  I could add a sparkly effect with the most important words flashing on and off.

I am not fair since I find everything you put in your grocery cart fascinating.  I am impressed with the cosmic significance of your choice of TV and books.  And, damnit, I put as much thought into my reading as you do.  I get as upset by shooting down innocent planes and money worries as you do.  So, how come my inner critic welcomes every little detail about you but bars my revelations or always dumps doubts and grumps all over my pages?

A friend often complains that my blog is about geothermal activity or probability theory but never about my aches and pains.  How about a little ME once in a while?  My inner critic and I have an appointment with a counselor next week to work on our issues.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wishing for a better shape

Don't you wish we had a better shape?  I am not talking about your waistline or silhouette or mine.  I am talking about the physical shape of our nation, the shape it makes on maps.  And don't get me started on the shape of my state.  I mean, a fingerless glove?  How are we going to lead the nation with a shape like that?

Ok, leaving aside the state, what is the shape we should have if we are going to lead the world?  That is what we want to do, right?  Lead the world?  Ok, the earth, I mean.  I guess it could be a circle, a perfect circle.  That would be distinctive and maybe inspirational.  I don't know, though.  In no time, our detractors and maybe even countries that like us would think a circle is indicative of zero.  Sometimes we are said to have no discipline, or no history, or no patience.  Maybe we are low on maturity and even wisdom.  Scratch the circle.

What about a five-pointed star?  It's true that quite a few nations beside the USA use stars but it looks like many of the Commonwealth nations (related to Britain) use 7-pointed stars.  Well, of course, making the USA contiguous states into a five-star shape will be a large engineering project.  I doubt if we want to go to the bother of moving Alaska, Hawaii and other US territories, so let's just stick to the main 48.  Our graphic designers could get to work laying out the best way to lay a five-pointed star onto the current shape.  It is roughly a rectangle in landscape mode as depicted on many maps.  

Let's each kick in a dollar or so and maybe get the project started.  It will need some careful and sensitive political shepherding but in the long run, it could unite us into greatness.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ways to see your life

Meditation can improve your ability to be aware of what you have decided to think about.  We can't always control or predict what thoughts will arise.  But we can be aware that we have fallen into a rant about some habitual irritant or into worrying about a relative.  It can be a valuable change to ask Byron Katie's question (Is it true?) about the rant or to take a moment to remind ourselves that life unfolds in many ways and most of them are not under our control.  But running parallel to all our thoughts and issues, our lives continue on.  

Henry David Thoreau moved to the woods and wrote about his experience and ideas in "Walden" (free on Kindle).  One of the most famous passages in this 1854 account of a bachelor who purposely moved into the woods goes:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."

Thoreau, Henry David (2009-10-04). Walden (p. 66). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

When you think about your life, you will find you have lived, no matter how you spent your time.  You may regret not weeding more or reading more but such regrets may well be wispy thoughts that omit the inclinations and reasons you had at the time.  You could have weeded more or written to your friend more, but you had other goals and demands at the time.  Writing about your life as it is lived, or photographing it or adding a new goal or activity you have been wanting to get to, may reveal some of the surprising complexity and beauty of the minutes and the years you have been in, are in, and are coming up.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Thursday, July 24, 2014

various ideas

flipped classroom - often described as flipping the purpose of homework and class time, where basic learning takes place at home or outside of the classroom while activities inside class are designed to apply, explore and extend the basic learning

tension level - maybe the same as arousal level, when I am tense, elevated, excited, I am ready to fight, flee or freeze but I may not be ready to learn or to sense how I am feeling.  I was impressed by this table from Pennebaker's "Opening Up":

from "Opening Up" by J. Pennebaker p. 8


Heart Rate

Warren's comments



Some disagreements about sex

College courses


Most are interesting

Failing exams


It's been hard on my ego



We were close until the divorce

Parents' divorce


It was no big deal

The future


I'm scared of failing again

best of all possible worlds, it is all for the best and bullshit - I didn't realize the other day when I wrote about optimism vs. accuracy that I was dealing with a theme that has preoccupied people for a long time, including minds of the level of Leibnitz and Voltaire.  There is good evidence that having a positive outlook is associated with being healthy and happy but nobody believes that smiling complacently in the face of a tornado and believing all will be well is a good strategy.

secure in the past as opposed to varying and slippery interpretations of the past - in America today, we have occupations and teams devoted for various financial, political and occupational reasons to more or less continuous examination and re-examination of the past. Many people are uncomfortable or take insult from revised interpretation of the past.  If I learn that President X or CEO Y was a hero, I may be hurt and upset to learn that evidence now indicates that she or he wasn't such a hero, after all.

distractions of words - Frans de Waal says that people in a ward for a certain sort of brain damage which prevents understanding of spoken language found a given televised political speech hilarious.  They detected big discrepancy between the speaker's tone, timing, facial expression and gestures and his words.  People who could understand spoken words found the speech perfectly normal but not at all funny.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

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