Friday, April 29, 2016

Press 1 for Mozart

The other day, I had to call my bank and within the bank, I had to visit four different departments by phone.  Each time, I had to wait a bit before anyone there could answer.  The bank phone system is set, as many are these days, to play some music while I wait for an answerer.  I think the music selected to play in such cases is interesting.  One company I know has the waiting person listen to a recorded lecture.  Whether it is music or speech, there is no identification of what I am hearing.  There is no way to continue listening, either from the beginning or from the point I last heard.  This system began anew each time I was put on hold.


This time, the music was an upbeat, musicbox-like melody.  I imagine different people have different reactions to the music.  Besides, hearing it while waiting the first time was quite different from hearing the merry little oblivious music, totally unaware of my growing impatience with the same tinkly notes the 2nd, 3rd and 4th times.


I mentioned that I had heard the same unappreciated music several times to one of the answerers.  He told me that he too, as an employee, has to phone different sections of the business and he too has to listen to the same music.  As with many systems, a taped voice assures me that my call is very important to the business and I will have a person momentarily.  That employees also listen to the music must be annoying but I do hope that they are not mechanically assured all day long that their call is important.


Recently, we had a talk in our lecture organization on the subject of "bullshit".  Looking into the subject a bit, I discovered the book "Your call is important to us: the truth about bullshit" by Laura Penny.  It seems that several authors are unconvinced by the words taped.


I have experienced waiting music so good that I did not want anyone to interrupt it.  I suggest a menu of more advanced and sensitive options:

Press 1 for Mozart's Magic Flute

Press 2 for Prince's Purple Rain

Press 3 for Adele's Goodbye

Press 4 for silence

Note: Pressing the # key after a choice will lock the recording on until you decide to hang up and call again later.




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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Thursday, April 28, 2016

10 Innovations Changing the World, a Brief History of US Encryption Policy, and More

You can look up the Brookings Institute or Pew Research and find many free weekly newsletters.  This is one.  I try to pay some attention to lists of new and coming technical inventions.  Time magazine had an issue in 2010 of important ideas and that issue has been in my head frequently since then.  One of the things it did for me was remind me that many people have lived and died and many are living now who cannot read or write, who don't have electricity or tv.
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Brookings Center for Technology Innovation <techinnovation@brookings.edu>
Date: Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 10:43 AM
Subject: 10 Innovations Changing the World, a Brief History of US Encryption Policy, and More
To: olderkirby@gmail.com


The latest research and analysis from the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation.
The Center for Technology Innovation
April 27, 2016
A Tesla S electric car and a charging station are displayed during the press preview day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 14, 2014.

10 innovations that could change the world

Hillary Schaub

Each spring, the MIT Technology Review releases its list of the 10 most important technological innovations of the year. Previous lists have included agricultural drones, ultra-private smartphones, and brain mapping. The 2016 list is just as exciting.

3D printed Apple logo are seen in front of a displayed cyber code

A brief history of US encryption policy

Jack Karsten and Darrell M. West

The FBI's recent attempt to force Apple to unlock the iPhone of Syed Farook has made encryption a topic of dinner table discussion. Jack Karsten and Darrel West take a look at the history of U.S. encryption policies.

A man fills out a ballot at the Central Synagogue

Digital tools enable citizen budgeting

Hollie Russon Gilman

Participatory budgeting, a method that empowers community members to allocate public dollars, is on the rise in the U.S. This post looks at the ways that digital tools can help cities better engage their residents in the process.

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION

Founded in 2010, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings is at the forefront of shaping public debate and developing data-driven scholarship on technology innovation. Our focus is to build an enhanced understanding of technology's legal, economic, social and governance ramifications. The Center will distribute this monthly email newsletter of events, research and commentary.

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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It doesn't take much to make a difference

Follow the idea of "QR: The Quieting Reflex" by Charles Stroebel, MD by finding tension in your body, especially shoulders, hands, legs and face and relaxing for 6 seconds.  Do it throughout the day.  Sometime, during each day, do a one minute workout:
Live Science - ‎1 hour ago‎




People who say they don't have time to exercise may be out of excuses: A new study finds that just 1 minute of sprinting, along with 9 minutes of light exercise, leads to similar improvements in health and fitness as a 50-minute workout at a moderate pace.

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

Twitter: @olderkirby

another big deal for humans

I was surprised at how rich and complex the subject of humans cooking their food turned out to be.  The book "Catching Fire" by Richard Wrangham (not the Hunger Games volume 2 by the same name) explains the benefits we get from using heat to chemically change our food.  Of course, the subject of cooking and food preparation is rich and involves social occasions and cooking shows and contests and whole careers as chefs.  


Having been alerted by Prof. Wrangham to the very widespread results of stoves, microwaves and kitchens and who cooks for whom, I noticed another aspect of human life that you might think we couldn't manage but we do: toilet training.  I notice that when we speak of a pet cat or dog, we ask if the animal is "toilet trained" or "house broken" but with our infants we often speak of "potty training."  


Here in the north, we have plenty of lakes.  We usually we have parks around some of them, nice green grassy lawns around blue, sparkling lakes.  These are attractive to geese, such as the large Canadian geese.  Nice birds but poopy.  (We tend to use the word "poop" for human excrement with children and in nice or semi-nice company and to reserve the word "shit" for an expletive to label something as unwanted, unpleasant and stinky.)  When you seen how often one or another of the birds empties their bowels, and you think of 8 billion humans, larger animals for sure, you might not believe that we could learn to control our own bowels and avoid the goose-yard syndrome. Not with so many of us and such a recurrent need in our bodies.  


But you know the answer: Bathrooms! Very often, a 'bathroom' is a place to use a toilet, not to take a bath.  We also use the term RESTroom, even though if we want a rest, we don't normally go there but to a different room.  Sometimes, the term "gentlemen's" or "ladies'" is used without further explanation.  We say "Where's the john?" or the latrine or the "head".  Frequently, if we get close to a waiter or waitress, they will guess our question before we speak and point in the right direction.


You might guess that the whole species would be unable to collectively arrange for bodily evacuation to be as controlled as it is, just as you might guess that we would be unable to teach such a large portion of our group to use silverware or chopsticks, to read and write, and to generally learn to behave in the restricted ways we think of as mannerly, polite and civilized.


Restrooms are really in the news right now as we wrestle with our long-standing idea that men and women should have different bathrooms but now many people are all confused about where transgendered people should go. I have used large bathrooms in a college dorm during a week-long meeting of the Friends (Quakers) General Conference with adult men and women going in and out of the same bathroom. It was a little odd at first but we managed very well. There weren't that many dorms and this one was set for those willing or in need of avoidance of scented products due to allergies. Nothing to do with transgenders.


Once I watched Candid Camera show prospective renters an apartment. It took the interested parties a moment to realize that there was no bathroom in the apartment. That is not a big problem in some situations. In the novel "Excellent Women" by Barbara Pym (1952), British people in a building of apartments and rented quarters shared a bathroom among renters of both sexes. They expected to and so did people in similar quarters in the US.


If you are interested in this subject, you might want to look at "The Big Necessity" by Rose George.



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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tools for being nicer to yourself (which can pay off)

Self compassion infographics

This link is ok and I have verified it. Of course, anybody can write that, even if it isn't true.  A name that comes up often with self compassion is Prof. Kristen Neff of the U of Texas at Austin.  She is in the ed psych department and emphasizes that many people are too hard on themselves.  Parents, personality and social encouragement toward self-criticism can combine, resulting in discounting one's worth and value and good sense.

Some of the charts linked above can be helpful as tools or reminders, used in changing habits or automatic reactions or inner putdowns.
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby


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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Monday, April 25, 2016

There is nothing but philosophy

I respect philosophy.  I have two doctoral minors, one in philosophy and one in psychology.  When I started teaching, I found from day one that philosophy was more relevant to teaching as practiced in a university than was the academic psychology I studied.  I did have a psych course on construction of questionnaires and two semesters of the history of psychology and both of those were valuable.


When I named my blog, I thought of the typical thought sequence our minds go through: fear first since dangers may need immediate attention, fun when we have a chance to have fun and the means to do so and finally filoz(ophy), or thought, reflection, consideration, analysis, all the mental work that philosophers apply to questions and topics.  That sequence of reactions is referred to by the Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman's title:"Thinking: Fast and Slow."


I suggested that my philosophical friends venture further outside their usual discussion areas, saying that we didn't have to always stay in them.  One responded,"What else is there?"  An interesting question but not an easy one to answer.  Sometimes, broad philosophical themes relate to what have been called the "terrible" questions about the meaning and purpose of life, the nature of an afterlife, the proper conduct throughout life.  Sometimes, the branches of philosophy are said to be metaphysics (what is there?  What is it to exist?), logic (what arguments are valid and which are not?), epistemology (what is it to know?  How can we know?  How can we tell if a statement is true?), ethics (what is the right way to live and respect and support others and one's self?) and aesthetics (what is beauty and how can we find it, have it and produce it?)


As a college student, I wondered why there were "doctors of philosophy" in English and geography and other subjects.  Shouldn't they be doctors (accredited and verified teachers) of their own subjects?  I guess a "doctor" is a person judged by qualified others to be sufficiently knowledgeable to teach others and I guess that we could as well call the PhD's "doctors of the theory and subject of X".


It seems to me that the ancient philosophers like the Greeks and the Chinese asked good questions, deep questions, thought-provoking questions but the men (!!??) were limited in number.  They also asked (and asserted answers) backed by little or no evidence, because oppositional trials, scientific investigations and replications of experiments (what is an experiment?) were not well-developed.  In general, we have taken their critical thinking and inquisitive approach and extended it and added a few things to it.  The extensions and the additions were inspired by the same spirit of inquiry that lead from "What is virtue?" and "Can virtue be taught?" to today's meta-analysis of 35 studies of the effect of exercise on our brains.  We got where we are, for better or for worse, by thinking, questioning, doubting and imagining, inspired by philosophers.  


We are rather slow.  We don't have antlers or poisonous fangs.  Our brains are our best tool and they are philosophical engines. However, today we can turn those engines toward diet, electronics, artificial intelligence and better language translation and many other areas the ancients overlooked or hadn't gotten around to.



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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Self-compassion

Compassion is a word that I read in Buddhist and American-Buddhist writings but not so much in Christian language.  The Christians tend to use the word "love" and urge love and support and assistance and sympathy with your neighbor and others.  But I think much of the result is the same, whether I love or have compassion.  Depending of course on what I mean by the two terms.  The process of loving or of having compassion can start from different places.


I can tell myself that I should love and bring myself up short when I find I am ignoring another or being annoyed by another.  I can just leave a red flag in my mind, like a road worker with a big red sign that says "Stop!"  When I see that inner marker, I can take grab myself by the lapels and demand loving and supportive behavior from me toward another.


We did learn in Sunday school to walk in another's shoes, to experience that pain of his rejection, of her fear, of his sadness and take appropriate action to lessen those pains and console the rejected, bolster the afraid and cheer the sad.  But life experience as well as literature, drama and poetry, in school and out, gives us sharper, faster and more complete ability to know what the negatives and positives of life feel like from inside.  We get better at the human skill of reading faces, voices and bodies to detect not only the basic emotions but some of the poignant details that make individual situations especially strong and deep.


Over time, maybe also as a result of aging, I get faster and more efficient at seeing myself as described in an article about myself.  My actions may not be honorable or exemplary but they are understandable.  If I step out of my shoes and stand a little distance from myself, I can see that I am afraid and so reacted negatively.  I am less inclined to grab lapels and more inclined to offer a cup of tea to myself.


Two valuable guides to better, faster and more effective compassion toward myself are Kristin Neff (books and YouTube) and Brene Brown (books and TED Talks).  Neff wrote just the other day about the difference between trying to bolster my feelings about myself with pride or with putting others down as compared to sympathetic but clear-eyed understanding, such as a coach might have.  More and more, evidence is building that tenacity, employed intelligence, resiliency as well as empathy and understanding of others comes better from learning self-compassion.  The right sort of loving, tender care and appreciation produces stronger soldiers and police dogs, too, as opposed to mere deprivation and meanness.


You guessed it: self-compassion is improved with regular meditation.



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

Twitter: @olderkirby

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