Saturday, April 18, 2015

side trip

One of us likes to have a trip.  It is uplifting and exciting to plan a trip, to pack for a trip, to take off by car or plane, to be somewhere different.  After a while, it is fun to remember that we have a home and we could go there.  Typically, our trip enthusiast side expresses a letdown when we turn around and start home.


Several women friends have pointed out that a woman in her home is in her office, her factory, her site of responsibility, of duties, of vigilance.  How are the food supplies?  How is the laundry and the clean clothes supply?  Whose birthday is coming up?  Have plans been made for a celebration?  For a gift?  What about the kids' music performances and their sports events? Add social and fraternal (sororitorial ??) obligations, planning duties and events and you have quite a whirlwind, designed to interfere with leisure, reading and general freedom.


We have a side trip planned to the small Wisconsin city of Lacrosse.  It is named after a bishop's staff, not the Native American/American sport.  It is the city where Lynn taught as a professor of education and library science after completing her PhD.  Back in 1988, we thought we would give ourselves a break and new surroundings after living in Stevens Point for about a quarter of a century.  Lacrosse is on the Mississippi and is set among beautiful hills and valleys.  It is nearly 4 times the size of Stevens Point.  After living there for a year, I returned full time to the University of Wisconsin in Point and Lynn decided that marriage apart was not satisfying and moved back after a year and a half.


I spent more than half of each week with Lynn in Lacrosse and we got to know the place a bit.  It is fun to revisit a place that was important in our lives and stir up the memories from there.


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


Friday, April 17, 2015

Robots

I heard a presentation yesterday by one of my favorite economists, Prof. Larry Weiser.  He spoke about the conditions of American manufacturing.


We heard that the share of the American gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services made in the US, that comes from manufacturing has remained basically constant for decades.  However, the number of Americans working in manufacturing has taken a big tumble, mostly because of automation and robots.  We learned that American workers are roughly 6 times as productive as Chinese workers, again because of the methods, automation, computerization and robots.


I asked if we could get robots that can run our government.  The others present hooted and made remarks about the idea.


Maybe you know that some thinkers worry about the advances in robotics that seem to imply that most, if not all, jobs, will be done better by robots in the future.


The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez is a story about a futuristic society that has some of its criminal detection needs performed by robots.


Isaac Asimov's book I, Robot, begins with the story of a robot who cares for a small child and clearly does a better job than the child's actual mother.


You may know that Stephen Hawking, one of the world's leading astronomers, recently stated that he was worried about the future of humankind with artificial intelligence developing greater and greater abilities.  Many thinkers, novelists and writers have pictured a crisis where robots war against humans but it seems to me that humans may find that they benefit more from robots than are harmed by them.




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


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Shake-up

"A new book by British writer Kazuo Ishiguro is a major literary event."  http://www.ttbook.org/book/side-pixies-and-ogres

A British writer named Kazuo Ishiguro????  This line from "To The Best of Our Knowledge"website puts me in mind of my fictional hero, Jose McGoldberg.

We constantly hear that our world is changing.  It is, it always is.  However, it may be changing more completely, more deeply and faster than before.  Spencer Wells, a major force in the National Geographic's Genographic Project, wrote several years ago, that his project of tracking the movements of large groups of people using DNA analysis will become less possible in the future.  Individual people can now hop on a plane and quickly show up in a part of the world quite different from the usual locations of a person with their history, their culture and their DNA.


I have wanted to create a photo exhibit along the lines of the famous one called The Family of Man" but this one would feature people dressed in culturally typical clothing such as serapes, turbans, burqas, American business suits, cowboy clothes, etc.  However, each person would be a trick in a way since the woman in the burqa would be a South Carolina socialite, the man in the turban would be a Scottish bagpiper, etc.  All would look like we might expect, with skin color, eyes and hair consistent with the typical person so dressed but that person would be an example of the convulsive shaking our world of people is getting.

 

Normally, we would not expect there to be a person named Jose McGoldberg.  Jose is Latin American and Goldberg tends to be Jewish.  How could a Latin American Jewish person have acquired the "Mc" associated with Irish and Scottish names?  Of course, in today's world, a band of musicians or a product name could be created anew with the goal of catching attention.  But despite the shake-ups, the international travels, the commercial and other word inventions, it is surprising to read of a British writer named Kazuo Ishiguro.



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


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New library

You can imagine the wonder that arose in people's minds when the first house of scrolls or clay tablets or books was built.  Imagine!  So much knowledge that a separate building is needed to house it all.  We still use the word "library" for any collection of information as in "film library" or "music library".


When a whole new type of information collection arises, it may not be all that noticeable at first.  Even now, after decades of public libraries and centuries of public education, it doesn't often happen that people can take a moment to run to the library and investigate an idea.  Yesterday, I wanted to know whether raw or cooked broccoli was more nutritious.  Did I run to the local library?  I did not.  I used Google, if you can imagine that.


At 6 PM this Friday, our town will have its 46th consecutive enormous trivia contest, where 400 teams of varying size will work for 54 consecutive hours at answering trivia questions. What color was Joan Cusack's dress after she ran out of the bar in frustration in the 1997 film "In & Out"? Some people in our town have played this game each spring for 46 years.  They have seen the nature of the contest change enormously since Google and good internet connections came to town. Now we can look up the answer to virtually any question, translate many languages, find pictures of just about anything in a flash.


Next fall, I am giving a talk on sources of non-fiction information that are free and helpful.  There are a great many but I have focused on TED talks, Great Courses and YouTube.  I have a theory of my own that over time, the desire for interesting and correct information will grow and grow and those three sources are rich in that way.  Just two days ago, a friend remembered Rudolph Nureyev dancing with the Muppet Miss Piggy in the famous ballet "Swine Lake".  Bingo, found it right away on YouTube.  Not life-changing but fun.


But since yesterday, I am turning my attention to a 4th source of modern information: podcasts.  As far as I know now, they are nothing more than sound recordings of a speaker, called podcasts from their use on the Apple Computer's iPod, a small sound file player. I learned about Freakonomics Radio, a collection of talks centered around the ideas from the books Freakonomics and Think Like a Freak.  There are many Freakonomics talks, maybe 50 of them, and they are very interesting and eye-opening.  Not that all that many eyes need opening these days but I am just saying….


So the new library I am trying to highlight here is the internet's library of podcasts.  Apple has a slew of them but there are many other sources, such as Wisconsin Public Radio's "To the Best of Our Knowledge" (TTBOOK).  A friend listens to various downloaded podcasts and favorite music while driving.  Not a bad practice and free.



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


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Two tools for better living

One of the most valuable things you can get from meditation practice is strong awareness that what you think and feel is just thoughts and feelings.  Without that basic tool, it is easy to lose the distinction between your thoughts and feelings and outside facts.  The facts can be the thoughts and feelings of others that don't match your own and they can be facts of truth outside of anyone's thoughts and feelings.


If you have a feeling that the black horse is going to win and I have a feeling the white horse will, when the black horse comes in first, we both tend to say,"You were right" and "I was right".  If your prediction matches the outcomes enough times, especially consecutive times, I might feel that there is something about your judgment of horse races that is superior.  Of course, if you are right enough times, I may begin to suspect you are drugging the horses or are in cahoots with someone who is.


When we say "you were right", we mean you made a prediction and that prediction matches the outcome but the words sound rather like there is something in you that makes you correct, a property or element.  Our thoughts and the feelings behind them are so powerful, so useful and are present so continuously that we can pay less attention to the fact that they reside inside our heads.  Good heads but still just heads.

 

Bessel van der Kolk makes clear in "The Body Keeps the Score" that the first decade of life is spent more or less learning that our parents say what is and what is rather depends on what they say.  If Mom says I can't play with Johnny, that may be a fact of my world, which now contains no Johnny.  I may have to spend my whole adolescent decade untying to connections that nourished me but now turned out to be less powerful and ultimate than they were.


Two tools that help me focus on the larger world beyond my own thoughts and feelings are the pause and the NOW.  The pause enables me to stop a second and think again.  Do I really need an 80 inch tv, even if it is now on sale for only $999.99?  The NOW, in capital letters or small, is actually right this minute where I am right now.  Three deep breaths are more than enough to give me a pause and the time to check my posture, feelings in my legs and feet and other current facts about my present body.  Slowing and deepening my breath helps me to focus my attention on my actual place and this actual time, always worth visiting and enjoying.



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


Monday, April 13, 2015

I am out of sync

A while back, I watched an audience viewing a standup comedian.  Every time he used the f-word, his audience laughed and laughed.  I didn't think it was funny the first time and it got less funny with every repetition.  Maybe the group feels free when they can hear the word used openly. It certainly seems to have strong laugh value for them and none for me. As I wrote last June 20, I realize that language habits and customs change but use the old reading teacher approach and say "Teakettle" for each use of the f-word and see how much more imaginative and powerful words are when one term is not overused. Use of the little gray cells can fashion a report or an ad that stimulates rather than bores.


Since I really don't need any news of the day and since at the same time, I have many sources for news if I do want to find out what is getting media attention, I am irritated, not charmed and not patient when I click on a link that says volcano explosion and get interrupted by an ad for an automobile.  Even with a virile looking young man smiling at a beautiful young woman, I fall into a sour mood when I have to wait for 9, 8, 7,... seconds before the ad gets out of my way and I get to see this business of volcanos.  I am getting better at killing the entire web page before the ad finishes, foregoing the exciting volcano information.


I am out of sync with my cellphone.  It is a Tracfone and it works very well.  I pay less than $100 a YEAR to be able to send and receive phone calls from wherever I am.  The coverage is excellent and the price is low.  It is a flip phone and draws smirks and sneers when others see it, just as my horse-drawn carriage does.  I could afford a smartphone and then I could be connected to the internet even more hours of the day than I am now.  But I am out of sync.  I don't want to look even more things up on Wikipedia.  I like to forget the questions I heard at lunch and not spend the time with my friends looking at a little screen trying to get the annual wheat production of Canada.


I realize that if I were in my 20's, I would be compelled accept dumb language usage, ads for everything prefacing any communication and high prices for the continuous opportunity to be interrupted, annoyed and distracted.  Luckily, I am peacefully placed in my post-70 years and it is a very comfortable place to be.



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


I am out of sync

A while back, I watched an audience viewing a standup comedian.  Every time he used the f-word, his audience laughed and laughed.  I didn't think it was funny the first time and it got less funny with every repetition.  Maybe the group feels free when they can hear the word used openly. It certainly seems to have strong laugh value for them and none for me. As I wrote last June 20, I realize that language habits and customs change but use the old reading teacher approach and say "Teakettle" for each use of the f-word and see how much more imaginative and powerful words are when one term is not overused. Use of the little gray cells can fashion a report or an ad that stimulates rather than bores.


Since I really don't need any news of the day and since at the same time, I have many sources for news if I do want to find out what is getting media attention, I am irritated, not charmed and not patient when I click on a link that says volcano explosion and get interrupted by an ad for an automobile.  Even with a virile looking young man smiling at a beautiful young woman, I fall into a sour mood when I have to wait for 9, 8, 7,... seconds before the ad gets out of my way and I get to see this business of volcanos.  I am getting better at killing the entire web page before the ad finishes, foregoing the exciting volcano information.


I am out of sync with my cellphone.  It is a Tracfone and it works very well.  I pay less than $100 a YEAR to be able to send and receive phone calls from wherever I am.  The coverage is excellent and the price is low.  It is a flip phone and draws smirks and sneers when others see it, just as my horse-drawn carriage does.  I could afford a smartphone and then I could be connected to the internet even more hours of the day than I am now.  But I am out of sync.  I don't want to look even more things up on Wikipedia.  I like to forget the questions I heard at lunch and not spend the time with my friends looking at a little screen trying to get the annual wheat production of Canada.


I realize that if I were in my 20's, I would be compelled accept dumb language usage, ads for everything prefacing any communication and high prices for the continuous opportunity to be interrupted, annoyed and distracted.  Luckily, I am peacefully placed in my post-70 years and it is a very comfortable place to be.



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


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