Friday, November 28, 2014

Early morning at Greatgrandmother's house

You may be like me.  I only met my greatgrandmother a few times and I was quite young, maybe 4 years old.  But things have changed lately.  You may realize that being a parent is your responsibility.  If you become a parent, you are involved, quite closely.  But other people make you a grandparent or a greatgrandparent.  You can be sitting in front of the fire knitting and Boom!  Somebody makes you into a grandparent, without your knowledge or permission, without your presence even.


You probably have sung the song that says "Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house, we go."  Here in the north, we have a river and woods and snow.  People will be coming here to grandmother's house but things have changed.  Our wi-fi is beaming a signal through the house.  The stove just beeped that it was as hot as Lynn had set it to be.  We have been in touch with several friends by Facebook and email before breakfast.  

The greatgrandparents had a banana each and protein bars for breakfast, instead of bacon and eggs and biscuits and butter.  Ok, I did have a whole wheat bagel with light butter.  That is butter mixed with canola oil. 


I keep YouTube at the ready for all our information needs not covered by the Google (or Bing backup) search page.  I thought I would elicit nostalgia by playing a YouTube version of Over the River and Through the Woods from the past.  I found Danny Kaye and the Andrews sisters by the same method my 14 year old jr. high greatgrandson uses: put in a few words and let the software suggest what you are after.  That way, you don't need to spell or type but just select.  I selected and began playing the song.  Immediately, my musician wife (voice, choir, French horn, trombone, piano) said,"Oh, yuck!"  I snapped it off, not wanting to implant an undesired earworm.  She said,"That was a good song, once.  But it has been so overdone."


Things have changed lately.


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


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Our brains, and the rest of us, too

We have the two mental systems of reaction: the immediate one that can get us alarmed before we realize that it is not a snake but just a stick, and the slower one that we use to figure out how we can get ourselves to put our sticks away where they belong instead of leaving them in the way.  These two systems are often referred to as system 1 and system 2.  You could probably say that Freud's idea of the Id was our system 1 and combining his Ego and Superego would be about the same as our system 2 with our internal clerk-mathematician-scientist thrown in, too.  The book Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman discusses these fast and slow systems.  The much older book The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey discusses the need in tennis drills to give the analytic system 2 something to do, such as call out "Hit" when the ball hits the court.  That way, the basic body-connected system gets a chance to do the stroke in a natural and relaxed way.


Our brains and bodies are shaped by millions of years of evolution.  What can and did happen in such a span of time is way beyond normal imagining so I am hesitant to dismiss any part of our bodies or ways of thinking as wrong or superfluous.  Modern Western thinking tends to be just that: thinking.  And thinking, fast or slow or both, can be good.  However, we are more than our brains.  I was interested when I heard about Sohini Chakraborty, an Indian woman who applies ideas from dance and dance therapy to helping traumatized young women. Research may eventually show that movement of different types, using rhythms of different kinds and tones of various types, can indeed assist in getting a handle on better ways to think, feel and move. There may be something sometime to using different scents and olfactory experiences to heal or promote healing or better prepare for healing of various kinds.


I have seen more and more how doing yoga stretches and postures can prepare the body and mind to mediate.  A friend just told me the other day about an app that will vibrate when I should improve my posture.  My own physician has consistently maintained that exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is good for my brain.  Prof. Satterfield says the same thing, reporting that physical exercise has been shown to be more effective for brain function that brain-training software, which itself has a small positive effect but long lasting one.



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


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Taking steps in a good mood

I am listening to Prof. Jason Satterfield's Great Course on mind-body medicine.  It seems clear that positive emotions produce more health and enjoyment than negative ones.  Bet that really surprises you, huh?  Suppose I step on your toe on purpose but you see a blue bird.  Stepping on your toe seemed intentional on my part and you aren't happy about such poor manners, deliberate insults, the pain, not to mention the damage I did to your shiny shoe.  Still seeing a bluebird at this time of the year is definitely a gift and a special experience.


Sometimes, we can't let go of a negative experience, a deep worry, a bad sign.  Sometimes, we can.  We may be able to think about the blue bird, how lucky it was that we glanced out of the window just then, how we normally are deep in our work at that time of the afternoon.  Where we put our attention, how long we have it on a particular target or subject, how we react to a fact, an occurrence, an event is often under our control.  If we realize that we are still feeling down about the toe-stepping incident, we can consciously move our attention to something else.  But if we get caught up in thoughts about the large number of times we have been treated poorly, we are into the negative story and may not even notice the possibility of thinking of something else.


Since I stepped on your toe, you may have to take steps.  Charging me with assault in the civil or criminal courts may be called for.  Sending a note to my mother complaining about my poor behavior may be more appropriate, not to mention cheaper.  Moving your attention to your happy place doesn't have to mean that you are off in la-la land all the time.  The point is that it may be possible to whack me a good one upside the head while being in the very best of moods.  Some very great thinkers are admired by billions for tempered advice to offer the other shoe and that may be what you most want to do.  Using your best thinking, that may be the best path to take but there is no reason to deprive yourself of a good mood throughout your thinking and subsequent action.



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


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Long time ahead

In the 1980's, two other professors and I taught a course called "Futures".  One was a historian of science and the other an environmentalist.  We were sparked by the book "Limits to Growth", a book by serious people who tried to predict when pollution would overrun us, oil and gas would be used up and our supply of fresh water, too.  That sort of disaster was predicted for the year 2025, I think.  We read many other predictions and found most uncheckable, unfalsifiable, undated.  I have read that the oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece made the prediction "The Persians the Greeks will defeat", just vague enough about who would win and when that it goes in the unverifiable bin.


My great grandson showed me a YouTube tape he was interested in.  It was a comparison of video games that purported to be about the future but which turned out to be the actual events after the game was produced.  So, somebody thought they would take some of the games currently on the market and make predictions about the future of society, human life in general and the living conditions on our planet at various times in the future.  I wasn't impressed since I have found so many predictions that are dire (pleasant ones don't get any publicity) but undated and quite possibly unfounded.


Shortly after, I came across this BBC timeline for Earth over the next 10 quadrillion years.  I don' t expect to be conscious or worried about the environment then but you make want to take a look.  The graphic alone is worth seeing.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140105-timeline-of-the-far-future.



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


Monday, November 24, 2014

Distractions

I have written about the other links on many web pages of information.  But the links on that page were stationary ones.  When gathering information from around the web, there are also distractions that are genuine interruptions.  I see a link for jackets and I click on it.  I see a page with pictures and writing that are about jackets but before I can read it, a small banner appears across the jacket page inviting me to give the jacket company my email address.  The wording assures me that really great jacket buys appear in their newsletter all the time and I will be astounded at the prices of these great jackets. If the interruption has a middle level of politeness, there will be a large X in the upper right corner.  The X is a switch to dismiss the invitation and get back to the jacket ads.  In some software, simply clicking elsewhere will dismiss the intrusive "pop-up".


It only takes a moment for me to get irritated with the whole business.  I was interested in jackets, not in an ongoing relation to a jacket company and certainly not in additional advertising of that sort coming to my inbox.  So, when I run into a lower level of politeness and get a page that does not disappear but just keeps on staring at me, waiting for me to enroll myself in their ad list, I will close the whole page. If necessary, I will shut down my computer and go read one of the 60 or so old-fashioned paper books I have that don't send ads at me when I am trying to read a page.


When I first started using a Kindle, just knowing that I had many other books right in my hand while reading was enough to get me tempted to ask myself if one of those other books would be more fun at the moment than the one I was reading.  You know how people sometimes jump through the channels rather rapidly and can't seem to find anything they want to watch.  Just pausing in the story enough to ask myself if I am tired of this one is enough to be a bit of a distraction.


I have other links scattered in and beside on my own blog page so who am I to talk?


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


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Risks in living and dying

I keep hearing of people being 90 and older.  I googled what % of 65 yr. old Americans will live to be 90 but I didn't get any very clear answer other than the odds of living to 90 or 100 are rising everywhere.  I guess the odds are pretty good, even for males.  I did read that 75% of current Americans 90 or older are women.


I also read a couple of articles by Steve Vernon, one titled "Living Too Long is a Risk!"  I guess an experienced actuary and financial advisor would use such a title, complete with exclamation point, because he feels that outliving your money supply is a horrible thought.  Ok, it is a risk to drive a car, to be a passenger in a car, to stay at home all the time, to go down stairs, to go up stairs, etc., etc.  I personally have been taking risks since before I was born.  I often take risks that I don't realize I am taking, such as living on a planet that travels through space on an orbit that intersects with the orbits of 90,000 other celestial objects.  I took that particular risk for decades before I realized the number of possible intersecting objects was so high.  Once I have learned of the risk from author Bill Bryson in "A Short History of Nearly Everything", I have kept right on living on the same planet, basically ignoring the risk.  I am fairly indifferent to the problem but basically I don't know of anything else to do.


I have gained a new respect for the spectrum of feelings, memories and worries associated with aging, disability, pain and death.  I do admire the writing, the acting and the story lines created in "Grey's Anatomy" and of course, a good deal of what goes on in a major urban hospital deals with living and dying.  Older episodes are available for streaming and we have been watching an episode a night for since the summer.   During that same time, we read Atul Gawande's "Being Mortal", a consideration of many aspects of the last parts of our lives, including death.  Both sources show how sensible and intelligent people, contending with the forces of love and of the biological urge to live and keep on living, can veer off into unexpected stances when approaching their death or that of others close to them.



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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Less rousing, please

Balance or moderation, the middle way is often the key.  Because we can literally do extraordinary things when aroused, stimulated, energized, keyed up, advertisers and marketers often use the language and imagery of cheerleading, sports ecstasy and general hoopla for everything from toothpaste to stock purchases.  It can be a little tiresome to find so many noisy urgings to hurry, see the upside of a new tv or blender, buy new pants, root for the team, etc., etc. It can get a little boring.

Surely, somebody somewhere must be in a position to say "you probably don't really need our product and it is very much like its competitors but it might fit your needs someday. We offer ours for a middling price, about what others charge for their equally good products.  If you have bought our products, we thank you.  We don't want your email address and do not plan to pursue any deeper relationship with you, even though you are probably a good person. If you haven't ever used our product, why not give us a try sometime?"


In politics, I am looking for messages along the line of "Hi, I am Susan _____ and I am seeking the office of public attorney for your county.  My opponents are very capable people and you may want to vote for them.  The incumbent has a passable record and I have no reason to expect that I could do better in the office than she has but I would like the opportunity to try and I do have good credentials.  Please vote for Susan _______."

People who are used to a steady diet of rousing language may be somewhat addicted to such messages.  Robert Johnson, a well-known psychologist and author, tells of a young woman at his gym who is responsible for writing a slogan on the gym blackboard.  She asked him for an idea and he recommended, "Standing still, we surpass those who run."  She stood still herself for a moment and then said,"No way!".  She turned and wrote "Go, go, go!" on the board.


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


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