Friday, May 26, 2017

Very difficult

The Society of Friends General Conference (rather like a synod of the Quakers) runs a bookstore and they send out a newsletter about their books.  Yesterday's introduced me to Mr. Terry Waite.  He is or was an employee of the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the main figure in the Church of England.  He got involved with hostage negotiations and during a very challenging and upsetting period in Beirut, Lebanon, accepted requests to go there and try to negotiate the release of some British and other hostages, some of whom were elderly and not in the best health.  His boss was reluctant to approve the trip and both men knew that the whole deal was very dangerous.  It turned out that the kidnappers broke their word and took Waite into captivity, too.  He was held captive for five years, nearly all of the time chained and blindfolded.

 

Waite has a couple of books about his work and that experience.  The most recent is "Out of the Silence".  I read a few years ago about a Tibetan Buddhist monk held by the Chinese for 33 years.  That man, Palden Gyatso, was eventually released and the Dalai Lama talked with him.  When asked what was the most difficult part of the long imprisonment and torture, he answered that he feared losing compassion for his torturers. Gyatso has a book called "Fire Under the Snow".

 

I am confident that there are many other unbelievable stories like that of these two men.  


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bear tracks right outside

Our granddaughter and her family live outside a small town in the Wisconsin countryside.  We do have bears, wolves, cougars, elk and of course many other animals in the wilds of the state.  We do have deer in our own yard sometimes but as far as bigger animals go, that is about it.

 

We did have a bear a couple of miles away a few years ago.  A young, big, but inexperienced bear had blundered into a neighborhood but the dogs in the houses barked furiously and he climbed a tree for protection.  He stayed up there for quite a while.  I don't know if wildlife services helped him back to safer areas or what.  

 

Heather's family found bear tracks in their yard the other day.  Lynn's parents used to live down a country road in the upper Michigan peninsula and they had bears and wolves often.  Once, Lynn and I were leaving their house, waving good-bye while they stood in their front yard waving and laughing.  Behind their backs, a deer and a fawn ran through their yard just between them and the house.  We were quite surprised and watched as the two exhausted animals flopped down in the field on the other side of the driveway.  We were astounded to see then that there was no fawn: the smaller animal was a wolf, a wolf with blood all over his muzzle!  After a bit of a rest, the deer rose and ran off with the wolf in pursuit.  As the deer ran, we saw that one foreleg was useless and just flopped and waved erratically.  

 

The same elderly couple had bears wreck their birdfeeders many times.  Having four inch pipes that had held up a birdhouse or feeder bent and twisted was common.  Heather found the same thing: a shepherd's crook of iron reshaped into a drooping loop.  I am guessing the bears just want what they want: food. They aren't gentle or precise and basically just try anything that might work.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bright Line Eating

Every now and then, I come across a book, a person, an organization, a web site, an approach that seems promising.  Yesterday, Amazon had "Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free" by Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD.  The Kindle edition is $1.99.


I figure it makes sense to pay attention and expend some energy on the subject of eating and food.  I noticed that coffee and chocolate continued to serve Lynn's 90 year old parents well.  Many other pleasures were dimmed but not foods they liked.  Ever since my high school wrestling days, I have been interested in foods, body weight, strength and vitality.  In college, my first research paper was about nutrition.  


The first good thing I found in Dr.Thompson's book was her take on weight loss today and her personal history.  As a teen, she found the answer: drugs!  Uh, no, not a good answer whatsoever.  She had her ups and downs in the early years of her life, emotionally and with her body and weight.  Thompson covers the history of food around the world and the increasing overweight problem around the world.  Her web site Bright Line Eating https://brightlineeating.com/ gives the stats of the success she has had herself with having and keeping the right body weight and with helping thousands of others.


Midway down the page above she has a short video that gives an outline of her approach.  She has four emphases:

  • No added sugar

  • No flour

  • Meals of an appropriate number per day and on time only

  • One plate or weighing the food


She says the term "bright line" came from law practice: the idea of a clear-cut line that leaves no doubt where it is and what it means.


Her web site also offers a short quiz to sort people as to their vulnerability to food addiction.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Follow up on starting a Bob or Favorites list now

I personally am not attracted to recording every book I have read.  For me, there is too much variation between one book and another.  I retain personal permission to stop at any point with any book.  Also, to resume or repeat reading at any point in any book at any time. It is my reading after all and my time and my life.


When I finished "My Life with Bob" on Kindle yesterday, I got an immediate invitation to comment on the book on a Kindle page.  I also got an email from "Goodreads" asking if I wanted to rate the book and giving me comments others had made on the book.  I found that distasteful, intrusive and way premature. I immediately unsubscribed from that business!


I might take a month to feel out what I got from a book, where I have grown from it, where I have been hurt by it, where and what I disagree with, what I want to look into further and follow up on.  Mind you, all of that is temporary and I know it is.  Two years from now, I may find I have gone over and over what the book said, or failed to say, or said provocatively.  On the other hand, it is very likely that I will have totally forgotten about the book.   


I did teach a good course that reviewed the books read by the students at any time in their lives.  Naturally the question arose: What books had I read?  Where was my list?  I have a long list but it was books that I thought would be of interest to teachers, perhaps enriching their thinking, their lives and their teaching.  Here is a link to the list I used in my classes:

https://sites.google.com/site/kirbyvariety/reading-list-1983


That list is pretty old so the books on it are pretty old.  Of course, the Bible is pretty old and so is "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876), depending on what you mean by "old".  With books, old can be ok, good even.  However, what was available in 1983 is not what was available later.  So, I made a second list:

https://sites.google.com/site/kirbyvariety/recent-reading-2011


You may or may not find it useful to look over those lists or to make your own.

Starting B.O.B. later

I continue being surprised by how good the book by Pamela Paul is.  The book's title is a bit long and awkward: "My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Tracks Books, Plot Ensues".  In conversations with friends, I refer to the book as Life with Bob.  The author never uses periods but she is writing about B.O.B., a Book of Books, a list of books she has read.  


She really covers many angles related to reading: different types of books, with whole chapters on catching a minute here and there to read, being urged by Dad to read this but not wanting to, urging one's daughter to read what was so great, so very GREAT when you were her age, many angles and experiences with one's mind, feelings and books.  Most people have not kept such a list and for me, doing so would be something of a chore.


I think you can have fun with thinking about your reading even if you haven't kept such a list.  The most fun class I taught was "Personal Reading for Professional Development", a graduate class for experienced, licensed teachers.  I knew I could take a book like "Rapid Viz" by Hanks and Belliston and concentrate on applying the ideas of the book to the various kinds of teaching the students normally did.  But that would be another, rather typical focused approach.  It would be yet another time when the instructor said to the students they needed this book, book X.


What if we step back for reading and consciously pause, to consider what we have read?  I don't expect to be able to remember all the books any more than I can remember all the meals or for that matter all the breaths.  But I didn't cook all the meals and there were so many indistinguishable breaths.  I carried all the books here and there, I held the books in my hand, even the Kindle books.  I turned the pages.  I passed tests on them. What of them remains in my mind?


So, the students turned to listing books they could remember reading.  The usual format was author's name and title.  With modern software, it is easy to copy the list and play with it if desired.  It is surely easy to alphabetize the list by name and/or title. However, I urged the students to simply list the books as they came to mind.  At first, it is common to feel that you know you have read, did read, many books but what were they?  Then, as your memory unfolds a little and associations rise, you can remember "Woman Wanted" and "Skinwalker" and other goodies.


Preserve the original order, even if you play with a copy.  It may be fun.  Use a spreadsheet or other software that will enable quick, easy copying and quick easy alphabetization.  You can add labels in another column and compare category sizes: more bodice rippers or more murders?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What should we learn? What should we know?

Yesterday's blog title included the words "body and mind".  I had been planning to write some about the 'wisdom of the body and the mind', a subject I have heard of but don't know much about.  It is possible that the process of maturing naturally opens our bodies and our minds to certain types of wisdom, such as more patience with ourselves and others.  I suppose one can think of aging and maturation as very similar things.


The philosophy group asked me to prepare a theme for a discussion.  I wrote up this page https://sites.google.com/site/kirbyvariety/phil-discussion-5-19-17


As it says, about the time I began thinking about a good theme, a friend mentioned starting an online high school.  I imagine that if you looked at all the approaches currently being used for a curriculum, you would see a wide variety.  At the same time, it seems to me that we have little evidence of what pays off as content in the K-12 years of school.  Many educators have proposed projects of both individual and group goals that may allow students to gain multiple kinds of knowledge and skills while working.  The book "Summerhill" describes this sort of learning approach well as does the movie "A Town Torn Apart."


We can all remember learning subjects or skills that we know were difficult and demanding to learn but have not been of conscious use since.  The 1938 book "The Saber Tooth Curriculum" depicts detailed lessons in saber tooth tiger hunting despite the fact the cats are extinct.


One answer is "know everything", keep learning all your life.  Another is "Google it and go to the library for what you can't find".  The book "Too Big to Know" is about the current internet and the knowledge that is strewn all over it.  There is too much to know.


An old argument, more than a century, continues between those who feel careful training for a particular job is the answer while the other side maintains that a "liberal" education in the basics, with maybe a major and minor thrown it will be more helpful, especially as particular jobs get out of date and/or taken by robots.

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