Saturday, March 31, 2012

back and back pain

Our backs are not only the site of the very important pile of bones and their colleagues called the spine.  They are also covered with muscles.  The concept of the body core is that the back, along with the belly and the hips, consist the energy and stability foundation for all our movements and even for our posture.  Not just standing and walking but sitting and such moves as leaning over from our chair to retrieve a fallen napkin without tumbling onto our head.  

Because we can't see them, maybe backs don't get enough respect.  When meditating, I like to sit toward the front edge of a fairly firm chair.  When I erect my spine, lifting the top of my head straight up, it feels noticeably good.  When I do a yoga bridge (the ordinary one with my arms and my shoulders on the floor), it feels good.  One activity while meditating is to scan each part of my body, sensing how that part feels.  I enjoy trying to be aware of how my back feels and how it is positioned.

The most basic yoga activity for me is the cat and the cow alternation, where I am on my knees and hands and I flex my back so that my head and butt are up and my back is bowed down toward the floor (the cow).  Then, I arch my back and drop my head (the cat).  This also feels good.

I can create ongoing pain a day or two after making some sudden hard move.  I think I did that last week trying to get my bike into motion while the light was still green.  A heating pad and ibuprofen plus very gentle yoga and exercise as pain, improving looseness and healing permit, are my best tools for recovery, beyond simply having patience with my body, which is not easy for me.  I have found that less sitting for reading or computer use helps as does switching the mouse buttons for a day or two and using the mouse with my other hand.

Recently, I had a variety of pain and stiffness in my hips, thighs and knees.  I am still seeing doctors and trying things.  The best improvement so far has been after switching from a couple of ibuprofen pills in the middle of the night to two naproxen sodium (Aleve) pills in the morning and two at night.  My doctor told me that not all specialists like Aleve and that it is slow to take effect but safe.  It has been immediately helpful for me and I am impressed.

I still have work to do on my stride and my ability to raise a leg, as when mounting a bike.

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


Friday, March 30, 2012

Power of a set and interactions

Two important and related concepts to grasp some of the complexity of the world of people and other sentient beings are
      • the power of a set
      • interactions

Take a family of four: Mom, Dad, Boy, Girl, which is a set of 4 elements.  The power of a set is a number, equal to 2 raised to the power or exponent of the number of elements.  So, 2 to the fourth power (2x2x2x2) = 16.  Logically and mathematically, a family of 4 has 16 subsets, or selections we can make from the family.

Selections of 4 elements (1) Mom, Dad, Boy, Girl
Selections of 3 (omit each) (4) Mom,Dad,Boy
Mom, Dad, Girl
Mom and the kids
Dad and the kids
Selections of 2 ((n x n-1)/2) (6) Mom, Dad
Mom, Boy
Mom, Girl
Dad, Boy
Dad, Girl
Boy, Girl
Selections of 1 (4) Mom
Dad
Boy
Girl


But that only sums to 15, not 16.  The missing possible selection is NONE, all rejected.

The reason interactions come into the subject is that people interact.  That is, Mom and Dad are not quite the same when they are alone together or when they are with one of the kids or with the other or with both.  Similarly, the kids, for instance, feel and think and behave differently when with Mom from when they are with Dad.  If the couple has another child, the total number of relations DOUBLES, since we have all those listed above plus having them all again with the extra child added.

You can imagine the complexity of feelings, conversations and observations when a whole state or nation is involved!

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


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Information these days

Both the physician's assistant and the doctor himself mentioned their organization's struggle with a new information system.  Universities have plenty of experience with information, with records, with IT (information technology) and with evolution and change of systems.  

When I began graduate school in 1965, the group of us N.D.E.A. fellows in the department of statistics, measurement and experimental design were told that we would all take a 1 credit course with the program's main professor.  It was in the subject of the computer "language" called "Fortran" (for formula translation).  We worked together and felt our way through just one assignment that kept us occupied for three years.  The basic assignment was to write a computer program that would supply the difference in days between any two dates the professor gave us.  The specifics of the requirement changed from time to time, such as maybe one of the dates would be "B.C." and maybe not.  

When I took my first university teaching job, the campus had already rented a computer that was quite large, quite limited by today's standards and cost $16,000 a year.  It was to be for academic and professorial use and I was to be the brand-new director of academic computing.  I had just that one credit in computing at the time and that was more than most people had.

Since then, the introduction of the Macintosh with its icons and its mouse that made computing easier and more intuitive, there have been many modifications and extensions of computing.  Connecting computers together into what is now the internet and its special branch, the worldwide web, has probably been the most momentous change.  

As a professor, the power of word-processing really changed my life.  I found that despite mediocre grades in 8th grade typing, I could type reasonably well.  I still made tons of mistakes but typing on a monitor allowed me to correct them quickly.  When calculating scores, grades and averages, the spreadsheet was far more powerful than the hand-held calculator.  The basic database enabled records to be sorted and reordered instantly and without errors.  These three tools have undergone improvements over the years.  Add to that, Google's ability to find information of all kinds and the power to send text, sound and pictures quickly in ever larger chunks and we are indeed dealing with a different picture of information creation, storage, use and retrieval than has ever existed before.

These tools and shrinking them to fit into a tablet like the iPad or a smartphone have tremendous power.  The rise of Facebook for social connections and Twitter for speedy, succinct communication, "location" services that take advantage of satellites circling the earth to pinpoint where a given person is are further enhancements to our information toolkit.   People are just beginning to think of ways to make use of them and weave them together into web sites and other sources and depositories and uses.


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


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cheerleading

When we are cold, we need to gather firewood.  When we are hungry, we need to hunt for game and berries.  When we are thirsty, we need to bring water.  But most of the time, we are warm enough, full enough and well-hydrated.  But what about our minds and spirits?

Despite having tv sets, internet connections, radios, shelves of books, DVD's stored in the house and musical instruments ready to play, we still need to attend to our spirit.  Are we reasonably happy?  Feeling upbeat and ready for the day?  Are we aware of the beauty of ourselves and our fellow beings?  Of the sky, the sun, the night heavens? Our minds are flighty enough that we can't simply pipe cheer and energy out of a wall socket and into our brains and bodies.  We have to work at reminding ourselves of the places we've been, where we are and what we will need on the next trip.  

This is work for a pastor or rabbi, for writers, artists, musicians, dancers and poets.  From birth on, our smiles can lift spirits and recharge internal batteries.  It is not always easy work.  That 53rd poem may be a little painful to produce, a little frustrating to complete.  As we keep at the work of cheerleading, we have to be alert to the need to invent new cheers, to change our costume, create new routines.  

There have been times when I had the job of facing that guy from the other school on the mat, dragging him at the right moment into a takedown, if possible, pinning his shoulder blades to the mat.  Just a few feet from the two of us sweaty focused guys, attractive, young vivacious girls in sweaters and very short skirts led the crowd in cheers for one or the other of us.  I guess in a way, I had the easier job.  

I didn't have to forget that my guy wasn't even in the gym, put on my best and happiest smile despite having a cold, and go through my merry, upbeat routine yet again.  Sometimes, it is probably easier to search for food, or hoe the garden, or carry water from the stream than to put together another sermon, attend another rally, write and sing another song.

Maybe that is one reason there are many dour faces, dark stories of zombies and vampires, songs of heartbreak. Cheerleading for ourselves and others is honorable work, but it is sometimes more effort than we can even remember to do.

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


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

changing and holding on

Our forefathers sought a way to have smooth transitions between those who govern and the next set that comes along after them.  In the old days, one reasons for "Long live the king" and "God bless the king" was that each king's death might mean a civil war, with plenty of death, disability, destruction and disorientation.  

A basic truth of this world is that everything in it gets old, all the time.  Getting old means changing and eventually wearing out.  So, even though these shoes were once shiny and new, now my wife finds them shameful.  Time for a change.

We always see this struggle going on between the old and the new, the current and the next. Galileo was one of the first to challenge old human ideas of where we are and what is happening around us.  The church authorities had the duty to preserve the doctrines of their predecessors, which had shown themselves to be of value.  So here is a new idea and it must struggle for a voice, for adherents, for supporters.

The young and our movie script writers are quite familiar with the view that the new (idea, method of transportation, law, machine) must struggle for acceptance.  But here is the kicker for me: over time, the struggle succeeds so the new gets its place.  Guess what?  It becomes the old!  As the value of this new thing is accepted, it becomes the old.  Then, a new challenger appears and tries to get support.  But it is rejected on the very solid grounds that the old is valuable, has proven its value and must not be supplanted by some new cockeyed deal to come along.

In actual people, there are many cases where a ruler is clear tyrannical and a suppressor of the people.  Eventually, opposition arises.  A new leader struggles for acceptance.  It is a mighty struggle and a very hard one but finally success!  Okay!  A new leader!  Then, over time, new difficulties and problems emerge but all the while the views and programs of the new leader are aimed at the original targets.  Stability does matter after all.  We cannot accomplish our goals if we drop them too soon, if we fail to persist, to work steadily.   On the other hand, there is such a thing as flogging a dead horse, investing in a sinking ship, traveling into a deadend.  The new leader is no longer new, is now failing the people, failing himself.  Time for a new leader.

The new leader may not be a person but instead may be a new view, a new theory, a new plan or path.  I am surprised at how much of life is related to the Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler, who realizes he has to know when to hold on and when to fold.  The trouble is, of course, we cannot really know, but after all there are only two alternatives, so when holding isn't working, I consider folding.

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


Monday, March 26, 2012

That sinking feeling of already being late

I find it gripping when I discover I am late for some event, especially an appointment or a meeting with someone.  If I am not too late, I try to call to let the other person know I am on my way and will be there soon.  Once I was weeding in the garden when my wife called out that we had gotten a phone call and that a class of students were waiting on schedule for a final test I was supposed to give.  I went in my gardening clothes.  Not quite as bad as being informed that I had missed a meeting which was held last week.

The thing about being late is that once you are late, nothing can undo that.  You may be forgiven and you may reschedule but you are late, you have missed a deadline and that is that.  I used to have a philosophy book with the quotation at the beginning that it is not even given to God to undo what has been done. Philosophers love tussling with questions of what God can and cannot do.  

A famous and jolting case of two latenesses occurs at the beginning of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.  A man is awakened to the morning sound of heavy construction machinery in his backyard.  Very upset, he rushes out to ask what the blazes they think they are doing.  Turns out the city council has directed them to raze his house as part of a borough building project.  A notice to that effect has been posted on the city council bulletin board for months, also advising residents to discuss the council's plans and desires for compensation before last weekend.  Too late!  (Turns out that this turn of event is being mirrored at the intergalactic headquarters, except in this case the announcement concerns the destruction of our planet to make way for a giant space highway.)

Sometimes it is worse to be early.  Invited to dinner at 6, don't show up at 5:30.  Sure, you can offer to leave and return, or to help with setting the table but it is still upsetting to your hosts.  In some places being invited for 6 means to ring the bell at 6:00:00.  In some places, doing so is impolite and you should manage to ring the bell between 6:07 and 6:11.

My father-in-law arrived for my wedding about 40 minutes late with my current wife fretting in the backseat.  But I have forgotten all about that by now.

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


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pleasures of old news

When we come home after a couple of months, our daughter gives us a banker's box of mail.  Much of it is magazines and catalogs.  I put the ones I want to page through in a pile.  The main ones for me are Time, Discover, The New Yorker and Scientific American Mind.  Time and the New Yorker are weekly so there are many more of them.

A tightly held secret in the US right now is that we will have a presidential election in November.  The sitting Democratic president will almost certainly be their candidate but the Republicans have to decide on their nominee.  Actually, some information about the struggles among the various candidates for the Republican nomination has leaked into the media.  

One of the pleasures of looking through old news is reading the speculations and shrill language about what absolutely must happen and what positively must not happen when, after the fact, I can survey what actually did happen and what didn't.  Some issues continue to fester, the situation in Syria being the prime one for me.

I notice that much of the same type of alarm language is being used in the up-to-date media today.  I used to wonder why more good news wasn't promoted but the editor of Discover magazine made this honest and useful statement:

Journalists tend to love bad news.  You do too, which is why we keep delivering it.  Which headline would you pay more attention to: "World May End in 2012" or "World Highly Unlikely to End this Year"?

We do it even though we know that gloom and doom is not the whole story.  One odd consequence is that when we look at things as they truly are, the results can seem surprising.

The statement appears under the title "The Good Surprise" and goes on the say that Peter Diamandis (thinker and philanthropist) and Steven Kottler (award-winning journalist) took a careful look back, they saw a trend of decades or centuries of more technology more widely available, more freedom and health for more people and more goods and services.  This view is explained in their book "Abundance".

This is just the conclusion I came to after several years of teaching a course on the future.  It is also what Peter Drucker says in his book "Post-Industrial Society".  We have setbacks, false starts and disruptions but basically we humans are moving forward, despite being wired to attend to the dangers and news of dangers, which may or may not turn out to be important.

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


Saturday, March 24, 2012

new doozy

Just read about this doozy: http://tacocopter.com/

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


stagecraft, soundcraft and fat

Movies, sound tracks, timing, expression, lighting can all be used by experts to get most of us feeling sad, pensive or elated, more or less on cue.  It's expensive but it can be done.

We lived for two months right beside the Royal College of Music in London.  Listening to all that practicing made me more sensitive to the skills mastered by a first class musician.  We had attended some fairly advanced plays during the same days, many of which I didn't understand all that well.  I knew that London has one of the finest theater districts in the world and decided that before I left, I wanted to attend a mainstream, very popular play.  We saw Les Miserables and it wowed my socks off!

The hero's nemesis, Inspector Javert, finally realizes what a monster he has been, how blind he has been, and commits suicide by jumping off a bridge into a raging river.  Ok, here you have a man standing on a wooden stage, in front of hundreds in the audience.  How can you introduce a river?  Zip!  The lights change and the little wooden bridge Javert stands on is revealed to span a wide piece of undulating cloth, the river we all realize.  Javert jumps onto a rolling treadmill beneath the cloth, tumbling and somersaulting his body along the "water".  No problem!  Raging river kills man.  I saw it happen.

How can a musical show be made from the weird and flaky works of Dr. Seuss?  With very peppy songs having a good beat, played by those skilled musicians.

Lynn once told me that I like chocolate because of the sugar and fat in it.  I was offended.  My sharp tongue relishes taste for taste's sake and does not depend on such ordinary things as fat and sugar.  Then, I tasted chocolate without the extras and realized that, again, she was completely right.

Stagecraft, music and composer skill, and kitchen craft can be artfully used to create wonderful experiences like rivers on a stage, and catchy songs about Horton, the elephant, and the Cat in the Hat.  I bet chefs could sell me on enjoying sawdust after they add the right fat, flavoring and sugar.

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


Friday, March 23, 2012

The misbehavior of toes

We have both had trouble with some toes. Some of them have a tendency to change their shape over time.  If one begins to arc too high or to slip beneath a neighbor toe, the result can be pain on each step.

Pain and attempts to compensate for it by changing one's step or stride or gait can result in slight relocation or re-alignment of muscles, tendons or joints.  So, more pain.

Lynn had some foot surgery which was partly helpful.  I have been able to get by with steady use of toe separators.  My favorites are the foam ones.  But their use is tricky, too.  If the separator is properly lined up with the toes beside it, it helps very much.  If it is inserted too high, it doesn't have much effect.  Too low and it bends under the more aggressive toe and makes matters worse.  

I've never had to get by without a toe but I have heard they are surprisingly important for foot function and body balance.  Going barefoot on a sandy beach seems to help my toes regain their best alignment, at least some.
--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Friends' comments

Most days, most readers of this blog don't comment on it.  I realize that they are often too busy to do so or maybe just not interested the day's post or anything to do with the blog.  However, out of 60 some people who get the posts by email, one or two or so readers do sometimes reply with a comment.

Comments often take my thinking in a direction I would not have thought of without help.  I mentioned the other day how a comment on the word "emergence" reminded me of books I have read on the subject and got me to check whether they are now available in Kindle format.  I bought one and started re-reading it.  I didn't understand it on the first time through but I think I am doing a little better this time.  The comment moved me to purchase a book, think about a 2nd one, re-read the book and be impressed with the writing, the imagination and the high spirits of the writer.  I also checked on other books by the same author and bought one of those, too.  All from a single comment.

Some of my friends comment from time to time that they are worried about their religious faith.  As people age, they may question all sorts of beliefs they have held for decades and doubting such long-held beliefs can be disorienting, frightening or upsetting.  A friend wrote that she isn't as firm in her beliefs:

My desire/wish is for a quiet, peaceful passing on to whatever.  My belief in heaven or the afterlife is not as strong as it once was.  Yet I hope to feel that strong faith again.  It was so ----- cann't think of a word to describe it.  The feeling, the peace, the satisfaction of knowing, believing of peace.

It is possible to concentrate on having faith without getting into an internal argument about past events and the details.

Another friend commented that the idea of emergence reminded her of "Horton Hears a Who" and the ability the tiny Whos had, once unified and aroused.  My older great-granddaughter recently saw a college production of "Seussical the Musical" and was completely enchanted.  I have never seen the show but she listens to the sound track several times a day, as often as her parents can stand.  The Horton comment combined with the musical interest and I spent a while tussling with iTunes and my iPod downloading the album.  Then, I went to the library and got a copy of Horton and some books on using the iPod more efficiently.

So if you see me driving around or shopping, it may just be a combination of my ideas and your responses that have me in their grip.
--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Down, up and watching

Good manners, consideration of each other, humor actually create the world for us as we want it to be.

I know from experience and the history of art that all sorts of emotions and expressions have value.  So, from time to time, I guess I will pay attention to books about zombies and vampires.  Dystopian movies about a dirty, savage, aggressive, ugly, cruel society on its way to getting worse may get an occasional look from me.  But in general, I am too impatient for the good stuff, for happiness, brightness, cheer, fun, merriment, humor and their many lovely cousins, to give any of my declining days over to pessimism, doubt and fear.

This blog is called "Fear, fun and filoz" because our basic wiring usually shoots emotions into us in that order: first the fears and dangers that we need to be on the alert for, in order that we don't accidentally bleed to death or slip off that cliff.  Then, fun and laughter, which buoy us up, brighten our days and remind us of what an amazing thing we are, what a miracle it is to be alive.  Finally, 'filoz' (philosophy) for observation, tasting and consideration of the similarities and differences between the two states of "watch out!" and "how delicious", and how to get from one to the other.

Socrates, the Greeks in general and thoughtful (and yes, older) people in all societies and civilizations realize there basic observation, comparison, pondering and questioning, basic philosophic activity both enriches human life and leads to new sources of wonder and gratitude.  So, up to a point, examination of our lives, from the astonishing way we became embryos to the surprisingly high number of beats one human heart can complete before it wears out, thinking alone also enriches, empowers and fascinates.  

When you enter a marketplace or a modern store, the people inside are often friendly and welcoming.  However, they are generally unprepared for deep and wide-ranging conversations.  But, when you enter a library or the online equivalent of the Amazon.com or Google Books website, you find millions of sources of human ingenuity and expression just waiting to be shared.  It is certainly true that not every conversation, in person or in print, is helpful but there are always new sources to help us increase our tolerance and appreciation, learn new jokes and love better.

Zen-type practice of sitting meditation for 10 minutes a day helps me see that we cycle between the states of alarm, pleasure and thought all our waking hours.  I realize that all three states are necessary and will continue but I will stay on my quest to increase the pleasant and the insightful while trimming the alarm.

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


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

crowd behavior

"A Different Universe: Revising Physics from the Bottom Down" by Robert B. Laughlin, a physics professor at Stanford and a winner of the Nobel Prize, fascinates me.  I found the book by accident about a decade or so ago and was intrigued by the title.  The book is about what is sometimes called "emergence" but could be called crowd behavior.  Not crowds of people, though, crowds of atoms.

I read through the book once before and felt that I understood about 15% of it.  The other day, a friend mentioned how much my use of the word "emergence" resonated with her.  This book by Laughlin and "Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software" by Steven Johnson have fed an interest in patterns that emergence or are observable at one scale or zoom level but not in more close-up looks.  Laughlin's book is highly readable and draws me in quickly even though I often don't understand what he is saying.

The basic idea is that since the Greeks, thinkers and scientists have sought the basic particle of matter.  Once it became clear that atoms have sub-parts and the sub-parts, I gather, are not physical entities in the usual sense of being something, thinking got more subtle.  Laughlin relates much of his early discussion to phases of matter, like solid, liquid and gas.  I gather that the properties of a rock or a desk, the solidity and constant shape, is a matter of the behavior of masses of atoms, behavior that "emerges" from enough (a very great many) atoms being together.  A common saying among some people is that "more is different", I guess from an influential essay in 1972, that explained in many areas of the world, getting enough items together produces a result that is not inherent in any of them but emerges from the collection of a sufficient number.

Laughlin is witty and acerbic and says that many of his students have absorbed the idea that quantum mechanics and what goes on at the atomic and sub-atomic level is really weird.  But he says that it is all quite straightforward if you understand it and realize that aggregates are sometimes quite different from one or two individuals.  Statisticians and insurance companies make use of that idea every day but it can pop up in surprising places.

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


Monday, March 19, 2012

L.I.F.E.

In our town, we have an organization named "Learning Is ForEver", a.k.a. "LIFE".  It was founded by retired university faculty and is about 10 years old.  I am a whole-hearted supporter of the group, which accepts proposals for presentations and field trips, organizing them into a schedule for members.  The group is about 10 years old and is parallel to similar organizations near other colleges and universities.  

I get to be around people over 60 quite often.  I have a personal rule that everyone over 60 has had some wonderful experiences.  Not everyone wants to go to the trouble of speaking or writing about their experiences or views but they all have them.  It is not difficult to find 'one-noters' who only want to talk about the dangers of climate change or the silver standard or some other fixation.  For me, they are usually not too much fun to listen to or read.  

But many retired men and women have knowledge of something I wish I knew about.  The better presenters can sometimes clear up an area with basic orientation comments that suddenly make engines or a disease or bluebirds much more understandable than ever before.

There is a ton of thinking and writing about the subject of story.  Humans probably have a special ability to relate to and remember a story, such of an adventure or the overcoming of a hardship or threat.  I love a good story, too, even though it seems that I get more persnickety about what story seems worth attending to.  Maybe I have heard too many.

Maybe not.  The other day, I was showing a woman how easy and fast it is to buy and possess a book on my Kindle.  I rarely read anything that could be called a romance but that category was handy and I opened it up.  The first book that I saw was something called "Jailbird" by Heather Huffman.  I pressed the wrong key and Bingo!  I had purchased the book for $3.99.  There are various hoops I could jump through to rescind the purchase but I figured a chance event like that might be worth following up.  I read the book over a couple of days and enjoyed the story.

But normally, I tend to concentrate on books that tell me neat stuff about all aspects of the world that I didn't know.  The Discovery channel and The Learning Channel and the explosion of the world wide web convince me that as people get older, they know more but they want to know even more.  We only have so many high school and college hours and there are always more subjects that we have time for.  Over time, our hormonal drives lower and we suddenly realize that there are many things we could understand but don't.  

Hearing from some of the retired local pros who have insight, freedom to talk and discuss and reveal is very fulfilling.

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


Sunday, March 18, 2012

longevity

We are back and happy to be home!

Next up on our mutual agenda is a presentation by the pair of us and our friend on the subject of longevity. Our friend read "The Longevity Project", a book by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin that reports the results of an analysis of data collected in Louis Terman's gifted children work at Stanford University in the 1920's.  Terman gathered much information about the children in his project and kept gathering it all his life.  After his death, the information gathering continued.  Much of it is less that highly scientific but it does cover about 1500 people and does so for nearly their entire lifespan.

Friedman and Martin report the results of the correlational data analysis.  It is frequently the case with humans that there is no way to conduct a double blind experiment where some people are designated to take treatment A and some are designated not to get the treatment.  So, lacking experimental data, correlational studies are often the best that can be achieved.  In a correlation study, the co-occurrence of two or more variables is studied.  Thus, if we find that heavier people are happier and lighter people are less so, we might conclude that weight has something to do with happiness.

Doctoral students are often quizzed on their understanding of the limitations of correlation. Both experimental and correlation research have limitations.  One of the most severe is the question of how the particular subjects (people) got into the study.  Were they all from the same city?  Were they all caucasian?  Were they volunteers?  We may find that people from some other city or physical group or who don't volunteer are quite different from those we studied but we might find this out later, after errors and mistreatments.  

The special shortcoming of correlation analysis is the problem of causation.  If one group smoked and one group didn't, if the smoking group is especially happy, we might conclude that smoking produces happiness.  In a correlation study, we take individuals and compare their level on two or more variables but we have no information on cause.  If the heavier people are happier, does weight produce happiness?  Does happiness produce weight?  Maybe there is a well-known third factor, one that we don't even know about, that produces both weight and happiness.

The strongest relation the researchers found between longevity and other variables was with "conscientiousness" .  Those in the study who were most conscientious over their whole lives tended to also be the people who lived the longest.  So, vote, keep your grass cut and brush your teeth if you want to live a long time.  (Maybe!)

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


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Like always: sometime content, sometimes not

It is not easy becoming less powerful, closer to death and/or disability, and yet more insightful all the time.  

As I think about my knowledge, I realize I have far more questions than answers, far more hunches than facts or proofs.  For instance, I vote, but I actually know very little about the difficulties the next elected person is likely to face nor what strengths have a high probability of helping that person make the best decision.

It is fun to see farther and know more, but those abilities reveal what a large part of my world is a myth, or a dream, or a supposition.  I become steadily more accepting of the world and of myself.  I am forced to do so really, both by external circumstance of aging and internal development that shows me what life is about.  I become steadily better adjusted and, in a sense, more content.  That means there is less and less to worry about but also less and less to care about or try to achieve.

Sometimes, I haul out my discrimination and ask if writing or exercising or reading or learning matter.  I ask of this program or that book or the tv show, is this worth spending my dwindling time on?  Sometimes, the answer is irrelevant.  I want to do the work or thinking or watching and that is all there is to it.  At other times, when I get peevish or lose some of my acceptance, I say "No" to one thing or another.  It can even reach the point where I say "No" to just about every choice or possibility that I know about.  I don't mind sitting in a sulk for a while, or just in neutral to see what emerges.  Emergence can produce some very surprising answers and directions.


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


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Three notes

I keep a list of rough notions for a post and it has 135 ideas on it right now.  In some cases, I have forgotten that I posted about that idea but didn't delete the note.  But from time to time, I may post snippets of several ideas in an effort to clear some of my file.

Item #1 Afford Since we are targeted by such a steady stream of advertising and attempts to create desire in us, we often have reason to think of how much money, savings, saleable property and other wealth we have.  I was just shown today that for something like $230,000, I could buy a car with a cloak of invisibility around it.  I am not sure such a car would be a good thing nor how much the cloak works but that is not my question.  I want to know about it and many other things: Can I afford it?  I find that I and most people I know simply don't know what they "can afford".  

I can add the amount in my bank account and my wallet but should I try to get a loan for a desired item?  Should I try to launch a business to earn enough?  What I can or cannot afford is a slippery subject.

Item #2 - "Click here to learn more", often abbreviated to simply "Learn more".  This is typical wordng to invite me to pay attention to more content, wordsmithing, text, pictures including lovely little puppies or children, all aimed at getting me to attend to further explanation as to why I should do what someone wants me to do.  I am thinking about designing an app that will instantly change an link using the words "learn more" into a different link that will read "learn less".  The app will create a useable summary of the notion being pedaled expressed in few words and no pictures or sounds.

Item #3 - Curing phobias without understanding them  I read in Brian Christian's "The Most Human Human" that Dr. Richard Bandler, a scientist and hypnotist cures some phobias in some people without ever finding out what the person is afraid of.

Bandler is the co-founder of the controversial "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" school of psychotherapy and is himself a therapist who specializes in hypnosis. One of the fascinating and odd things about Bandler's approach—he's particularly interested in phobias—is that he never finds out what his patient is afraid of. Says Bandler, "If you believe that the important aspect of change is 'understanding the roots of the problem and the deep hidden inner meaning' and that you really have to deal with the content as an issue, then probably it will take you years to change people." He doesn't want to know, he says; it makes no difference and is just distracting. He's able to lead the patient through a particular method and, apparently, cure the phobia without ever learning anything about it. It's an odd thing, this: we often think of therapy as intimate, a place to be understood, profoundly understood, perhaps better than we ever have been. And Bandler avoids that understanding like—well, like ELIZA. "I think it's extremely useful for you to behave so that your clients come to have the illusion that you understand what they are saying verbally," he says. "I caution you against accepting the illusion for yourself."


Christian, Brian (2011-03-01). The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive (p. 78). Doubleday. Kindle Edition.



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


Monday, March 12, 2012

three important mind tools

The age of science is sometimes called the age of analysis.  Teachers make use of a classification system that organizes educational goals and questions and test items into basic classes (often called Bloom's taxonomy)
  1. memory - what does our text say?
  2. application - How is this knowledge used?
  3. analysis - take apart something into its components
  4. synthesis - put things together to make something
  5. evaluation - judge whether an idea or theory or something is any good


Those 3rd and 4th sections, analysis and synthesis, are two historically important tools that human minds have used over the centuries.  Modern physical science has been very successful at taking things apart and then taking those things apart, all the while studying the components.  Analysis is very important and is used all the time in all sorts of thinking, research and investigation.

As thinkers have looked over the recent 1000 years, the importance of analysis has stood out.  I read, probably in that very wide-ranging book, Brian Christian's "The Most Human Human", that Chinese physicians and medical scientists were deeply impressed when they watched a human body being dissected.  As the structure inside the body was revealed and compared to a Dutch textbook of the time. the drawings matched the body perfectly while a comparable Chinese text bore no resemblance to the actual structure.  Analysis of the body was a tricky and legally dangerous thing to do for several centuries.

Putting things together is certainly important for human activity and progress.  Often, a new component is created and immediately recognized for what it can do when inserted into a computer or a camera.  One fundamental aspect of synthesis is drawing a loop around an era, a plan, a planet and declaring "That's one", one era, one plan, one planet and looking at that whole or at alternatives to what has been labeled One.

A third major tool that doesn't appear explicitly in the Benjamin Bloom taxonomy is the "re-start", the do-over, the fresh start, the new beginning.  We all know that power when working on a puzzle or a computer problem or an essay in simply declaring "time for a re-try."  Jane Gardam's hero is named "Old Filth", after the British slogan applied to the late 1800's and early 1900's in London: "Failed in London, Try Hongkong" (FILTH).  If you make a try in London that doesn't succeed, move to Hong Kong and make a new try.

Our country's non-Native American population was mostly people who wanted to move to a new place and try again.  Even the Indians who walked across the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska were on the move to something new.  Sure, tenacity and perseverance pay and maybe that manuscript needs more editing and sharpening.  But there is always the possibility of a new start.  It is very modern. 

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


Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby