Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

The spring, the whole world is awakening from winter.  Hope the whole season is uplifting and bright!

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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reading Good Books (and remembering and talking about them)

The L.I.F.E. (a local organization for senior education) class "Reading Good Books" is an attempt to remind those interested that it can be a great pleasure to turn off the electronics, sit with a blank tv and enjoy a book.  Of course, one of the problems is that older eyes can have a little trouble with print and that trouble can lead to falling asleep instead of reading.  I like the idea that a good book is one that keeps my attention and that I enjoy reading.  A book like that can be a classic, maybe a Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stevenson, but it can also be the latest James Patterson or Louise Penny.

It is easy to pick up the idea that Shakespeare or The Canterbury Tales or Marcel Proust is nourishing food while Stephanie Bond or Douglas Richards will cause mental weight gain and flab. Personally, I don't buy it.


I say we all have to explore.  Besides, when you are over 60, you have read quite a bit, watched lots of movies and tv, and you are a more sophisticated consumer of stories that a youngster.  So, when you realize that the author is going on and on, in much the same manner as many others went on and on, when you feel you can see where the story is going and you have been there enough times already, it may be time to close the book and start another search.  I have found that some readers, even those who don't have that many years left, feel duty-bound to finish everything they begin, even it is a drag.  All readers of this message are hereby enjoined to pause as soon after page 50 as they can, and take an evaluative breath.  Is this thing fun?  Have I thought of it at all when I was not reading?  When I think of reading it some more, do I feel a sag of disappointment?  If the book isn't cutting it, close it.


Reading has usually been an important part of our lives since "Run, Spot, Run" or Green Eggs and Ham.  That means that if you reflect on what you have read, those reflections may serve as a review of your life. Listing what you can remember and showing the list to a sibling or a longtime friend can bring to mind memories and experiences you have shoved to the back but that are fun to re-visit. Others may remind you of books that really meant a great deal but that you have managed to forget about.


There have been times when we cleaned out and gave away books we felt we no longer used or cared about.  Generally, that seems to be a good practice but there are times when a volume serves as a souvenir.  You might not look into your 11th grade geometry book but just the sight of it can remind you of that fabulous night with you-know-who.


In graduate school or other high-reading environments, you can get to be a fast book handler.  You pick it up, look over the table of contents, glance at the foreword or intro, skim the summary and look at the suggested readings in the back.  In five to ten minutes, you can pick up a general idea of what the book is about and whether it might be worth further attention.  I make heavy use of Amazon's wish list feature for book references that I run across that I don't want to forget about.

I also make heavy use of Kindles, both a Touch (currently $69) and the Kindle app on a iPad mini.  Since a new hardback these days can easily cost $25 or more and the Kindle version is often half of that, I buy nearly all my books in e-format.  I originally got into ebooks simply because 300 of them weigh less than 6 oz. and fit into the space of a single paperback.  Besides, they don't need organizing or dusting.


Another aspect of Kindle ebooks that I like is highlighting.  Depending on the model being used, you can use a cursor or a fingertip to mark words that have special meaning or importance.  The collection of one's highlights for a book can be retrieved from the Kindle or from a web site where such highlights are collected, again depending on the model.


A more recent development relating to Kindle highlights is sending a link to the highlighted passage to one's Facebook or Twitter followers. Book clubs and the L.I.F.E. class on good books are testaments to the social and conversational side of books and reading. I often find that listening to someone summarize a book is a good way of learning about its contents without the time and bother of reading it.

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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Response to a friend

This post is a response to a friend's thoughtful statement about my blog post called "Not insulting my mother or grandmother", which is about having a good attitude about myself, the focus of the Self Acceptance project, created and run by Sounds True.


I mentioned how handy and portable Kahneman's division of my mind into two basic components of fast thinking and slow is. The book "Thinking: Fast and Slow" is by Daniel Kahneman.  He and Amos Tversky did some fundamental research on thinking biases and difficulties.  Kahneman got the Noble prize in economics but he is a psychologist.  The field of behavioral economics can be considered both psych and econ.  The books by Dan Ariely and the Freakonomics books are examples of applying economics concepts to areas such as choosing a name for a baby and the influence of physical arousal on our thinking.


Personally, when I meditate, I prefer to watch, not think.  I use the metaphor of a cat watching a mousehole, alert and ready but not tense.  (That's my version, anyway, since I am not a cat.)  I have a suspicion that my mind can and will supply thoughts that it feels are of possible interest or use.  For the period of the time I am meditating, I feel secure in putting them aside. 


A book that I like very much is "Buddhist Practice on Western Ground" by Dr. Harvey Aronson, an experienced psychotherapist and Buddhist practitioner and translator.  He is quite clear about the basic differences between a Western psyche and that sort which founded Buddhism.  There is quite a difference and it shows in the areas of relationships, personal independence and interest in emotions.


When I think of the Aronson book ($9.99 on Kindle), I think of his warning that Asian ideas, especially back aways in time, differ importantly from your typical modern US citizen.  But I also think of his brief mention of Ira Progoff's idea that meditation can proceed while holding pad and pencil at the ready.  The idea is that the flow of one's thoughts could be noted, perhaps resulting in insights into one's murkier feelings.  I have tried that a few times and it seems interesting but the basic steady attention to a fixed point still feels best to me.


When I meditate, I try to get "above" all my concerns, thoughts, images, etc.  I am not escaping from the world or my part in it, however limited or murky that part may be.  I am sort of resting my mind and my attention.  I have not found it useful so far to focus on anything animate or personal or people-oriented.  It seems clear to me that this activity sharpens my sense of what I am thinking about.  It highlights the labels or subject headings that apply to my current thought and offers me an enhanced opportunity to switch to thoughts in other subjects or areas.

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

On the floor again

We have been taking a class in the language of dance.  We do our thing in a warm studio and I am the only male in the group.  Of course, this setup reminds me of being the only guy in a class of 30 in junior high dramatics, the only guy in many classes on being an elementary teacher and the only guy in a class of modern dance that I took in college. Generally, I enjoy the company of women.


The teacher is a retired professor of dance and an officer in an organization that works at standardizing the notation for writing out a dance, much like words can be used to write a story.  She is the associate director of the Language of Dance Center USA.


We are in the dance studio for an hour and a half for three days running.  The class is being held now because the usual classes are suspended for spring break.  The studio is kept very warm and is a large pleasant space.

We have used our bodies for basic movements.  Tomorrow, we will continue our beginners' efforts to choreograph short, expressive dances expressing concepts and ideas.  This experience seems likely to influence my viewing of dances, something I don't do much of.  Our local college department of dance puts on a dance recital each spring so that is one time I do see dancers at work.


Our instructor has emphasized that life is motion, that we make large and small motions all day and that we need to do so to function as animals, as people.  Even matter that seems still is actually full of molecular and sub-molecular motion.  So, technically, given subatomic motion and human breathing and heartbeats, there is nothing anywhere that is really still.

We learned that there are dance therapists, who, like visual arts therapists, use dance and movement and motion to try to help people.  We found that sometimes acting out movements that are reminiscent of sad, frightening or irritating times in life can be cathartic and healing.

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Not insulting my mother and grandmother

I have been listening to the self acceptance presentations by Sounds True.  The subject is a bit tricky and one that leads to many interesting ideas.  The basic question is how come we often speak internally to ourselves in a harsh, impolite way, putting ourselves, our feelings and accomplishments down in a way we would never do to anyone else that we respected and honored.

I have listened to 6 excellent speakers and they all stress that not being oppositional to my inner critics is fundamental.  How can I frame the negatives comments I get from my inner self in a way that helps me look at my inner critics with some affection without buying their picture of myself as a miserable failure at nearly everything?  I can do that in a number of ways, including the ways I used to retain the notion that my parents liked and admired me, while developing and using my own ideas of how to live and with whom.


  • I can have quiet talks with myself to understand why I get the feelings I do, what makes me like, dislike, fear, be attracted to some people, actions and ideas. I can respect the complexity of my mind and emotional structure, my emotional economy, as Harville Hendrix calls the full mental/emotional structures operating within.

  • Following the ideas of Karla McLaren, I can learn to respect the emotions that arise in me.  I can become more emotionally literate and learn to read shame and anger for the compass they are, while lowering any undue idolizing of empathy.   

  • I see again how handy the distinction made by Daniel Kahneman is, when he divides my thinking into the two components: fast and slow.  The fast is the emotional valence or weight that zips into sight very quickly.  I can have a feeling that this is fun, that is scary, something else is yucky.  Then, I can take the reaction I have just felt and examine it more slowly.  I can ask questions of myself as to why I might have the emotional reactions I do.  Why do beards seem repulsive?  Why do I shy away from each Eskimo I meet?  My investigative powers can often show me a logic to my reactions that is impressive, even if it is in need of a little modification or a grain of salt.

  • My wife and relatives, my mother and grandmother and grandfather liked me and admired me so I can honor their opinion and insight and accept that I am ok, maybe a little better than ok.

  • I can try to have respect for my own complexity.  I may have reactions that have a good source and a good aim but that take a little examination to understand and appreciate.

  • It's not that I expect to "love" myself, as that's too strong an expression.  But accepting, knowing, appreciating and respecting myself are right.  I owe it to the others who have made and loved me to bravely and honorably face up to the facts of my value and worth

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On my toes

For a couple of years, some of my toes have been misbehaving.  The ring toes try to slip beneath the middle toes.  If a little of one toe is under another, it can be stepped on.  Not pleasant.  


I got the idea that walking barefoot in beach sand might be good for straightening them out.  My freest shoes still allow less flexing of the toes than barefoot walking does.  I have been spreading my toes as widely as I can when I do stretching and a little yoga.  


I have found that walking on my toes, especially if I walk in a pigeon-toed way, I can get my toes to spread out from each other.  But I saw Jennifer Ebel's 9 minute video and that was the extra push I needed.  I have seen discussions about the advantages of running barefoot and I have noticed Vibram's "five fingered shoes".  So, I looked into them.


The salesman gave me a little pep talk before I tried them on.  You have to be barefoot to do that.  He warned me that I was probably trained to squeeze all my toes together when putting on a shoe, that several toes might be lined up to all go into the same toe chamber and that it might take a while to get the shoes on. It did take a while and I didn't manage to actually get them on.  I figured I needed further opportunities and bought the pair shown below.  I was especially worried about my little toes since in the store they wanted to go into their chambers balled up and only after lots of adjusting by my fingers.


This morning, I tried again and succeeded with both feet.  I wore them around the house, out to the mail box and to my weight room.  I wore overshoes to keep them clean of snow enough to use while lifting weights.  They felt fine and I am looking forward to another session tomorrow morning.




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

Monday, March 25, 2013

When?

Of the W's and an H, "when" doesn't seem to get all that much attention.  What, who and why seem to get more and How has its followers, too.  But, it seems to me that mortal beings are rooted in When.  When I was born determines how old I am now and relates to how much life is left in my battery.  I know when I was born but I don't know yet just when I will die.  I think it will be within 20 years but I can't be sure.  

We have developed a pretty good understanding of time.  Since each moment is unique and has its own time name, when I was at the store might clear me of a criminal charge of vandalism if it took place at that time.  I live through certain moments of time and they can be used to understand a great deal about me.  For each moment, I was doing something somewhere and my history is complete if the whole sequence is documented.  Same is true of anyone or anything else.

There has been a new headline in the last few days about newer and more complete calculations of the age of the universe.  I am not sure how they got their estimate of close to 14 billion years but I am willing to believe the number.  As a human who lives for maybe 100 years, time periods in the millions or billions of years don't really have a great deal of meaning.  My knowledge of what is known and agreed on about the life of the universe, the solar system and our planet is slowly increasing.  I can see why some writers emphasize the time that has elapsed since humans existed.  The earth is supposed to be about 5 billion years old while humans have only been around for about 4 million years, much, much less than 1%.  Spoken language in even rough form is probably not more than 100,000 years old and writing is less than 10,000 years.  

There have been some serious efforts recently to locate exo-planets somewhere.  I understand it isn't easy to find the little spots far, far away, planets outside (extrasolar) our solar system and of course, we are not too interested in planning exploration and maybe settlements unless there is oxygen and water.  We got them, not right away, of course, but after 300,000 or so years of primordial earthquakes and volcanoes all over the place, Earth came through with an atmosphere and water and the path to us could start to be followed.  

I am floating along in this stream of time and it feels pretty good.  How about you?



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

Friday, March 22, 2013

MOOC info

As a participant for more than a decade in what is often called 'distance education' (meaning the teacher and students are not in the same place), I am quite interested in this item from today's Scout report on Massive Online Open Classes, classes which may include 20,000 students or more.  I have some feel for the need to support educators financially but it is clear that there are more and more ways to learn.
======================

18. Massive open online courses move ahead amid support and controversy

 

Colleges Assess Cost of Free Online-Only Courses

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/education/colleges-assess-cost-of-free-online-only-courses.html?ref=technology&_r=0

 

The Professors Who Make the MOOCs

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Professors-Behind-the-MOOC/137905/#id=overview

 

Google Will Fund Cornell MOOC

http://www.cornellsun.com/section/news/content/2013/03/05/google-will-fund-cornell-mooc

 

California’s Move Toward MOOCs Sends Shock Waves, but Key Questions Remain Unanswered http://chronicle.com/article/California-Considers-a-Bold/137903/

 

UW-Madison to offer free public online courses starting in fall http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/uwmadison-to-offer-free-public-online-courses-starting-in-fall-198rsr2-192186161.html

 

Who Owns a MOOC?

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/19/u-california-faculty-union-says-moocs-undermine-professors-intellectual-property

 

The new wave of technology-based education has now gone one step further:

Colleges and universities, large and small, are developing programs to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs). The ensuing debate over how these courses can alter the future of higher education is ramping up: while more institutions are signing on to pioneer MOOCs, there is controversy over whether credits should be applicable to degree paths, as well as over proposed legislation that forces institutions to accept MOOC credits.

Companies such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity are already offering MOOCs for college credit, while universities such as Cornell and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have plans to consider this option in the near future.

Many interested parties have been wondering whether MOOCs will bridge the education gap, or simply become another roadblock to the coveted college degree. [MP]

 

The first link will take users to a New York Times profile on how colleges are responding to this new development. The second link is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that decodes the hype behind MOOCs and the professors who are leading the way in creating them. The third link is an announcement from the Cornell Sun about its new venture with Google to create MOOCs at the prestigious institution. The fourth article, from the Chronicle, covers the recent debate in California over SB 520, a proposal to use MOOCs outside of the state higher-education system for credits in the system. The fifth link goes to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on the University of Wisconsin-Madison plans to offer MOOCs beginning in the fall of 2013. The final link is an article from Inside Higher Ed about the controversy behind MOOCs and how they affect collective bargaining and intellectual property rights for professors.





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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seated standing up

I am really enjoying Yapko's "Mindfulness and Hynpnosis: The Power of Suggestion to Transform Experience".  I won't say that it is a technical book but it is definitely written from a specific angle, that of a therapist, a clinical hypnotist, comparing and contrasting meditation and hypnosis.  I am not such a therapist and besides, the book focuses on guided mindful meditation, not solitary attending to a single target for a few minutes. Still, the man is an excellent thinker and writer.  Beyond that, he is honest, open and straightforward.


I am in the chapter on paradoxes in therapy.  Paradoxes are quite a modern thing to face up to.  I mentioned in another post how the ancient Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, urged people to relax and not to try too hard, to learn to "roll up one's sleeves without baring one's arms".  Depak Chopra sometimes writes about accomplishing more and more by doing less and less until one is doing everything by doing nothing.


Yapko focuses on things therapists do and say that may be helpful but are contradictory, either implicitly or explicitly.  The first of his examples is "Don't change.  Accept so that things can change."  The quote is not a bad idea and has helped many people relax into seeing more clearly and facing their past, their ideas, and their hopes more directly.  Still, if you are all hepped up and ready to criticize, you can easily see the quote as a contradiction.  (You may remember what Whitman said," I contradict myself?  Very well. I contradict myself.")


One of the difficulties in grasping and using practices of meditation is expressed in the saying that in meditation, the "goal" is to have no goal".  Yapko rightly asks why would a person, maybe scared or angry, take up a practice unless he thought it would help or improve him in some way.  But if he is interested in being helped, he must have the goal of getting help.  Reminds me of the opening of Lao Tzu's "The Way": The way that can be told is not the way.  Well, geez, if it can't be told, why write about it?


We actually have many paradoxes in our lives.  We hear that it is difficult to define pornography but that we'll know it when we see it.  (How?)  That chocolate is good for us but that we shouldn't eat sweets or take in calories.  That we should do what Mommy says but learn to think for ourselves.  It may be possible that adult living consists in knowing or feeling out how to use paradoxical statements to our benefit.


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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some up, some down

It may be hard to believe but Aristotle may be right.  The man lived thousands of years ago and he wasn't alone in noticing that many things in life go better with what is called "moderation".  We function better in light than in darkness but there can be too much light.  In our house right now, the brilliant white snow all around can give me a headache from just looking out the window.  You take the full force of a bright sun, even a last day of winter Wisconsin sun and shine it on brilliant white snow all over the place and Yikes!  Blinded!  Squinting!  Where are my sunglasses?  Let's adjust the blinds to dim that overwhelming light a little.

The motto "Moderation in all things" is a juicy target for moderns.  We love our logical insights and ask if that means we should be moderate in being moderate.  But, despite all the years since the Athenians dialogued on the mean as the path toward better living, we aren't all that much different from what they were.  We still breathe, still eat and drink, still sleep and inhabit human, mortal bodies in limited time and space.  My t-shirt from the Green Parrot bar in Key West says "Excess in moderation".  Some of us delight in a dozen years or so of excess but along come other pleasures and other goals and goals of attaining other pleasures and pictures of ourselves.  We moderate our activities and over the whole of our lives, we actually wind up rather moderate, with moderate periods of concentration and focus.


I like to take principles against idolatry to also be for moderation.  I think it is ok to have a picture of the kids' abilities but not to get so deep into it that I lose sight of the kids' shortcomings.  I think exercise is proven very solidly to be a good thing but I don't have to overdo it.  In fact, my kids and my exercise are good, up to a point.  A moving point, to be sure, but not an endless good.  Not as exciting as a cartoon superhero but far more useful is a picture of me, my family and friends, and life as it unfolds that is moderate: some wonders, some goods, some lovable flaws and quirks and maybe even some shocking bits.  You know, like the time, as a ten year old, I stole an eraser from a store and later, when I hid a comic book inside another and only paid for one.  That's as far as I am going with these revelations, in the name of moderation.


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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Who will I be on my day off?

What will I do with myself on my day off?  Who will I be when I am not being me?  Lots of possibilities.  I am in the habit of being my usual self.  What happens if I make some notes about what I do when, what I usually wear and where I go and then try something different?  One thing that will happen is that I suddenly want my usual path.  My chosen activities are a pretty good fit for me right now as I am.  Ha!  Instant gratitude!  Thankfulness for what I have and am, where just recently I was looking down on my life at present.


Reminds me of a quick path to gratitude for one's friends and lovers.  Here is the recipe: think of a person whose company you love to have.  Then, review your life just before meeting and contacting that person for the first time.  Think of the review as a story, maybe a tv movie.  As the scriptwriter for the show, what change might have happened in the story so that you and the person you love to be with might never have met.


In the same way, consider that many people in the world younger, your age and older, get by on the equivalent of a dollar a day.  If you have a bit more, think of why that is.  Some people suspect that our spirits existed before our conception and that we deliberately chose our parents.  I think it was pure chance.  Since I have to admit I am pretty special, I am thankful for the lucky break I got having them.


While trying out a different version of myself, I can try writing with my left hand even though I am right-handed.  That is not a good idea for writing checks and other documents that need to be legible but for my personal challenge, it is ok.  Similarly, switching hands for my fork and for holding the mouse quickly makes me glad that my usual hand is as competent as it is.  There are many ways of being new and they tend to make me glad I have my old, comfortable self

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

Exercise!

Sure, push-ups are good.  So is walking.  Good up and down stairs, dancing and rearranging the furniture will all help your primate body do its thing and use those muscles. Doing a little yoga from time to time, strenuous or leisurely, tensing and relaxing one muscle after the other, is good for the ol' body/mind.

However, it is important, IMPORTANT! Damnit! to do a different exercise.  You have heard about it before.  It is not that hard but it can be a challenge.  Sit still and look at something without moving.  That's it.  That's all there is to it.  You can do it.  My great grandson can do it and he is only 12.  You can do it.  Really, you can.  

Ok, you are willing to give it a try.  You sit still and you look at a dot, a corner, a shadow, something.  You don't move.  Now what?  Just keep doing it.  How long?  

There is a primitive outlook floating around that 8 hours straight is better for your brain than 8 minutes, rumored to be better than 8 seconds.  Don't fall for it.  Don't try to improve.  Don't try to challenge yourself or to do better.  

Get a kitchen timer or use the one on your stove.  There may be one on your phone or iPad or other device.  Set it for one minute and be still for that long.  

You may want to fidget.  You may itch here or there.  Keep looking at your chosen point of focus.  Be like a cat, watching a mouse hole.  That mouse is your meal.  You need the food.  The mouse is fast and will bolt out of the hole.  You only have one chance so do not wander off mentally to your taxes or the need for an oil change.  Pay attention.  One stupid minute.  Grandma can do it.  You can do it.  When you find your bills or your evening out have come to mind, be happy.  That is what a mind is supposed to do: give you alerts and ideas.  Just return to your focus.  Just return.

But persist.  You can wait one stupid minute before doing your dusting or whatever.  Train your attention.  Keep it on the focus and return to the focus when you float off in la-la land.  

As your attention gets trained, your mind can give you updates and notifications that are not part of you otherwise.  It can inform you that you are not such a klutz as you thought.  It help you notice that you have a choice in what to think about.  It can alert you to stand up for a while and sit less.  You'll be surprised at what the trained mind can do for you.

I am not advocating cyber psychology, Richard.  I am begging politely for a minute of stillness.  Can't you just give me a durned minute?

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


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


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shedding a problem

Three friends of mine have been complaining of difficulties with themselves.  One feels overly dominated by an inner voice that harps on her shortcomings and failures.  One feels that she can never prioritize.  One finds that despite having proven high intelligence, she has too much trouble using a computer and is unable to accomplish what seem that they should be simple, quick tasks.  These people don't know each other and live in different parts of the country.  I am not close to any of them most days and don't know their daily lives in detail.

If I did, I might be able to point out counterexamples for each.  There are probably days and times when the inner voice is not a pain, when priorities are well-set and used, and when computer tasks go smoothly.  I might try logging instances when the problem is not bothersome because I am aware of the human confirmation bias.  I didn't used to think it was a big deal but that was because I heard the problem stated like this: we all have a tendency to gather evidence that confirms our beliefs and omit evidence that does not.  In that form, I tended to say,"Yeah, yeah, naturally, we all do that".  But when Steven Novella explained the idea, it seemed far more powerful.  

Byron Katie found that simply asking of an idea, "Is that true?" can be quite helpful.  For many things that seem to bug us, it may not be worth the trouble to ask that question and try to answer it.  But I notice that all three people have expressed the same complaint about themselves more than once.  So, if an idea is hanging around enough to come up several times, it might be worth investigating in a more complete way.

Of course, any notion, once framed in words, can be trotted out habitually.  If I decide "I am such a klutz", and I memorize the phrase and actually verbalize it each time I drop a dish or forget to mail my payment in time, I may be training myself to remember, and hold tight to, my klutziness notion.  When I get a chance, it will be progress for me if I check out if I am klutzy.  If it seems to be true, I am smart enough to decide on one step to take out of klutziness and take it.

I probably won't make progress on the problem if it isn't real.  I probably won't make progress if I don't get myself a clear picture of what I'd like to be or do.  It mostly needs to be an image of me the way I want to be. Describing that version of myself, maybe on a recording, and listening to it, will help me progress and feel good about the effort and plan to make a better me.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

From the Scout report

Despite the hype, you can't do it all, you can't be it all or know it all.  However, from time to time, it is possible to take a look at things that may be of interest.  Internet Scout is a free e-newsletter that comes out most weeks and lists interesting web sites, often in the science or humanities.  Here are some from this week's that may appeal:

3. Understanding Disorders at the Cellular Level

http://www.g2conline.org/2294

The Genes to Cognition website addresses the world of modern neuroscience through lectures, fact sheets, papers, and other materials that cover depression, autism, bipolar disorder, and a range of other disorders. This particular resource is a video of a conversation with Dr. Daniel Pine on the different approaches to understanding disorders. More specifically, Pine speaks about how researchers are looking into how we might understand neurological disorders on the cellular level. Along with this conversation, the site also has links to several other related lectures. At the bottom of the page, visitors can view an interactive 3D model of the brain, complete with 29 structures that can be rotated for detailed viewing. [KMG]

6. JSC Digital Image Collection

http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/

This high-quality collection is provided courtesy of NASA's Johnson Space Center, and it contains over 9,000 images. Visitors can get started by looking over the FAQ area, which provides answers to questions like "Where can I et prints and high-resolution scans of this imagery?" and "What is a 'fuzzy match?'" After this, visitors can perform a full-text search across all of the items, or use the Browse area. This last section allows visitors to look around by mission, equipment, or station location. Visitors with any level of interest in space technology or other related fields will find this resource fascinating. [KMG]

14. The University of Florida Book of Insect Records http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/walker/ufbir/index.shtml

Everyone knows about the Guinness Book of World Records. But does everyone know about the Book of Insect Records? Based at the University of Florida and maintained and edited by Thomas J. Walker, the work "names insect champions and documents their achievements." The book is divided into chapters, so visitors can use the Table of Contents to get started on their journeys. In total, there are 40 chapters, including Most Tolerant of Cold, Shortest Generation Time, and Smallest Eggs. Each chapter can be downloaded for easy access and there's ample documentation for each record. This work could be used in any number of general biology or entomology courses and it is quite a find. [KMG]

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19. The peer-to-peer business model continues to attract attention and consumer interest

Peer-to-peer rental: The rise of the sharing economy http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21573104-internet-everything-hire-rise-sharing-economy

Share Everything: Why the Way We Consume Has Changed Forever http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2013/03/share-everything-why-way-we-consume-has-changed-forever/4815/

Sharing Economy Provides Extra Cash and Creative Expression http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/03/09/sharing-economy-provides-extra-cash-and-creative-expression-sxsw/

SXSW coverage: How can Houston help the sharing economy?

http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/blog/nuts-and-bolts/2013/03/sxsw-coverage-how-can-houston-help.html

Value from nothing-the sharing economy

http://flipthemedia.com/2013/03/value-from-nothing-the-sharing-economy/

Airbnb

https://www.airbnb.com/

Would you like to rent a surfboard? Perhaps you could go for a luxe parking space in a prime location for a day or two? Traditional ways of purchasing these goods and services have been around for decades, but the world of peer-to-peer rental could be a game-changer in terms of how people and businesses connect with each other for such transactions. One particularly notable business in this arena is the Airbnb website, which allows users to purchase overnight stays in rooms rented out by private individuals. This intriguing business model is made possible by technology and it seems to work well for items that are generally expensive to buy and are owned by a range of people who do not use them on a consistent basis. Speaking about this recent trend, author Rachel Botsman noted that this peer-to-peer rental market is worth around $26 billion. It has also acquired another

nickname: "collaborative consumption." It is worth noting that owners of these various goods and services can find value in their underutilized assets, and a recent article in The Economist speculates that companies may be able to use this model to rent out spare offices, copy machines, and other pieces of equipment. [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to an article on the rise of the sharing economy, courtesy of The Economist. Moving along, the second link will take curious visitors to a fine piece from the Atlantic Cities' Emily Badger on how this model work for a start-up kitchen in Washington, D.C. Moving on, the third link will whisk users away to a piece from the Forbes website about a talk at SXSW about the sharing economy from Airbnb cofounder Nate Blecharczyk. The fourth link will take visitors to a piece from the Houston Business Journal about how businesses and partners in Houston might become more involved in the sharing economy. The fifth link will take visitors to a thoughtful post from the "Flip the Media" site's Patrick Doherty about the sharing economy. Finally, the last link will take visitors to the Airbnb website. Here interested parties can learn a bit about how the business works and maybe even find a deal of their own.


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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Four points

Seeking quiet: architects should use their ears says a TED talk on buildings and their improvement when designed for quiet.  A.J. Jacobs is the guy who spent a year reading the encyclopedia, a year living according to the Bible and a year following all advice on being healthy on his new-found value of quiet.  He has a TED talk summing the healthy year and one of his takeaway conclusions is that quiet matters to quality of life.  I add that good ear protection and ear plugs, and proper use of headphones with lower volume, is important.  One way older people have to work for quiet is against tinnitus, ringing in the ears. Where I put my awareness seems to be my best tool for not being bothered by tinnitus, but it also seems to help to wear my hearing aids.

Plants lure with jolts of buzz
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/science/plants-use-caffeine-to-lure-bees-scientists-find.html

Difficulties and worries in a scientific age: does she really love me?  Is he just putting me on?  Is my feeling of optimism genuine or just a brave but phoney front?  We learn critical thinking, evidence collection and evaluation and scientific thinking. Some of these tools are not useful in deciding personal questions of relationships or such things as career directions.  Knowing about scientific investigations can be an obstacle to good people transactions if applied injudiciously.

Presentations in which the visual and audio distract - More and more, people seem to think that a video is better, will be more popular and useful, than text.  So, they hire a pro to make a video that will get the point across.  Or, they take a course or several in the making of a video.  American and increasingly all videos have sound tracks.  The sound track should be fun, upbeat and maybe loud enough to obscure the speech of the speaker.  The visual part will also be made colorful and fast moving, and cute and also upbeat.  Has to be.  I innocently open the video only to be blasted and distracted by beats, flashing this and that.  When it is over, I don't know what I saw but I know it was cute, colorful, fast moving and exciting.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Improving lives using the mind

Despite what you might conclude from posts here, I am not at all convinced that Buddhist practices or ideas are a superior guide to life.  They may be.  However, the books "Buddha or Bust" by Perry Garfinkel and "Bringing Home the Dharma" by Jack Kornfield showed me convincing evidence of several things:
  • Just as in any other group, practice or project with many people and many cultures, one Buddhist is not the same as another.  Practices, hopes, goals, insights, theories differ from person to person, family to family, sect to sect and nation to nation.
  • Westerners can see records of Gautama's teachings as a psychology since he not only advised careful and close examination of one's own mind and thoughts but also advised testing each principle and admonition for one's self, just as St. Paul did (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  In the fervor of some to find the right way and stick to it, this modern sounding advice to check things out and evaluate them is often forgotten but it is still important and basic.
  • It is human nature to cry out for help when a calamity or painful loss is imminent and it is no wonder that people do so in any religion or non-religion.
  • Aside from other considerations, evidence is piling up that focused meditation for 6 seconds many times a day, 2 min or 8 or 10 or 20 minutes daily, increases one's ability to recognize one's own mental activity for what it is, and modify it if desired.
  • Meditation practices are not strictly the invention and focus of just Buddhism.  All religions have a meditative tradition.  You can check this out with Google searches for the name of any religion followed by "meditation".  Certainly, no other religion has focused as deeply on meditation as have Buddhists, but it has been a big factor in Hinduism, and was centuries before the Buddha was born, and millennia before Jesus.
  • Western, that is, European traditions pretty well cover all known possibilities but have favored action, construction, movement more so that those of the East.  To Westerners, silence coupled with physical and mental stillness have not seemed active or very valuable.  That has been a mistake.
  • Recognition of what one is doing mentally provides a little distance from the mind as well as from one's moods.  That little distance enables personal modification, training of many types.  A person can train with reminders, journals, prayers, mantras (repeated words or phrases) and move toward greater happiness, acceptance of life's gifts and costs, and virtually any other goal desired.  For many people, some progress on the important variables in one's thinking and attitudes tends to occur even with no conscious training.
  • Kornfield and other sources report shortcomings for meditation and its practitioners.  Some people are so riled up or fearful that attempting mental quiet is an invitation to terrible panic or upset.  Others have paid lip service to meditation for so long, they have lost benefit from it and need to refocus or change or see a Western psychologist or therapist or all of these things.
  • Buddhist ideas and practices, apart from meditation, can assist in improving most lives.  One of the fundamental ideas is that most human discomfort comes from obsessive concentration on one's projects and personal goals.  Another is that really, there is no self, no inner identity that we must adhere to and protect.


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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Does it matter?

Obsolescence is sneaky. Sometimes it is like a weather front.  It comes in quietly and you hardly notice the change.  I guess anything, especially anything social or political, can become obsolete.  I have heard comments that the church, marriage, cash and even men are obsolete or might be on their way to becoming that way.  

Futurists sometimes use the example of the buggy whip manufacturers, who might have been at the top of their game financially, until the auto came along.  The auto like many things came along slowly.  Invention, a few hobbyists (the early adopters), an industrial interest that aims to make many copies available.  Some of those are inefficient or simply unlucky while maybe other variables and factors are changing that make the new invention a good idea.  Slow spreading and increased adoption, maybe accompanied by a winnowing of the field of manufacturers and producers and eventually, the new form of transportation (or eating or being medically treated or reading) is dominant.  Technologists like to point out that old technologies don't die.  They just shrink.  You can still get buggies and buggy whips and there is no doubt a second-hand market in them, as well.  

Peoples' institutions and practices can exist solely as custom and tradition.  But, if the needs and purposes that created and support them fall away or mutate strongly into something new, the institutions and practices are on their way to decay and obsolescence.  Sometimes, people try to see which way things are headed by studying habits, interests and purchases of the young.  But whether it is an electronic gadget or a slang phrase, it is very difficult to see how an item of interest will fare in the future.  There are competitors in the field vying for attention as well as the fact that the users themselves change, both from age and from unforeseeable events.  Marketers and language observers have not perfected prediction and there are often surprises in usage and habits.

Science is full of concepts related to prediction and relations between variables.  The modern concept of probability is used every day to communicate some estimate of strength of likelihood.  I guess most of us are comfortable with hearing there is a 20% chance of rain.  Most people seem to feel that hearing that figure is helpful and useful.  That, of course, was not always so.  I am confident that the arguments about the meaning of probability, especially "personal" or "subjective" probability are continuing in many places.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finding chuckles

In our house and meetings with friends, humor helps, and keeps us sharp, gives perspective and readiness for adventures and challenges

"Did you do X on purpose?"
"I never do anything on purpose!"

"Ok, Honey, it is time for us to leave."
"I'll just be a minute.  I have to go to the bathroom."
"How come you always have to go to the bathroom just when I call you to leave?"
"My dear, you are my laxative!"

Wife to husband seeking bedtime together: "But we did that already!"

Reminds me of European guide on opening his gift of appreciation: "A jacket?  But I already have a jacket."

Husband to wife seeking to have him urinate sitting down for neatness: "But then, you would have my balls!"  
Wife: "I don't want your balls!"


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

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