Sunday, July 23, 2017

Beliefs, cells and bodies

A friend told me a couple of years ago to read "The Biology of Belief" by Bruce Lipton.  I read some of it.  The author is a PhD cell biologist who has tried to extract guides for his life and thought from his knowledge of cells and the body.  I am going to go through the book again.  I am confident that our minds can do things for us and with us that we underestimate and even forget about.  

The best book I have read on the mind leading the body is "Cure" by Jo Marchant, PhD.  One of the two outstanding mind feats done scientifically that I read about involves athletes being told they had been given a drug that would enhance their performance when they hadn't been.  They did better believing their bodies had been affected. That effect is not too surprising when I consider the typical experience of the little red-headed girl showing up in the stand.  When he spots her, Charlie Brown's sharpness rises, his muscles gain strength, and he hits the ball out of the park.  We can work with this idea in various ways, such as informing Charlie that the little red-headed girl has arrived in the parking lot and will be in soon.

Several of the many sources mention mental practice which includes imagining going thru all the motions of dribbling and shooting a basket without a ball or a basket - just imagining.  Some good evidence says that careful mental practice improves performance.

The Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer pulled quite a feat.  She observed that hotel room staff did quite a bit of exercise in each room that they cleaned and freshened.  She measured their caloric expenditure.  Then, she held a meeting with them and explained that while doing their daily work, they were getting a pretty good workout.  She advised them to think of their services as exercise.  Then, she measured their caloric expenditure again and found that thinking of their activity as exercise resulted in an increase of caloric consumption per hour.   

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Rummage sale

Sometimes, the family has a rummage sale:

Much of the stuff is out front because the garage is very much too full! Rummage sales (jumble sales, garage sales) are a big deal in some places.  

  • We have an oversupply of goods

  • We have changing needs as we all age

  • We develop interests and we drop interests, often quite gradually

  • Fashions change and some things, colors, styles become become markers of by-gone times, history

We mostly want space but it would be nice to get some money for the goods as well.  Should this t-shirt announcing a 1997 ski race go for $5 or $10?  It is in good shape: no holes, no stains.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A mirror site

I realized this morning as I looked at the wrinkled aging skin on my arm that one of the most useful comments I ever read was by a woman called "Byron Katie".  I have written about her before and so has my friend Winnie:

I wondered what Byron is up to these days and looked at her Twitter account.  Evidently, she just finished giving sessions in France and Holland.  She has her own web site and several books, all focused on The Work, which involves handling one's beliefs and problems  explicitly with questions and honest answers.  Her main question is Is it true?  I feel I can't go on, that you always pick on me, that I can't stay away from potato chips.  Are those ideas true?

In looking at her Twitter account, I found several statements that were valuable to read and think about.  The idea that I laughed about the most was explained with a little drawing of a monk sitting in the lotus position.  It is an invitation to play "transcendental hide and seek".  To play, close your eyes and count to 60.  Then, open them and see if you can find yourself."

Looking at my aging skin, I recall Katie's comment that she was having the time of her life watching her body fall apart.  It is possible to take aging as an adventure, one that I have never experienced before but that is very famous.  As some people say, it may be more fun that the alternative.

I like to read and explore new ideas and personalities.  When I find some that really ought to be shared, I share them in this blog, the Kirbyvariety web site, orally with friends. and on Twitter.  I realized today that I am a kind of mirror site.  Various computer and software firms have sites around the world to transmit downloads faster because they are nearer some customers.  

Katie has several books, such as "A Friendly Universe".  She comes up with statements such as "I can't let go of my thoughts.  I meet them with inquiry and they let go of me."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beautiful voices

So much happens each day that it is impossible to put it all down.  Just ten minutes in the backyard can include wrens flitting about, visits by hummingbirds, chipmunks vying with pigeons for the seeds and bits dropped by birds that can fit into the feeders.  That is just the backyard and the birds.  One of the big parts of our mornings is Lynn's Facebook.  I don't use Facebook for two reasons. Facebook has been too pushy for my tastes, asking about how I met this person and that.  Second, I have enough going on without more time spent with Facebook and similar online communities.  I realize that plenty of good stuff is put on Facebook and I imagine on LinkedIn, too. I am technically on both but I don't engage, visit their sites or post things.

This morning, as on many mornings, Lynn tells me about things that she thinks I will like.  Today, she played a video posted by a musical friend.  It is a women's acappella quintet and was put up on YouTube almost 9 years ago.

The link goes to their rendition of Vivaldi's section of The Four Seasons, Spring.  It is certainly worth listening to.  I was just reading how music has been a puzzle for scientists trying to figure out why we like it and what liking music might have meant in evolution and over the millennia.  

When you listen to what these young women do with their voices alone, you can get some appreciation for musical ability to select the notes desired and produce them in the midst of other, competing sounds.  I don't know much about Vivaldi (1678-1741) but just those dates tell us that he was never on television.  I have some bassoon music by him and he wrote his famous The Four Seasons.  The movie by the same name stars Alan Alda, who also wrote the script and directed.  Vivaldi's music plays throughout but I have a hunch that Antonio would be surprised by the singing of the Carmel Acappella quintet.  So would Ludwig B if he got to hear them sing unaccompanied his 5th symphony.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Several women of Time

The Time magazine of July 24, vol. 190, no.4, has several articles that strike me as quite valuable.  Why this is already volume 190, I am not sure.  It can't be that each year has been a volume since Time is not that old.  Maybe a volume every half year.

Anyhow, Heather Gerken first.  She writes that law school teaches a fundamental practice, essential in law, that everyone could use.  It relates, of course, to the fact that a working lawyer needs to use her imagination to create a helpful argument to support the client, or attack the client's cause.  Since lawyers have to be able to argue for either A or not-A, they must work at understanding the advantages of all positions and be able to communicate them in court.  The basic skill is defending an idea without agreeing with it.  Heather Gerken is the dean of the Yale Law School.

Then, a series of women who wrote sections of an article on exercise and health.  It is short, bright and quite useful.  

·       Amanda Macmillan

·       Alice Park

·       Mandy Oaklander

·       Alexandra Sifferlin

All the women listed in this post have Twitter accounts and you can follow them all there.

The outstanding two points in my mind from their work is the inclusion of meditation as a physical (and mental and emotional) tool of very basic importance and noting that some yoga and some running and some weight lifting all matter.  You don't have to be a qualified Olympic level athlete for physical exercise of many kinds to be a big help.

As usual, the issue highlights politics but there are many other valuable things to think about and do in this life.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Poems on a box

I ordered from Amazon on "Prime Day".  The order arrived in a box with a short haiku poem on it.

I know some of the objections to being manipulated by large corporations but, as one Twitter post said, "classy".  I say "imaginative".

You may know that Twitter uses hatchmarks, #, to allow labels or themes.  The haiku on Amazon cartons has its own hatchmark "#boxhaiku".  You can look it up on Twitter to see the other haikus being sent out on boxes.  

I expect that other corporations are not going to take this lying down.  I imagine they have poets of their own.  Brace yourself.

From Wikihow:

"A haiku poem consists of three lines, with the first and last lines having 5 moras, and the middle line having 7. A mora is a sound unit, much like a syllable, but is not identical to it. Since the moras do not translate well into English, it has been adapted to where syllables are used as moras."

I have not been to Japan but I did manage these in poetry class:

Monday, July 17, 2017

What did you expect?

Sometimes, I didn't really have an expectation.  In the back of my mind, I might have had a notion of what he would be like or what the movie would be but often I didn't have a clear expectation.  I often hear things like "into each life, some rain must fall" or "you'll get some good days and some bad days." I often feel that whatever happens, it is a surprise and does not feel as though it is mundane or everyday.  

Suppose I get two rather flat, unexciting days in a row.  I didn't expect that!  Naturally, if I get two exciting days in a row, I didn't that either.  On just about every day, whatever happens, it doesn't feel as though it was what I expected.  Maybe I should start a record of expectations and fill out expectations for the next day before it begins.  I haven't tried that but I almost never have a clear idea of the next day's events.  So, I would be reluctant to make a prediction.

I could do something vague, like I expect there will be some sort of sunrise or dawn about 5 or 6 AM and darkness will probably fall in the evening.  I don't know if I expect straight sun or some rain or a mixture.  I remember that Dan Gilbert's book "Stumbling on Happiness" and his TED talks explain that in general people have not been very accurate at predicting future happiness.  They are not as happy nor as unhappy as they thought they would be.  His idea is that generally when I think of winning the lottery or losing something valuable, I am not capable of broad and complete enough thinking to see all the parts of my life that will not be improved or, in the case, of a negative or loss, all the parts of my life that will not be harmed.  

Some researchers and surveys use the word "expectations" as in "Did we meet your expectations?"  I don't know what their data shows but in general, I don't have clear expectations before entering a store or opening a magazine.  If I didn't have some idea that it would be useful or profitable or pleasant, I wouldn't enter or begin.  But I certainly didn't expect the current Time magazine to do such a good job explaining physical practices like yoga or weight lifting as benefits, even when sensibly practice lightly.  I didn't expect a page written by the current dean of the Yale Law school on the training that lawyers get that gives them open minds and flexible thinking habits.  I didn't expect to have to drive out into the country to retrieve a phone from people we had never met or heard of.

Most of the time, I don't know what I expected but it wasn't what happened.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"You have one message"

I saw an ad on the internet Weather Channel site that showed the words "You have one message".  I don't deal in communications with the people who run the Weather Channel or those buying ads on it.  I also don't deal in communications on Facebook, the iconic leader of the social media.  "Social media" doesn't seem like a very attractive name to me but human communication, by facial expression, spoken words as with telephones, tapped signals as with telegraphs and prisoners signalling through prison wall, message drums or clouds of letters squirted into the sky by special airplanes, very much matters.

You may remember the days when entering a store meant you might be ready to purchase some of their inventory: bananas or bandanas or something.  Back then, there was no greeter and no one who tempted you with a free popsicle if you joined their loyal band of followers by filling out this form with your email address, the name of your banker, and your grandmother's middle name.  There was a mild hullabaloo about 1990 when a pioneer type journalist got hold of Bill Gates's email address and ventured to send him an exploratory message.  Wow!  He got an answer!

I guess many groups, companies, organizations and causes picture themselves with a nice portion of the billion users of Facebook, happily chatting away on their own network, posting videos of babies and dogs and kittens.  Ever since the development of the telegraph

people have marveled at communication at a distance.  When you add in the ability to take in money for advertising Joe's diner and the very real display of talent and warmth on social platforms of many users, you can see why others might be tempted to try to create the next group of communicators.

The linked article makes clear that communications networks have been around for a long time.  The books "What Hath God Wrought" and "The Victorian Internet" explain the surprise and interest that fast, inexpensive widespread communication using the newly harnessed stuff called "electricity" stimulated.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tricky, murky work

Friends told me that "Bridge of Spies" with Tom Hanks was a good movie. I had an open evening and watched that movie.  It is based on actual events.  It was easy for me to ask myself throughout the show how it would be for me to try to carry out the tasks insurance attorney Donovan (Hanks) managed. First, he accepted an invitation to the thankless task of defending an elderly and sophisticated man charged by the FBI with espionage for the Soviets and then with accompanying that man to negotiations to culminate in the exchange of the man for an American spy plane pilot the Soviets had shot down and captured.

Throughout the lengthy film, I kept asking myself how I would have done with all that. I am a rather rigid person: give me a plan and I want details.  With a detailed plan, I want to stick to it and follow every step completely as specified. The American attorney had to go with the flow of events over and over and yet he came to a knot in the thread of the ongoing story, where he had to switch to firm resolve and steady determination.  

I have a long-held admiration for the book "Getting to Yes", both for personal application to my individual life and for teaching and the training of teachers.  It is one of the most famous in its field and has 4.5 stars on Amazon and 968 reviewers.  I have gone through the book several times and tried to apply it to my life.  But it is about working in situations where all involved are being somewhat open and honest.

The American attorney, Donovan, had to work with the Soviet government and the East German government at the same time.  These two forces were subtly at odds but not officially nor openly.  Negotiations were to take place in the area of East Berlin at the time the authorities were first building the Berlin wall.  People were trying to get on the side of the wall they wanted to be without appearing to be trying but to do so before crossing was even more dangerous and difficult. Other complexities arose.

I very much admire the story and the accomplishment and I am glad to have watched the movie.  It is available on Amazon.  It is fairly expensive and may be available only if you pay enough to have the movie in your personal video library section of the site.  It has been about a week since I watched it and you can see that the impact of the story is still with me.

Friday, July 14, 2017


A "spoiler alert" warns readers and viewers and fans that the following words or sounds might reveal who murdered Sam or whether Susie is pregnant or whatever the cliff-dangling question is.  But I find that spoiler alerts often heighten the tension instead of eliminating it.  

Noo, you don't mean it!  The princess murdered Sam??!?  No way!  Wait, wait, you must tell me more: Are we talking about the princess who is stunned and mute by the sight of him?  How could she be the killer?

Well, it turns out that the wicked stepfather, you know, the zombie king, infected the princess with zombie cooties.  Those things are deadly and made her hate what she loved.  But now that you know, you can see that you are all ready to see for yourself.  The tip didn't spoil the story but increased your interest in seeing just how that wicked man lured that sweet little thing into his rotten plan.  Besides, what is going to happen how?  Will she recover from the cooties ?  Will she be mortified and petrified?  After all, the girl shows grit, spunk, feist, spirit and like that.  Unless continuous cooties are shot into her, that king is going to have a reckoning with her and that troupe of skater-derby teammates of hers.  How is it all going to work out?

I recommend that you avoid spoilers if they have been a bother but otherwise, march ahead.  Knowing a little more of the story is likely to increase your interest, not dampen it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

One way we are different

One way to tell we are different: we are younger at older ages.  You may have heard that 70 is the new 40 or 50, meaning that 70 year olds are (physically, mentally, emotionally) like 40 or 50 yr olds used to be.  Many of my older friends start to recall a past event and they begin to estimate how many years ago the event took place.  They nearly always have to increase the number of years since the event over their first estimate: "That must have been 20, no, 40, no, fifty years ago."

It seems to me that many of us don't feel old enough to have been living here or married or working here or reading Time magazine for that long.  Maybe we never heard older people while growing up use numbers like 50 or 60 years.  We may carry in our heads the feeling that 20 years is a long period so before calculating, we might just guess whatever it was, it was a long time, like 20 years.  Then, our heads supply the starting date and the current year and then the difference.

No, it was 47 years.  Can that be right?  It sounds like a whole geological era.  We aren't that old, it hasn't been that long, has it? It can't have been that long.

Without instruments and records, we probably aren't built to estimate longer times very well.  In addition, a 90 year old stated that she didn't feel any noticeable difference from what she felt at 30.  Sure, not being able to read the fine print, not hearing what the young teen said, not looking at another flight of stairs very happily - such things can make a person feel as though they aren't that young any more.  But without those tip-offs, and without a mirror, a person can feel as though they haven't changed.  Well, within reason.  We adults all know that we are no longer toddlers, or little kids. Many people say that regardless of their chronological age, they feel like a young adult.  If you participated in athletics or cheerleading or dance in high school or college, you may have experienced more cramps and sore muscles back then than since.

I know you will hear that people are living longer, that you don't look your age, that age is only a number and such.  I don't see how anyone can deny that age is indicative, not only of health and likely lifetime left, but even the frame of mind a person grew up with.  Still, with the limitations and changes, it is quite possible that both your mind and your body are in better shape than your grandmother's was at this age.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Machines and tools in our lives

I am not sure which machines and tools get the most use each each day These days, it might be the cellphone or the computer.  It might be the automobile.  Of course, it matters whether we measure the most time in use, the number of separate occasions of use or maybe the value of the result of the machine's work.  Some smarties can think of other ways to evaluate tools and machines for value, demand, level of appreciation and gratitude for their existence.


You may know that Stephen Hawking recently stated his worry that very smart machines are coming, machines so smart that they pose a danger to humans.  A simple pair of pliers makes a very big difference when I am trying to pull a cotter pin out.  A hammer makes short work of getting a nail in a board.  But most of our machines don't make other machines like themselves, that is, they don't reproduce.  Most of our machines and tools can be put aside or turned off or have their batteries removed or their plugs pulled.  Like living things, smarter machines might want to continue to operate, to "live".  Like living things, smarter machines might want to reproduce.

Normally, we don't think of machines telling us what to do.  We can examine an x-ray to decide on a medical procedure but a human makes the decision.  However, if we believe, as many people over the centuries have, that God guides dice or other decision tools, we might roll the dice or flip a coin to decide between Pete's diner and Al's restaurant.
There is some fear that regardless of machines taking over our lives, that they will take over our work.  If we get our food from our salary from a company that delivers goods across the country, what happens when that company gets self-driving trucks?  

A different kind of machine is being worked on in several places and in several countries, one that is artificially intelligent (AI).  Such a machine can practice "machine learning" (MI). Very smart machines are now able to steadily defeat the best human players of chess and of the Oriental game called Go.  Here is an article on "FiveThirtyEight", the statistics group that keeps it eye on societal developments, politics and sports on emerging machine intelligence:
Here are two items from O'Reilly's Artificial Intelligence newsletter:

1."The [UK's] Serious Fraud Office had a problem. Its investigation into corruption at Rolls-Royce was inching towards a conclusion, but four years of digging had produced a massive pile of documents: over 30 million, including everything from spreadsheets to emails about staff away days." You see it coming, right? Lawyers were sifting through an impressive 3,000 documents a day, but AI processed 600,000 documents a day, at a cost of £50,000—and with fewer errors."

2. Mind reading with machine learning and fMRI - Combining machine learning algorithms with fMRI brain imaging technology, Carnegie Mellon University researchers created a model that can finish your sentences for you with 87% accuracy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


There is a big push for all sorts of freedom from all restraints.  Actually, we romanticize restraintlessness but most of the time, we aren't really aware of the restraints that we are subject to.  Gravity is a restraint but our bodies are used to it and we might be in an unpleasant fix without it.  Normal social behavior restraints might seem burdensome but we don't really want to be nude, rude and crude, do we?  Misbehave in some ways and your mom might never be able to forgive you.

My friend was in the grocery store and saw a woman slap a baby.  The baby already had red marks on its cheeks.  "What are you doing?"  "None of your fucking business, Lady"  Fucking???? Fucking!!!! The situation was between two women and a little baby.  Nothing fucking about it, at all.  Why bring up the subject of sexual intercourse?

That is not what the words were about.  They were about anger, common sense, privacy and fear.  The expletive was once THE word to express high levels of anger, ferocity, fury.  But since we are living in an era of limit testing and since every standup comedian standing before an audience of young people uses the F word as frequently as possible, the word is losing its potency.  See the problem?  We are in danger of losing our cuss words!  Okay, several exclamation marks:!!!!!

Can't you just see it?  Mr. and Mrs. Caveman are enjoying a nice dinner but the fire needs another log.  He puts a log on the fire but accidentally burns himself a little bit.  He might exclaim at that point:"Sugar!" but sugar is unknown at that time, so that is out.  He is hurt and unhappy.  He wants to shout something unhappy.  How about that stuff that comes out of himself, his wife, his kids and the dog?  He shouts "Excrement!"  Mrs. Caveman says,"Cavey, please!  Watch your language. Think of the children."

Obviously, that is probably how cussing, shouting offensive, unmannerly words got started.  More information here:

Monday, July 10, 2017

What do I want?

I thought that when I want to achieve a goal, that my fear was from doubt that I could reach it successfully. I hadn't thought of the possibility that I wanted to reach the goal and that simultaneously part of me didn't want to reach it.  Suppose I smoke and I decide I want to quit.  Whether it is smoking or some other personal habit change, it will be some time before I can retrain myself.  I can expect to want a cigarette or watch the news again today or eat licorice or whatever.

I have always framed the matter mentally as a matter of persistence and reliability: can I, will I stick to my resolve or not? But the actual wanting, the desire has been a lower ranked question.  I have not actually felt much draw to continue the habit I want to get rid of.  I imagine that I might feel two pulls: no cigarette and a smoke.  I might feel them simultaneously and both pulls might be rather strong.  That pull toward yes and the pull toward no can be bothersome; the stronger they are, more bothersome.

Some explanations of motivational interviewing explain situations where people really do want to commit an action and really do want to not commit it as the same time.  The explanations state that such contradictory urges create anxiety, sometimes of rather severe levels. Some sorts of uncertainty will not be tolerated by the mind and one way to stop the push/pull contradiction is to fail, to give in, have a smoke.  But that way also makes me a failure.  I have been a failure and I don't like.  By the way, some literature says that the more I fail, the more dislike I will develop for being a failure and the more strength I will have to succeed.

A motivational interview helps me reaffirm my interest in the new path, the new habit, the new me.  It helps me recite what I know and what I feel about my plan to develop a new way of being.  The more I picture myself conducting myself in the new way, the more I reaffirm the advantages of the new habit and recall the disadvantages of the former way, the more motivation I will have to continue on the new path.  I may even get to the point where a tug toward a cigarette is immediately converted into a reminder to congratulate myself on the progress I am making.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Lineage and baloney

Every parent and teacher is aware of the special power of a child's question about the origin of babies and other people.  A kid who has a sibling on the way in Mommy's tummy can wonder how it got there.  Some people explain the presence of new borns by invoking the work of storks, although I personally doubt they have anything to do with the presence of babies, although if you ask Google's Search "Does the stork bring babies?", you get nearly a half million results.

Since the beginning of a baby is often conducted in strong privacy, it can be difficult to verify who did what when.  Sometimes, the parents are both delighted and interested in claiming credit for their part and their luck.  Sometimes, not.  Even with blood tests, and DNA and witnesses and such, it can be difficult to establish who are parents.  We saw at the Palace of Versailles, rooms built for twenty or so people to be an audience at the birth of a child to create verification of parentage and lineage and general acceptance of lineage claims.

Things get much vaguer with ideas and influences.  I often read that this man influenced that one, that some guy got an idea for some other guy.  If I claim to have gotten the idea of a stressed supply of names, the notion that so many inventions, discoveries and ideas are springing up, that our vocabulary, our inventory of nouns, is inadequate from the author Jacques Barzun in his book "Science: The Glorious Entertainment", you can rely on my claim.  At least that is the way I remember getting the idea.  If you suggested it to me during a poker game, you may have planted the notion without my remembering it.  If I claim to have learned about "plastic" meaning both flexible and rigid from reading Barzun, you yourself may believe me and have no memory of planting the idea in my mind.  

Dr., Christine Kenneally makes very clear in her book "The Invisible History of the Human Race" that harm, nastiness, murder and other uglies have arisen among humans when they have tried in the past to say who is the ancestor of whom. In many cases, people did not understand inheritance, child creation and related questions about who begat whom.  You could say that they still don't have a clear idea of how much of my current blood is attributable to my French ancestors and how much to the Scottish ones.  And if it is not the blood, is it my bones or what?  We have had people saying that I am one sixteenth Cherokee while others claim I am one thirty-second, not one sixteenth, while nobody is willing to say which 16th of me is the Native American part.

Because ideas, inventions, and theories are fundamental in our world and becoming more so in the knowledge economy, and because we often recognize a smartie who seems to be able to get many good ideas by her handiwork, we want to know who thought of that.  But, folks, it is tough!  Who thought of it, who first mentioned it, who patented it, who developed it is the subject of court trials about intellectual properties.  If you get an idea from a movie and I get the same idea, having been in the same theater at the same time and having the same background and interests as you, I hope I can beat you to publication.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I didn't get a round To-It

I didn't write yesterday and now it is 7:45 AM and I have not sent out a blog post.  I did look at my prompts.  The current list is the 9th one and it has 292 notes of ideas to write about.  You would think that one or more of those would serve well and you would be rigth.  [Oh sure, now that I have posted, I find this error.] Of course there are good ideas for writing among all those jottings.  I just didn't get around to it.  

I have seen wooden circles, large as 12 inches or more, labeled "RounToIt" in gift and curio shops.  For a long time, I didn't understand what they were but now I know that a round to-it is a joke about life and living and time.  Now I am getting around to writing.

I have the practice of avoiding all my lists of notes, kept in my Google Drive, at first, when starting to write.  Instead, I like a piece of blank paper and a pencil.  I just jot down what is happening right then or happened in the day so far or is about to happen, to the best of my knowledge.  Yesterday, Lynn worked at the Q Gallery, the artists' coop she is a member of, and she was there when I got home from lifting weights.  Our friends recently drove to Minneapolis airport to pick up a relative, do some shopping and sightseeing and come home.  

The woman called Lynn to say she was home and I got to listen to their conversation of a while earlier because our answering machine picked up the call before Lynn did and recorded the whole thing.  I am close to the neighbors, too, and I liked having the chance to hear their talk.  "Answering machine antics" was the first note I made on my scrap paper.  My difficulties the day before getting various devices to connect to the home wireless signal was the 2nd note.

I have a habit of making no more than five notes before settling down to make a choice.  I know from experience that any note can serve and that merely having the idea or basic theme is not the same as completing 300-500 words.  The note can get things started but invariably other ideas will come along and modify and extend the writing.  I thought I might list the full set of ideas I wrote yesterday for this post but it turns out I can't get the notions across without running to several pages.  Rightly or not, I want to get this out.  I want to get tomorrow's post written, too.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Laughter for all

We have very much enjoyed the first two episodes of "Anne with an E" on Netflix. Many people know the story "Anne of Green Gables" (1908) by the most read of Canadian authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery.  "Anne with an E" is a modern version of the excellent story, written by today's Moira Walley-Beckett.  The actual life story of the author of Anne of Green Gables is no walk in the park and has plenty of sadness and loss.

Another writer of great messages is Karen Maezen Miller, author of "Momma Zen", "Hand Wash Cold" and "Paradise in Plain Sight".  I have read her books and I follow her blog.  Whether you are a Buddhist teacher in California or a farmer on Prince Edward Island in Canada's Maritime, you may have been raised on Stoic principles of bearing pain and loss with little emotion.  There are many traditions of silent tenacity, somber forbearance, and tolerance of difficulty and sorrows.

I salute those traditions.  I second them and support them.  I feel confident that pioneer traditions of hard work and steady effort carried settlers across violent seas and hostile continents.

Some people emphasize the existence of tendencies today toward what is often call an attitude of entitlement.  I think the idea is that people today are soft, pampered and defeated by insignificant obstacles that fall in their way.  I am not convinced that is true.  I know you can look at youth today.  Stuck on their phones and even corrupting their elders into hours of gossip on Faceblank and Tivvel. There are traditions of toughness but few of joy, of laughter, of love and appreciation.

You can go down the path of mourning for yesteryear if you want, but I say it is worthwhile enjoying what we have.  Take a look at the former loss of young parents to death, the poverty of the 30's, the steady fight to make the government helpful instead of hateful.  Note the admittedly slow but happily real, steady and motivated improvement of rights respected and wrongs righted.  Note the higher levels of communication and greater respect for all minds.  Celebrate the advances of science and medicine, of wit and clever merriment.  Don't spend too many hours in fear and anger.

Each time you get a good chance, laugh!  Smile!  Compliment!  Thank! I know it isn't what your grandfather did, but you can do it!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"I want some good news"

A friend said,"I want some good news!"  

It seems to me that this desire is both a philosophical/religious one and a communication one.

Say that your cousin emails you that she has been thinking of you and would like to get together for breakfast.  That is good news in itself.  Unless of course, you have been dreading that request.  Of course, it is possible that you have breakfast with her and talk nicely together.  That would be a good accomplishment and it would good internal news that you did that well.  Maybe you find that you do have good news with her request and with the actual breakfast and with the pride you take in conducting yourself well but, sadly, it is not enough.  You still itch for good news, for more good news and for good news to keep on flowing to you.

At this point, I have to ask if you have been meditating.  See, it seems to me that you haven't been.  As animals trapped in wiring that is thousands of years old, we are programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  We want more and more pleasure in all forms and less and less pain.  Meditation and some reading of Pema Chodron, the American grandmother who is a grand dame of a Canadian Buddhist abbey, and some Chang-Meng Tan, the Google jolly good fellow [Honestly, that is his title among others], Sylvia Boorstein, Jack Kornfield and Dan Harris, you can stay on the path of acceptance of your nature.  You can see that you crave this and that and that sometimes you will get what you crave but often you will not.  

You can go into an adolescent funk over not getting your way if you want, but it is better to smirk knowingly about internal messages that demand every day be peachy and no days be negatives ones.  Maybe you remember Kipling's advice: "if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, you will be a man, my son friend." If you can keep your intention to forebear the daily downs and celebrate the daily ups, skies, rain, penalties, unexpected good fortune and continuous electrical power delivered to your house, you will have plenty of good news.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Politics, tea bags and very active chldren

I was impressed that Robert Hutchins, a young college president and then president of the University of Chicago, said that politics is the architectonic science.  I am not a classics scholar nor well-read in the subject of what those guys had to say.  Just now, I tried to verify Hutchins quote and found that Aristotle had said the same thing a couple of thousands years earlier.  


Said what?  That everything depends on politics.  Well, maybe.  Everything includes quite a bit and it all depends on a number of things, depending on your point of view.  Everything depends on gravity and oxygen and structure and time and preceding conditions and other fundamentals, too.  


I like to notice puzzling questions that come to my mind and look them up in Google.  If you think Google is too powerful or snoopy, you can use Bing or Duckduckgo.  Whatever - I like to try "search engines" to see what comes up on subjects that come to mind.  Tea bags came to mind.  I was making tea and I wanted to know if I needed to jiggle the tea bag if I wanted a stronger cup of tea.  Turns out "jiggling" seems less popular for describing tea bag agitation in the cup than "dunking".  Read some articles and immediately was immersed in complexities, variables, details, conditions and definitions. My takeaway: No


I like a small amount of sugar in my tea but I am limiting sugar.  Put some in or not?  That lead to the question: Is a sugar high verified to exist or just a rumor?  Looked it up.  Again with the complexities, variables, details and such.  My takeaway: the sugar high is not verified and may not really exist.


Dunking a tea bag or evaluating a playground of children for sugar highs does not compare with weighty matters like air pollution, national health insurance or levels of unemployment.  So it is not surprising that good people and bad, experts and citizens of every type find themselves involved on complexities, variables, details and disagreements when trying to guide the giants ships of communities, states and the country.  


I recommend some patience, some faith in the future, some hope and some work on your favorite causes, all without driving yourself or your friends to despair.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tea, sometimes

We drink coffee before breakfast and lunch.  It is hard to match the allure of coffee's smell.  But I also like tea.  Lynn used to make a large pitcher of iced tea with several oranges and lemons floating in it.  She put a whole cup of sugar in it, too.  I have read that pound for pound, tea has more caffeine in it than coffee but that the production process for making coffee extracts more caffeine that the way we make tea does.  We used Lipton tea then.  It was considered the drink to have during hot weather, which can be hotter in Maryland over longer periods and muggier than we typically get in Wisconsin.  I am not sure why iced tea is so widespread as a hot weather drink but it has been a common item during my life, an easy alternative to water for children and adults.


About 2 years ago, Lynn developed a sensitivity to caffeine and has been drinking decaf since.  But in small doses, she can tolerate a little caffeine.  I run a short distance three times a week and walk a couple miles on those days, too.  I like to have a cup of tea on those days, although I can't prove that it energizes me.  I like Stash Earl Grey black tea and Stash Irish Breakfast black but my doctor mentioned the supposed health benefits of green tea a couple of years ago.  I like green tea and often drink Stash Moroccan Mint.  Recently, I discovered Republic of Tea Ginger Turmeric green tea and Lynn likes it, too, along with their Jasmine Jazz green tea.


Steve Levine and Patty Caro showed me that the Bible really does say "He brews" so I make our coffee every morning.  I have read that our bodies adjust to caffeine and need more and more of it for a genuine lift or buzz.  So, I try to limit our tea making to alternate weekdays.


I like making tea.  I enjoy my childish impatience: when will the tea finally get hot?  When will the 3 and half minute steep finally be over? The whole operation is good for a jr. Zen student to face his impatience and steep in it.  The drama of hot and cold as the cooling ice cubes enter the hot tea, crackling and splitting, reminds me of that Hawaiian volcano that spills lava right into the cool sea.

Monday, July 3, 2017

No added sugar, nothing of flour

Bright Line Eating has four rules:

  1. No added sugar food

  2. No flour

  3. Three meals a day on time

  4. One plate or weigh the food

I am a clock person and am usually on time and aware of what time it is.  I get full pretty quickly these days so #'s 3 and 4 are no problem.  It is surprising to me how eating no flour affects the daily eating decisions. No sandwiches, no wraps, no toast.  I can do without added sugar rather easily and I do not lust after cakes or cookies.  Good chocolate is another matter and some other candies call me but with diminished hearing and plenty of pride in being good and able to resist, I am doing ok.  I have been following these rules since May 23.  I picked the arbitrary target of a weight of 150.  I weighed about 129 when I graduated from college.  


About 30 years ago, I read a book by two professors of dentistry.  I remember the house we lived in at the time because I went to the kitchen cupboard and looked at our food.  After reading their recommendations, it seemed there was nothing to eat.  I am familiar with that unfounded idea now and I rather welcome it.  I know that humans are wily critters and can scour the possibilities and find things.  Sugar in one form or another gets added to a great many foods.  Doing without it improves my ability to really taste the food I do eat.  I have always liked the taste of kale and lima beans.  I find edamame beans quite similar and very tasty.  I am not badly overweight and I don't mind good 50% butter on the beans and other foods.


Of course, the aim is not just a lower weight but less body fat.  People are always cautioning me that older people, say over 70, might want to have some body fat in case of disease.  The longtime recommendation for younger people has been a Body Mass Index of 25.  Google can calculate BMI in a jiffy.  Mine is a little below 27.  But regardless, I want to reach 150 mostly out of stubbornness.


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