Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Not fandango but minuet

I am not the one to call for patience since I tend to have too little of it myself. But now that I am no longer a teenager, I have seen that my people seem to be vulnerable to manipulation by excited announcements of something new and amazing and world-changing.  Better still, new and amazing research results!!💣💣💣💥

I am here to assert that the new and exciting truth is RARE.  It is hard to come by.  Nine and a half announcements of new truths, new insights, new products, new worlds are come-ons.  They may be cons, they may be wishful thinking, they may be scams.  To use a new word I just met yesterday: chillax.  I won't even use an exclamation point.  

Chill and relax.  Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths.  Think of salt, the traditional accompaniment to over-heated, premature, exaggerated announcements and bulletins.  You don't have to check your phone or ask your sister if she has heard the news.  When you hear of a gadget, an app, a cereal, a liquer, a song, a vegetable or some socks that will change your life, elevate your mood, raise your credit score and lower your cholesterol, look the other way.  With our modern methods of communication, you will hear about this ultimate thrill tomorrow, too.  And the next day.  By then, the truth will leak out and some of the hot gas will dissipate.  

If this new wonder is any good, it will be around next month.  By then, the side effects, the additional charges, the unintended consequences will be better understood and we will all be in a much better position to decide calmly and with full awareness if we want to suffer an additional charge or not.  Life proceeds slowly and worthwhile changes, even in a time fixated on innovation and burdened with puffery, take time to be well and truly evaluated. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

One at a time

I try to use my Kindle Paperwhite like it is the book I am currently reading.  It has a black cover and is about the size of a small book.  It contains about 300 books and it is easy to add books to it. I can tell my computer to send a book to it from my archives or a new one from Amazon.  I can shop for a book from the Kindle and buy it, too.  As soon as I purchase, the book comes to the Paperwhite wirelessly.  

I mentioned to my friend the trouble I had, knowing that many other books were just a tap from the one I was reading.  Just as channel hopping can be a temptation on a television set, book hopping is fast and easy on a Kindle.  I have pretty well learned to concentrate on one good book at a time and not switch all the time.  This is, after all, an age of American distractions - wait, is that my cellphone? - so improving concentration pays off in several settings.

Books loaded into the Kindle are electronic files inside it and are readable without any sort of connection or signal.  Since they are document files, they can be represented on the screen in 10 different fonts and 8 different letter sizes.  The tiniest font is still readable without outside magnification but I have gotten so that I read with the 2nd largest font most of the time.  At times, it is convenient to switch to a tiny font when I am trying to get an entire passage on one page to copy for a note or to send to a friend or to Twitter. Books can be easily moved back off the Kindle into the archives if that is desired.  "Collections" (folders) of next to be read, already read, etc. can be created, accessed or deleted.  

It is easy to look at the book on my computer or my iPad if I want.  The choices and options I have on one device are not identical to what is available on another.  Just as the cloud for Microsoft is not identical to the cloud for Google or Apple, the Amazon reading differs a bit from one device to another.  

Even though I believe in concentrating on one book, I can decide that I have the message, especially in non-fiction.  I keep the excuse at the ready that I only have a declining number of days and should not waste them on inferior or repetitious reading.  There are books that I keep on with, right to the end, but they have to be worth it.  That is not easy in today's market of excellent books in a steady torrent.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Here is my card

Whether it is the name of my blog (Fear, Fun and Filoz), my website (Kirbyvariety), the name on my "business card", or my various names including Grandad, names are a big part of identity.  The name on a car license plate can be substituted for the usual mix of scrambled letters and numbers.  If I were selling salt, I might make them all say "Snake Salt" or whatever name I use to sell my salt.

By the way, it can be fun, in a nerdy way, to think of brand names or other "handles" and test them out in Google.  For a fuller test, put them into Bing and Duckduckgo, too.  For my example, I tried for alliteration and began with "Stellar Salt" but that was already in use in multiple places. I tried "Shack Salt" and that seemed better but I figured "Snake Salt" would not be used to attract customers.  Once I move into "snake" products, looks like I can be some snake repellent powder called that.  It is very difficult to find words not already in use somewhere.

I like to carry a few business cards in my wallet.  I can give one to a person who is interested in my blog.  The card shows the web address of the main blog page and an email address I use frequently.  I purposely left the back blank to offer a good space for a note or two.

I have ordered business cards from Vistaprint several times and been quite satisfied with the results.  I think it is fun to consider different card arrangements and designs.  Vistaprint tries to offer many designs and arrangements.  It is surprising to exit their site because they have lined up many additional products you might want with the card design you have just created on them: mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads, note pads, pens, caps, sweatshirts, magnetic signs for your car, banners to string across your entryway.  They have products!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Parade du femme

Last night, I watched a parade of women for three hours.  There was a benefit for the local family crisis center and artists of various kinds were in a large conference room in a big motel.   Women vendors and women customers with every 121st person a man. As you know, I have never been a woman but I have learned that women's bodies are important to them and to men, perhaps more than they should be.  During the time, I sat and gazed, I saw women of all shapes and sizes.  I realize that there were few women of other groups and that women of "white" skins were the majority.

I was once under the impression that men competed and women did not but now I think that was too simplistic.  Men do cooperate and can do so very well and women do compete, at times and in ways not always evident to me. For instance, I saw women greet effusively and once in a while, I think I detected a contest waged in feminine sensitivity and emoting.  It was pretty clear that "Honey, I can out-emote you any day of the week.  It is futile to try to be more emotional, responsive and demonstrative than me."

I grasp that when you see a former college classmate or bridge partner that you always liked but haven't seen for a decade, you just have to explode in honest joy.  But that one woman, the one who always thought she was better than you, with her, one gets one's challenge up.  Whatever she is selling or whatever she has just purchased, the thing with her is to bubble over with being impressed at her taste, at her luck, at her stuff.

I have heard that "yes, Fred Astaire was very good but Ginger Rogers did it all backwards and in high heels."  I saw that many women are shedding some of the burden of hair-dos and living with simpler haircuts and wearing more comfortable shoes.  But I still suspect that from about 4 years of age on, men don't really experience the care and planning involved in cosmetics, hair care, dress, jewelry and nails that your typical business woman engages in before getting down to business.  I wonder if women have a couple more hours in their day.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Then and now

When I had my first job, not counting delivering newspapers, I worked as a page in the main Baltimore library.  I must have gotten paid then but I don't remember having a bank account.  My greatgrandson has his first job and is now putting money into his bank account.  

I can't remember much about my initial banking experience but I do remember that an account with a saving book or a checkbook or both was a big deal.  It was also about the whole deal.  Going with him to the bank made me think about automatic deposit, keeping track of my money on a spreadsheet, having the bank pay bills for me, both on a regular basis and on a pay as needed basis.  I do things online but online with a computer is so last century.  I don't use their app on my iPad and I don't scan checks and send an electronic image to the bank.  I don't actually use cash very much since I pay by credit card and pay the card bill regularly.  

Of course, the life of a 77 year old man is different from that of a 17 year old but citizen banking is quite different now, too.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Some people make outlandish claims

I am listening to "The Republic of Spin" by David Greenberg, Rutgers professor of history and journalism.  The book is the history of presidential spin, attempts to slant the news by the White House and its political allies.  The series begins with McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, who became president when McKinley was assassinated.  McKinley (president of the US from 1897 to 1901) and Roosevelt became focused on the transmission of information and opinion from newspapers to the public.  I suspect that previous presidents were aware of the role of newspapers, the media of the time, too, but it may have been the size and wide distribution of the population that brought about an increased interest in news management.  

As radio and later, television, became available and greater portions of the public, the same sorts of issues arose: is the president and his staff purposely slanting the news?  Does his grip on newspapers or on radio stations or on television broadcasts give him too much power to control the public's opinion?  The advent of radio and the high skill that FDR had in speaking to the public in "fireside chats" seemed to give him too much access to the voters.  His opposition feared he would be too firmly entrenched.  Television took a some time to supplant radio but it seemed, similarly, that warm, handsome JFK would be such a heartthrob, so good-looking, so manly that voters would clasp him to their hearts forever.  

When Lynn was in graduate school, she had many assignments dealing with the postmodernist approach.  Basically, it was a time of hypersensitivity to the fact that everything I say or write comes from me, and I may well be a slanted source of information.  Hyperbole and exaggeration and blowhard assertion ("I am the greatest blog writer you have ever encountered") are not the potent, hypnotizing strategies they were feared to be.  People today are more armored against ridiculous claims but that doesn't stop the claimers.  Such claims do help them look silly.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stepping back, a little further

When Auntie Mame takes a picture of her beloved husband, he is posed on a mountain side.  She wants a slightly different shot and asks him to step back.  He does and accidentally falls to his death.

I have been taking a step way back more often lately.  I don't want to fall to my death but I find it very helpful to train myself to notice that urges, fears, goals, irritations all come from me.  I understand the Buddhist notion that they are all just thoughts but only recently has it sunk it a little more.  Only recently have I grasped that what is only a thought might be better modified or deleted.  More often I have been feeling a wish or a desire and then quickly thinking "Who is wanting some chocolate?"  When I notice that the chocolate drive is coming from my head, I seem to be able to put it in a little perspective.

I can picture a guy who looks like me, is my age, with my tendencies, abruptly realizing how nice a square of chocolate would be.  I can picture that guy like me manufacturing a chocolate need, probably from somewhere in his gut or from his picture of high pleasures.  I can ask the guy like me if he really wants some chocolate.  Can he feel a distinct chocolate deficiency or is he just a victim of a pushy subconscious that isn't really tuned to less sugar and more deliberate eating?

The same approach of stepping back and ask who is feeling, who is wanting, seems like it is helping me make better use of the knowledge of my sources and my impulses.  Just like a really strong itch that comes up while I am meditating, I can picture my brain and my nervous system dreaming up itches and little adjustments and a bite of this and a drink of that, all without really thinking or evaluating the appropriateness of those little dreams and notions.

Sometimes, when I take a step back, the tendency that has been dancing in the back of my mind fades quickly, like a shadow that is suddenly in the light.  Stepping back can bring about a real change in perspective.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When will it be light?

Where we are, it is noticeably dark for later in the morning, at this time of year.  I like to jog in the morning before drinking or eating but not in the dark.  During these weeks, I keep finding I have to wait longer and longer for the sun, and enough light to really see the road bed.  I don't want to step into a hole or stumble on something.

Sometimes it is said that one of our modern ideas that separates us from the ancients is our use of probability.  Many questions about how probability might help our thinking can arise.  How low does a probability have to be to be small enough to confidently ignore?  One author said that the sun has risen a large number of times and given that trend, we might want to assume that it will rise again tomorrow. So, given the dark and the later sunrise, I have reason to pay attention to the time.  I look out the window to see it if is really light enough yet.  When is the sun going to rise?  Seems to take a long time.  Is it going to rise today? Maybe something has changed and it won't.

Such thoughts got me remembering the problem of inference.  How long a string of sunrises is needed before I can comfortably count on another one?  At first, it seems the longer, the better.  But then, I think of aging.  When I have risen enough times, I may be out of rising power.  So, a long string might mean the probability of another rise is lower, not higher.  Not only living things but machines, too, age and develop malfunctions.  Our garage door, which has behaved well for 24 years, broke today.  It needed one of the springs that raise the door replaced.

Sunrise has been taken to be a very reliable occurrence for a very long time.  I don't know if it will ever fail but I like the day and the night and I hope I continue to get them both.  It seems odd to be staring out at the morning, wondering when it is going to get light, wondering IF it is going to get light.  I bet many others have done that sort of wondering, over millennia.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Another time and place, not this time, not this place

I noticed that some of Shakespeare's plays are set in Italian or Danish or Scottish settings.  I suspect that if I want people to get into a story, it might be better to use a setting that seems romantic or mysterious or scary or whatever.  It may be easier for people to transport themselves far away and into another time.  Many people seem unwilling or unable to believe their time and their location could be as full of import or feeling as a time and place specifically chosen for a well-told story.

Daniel Gilbert has the book "Stumbling on Happiness" and TED talks that show that our minds cannot envision very much detail.  If I tell you that you are in paradise now, you will probably immediately think of the table that needs dusting, the bills that are due, your headache that are part of your current life.  It will probably not seem like paradise - there is too much wrong for it to be heaven.  

But when I ask you to imagine yourself on a Hawaiian beach on warm sand with your favorite person and your favorite drink and your favorite music, you will probably not ask which way the wind is blowing or what day of the week to imagine.  You won't trouble yourself with the latest crime waves there or the current cost of gasoline.  We know that it is not a story until something goes wrong.  In this case, you find that the lovely music is interrupted with the emergency information that a giant tsunami, approximately half a mile wide and 600 feet high is tearing across the ocean right toward your lovely beach.  The crash will be quite devastating and you really should avail yourself of the helicopter service to get you and your favorite up and away to Tahiti, which has completely bypassed.  All accounts have it that Tahiti is lovely this time of year, just heavenly.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

breathe, drink, eat

Breathing, drinking, eating are all regular necessities.  There are many hints and hacks that can be used with breathing to control my attention and what I am letting get to me or give me a lift.  I try to be sure to drink enough water and other fluids each day, even though what is needed is not always really defined.  I have written before about over-hydration, to the level that interferes with my nerve transmission and kills me, as is reported to have happened to a marathon runner who overdid drinking water.  And clearly, many people in the US and elsewhere are having difficulty eating enough but not too much.

I would like to know more about the process of breathing.  I gathered at one time that oxygen actually passed into me during the exhalation of breath but I am not sure that is correct.  Even if it is, I am not clear as to whether I might do better with (slightly) increased oxygenation.  I am also unclear about when exhaling with more force increases my oxygen.  I suspect that even slight increases, maybe even only a couple of times a day, raise my mood and might give me other effects worth having.

I had an operation on my knee when I was 19 as a result of a wrestling injury.  That knee and that leg have been a bit sensitive ever since.  Now, my left ankle is always larger than the right one and that seems to be because the veins and arteries in that leg are a bit screwed up.  Because of that ankle's swelling, I take a diuretic daily.  I seem to have a 24 hour cycle of needing more water and then not needing it.  I have heard of older men who have trouble having enough internal water and I am interested in finding ways to do all right.  Both water and sleep are generally available so I have a long standing interest in good hydration and good sleep since they seem open for grabs.

The matter of food is much more complicated.  Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson and her Bright Line Eating and the 5:2 Diet have both opened our eyes to the actual fun of occasional fasting and semi-fasting.  Her rules of no flour and no added sugar are simple but challenging enough to be engaging.  The 5:2 diet says 600 calories a day for a man and 500 for a woman on two non-consecutive days of the week.  We have both re-learned that we won't die if we skip breakfast, and lunch, too.  It can feel good not to eat and then when we do, the food is extra good.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tools that help

Diminished sight, diminished hearing, various processes not working as well, various unwanted processes working more.  My goal is to enjoy decline, to savor each step down.  What can I use to understand how the possibilities and sequences of life change as I wither?

Gratitude for what I have - That's a biggie.  Many good people don't have the body or the situation or the love or the pleasures I do.  They help me see that I have a great deal.

Humor - I can see more and more clearly how funny I am, others are, we all are.  For instance, the idea of hypocrisy: I say I don't like cashews but I eat them by the handfuls.  That's one reason my book du jour is "Before You Know It" by Prof. John Bragh, a psychologist at Yale.  Reading about the unseen, unnoticed forces that get a handful of cashews into my chomping jaws 'before I know it' helps me see that plenty of impulses and drives nudge me this way or that without my noticing them. The growth and current fascination with artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks and related topics shows me that we human thinkers normally can't or at least, don't follow the implications of an idea or belief very far.  Say I really like cashews but I never realized that investing in the funds and businesses I do works against promoting the cashew crop.

Exercise - There are many exercises I can't do and many that I am not interested in.  But, yoga, purposeful slow and deep breathing, interval bursts of running or biking, even this typing helps me remember my body still has more amazing possibilities than I even know about, much less take time to use.  We are living in a time when it is quite clear that exercise can be medicinal but beyond continued abilities, it is a pleasure to walk, to lift, to consciously crouch and stoop and stretch.

Acceptance - When I was five years old, my six year old cousin, Tommy, died in the hospital from a blood clot to the brain after a tonsil operation.  I had an early introduction to the fact that grandparents live a long time but anyone at any time can come to an end of their living period.  I do find it helpful to keep in mind that Tommy and my parents and my daughter and everyone else does not "end".  They only change form.  True, it is a deep change from a living, thinking, responding form to a very inert, dissipated one but they are still around and I will be, too.

Friday, October 20, 2017


I try to use regular writing to stay aware of my life, internally and externally.  I have a tendency to go through life focused on the moment, which can be good.  But, stopping daily to ask what's on my mind can allow me to continue thinking about something, to keep on reading in a subject or story, to notice what is going on, good and not so good.  I usually find five themes that seem current, not too repetitious, not too scandalous, not too technical, not too boring.  Then, I pick the one from the bunch that seems to be most inspiring and write it up.

Here are five for today:

  1. I don't feel attracted to today's date.  It is the 19th. That seems like a dull, nondescript number, doesn't it?  Of course, if it is your birthday or the anniversary of your marriage, if it's payday or the day when you get the job you wanted, that 19 may well stand out.

  2. Attention!  It is quite elastic and zoomey.  You can pay attention to a mountain or to a tiny spot.  You can pay attention to something imaginary like Tom Sawyer or to your picture of what tomorrow will be like.

  3. Worn-out overdone themes in my writing.  When I am deeply interested in 1954 Chevrolet cars and you are not, my constant reference to them, my comments about them, my loving memories of adventures in them, etc., etc., can get you fed up.  I want to be accessible and not too boring, although I am not sure why.

  4. "It's all me time" - Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen teacher and writer.  Her blog post "What happens on retreat" http://karenmaezenmiller.com/happens-on-retreat/ includes a mention that she came to realize that all her time is "me time" and it is, of course.  It is handy to be able to recall that judgments, fears, happiness and sadness come from ourselves.

  5. Breathing as a mental focus, as a refuge from fantasy and effortful cogitation and complex planning and hoping.  I used to sneer at too much focus on breathing but I am changing my mind about its importance with books such as "Conscious Breathing" by Hendricks.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Earth wins!

Hollywood, the news media and an impartial panel of jurors have unanimously selected Earth from the billions of planets as our official favorite planet.  It has a long history of being our beloved home and the base that all our spacemen and spacewomen return to after journeys in space.  It was noted that there are planets closer to the sun and planets farther out in the solar system.  Jupiter has storms that last for 300 years and Earth has nothing that can compare with that (so far).  But, all in all, Earth is our favorite planet.  Most of us were actually conceived and born right on the surface of good ol' Terra and we have a warm place in our hearts for this medium-sized ball with just the right tilt. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Better group work

I think the first time I experienced the effect of a free group talk was in the basement of my dorm during my freshman year of college.  The recipe seems to be to assemble a group of 8 to 10 sharp, quick-thinking young men in front of a tv playing something silly, sappy and semi-predictable.  You don't want to the material to be too off-putting or too gripping.  The best results come when the group starts to make flippant remarks about the speech, actions, character, or likely future twists and scenes in the show. I think that it is very difficult to predict what remarks will be made.

Similarly, a committee with a mission can take unusual turns and leave predictions behind.  I served on a campuswide committee to select a pivotal officer whose office is important to all departments and all students.  After a year of examining applications, including some with very high level backgrounds, the committee voted to extend the search for another year.  Again with the applications, interviews and discussions.  At the end of a second year, they voted to offer the job to the interim, acting officer who had maintained the office during the two year process. Who would have predicted that?

An even more powerful source of ideas, new perspectives and hilarity is a conversational-sized group of older people.  They often have the breadth of knowledge and the speaking ability plus both quick thinking and wide-ranging backgrounds to put together comparisons, memories, prospects and perspectives that shake up everyone's thinking.  People today have read, they have long memories, they have traveled.  They are in communication with many others, including those in a different culture.  That implies that even wider-range thinking will be available during the coming years.

From a Google search on "increase in centarians":

The world was home to nearly half a million centenarians (people ages 100 and older) in 2015, more than four times as many as in 1990, according to United Nations estimates. And this growth is expected to accelerate: Projections suggest there will be 3.7 million centenarians across the globe in 2050.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This business of being human

The title of this post is suggested by the famous poem by Rumi (1207-1273).  I don't usually get to write dates in the 1200's.  The poem is usually called "The Guest House" and my friend mentioned it the other day.  It is referred to more often in writings I read than any other poem by that poet and it basically says to welcome what comes along in life and learn to appreciate it.  The poem can be found here


If that link is a bit too long and complicated, use this shortened version made at Goo.gle, the Google shortener: https://goo.gl/QMwrGA

As meditation and mindfulness, secular or part of any religion or spiritual activity becomes more and more recognized for the valuable tool that they are, our society, with its free expression and its critical thinking, naturally turns to examining the practice of meditation and the conscious awareness of how our minds are being used.  Criticism, doubt, ridicule emerge as well as salutation, application and realization of the value of 10 minutes a day.

I suppose in Rumi's day, quiet, boredom and dullness were a major problem.  They can certainly still be so today, too, but social media, new gadgets, faster news delivered in more frightening or even misleading forms, endless swarms of medical procedures guaranteed to make me young, strong and handsome create forces that can overwhelm me.

I agree with my friend and with the poet that welcoming all comers and all events and even all challenges can make for an enhanced, engaged, enriched life, up to a point.  Too many people, too many deals, too much activity, even overwhelming fright, joy or thrills and I may have to shut my door for a while.  It is still my job to watch over me and keep myself in balance.  From the ancients to today, a little moderation is still a good idea.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Let us care for you

The October 9 volume of the New Yorker (black and white cartoon cover) includes an article by Rachel Aviv entitled "The Takeover".  It is non-fiction and is about a corruption of legal guardianship for senior citizens.  As we age, we may get into a state where we don't make good decisions and need help.  However, we may not.  But a colluding mess of judges and others can change me into a ward of the state with a given person selected to watch over me.  Aviv's article focuses on a professional guardian who had over 400 "wards".  The guardian has complete access to the ward's bank accounts and authorization to sell any and all property, to decision where the ward must live and similar controls.

In the case of children, mentally impaired adults and seniors who truly need help, the arrangement makes sense.  In the case of older citizens with funds, property and good health, it totally does not.

You may be able to read the article here:


Rachel Aviv has other worthwhile and protective articles here


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Who is going to be chosen? What will be selected?

Not long ago, I felt fed up with competition.  I thought it would be nice if everyone tried to see the good in themselves and others.  We could all appreciate each other's motives, hopes, disappointments.  What do we need competition for, anyway?

Then, I read Eagleman's "Incognito" about the large part of my brain that is incognito, unconscious, inaccessible to my conscious mind.  One part emphasizes the idea that I can have contradictory desires and drives: eat a chocolate but refrain from added sugar.  So, the author's image is that of contradictions being kicked upstairs to the executive office of the conscious mind for resolution.

I realize that if I want the job and you want the job, we are going to be competing.  I see that I benefit from having several companies design and sell computers so I have a choice and they don't have sole control of the market.  But I didn't realize that I can find competition right inside my own mind.  So, it is not just all those knights vying for her hand and it is not just all those Cinderellas competing for the glass slipper.  Struggle and opposition is even inside me.  

I should have seen it coming.  A long time ago, I wrote my dissertation on decision-making.  Even Ben Franklin had to make a list of reasons for and against something when he had a tough, tricky, almost balanced choice.  When two or more cities want a new Amazon plant in their area, there is going to be competition.  Each meal is a competition between foods.  Each book or movie is a choice from a set of possibilities.

I have trained myself to have a red light go on when I hear about "the best".  It doesn't much matter whether it is the best warrior, the best poet or the cutest baby.  Getting the best just about requires some arbitrary and debatable decisions about the criteria for superiority.  I am quite aware that changes in the criteria bring different "best" whatevers.  Best baseball batter?  What bats?  What stadiums?  What hours of the day or night?

But I do see that there is only one now.  Just now, I can only choose this or that.  There is one me only and I can't go in two directions.  It is not just arbitrary choices.  There are fundamental choices and in many of them, only one of us will win.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


I am not a total fan of technology but I realize that my life is quite different from that of my grandparents and their grandparents.  There are many differences but I think the biggest difference is in the area of electricity.  Amazon or somebody made me aware of the book "Electric Universe" by David Bodanis.  It really is a very good book.  While reading it, the book "Electricity in the Human Body" by Dame Frances Ashcroft.  ("Dame" is the British honorific for women and is equal to "Sir" somebody, a Knight).  Prof. Ashcroft is a professor of anatomy and physiology at Oxford University.  She is a specialist in ion channels, special proteins in human cells that allow only some substances to pass into or out of the cell.  

The ion channels manage their work by making use of electrical forces and are fundamental to all the body processes, including all the senses we have.  

The ancients were, in some cases, aware of magnets and of lightning but rarely thought there was any connection.  If you have never read the story of how the telegraph, the telephone, legs of dead frogs and bodies of executed criminals lead to more research and more thought about what electricity is, it is very worth going through.  Both of the books mentioned above related the story but Ashcroft's veers a little more toward the body while Bodanis includes more about machines and engines and in nature.

You may have been in a cabin or camping and experienced life for a while without electricity.  The Colorado town that had its own little generating station under pressure and leadership of Stanley of automobile fame has a sign on it that says when it was built, nobody expect anyone would want electricity 24 hours a day.  Yet, in today's America, we do for the most part want electricity all the time.  Refrigeration, television and other communication, those depending for life on special machines such as iron lungs, operating room illumination and many other aspects of life today depend on a steady supply of electrical power.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Shared from BBC:A new way to look at emotions – and how to master yours


​I don't want to pester you to death but this article from the BBC Futures area is worth looking at.  Bill​

Review of recent trip

Maine and Vermont figure in my family history and my own experience.  My high school teacher ran a summer camp in Vermont and invited me to work there.  I did for two summers and had a very good experience.  Later, in college, I worked in a summer camp in Maine.  It was from there that I launched a bus trip from Portland, ME to Orlando, FL after my girl friend (now my wife of 57 years) complained of the pain and despair we both were feeling and asked me to do something about our job-based summer separation.  

From what I can tell, my grandfather's family was based in Maine before some of them moved to Baltimore, much farther south.  It may be that bits of speech and accent habits still linger in me from my New England roots.  

We visited central Maine.  The state has a very irregular ocean coastline and many islands in its waterways and off its shores.  Wisconsin does not have any ocean boundaries but we do have the gigantic Lake Superior along the north edge and the equally gigantic Lake Michigan along the eastern edge.  Lake currents are not in the league of ocean currents but the latitude of the two states is quite similar.  The forestation is similar so the fall colors of the leaves is similar, too.

I saw plenty of houses and businesses that looked like they were having financial problems.  Recent data suggest to me that the median income in Maine is not very different from that of Wisconsin but it is true that the reported figure for Wisconsin is higher.  

The people we spoke to, both casual and impromptu, and when conducting real business were forthright, cheerful and fun to talk to.  Much of my typical day relates not to people or surroundings but to books du jour.  I looked for something in my Kindle books that seemed a little different from my recent fare and chose "The Accidental Universe" by the physicist/ humanist Alan Lightman.  Lightman turns out to have summered in Maine for decades so I felt on track with him.  One of my favorite writers and essayists is E.BWhite and his Maine background is famous.  

Our car was a Nissan Altima and one of the models where the remote only needs to be inside the car for the engine button to start the car if in the right gear and a foot is pressing on the brake.  Modern cars can be different and we started driving at night.  Lynn likes to drive and she is appropriately cautious while being a quick learner.  I don't mind if she drives and I use the Apple Maps app to get us where we are headed.  I did drive a little but she did most of it.

Maine, of course, is famous for lobster.  They even have the lobster on their license plate:

I had a lobster roll, chunks lined up in a hot dog roll, and a lobster quesadilla.  We learned that lobster is now considered a high-class food but about 1850 was considered the "cockroach" of the ocean.  It was plentiful but looked down upon.  Some of the improvement in its acceptance came from cooking the live lobster in boiling water instead of killing it and then cooking it.  It is a high protein food and was fed to the state's prisoners so often that there was a riot over too much lobster. So much of it served was called "cruel and unusual punishment". The legislature passed a rule that lobster could not be served to the incarcerated more than twice a week. Lobster has come up in the world since then.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Might be of interest to anyone

This is Google's new effort to make useful information available to those who want to improve or grow in some way. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Just sent to a friend

I don't know what you are reading or thinking about but it seems to me that if you are looking around for new directions, there are two books that might be worthwhile. One is "Incognito" by Eagleman and the other is "Electric Universe" by Bodanis.  Maybe not your usual material but very eye-opening and thought provoking.  Bill

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fwd: U.S. Political Landscape, Automation, Guns in America

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Pew Research Center <info@pewresearch.org>
Date: Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 2:39 PM
Subject: U.S. Political Landscape, Automation, Guns in America
To: olderkirby@gmail.com

56% of Americans say they would not want to ride in a driverless car.
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October 05, 2017

The partisan divide on political values grows even wider

Partisan divisions over fundamental political values, which grew during Barack Obama's tenure as president, have continued to widen during Donald Trump's presidency. Democrats and Republicans particularly disagree on government aid to the needy, racial discrimination, immigration and global involvement. Read key takeaways from the report.

Covering President Trump in a polarized media environment

Coverage of President Donald Trump's first 100 days from news outlets with a right-leaning audience differed from those with a left-leaning or mixed audience when it came to positive or negative assessments of Trump and the number of source types cited in their stories. But all mostly framed their coverage around character and leadership rather than policy.

Automation in everyday life

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence have the potential to automate a wide range of human activities and to dramatically reshape American life. Though Americans expect certain positive outcomes from these developments, they are concerned about these technologies' implications for society as a whole. Read key findings from the report.

America's complex relationship with guns

Our June report took an in-depth look at Americans' attitudes toward and experiences with guns, including their views on gun violence and gun policies. Among the findings: About seven-in-ten Americans say they have fired a gun at some point and 42% currently live in a gun-owning household.

Key trends in social and digital news media

Digital news and social media continue to grow, with mobile devices rapidly becoming one of the most common ways for Americans to get news. As journalists and others in media gather for the annual Online News Association conference, read 10 key findings about today's digital news media landscape.

Many countries favor specific religions, officially or unofficially

More than 80 countries favor a specific religion to some extent. Islam is the most common government-endorsed faith, but many governments give privileges to Christianity. Most governments around the globe, however, are generally neutral toward religion. Read key facts from the report.

After record migration, 80% of Syrian asylum applicants approved to stay in Europe

Syrians filed more than twice as many asylum applications as any other origin group during Europe's record migration surge in 2015 and 2016. In all, more than half a million asylum seekers from Syria had received permission to stay in Europe, at least temporarily, as of Dec. 31, 2016.

Republicans' optimism about future of GOP declines

The share of Republicans who are very or somewhat pessimistic about the future of their party has nearly doubled, from 20% in December 2016 to 39% today. This decline in optimism can be seen particularly among college-educated Republicans.

Hispanic dropout rate hits new low, college enrollment at new high

The Hispanic dropout rate was 10% in 2016; just five years earlier, that rate had been 16%. Meanwhile, 47% of Hispanic high school graduates ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in college in 2016, up from 32% in 1999.

Public attitudes toward human rights organizations: The case of India, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico

Early coverage of the Trump presidency rarely included citizen voices

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To learn about other giving opportunities such as planned gifts or institutional grants, please contact Andrew Ansel in Philanthropic Partnerships at aansel@pewtrust.org or (202) 540-6264.

Media Mentions

Americans more divided along party lines than ever


Democrats, Republicans see eye-to-eye on almost nothing, according to an extensive new poll


Will your job be automated? 70 percent of Americans say no

The associated press

More than 70% of US fears robots taking over our lives

The guardian

News Coverage Of Trump More Negative Than For Other Presidents


Islam Is Most Official, But Christianity Is Most Favored Worldwide

Christianity Today

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