Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fwd: Waltz of the Flowers

​I watched the (1) BigGeekDad video linked below and set to the Waltz of the Flowers.  Very worth seeing.  The music got me in the mood for Tchaikovsky.  My sophomore year of college was when my roommate played Capriccio Italien  ​and that music has since often given me a strong lift.  It turns me into a young Russian traveling in Italy where the sun is warm and life rolls along merrily.  I hadn't heard that music in a while.  Here is a good YouTube link to it:

Subject: RE: Waltz of the Flowers

We just watched it.  Wow!  That is amazing.  Thanks


Subject: Waltz of the Flowers


Everyone enjoy this one.  AMAZING!!!


This has to be the most brilliant chain reaction display ever created with marble and magnets as it is synchronized to the music perfectly.


Prepare to be amazed as you watch a series of moves by marbles and magnets set to the song "Waltz of the Flowers" by Tchaikovsky.





Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Modern miracles of communication

It is difficult to communicate with people.  There are so many ads and scams that people are reluctant to look at email or answer phones.  Generally, communication needs to be two-way to be useful.  If I drive to your house and we sit in the living room and talk, I can see your body language and you can see mine.  If I don't understand something you say, I can apologize for my limited hearing and ask you to repeat yourself.  I can get closer to you and show in several ways that I am interested in what you are saying and that I am trying to listen fully. 

When I phone you, you have gotten rid of your landline.  If I am lucky, I may get you live on the phone but our phones are not quick at switching from one of us to the other.  You are shopping in the local market at the time and are reluctant to discuss problems with your friend and his temper aloud among the produce shoppers.  You tend to move the phone off to the side while you bag some broccoli crowns with wet hands.  Then, I can't hear you and you can't hear me.  Your phone is easy to switch off by accident and when you realize it is off, you turn it on.  Before we can reconnect, you get a reminder about tomorrow's dental appointment and an ad about a great sale in the store next door. 

The next time I call you, you have set your phone to go to voicemail on every call in an attempt to be interrupted less often. So, I don't get to hear your voice.  That's ok. I write you an email explaining it all.  But that email address has been put on the back burner.  The software is slow and subject to spam filters and some of my messages don't get through to your mailbox.  There is another email address or two that you are using these days and you get a ton of email in them.  That means that the old email address I had and used is rarely checked.  How come we aren't in touch more?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Worry, mothers and gender

Everything is going to be ok.
Well, everything that matters.
What matters?
I don't know.  Just don't worry.

I have been noticing that most of the worries I hear about are stated by women.  Guys care about women and they feel that worrying is less pleasant than not worrying.  So, they urge their wives, mothers and sisters not to worry. Thoreau said that men lead lives of quiet desperation, but I think many men figure the odds, or feel the odds, but proceed as though they will do all right. A guy can simply decide to charge ahead, disregarding enemy gunfire or the blazing forest.  He may end up dead but he can do that.

My psychologist and counselor friends say that telling someone who is worrying not worry is not an effective way to halt their worrying.  I think they are right.  If someone is worried that we are too low on milk, I find that they can quickly switch to worrying that we will run out of eggs. Today's high communication world provides us with a very long list of potential worries.  

What about the money supply?  Is the atmosphere getting polluted?  What is Russia going to do?  Is it true that she is pregnant?  Is it true that she can't get pregnant?

My theory is that feminine worry is part of the equipment nature provides to continue the species.  Some women never bear a child but most seem to be basically designed for motherhood.  If a woman does become a mother, it is the next five years that are sensitive to the child's future.  Is the child going to catch a bad disease?  Is the child sleeping well?  The mother may be young but she is much more adult than the newborn.  The mother is often the main person for keeping an eye on the child, literally and figuratively.  

A newborn is famously helpless.  A mother who watches and worries may keep the child warm, well-nourished, safe and both loved and aware of being loved.  A father may just assume that the child is warm enough, has been sufficiently fed and is safe.

An important characteristic of women is their interest in others.  Men are also interested in others, but they seem likely to be quite interested in independence.  I wouldn't offer help to another man unless I felt there was a cleared indicated need for help.  I have read of a big difference between women and men in their ability to ask for help.  With male hormones and a male life, I am likely to feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, a big no-no for men.  Since everyone needs help at times, those with less obstacles to asking for and accepting help can have an advantage.  

Of course, we pioneer Americans know the value of figuring out how to live without help.  When we are out in the wilderness and there is no one to help us, we have to chop out a living on our own.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Rib lost, rib found

This is a rib.  Not that kind of rib.  The kind that Lynn uses to mold and smooth clay.  Clay has to be kneaded to get the air out.  Then, it is a big lump.  This was a favorite tool to smooth and level the clay to be ready to work with.  Actually, that is not true at all, she tells me as I read what I have written.  The tool is important to roughen any two surfaces that are going to be joined by plastic clay.  The roughing makes for a better stronger join.

There are clay bits, and smears and chunkettes clinging to the rib after each use.  So, put it in the pail of water to loosen and dissolve the clay to clean the rib.  That pail water can be quite full of clay bits which we don't want in our plumbing.  So she takes the pail outside, twirls it to get the clayish water stirred up and tosses the water on the ground.  Clay back to clay, so to speak. 

This beloved tool was nowhere to be found.  There are many pots and boxes of tools in the working area.  All got checked and that rib was not there.  Oh, no, what if the rib was in the clayish water and got tossed out in the snow.  Hope not.  It is so thin and the snow is deep enough that we won't find it until late April or whenever the snow melts.  Then, we will see a small, shiny metal plate on the ground.  She will have to order a new one.

Why not take a look?  Odds are against finding it but wait!  What's that little bright line in the snow?  The rib!  Found it!

So pleasant!  So satisfying!  The errant tool is returned.  Yes, three dollars saved but that is not the point.  The point is what was lost, sadly and irritatingly lost, is found, recovered, returned.  Yay!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Gold standard, science and individuals

You may know that supposedly the "gold standard" in science and research is the doubly randomized trial.  Humans are very smart and sensitive so when I try out the turnip cure for the heebie-jeebies, I need a group of people who don't get my turnips and a group who does.  To meet the gold standard, it would be best if I draw names from the entire human population randomly.  Put everyone's name in a really big jar and mix them well and draw out, maybe 1000 or ten thousand names for the control group and an equal number for the experimental group that gets my turnips.  I need to run the whole operation is such a way that neither the people nor the food servers know which is which or who is who. 

But even after I do all that and my turnip treatment does marvelous things, there is much more.  For instance, check out the work of Prof. John Ioannidis.  He is the guy who has shown repeatedly that over time, the entire medical and health establishment, here and elsewhere, can expect that the worth of my turnip treatment for the heebie jeebies can be expected to fall.  Today, it really helps.  Ten years from now, not so much.  We try to capture unyielding, reliable truth with my experiment but as the Buddhists say: Everything changes.  

We change.  Heebie-jeebies change.  Turnips change.  Scientific tests change and experiment procedures change.  

So, what can we do?  The same thing we always do: think, try, work at lessening the negative impact and suffering caused by heebie-jeebies.  Improve our ability to live with heebie-jeebies.  Maybe find ways to enjoy heebie-jeebies.  Maybe find ways to profit by them.  

I am an individual.  I am unique, not uniquer than you, though.  There is no one else born where I was born, sitting now where I am sitting, just my age, with just my internal and external make-up and history.  You are unique.  We are individuals.  In truth, we can be divided but we conceptualize ourselves as fundamental units, unlike (in some ways) any other.  So, maybe we will improve our ways of understanding me and my heebie jeebies, my suffering and my ways of living.  Maybe in the case of the heebie-jeebies or anything else, we will learn to understand me and understand you more deeply, more quickly, more completely.  We may develop alternative standards for treating individuals based more on the unique combinations we are.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Getting breathed

We get breathed all the time, starting with that first cry we made on emerging from Mom to now.  I write "get breathed" because it can really feel that way.  From several sources, I learned that using my abdomen to open my lungs increases my capacity to inhale.  Consciously taking action to "improve" seems natural but to sit quite quietly and relax enough to feel my body take its own breath in its own time, to its own depth, is surprising.  When I drop any effort to change my breathing and just feel it happening, it is very clear that something other than the conscious director ME is deciding when to breathe, how long to inhale, how long to rest and how to exhale.  

All sorts of descriptions and observations can be made about the breath.  Recommendations and alterations can be created and tried.  Various breathing specialists counsel deeper breaths, more complete exhalations, slower breaths, quieter breaths, faster breaths, noisier breaths.  If I try for the highest number of breaths per minute that I can muster, the "breath of fire" (not the video game but the yoga practice) is the thing.  It can shake me up and energize my whole body.  There are some good YouTube videos on breath of fire and many others on breathing.

A common piece of advice for meditation is to "follow the breath".  Having just listened to Dr. Andrew Weil, I much prefer the wording "observe your breath."  We could say "Get into your breath."  If you sit quietly and relax and let your body decide when to take a breath, it is amazing.  Something in you knows it is time.  You can feel your lungs take in air and you can feel your exhalation. If you want, you can get all worried.  Will there be another arising?  What if the force forgets?  Then, happily, another breath arises.  And this has been going on 24 hours a day since you were born!  How can you not be stunned by your amazing self?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Shamed or ashamed

I learned a while back that some thinkers have thought that primitive cultures have relied on shame as a social tool while more advanced ones have used guilt.  I got to thinking about shame today. 

I have not been conscious of being shamed at any time in my life.  Meaning there has not been a time when a group whose opinion I cared about told me that I was a poor excuse for a human being and should be ashamed of being so…..whatever: lazy, corrupt, indifferent to my duties or something along that line.  If I myself hold the opinion that I am ugly, a loser or a failure in carrying out my duties, I am ashamed of myself. 

When you and your friends or some other group hisses and jeers, you are shaming me.  If I take your low opinions of me as a compliment because I feel you guys are stupid, wrong-thinking, duped, your name-calling and talking to others about my poor performance, my poor essential worth or my deserving of a low level of social rank might not mean too much.  I realize that if you get some big contributors who have bags of money to put negative words about me on tv, in the papers, and on the internet, I may suffer.  However, I may not feel ashamed.  I may feel emboldened and vindicated in my way of life and my opinions.

However, I feel Ashamed, if I make my own personal judgment that I am wrong, evil and bad, that is a very different kettle of fish, it seems to me.  It is a horse of a different color.

At first, Adam and Eve were both unclothed but they were not ashamed.  As some commentators have noted, why should they be?  They had not designed themselves and they were designed by the great Designer so their design was pretty good, no? But after eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they 1) knew they were naked and 2) they were ashamed and felt the need to cover you-know-what with leaves, maybe fig leaves.  

Genesis says that the couple hid from God and explained their behavior to him saying they were naked and felt the need to cover up.  He asked them,"Who told you that you were naked?"  Well, Sir, it was the woman and it was the snake and it was the fruit we ate, the fruit you told us not to eat.

There seems to have been a sudden conviction that they should not have been parading around without "aprons" (Genesis 3:7, KJV).  I have read that God or evolution must be a sanitation engineer since only someone with that background would run sewer lines through such a recreation area.

So, our bodies, our behavior, our failures, the difference between what we feel we must do and be vs. our actual record: it is not that difficult to find discord between the record and our plans.  Sometimes, it is the plans our parents or others had for us.  But we can usually find something to be ashamed of.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Little blue cells

Hercule Poirot sometimes refers to his little gray cells.  The ones in his brain.  I have never seen real brain cells but I believe they are grayish or white-ish, depending on their function.  When I look up "brain cells" in a Google search and click on images, many are shown in a blue color.  Maybe it was artistic license or maybe the brain was dyed.  It might have been instructive graphic techniques to paint some area blue for comprehension. 

Whatever, since I have been hearing about brain cells and the impulses they send to each other, I have been envisioning drives and urges I am trying to inhibit or ignore as originating from a few cells here or some cells over there.  When I am trying to resist the urge to eat a cookie but I still feel drawn to doing so, I practice picturing the eat-a-cookie module of my brain sending small electrical charges to my do-it-and-do-it-now module.  Then, I ask myself,"Do I want to let a few microscopic cells push me around?  They are way smaller than me.  They don't have my background or club memberships.  I want to stay in the driver's seat and not follow their limited advice!  They just do their thing but they don't see the bigger picture."

When a five year old is quite excited and cute about his idea of bathing the cat, I might well step in and block his project.  My good sense and sympathy for the cat may propel me to distract the child or forcefully prevent him from proceeding.  Similarly, my little blue cells may think they are doing a fine job for me when spotlighting the possibility of a cookie, I may distract them with a walk or a Sudoku or a substitute, say, a cup of herbal tea. Part of me is older and wiser and that part has the duty to be the baddie when needed.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"Ten seconds, Chef"

Those words "10 seconds, Chef" were spoken in the Acorn TV streaming of "Delicious".  Acorn specializes in British TV.  Whether it is British, Canadian, Australian or American, I get tired of yet another killer.  I get that it isn't a story until something bad happens.  In "cozy"mysteries, the poisoner of the cat or the murderer of the maid may have already performed the dastardly deed before our story begins.  Or, the awful news may be delivered from offstage by a neighbor or by one officer to another.  Cozies tend to have little or no depictions of gore, pain, torture and such things as disturb us. 

The Delicious program only had a few episodes but caught our attention.  I am trying to be alert to programs that have a good story to tell that is not about blood, death, explosions or dismemberment. Those four are all important but most of our hours do not deal with any of them.  The Delicious story has some good twists and surprises.  The first episode is about a chef who is particular and expert, whose establishment draws diners from distant places in all over Cornwall. 

At one point, the chef asks an assistant when the sauce will be ready and he is answered,"Ten seconds, Chef".  The assistant was stirring steadily and was clearly timing his work very carefully.  As an amateur, 4th rate cook (there are only 4 ratings), I have no dishes or responsibilities that require such accurate and intense timing.  So that response the assistant made to the chef has stuck in my head. Wow! They are really careful.  When I am doing a burst of intensity on an exercycle or timing green tea, I think "10 seconds, Chef" as I watch the seconds slide by.

A little comment in the details of the script spoken by an unimportant character can have surprising resonance.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Quakers, Buddhists and just me

I saw three college students lying in various positions on the floor.  I thought they were asleep but they were practicing their transcendental meditation.  I read various references to meditation and "The Inner Game of Tennis".  "The Relaxation Response" and the audio "The Higher Self" - they all got me meditating.  I didn't want religious renewal.  I just wanted better relations day by day and minute by minute with myself and with life as I live it.

Along came Lynn's leading into the Society of Friends, the Quakers (Thanks, Diane).  I could immediately see strong parallels between the Friends' practice and meditation.  The Quakers started in England about 300 years ago and they were very controversial at the time, partly for their convictions that social and religious rank and war were bad ideas and partly for their approach to direct religion without trained pastors or priests.

Some authors approach meditation as a stress relief tool.  In Buddhism and Quaker religion, sitting quietly awaiting guidance from heaven or holy power is a valuable and much used path.  I knew that being quiet inside was a very old practice, motivated by many different needs and ideas but I wanted directions that did not include religious language, simply because my American public school background wanted something available to all people, of all groups, religions and persuasions.  Even the Quakers are somewhat split between the Christocentric Friends and the Universalist Friends.  

The use of our minds is common to us all, so psychology it is.  No surprise really that a method of quieting the mind used by ancient Hindus well before the Buddha was born and by ancient Christians (see "Lost Christianity" by Jacob Needleman, $4.99 for Kindle) is so simple that it is not easily packaged for modern consumers.  As Dan Harris, the ABC newsman who took up mediation as a stress relief measure, says, meditation has had a very poor public relations exposure.  All sorts of crosslegged gurus on the floor in some kind of special position.  

Two minutes a day, ten minutes a day or a weekend retreat.  Psalm 46 "Be still".  That's the ticket: stillness and silence inside, however much noise there is in the nursery or the alley.  Attend to your breathing or the corner of a picture frame.  The point is that minds wander but training can increase your awareness of when the wandering begins.  As soon as you catch it, back to your breath or the corner.  The timer rings and you are free.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

C'est moi, maybe

Sometimes people get irritated with me.  They say something like "You're a pain!" I try not to take it personally.  I realize they are probably having a bad day.  I can explain their perceptions based on their brains, their sensitivities, their fears and problems.  

I don't tend to be as quick to remember that MY perceptions and MY moods tend to come to me from me.  I don't first think that I am having a bad day.  Instead, I tend to first think that other driver is creeping along at a slow pace that actually makes his car a dangerous obstacle on the road.  I can see that I am not as quick to allow for the mental and emotional mechanisms involved when they are my own.

When a person is involved in marriage, teaching, business, social exchanges, much of the action is in the minds and habits and aims of the speaker or the listener.  But both the speaker and the listener are members of groups of others, some rather small and intimate groups and some with large number of members.  Family, team, region, religion, political parties and causes, cultures, chronological age groups, historical periods - they can all matter.  

So, sometimes, a person's ideas or impulses are propelled by neither the maker of a remark nor the hearer.  The way my grandmother acted when praised, the way my pastor reacted to references to sexual matters might be the root of my own reaction.  I don't have time nor sensitivity nor memory enough to notice all my own filters and habits, let alone recognize their sources and the models I learned from.  

All my perceptions actually come from me.  I am the first system things in me come though.  Your reactions and comments come from you, carefully thought out or dropped casually, before they get run through me.  Other people than either of us, having whispered about you or me or us, or openly and directly talked to or influenced us, are often connected to what you and I talk about and feel.  But like my grandmother or her grandmother or my pastor's grandmother, people we don't know and many that we never met, such as an emperor of the Roman empire or Clara Barton may have laid down a path or an obstacle that is guiding us both without our realizing it.  

One of my heros, W.E. Deming, emphasized in his influential study of organizations and their improvement, that rules as well as actual physics have their influence, too.  If I drop dishes often, we can suspect it's me.  But a single slippery dish or a startling noise or a slippery floor might be the basic cause, whatever you think of my carefulness.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Rising in the ranks

Typically, you can be rewarded for talent and intelligence and reliability by getting a job and rising in the ranks.  We tend to look up to the manager.  But what if nobody is hiring?  What if you get a job but you won't be promoted because your family and you are Muslim?  What if you like the basic work, whatever it is, but you don't like managing people?  Maybe you did get a job and you found that the basic work was boring, uncomfortably hazardous, too demanding.  

Once, our people were hunter-gatherers.  Then, we became farmers.  Then, we started manufacturing.  We only did the farming during the last 10,000 years.  We only did manufacturing during the last three centuries and mostly for only 1 and a half to 2 of them.

In 1698, Thomas Savery, an engineer and inventor, patented a machine that could effectively draw water from flooded mines using steam pressure. Savery used principles set forth by Denis Papin, a French-born British physicist who invented the pressure cooker.

Who Invented the Steam Engine? - Live Science

To go from hunting to farming to being on the job when the whistle blows in order to receive some money (what's money?) involves many steps and changes of mind, habit and social norm.

I find young pupils charming and interesting so I enjoy teaching. When you teach people, you get a chance to study a variety of subjects but you get a bigger opportunity to study the people.  In many types of work, the product is not a living thing and certainly not a precious, loved child expected to grow up to be a happy, valuable citizen.  Because I happen to live in a time when children go to school and also a time of science and investigation, I didn't rise in the ranks.  Instead, I went back to school and studied ideas and methods for investigation and experimentation.  I am an example of the possibility of engaging in research and analysis in any sort of work, something that may be an alternative to rising in the ranks.

There is plenty of evidence that jobs and managers are still needed but there are many worries that robots and artificial intelligence are about to create conditions where humans won't be needed very much and managers will have to administer departments and organizations with few humans and many machines.  A person can't rise in the ranks if there are no ranks.

Meanwhile, the hot idea and a popular subject is entrepreneurship, a long word that looks French but basically means starting one's own business.  A young person need not join the ranks but could create them.

According to an article in FastCompany, "Why Most Venture Backed Companies Fail," 75 percent of venture-backed startups fail. ... In a study by Statistic Brain, Startup Business Failure Rate by Industry, the failure rate of all U.S. companies after five years was over 50 percent, and over 70 percent after 10 years.Feb 18, 2017

Why Some Startups Succeed (and Why Most Fail) - Entrepreneur

High schools, youth organizations, college business departments, books, private courses and workshops abound that teach some of the basics of getting funds and backers, avoiding pitfalls and creating a viable business.  

This country and the world have been experiencing job and skill related migration where people with appropriate personalities and skills move to new locations, even to other nations, because of job offers and opportunities.  For instance, France has been working at finding scientists in this and other countries that might be willing to move there or work distantly from here with modern methods of communication and computation for a French company.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Reading what I read

I read all five books and enjoyed them.  I felt as though each one was expanding my mind.  Every time, I found a striking phrase or a memorable or surprising statement, I highlighted it in my Kindle.  That device collects the highlights in a file and will send it to my email upon command. But, later, when I open that file and look at the highlights, I am sometimes puzzled about the meaning of what I highlighted.  

If I like a book, I figure it helps the author and the publisher and everyone like me to advertise it a bit.  So, I often send the highlight to Twitter electronically.  The form for sending includes a space for a short comment by the sender.  That comment seems to puzzle me, too.  About half the time, I don't know what the highlight and my comment are about.  I did read all of the books.  

The question (s?) of what remains, what I learned and what I remember, from reading a book interests me.  About four or five months after reading these books, I feel that I know them and can talk meaningfully about them but it is surprising to see comments I selected and notes about the selection and feel as though I had never heard of them.  Okay, this is where you point out that I am over 70 years old and that maybe, well, maybe my memory is not so keen anymore.  I stoutly maintain that my memory is just as dull now as it was 50 years ago.  When I read a history book as a college sophomore, I kept just as little of it in my head as I do today.  

When people try to get serious about books and learning in school, usually about someone else's learning not their own, especially if they are American, they may suggest a test.  Let's give the victim a series of incomplete lines from the book he is supposed to have read and see how many of the lines he can complete.  Of course, we will take the literal approach and only award points if the completion is a copy of the original words.  No fair making a better completion, a completion with wider and more valuable perspective.  No completion points for a better completion than the original and none for a sharp and insightful criticism of the wording or the idea.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Re: Enya, deep feminism and men

Happy new year Bill - in appreciation of your apt insights and in this case, as a woman who is adverse to "smothering".


Enya, deep feminism and men

I consider humans to be highly advanced and complex.  I believe they have gotten that way through eons of evolution, effort and adventure.  I belong to the minor group of humans, the males.  Most of us do not consider ourselves the minor group.  We take ourselves seriously and consider ourselves to be fine, awesome, magnificent even.  However, all of both groups were born into this life as helpless infants parented, handled, instructed and dominated by larger people.  That and other mental and emotional factors makes us biased toward bigger people as better people. 

My group, the males, tend to grow bigger and heavier than the other group.  Human propensities tend to notice and be impressed by whoever is bigger and heavier.  My group gets reinforced regularly by regard and deference, and that sort of experience makes us even more convinced that we are pretty wonderful.  We ignore the sort of statements found in "Fighting for Life" by the Jesuit scholar Walter Ong that say, "Males are expendable".  We admit that the cows and the sheep and the deer get along very well with only a few males.  

I am married to a woman and have been for many years.  I feel that I am ok as a husband but I wouldn't mind improving.  So, when I saw Sounds True and Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes had an audio program called "How to Love a Woman," I bought it and started listening to it.  I have only listened to a little bit but I don't think I can stand any more.  

I read Robert May's "Sex and Fantasy" a long time ago.  His opinion is that the fundamental aspect of human femininity is caring while the fundamental aspect of human masculinity is pride.  I also read Judith Bardwick's "Psychology of Women" long ago.  Bardwick says that a fundamental fear for women is abandonment while a corresponding fear in men is being smothered.  "Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics" by Harris and Warren explains how low the first author's opinion of meditation was for most of his life.  He "ranked it right alongside aura readings, Enya, and the unironic use of the word "namaste."
Harris, Dan. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book (p. 4). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think of that remark when I hear Dr. Estes speak in what is to me, a overly warm voice.  It threatens to smother me with in a syrup of deep, deep, deeper affection, even warmer and more supportive and accepting of me and my immortal self. Yikes!  I ran away and I am staying away.  I will have to improve my husbandry using something else

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Coming talk

I am working on a talk I will give on the 24th.  I said I would talk for about 90 minutes to those in a learning in retirement group who decide to come.  I will talk about five books:
  1. Incognito by Eagleman
  2. Altered Traits by Goleman and Davidson
  3. The Jew in the Lotus by Kamenetz
  4. Designed to Move by Vernikos
  5. Conscious Breathing by Hendrick
I didn't have any particular plan directing me to pick these books.  I was looking, as I usually do, for books that seemed valuable and inspiring to me.  Four of the five are clearly about the body, if you include the mind and brain as part of the body.  "The Jew in the Lotus" is about an extended meeting in India between the Dalai Lama and his staff and a group of American Jews.  The meeting was held at his request.  He wanted ideas that would help the Tibetan Buddhists survive attempts by the Chinese to wipe them out.

The Dalai Lama knew that the Jews had experienced 2,000 years of oppression and prospered pretty well despite the opposition and murder and hatred.  He sought ideas that his people could use to do something like the same thing.

"Incognito" by Eagleman is about the unconscious part of our minds, the part that tends to be unrecognized, to be incognito.  "Altered Traits" is about the results of research on the minds and brains of longtime meditators.  The first author is Daniel Goleman, the author of the book "Emotional Intelligence".  The second author is Richard Davidson, the Univ. of Wisconsin researcher who runs the Center for Healthy Minds.  Davidson scanned the brains of experienced meditators to learn what he could about the results of regular meditation.  "Designed to Move" by Vernikos is written by the woman NASA scientist who is responsible for the health of US astronauts while they are in space.  She found that leaving the earth's gravity is hard on the astronauts' body and that led her to see the detriments that accrue from long periods of sitting, even when we remain in gravity's grip.  

Dr. Gay Hendricks and his wife, Kathryn Hendricks, have written quite a few books that have helped me live and love better.  Breathing, both as a conscious and deliberate activity, and as a focus of attention while meditating, is an important subject.  Hendricks and the British Alan Watkins (see YouTube) and others such as Donna Farhi and Belisa Vranich are showing the value of deep and conscious breathing techniques for improving mood. Authors and trainers often note that breathing is one of the few processes in the body that can be either consciously controlled or left to the unconscious.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1/1/18 1/1/18 1/1/18 1/1/18 1/1/18 1/1/18 1/1/18 1/1/18

I don't want to ruin documents by writing the number that comes before 18 for the year.  I know I am going to do it sometime but I want to get the new year's number into my head and habits as deeply and firmly as possible.

January 1 is the day my mother was born.  She nearly died from the widespread Spanish flu epidemic that caused trouble that year.  I just finished reading Arthur Herman's book "1917", showing similarities and differences between the life of Woodrow Wilson and the man known as Lenin but born as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. 

Previously, I read the book "The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences" by David Carradine. This Princeton historian explores differences of religion, nation, class, race and civilization.  His chapter on class is devoted mostly to Karl Marx and his buddy, Friedrich Engels and their idea that class (manners, family/blood relations and money) was the basic variable in human life.  Lenin and others came along and bet their lives on the correctness of the Marx/Engels predictions. It looks to me as though that was not a good idea.

You can appreciate that I not only love and respect my mother and her memory and life, but I consider her fundamental and essential to my existence.  My mother would be 101 years old if she were still alive.

When I think of the first day of the first month, when I think of my mother's age were she alive and I think of the new year, digits come to mind.  A husband once told me that his wife could remember any number but not the order of the digits.  Around here, we say that this is year 2018, month 1 and day 1.  20180101 or 00011128 in order by digit size.  Using the same scheme of interpretation, 00011128 would be November 28 of year 1.  Years are longer than months, which are longer than days.  So, 82111000 starts off with the heaviest digits in the place for the longest time but leaves us with the impossible zero-th day of the 10th month.  We don't have a person in line in front of the first person so there is no 0th person and no zero-th day of a month.  

Here's hoping this year is almost all that you want it to be.  I don't want to wish too ambitiously and I do want to leave room for amendments and additions as may be needed during the coming months. Since there is always a year ahead, not just on the first day but from any other day as well, I will try to remember to wish everyone a happy new year on some other day as well as today.  Using Excel, I randomly selected Thursday, July 12 from this year as another day to create and express wishes for a good next 365 days.  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Better harvesting

Quite a few authors, leaders and others call for better living, more vitality, more alertness and awareness of our riches, our possibilities, the beauty and humor, hilarity at times, all around us.  I am all for it.  I support better, deeper, faster, slower, more savory living.  Where can we find such living?  Where can we find directions to such living?

One source is the minds of our seniors, our older citizens.  We all fear dementia, infirmity, fragility, and a sudden end, or a slow one, or some combination, is certain.  That means that the best time for summing up, reaping reflections and gathering hunches based on years of experience is while mental faculties are still available.  It is a very old observation that the elderly have experience of worth along with cooled ambition and lust that can make a valuable and somewhat impartial commentator. 

Long experience can certainly mean that somewhere along the years, various odd, challenging or fortuitous combinations of stresses and opportunities occurred. But in addition to some valuable happenings, long experience can offer a picture of a long path, the whole route, the trajectory that we are on, but haven't noticed. 

The current times and their emphasis on science, proof, evidence and critical examination have, like most things, downsides.  In general, imaginative thinking and careful testing is too valuable a combination to abandon but our seniors are living longer, and thus able to see further.  They are schooled in critical thinking and apply its principles to their own thoughts and hunches.  So, I hope they talk more, tape more, record more, recollect more and summarize more.  

I recently asked two retired experts, separately, to give a summary of their life experience on the job.  Both expressed fears they didn't know enough, were not familiar enough with current research, might not be able to answer everyone's questions. Depending on one's picture of a summing or an overview, such a request might be thought to entail a decade of writing and research.  Anyone not attracted to a big project might wisely decline. 

The characteristics of caution and reluctance seem all the more signs of a good thinker and commentator, one that would be a value to others.  I hope the sharpies among our seniors don't leave it to the avaricious, the mouthy, the overly self-assured, the more ignorant to have a say.  

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