Saturday, February 22, 2020


It came as a surprise last night.  An email told us that Grandpa was sick and could we have the greatgrandkids over here.  Sure! It was a professional development day for educators and the kids got here at 7:30 AM.  What do you want for breakfast? Pancakes! So, it's off to IHOP and pancakes, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs.  

Back home: games, including Crunch, a dangerous, full-body form of multi-player solitaire.  Other games.

Shoveling a path to the birdfeeder so Lynn could reload it.  Playing on our snowhills and putting footprints and pathways over as much of the property as possible.  Lunch at Dairy Queen. Why are there some many kids and gray-haired caretakers? It's a professional development day.

Take Lynn to Gallery Q, where she will hostess for the afternoon.  Home to the movie: The Secret Life of Pets 2, a lesson in courage and physical agility (and animation).  Mom spent the day attaining her 2nd notch in the positive approach to working with kids. She showed up and piled the 6th grader and the 4th grader and backpacks, plastic bags, a paper shopping bag and assorted tools, devices and games into her van.  

We realize that such opportunities are not always available and we are glad we had this chance.

Friday, February 21, 2020


We are experiencing deeper cold.  Most of the winter so far, the temperature has reached 20° F but yesterday was colder and more biting.  Last night, we reached 21 degrees below zero. It is difficult to separate the images of more severe cold that we can actually feel from the knowledge of negative numbers and scales and words in reports.

We can also say that we are in the winter of our lives.  A friend wrote yesterday that nothing much is of interest anymore.  Another friend sent me a copy of an accusatory email that Mom sent, saying that further relations between parent and grownup child were now impossible since the caretaker had stolen money from the parent.  This to Mom's main caretaker who worries and frets and accompanies and helps out! (And definitely doesn't steal Mom's funds.) Caretaking burdens and dementia and physical limits and boredom are all around.

The sun is blazing bright right now and reflects off the pure white snow.  In every direction, light blasts everything. In the midst of depression and lack of inspiration, we can search for something engaging, something that matters.  We can overlook friends, hungers, achievements, and steady habits that keep us going and advancing. The sunlight is a blessing, our appetites rouse us, our habits and housekeeping continue to drive us and actually satisfy us.

I wish you a good program, a good drink, a good joke, and the eyes and ears to enjoy them.                            

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Talk next week

A week from tomorrow I am giving a talk on six books that have helped me.  They are

  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

  • Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

  • Uncharted by Erez Aidan and Jean-Baptiste Michel

  • Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

  • Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg

  • From Gutenberg to Google by Tom Wheeler

Here is a link to a webpage of points about each book

Across the top of that page, the books are listed and the titles are links to the notes I took on that book. Sometimes, when the writing is very good, I forget to take notes or make highlights.

Each one has lots of implications for living and thinking.  I am confident that the Breath by Breath book has had the most impact on my daily life.  I use its ideas just about every waking hour.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Choosing happiness

"Incognito" alerted me to the many parts of myself that are not available to my mind. Having read other books about the unconscious, I realize that when speaking or writing, there are aspects of the processes of word choice and expression that happen without deliberate choice.  The US is approaching a national election so choice and support and opposition are in the air. A person can list what he likes and dislikes about a particular candidate but it seems to me that the process of choice is loaded with emotion and gambles.  

I ran across the book by Lisa Feldman Barrett called "How Emotions Are Made."  The subject reminds me of the book "Thinking: Fast and Slow" by Kahneman. I also like the ideas expressed by Chade-Meng Tan in his "Joy on Demand".  Using meditation and practicing examination of my thoughts and feelings seems to give me more control over my emotions, more ability to accept or reject feelings.  As I read some of the Barrett book, I used my habit of looking the author up to learn more about her and her work: where she works, what she does and what other books she has written. Looking her up led me to a TED talk by her:

I think it would be unwise and uncomfortable to be joyful all the time.  However, observing oneself, one's thoughts and most importantly, the focus of one's attention can no doubt go a long way to supply the tools and habits that enable a good mood under a wide range of circumstances.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Still going strong

Dale Carnegie published "How to Win Friends and Influence People" in 1936. publishes four charts each week, showing the most purchased and the most read of the books they sell.

The charts show fiction and nonfiction and include the number of weeks a book has been on the charts and some information about the books.  

I have written about the Amazon Charts before:

I am only writing now to highlight "How to Win Friends."  Many of the books listed have been published quite recently.  So, to have a book on the lists for 144 weeks sixty-five years after death is quite a feat. How to Win Friends is one of the most famous self-help books ever published.  It has sold over 15 million copies and was listed as #19 on Time magazine's list of the most influential books ever.

Self-help books sometimes get a poor reputation as lightweight, unscientific, obvious but in other cases, they are a real asset.  I am a fan of Kindle books but many editions of "How to Win Friends" cost $10-15 dollars and I didn't want to spend that. I wanted to get an idea of what the book said and I found the local libraries have copies or access to copies of it but I didn't want to wait until previous holds on the book allowed me to finally get a copy, including e-copies.  

Many non-fiction books have summaries that are shorter and cheaper than the original volume.  

From a summary that was free to Kindle Prime users:

Rule 1 - Don't condemn, criticize or complain 

Rule 2 - Be appreciative

Ruie 3 - Help others see how to satisfy their wants

Growth Digest, The. Summary and Discussions of How to Win Friends & Influence People By Dale Carnegie (p. 5). Kindle Edition.  

In today's US, we could certainly aim at criticizing less.  Being appreciative of life as well as of other people makes tons of sense. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Passing the time with a beat

I left my internet devices home but I saw many rural Cubans sitting in their living rooms or porches without electronic devices.  I realize my parents and grandparents did without email, Facebook and Google News. I also heard plenty of drumming and rhythmic activities as we traveled around Cuba. I got to thinking about rhythmic tapping, drumming, and dancing as a more or less hypnotic and unifying pastime.  

I think I have an ok sense of rhythm.  I was the drum sergeant of my high school drum and bugle corps.  Relatedly, the musical Amandla! - A Revolution in Four Part Harmony has a scene in South Africa during Apartheit where a white policeman interferes with a black voter in a line waiting to vote.  Immediately, the whole line of people start humming and rhythmically moving in place. The sound and the unified movement unites the group in an impressive way. The solidarity and unison motivates the policeman to move away.  

Practicing a rhythm, especially a syncopated one, can be quite hypnotic and engaging.

So, if you have nothing to do, think about making a rhythm.  It can be with your fingers on a surface such as a table or a drumhead.  It can be on the head of a box of salt or oatmeal. Tap, tap, tap, pause, taptap.

Our forefathers and mothers had no YouTube, no smartphones.  If they had come across a smartphone that someone accidentally dropped, it would have been of no use since there was no signal, no internet, no carrier company.  You can make do with a nice beat for a while.  

With a nice syncopated rhythm, you or those around you often develop a tendency to move with the rhythm.  Head nodding, weight shifting, foot tapping all lend themselves to keeping the rhythm while dusting, peeling potatoes or apples, and similar activities.  In no time, keeping a syncopated rhythm will make you feel like a dancer and your reputation as one will grow.  

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Cuba sun and trees

Cuba is further south than Florida so naturally there is a difference in weather.

Us now:

Them, a few days ago:

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