Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Inn at the River

The Inn at the River is in Weston, WI, adjacent to Wausau.  The place struck a chord with Lynn as she looked for a place for us to stay.  We wanted a few days away to celebrate her 80th birthday. It didn't look that special to me but she has extra place-dar, a special genetic radar that locates good spots.  She can be over-busy with special baking, special pottery shows and other special events. A few days of over-busy and she is ready to redress with under-busy, nothing, even.  

She has a sharp eye and can be critical but this place hit all the right targets.  Recently opened, it only has three rooms for rent. The room included a nice tray, two sherry glass on it and a decanter of sherry.  Every thing had a rustic or woodsy theme and the place in on a bend in the Eau Claire river. The scenery is forest-y and outdoors and rustic.

The host and hostess were quite friendly as was Theo, their 5-month old dog.  I scratched and massaged his shoulders a bit. When I stopped too soon, he tapped my hand several times to let me know I should get back to it.

In our town, Mikey's and A-soshel are places we like.  We didn't realize that the Inn is very close to Tine and Cellar, owned by the same man and offering an even better menu that his others.  

We made do with a single night since they were booked for the next night by a wedding party.  Excellent place and Lynn promised to drag us back.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Changing lengths

As a fan of duration and speed, I was intrigued when I read that movies are getting longer.  The comment was that increasing length was a response to increased demand for content, for stories and entertainment.  I guess that once we get you watching a movie, we have your attention for a longer time with a longer movie.

You may have noticed the fracturing of many areas, markets and groups.  It might be that increased communication enables more players to participate in any type of market.  So, we have streaming, more channels, reality shows, reruns. Machines and advanced practices may allow translation into more languages.  Higher levels of education increase the variety of content that is of interest to greater numbers of people. Increased longevity means that elders, often retired or semi-retired, have time and interest in a wide range of topics and types of content.  

The book "Too Big to Know" by Weinberger emphasizes that the number of sources, web sites, topics available on the internet.  The whole thing and most of its subparts are too big to know. We can't read all the interesting pieces available each day, a problem that E.B. White complained about In his article "Irtnog" back in 1935. He envisioned a digest of digests of digests etc. to the point that a reader could feel that he was up on everything for that day when he knew the word of the day.  One day, for instance, the word that digested everything written that day was "Irtnog". Cool, huh?

We all have limited time and limited patience.  When you want to give me an important tip, I may be interested but not if you go on and on.  If your message involves hours of listening, I am not interested, even if it is the answer to all my problems.  My patience and even my remaining years of life are too limited.  

I imagine that the Big Tweeter of Washington, D.C. needs to condense his words and uses that avenue just because short comments are the norm and there are limits on the length.  If he goes on too long, people will pay less attention. There is a TED talk about text messages

Monday, September 16, 2019

Art from within

I have never played quarterback for any team. I have watched some football games.  I am confident that the quarterback has plenty to think about and look for when he receives the ball from the center.  The linemen of the defense team of opponents are trying vigorously to get past the quarterback's linemen. They want to knock that quarterback to the ground.  Just after receiving the snapped ball would not be a good time to ask the quarterback how he feels today.   

For quarterbacks and for many men, there is no "within".  Sure, they know their heart beats. They know hunger and satisfaction.  But if your attention is on passing the ball or the stock market or why the air conditioner isn't working, it is on the outside of you, not on your opinion or feelings or memories.  A guy may get the idea that manly men don't have feelings and just concentrate on the external.  

For all of us, men and women, boys and girls, we have internal states: thoughts, memories, feelings and they matter very much.  We can ignore them and fail to recognize them. We can over-entertain them and take them to be error-free. But we are the best source for knowing about them.  There are times when we want others to understand them or when it would be to our benefit if a doctor or expert could know exactly what we are experiencing inside.  We are trying to develop new tools for understanding the inside world of others, as with brain scans and other equipment.

But basically, words, spoken or written words, are our tool for understanding what is frightening our child, irritating our partner, guiding our boss's evaluation of us.  The words that we choose to describe thoughts, memories, feelings are artistic structures, put together to depict our inner states. Each word choice, each voice tone, each indicated subject or center of attention is an artist's selection of a color off her or his palette to paint what is going on.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Fwd: How your emotions change the shape of your heart

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Bill Kirby
Date: Sun, Sep 15, 2019 at 9:00 AM
Subject: Fwd: How your emotions change the shape of your heart

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: This week on <>
Date: Sat, Sep 14, 2019 at 8:06 AM
Subject: How your emotions change the shape of your heart

The mysterious connection between your emotions and heart.
This week on
September 14, 2019

How your emotions change the shape of your heart

16:02 minutes · Filmed Jul 2019 · Posted Sep 2019 · TEDSummit 2019
"A record of our emotional life is written on our hearts," says cardiologist and author Sandeep Jauhar. In a stunning talk, he explores the mysterious ways our emotions impact the health of our hearts -- causing them to change shape in response to grief or fear, to literally break in response to emotional heartbreak -- and calls for a shift in how we care for our most vital organ.

Playlist of the week

All about the heart

Get to know your heart a bit better with insightful talks on this powerful, life-sustaining organ. Watch »
Total run time 1:02:59

This week's new TED Talks

The dirty secret of capitalism -- and a new way forward
Rising inequality and growing political instability are the direct result of decades of bad economic theory, says entrepreneur Nick Hanauer. In a visionary talk, he dismantles the mantra that "greed is good" -- an idea he describes as not only morally corrosive, but also scientifically wrong -- and lays out a new theory of economics powered by reciprocity and cooperation.

How we can make racism a solvable problem -- and improve policing
When we define racism as behaviors instead of feelings, we can measure it -- and transform it from an impossible problem into a solvable one, says justice scientist Phillip Atiba Goff. In an actionable talk, he shares his work at the Center for Policing Equity, an organization that helps police departments diagnose and track racial gaps in policing in order to eliminate them.

A "living drug" that could change the way we treat cancer
Carl June is the pioneer behind CAR T-cell therapy: a groundbreaking cancer treatment that supercharges part of a patient's own immune system to attack and kill tumors. In a talk about a breakthrough, he shares how three decades of research culminated in a therapy that's eradicated cases of leukemia once thought to be incurable -- and explains how it could be used to fight other types of cancer.

Community-powered criminal justice reform
Community organizer Raj Jayadev wants to transform the US court system through "participatory defense" -- a growing movement that empowers families and community members to impact their loved ones' court cases. He shares the remarkable results of their work -- including more than 4,000 years of "time saved" from incarceration -- and shows how this new model could shift the landscape of power in the courts.

What reading slowly taught me about writing
Reading slowly -- with her finger running beneath the words, even when she was taught not to -- has led Jacqueline Woodson to a life of writing books to be savored. In a lyrical talk, she invites us to slow down and appreciate stories that take us places we never thought we'd go and introduce us to people we never thought we'd meet. "Isn't that what this is all about -- finding a way, at the end of the day, to not feel alone in this world, and a way to feel like we've changed it before we leave?" she asks.

How deepfakes undermine truth and threaten democracy
The use of deepfake technology to manipulate video and audio for malicious purposes -- whether it's to stoke violence or defame politicians and journalists -- is becoming a real threat. As these tools become more accessible and their products more realistic, how will they shape what we believe about the world? In a portentous talk, law professor Danielle Citron reveals how deepfakes magnify our distrust -- and suggests approaches to safeguarding the truth.


Helpful advice for aspiring writers of all ages. Author Jacqueline Woodson shares wisdom on how to express your unique perspective with feeling and originality.

Ever wondered: "What if I'm buried when I'm just in a coma?" A mortician shares insider knowledge, eyebrow-raising trivia and, yes, an answer to that question.

Four very human mistakes that we all make when meeting people. Writer Malcolm Gladwell shows how our inborn tendencies and biases prevent us from spotting the evil among us.

Tap into the power to persuade by using these six techniques of clear and compelling speech. Check out the rhetorical devices politicians and other public figures deploy to communicate and convince.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Two too cool, too

She went to college a long time back.  She had a particular dorm room, then. The dorm got converted to offices.  She took a job at the college. She had an office for a long time. Then, her office needed to be re-located.  Yep, now she works all day in the same room she slept in as a student. You never know!

When a woman turned 80, her granddaughters and daughter presented her with a list of 80 things about her that family members loved.  The document runs to three pages and elicits memories, joys and strong feelings. It is a treasure!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Writing, talking and me

Over time, I developed the idea that I wanted to write in this blog about my thoughts.  I realized that 

  • Thoughts are silent and need words chosen for them if they are going to be communicated, criticized, understood, compared

  • Mindfulness practice improves sensitivity to fast thoughts that might not be taken note of and to feelings that take a bit of work to grasp and characterize for what they are.  It is true that many feelings are short-lived and not worth nursing along. But it can still be helpful to know what one's feelings are.  

  • Talking, listening, writing and reading are all physical. It is easier to see that 

  • talking and writing are physical but I learned a lesson when I got all excited by a book that said "Words can change your brain."  Later, I realized that I knew they could all along. Picture the typical pose

Sure, many records and enactments of a marriage proposal show the woman excited, even shouting or screaming, when a man just takes the position shown but hasn't said a word.  But we know that both the man and the woman will be very changed as soon as she answers the question "Will you marry me?"  

I have mentioned the book "Maybe You Should Talk to Somebody" by Lori Gottlieb, a non-fiction book about a therapist, her clients and her conversations with her own therapist.  Therapy of that sort is often called "talk therapy". Since we have a feeling that talk is cheap and since we are so action-oriented and focused on results, it is easy to underestimate the power of speaking and writing.

From my blog of October 28, 2013

One of the most intriguing things I have read lately is the comment from Julia Sweeney that she learned from Kelly McGonigal's book "The Willpower Instinct", that self talk is received internally much as talk from others is.  So if I tell myself that I am too flighty, the comment gets handled by my internal processing much as the same comment would be if you told me that.

One of the reasons that gets my attention is that I had just noticed a day or two earlier that when I tell myself something, say, "That shoelace is too loose.  Re-tie it", the command feels like one that comes from the boss or my parent or some authority I obey.

I can sense the shoelace looseness and the need to retie it but giving myself a clear-cut directive feels more focused and more powerful.  Of course, it is possible that I wait until I am actually ready to act before delivering the direction to do so. One implication from this idea is that negative comments from me to me carry weight.  If I am trying to train myself to be both less flighty and more accepting of my personality, making impolite negative comments will not help the project.  

It does seem that self-talk matters and that there is an actual difference between what I plan to say to myself and actually saying it, whether silently in my head or aloud using my voice.  This idea seems to relate to the notable excitement an experienced teacher like Cheri Huber found when her students and clients employed tape recorders (or the free iPad apps that record) to give themselves advice and encouragement.  They said to her that listening to what they had recorded was extremely helpful. That procedure is a little different from the usual meaning of self talk but Huber has found it to be very powerful.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Side comments

Professor Daniel Gilbert reads his book "Stumbling on Happiness" and I often listen to him while driving.  The whole book has to do with mental difficulties minds have dealing with the future. But he is witty and throws in clever and memorable comments that are irrelevant to his point but worth hearing.

Such acts of imagination allow you to reason about the things you are imagining and hence solve important problems in the real world, such as how to get a grapefruit into your lap when you really need one.

Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness (pp. 140-141). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When I really need a grapefruit in my lap?  Did he just say that?

My mind is like an agile Border Collie and it will zip off on a tangent if given an invitation.  As I have mentioned, little side comments like that, words I suspect of being tailored for chuckles and mental popcorn, such comments grab my attention.  I reach over and stop the audio while I ponder.

When I really need a grapefruit in my lap?  I can't recall ever needing a grapefruit anywhere, much less, way less, in my lap.  Is there something missing in my life? Am I grapefruit-lap deficit? Would I be more manly, more American, a better husband if I faced lap needs for grapefruit more openly?  Have I been denying my grapefruit needs when I shouldn't? Would my lap be a better lap if I had a grapefruit in it more often?

See, this is the sort of interrogatory amble that sets my doggy mind off and running but only if I hear and understand those little side comments that might easily be missed.  Dan Gilbert has three TED talks and he does this same thing in all of them. If I were his talk coach, I would urge him to slow down. Watch a professional comedian and see that he or she delivers a good line and then waits a beat or two for people to get and experience the joke.  Too fast or too casual and some of the best lines get lost.

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