Friday, June 5, 2020

Eric Barker and dead person goals

Eric Barker has been writing a blog for quite a while.  I subscribed to get a copy of each post by email.  He tries to sift through ideas, philosophy and research to find useful, solid clues for living well.  A blog post of his came today and I learned about "dead person" goals.  

Educators are often aware of poverty and it can be uplifting to find out about resilient people, those who bounce back from a bad break or a nasty hit.

This message is titled "3 Things the Most Resilient People Do Every Day".  It can come by email or it can be read on his website Barking Up the Wrong Tree.  You can see the post with this link:

Dead person goals:

Oh, and no "dead person goals." What's that? A "dead person goal" is anything a corpse could do better than you. They usually take the form of "I need to stop…" Dead people are excellent at not doing things, far better than you are. So transform dead people goals into something more prescriptive like "When I notice myself procrastinating I will do easiest thing on my to-do list."  Basically, the idea is to create goals of what will be done, not what won't be done.

One thing Barker does is summarize the main points of his posts in a summary at the end.  But like all interesting thinkers, it is often the details or side comments that make his ideas interesting and useful.

Thursday, June 4, 2020


Because of the irritating Covid-19, we can't mix as much as we want. That "mixing" includes buying.  So, there is much more traffic online.  I read today that online grocery buying is 6 times now what it was a year ago.  Lynn is a member of an artists cooperative.  They have an admired and used walk-in store but they, too, want to get online.  

When humans get together to talk and socialize, they are using language and other inventions and customs fine tuned over way more than 10,000 years.  We have eyes and ears, we have memories, we have protocols and habits, we can tell at a glance how that part of an audience is reacting to what that person just said.  Doing things by computer is cool, it's great, it's amazing but, face it, it ain't what we can do ourselves.

There are upsides, as there usually are.  People far away can participate quickly. has been in vigorous, careful, analyzed business for a decade and it is terrific at what it does.  We can't expect to duplicate their speed, knowledge and sophistication quickly or without pains, mistakes and hangups.  As we emerge from virusland, we will find we have new ways and ideas that we only found because of the stress from quarantine and face masks and social distancing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Quiet supportive women

The Writer's Almanac tells me today is the anniversary of the birth of Barbara Pym, English author (1913-1980)

Decades ago, I looked at the book by Ashley Montague, "The Natural Superiority of Women" (1970). Just today, I learned that the Israeli male geneticist Sharon Moalam has a new book "The Better Half: The Genetic Superiority of Women."

If there is a raid and women are stolen, raped or killed, it interferes with the coming generation.  We sometimes say that living things have two jobs: stay alive and reproduce.  There is plenty of evidence that humans have done their jobs too well and that we currently have too many humans on this planet.  But we are now designed by past conditions and it is true that males and females as well all come from the bodies of females.  

Our females are often born with features that make them attractive to our males.  Besides being the source of mothers and future generations, we have learned that the sort of mother one has and the nature of the mothering we each get is a big factor in how we each turn out and live life.   

I am certainly not a Barbara Pym scholar but I have read a couple of her novels.  She tends to focus on "excellent women", women who are quiet and are actually the support of a church or other local group.  Her women may or may not be married, may or may not be mothers.  They tend to be steady people who know the course they want to follow and do so.

America can be an exciting place and it is a place where effort and striving are prized.  Many Americans seem addicted to strong excitement and heroic tales.  One problem with steady excitement is that it trains the eye and the mind to overlook important continuous giving since it involves no murders or car chases or explosions.  Excellent women may indeed excel in very important, life-giving, spirit-enhancing ways that go unnoticed and unheralded.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Can I stand it?

Don't sit down, don't pull up a chair, don't have a seat.  Yesterday's blog post took me a little extra time.  I don't think it was extra good.  It was probably ok.  It's one of the drier academic subjects about making progress in human knowledge, thinking and activity.  Basically, it says to read and think several times before doing an experiment or gathering data. I wrote about the same idea here:

Yesterday, when I finished composing my post for the day, I was surprised and alarmed that my back ached.  Not anywhere near as badly as it often does, but enough to warn me to stop sitting and starting moving. I have memorized the name Dr. Joan Vernikos and have mentioned this scientist and NASA watchdog who checks and protects the bodies of US astronauts when they are on a mission.

She has several videos on YouTube and is the author of "Sitting Kills,  Moving Heals."  I haven't really read that book or her others nor watched her videos but I have seen many references about the health damage from sitting, sitting, sitting.  

I immediately took a walk around the neighborhood.  I determined not to sit down until I actually needed to rest and then just for a few minutes.  Between the walk and the standing,

the pain stopped.  This morning, I did my yoga-type matwork using the cobra and the bridge.  I haven't been sitting today and I did switch the mouse to my other hand.  It really helps.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Shooting off randomly or theoretical framework

Research can be long, slow and frustrating.  If you read about the slow understanding of electricity, or radioactive materials, or mental illness, or climate change, you can see how many ideas and false leads can pop up for each step forward.  In truth, it is not easy to even know which direction is actually "forward".  Over time, a helpful medicine may show bad side effects. A solution can turn out to be more trouble and less help.  A crucial component can no longer be supplied.  

It is possible to consider the entire history of humankind as a steady improvement in understanding and accommodation of the needs and hopes of humans.  Of course, it is also possible to build a case that it has all been more or less random instead of a journey to better conditions.  Even the current size of human population on this planet can be viewed as a measure of success or a measure of failure.  The environmentalists have plenty of evidence that we have been too successful at populating this planet and at the same time, individually living longer, using up resources all the while.

It remains to be seen how the story turns out but doesn't it always remain to be seen?  With greater awareness, maybe we will find a way to continue to exist as a species, without killing ourselves one way or another.  

Researchers and scientists learn early on that jumping about without thought leads to even more deadends and failures.  The only way to make actual progress seems to be much thinking before much action.  Education in research methods emphasizes the role of theory, of thought beforehand that can possibly point experimentation in a profitable direction instead of more or less blindly hoping to stumble on a good invention or a satisfactory improvement.  

Those studying the general idea of research methods are usually taught the value of reading the work and thought of others, often a faster, less expensive way of finding profitable directions instead of just shooting off into any old effort or notion. Even actual fishermen use knowledge, tools, experience and logic to increase the odds of getting a good result.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Willoughby and Wendy

Men's sex drive can be a pain. It is always intruding.  A guy looks at a beautiful woman and his pulse quickens, his chest puffs up, and his brain goes into neutral.  Sure, as he gets older, he becomes more accustomed to being rearranged for a short time.  He learns to keep some of his reaction to himself and he probably stops blushing.  

Somewhere long ago, I read that having a full bust line is like having male lures hung around your neck.  I can see that some male reactions are complimentary and welcome. Maybe dealing with an alert and sophisticated man who can and does treat a woman as an intelligent, valuable conversationalist and source of ideas and comments.  Just the other day, I learned about Paula Stone Williams, a transgender woman who was a man until her 60's.  She has TED Talks and videos on YouTube about her experiences comparing both sides of the human gender divide.

I have many posts in this blog about the value of meditation and mindfulness and there is indeed piles of evidence that meditation can enrich one's life, no matter what circumstances a person faces.  Within the last couple of years, I learned about psychology professor Willoughby Britton of Brown University, who has focused on the downside of meditation.  For some people, trying to just be can elicit fears and haunting ideas and Professor Britton has specialized in studying the ill effects that some people experience, what they are, why they occur and what can be done about them.

Just today, I learned about Wendy McElroy, a Canadian writer who explains the positive side of pornography for women.  I haven't read any of her work but I suspect that there may be something to be said for pornography for both sexes.  Of course, what kinds, how it is created, how it is used - all such considerations matter.

 I read and hear steadily about the misuse of pornography and people, the degradation of women by pornography, and pornography addiction.  I just looked up "Are any women addicted to pornography?" in Duckduckgo and found over 6 million results.  Generally, it is a good idea to look carefully at the positives and negatives of anything and everything, if you or somebody has the time and energy.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Choices and her

I wrote my dissertation on using mathematical decision theory for designing a simulation of the work of a school principal.  Unless you are quite kinky, you would not find any part of it stimulating or arousing. You can download it free and see for yourself with the link on the bottom of the page here:

I like the idea of the Oxford University "Very Short Introductions".  There are over 600 volumes in the series, which are generally available for $8 and are downloadable.  Reading and understanding the titles is an education in itself.

Recently, I read in the volume on choice/decision theory much discussion of irrationality in choice.  Mathematicians love to try to find tight logical principles that cannot be violated by a thinking person.  Unfortunately for them, life can be very tricky so no matter what I choose, what I decide, it may be a good choice in the context, for that time, for me, and my goals.

The principle that was maybe a bit over-discussed was the idea that introducing an additional option that I don't choose ought not change my preferences.  Suppose the waiter says I can have soup or salad.  I choose soup.  Then, she says,"Oh, I forgot. You can also choose an appetizer."  The decision theorists don't want me to say that point, "Oh, I would like a salad, not soup."  Why did I switch from one of the first alternatives to the other when the choices were increased?  

As a teacher and educator (and husband), I say, "Who cares?"  I offered Lynn a list of options for dinner:

  • Cod

  • Steak

  • Swai

  • Pizza

  • Chicken thighs

  • Pork chops

  • Something else

She reminded me that I used to make tuna with pasta and she said she wanted that.

We both realize that the list includes "something else" and she was just choosing what she was invited to choose.  Still, I maintain that it is very difficult for a husband to predict what a wife will do.

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