Thursday, August 6, 2020

More than fourteen thousand

[This blog post was rejected for 75% of the blog mail recipients.  I think it was because the title was numerals and it did contain two links.]

The daughter of friends is 40.  I can just write that and you know I am talking about age.  It has been 40 years since she was born.  That means she is at least 14,600 days old.  40 times 365 = 14600, plus leap days and not counting days since her birthday.

I often recall James Michener’s advice: 
Fool around until you are 40 since until you are that old, you are still feeling your way, learning yourself and the world.
Michener also advised staying out of jail and mental institutions.  Seems like good advice but not always easy.  Sometimes, the laws get so twisted, one simply can’t allow “legal” behavior to get in the way of right living.  Mental illness is an old problem and that can still cause trouble beyond understanding.

One comment I saw recently reminded others that only a few centuries ago, 40 was close to the end of life for most people.  They could not expect to live much past that age.  It is not true that every person who has reached 40 knows how to live and lives happily.  From four decades on, it may be easier to let oneself off the hook when fear, curiosity or a nagging sense of unfulfilled duty starts taunting one to understand the meaning of life.  The big questions, the gnawing ones, the pesky ones, the questions that promote doubt as to adequate achievement, appropriate effort, lightheartedness, gratitude, morality, and purpose can be entertained, given respect and then politely shown the door.  

I looked up the words “life begins at 40”, which turns out to be the title of a book that was popular in 1933 and 1934.  From Wikipedia:
Life Begins at Forty is a 1932 American self-help book by Walter B. Pitkin. Written during a time of rapid increase in life expectancy, it was very popular and influential. It was the #1 bestselling non-fiction book in the United States in 1933, and #2 in 1934, according to Publishers Weekly. 

Let’s just say that life is turned on when you are awake and aware and 40 is a fine age to be that way.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


We wrestled with PBS and finally won the right to watch "The Durrells."  We watched all of the episodes.  Mr. Durrell died and left his wife with three sons and a daughter.  She moved the family to the Greek island of Corfu, where life and customs are quite different from their native England.  It is a good show but like so many, it came to an end.

We watch "Wisconsin Life", a Wisconsin Public TV production that contains 4 or 5 short explorations in a total of 30 minutes.  The basic idea is that there are interesting people and places in the Badger state and the show lets us meet some of them.

We kept seeing notices about the PBS show "Grantchester."  That is the name of a real village of 540 people about three miles from Cambridge, England.  It is the name of a show based on books by James Runcie which tell about the life of the vicar of the village church.  It is quite popular.  I guess half or more of the popularity comes from the notable male beauty of James Norton, the actor who first plays the vicar. Unless you are seriously Christian or Church of England, you might not be interested in the experiences of a vicar. Hold on, there's a twist.  The vicar has insight into people.  Besides, he is a friend of the local policeman.  Over beer or wine in tasteful quantities, the two discuss a recently discovered body or crime.  Between trying to find the right woman and assisting his policeman friend, the vicar manages to squeeze in Sunday sermons, baptisms, marriages and funerals.

There have been other crime-solving church people, such as Father Brown.  It is no surprise really that religious people have insight into human behavior.  A scholar of English literature mentioned the show interests her but not her husband.  The writer and tv critic Sarah Lawson admits that the vicar is "babelicious"

and that the show might encourage thoughts and feelings not usually associated with religion.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Color coordination

I have read that some women can distinguish more colors by eye than the average person.  I see extra spurts of pride in a woman wearing a blouse, earrings, and shoes that all match. I just did a little searching and learned about "tetrachromats", people, more commonly women, who have an extra type of color detection cell in their retinas.

You evidently gain points if the matching color is a more unusual one, some sort of leaf green, say, instead of simple white or black.  I suppose if you come equipped with an extra set of color detection cones, you can zero in on matching teals or rose shades and attain even more impressive heights.

We heard ten years ago that boys tend to be more attracted to games in which there are strongly contrasting colors and girls can be more attracted to subtle shades and more sets of matching colors.  I tend to wonder if we will have to move to a different location if some close-by buildings fail to coordinate their outside walls or rooftops with our house.  We already have to keep our garage door closed to avoid color clashes between our cars and nearby cars or buildings.  We ask those dressed in non-coordinating colors or hues that don't go well with our house to walk by quickly and to use the other side of the street.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Not needing a will

We are getting older.  Several friends have died.  There is a virus around.  Maybe we should prepare for death.  If you follow the comic strip Zits, you know that the teenager has been very upset lately because he found a gray hair in his head.  He is suddenly struck by the fact that he is mortal.  He asserts that it is time to get his affairs in order.  That time has arrived for us.  

We conferred with a lawyer who informed us that we may not really need a will.  I was surprised to hear that, but she said that with the proper records filled out, we can arrange for things to be owned by our daughter upon our deaths.  She told us about arranging a P.O.D., a document that is "payable on death."  We went to our banks and signed such documents so that if we are both dead, our daughter becomes the owner of our accounts and property.  Just like that: no will involved, no trusts, no probate.

We actually have had a will drawn up, several times.  However, this ownership mechanism seems simpler and faster.  It isn't that we have millions of dollars of funds or property but we would like to make the handling of what we do have easy and smooth and quick.  

We have both read "Final Gifts" by Callanan and Kelley.  The book is available in both paper and Kindle.  It is written by people who have experience with the dying and with death.  As I fade away or expire suddenly, I may lose my mental abilities in part or wholly.  I may say things that are crazy and that I don't mean while I function with my full self.  It definitely seems better to have things in place in case I lose my faculties.  There are many other good books on death, such as "How We Die" by Sherwin Nuland, MD.  We both have copies of "I'm Dead, Now What?", one of many books of blanks, forms and questions that showed us how complex our lives and habits are, and how much easier it is to have a guide for someone to deal with our deaths.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Matchmaking assistance

My dissertation is about decision theory so when I saw "The Art of Choosing" by Prof. Sheena Iyengar, I took a look at the book.  I didn't know that she would introduce me to arranged marriages nor the fact that, worldwide, arranged marriages have a better longevity record than marriages where the woman and the man make their own choices.  The chapter in Iyengar's book on her parents' marriage begins with the fact that her father and mother hadn't seen each other before the actual day of their wedding.

Iyengar is a professor in the Columbia University School of Business and she has been blind since childhood.  She has a website of her own and on it, she is billed as the world's expert on choice.  I suspect it might be a bit more appropriate to write that she is an expert on choice.  

My wife and I have been married for 60 years and we feel as though we know something about choice, dating and finding a person we want to be with.  We watched the first episode of "Indian Matchmaking" on Netflix and I think it seems very weird to hire a matchmaker to offer possible partners to my parents and me.  The first episode showed the use of basic variables based on both the parents' wishes and those of the bride and groom.  

I can see the possible value of having a professional and one's parents giving thought and advice in the matter of whom to date and what to look for.  I rather doubt that such advice would have aimed me at the woman I am delighted to be with, and who has put up with me and even delighted in my company.  Both of us had plenty of dating experience before deciding on marriage.  I imagine that matters.

I just saw over the last few days an article on research findings that it isn't compatibility that matters as much as the sort of relation that gets built and maintained.  In the Matchmaking episode, I was very aware that the mothers and the daughters seem to mention the importance of the man's height as the first criterion.  Since I am short and shrinking still more, I might have been out of the question before even meeting anyone. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Harari and meditation

I was quite surprised and pleased to find that the final chapter in Harari's "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" is about meditation and what it has done for the author. I didn't realize the book had that final chapter.  I don't think I have read any better explanation of what mediation, in Harari's sense, is or can do for a person.  He actually states that he could not have written his wonderful book, Sapiens, nor his other two, Homo Deus and the 21 Lessons without having his meditative practice.  

He was ushered into meditation in a workshop with S.N. Goenka.  There are many books on Amazon, in paper or Kindle ebooks, that can guide a person into meditative practice.  I have many blog posts dealing with meditation as a tool for living well and in harmony with one's self.  Anyone who is interested can use the search window in the top left corner of the main blog page for Fear, Fun and Filoz. There are also notes, references and explanations on many web pages of the Kirbyvariety website.

I actually started this blog with the aim of advocating and explaining the sort of meditation that Harari discusses.  I did that because evidence was piling up all over that the practice helped many sorts of people with many sorts of needs and difficulties. I realized as I was retiring that more stress on meditation and more explanation of what it is, what it helps in life and how to do it would help people.  Over time, it became clear that many authors and tools and organizations were springing up and that I could let others carry the ball.

Dan Harris is the author of "10% Happier" and "Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics", both helpful and revealing books about how a modern American might get involved in a meditation practice and be glad to have done so.  Personally, I imagine that the books by Chade-Meng Tan, especially "Joy on Demand" might be the fastest, simplest tickets into meditation.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Local campus makes good

It is exciting that a former normal school for training teachers has advanced into a university that offers doctoral degrees, the highest academic level of degree.  It is also exciting that the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point has made that journey from 1894 until now, about one century and a quarter.  Wisconsin is not an especially wealthy or populous state, but it has a very good educational system and history.  

The School of Education at UWSP has been cited as the 2nd best school of education in the US for two years running.  

After living in Stevens Point for 20 years, we moved to LaCrosse, Wisconsin to accommodate Lynn's new job at that university.  It is a beautiful place but we missed our friends and connections at Stevens Point and we moved back in 1993.  Between 1988 and 2005, I participated in several distance education activities, including using the statewide UW television system to teach basic statistics.

The main state campus in Madison is well known in educational history for its "Wisconsin Idea" that the borders of the campus are the borders of the state, meaning the university has a mission and obligation to assist citizens in advancing their education and in conducting research that will solve both practical and theoretical problems.

A former chancellor of UW-SP said that college students are transients and they are, but the local faculty are local citizens.  As a transplant from a city of nearly 3 million, I was interested and intrigued by Stevens Point and its atmosphere.  Our first year here we rented a house owned by a professor on leave.  We were fully aware that the local city was much smaller than what we were used to.  It turned out that our nextdoor neighbor had moved to Point from a nearby town of about 400, about 2% of the size of Point.


My limited experience with Stevens Point gives me the impression that it is an excellent town to attend college in.

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