Thursday, January 23, 2020

Loon Lake

Loon Lake is a fictitious community in northern Wisconsin.  That is the area of the county where Paul Bunyan lived. In case you don't know Paul, you can look here:  That means that there is plenty of forest, some bears, some eagles, many lakes and cold winters.  People from Chicago and Milwaukee retreat to the "Northwoods" in summer to escape the heat and in winter to hunt deer and wild turkey.  It is an area of small towns of 10 to 20 thousand and smaller.

Lewellyn Ferris is the chief of police of Loon Lake and Paul Osborne is a retired dentist.  Paul is a widower and has two grown daughters. Paul is attracted to Lew and he dines with her often.  Paul's friend and neighbor, Ray Pradt, is an outdoorsman, fishing guide and general guy.  

The Loon Lake stories are written by Victoria Houston and they include "Dead" in the titles, as in "Dead Loudmouth" and "Dead Hot Mama".  They are available for Kindle at a low price and are probably also in your local library. Apps like OverDrive and Libby allow the borrowing of an ebook from a nearby library without leaving your chair. I realize leaving one's chair is a good idea, though, and should be carried out a couple of times a day.

There are other mentions of Houston in these blog posts but she scored again.  We were searching for a book that held our interest and was a good one for reading aloud.  We tried and dropped several before going back to Houston. Admittedly, we might be a bit biased since we are on the edge of the Northwoods, we look out any window and see the scenery that one sees in Northwood resorts.  After trying and giving up on several other books, we decided to give another Houston book a try. With all the lakes and streams in northern Wisconsin, fishing is a big deal. All the Houston books have a background of fishing and both Chief Ferris and her buddy, Dr. Osbourne, love fishing and often fish together.

Houston puts a good, comfortable story together and we quickly settled in.  We liked Dead Hot Mama and zipped through it, but now we are out in the cold, on the hunt again.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Value of talking about it

I can find statements about negative effects of Facebook and other social media but I wonder if higher levels of communication are going to bring long-range improvements to humans.  I have read that various early Americans were confident that this continent was too large for a nation and that people could not and would not communicate nor travel to meet with each other.  The 1800's and 1900's were highly affected by the emergence of railroads and the telegraph. Eventually, along came the telephone and those three communication inventions and networks to support them have changed what we know, who we know, what we say, and what we can do.

It seems possible that simply talking and writing about any difficulty tends to lead to improvement.  Sometimes, communication is expected to simply be about expressing sympathy or disagreement, positive or negative emotional language.  However, in today's world, especially given growing connections to sources of knowledge and to research, discussion can supply new ideas, new views, new possibilities, new sources and access to new materials.  

Naming a problem in order to state by voice or writing what is the matter can often be a first step to learning about it. Modern learning is often about questioning: is a certain idea correct?  Is it true? How do we know? What don't we know that would help? Who knows about this? Who has experience with this?

The printing press, about 1500, had a big effect on the distribution of knowledge and led to a big increase in the demand for and availability of books.  But it has only been a relatively short time that people have in large numbers learned to read. I read recently that only a couple of centuries back about 85% of humans could not read and that now about 85% can.  It is true that what language one reads and what country one reads in, matter. Years ago, I read a quote that a man said his native tongue was a "tomb", meaning that few books were published in his language and he hadn't learned to read any other.  But don't kid yourself: we are working on the problem of different languages and different cultures. Maybe we will come to respect and work with them.

It is commonplace to say that human minds are a wonderful tool but a small group of humans who communicate with each other makes a very powerful tool for developing ideas and improving them.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Sitting still alone

I often search my blog posts to see what I have written over the days since April 2008 about something or someone.  Today, I thought of Pascal's (1626-1662) statement that he had discovered that all of man's troubles come from being unable to "stay quietly in their own chamber." (Pensées, 139).  I have several references in this blog to the statement by the French mathematical genius. His statement is often quoted as "being unable to sit alone in a room."

I have noticed similarities between prayer, meditation, solitary self-examination and his statement from 400 years ago.  Today, a common criticism is that people sit alone in a room but using a smartphone in their hand and wi-fi or satellite connections to play games, communicate, absorb or create propaganda.  As I age, I sit alone more. I explain to myself that I have more to think about, having such a full head and greater sensitivity to a wide range of emotions, associations and considerations.  The Quaker concept of sitting still and alone, of doing nothing to distract or play, and the mindful practice on concentrating on one's breathing and returning to such concentration when I discover I am off into a subject does seem to have increased my appreciation of sitting alone and still.  

I did take the time to look up Pascal's Pensées.  There are about ten different translations on Amazon Kindle and many of them are free.  I wanted to read more of the text before and after his statement so I selected a likely edition and ordered it.  As often happens, the computers at Amazon sent a message that said "according to our records you already purchased this item."  It is a verification of the quality of my taste that I again chose the very version that I selected five years ago. Even though a member of my household feels differently, I find it quite reasonable to pay low prices for an immediate transmission of a book I want to read and having nearly 3,000 books is too much to remember in detail. I do appreciate the practice of refusing to re-sell something I have already purchased.

I found in reading a bit more widely that Pascal was thinking about diversions, much like today's Words with Friends.  In his honor, I took time to do an easy sudoku before writing this post. The diversions he mentions involve more effort and danger, such as chasing a rabbit or boar on horseback with a pack of hounds, laying siege to a city, or being the king. He wisely points to "turmoil" and excitement as the goals of diversion and believes that without diversions, we are unhappily reminded of Buddha's sickness, old age and death.  He doesn't mention our animal nature, need to move, and to feel we are contributing to our lives and those of others.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mature works

I mean work done when the creator is "mature".  Mature is a difficult property to pin down. As I wrote previously, I got re-engaged with Beethoven's 9th symphony a couple of weeks ago.  I have a complete recording of Mozart's The Magic Flute. The Beethoven was part of an inexpensive set of all 9 of his symphony and when I listened to it carefully, I thought the bass singer sounded elderly and strained.  So, I went online to get a different version. It came a few days ago and I listened to it while driving yesterday and today. I tend to drive about 20 or 30 minutes a day so I still haven't finished it but I am close to the end.

The 9th symphony is his only symphony that includes human voice.  The Magic Flute is an opera so there is voice all the way through.  The Magic Flute is based on a fantastical story. Both have memorable tunes and vocal and instrumental highlights aplenty.  Both can be heard in YouTube videos. I find that both can be listened to repeatedly, to the point that the music is more or less memorized.  When a passage ends, and the mind furnishes an anticipation of the next part, the music is in the mind.

Mozart lived from 1756 to 1791, only 45 years and died in the year that Magic Flute was first performed.  Beethoven lived from 1770 to 1827. The 9th symphony was first performed in 1824. Neither composer was old by today's standards but both were near the end of their lives when these two works were composed and first performed.

The movie "Amadeus" tells the story of Mozart's life and the movie "Immortal Beloved" tells the story of the mature Beethoven going deaf.  Beethoven was deaf by 1816. Listening to works by either man is probably quite a different matter from the time when only in a concert hall was the music available. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Trying to improve our future

Many thinkers have considered this planet's carrying capacity.  How many humans can live comfortably depends on how they live. Right now, we have about 7.7 billion.  That extra .7 after the first seven is by itself a big number. Every tenth of a billion is another 100 million, or one-third of the US population.  Each of us wants comfort, good food, a chance to do some travel, a good education, good housing, good clothing. Without getting into the optimal number of humans,  it doesn't take long to get to the subject of the number of living humans and the rate at which they multiply.  

The largest single nation is China, with about 1.4 billion.  China can make a good claim for the title of the oldest continuous civilization on earth.  It seems a credit to that government and its people that from 1979 to 2015, they tried hard to limit their production of babies.   We watched the film "One-Child Nation" on Amazon TV and saw what a mammoth and difficult undertaking it was. Trying to limit the growth of population is a very difficult project.  Humans have basic, very strong drives to reproduce. We cannot easily tame or direct that drive. The film makes clear the difficulties in setting the rules and in enforcing them to limit population growth.  

If you want to help your country and the world and you understand the need to limit the supply of new babies, you might be asked to kill some healthy fetuses and some newborn babies.  Even if you are fully convinced that there need to be fewer mouths to feed, extinguishing life in new humans could give you permanent nightmares. We are wired to increase life, not to limit it.  With a one-child per couple policy, what about twins? Does one of them have to die? If a newborn is especially loved, who will leave the baby alive in a garbage dump?

Americans and many others in the Western world want cars, boats, planes.  Also air conditioning, heat in the winter, and continuously available entertainment.  Between the Netflix movie "American Factory" and the Amazon movie "One-child Nation", we can contrast the American ideal of fulfilment for each person in a long, happy, satisfied life with a clearer picture of life for many humans now living.  

It can help to get a clear idea of how we live, what we might do to live more frugally and with less, and how to manage our moods and hopes about our current lives and our future.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Our daughter Jill

I am thinking about my younger daughter who died at age 45.  She would be 57 now. We typically say it is unfair for someone to die young.  It is also unfair for a person to suffer from mental illness. Here is a link to a web page that Lynn wrote about her life and death.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Male Mail Duty

It can get cold in winter. We are approaching the mid-point of winter, which I take to be February 4.  After that date, winter is on the way out. That doesn't mean things are guaranteed to be easier. We can get some strong storms, heavy wet snow that breaks power and phone lines but right now, we still have more to go than we have traveled.  

We get our newspaper and mail in a box on a post at the end of our driveway.  It's not long, maybe two and a half car lengths but to get the daily deliveries, we have to go outside.  If the cold is serious, say more than ten Farenheit degrees below zero, we could open the garage door, back the car down the driveway, pull up to the mail and newspaper boxes, pull the deliveries in, drive back up the driveway and be inside the protective car the whole time.  When it is seriously cold, any wind matters.

Using the car is not something this male mail retriever (MMR) usually does.  Too much trouble. What with global warming and more erratic weather, we have actually not had the 40 degrees below zero of earlier years.  Today is one of the colder days recently and it is still a couple of degrees above zero and very little wind. Even though it is a bit of a bother to put on separate shoes so that I can remove them when I return and not track up our floors, it is better in the long run to take the time to change into outdoor shoes and then back to slip-on loafers.  The more times I expose my hands to the cold, the more likely fissures will develop, little breaks in the elderly skin that take a while to heal. If I am patient enough to get gloves and wear them I can forestall that condition. A good MMR will get the gloves and maybe a parka to the door before donning the outdoor shoes. Otherwise, there is a temptation to tromp across the floor for the gloves wearing salty, sandy soles. I have been a MMR for several decades and I intend to keep on!

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