Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

We had a band concert at 10 in the morning.  Right by the river, our bandshell is large enough to house the city band, which includes several friends and my granddaughter who plays the clarinet as well as other instruments.  The music and speeches were focused on military and related services such as firefighting and police.  It was stirring, in part because of the few mistakes and the atmosphere of sincerity.  

If you were there, you saw the brilliant blue sky, the bright green grass, the many colors of the clothes and chairs and the many American flags.  It was very typical of small American cities celebrating this day of remembrance.

Afterwards, our daughter held a family gathering at her house.  Again, classically typical: brats (bratwurst, pronounced "brots", not like the word for a wayward child, rhymes with "hots"), hot dogs and watermelon.  Plenty of chips and cheesecake and cookies and other health-conscious foods.  

There is a new invention that helps in family get-togethers on bright warm days, days just asking for a watergun fight.  In my day, a watergun was a water pistol, not a machine gun with auxiliary tanks and a 50 foot range. Lynn made sure we had four such monsters, one for each of the greatgrandchild.  But one didn't work well so it is a good thing that our daughter had one, too.  "Don't squirt the grown-ups, even by accident, or it's your head!"  IMG_1739.JPG

This new invention is biodegradable, an important feature since waterballoons explode and leave bits all over the lawn.  It looks a bit like a bunch of plastic grapes and they have a collective nozzle, enabling the whole bunch to be inflated with water at once.  When the water balloons are full, they detach themselves and seal off, preparing many water balloons for hurling and wetting others.

Hope you are ready for a busy, fun summer!

Monday, May 30, 2016


How can fingers that size make a mug that size?


Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Sunday, May 29, 2016


There was a recent article by a writer I admire and look out for, Adam Gopnik, in the May 16 New Yorker.  "Feel Me" is somewhat provocatively titled and this by a writer who knows exactly what he is doing. Yes, the phrase is often used in connection with sexual activity, an activity deeply connected to our lives, self-images, nervous systems, drives, even to the fact of our own existence born from touching and feeling.  If you were born before 1950 or so, you are old enough to have felt sexual feelings many times and you may be able to broaden the focus, just for a while, to the great area of all touch.  

We usually say we have the five senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch.  We have expert doctors in the area of vision and highly educated specialists in hearing.  We hear that dogs and other mammals are far more sensitive to scents than we are.  I have read that dogs are umpety-ump times better than we can hope to be at sensing and interpreting scents. But I guess the human sense of touch is quite far advanced.  I don't just mean the use of the fingertips, I mean all sensations of touch from anywhere on our skin.  

Gopnik's article is about all feelings and sensory input from the skin, which is our largest organ.  If you are sitting right now, you are getting messages from parts of your skin.  If you are wearing clothes, you can feel them.  When I look up "touch" or "human touch", many on the first page of the 38 million hits have to do with being touched by the hand of a friend or lover or professional.  Of course, skin's ability to talk to us and affect us is continuous and far more than just relationships and affection.  

Lynn just showed me a Facebook video of the work of photographer Richard Renaldi. His work on "Touching Strangers" is much like an old idea I had about people who have grown so accustomed to each other that they no longer see the other's beauty and intelligence.  I wanted to have a business where over-accustomed pairs sign a contract to be kidnapped and jailed where they could be starved for each other and maybe experience a dramatic and romantic escape from captivity to be so grateful for each other all over again. Renaldi found a much faster, more economical and effective way to brighten people's senses and awareness: put two willing strangers off the street into a semi-embrace or hug or other more or less affectionate stance for his camera.  The write-up for his book "Touching Strangers" says he asks strangers to "physically interact".

I wrestled for five years in high school and college.  Wrestlers are very aware of physical interaction and they wouldn't think of putting their arms around each other and standing still for a photo as physical interaction.  But in general, we do think that way.  Touching another even a little can be a big deal.  Ask the parents who drive 500 miles with two children in the back seat.  

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Toward The Light

Humor and inspiration published weekly (or whenever the editor feels like it) Fare: $ Priceless

Books by the editor: Life of the Eagle

The Short Happy Life of Davey Monroe


author unknown

(Editor’s note: This essay was written about 15

years ago. We haven’t changed.)

You may have missed this in the rush of other

news, but there was a report that someone in

Pakistan had actually published an offer of a reward

to anyone who killed an American—any American.

In response, an Australian dentist wrote the

following to let everyone know what an American

is so they would know when they found one.

“An American is English, or French, or Italian,

Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian, or Greek.

An American may also be Canadian, Mexican,

African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian,

Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An

American may also be a Cherokee, Osage,

Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache or one of the many other

tribes known as native Americans.

“An American is Christian, or he could be

Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are

more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The

only difference is that in America, they are free to

worship as each of them chooses. An American is

also free to believe in no religion. For that, he will

answer only to God, not to the government, or to

armed thugs claiming to speak for the government

and for God.

“An American is from the most prosperous land

in the history of the world. The root of that

prosperity can be found in the Declaration of

Independence, which recognizes the God-given

right of each man and woman to the pursuit of


“An American is generous. Americans have

helped out just about every other nation in the

world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was

overrun by the Soviet army years ago, America

came with arms and supplies to enable the people

to win back their country. As of the morning of

September 11, 2001, America had given more than

any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

“Americans welcome the best—the best

products, the best books, the best music, the best

food, the best athletes. But they also welcome the

Richard L. Evans, 704 Country Club Court, Morehead City, NC 28557 © copyright 2016 R.L. Evans all rights reserved

“The national symbol of America, The Statue of

Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the

wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the

homeless, tempest-tossed. These, in fact, are the

people who built America. Some of them were

working in the Twin Towers the morning of

September 11, earning a better life for their families.

I’ve been told that the World Trade Center victims

were from at least thirty other countries, cultures

and first languages—including those that aided and

abetted the terrorists.

“So you can try to kill an American if you must.

Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and

Mao, and every blood thirsty tyrant in the history

of the world. But in doing so, you would be just

killing yourself, because Americans are not a

particular people from a particular place. They are

the embodiment of the human spirit and freedom.

Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is

an American.”

Birthdays this week: Hank Williams, Jr. (67),

Stevie Nicks (68), Gladys Knight (72), Henry

Kissinger (93), Louis Gossett, Jr. (80), Carol Baker

(85), Rudy Giuliani (72), Lisa Kudrow (53),

Wynonna Judd (52), Clint Eastwood (86), Brooke

Shields (51), Colin Ferrell (40), Pat Boone (82),

Morgan Freeman (79) and Clint Walker (89).

(Editor’s note: Warning! You might want to stop

reading here.)

Two vultures boarded a plane, each carrying two

dead raccoons. The attendant said to them, “Sorry,

boys but only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

Two boll weevils grew up in the South. One went

to Hollywood and became a star. The other stayed

behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to

much. He became known as the lesser of two weevils.

Two Eskimos were sitting in a kayak and got

very cold (what else?), They decided to build a fire

in the boat to keep warm. The fire soon burned the

boat to the waterline. Thus proving you can’t have

your kayak and heat it, too.

(Editor’s note: Had enough? I tried to warn you.

Maybe you’ll pay attention next time.)

Toward the Light is published and distributed without charge by the Editor:

Richard Evans, editor and publisher of Toward the Light, has given me permission to include his recent issue here.  You can see it in the PDF original format on this web page:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Location in wealth, no, money

We don't pick our date and time of birth.  We almost never pick our date and time of death. So, locating ourselves in time, probably the main variable of our lives, is rather cut and dried.  But our money is a somewhat different question.  You can start to feel the difficulties if I report my wealth or my money in Italian lire or Russian rubles.  Google reports that one US dollar is currently worth 1709.66 lire or 65.88 rubles.  So, which is better 1 or 1709 or 66.  Rather a silly question but the answer tends to depend on whether you are in Kansas City or Fiorenza or Leningrad.

Which is better: a Chevy, a Lamborghini or a Buick?  Depends on what you want, where you live, how you feel.  You might have preferred a Chevy at 17 years of age but none of the above today.

It is not easy to situate yourself in money.  Compared to your cousin, you have more income but you don't own a boat.  Compared to your grandfather, you have nearly no acreage but he did. Compared to the Italian priest in a Tuscan monastery, you have quite a wardrobe but he doesn't want more clothes.  Mathematically, your income is quite a lot more than Ivan's but he is well-off by the standards of his family and friends and neighborhood.

When it comes to money (not wealth, a bigger and trickier category), people often talk of winning the lottery.  If you win $100, what will you do with the money?  How about $10,000? Sometimes, people talk of getting a windfall and I like to ask them if they need money.  They usually pause a moment and then say they don't. Most people most of the time don't really know how much they actually have right now.

It is likely that your life would have been different if your family's annual income was monthly instead.  In the same way, if a month's income had to last a full year, things would have probably been different.  These numerical considerations are one thing but there is often an emotional side to money. Should I have worked harder?  Should I have gone into a different line of work?  Maybe I am ashamed of what I failed to accomplish. Maybe I am quite proud of all that I have earned and saved.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Situating in time

Take the year in which you were born.  Subtract 100.  The answer might be 1850 or so.  What was the country like 100 years before you were born? Keep going.  Your birth year plus 100 = maybe 2050.  You could be alive then.  People might be depending on you for wisdom, judgment and memories.  How about 200 years, to 2150?  You will be around physically then but quite dissipated.  Your molecules will be scattered all over the place.  Some people are worried that humans will be polluted to death by then or wiped out by drought, war or famine.

As you get older and more and more people around you are younger than you are, it becomes clear that your memories go back to times earlier than many others experienced.  It doesn't take long for you to realize the same applies to you.  Many days elapsed before you came along.  What happened in those times?  People came from Asia and Europe and settled parts of North America.  They could never get a good cellphone signal.  Way before that, people left Africa to span out to Asia and Europe.  How far back can we throw our minds?  How about 4,543,000,000 years?  

If we place our thoughts that far back, we pre-date not only good cellphone service but writing, language, cooking and air conditioning.  We might not want to set our time machine back so far that we are on the planet without an atmosphere or with too many raging volcanoes. 

It seems murkier to take our minds into the future.  When you were 10 or 15 years old, did you have any idea that your life would be like it has?  Are you living where you expected to?

Maybe you know that in 1899, the head of the US patent office recommended closing the office down on the grounds that everything that could be invented had been.  My wife says she doesn't hear that sort of comment much any more.  I think maybe we are more aware that the internet of things (IOT), genetics, and many other areas are just beginning to blossom. 

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Estates, Goodwilll and Changing fashions

Some of our relatives and friends have died.  That can be sad but in most cases, there was some warning and little shock that older people die.  But there is the matter of what's left over.  A will helps decide who gets the back forty acres but there is more.  Quite a bit more. Clothes, albums of this and that, tools, maybe some live pets.  Many of the people who have experienced facing the attic, the garage, the upper levels of the garage, the basement, etc. try to take a strong stance of being prepared.  Who wants to have the relatives face a big lot of stuff at such a time?  Why not be proactive and strip down now?

Not a bad idea at all but the trouble is we keep on living.  A new gadget gets invented and it holds all our backscratchers so nicely!  In a month or two or so, we are ready to put it aside.  We put aside. Not there!  In the basement.  You know, right beside Grandma's platinum doilies, the ones we are saving for when they come back in style.  I keep them in the pie safe. Yes, I emptied all those culottes and spats out last year so there is room in there now.

It is hard to stay current.  Something old is now treasured but I gave it away.  This is still hot right now but it is fading in popularity even now.  

As more people live to greater age, longer spans of time are covered by their lifetimes.  Meanwhile, marketing and keeping up with the Jones, the de Jongs, the Janosonvanichs and the Tjings moves us all through fashions and fads even faster.  So, we have more stuff to store, to hold on to, just in case.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why are you all bloody?

I read a good poem by Ronald Wallace and I wanted to read more.  So, I went to the library and of course, it is silly to go there without looking at the new books on display.  I quickly found four I wanted to look at more completely.  I did and I found they weren't for me.

One of the books is by a well-known crime, whodunit and police writer.  That book starts out with a couple of criminals driving out into the country with a body to dispose of.  We find out as they open the trunk of the car to complete their job that the victim is alive.  When the trunk is opened, the man jumps out and runs off.  The criminals vow to find him, track him down and complete their assignment.  I decided I don't want to be party to their work.  I am not intrigued.  I think they should re-write the tale by switching to helping out in a soup kitchen for the poor and visiting the hospitalized and lonely.

Not long ago, I read that "it is not a story until something bad happens".  I think our primate, maybe even more basic, animal nature gets aroused and engaged by dramatic tension: will the boy get the girl?  Will the searchers find the missing child?  Will the new product sell?  If too many tales are peaches and cream, butter and biscuits, lovey-dovey, we lose interest.  If it is all going to turn out the way we want, we don't need to worry. We don't even need to care, to pay attention.

It gets a little tiring, though, to put aside all the stories that go for the necessary tension by depicting horror, torture, ruthless cruelty.  There are plenty of those and if we just lower our standards and cozy up to a good beating, a couple of gruesome murders and sadistic episodes, we have something to watch or read, something to fear, to raise worries and actual disgust.  It can be a drag to look through books, series of books, possible tv viewing and movies in search of something well-crafted, appropriately tense and dramatic while skipping blood and gore attempts to be engaging.

The older I get, the more stories I have read or watched.  It gets more difficult for me to care, or worry, or hope.  I read plenty of non-fiction that is quite engaging, such as Franz de Waal's "Are We Smart Enough to Figure Out How Smart Animals Are?"  So, I am too experienced, too familiar with brass knuckles and bloody blades to be very interested in whether Detective Smith is aware of who is also in the room.  The last story that seemed actually worth reading without the aid of blood and screams was "The Revolving Door of Life" by Alexander McCall Smith.  Before that, "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend."  There is good, modern, sensitive fiction worth reading that does not include breaking bones.  

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Monday, May 23, 2016

I can't keep up

As I get more friends and followers on this blog, I have trouble keeping up.  As more people respond to comments, I can't keep up.  In spring, it is inviting weather and it is dumb to waste it. But if I go for a bike ride in the luscious breeze, I will get further behind.  I want to examine how my life is going and how it feels but I am too busy living.  I can't keep up!

Friends pour good ideas and great books into my head.  I can't keep up.  Every week goes by faster than the last one.  I get writings from Pew and Brookings.  I try to get through Time each week but I am behind.  

Writers improve.  Marketers send still more attractive deals in more effective language and press more of my buttons.  I can't keep up!

I guess if I turn off my router and put all the mail directly into the recycling, it would help. If I don't fill the tank and limit myself to walking, I could save money but the shock might be upsetting.  Maybe I will turn the router down instead of completely off.  I may even have to redefine "keeping up" or use my sister's new mantra "It doesn't matter".

Some of the TED talks might distract you while you sympathize with my problem. I did put the latest email from TED talk on my blog, here http://fearfunandfiloz.blogspot.com/2016/05/fwd-this-scientist-can-hack-your-dreams.html

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fwd: This scientist can hack your dreams

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: This week on TED.com <no_reply@ted.com>
Date: Sun, May 22, 2016 at 9:25 AM
Subject: This scientist can hack your dreams
To: olderkirby@gmail.com

"...a canvas that flickers to life when we fall asleep" Open in your browser
This week on TED.com
May 22, 2016

Moran Cerf: This scientist can hack your dreams

18:00 minutes · Filmed Feb 2016 · Posted May 2016 · TED2016

What if we could peek inside our brains and see our dreams -- or even shape them? Studying memory-specific brain cells, neuroscientist (and ex-hacker) Moran Cerf found that our sleeping brains retain some of the content we encounter when we're awake and that our dreams can influence our waking actions. Where could this lead us? "Neuroscientists are now giving us a new tool to control our dreams," Cerf says, "a new canvas that flickers to life when we fall asleep."

Playlist of the week

How music affects us

Music is a fundamental aspect of humanity -- so exactly how does it impact us? These talks offer a look at our fascinating relationship with the music we make. Watch »

8 TED Talks • Total run time 2:34:53

More TED Talks

Anyone who has lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer knows the devastating speed with which it can affect an otherwise healthy person. TED Fellow and biomedical entrepreneur Laura Indolfi is developing a revolutionary way to treat this complex and lethal disease: a drug delivery device that acts as a cage at the site of a tumor, preventing it from spreading and delivering medicine only where it's needed. "We are hoping that one day we can make pancreatic cancer a curable disease," she says. Watch »

Sebastian Junger has seen war up close, and he knows the impact that battlefield trauma has on soldiers. But he suggests there's another major cause of pain for veterans when they come home: the experience of leaving the tribal closeness of the military and returning to an alienating and bitterly divided modern society. "Sometimes, we ask ourselves if we can save the vets," Junger says. "I think the real question is if we can save ourselves." (This talk comes from the PBS special TED Talks: War & Peace, which premieres Monday, May 30.) Watch »

Everyone has an opinion about how to legislate sex work (whether to legalize it, ban it or even tax it) ... but what do workers themselves think would work best? Activist Toni Mac explains four legal models that are being used around the world, and shows us the model that she believes will work best to keep sex workers safe and offer greater self-determination. "If you care about gender equality or poverty or migration or public health, then sex worker rights matter to you," she says. "Make space for us in your movements." (Adult themes) Watch »

In the US, the press has a right to publish secret information the public needs to know, protected by the First Amendment. But government surveillance has made it ever more dangerous for whistleblowers, the source of virtually every important story about national security since 9/11, to share information. In this concise, informative talk, Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder and TED Fellow Trevor Timm traces the recent history of government action against individuals who expose crime and injustice, and advocates for technology that can help them do it safely and anonymously. Watch »

Read more on ideas.ted.com

Education: The surprisingly good things that kids are learning from video games »
Kids don't love "educational video games" -- but what can they learn from the games they really love, like Minecraft, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft?

Quote of the Week


Charles Darwin said, 'I sometimes think that general and popular treatises are almost as important for the progress of science as original work.' In fact, Origin of Species was written for a general and popular audience, and was widely read when it first appeared. Darwin knew what we seem to have forgotten, that science is not only for scientists."

Laura Snyder
The philosophical breakfast club
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I was using the computer when it froze.  Problem seems to be "unmountable boot volume", which I think is computer talk for "can't start".  I recently re-installed Windows 10 but with a working computer.  I don't know if doing contributed or caused the corruption.  I don't think so.  It did well for several days after the re-install.  The machine has quite a few years and lots of mileage on it but then so do I.

I have alternatives.  I should be able to go a day or two with it in the shop.  I will just remain calm and ring Carson to bring tea. This is a good time to try to catch up on the dozen or so books that I really want to get to.  Maybe a good time to try out a Chromebook.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Saturday, May 21, 2016

How smart!

"One cannot expect a great performance on a task that fails to arouse interest. We ran into this problem while studying face recognition in chimpanzees. At the time, science had declared humans unique, since we were so much better at identifying faces than any other primate. No one seemed bothered by the fact that other primates had been tested mostly on human faces rather than those of their own kind. When I asked one of the pioneers in this field why the methodology had never moved beyond the human face, he answered that since humans differ so strikingly from one another, a primate that fails to tell members of our species apart will surely also fail at its own kind. But when Lisa Parr, one of my coworkers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, tested chimpanzees on photographs of their own species, she found that they excelled at it."

de Waal, Frans. Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (Kindle Locations 270-276). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Schooling and education are supposed to relate closely to intelligence.  One hundred years ago, Lewis Terman modified the French Binet-Simon intelligence test to be more appropriate to US children.  Since then, we have had many attempts to discover high levels of intelligence in both children and adults.  It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been especially accurate.  

The Oxford University series of Very Short Introductions are helpful, inexpensive (especially in the Kindle format) and cover a wide-range of subjects.  The one on intelligence (2001) has a table of contents that implies some of the difficulties in nailing down what intelligence is and how to recognize it:

1    To see 'g' or not to see 'g' … How many types of intelligence are there?

2    Ageing and intelligence: senility or sagacity? What happens to mental abilities as we grow older?

3    Brainy? Why are some people cleverer than others?

4    'They f—— you up, your mum and dad' (Larkin) Are intelligence differences a result of genes or environments or both?

5    The (b)right man for the job Does intelligence matter?

6    The lands of the rising IQ Is intelligence increasing generation after generation?

7    Eleven Twelve (not-so-)angry men (and women) Psychologists actually agree about human intelligence differences

Deary, Ian J.. Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Kindle Locations 138-149). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

As we perhaps get a little smarter and a little more careful, we may understand our minds and those of other species more completely and with more respect and less arrogance.  The many efforts to build machines that can think faster, more accurately and maybe in better ways may help us, too.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Friday, May 20, 2016

Poem worth reading

It is a good one for cheer and for awakening the little gray cells of your imagination.
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Could happen

A professor of chemistry said the other day, that he didn't care too much where a person was from or what he looked like but that what mattered was what contribution a person could make.

I taught a course that tried to consider the future.  Of course, that is impossible.  There are many developments that cannot be foreseen.  But the last part of the book "Sapiens" by Yuval N. Harari does one of the best jobs I have seen.  He basically sees a unification of the planet's humans.  I know we fear each other and hate each other and worry about dishonesty and unethical behavior but I wouldn't be surprised if we do manage sometime to cooperate and enjoy each other.  We may come to see that we can all contribute to the creation of fuller, richer lives.

Ok, we are animals and we need the basics: food, shelter and clothing.  Many animals do with just food and shelter or home base or a nest but we generally need clothing, too.  Besides the basics, it seems that we have two further needs: travel (beyond our ability to walk, run or hobble) and communication.  Sure, the other animals call and challenge and warn but we want to chat - about the weather, the neighbors, the pain in my back.  We like to make up tales and tell them.

If you think about the development of communication, of writing, of reading and of bringing those activities and tools into peoples' lives, you can see the sort of spread and growth that has been happening.  Go back a thousand years, and you touch on scribes, specialists who could make marks on one material or another that they or other specialists could quickly decode.  Handy for government, tax rolls, and such but an art above the commoner.  Now, we not only teach such coding and de-coding to little children, we have them using tablets and the internet.  Sure, a big section of humans have not yet seen a tv but a bigger section has.  Before the 1700's, we didn't have much in the way of writing specifically for children.  Now, we do and plenty of it.  

We have Google Translate that can communicate in 60 or more languages.  We have a Korean author of "The Vegetarian" translated by a 26 year old English woman winning the Booker Prize for a novel in English.  (From its inception, only Commonwealth, Irish, and Zimbabwean citizens were eligible to receive the prize; in 2013, however, this eligibility was widened to any English language novel.  Note: Irish ?  Zimbabwean?).  We have the noted writer Indian-American Princeton professor Jhumpa Lahiri writing in Italian for the challenge and the fun of it and then being translated into English by Ann Goldstein.

We have signs of better communication and understanding among us all.  We may achieve some wonderful things yet.  Let's make Earth great again!

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Losses I don't want

You can expect to lose a friend if they are elderly.  You have cancer, heart attacks, strokes and such lurking around, trying to steal your friends.  But risking loss and pain from loss is part of the deal.  It is like the equation that Andrew Weil put in one of his books: "Love = pain".  You love somebody and you are going to have pain.  They don't love you back: pain.  They love somebody else more or better or deeper or it seems that way: pain.

But what about you are just minding your business and dusting and keeping the grass cut and you strike up a friendship with a neighbor.  A nice neighbor whom you respect.  He is not elderly but WHAM!  His worth becomes apparent to Warren Buffet or the United Arab Emirates or the Association of Retired Persons.  He is offered a job in a nice place at a better salary.  Of course, he is going to move away.  Of course, we will promise each other to "stay in touch", even though we never have touched each other and don't expect to.  And, of course, that is not what happens.

It is not just worth that moves the levers and sets the wheels of loss in motion.  An excellent local official is lonely and lovely.  Uh-oh!  Loss approaching!  People aren't' stupid, you know.  They aren't blind, either.  Lonely and lovely shows.  A person of the opposite gender sees the loneliness and the loveliness and makes an offer.  WHAM!  Another loss! "Come with me to a better place.  A nice place.  A place where we can live well."  Bye-bye.

It helps a little to remember that suffering is ennobling, that I accumulate gift points in paradise for pain visited on me that I bear.  It helps a little that people of worth to either organizations or individuals are needed elsewhere and get to go where they are needed.  But that consolation is a little weak.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How Latin affected my life

In junior high, I choose a foreign language to study.  I could select from French, Spanish, German or Latin.  I choose Latin because it seemed the most exotic.  When would I get another chance?  I have since found out that for years, acceptable preparation for many American colleges was study of both Latin and Greek.  I have never studied or had a chance to study a language that used a different alphabet from the one the English inherited from the Romans.

So, what happened?  At the end of junior high, graduating from the 9th grade, there was only one high school in the city where Latin was studied and where I would be some credit for having had a year of it.  It was an hour away by public transportation, the only kind I could use.  I spent the next three years riding over and back every school day.  That gave me time to spend with my girlfriend or to read when we missed each other.  More importantly, that high school was all-male despite being a public one.  Besides, the 16 or so homerooms in my year were sorted by grades.  I was placed in the 2nd one.  I considered myself financially limited and figured I would join a military service and save for college.  My homeroom teacher - at this point, I suspected I had written all this before.  I searched the main blog page using the search window in the top left:blogpage.jpg

Indeed, I had, in 2009, the same words I was thinking now! I searched for "homeroom" and found my story immediately.  So, let that be a lesson for you.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Exit later

It may have been Albert Camus who said that the only philosophical problem is suicide.  He meant if you have a reason to keep on living, you don't need to ponder much about why and how to live, since you have your purpose (or purposes) that you want to accomplish.  Much of modern living seems to be about multiplicities: multiple purposes, multiple constraints, restrictions, considerations and worries, multiple possibilities, multiple needs, fears, worries, etc.  Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised, if one way or another, life had quite a few multiple possibilities 1, 2 or 10 hundred years ago.  

Last night, Lynn picked "Last Love" as a movie worth watching.  It was.  An American philosophy professor has been teaching in English or just living the retired life in Paris.  His wife loves the city and she is dying of cancer so he keeps living there, more or less for her sake.  When she dies, what is there to live for? He doesn't speak French but manages to get by, while taking language lessons of a sort from a woman friend.  He develops a friendship with a young French woman who is less than half his age.  Suddenly, there is quite a different slant to his life and more to live for.  

The movie qualifies as a good one in my opinion.  It has 5 stars in Netflix but not a very high Rotten Tomatoes rating.  

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Monday, May 16, 2016

Variation within and between

Say, you weigh some fifty-year olds from A-ville and some from B-ville.  They don't all weigh the same amount.  We look at how the people from A-ville vary.  We look at how the average or central tendency of the whole A-ville group varies from that of B-ville. If the A group includes widely different weights but the A average differs only a little bit from the B average, we say that the villages don't differ in an important way.

That approach is comparing variation (in weight) between villages with the variation within a village.  This is the central concept of the "analysis of variance", a.k.a. "anova", a central part of modern statistical analysis of experimental data.  Many variables of interest in human affairs are scattered among people in a way that does not split them very reliably or emphatically into separate groups.  For instance, most of the time, a man is stronger than a woman but depending on the groups, we might find that the average man differs from the average woman less than the men differ among themselves.  

Another way of thinking about variation within and between is to think of "overlap".  If the heaviest A-ville man is lighter than the lightest man from B-ville, then weight does cleave the men: A's are light and B's are heavy.  Unless we fudge the samples or groups, natural groups often overlap and are not cleanly separated.  If we take the A high school football team and compare body weights with the B elementary school football team, we may find that there is a clear grouping but only because we purposely chose groups that don't overlap.

We can think about variation in connection with group labels.  If we know a man is from A-ville, how likely is it that he is heavier than average.  Does group membership tell weight?  Does gender tell strength?

Much research today is a long, tough search for variables that matter.  Even if they only matter a little, that may be enough to get research and development started.  Say we do find that the A-villagers tend to be lighter, not all the time but somewhat lighter on average.  That finding might launch a search for an explanation of the lighter weight and lead to better body weights for both villages.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Children telling lies

I get a weekly list of notable TED talks. This week, one of the featured talks was by the researcher Dr. Kang Lee who is a student of child development and specializes in children telling lies.  You can look him up on the TED web site or use this recent post on my blog of the email I received today. Dr. Kang begins with the story of an elementary school principal who received a phone call explaining that Johnny is sick and won't be coming to school today.  The principal asked who was speaking and was told "I am my father."

Kang explains that many adults assume that kids are poor liars and that telling a lie is a morally reprehensible act that children should avoid.  However, he has found that children tend to develop the language and mental abilities around age 2 or 3 needed to successfully lie.  He has checked out many different types of adults for their ability to detect the sorts of lies his procedure produces.  They only do as well as chance at detecting kids' lies.

Dr. Kang describes his procedure in his talk.  Much like the work done with an experimental version of self-control, a game of guessing for a prize is interrupted and the experimenter leaves the room. Kang says the excuse is accompanied by a warning not to cheat by looking at the card while alone.  Video cameras record what the child does while alone.  The experimenter asks the children if they cheated.  Kang reports that more than 90% of the kids take a look at the cards while alone but that lying about their behavior is related to the age of the child.  The older the child, the more likely to look and the more likely to lie.

Kang ends by saying that all the types of adults he has tested do no better at detecting lies than chance.  (He evidently always presents the adults with a video of a child telling the truth and one of a child lying and asks the subject to say which is the liar.)

He ends by showing a new technology for detecting lies that has promise and may be superior to today's lie detectors.  He recommends that we celebrate when our child tells the first lie because it is an important milestone in development.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

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