Thursday, June 30, 2016

Today is the anniversary of something

Marriage?  Going to school?  Getting that job?  Graduation?  The day the team won?  Getting that prize for the floral arrangement?

Our friends have a plaque on their door that says on this spot in 1864, nothing happened.  Today might be the anniversary of nothing happening.  Can you remember that day when nothing happened?  No, of course not.  Something happened every day, every morning, every evening, every night.

As soon as we think," Well, that is right: something or other happened", we start throwing our minds back in time.  Did something of importance happen on this same day of the year in 2015?  We use years as markers but we can use months or weeks.  Did something happen yesterday that still tickles you?  Did something happen that you are still worrying about?

The branch of statistics called "time series analysis" is about studying the history of occurrences of something, say tropical storms or the size of apple harvests.  Marking anniversaries or month-aversaries leads to reflection or careful mathematical analysis.  Pure reminiscence is fun and helpful.  You know that old Socratic bit that the unexamined life is not worth living.  Noting the anniversary of whatever happened just one year ago or exactly one decade ago is a tool for examining our lives as they pass along.  Time series analysis of our bank balances or the size of our libraries over the past 120 months is another sort of life examination.  Maybe that examination would show the ups and downs of regular expenses and bonuses and payments.

Realizing that something happened on this day ten years ago and trying to figure out what that day was like is a way of appreciating the blessings and good things in life.  Today is June 30, 2016.  If my blog went back that far, I could look to see what I posted that day of 2006.  The blog has not been written for that long but it does go back for more than five years.

Today is the 5 year anniversary of my writing the blog post of June 30, 2011.  That day I wrote about the bother of junk mail.  We are still bothered by that problem.  My shredder is still full of shredded mail.  

We can't mark every event.  We can't even notice every event.  But our lives are floating or spurting or jerking on by and noting the anniversaries and other markers of interest increases the pleasure of living and reliving.  Where is that notebook?  Where is the camera?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Sometimes when my father and I went out to dinner, he would order seafood (crabs, shrimp, scallops, fish) with gusto as though it was a very big treat.  I often wondered how a person could make such a choice when there was ham, chicken, and steak to be had.  Now, I often find myself doing what he did.

I don't live near the sea so seafood is a rarity.  It tends to be light and easy to eat while the redder meats are heavier. Generally, seafood is high in protein.  I probably get a little less protein daily than is recommended.  I know that a good helping of protein tends to satisfy my hunger better and longer.  I think I am suggestible and if I think seafood is clean enough, free of unhealthy chemicals enough and has acceptably low levels of mercury and things that are not good for me, I can probably continue to consume seafood I like.  I mean my mind will protect me, won't it?  My friend, a retired professor of chemistry, tells me that labs can detect smaller and smaller bits of any substance anywhere.  I use the idea that sufficiently small amounts of this chemical or that probably don't matter.  At least, not enough to really shorten the years I can still expect to have.

I have read that humans are taking more and more of what is in the sea and that many fish are scarce or totally gone now.  Salmon and other actual fish as well as shrimp and scallops are being farmed.  The farming can be done well or it can be done sloppily, cleanly or dirty.  I like the looks of the farmed atlantic salmon I buy and the shrimp from Thailand has been good.  I don't know enough chemistry, marine biology and human digestion science to really judge how healthy the seafood I eat is.  But about the same holds true for ham, steak and chicken I eat.

I am making dinner tonight and it has been a while since I cooked shrimp.  Google says that steamed shrimp is 25% protein but I don't know enough about (anything!!!) to know what that figure means for my health, my strength and my hunger.  I just found this statement on the web:

Jan 26, 2006 10:37 AM

I grew up in New Zealand in the 1940s and 50s. Until the late 50s MOST people did not own a refrigerator or the item Americans quaintly referred to as an 'ice box'

My parents had a cupboard on the shady side of the kitchen with a mesh-covered window frame on the outside wall. In addition, all shops closed on Friday night and nothing could be bought until Monday with the exception of a couple of perishables such as milk and possibly eggs. The meat for Sunday's roast had to survive unrefrigerated in these circumstances and, in fact, its cooked leftovers were still consumed in various ways during the week. Meat was mostly Beef, Lamb or Veal - Pork tended to be eaten only in the cooler months and because of the absence of factory farming, chicken was an occasional treat.

Butter was always soft; if jam grew mold you just scraped it off. Meat fat was poured off and saved in cans, in the aforementioned cupboard to be used for frying.

The summer temperatures were often in the 80s but I don't recollect anyone in my family (or anyone elses) coming down with food poisoning.

When we finally could afford a refrigerator it was celebrated as a means of having really cold drinks and ice cream etc on hand first, and long term food storage second.

As most people in the world have had to get along without refrigeration until about 50 years ago, one can only assume that the toxicity cited so often is due to the way the food is now produced and processed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Upset and globalization

Various pundits and commentators state the opinion that the rise and tone of Donald Trump and the advisory vote by the British public to leave the European Union are both related to general feelings of fear and dislike of globalization.  Anyone can see the large number of products on sale locally that are marked "Made in China".  Many of our automobiles and electronic devices are made in Japan or other Asian countries. Quite a bit of our clothing is made in South America or Asia.

It is common to say that our nervous systems have two basic components: rational thinking and visceral reactions.  The title of the Noble prizewinner's book gives a clue: "Thinking: Fast and Slow".  The fast part is the immediate reaction part and it is tightly related to our emotional structure and to speed for handling immediate dangers.  The slow part is the pondering, thinking and re-thinking part related to questioning, evidence gathering and evaluation, and critical questioning.  We have both in us and we need both but they can conflict.  Our basic reactions, like fear and distrust of those who seem insufficiently like us, those who look different, those who speak a different language, dress differently can prod us into conflicts and cause damage and loss.

One aspect of greater longevity is that we have more people who experienced and remember other times and other ways.  Just today, my brother-in-law sent me a picture of the old fashioned way to take a selfie of yourself and a friend.  We older folks know that this picture is a little off and we never used that method but we can remember living without electricity, without running water.  We can easily get upset when we see big changes happening all around us.  Our alarms turn on and we start worrying: What will become of us? What is happening?  Will we be all right?

The human dispersion from Africa to every part of the globe seems to have basically taken place over the last 100,000 years.  During that time, our kind were more or less isolated by distance and customs and time.  It is only recently that we have been able to see and hear others almost instantly from any part of the planet.  It is going to take a while for us to get used to all being one big group.  Check back in another 100 years (2116) to see how we are doing.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cellphones still on the mind

We spent quite an hour working over our contacts and their phone numbers to get them into our phones the way we want them.

I know that teens, college students and employees in meetings as well as people in restaurants and theaters sometimes have people among them who leave cellphones, letting a ring interrupt the proceedings. Naturally, the person who actually answers the call is asking for trouble.

I have read that cellphone jammers are illegal, based on a 1934 law.  I don't know the law but I have seen enough and heard enough from teachers and meeting managers to know that taking phone calls in a group or a class or at the family dinner table is bad manners, bad form and a good way to get on the wrong side of those present.  

A friend told me tonight that she would be interested to see how I act if we go to dinner with her and her granddaughter and the young woman's girlfriend if one or both starts to use her phone at the restaurant table.  

I found these articles among others on the subject of inappropriate phone use in public:​ use of smartphones in meetings

(This is a later hour than I usually use for sending the blog posts.  I will try leaving the links in and see how it goes.)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I didn't listen (Monday morning post)

Phil told me. Larry told me. Google Think told me over and over for
a whole year. They said that a smartphone was a big deal. They said
life is different with a smartphone. I shuda listened. Lynn got an
iPhone. It is not that different from an iPad. She has had an iPad
for years and uses it every day. What is the big deal?

There are several big deals. Things are tucked away a little
differently on the iPhone. (It is smaller.) It is a phone. Yes, you
can communicate on an iPad but the point of an iPhone is to phone with
it. Many people have abandoned their "land lines" (home phones) to
just rely on their mobile phones. The cordless phones are a little
bit moveable but they don't work very far from their base transmitter.
The cell or mobile phones are just that: mobile, moveable.

There have been articles and comments about some countries adopting
cell phone technology wholeheartedly, without bothering with phone
lines being strung all over the place. But as my friends and Think
with Google have emphasized, the new situation is that people have a
very advanced device right in their pocket or purse. They can be right
in the store (are there still 'stores' around?) and pull out the phone
to Google the price in other stores, to compare other modes or to see
what their honey thinks of the deal.

Lynn has explored many of the options for ringtones. Does she want
classical or recent? Jazz or xylophone? Which one for text messages?
Should things from Hubby get a special sound? My computer doesn't
even have a ringtone! Imagine how primitive that is.

I love having an explorer wife. She has a PhD in instructional
technology. She was an employee of the information technology
department and she taught computer classes. She won awards for her
web sites almost before there were web sites. Still, it is a big
deal: choosing apps, snapping pictures and videos, creating accounts
and passwords. Someday, she will have time to talk again, I bet.

(Trying a different hour of the day to see how my post does with spam filters)

Guest blogger Richard L. Evans: All Our Problems Are Over


Has anyone else noticed that in the last few years all our problems
have disappeared? I'm not talking about the economy or the war on
terrorism or homelessness or social injustice. I'm certainly not
talking about the proliferation of TV "reality" shows or the direct
link of money with politics. But all our problems are gone. I don't
mean our troubles, of course—just our problems. All our problems have
become "issues." The word "problem" has virtually vanished from our
language. The only time I've heard it recently was in the phrase: "You
got a problem with that?"

I'm not sure what to do. I was beginning to deal with the problems in
my life when—"whoosh"—no more problems. Now I have to start again,
dealing with issues. I recently rewrote my will. I wanted it to be
current with my changing financial situation. My new will says I will
leave certain things of earthly value to my "issue." It seems the
term, issue, in legal language refers to one's children—both natural
and adopted. I've known for years that my "issue" were chief among my
problems. You've undoubtedly heard, "insanity is hereditary—you get it
from your children." I have legal confirmation.

What was wrong with the word, "problem?" I understood my problems and
now I have to think of them by a new name. And what happens to the old
word, "issue?"—you know the one that referred to a particular edition
of a magazine or newspaper? Will we still have issues with magazines
or will we have to steal some other word to use? This could get out of
hand. I think I'm just going to keep saying "problem" and ignore the
rest of you cool hipsters. You got an issue with that, pal?

(Richard L. Evans is the president of my college class and the author
of novels available on He writes a weekly newsletter
called Toward the Light.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ideas, thrills and bright colors (enlarge this control- or command- plus sign)

America is over-excited in many ways and for many reasons.  We are a young, gung-ho country and we believe in young gung-ho ways.  We are heavily saturated with media, professional writers, photographers, marketers and scientists dedicated to doing their best to attract our attention.  Biologically, the best way to do that is to shout "Fear!", "Disaster coming!" or that old Aesop warning "Wolf!"

Is there a market for quiet writing?  To some extent, there is and it is probably growing.  I started this blog to advocate for and explain meditation.  But that was nearly a decade ago and since then, the idea and the method of meditating, as well as the justification for spending 10 timed minutes a day, steadily attending to one's breath or other focus and putting aside the incessant stream of mental suggestions to other lines of thought have really blossomed out. Doing that increases awareness of one's self-permitted thoughts and one's ability to achieve inner quiet quickly and deeply.

I like the idea of being in contact with others.  I like moving beyond meditation to simple exploration of experiences and ideas that come up, using basic language and concepts.  The internet is still available to only about 40% of the world's population but it is growing.  There are more and more ways to use the internet.  "Think with Google" has made clear over the last year and a half that a big change is happening as more and more people get smartphones and learn more and more how to use them. The smartphones are powerful and people have them with them to use shopping, conversing, on the spur of the moment.

I plan now to limit my blog writing to simple text writing.  I have been critical of Twitter going from 140 characters per comment to the same idea with a picture added.  Bingo!  We go from a picture to an embedded video.  Just click here!

Lynn wrote her PhD dissertation about hypertext and embedded links.  It is clearly a very good idea but can be overdone, providing distractions built on other distractions.  So, I hope you will pardon me if I omit thrills, shouts, pictures and just send a note of words, letters, plain text.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mind use, tying shoes

I am just passing notes.  Quiet comments that can be of interest, have been to several people.  I have information hunger and some curiosity but I tend to get more curious about things with more weight, more consequence.  It is not easy to tell what has weighty consequences.  Maybe you heard the old verse "For want of a nail", where a missing nail causes a horse shoe to fall off, leading to an injured mount leading to a downed warrior, etc.  Little things like a butterfly flapping its wings can have significant consequences.

A friend who spent plenty of time in serious politics emphasized that the issues on the minds of the lawmakers are never the issues the public hears about.  I have found that the subjects of interest to me are usually about the B level of general interest.  I am not the only one but what is really, really hot is often more hype than honest substance.

I was born with some valuable aids for my living, including my hands and my mind.  Something fairly simple like tying a shoelace can make a big difference in the quality of a day and the success of a project.  So, if I can tie a bow in a basic string or use my mind to change my view of something that is bothering me, I can make a small physical or mental adjustment in my life and improve its quality, my level of joy and fun or that of those I love and admire, I will.

Another friend recently focused on "How to Live" by Sarah Bakewell.  The London librarian's book is about the life, writings and influence of Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), often considered the originator of essays.  Between considering his own life and the place of writing and reflection in it, Montaigne's ideas and practices, my friend, a very learned man, commented on writing in such a way that I was inspired to see that writing
about one's experiences gives a 2nd life.  The first comes when the life is lived and the second when it is put into writing.

One of the nice things about writing is that producing it generally involves the mind and the hands.

A third friend is considering starting her own blog.  There are, of course, many teachers, books and exercises that try to teach writing.  A good many of them are about writing for profit or popularity.  Some are about writing for mental health, to conquer fears or traumatic stresses that have been experienced.  Writing to keep perspective about one's life and thoughts is a little different.  I am not trying to attract too many readers, I am not trying to create dramatic tension about what will happen to the heroine, I am not trying to increase income from ads.  I am just writing about what I experience and what I think.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

what is happening with my blog posts

As you may have noticed, many of my emails to the blog recipients have been bouncing back to me without being delivered.  The most common identifier of spam is a large number of recipients being sent a BCC message.  The blind carbon copy keeps others from seeing who else received the message and it may also serve to protect the email address from spammers and those who want to misuse addresses for such purposes as threatening or committing crimes in the name of another.  Those characteristics: large number and use of BCC apply to my daily stuff.  


Often, spam has links to herd the reader to more material.  I thought I had sent posts with no internal links but I forgot about the signature at the bottom which is added automatically and contains links to the blog web page, my Twitter account and my own web site.  Besides, I usually send messages in HTML format, the form that allows for links, different fonts and colors and such.  


My blog, my email and my web site all use free Google products and I am grateful for their existence.  I am not complaining and there are a number of things I can try to allow continued mailing to those who want to be on the list.  One of the steps I want to try is using "plain text" format instead of HTML, the format for many web pages today.  Another thing I plan to try it mailing this message in the next few minutes.  I usually send my daily posts out about 6 or 7 AM central US time.  I am curious about whether a different time of day and a simpler format will produce as many rejected, bounced messages.

The Power of 1

Pat is considering starting her own blog.  She wrote this post:

The Power of 1

I do Sudokus, at least one puzzle a day and many days, two.
Most days, I get the puzzles completed without too much difficulty or frustration; however, there are days that require me to use my Wite-Out EZcorrect™, sometimes multiple times (I stubbornly insist on doing all my puzzles in pen!).

As all Sudoku doers know, and for those of you who don't, the puzzles range in difficulty from one star to five, or according some puzzle authors' rating systems:   bronze to gold, number 2 to number 5, easy to difficult, etc., etc.

Although I am always pleased when I have successfully correctly completed a Sudoku, what I have also found pleasing is being able to insert the number 1 in its correct place in each of the puzzle boxes.  For some reason I have yet to determine, there is something I enjoy about seeing the number 1 in it proper places in the puzzle.
Of course, our culture has taught us that being number one means we are the best:  the strongest, fastest, smartest.  Number 1 signifies the winner, the best selling brand, the most widely read/watched/listened to.  The first born child is always number 1 and who can forget their first kiss, first car, or first job!  Being or having Number 1 is (just about) always very pleasurable if not memorable.

Placing the number 1 in my Sudoku gives me pleasure, too.  Perhaps I have taken enculturation in a whole new direction!



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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My life in rinsing

(Many bounces again this morning.  Sorry if you have two copies of this. Bill)

Sometimes, we have a class in publishing.  They ask around for an unpublished manuscript and publish it for the experience of actually getting a book out.  Once they published a book by a local faculty member.  I read it and was impressed by the plot and the main character, who was a pitcher, one far above average.  The story of Jim Bowie is about knives and the story of Robin Hood is about archery.  The main character here defeated bad guys (I remember no bad girls in that time of gender inequality) and saved lives by throwing.  He could throw anything and very accurately.  He could knock the keys off of a sleeping jailer and have them slide within reach.

I often think of that specialist and wonder about other specializations.  Catching for one: catch a tip about a plot, catch a fleeing thief, catch on to a way of making a weapon from the innards of a toilet tank.

But now, I am considering a professional career in rinsing.  I believe in rinsing.  You eat a bowl of breakfast cereal and there are going to be little bits of it left in the bowl.  That is the law of entropy at work.  That little bit left behind will harden into a semi-visible crust that is hard to see and hard to remove.  On the other hand, rinse the bowl and it is smooth and ready for a real washing right away.

This morning, we had cottage cheese and Greek yogurt with blueberries and raspberries for breakfast.  Lynn is a potter and is always designing and experimenting with different patterns and surfaces for her ceramics.  Rinsing the bowls (handmade by an excellent local potter), I saw the water removing the layers of milky components in beautiful and eye-catching patterns.  When I grow up, I am going to be a rinser.

I was told about a year ago that marine welders that work on making steel ships earn something like $340,000 a year and only work a few months.  I bet the future of professional rinsing is at least as promising.  I mean everyone who bathes or showers needs a good rinse.  Your average neighborhood rinse doesn't compare to a professional rinse by a professional rinser.  I will soon launch a string of shops across the nation that offer quick and very high-quality rinses at an attractive price.  We will probably have a coffee, tea and martini bar in them, too.


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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It all came flooding back

I asked a retired professor to give a talk about his special area of expertise.  He declined, saying that it had been too long since he thought about that subject.  I have experienced the same feeling but I know the pleasure and surprise that can come when a set of knowledge and skills that hadn't been used in decades reveal themselves as still there in the mind.

Sometimes, when I look at a particular volume sitting on the shelf, usually one I used in grad school, where I was when I bought that book comes back to mind.  The insights, new methods and new understandings I learned and later taught may suddenly present themselves, ready to be used again. The physical book itself often serves as a memento and memory prod.

Because I was thinking about the unfolding of a life, which is related to yesterday's post on maturation, I looked up the book from which yesterday's long quote was taken.



Not an exciting looking cover and certainly not an exciting title.  But when I saw this image, I was immediately back in grad school, studying experimental design. This work was originally a chapter of the large and rather unwieldy Handbook of Educational Research.  The editor of such a book, in this case Nathaniel Gage, works at obtaining the chapters from the various authors, editing them, maybe with assistance from others.  Quite a few of the chapters have affected my life and thinking over a 50 year period.

In both Mlodinow's "Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior" and Christian's "Algorithms to Live By", there have been discussions of human memory.  Mlodinow emphasized that the whole mind pivots around and uses the memory, that memory is central to thinking.  Christian discusses similarities and differences between computer memory and human memory.  Reading those books and others, I have come across the name of Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize winner and author of "In Search of Memory".

Some of the discussions I have read over the years mention the possibility that the brain includes far more memories that can easily be retrieved.  Maybe the indexing system, the guide or database of what we have stored in our memories, gets corrupted or overloaded.  When a scent or a sight or an associated thought suddenly triggers what feels like a whole library of events, sources and experiences, it does feel somewhat like a flood in the mind.

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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Monday, June 20, 2016

Don't under estimate the power of maturation

Between baby birds and aging humans, it is easy for me be reminded of "maturation."  Once, about 50 years ago, a very good professor asked me to teach a class that he was going to have to miss.  He told me what he wanted the class to learn.  It was the chapter from the Handbook of Educational Research by Donald Campbell and Julian Stanley about how to run experiments in educational research.  I had never heard of the chapter but I read it fully. What a treasure!

Today, seeing baby tree swallows maturing by the hour and thinking of Father's Day, my own father, my stepfather, my fatherhood, it came to mind that maturing, that is, growing older, is a very important factor.  True, the nature of the parents and the house they run is very important, too.  But is far from the whole story.  Their list of important experimental variables that can influence an experiment and cause misinterpretation of the results is:

1. History, the specific events occurring between the first and second measurement in addition to the experimental variable.

2. Maturation, processes within the respondents operating as a function of the passage of time per se (not specific to the particular events), including growing older, growing hungrier, growing more tired, and the like.

3. Testing, the effects of taking a test upon the scores of a second testing. 4. Instrumentation, in which changes in the calibration of a measuring instrument or changes in the observers or scorers used may produce changes in the obtained measurements.

5. Statistical regression, operating where groups have been selected on the basis of their extreme scores,

6. Biases resulting in differential selection of respondents for the comparison groups.

7. Experimental mortality, or differential loss of respondents from the comparison groups.

8. Selection-maturation interaction, etc., which in certain of the multiple-group quasi-experimental designs, such as Design 10, is confounded with, i.e., might be mistaken for, the effect of the experimental variable.

9. The reactive or interaction effect of testing, in which a pretest might increase or decrease the respondent's sensitivity or responsiveness to the experimental variable and thus make the results obtained for a pretested population unrepresentative of the effects of the experimental variable for the unpretested universe from which the experimental respondents were selected.

10. The interaction effects of selection biases and the experimental variable.

11. Reactive effects of experimental arrangements, which would preclude generalization about the effect of the experimental variable upon persons being exposed to it in nonexperimental settings.

12. Multiple-treatment interference, likely to occur whenever multiple treatments are applied to the same respondents, because the effects of prior treatments are not usually erasable. This is a particular problem for one-group designs.

Campbell, Donald T.; Stanley, Julian C.. Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research (Kindle Locations 116-131). Ravenio Books. Kindle Edition.

Your son may turn out to be a wonderful person but a good deal of those fine qualities he shows may actually come from the design of the human being and the many fortuitous influences he happened to run into while living.

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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Daily bread

Not too far from us, there is the Natural Oven company that makes bread and bread products such as bagels.  Here in our town we have several bakeries. One was started by several college students who reached graduation without jobs.  Some of the founders have left for other places and now The Main Grain bakery ( seems to be run entirely by a crew of energetic young women.

Our daughter likes to bake and has been the main baker in several kitchens and restaurants.  From her, I learned that the typical baker gets on the job very early in the morning, maybe at 4 AM or earlier.  We heard again just recently that anyone who wants to sell a house should bake some bread to fill the place with a charming, tempting smell when people come to view the house.  We went to 8 houses in a local Parade of Homes a couple of weeks ago and yep, some had people baking bread.

The founder of Natural Ovens was a believer in good bread.  For us, that means something other than pure, white flour, which is not good for people like us who have or nearly have diabetes.  We have found we can keep our blood sugar readings down pretty well if we avoid white flour and white rice.  The founder, Paul Stitt, knew the importance of whole grain products and we are convinced, too.  We buy Rustic White bread from the Main Grain bakery and are always on the alert for other good breads.  For instance, in our local farmers' market, the baker from France, now located in Madison, 100 miles south, produces some delicious bread stuff.

It is surprising how handy it is to have a good loaf of that rustic white sliced.  We keep it frozen in a paper bag inside a sealed plastic bag.  A couple of good sized slices toasted and slathered with oodles of butter makes a very good foundation for any meal.  I like the Land O' Lakes brand of light butter, which is mixed with canola oil.  It is as tasty or more so than full butter, melts more easily and had fewer calories and fat.

When I am in a hurry, one good slice of good bread is enough to tide me over for quite a while.

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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fwd: Serenity, courage and wisdom

Again, I got lots of bounces.  Thought it might go correctly since there are no links in this message.

My friend believes in trying to heighten the virtues of the serenity prayer in her life.

That is the well-known prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

She is an honest observer of herself.  I asked her how she is doing with the three virtues of serenity, courage and wisdom.  She says she thinks she is pretty good on the first two but feels that she needs to be older to hit wisdom.  But that idea in itself shows wisdom.

It is surprising what aging can do for wisdom and understanding.  Maybe you have had the "take a break" experience.  You do a sudoku or jigsaw puzzle and are completely stuck.  You go get a drink of water and move around a bit.  Later, you take another look and it is immediately clear that you could do this or place that piece there.  Bertrand Russell stated decades ago that he would think vigorously about something and then put it out of his mind.  He found that it was often when he was shaving that a good answer or a good next step would pop into his mind.

That seems a good description of some of the wisdom that aging brings.  Something puzzles you or irritates you or angers you for years.  One day, without trying, you notice that the puzzle is gone.  It is not a puzzle anymore.  It is natural and orderly and to be expected.  Sure, some new understandings come from deliberate inquiry, careful reading and concentrated research.  But, it seems that the best often descends unsought, settling in like a season until it is just there. You can wonder why it took so long, where it was hiding while you were searching and aching.

Quiet and valuable and often serene insights of this sort may be difficult to express in words.  I find that much of my own thinking and experiencing comes from what feels like seeing clearly, without fear and without filter.  It may not be possible to say to a younger person in any helpful way,"Just see clearly.  Don't worry about what ought to be but try to grasp what actually is." In our current world of entertainment and high octane excitement, what actually is may seem too tame to accept.  So, we may have a tendency while younger to embellish or wish or fancify but when we are older, we are naturally calmer, more serene (!) It often becomes easier to grasp what is happening and to accept it as is.  And there pops up the word that Mother Theresa often emphasized: Accept!  See and accept the world and yourself and your fortune as it is and as adequate and sufficient.

I realize that your energy and your philosophy and your state of excitement and hope and joy and striving may demand, as a basic American obligation, that you outdo yourself and everyone else.  Maybe you totally MUST scale Mt. Everest while cornering the market on gold and conquering cancer but it may be wise to fully digest and appreciate life as it comes to you.

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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fwd: Missed it!

As with yesterday morning, this bounced badly.  And, like yesterday, I am trying again. Bill

Have you heard of the "panopticon"?  The philosopher Jeremy Bentham thought his design for a building to house prisoners would be a good one.  He recommended several floors all built in a circle with a guard in the center.  The cells were to be built in rays off that center so the guard could see what was going on in each cell.  This was all before electrification and closed circuit tv.  As far as I can tell, such a structure was never built.

But that is ok, since we can't see it all no matter what we do.  We cannot stop the passage of time and we cannot see everything, period.  Bentham's name "pan opticon" is supposed to convey the message of "see all".  You know if the sleepy, tired guard is facing east, he is not going to see the prisoner in a cell on the west reading forbidden literature.  He would have to turn around.  But if he does turn around, he might not see misbehavior on the east.

But the problem of attending to everything is bigger than which direction the eyes face.  The ol' noggin, the brains, the master control of the brain and the mind cannot attend to everything.  In fact, if it could, it wouldn't choose to do so.  Not everything is worth seeing or noting or attending to.  The older I get, the more I know.  The more I know, the more I realize what I don't know.  As soon as I learn about something, hear about an event, read a comment, see what happened, I immediately have questions and wonderings.  While I am deciding whether any of those questions and wonderings are worth Googling, other stuff is happening that I miss.

Just last night, we were watching the final episode of "Bosch" on Amazon TV.  I can't always hear what the characters are saying.  While I am looking at the captions, I miss that the bad guy is opening a box of hand grenades.  I can't get it all.  As I gain in the ability to empathize, I realize how the bad guy's family is going to feel when they hear about his demise in a gun fight.  While I am sad for how sad his mother and brother are going to feel about his death, I miss the conversation between Bosch and his partner.  

I am missing things.  When I think about this, I am not thinking about that.  When I notice the pickpocket's hand on my wallet, I miss his other hand on my car keys.  When I sympathize with my brother, I am missing the fretting of my sister.   I am always behind.

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

Twitter: @olderkirby

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fwd: I am not that crazy

Normally, I don't get any bounces but this morning, something like one third of the 100+ people I email did not get the blog post.  I am trying again. 

Birds, they got wings.  Right?  I usually feel seeing this bird or that is not too big a deal.  It could be and for some people, it is.  But it is clear that the bird is going about its business, catching and eating bugs, finding a mate and caring for babies.  Still, I can feel a difference in me sometimes.  Like when the oriole visits.

It is the bird of Maryland and Baltimore but I never saw one until we moved here to Wisconsin.  It is a matter of happenstance: Lord Baltimore, way back in whenever, had the chivalric colors of sable and or (black and gold).  So the plumage of the bird was a perfect fit.  The fact that it was something of a rarity in that part of the country was passed over.  

When we were in Costa Rica, where there are many birds that we don't have here, the real birders were out on the jungle paths before 6 AM.  I am not a real birder.  Pictures, verbal reports, guidebooks, videos do it for me.  Besides that, such sources are often actually superior to a quick glimpse followed by a heated discussion about whether that bird that just flew away had yellow toes or green ones.  See, I don't care that much.  I am not that crazy about birds, sighting, lifetime lists or arguments.

But when the shocking, cocky, assertive magnificent oriole comes to OUR backyard, I feel touched by good fortune.  We haven't had the luck for bluebirds.  We have had to settle for the aerial acrobatics of tree swallows, which are actually quite elegantly costumed birds.  I am glad to have them.  They are not birds of my childhood so they are exotic visitors and are clearly very dedicated parents and fliers supreme.

Still, it  is the shockingly colored flaming orange and coal-black oriole that I actually feel grateful to.  Who am I that I should be so lucky?


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

Twitter: @olderkirby

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