Saturday, December 31, 2016

A neighboring blog

About a semester or two ago, our group that is focused on learning and exploration of topics called Learning Is ForEver (LIFE) got a new secretary/administrator, Zia.  I learned today that Zia has a blog.  She gets my posts and I am impressed with her blog.  Zia is Hmong ('mung'), an ethnic group from the hills and mountains of Vietnam, Laos and other nations in Southeast Asia.  

The Hmong assisted the US forces in the Vietnamese war and many migrated to the US.  

Zia's blog is titled "HmongLovesKorean" and emphasizes the story of a marriage between two young people from different nationalities.  She says that many Americans more or less consider all Asians to be the same but they include very different cultures and backgrounds.

Zia is quite busy being a wife, a mother of two very young children and a full time employee in the department of continuing education at our local university.  She posts in her blog when she is in the mood and has the time.  Her blog is very nicely laid out and can be viewed here:

Friday, December 30, 2016

Touching hearts

My first serious girlfriend in college was impressed when she first saw me.  I was carrying a book by one of the founders of the Menninger Clinic titled "Love Against Hate"  That was years ago and the book has not stayed in the forefront of my mind.  As I remember, it was not as helpful as another book on love that I had read earlier, Blanton's "Love or Perish".  I have been interested in love for a long time and reading about the subject.  I am more interested in what science and history and logic can say about love than just in the poet's verses about how he longs to look into her eyes.  

I was impressed by the remark in "Our Inner Ape" by the primatologist Frans de Waal.  He wrote that the other great apes had not done as well as the humans in number or longevity and he emphasized the part monogamy had played in human lives.  He wrote that the other apes took sex and reproduction far more casually than humans.  

The other day, I saw a video listed on YouTube called "You Could Love Anyone." That idea is news to many young people who are in the grip of what I consider biological markers of a particular shape, smooth skin with a nice glow, a good bright personality and other such indicators that that person would produce good, healthy children.  Even people who are in the last quarter of their lives are often in the grip of the same attractors that guided them toward partners in the first quarter of their lives.

I have been considering that as we age, as a marriage or partnership or a friendship continues, there are inevitably times when one or the other person in the relationship drops the ball, is rude, or thoughtless or selfish. The old marriage ceremony text that specifies "in sickness and in health, til death do us part" foresaw a time in a relationship when affection and devotion would be the main engine of continuance.

I thought it was touching the other day when I read about young women being close to men through email and texting.  I guess a person could pay for a writing companion, a person to write to and who would at least sometimes write back.  Any such arrangement seems to me to clearly show the heart in a relation, whether or not skin or orgasms are involved.  

As a young married man, I wrote to my mother but she rarely responded in any way.  My father asked if I was falling off in writing to her and I complained that she never wrote back.  He told me to just write regularly.  He didn't actually say to ignore her responsiveness or lack of it but I suddenly saw that I could simply write and I did.  Still, I would have been much closer to my parents if they had found the energy and imagination to respond a bit more.  When I think of the people I have felt close to throughout life, I can see that those who talked to me were the ones that mattered.

I have read Menninger and Blanton and others but the best discussion of the ways of love I know is C.S.Lewis' "The Four Loves".  He didn't marry until his 60's and then under odd circumstances but he was a hell of thinker and writer. He nails affection for animals, for friends, erotic love and Godly love.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fwd: 31 days of ideas: The talk that changed my life

I respect Pico Iyer and through his comments below, I now respect Ricardo Semler.  Ever since I watched the TED talk by Prof. Barry Schwartz, I have been interested in the conditions of the workplace.  Semler's talk goes directly to that subject and to conditions in the classroom.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: TED <>
Date: Wed, Dec 28, 2016 at 12:05 PM
Subject: 31 days of ideas: The talk that changed my life

"On Mondays and Thursdays I learn how to die."
Open this email in your browser
31 days of ideas
The talk that changed my life

By Pico Iyer
Thirty-four years of working in the mass media have taught me one thing: never to trust the mass media. Not because of any hidden agenda or conspiracy but simply because the media is in the business of giving us what we want. And what we seem to want these days is wild gossip, distraction and entertainment 'round the clock. The only way to follow what's going on in the world is to never pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV, but merely to try to observe it on the human level first-hand, unmediated by screens.

So you're probably not surprised that I was liberated, blown open, when I heard Ricardo Semler's TED Talk, "How to run a company with (almost) no rules." Really, its title should be, "How to live with the exactly right, emancipating rules." The minute the Brazilian CEO walks onto the red circle and says, as easily as hello, "On Mondays and Thursdays I learn how to die," I know I'm in the presence of a line of thinking that can change my life.

Mr. Semler's not young, and melanoma runs in his family, so he has reason to think about the end, perhaps. But as he begins to unfold his vision of how to transform a company -- by encouraging workers to come and go as they please -- and then extends that vision to our schools, I realize that this highly practical, successful man of the very real world is simply challenging us to think about what's difficult, and therefore necessary.

I haven't occupied a company setting since 1986; nothing could interest me less than profit curves or office management. But the grace of Mr. Semler's talk is that he's speaking about the "graph" of existence more than of spreadsheets, about making a life as much as making a living. And there's something invigorating about seeing this wisdom brought to us not by a monk or formal philosopher or saint but by an elegant company director in black jacket. Leading a good and considered life, he shows us, need not be incompatible with laboring in an office block.

As those of us lucky enough to listen to the talk live, in a tent on the beach in Rio, heard Ricardo Semler at the end of a long day, after maybe sixty talks over the previous three days, many were stunned by single lines. He wasn't asking himself, "What do I want to be remembered for?" but "Why do I want to be remembered at all?" He was reminding us that we're always ready to turn to our work-related e-mails on Sunday evening yet slow to go to the movies on Monday afternoon. He kept taking us back to how "we measure ourselves, as humans," knowing that such a measure has to do with something deeper than the rocket fuel propellant systems, income-tax preparations and MIT classes by which he's long gained his livelihood.

It's the same message that the Buddha and Marcus Aurelius and Montaigne pass along, because Mr. Semler goes to cemeteries even on his birthday, as they might have done, thinking about what he'd do if he had only a few months to live. But he brings such ideas to the boardroom, the bedroom and the classroom, exactly the places where we're most inclined to overlook them.

Nothing could be more urgent in an age when we spend less and less time addressing what's lasting and what's real. We're always being told, rightly, to tend to our forests and to clean up our air, but we're less often reminded to try to protect the wild spaces inside our imaginations (where the future will get made) or to clean up the skies in our souls (where toxins can be more poisonous than any external pollution). Even as we're so proud of filling our bodies with locally sourced, farm-to-table, organic food, we fill our minds with junk.

The world is as full of beauty and wisdom and hope as ever; I've seen that everywhere from Burma to New York City these past few months (and, in the past few weeks, in Bhutan and Alberta and Varanasi and rural Japan). Humans are no worse than we've ever been, even if we're not necessarily any better. And the only way we can imagine a better world is by going within. The only way we can make it happen is by bringing that imagining out into the world. Ricardo Semler inspires me as only a wise man can, and he gives me hope about translating his bracing wisdom into real life as only an accomplished master of the corporate sphere can do.
Watch "How to run a company with (almost) no rules"
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Here's what I suspect about most men's lives

There is a famous statement in "Walden" by Thoreau: "The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation."  I have pondered that statement and I Googled it.  The guy was smart and insightful but he could be wrong.  Having lived for a while and being a man and knowing some other men, I don't actually think that the mass of them is quietly desperate.

I think it is more accurate to say that the mass of men have a tremendous capacity to do their duty or what they take to be their duty.  You might think that the ultimate acceptance of duty on a man's part is when he reports to his draft board (what's a draft board?) to be accepted into the armed forces to be sent somewhere to kill or assist in killing.  I think doing something like that is indeed a clear example of a man doing what he thinks he ought to do.  When you consider that men sometimes join in a battle or a fight, maybe without knowing who they will actually fight, they must be guided by convictions and/or duty.

I think a stronger example is the experience of a man who works steadily at a job that he does not like doing.  A statement I keep at the ready when talking to young people of either gender is for use when they say something about not knowing if they want to do a job "for the rest of their lives."  I usually say something along the lines of "you probably won't be doing it for the rest of your life", maybe not even if you decide you want to.  

But some data suggest that more than 90% of people don't like their jobs.  This is a tricky area and how strong the dislike is, how steady it is, isn't exactly clear.  I don't think it is especially fashionable to like your job.  If most people don't and you admit you like it, you are out of step. It seems possible that people of either gender can feel that going steadily and reliably to a job is itself a pleasure.  A mild one, maybe but a satisfactory one.  

If a job is not satisfying, it may be a step forward to realize one's feelings.  Perhaps explore alternative jobs but also steps that can be taken to make the job more pleasant or challenging or rewarding. I suspect that for many people, doing what one takes as one's responsibility and doing it well is itself a pleasure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Re: GOOD news you don't hear about
   My friend just sent this on from others.  It is indeed positive and impressive.  I recommend to everyone.  It is from a blog called Future Crunch and it lists some very good achievements around the world.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Mon, Dec 26, 2016 at 9:06 AM
Subject: Re: GOOD news you don't hear about

Yes, I did.  My friend's daughter sent it to her and it's a valid link.
-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Kirby <>

Sent: Mon, Dec 26, 2016 8:41 am
Subject: Re: GOOD news you don't hear about

Did you send this?

On Mon, Dec 26, 2016 at 8:39 AM, wrote:
This is very interesting. Some good news.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Trying to find ways to live and live longer

There are many ways to look at human life.  One that I more or less dismissed as silly was comparison with the life of apes.  The genetics of the apes is closest to that of humans in the case of chimpanzees and bonobos, I have read.  I suspect there are other intelligent and useful books on the comparison but the one I have read is "Our Inner Ape" by Frans De Waal.  

As some time has passed, I find myself using the concepts of the book and the comparison between us and them more and more often.  The other day, I had a small period of time on my hands and watched a couple of TED talks.  One was by Prof. David Autor of MIT called "Why are there so many jobs?"  The other was by Prof. Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College called "Why Do We Work?" The two talks together got me thinking about the work life of the modern person.  Schwartz's question and his talk asked Why do we put up with jobs that are boring, or dangerous, or worse?  

His question reminded me of the steady ongoing discussion of what goes on in school classrooms and what should go on. If we say that the main purpose in life for female primates, including us, is bearing and raising children, we may, of course, offend and alienate many people today.  Let's grant that humankind can almost certainly benefit from getting the contribution of both sexes in work and play, in arts and sciences and politics and everything.  We may also offend and alienate many people if we say that the main purposes in life for male primates, including us, is mating and fighting.  

We can say that the purposes in life of adult men are wealth and leisure.  To have a life, both sexes need food, clothing, some shelter or good shelter, depending on where they live.  In modern society, food, shelter and clothing come from income and money.  

In 2015, 49.55% of the global population were women. 81 countries had a majority of women, 36 countries had a majority of men, 75 were within 0.5% of gender parity.

[It is estimated that males have a natural death rate higher than females and that natural processes produce 105 boys to every 100 girls.  Further skewing the sex ratio among humans is the traditional preference for boys, especially in the large Chinese and Indian populations]

In comparison to the 7,400,000,000 humans now living, the chimps are estimated to number between 170,000 and 300,000.  These numbers, our intuition and our experience support that idea that finding ways to cooperate and benefit from each others' existence and skills is a far more successful way to promote both comfort and longevity that the chimp way of merely expanding territory by means of warfare and murder.  As a point of interest, our other cousins, the bonobos, are famous for their use of sex and genital stimulation to create pleasure, relaxation and good feelings maybe a bit comparable to the way we use recreational sex and alcohol but they currently only number about 40,000.  

So our growing tendency to restrain ourselves and find better ways to disagree is valuable and is paying off.  Not only that but peaceable disagreement and discussion is increasingly useful for finding new and better views and methods.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Creation of spirit

I think that deliberate creation of a good spirit is something we should all spend some time on.  A strongly male approach can take the view that "Humbug!  We don't need no stinking spirit."  The idea is that tough guys (and gals) can take things as they come and don't need cheering up or cheerleaders or hoop-la about the beauty of the world and that sort of nonsense.  I can see that such an approach is incorrect.

It takes courage and strong good manners to smile in the company of dour looks and determinedly tense bodies whose owners are expecting trouble and are ready to put it down.  It takes a sharp eye and an engaged mind to see the situation and think accurately about it.  If you really want to ridicule me and trash my friendliness, I at least want to recognize your intent.  If I can, I want to more or less neutrally state my desire for your happiness.  I don't want to overdo the sugar but neither do I want to under do it.

I will practice the skill of lightly wishing you a good day, having at hand some aspect of its goodness for challenges.  When you growl,"What's good about it?", I may judge it safe to remark that you have an impressive growl (for guy challengers) and a lovely one (for gal challengers).  Over time, I may have such fun at creating a somewhat upbeat spirit, that neither of us notice that my attitude helps us both.

Several religions teach us that we see the world through our own eyes and feel its nature with our own spirits.  So, if we try regularly and gently to notice the goods and be thankful for them, we increase our joy.  It is wise and profitable to notice the bads, the dangers, the pain but we get to choose what to emphasize in our hearts, even while solving mysteries and fighting evils. So, ok, daily

  • Brush your teeth

  • Take your vitamin D

  • Tilt the world toward cheer

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hope it is a lovely Christmas for you

I accidentally emailed today's post yesterday after writing it.  It is a link to a web page on my site called "Kirbyvariety" of my posts on Christmas Eve for the last five years.  The page itself is entitled "Choices...Eve" and its title is listed in the alphabetical listing that appears on every page of the site.

I hope today and tomorrow and on into the coming year, you get a new sighting of many of the blessings that surround you and a new appreciation for yourself, your loved and liked ones and your life.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Choices from the last 5 years

I looked at the last 5 years of Christmas Eve posts and laid them out on the web page:


Yay! We got here again

Here in the northern part of the northern hemisphere of this planet, we are aware that we just had the winter solstice, that moment when the north pole is as far away from our sun as it gets.  I read on the web that the exact moment of the winter solstice was 4:44 AM Central Standard Time yesterday, Wednesday, December 21.  I guess that 200,000 years is a reasonable figure for how long we humans have been around.  I imagine that during that time, the worriers and the futurists got concerned that the shortening days would continue to shorten and then what?

It is nice to look at the analemma and see that our days are starting to lengthen.  I just read that due to some inequalities between sunrise and sunset, we don't really have much better daylight hours until after Jan. 7. Even then, the new length is only a minute or two longer.   I can't detect much difference in daylight or warmth or any of the parts of winter that I want to improve yet but the idea that we are on the upswing and already approaching spring and the re-burst of life is very appealing.

The land around us is rather flat because of the action of glaciers in the last ice age but even so, actual sunrise and the moment of sunset is difficult to detect.  Trees, slight hills and buildings can obscure the sun and delay the first actual sighting of a ray of sunlight.  With the right conditions, it is impressive how the sun can line up with the edge of land here and cast a ray right along the surface.  Then, a weed only a foot tall can cast a shadow ten feet or more in length.

I am grateful for my breakfast orange that would not be available here now without the current arrangements of farming, transportation and merchandising.  I am very grateful for the natural gas and the pipes that get it here and the furnace that heats us with it.  I am grateful for the electricity and the computer and the internet and the fingers on the keyboard that give me something I enjoy during the winter.  I apologize to those in the southern hemisphere for wishing their warmth and sunlight away.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Phooey! My worries are way bigger than yours

Some friends are very worried about climate change.  Others fear plastics and junk in the oceans.  We can worry about cruelty and human misery in different parts of our country and other places, not to mention running out of oil and drinking water.  The dangers of fracking and disturbing the water table and stirring up geothermal, seismic and earth instabilities can give you nightmares.  


We have begun reading De Waal's "Our Inner Ape" and it inspires me to try an end run around paltry worries of my friends.  I am not a champion-sized male.  I am too little.  I have tried drumming my chest more and strutting but nobody seems to be impressed, let alone afraid of my might.  I have launched a campaign to worry bigger and deeper and more upsetting that you possibly can.  I will worry about all of the problems above and more!  Way more, dammit!


One of the worries us more advanced worriers wave about to terrify and impress is the future of work.  Just as the Luddites realized the advanced mechanical looms were taking away their weaving jobs, some of us have been worried about robots and extra smart and extra fast machines doing all the work and leaving nothing for us to do or to be paid for.  But I have to admit that Prof. David Autor of MIT gave a TED talk that abolished this ace-in-the-hole worry I have been nursing for the big time.  The guy let it out that since ATM machines were invented and dispersed, I'm sorry, 'deployed' is the word we advanced thinkers are sworn to use, since ATM's, there are far more human bank tellers holding down jobs that ever before.  Smarty-pants Autor says that humans are too smart to be put out of work because they can think of more and more things to do and do for a profit.


He is very convincing and I am embarrassed I didn't see this coming.  Another great worry countered by an insightful explanation!  I am still a very fine worrier, one of the best and most impressive you know and don't forget it.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trials by fire

You work on your skill and several years go by.  You get to the point that centering the clay on the spinning wheel goes pretty well, most of the time.  You have learned to wedge the clay well to get all the air pockets out before putting it on the wheel.  The wedging practice has actually transferred to better dough wedging and kneading.

As the clay spins, your hands know how to pull up a nice bowl.  Once in a while, you make a mug or a vase or an urn instead, like the urn that sits quietly awaiting your husband's ashes some day way, way far in the future.


It can be so disappointing to create a great piece, place it in the kiln to be heated to 2000+°F, calmly wait and wait some more for the whole batch to cool, carry it downstairs and carefully glaze and carve, re-fire after carefully packing it inside the kiln for a glaze firingFullSizeRender(1).jpg

only to have the little beauty or one of its neighbors inside the kiln explode, crack or fail some other damned way.  All that work!  All that hope!  Shattered!  With care, that sort of mess doesn't happen often and it is a very good thing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hard work, open minds and bubbles

Eli Pariser said it in The Filter Bubble.  Clay A. Johnson experienced it as he described in The Information Diet, in the campaign by Howard Dean to be elected president of the US.  Many people felt the effect as a big jolt when the election results from this last election came in.  You can see how it goes: you read, you listen, you watch.  You gather info and you work hard at it.

If you are thorough or scholarly or persistent, you may look at documents behind documents.  You may look at sources and originals.  By the time you have come to a conclusion, you feel that you have looked at the issue or the subject from all angles.  If you find someone has a different conclusion, it is only logical to assume they aren't as thorough or scholarly or persistent, they aren't as deep as you, they haven't read as closely and carefully as you have.   

The difficult truth is that you and I can watch the same news report, read the same document and come to the end with different opinions.  I realize that your opinion is probably based on slanted, handpicked evidence while my opinion is based on broad reading and careful analysis.  Oddly and mysteriously enough, you realize that my research and consideration has been biased and slanted and doctored without my realizing it.  Pariser pointed out that if I always rely on Fox News while you always read the Christian Science Monitor,  we are steadily consuming different diets of information.  Clay Johnson was stunned that the candidate he had worked very hard for, a man he admired and supported, did so poorly in early state contents.  Then, he realized that for months, he had been immersed in groups and a staff that felt just as he did, that he had been working in a bubble that filtered out counter feelings and reactions.

It seems to me that David Weinberger summed the current knowledge and communication situation up accurately with the title to his book, "Too Big to Know".  The internet and many of the issues are literally too big for any of us to fully know.  You don't have time, energy or interest in reading all the sources I find relevant and I feel the same way about what you spend time on.  I have read that the legal systems in many countries are not arranged as ours is, with a prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney.  But if I prepare to debate the proposition that A is better than B and you prepare a position that B is the better, we will almost certainly look at and remember and be moved by different authors and ideas.  Even my intelligent and quick-thinking PhD wife tends to see things differently from the way I do. I often simply cannot get her to see straight.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sneaky changes, blatant changes

I am still dealing with a sore muscle in my back.  It is the same situation I have dealt with many times before. It limits my ability to extend my right arm so the idea of writing with my left hand arises.  So does the idea of sending a sound file or a link to one.

My friend, an accomplished professor, traveler and published poet, wrote that yesterday's post on writing by hand or hands tended to ignore that keyboards are used more often than pens or pencils these days.  That is true and one sign of it is the number of school districts in the US that have abandoned teaching "cursive" handwriting, in favor of printing out block letters, often called "manuscript" but I learned to call the making of separate letters shaped much like these here, "printing".

As you may realize, I use Google products.  They are cheap and available on all "platforms" and operating systems so long as they relate to and use connections to the Internet and web pages. One of the results is getting a newsletter called "Think with Google".  I have lots of respect for modern electronics and computers and other smart communication devices.  I have lots of respect and admiration for Google and Microsoft and Apple and Amazon and Facebook and Twitter (@olderkirby).  I have and use products and procedures from all of those organizations. My respect brought me a puzzled feeling with the Think with Google kept on harping about smartphones.  So, big deal, I thought.  Smartphones can do what computers can do but in a smaller, cramped space.  Why not use a computer, a touchpad and the occasional mouse?

I am getting the point from Google, which has gone to the effort of informing web sites that they are ok for computers but poorly designed for phones.  Google refers to the new traffic as the mobile revolution.  You won't see a shopper erect a table in an aisle of a big store and place his laptop on it.  You won't see one of the guys having a beer with his fellows go to his car for his computer.  You will see girls and boys, women and men, pull out their smarty-pants phone and search by thumb or voice for alternative products and answers to bar questions.  Having your laptop shrunk down to the size of a note pad, having it connected to trillions of web pages is a new deal, worldwide, not just in the US.

I know you just got adjusted to the last new thing and now another new thing is hanging over you. I feel your pain.  Well, a little bit I can imagine it.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The sound of one hand writing

It is too boring to always write with one hand.  The same hand dragging the pen across the paper, over and over.  Don't you want to break into something new?  You probably have two good hands, hands that have served you well over the years.  Why not let both of them in on the game?

As I see it, you have at least two new paths you could take.  Say, you are right-handed.  I have read that something like 90% of people are.  I think it is still a mystery why we tend to favor the right hand but I may be out of date.  But if you are right-handed, try writing with your left hand.  It will be difficult, embarrassing even.  But that is ok.  If you can let the tension and the shame of child-like letters go, you may quickly be somewhat surprised that you can do that well at making readable writing.  Well, readable by you, that is.  You can imagine how a little practice every day would improve you.  It might be good for your brain to try the other hand.

Ok, your other possibility is to be a two-handed writer in the way some he-men are two fisted drinkers.  Take the pen, a study one, in two hands.  Like a baseball bat or a two handed sword.  See what you can do with two hands.  Two heads are said to be better than one.  Two hands working together ought to be able to lay out the writing faster and more resolutely than one tired set of digits slaving away. The two-hands together sounds promising, I admit, but I haven't tried it myself yet.  Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Stripping down to less

If you are like my friend, mired in sin and hoping to stay that way, continue on as you have been.  If, like me, you aim for a higher plane in life, stop your wasteful, sin-dominated submission to the forces of greed, marketing and knowledge lust, turn away from your pointless buying and acquiring and use what you have.  That's what I plan to do, anyhow.  I am still making the plan but I plan to try something doable and not overdo it.  I find the best way to succeed is to make a good plan, check it for genuine progress and for a goal I can actually do.

I have more than 2000 books in my Kindle.  I don't think I can manage to not buy anything at all until I have all 2000+ read.  I like my daughter's rule: give a book 50 pages before rejecting it if it is boring or silly or repetitious or any other way poor.

I have made a start.  For maybe 6 months or a year, I have held myself to 1000 email in my inbox.  I have kept my eye on the total and when it reaches 2000, I delete the oldest ones until I am back to 1000.  I noticed recently that things have slowly shifted from communication among friends to ads and offers and background info like the Wharton finance newsletter and several from the Brookings Institute.  I respect the writers and experts but I don't need to read them regularly or even get all the stuff they churn out.

I have thought for a long time that Amazon is almost to the point of being silly in the way they make offers and "notifications" of additional and alternative books and items I could pay them for.  It is possible to be a collector of empty mustard containers and to just get in the habit of acquiring them.  Like a miser, I could proudly count and re-count my mustard containers, aiming to have the largest mustard container collection in town, no, in this state, no, in the entire world.  I have thought with pride that I may have an already surprisingly large ebook collection. More than 99% of them come from Amazon.  So, I am not going to open emails from Amazon for a while.  

I noticed a couple of weeks ago, while cutting back my inbox, that maybe 80 to 90% of my email is ads and info and offers and such from organizations. I have been using Gmail's intelligent feature to say that messages from individual people are important but everything else is not.   I can use the important feature and the starred message and unstarred to quickly label what I don't want as "unstarred" and delete all of that stuff.  Just choking off the supply and suggestion pipeline will change things.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Lured by deals

I have plenty of books and ebooks and audiobooks.  Yet, an ad here and a headline there and suddenly I am seeing how wonderful an additional book would be.  And such an attractive price.  And so easy to acquire.  I am now into a new campaign (I tell myself).  Whoa!  Read what I have.  Buy no more, shopping season or not.  Stop!  Halt! Don't fall for it.  Don't be a sucker.

What do you think?  Will our hero manage to keep his wits about him and use what he already has instead of getting more and more?  This is the blog that asks if a modern, fairly alert, reasonably educated man of mature years can resist the blings and carrots of blandishment and keep his personal goals more clearly in mind.  Stay tuned after this brief announcement of a terrific sale.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


It is cold outside just now.  No surprise since it is getting close to the winter solstice on Wed, Dec. 21 at 4:44 AM Central Standard Time.  I intend to ignore the exact moment but it has import.  We are told that the earth is getting warmer and that may well be true but with a windchill of -15° F, it is hard to detect.  My hands tend to develop skin fissures, little irritating splits like a paper cut that do not get infected but bother nevertheless.  So, I am avoiding outdoors for now.

Every morning, I get quite a few email messages from Amazon, Shambhala, and others.  It is the Christmas season and time to give gifts, which means extra active, rigorous shopping. Some reports say 20% of the year's sales come during the Christmas season so the retailers I deal with flood me with offers, deals, etc.  I am avoiding more and more wonderful offers.  Right now, if the email isn't from a person, if it is just an organization trying to get me to buy or shop, I am avoiding it. In fact, deleting it, unopened.

Off and on, I get information that older people, such as those 60 years old or more, should exercise but can probably do just as well with less that when they were 30 years old.  A dean of physical exercise said just once a week lifting weights could be enough to maintain basic strength.  I used to jog 2.5 miles three times a week.  Now I do half a mile three times a week, although I have added vigorous sprints of about 50 yards twice in that half mile.  I am avoiding young adult sorts of exercise.

When this much colder weather hit, I was very conscious of deciding to deliberately avoid walking outside in the cold wind.  Ever since about halfway through the recent presidential campaign, I decided to avoid campaign and candidate news.  Then, it felt so good that I added avoidance of all news.  I have too many books I want to read and too many friends I want to talk and write with to spend time on the antics of that politician or this one.

Avoiding music that is currently popular with the college set is rather easy for me.  When I go to the college cardio center to lift a few weights, I hear what they play over the public speaker system.  Today, I heard sounds that I swear would be good for extracting info from terrorists [if they were my age].  On the way over, I was listening to Kathleen Battle sing Mozart's "Exsultate, jubilate" K. 165

For me, there is no, I mean, zero, comparison with what is played on the "Party Favorites" channel or the "Y2K" channel on the Charter/newnameSpectrum and Battle or Kiri Te Kanawa or Cecilia Bartoli singing Mozart with a full orchestra.  Pop music is another thing I tend to avoid.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bears and baboons

When Americans deal with local wild animals, they may face snakes, spiders, disease-bearing ticks (small blood-sucking insect-like creatures that are arthropods related to spiders and fleas).  We can face enraged or oversexed elk and we have panthers.  All of these animals have one important feature for us: they lack hands.  Our only handed creature is the raccoon, an intelligent and curious mammal about the size of a dog or a beaver.  


Hands are sometimes considered an important feature in the development of human intelligence.  Watch a baby human explore and experiment and test with her hands and you can see why some people focus on the hand as a source of mind development.  We watched a video on raccoons in Japan.  Someone thought the American mammals were cute and brought them to Japan.  They got loose or were released and now are causing trouble.  They seem to especially like old, mostly abandoned temples.  They are curious and can open locks, turn door handles and too many other things.


Generally, I think Americans feel that bears are probably the most agile, fast and powerful animal in our wilds.  Ok, Everglades pythons and the crocodile/alligator family are also formidable and dangerous.  But luckily, so far, we don't have baboons.  


I saw a video about a gang of baboons who learned to invade trucks at an African border stop and pull out goodies of food while the driver waited for clearance to cross.  I looked up baboons attacking trucks and found this in an open animal park in England, of all places.  The animals are large, quick, strong, intelligent and have good use of their hands.  They have learned to open car-top travel carriers and explore their contents.  Worth a look:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Three women listening all day

We have added Amazon's Alexa and Google Home (I didn't name her!) to Apple's Siri.  So, we now have three female voices that can respond to questions and commands.  But so far, their responses are pretty limited.  I think Alexa and Google Home might be able to tell us all the things either of us have told them to do or answer since we brought them into the house.  I suspect that about half of what I have asked them resulted in failure, "I'm sorry, I don't know how to help with that yet."

When I try to do something with my mouse at the computer, my eyes pick up possible alternatives and additional tasks.  BBC rang an item this morning on distraction addiction, which is everywhere in the US today.  We are living in an attention economy, where your attention is quite valuable.  Getting attention, sometimes referred to as getting eyeballs, translates into dollars.

Web sites and individual pages are too cluttered these days, often inserting an ad in front of what I am trying to read.  That makes me angry!  But I laugh when a 2nd ad obscures the first.  C'mon, people are paying someone to interrupt other interruptions that are also being paid for?

I have heard of computers being used to auction ads, such as the tv ads to interrupt a very popular football game.  I would not be surprised to find that the interruption that interrupts the 2nd interruption is cheaper to buy.  By then, the viewer will be enraged or have turned off the device.

From the small amount I have tried using devices that can hear and speak, one advantage seems to be that what I want is carried out (or fails) with limited distractions for me.  I would not be surprised if one company or another starts having their speaker say "I will answer your question in a minute but first listen to this great deal Barney's Grocery is offering today only."  Maybe I shouldn't even express that idea in public.  It may draw the attention of evil spirits or needy marketers.  But for now, when I say,"Set a timer for 5 minutes", I get my timer immediately and it starts timing immediately.  So far, I haven't found it smart enough to remember a reminder for me so when the timer goes off, I have to remember all by myself what I wanted to do then.

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