Friday, June 30, 2017

Native Peoples of North America

I am listening to Prof. Dan Cobb of the University of North Carolina.  His Great Course "The Native Peoples of North America" covers the history of the first contact with Europeans up to today.  There have been many treaties between the U.S. and various groups of "Indians" but from the start, there were clearly big cultural and historical differences between the two groups.  

The newcomers had very different ideas of who they were, who the others were, and what a treaty is from those already living here.  I am confident that neither group felt that lying, breaking one's agreement arbitrarily, or murder of men, women and children were honorable, respectable or good behavior. Yet, the history of the interaction of the two groups is filled with newcomers tricking, lying, and murdering.  There were times and places where the newcomers behaved reasonably well but often they did not.

A big part of the problem was that the natives basically used land in different ways from the newcomers.  Some of the natives were farmers before contact but most were approximately what we call hunter-gatherers.  Of course, the introduction of horses and guns had a big effect on both groups.  As with other civilizations, those who had mastered a method of written communication had an enormous advantage.  There were many other differences as well, most of which the newcomers took as signs of their superiority.  It was not uncommon for groups of native people to be murdered and then thanks to given to God for the murderers' clear superiority and ability to kill and control, thanks to God for delivering those killed into the hands of the killers.  

As time has gone of, there have some outstanding examples of native people keeping their practices of thinking, behaving and living while finding ways to live among the newcomers with good success.  Charles Eastman was a native who attended mission schools, Dartmouth College and Boston University where he earned an MD degree.  He was at Wounded Knee where a great massacre of native people took place.  Cobb reports Eastman said that treating the wounded and the dying as a physician took all his self control and concentration.  

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs was founded in 1824.  It does not look good from the standpoint of its early history.  Some of the Indian Affairs agents were powerful and dictatorial.  I assume they were not well educated in matters of various cultures and ways to work with them.  Cobb mentions that while Buffalo Bill Cody's show was highlighting Indian ways and abilities, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was busily suppressing the same aspects of Indian life. The oft-referred-to concept of "tribal sovereignty", a nation within a nation, has at times conflicted with what is logically possible or politically feasible.

With casinos, native lawyers, and organizations such as A.I.S.E.S., the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, it is clear that native people have endured and make contributions to the life of the nation.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New, worse model!

You have probably noticed that we are living in a digital time in a digital area. You can pay bills online and have books and magazines delivered through the air.  Not everyone on earth has a digital connection and many who do, don't like it, don't understand it and don't use it.  Still, digital is one branch of automation, automatic and speedy.  Well, somewhat speedy.  


Digital depends on the set of directions a machine or a group of them uses. Directions can be changed.  Improved, even.  But, darn it!  I have been using the machine running on the old directions and did just fine.  Who cares if millions had trouble, if the page showed out-of-date hair styles or now retired super athletes?  But you know how it is.  The assistant manager was told to gather a team of young, energetic, hotshot coders and come up with a new and improved set of directions.  Of course, you know what happened.  The manager told the assistant to revise and improve, well, at least revise because the director told the manager to shake things up a bit.  The director had lunch with a couple of the board members who are friends with two of the major investors who aren't happy with the stock's performance.


So, just for fun, the web page that loads so well on computers and pretty well on 50% of the smartphones has been shaken up!  First, the team tried beginning the text in the lower right corner of the file and reversing it from right to left but that was tame potatoes!  We are Americans and it is almost the 4th of July, Independence Day!  [I am almost out of exclamation marks so I have to wind this up soon.]  We have settled on just putting all the letters and pictures and sounds in a virtual bag and left it to you to arrange them into our message.  It's a puzzle! It'll be funE


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The German way and the feminine way

I know that all people are capable of steady concentration and all people are aware of the value of neatness and cleanliness.  Similarly, all people have the ability to pay attention to and appreciate beauty, whether it is our remarkably blue and clear Wisconsin skies or a bird's song or some other arresting beauty.  But for the sake of a label meaningful to me, I label intense cleaning or other immersion the "German" way.  It could also be mnemonically labeled "intense focus", or continual busyness.

Focus, meaning concentration, is a popular word in self-help writing these day.  It is true that the first item on my To Do list can be a joy to focus on, to do well and to complete satisfactorily.  Cleaning the barracks, digging holes in the earth and filling them up again as in the movie "Holes", some distraction that calls for physical effort and/or mental concentration is something to do.  Often, political or administrative individuals have tried to motivate increased attention with the use of punishment for poorly done jobs.

So, one way to achieve a level of happiness is to focus and work.  However, the very focus is to some extent, blinding.  Enough focus and you don't realize other important things.  I read of a WWII  American pilot parachuting into the Pacific during a dogfight with a Japanese scrambling up the chute lines to avoid the enemy plane.  He was focused and didn't feel he had lost a foot to the enemy propellor until he was in the raft he had inflated.

Mothers often can't afford such intense focus if they are to be aware of the needs and situations of little kids.  They have to be open to experience but that means they are hit with continuous interruptions and fears.  Oh no, he just fell!  Aw, poor baby, he has cut his knee!  This is analogous to Robert Sapolsky's zebras in Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.  The striped beasts are very close to the lions, who eat them.  Danger!  But not now, the lions are sleeping.  The feminine and zebra way seems to be more like Feel it, fear it, take care of it, weep a bit and then get over it.  Don't block life out.  Expect dangers, disappointments and downfalls but appreciate love and beauty when and where you can.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Flow more than separate events

I read Men of Mathematics by E. T. Bell (1937) in the early 1960's.  He emphasizes that math has been a tussle between those who approached it looking at things in a discrete way, one step at a time, and those who looked at things as a continuous flow.  I seem to be a natural born discrete thinker: first thing first, then the second thing and so on.  A checklist comes naturally to me.

But I see that most things are processes.  I started in Mom's womb, slipped out, ate and grew, lived, got rather old.  Reading Thich Nhat Hahn, I was advised to look at a flower and see a manure pile.  I was reluctant to dirty up my thoughts but then he advised seeing the manure pile as a flower.  One thing turns into another, often at a slow speed that makes changes difficult to see.  I am reminding myself to see the rise and fall of ideas, processes, people as continuous flows, at least to try that view frequently.

The U. of Chicago psychologist Csikszentmihalyi wrote the book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience."  He referred to times when things just flow along perfectly, as when a basketball player flows through his opponents and makes beautiful movements, scoring again and again.  Sometimes, people describe such times as being in the flow.  When I looked up the book, I also found a book on menstruation called "Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation".  I know that for centuries what that sort of flow was all about was misunderstood and mysterious.


You have probably heard the famous saying from Heraclitus "You can't step into the same river twice", meaning the river is a constant flow and is ever-changing.  The Buddhists often say that everything changes, something we don't want to think about when things are just peachy. I was impressed by the title of Buckminster Fuller's book "I Seem to Be a Verb".  I am an action, a series of them actually, moving right along.  As a youngster, I very much liked the poem "This, too, shall pass away" but I pictured a beginning, a middle and more or less, an end.  I wasn't used to thinking of cycles, circles and flows around them.  Now, I realize that one thing transforms into another.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

Communication and memory

"Yesterday, you told me to always look left. I have been practicing looking left and I am getting pretty good at it.  But now you are saying I should look right."


"I don't remember telling you to always look left.  I don't think I did."


"You did!  You really did.  Oh, I just wish I had a recording of you saying that."


"Knowing how passionate you are about being right, I wouldn't be surprised if you edited snippets until you had a passable recording of my saying what I never said."


"So, despite how close we are, you might not even be persuaded by a recording?"


"Ok, here's a proof.  You like chocolate and I like chocolate.  So, you advised me to always look left!  Q.E.D."


"Just because you call it a proof and say things like 'Q.E.D.' doesn't make it a proof.  That's no proof.  I am not persuaded I told you that."


"Told me what?"


"I don't remember.  Whatever it was that you said I told you. Oh, wait.  I remember now that Henry was with us when I told you.  Just ask him."


"Henry, did he tell me that?"


"Oh, so now you believe what Henry says but not me."



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Fwd: This Is How To Have A Great Vacation: 6 Secrets Backed By Research

This man often has good ideas, good expressions and good references.  This may be relevant at any time of the year but maybe especially now.  - Bill

Welcome to the Barking Up The Wrong Tree weekly update for June 25th, 2017.

This Is How To Have A Great Vacation: 6 Secrets Backed By Research


Before we commence with the festivities, I just wanted to let you know my first book is now a Wall Street Journal bestseller! To check it out, click here.


Click here to read the post on the blog or keep scrolling to read in-email.

You'd like to be on vacation right now, wouldn't you?

You've probably heard that spending money on experiences like travel makes you happier than just buying material things. Well, that's true:

Asked which of the two purchases made them happier, fully 57% of respondents reported that they had derived greater happiness from their experiential purchase, while only 34% reported greater happiness from their material purchase.

But, as usual, that's not the whole story...

Experiences aren't always the biggest happiness boosters. When they go well, they're more likely to bring you joy than buying stuff. But when they go bad, they're worse:

...experiences do lead to more happiness when the purchase goes well. "However, for negative purchases, bad experiences lead to more lasting unhappiness than do bad material purchases. Experiences 'stay with' us longer than material purchases, whether good or bad. They simply have more lasting power over our happiness...

So if you're going on vacation, you want to do it right... But what are the rules for having a good vacation? (They didn't offer a class on that in my high school.)

Well, my girlfriend and I recently took a trip and you better believe I wanted to wring every last drop of pleasure out of our getaway. So, me being me, I reviewed the research. It made our trip great... despite plenty of unexpected adversity.

And it can do the same for yours. So here's what scientific studies say you need to know to have a great vacation...

1) Anticipate

Book your trip as early as possible. No, I'm not telling you that because it's prudent or because it will save you money. I'm saying that because the sooner you book it, the sooner you can start anticipating it.

Believe it or not, anticipating your vacation can be even more enjoyable than the trip itself.

From The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does:

...researchers who studied a thousand Dutch vacationers concluded that by far the greatest amount of happiness extracted from the vacation is derived from the anticipation period...

No, I didn't book our trip early. Cut me some slack; I've been busy writing blog posts and promoting a book. (See what I did there? Very meta.)

But we got our anticipation in because we've been drooling over this adventure for months.

Now anticipation doesn't just boost happiness before the big day arrives. If you make anticipation a habit, it can turn you into a happier person all around:

...people who devote time to anticipating enjoyable experiences report being happier in general (Bryant, 2003).

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here.)

Alright, so you're putting your getaway on the calendar ASAP. But what kind of vacation should you take? Research shows people often make two big mistakes when deciding on a trip...

2) Avoid The 2 Big Errors

Your friend had fun in Hawaii so maybe you should just go to Hawaii... Wrong.

The first big mistake people make when planning a vacation is they think too much about the event and not enough about their personality:

They also discovered that most of us ignore our own personalities when we think about what lies ahead—and thus miscalculate our future feelings... "It might be worthwhile, before you make a big decision, to think about your personality and how you usually react," Quoidbach says. Think about planning a vacation, for example. If you have a happy disposition, you probably don't need to waste a lot of money and effort finding the perfect location (because you will be happy with most vacations anyway). By contrast, if you have a less happy disposition, you might be more prone to regret the slightest annoyance, so carefully planning every detail of the trip might be the best strategy for your future happiness. "Don't focus too much on the event; think about who you are," advises Quoidbach.

If you're a thrill-seeking extrovert, a week-long meditation retreat may be ill-advised. And if you go through a bottle of Purell a day, backpacking through a rainforest would be a prescription for a panic attack.

The girlfriend and I picked a place that we both found gorgeous and that had plenty of activities she loved... Oh and it, um, just happened to have incredible WiFi coverage.

Now the second big mistake people make is that with expensive purchases like vacations, they're often too focused on getting value for their money. That's like ordering the item on the menu that gets you the most food for your dollar -- even if you don't like that type of food.

Research shows that with cheaper purchases (like going to the movies) we're more focused on relationships -- who we're going with. And that perspective leads to more happiness-inducing results:

"In terms of happiness, the relationships people build through shared experiences are more important than the experience itself... This study shows that at lower price points, people pay more attention to what's important – sharing the experience with others."

Think a little less about getting the most for your buck and more about who you're going with and what the two of you will really enjoy. (Wasn't a problem with our trip.)

And how long should your vacation be? Research says aim for 3 to 6 days:

...people on mid-length holidays of between three to six days tended to report more positive mood than those on shorter or longer trips.

We went for six days and it was great. And given that Air Berlin lost our luggage and I only had the clothes I was wearing on the plane, um, seven days would have been difficult... And smelly. Very smelly.

(To learn the 8 ways to spend your money that will increase happiness, click here.)

So you know the type of vacation you want to take. But how should you spend your time? You want to relax. You probably just want to be free to sit around and do nothing...

Bad idea.

3) Schedule Lots Of Activities

I know, I know: the idea of scheduling your free time sounds awful. Like work. And work is exactly what you're trying to get away from...

But when you don't schedule time, you waste time. People who schedule their free time are happier:

The result has found a positive relationship between free time management and quality of life... Results might indicate that people who manage their free time well lead to better quality of life.

And you want to put a bunch of fun stuff on the calendar, not just one big awesome thing a day. Why? Because the research consistently shows that when it comes to happiness, frequency beats intensity.

A lot of little good things create more smiles than a few big things:

Indeed, across many different domains, happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than the intensity of people's positive affective experiences (Diener, Sandvik, & Pavot, 1991).

The girlfriend and I made sure every day had new, fun adventures (notwithstanding other unplanned activities like "The Quest for Claritin, Flonase, And Every Other Thing In My Toiletry Bag That Air Berlin Lost.")

(To see the schedule that very successful people follow every day, click here.)

Okay, you're breaking out the calendar and scheduling lots of fun stuff. But what's the best way to make the most of those activities so they really bring you joy?

4) Savor

The research says "savoring" is one of the keys to happiness. What's that mean?

It means put that smartphone down, stop thinking about what the trip is costing you, and really pay attention to the good moments unfolding before your eyes.

From The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:

In all these studies those participants prompted to practice savoring regularly showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.

So what's a good way to savor? Don't worry; the most effective method is ridiculously simple and the two of us did it a lot on our trip. Just turn to the person you're with and say, "Isn't this fantastic?"

It's that easy. Sound too easy to be effective? Wrong.

Via Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience:

Indeed, this social-behavioral approach to savoring is the single strongest predictor of enjoyment...

Note: Sarcastically saying "Isn't this fantastic?" when three days have gone by with no word about your baggage does not count.

(To learn all the most effective ways to savor the good moments of life, click here.)

You're savoring away. Great. But all moments are not created equal. So which parts of your vacation do you need to give special attention to?

5) Use The "Peak-End" Rule

Okay, we need to talk about colonoscopy research. Yes, it's relevant. And it was even done by a Nobel Prize winner. So bear with me here, okay?

From Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong:

I need to talk to you about getting things shoved in your butt. Yes, literally getting things shoved in your butt. Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and Daniel Redelmeier looked at how much pain people remembered after colonoscopies. It turns out that how long the procedures lasted and the average amount of pain didn't influence people's recollections. What really seemed to matter was the peak amount of discomfort and how it ended. A longer colonoscopy with a higher average amount of pain but a low peak and a gentle ending was remembered as less uncomfortable. Meanwhile, a quick one with a low average but a sharp peak and an unpleasant conclusion was remembered as being far worse.

So what's this have to do with vacations? The underlying principle holds for things much more pleasant that colonoscopies: your memory isn't perfect. It's disproportionately focused on the peak and the end of any event.

So if you want to remember your vacation as being fun -- even if you're forced to pay extortionate prices for swim trunks because all you have is one pair of jeans -- then plan a positive emotional high point and make sure the trip ends well:

Applying this rule to our holidays would suggest we need to try to obtain as high a peak of enjoyment as we can, and to end on a high note. The rest might not matter so much.

(To learn the 6 rituals ancient wisdom says will make you happy, click here.)

Alright, so the vacation is over and you're rejuvenated. Time to jump right back into working like a dog? Absolutely not...

6) Ease Back Into Work

After you come back from vacation, you're happier, more energized, and you're likely to see a boost in your engagement at work. These feelings can last up to a month. Unless...

You immediately start working like a madman and don't give yourself some leisure time. Then that post-vacation boost gets cut a lot shorter.

So ease back into work. Make sure to have some fun outside the office. This can keep that afterglow around a while longer:

...job demands after vacation sped up the fade-out of beneficial effects. Additionally, leisure time relaxation experiences after vacation delayed the fade-out of beneficial effects. We conclude that reducing job demands and ensuring leisure time relaxation can prolong relief from vacation.

So if you write to me about this post and I don't get back to you immediately... well, you know why. I'd hate to be a hypocrite.

(To learn the secret to being successful and happy, click here.)

Alright, we've learned a lot. Let's round it all up and discover how to keep that vacation happiness going long after you've returned home...

Sum Up

Here's how to have a great vacation:
  • Anticipate: It brings more happiness than the trip itself because that awful thing called "reality" can't get in the way... and leave your luggage in Abu Dhabi.
  • Avoid the 2 big mistakes: Think about your personality and who you'll be going with. And keep the trip between 3 to 6 days. (Especially if you need to change your contact lenses and they're currently drying out in Abu Dhabi.)
  • Schedule lots of fun stuff: Frequency beats intensity when it comes to happiness. So plan lots of cool activities and take tons of great photos. (And then find solace in just how many other people are using the "#stillnoluggage" hashtag on Instagram.)
  • Savor: Unless it's to call Air Berlin customer service for the 47th time, put the smartphone down and enjoy yourself.
  • Use the "peak-end" rule: Your brain is going to remember the peak and the end, so plan them. Don't let the emotional high point be finally finding some deodorant.
  • Ease back into work: (No explanation for this one. I'm taking it easy.)
So what's the secret to holding on to some of that vacation joy?

Reminisce about the trip after you're back:

One reason that paying for experiences gives us longer-lasting happiness is that we can reminisce about them, researchers say.

Reliving the good times with your travel partner is a huge happiness booster.

Via The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:

Researchers have found that mutual reminiscence—sharing memories with other people—is accompanied by abundant positive emotions, such as joy, accomplishment, amusement, contentment, and pride.

After each trip, the girlfriend and I compile a list of memories. We include lots of stuff, but the majority of them are the moments that made us laugh out loud.

(Even if those moments are trying on the most ill-fitting, overpriced, touristy t-shirts because you can't stand washing your only shirt in the bathtub yet again.)

The two of us focus on the funny moments because that's just our way... but I gotta say it's also nice to know the scientific research has my back on this one:

Results show preliminary support for the notion that reminiscing about laughter may have a more potent influence on relationship well being than reminiscing about other positive events.

So go plan that vacation. And make it a great one.

Sadly, that trip will eventually come to an end...

But the wonderful memories won't. They'll be with you long after you've returned home...

And finally put on a clean shirt.

Please share this on Facebook. Thank you!

Email Extras

Findings from around the internet...

+ Want to know which little thing that you leave out is making you stupider? Click here.

+ Want to know why it's so hard for people to admit they're wrong? Click here.

+ Do our adolescent years affect us forever? Click here.

+ Miss last week's post? Here you go: This Is How To Have An Amazing Relationship: 7 Secrets From Research.

+ Ever thought of writing a book or making a movie? Something solid that will stand the test of time? My friend Ryan Holiday has an excellent new book coming out that lays out the important fundamentals. Check it out here.

+ You made it to the end of the email. Yes, it was quite a distance to travel and I'm thrilled you made the journey. Crackerjack time: Okay, no fancy-pants, smarty-smart stuff this week -- we're just having a rollicking good time in the Crackerjack section. Want to know the most awesome, over-the-top, action-martial-arts movie you've never heard of? One that was selected for the Sundance Film Festival? (Okay, maybe it *is* a little fancy-pants.) Then check out the trailer for the Indonesian film, "The Raid", here. (Oh, and if this sounds like your kind of thing, crank the volume and go full screen. The trailer is pure adrenaline.)

Thanks for reading!

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Bakadesuyo · 7 Mystic Road · Clementon, NJ 08021 · USA

Dance your PhD

If you have written a master's thesis or a doctoral dissertation, you know that what it is about and what it actually says and what it shows about the world or the field or your hypothesis is difficult to convey to the general public.  Did your mother read the paper?  Did your grandmother understand the basic idea? Was Uncle Harry at all interested?

I had heard of the contest "Dance your PhD" before but Lynn commented on the ads she saw online to get involved in the contest.  Her dissertation is entitled "A Reader Response Analysis of Hypermedia".  She doesn't currently plan to dance to it but she is a good dancer and I want to be there when she does.  My dissertation is entitled "An Application of Decision Theory to Education".  I think I am an ok dancer but I believe I would do better to sing a song or bake something that explains my paper. 

If you are a PhD student now or have written a dissertation, here is a link to the Google Search results for "dance your PhD", sponsored by the American Association of Advancement of Science, Science magazine and HighWire Press.  The contest has run every year since 2007 and there are YouTube videos of the results, with links at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What's a land line, Grandad?

And, what's a phone booth?


We never had a party line in our house, but my wife had one as a child.  Things change all the time.  One force for change that is mentioned all the time is invention, innovation, especially in the field of electronic communication.  The iPod, the iPad and the iPhone are often mentioned but another force that may well be even more powerful is profit.  If I sell widgets, I make a little money each time someone buys one.  But if no one is buying, I will have to design widget 2.0.  In fact, with modern accounting and data processing, I may move to version 2.0 way before sales have dropped to zero.  As an alert modern trend watcher, I will know when successive data points on the sales graph indicate a definite downward trend.  


It's true that your modern smartphone is a mini-computer of great power and versatility.  We have the saying these days "There's an app for that" and whatever "that" is, there may well be an app for it.  Counting steps, measuring the distance of your walk, communicating with your friends and buddies, paying bills, getting a recipe for pesto - it is not easy to find an activity or a goal that is completely unrelated to the thousands and thousands of apps, those mini-programs that may be a self-contained game or may have any other job or ability.


There are many complaints and fears that everyone is turning into a screen watching zombie.  If you are afraid that the teenagers can't stop looking at their screen, you are out-of-date.  It's no shame to be out-of-date.  We all are, in one field or another.  But take a look at your senior citizen friends.  They are using the latest app and playing the latest game, too.


So, the times are a-changin', as they always are.  You may have a tough time finding a turntable, a wringer or phone booth, these days but don't get too depressed about all the changes.  Some of your best doctors and plumbers have not retired yet.  Some of your favorite programs are available to stream (What's streaming, Grandad?) and it can be fun and profitable to learn to find what you like on YouTube.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Sideways Dictionary (via the Scout Report)

Sideways Dictionary:

What is metadata? When people discuss net neutrality, what do they mean? What do people do during a hackathon? As technology continues to grow so does technology related vocabulary. <i>The Washington Post</i> and Jigsaw (a tech company that works at the intersection of technology and geopolitical concerns) have teamed up to create the Sideways Dictionary. This dictionary explains technology-related vocabulary terms by employing multiple analogies to help make these terms comprehensible to everyone, regardless of previous technology background. For example, a firewall is explained by the following analogy: "It's like a nightclub bouncer who decides who's going in and out. From time to time, the guest list may change, but the bouncer is always the one who enforces it."  Users are invited to submit their own analogies and upvote or downvote existing analogies. Each entry also links to definitions of similar words, helping visitors build their tech vocabulary. [MMB]

(Subscribe to the Scout Report at

Can I really get off this stuff?

My friend is an experienced psychologist, counselor and professor.  He introduced me to the area of motivational interviewing.  The general problem of people wanting to do something but somehow failing to do it is a widespread one.  Motivational interviewing is a process where a counselor talks to a client with the goal of helping the client deepen personal motivation to work toward accomplishing the desired aim, whether it is less smoking, more exercise or something else.

I read Margaret Talbot's moving and helpful article in the New Yorker "The Addict Next Door" about the opioid epidemic as it shows up in Martinsburg, West Virginia and other places like parts of New Hampshire and Vermont.  I had been hearing about this opioid stuff but I didn't really pay attention until I saw that AARP article.  Whether it is alcoholism, domestic violence, screen time addiction or some other habit/behavior problem, motivation and self-knowledge are fundamental to making a change of the desired kind.

For whatever reason: basic curiosity, greater understanding of myself and others, I want to know more about motivational interviewing so I watched Dr. Bill Matulich on YouTube

From previous study and experience, I have learned that in many interpersonal situations, it works much better to listen reflectively and make I-statements.  Listening reflectively is the business of just listening with some rephrasing now and then that shows I have been listening and I am getting the message.  Making I-statements is making other comments about me and my state rather than telling the other person how he feels or what he should do.

A new understanding that I got from the short video above is ambivalence.  That is the situation where I want to change but I don't want to, either.  I know change would be good for me but I really like those cigarettes.  I have liked them.  I know they are hard to give up.  So, I am torn between yes and no.  That push-pull is itself unpleasant and internally embarrassing and irritating.  If I just have another smoke, I will have put aside my effort to quit and I will get a shot of nicotine.  If I feel like I am a weakling anyway and I doubt I am going to be able to quit, why not end the torture of deprivation and the added upset of wondering how well I am going to do in this quitting project.  

I hadn't really focused on the ambivalence alone but I can see that it is a force to be reckoned with.

In reading about the opioid problem, I also learned that continued use of heroin or its derivatives, including the lab medicine fentanyl, which is 50 to 80 times as powerful as morphine, increases the body's tolerance for the drug without making the body more able to handle it.  These drugs are central nervous system depressants, the heart and lungs.  While they deliver a dreamy state temporarily, the body needs more and more of the drug to get into that high so it is pretty easy to take enough to stop the heart and breathing, once the user is sufficiently experienced.

Without work on one's mind and thinking habits, it is possible to come close to stopping the heart and lungs, get an antidote drug and go back out and do it all again, this time using a bit more of the stuff. Famous quarterback Brett Favre had a similar problem but stuck to his treatment regimen and got out of it.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Grown-up work

Asian educators might have a different idea but it seems to me that mindfulness meditation training for the mind fits better into the life of an older adult, say over 60 or 70, than into the life of a child. American children may have enough to do to grow up and flourish without something else to learn and master.  Goldie Hawn, the actress, and Susan Kaiser Greenland and many others are working to arrange for children to learn to be aware of their own minds more and that effort may show itself to be worthwhile for more and more kids in this country.

I guess I have trained myself to more or less accept oppositions and disappointments.  I could work to learn to change such things into positives, finding the silver lining in them or giving myself points for suffering obstacles or both. I believe that my nature, both individual and species-related, is to celebrate the things that are happy and good and to shy away from things that are negative.  But, when I am not too tired, I am learning to see negatives as exactly what I should expect a good portion of the time.

I do stay aware that my perception is limited in scope and what I see as a negative may fool me.  Admittedly, things that look positive sometimes fool me, too.  And it is not always a matter of mis-recognizing.  There are times when something really is a burden or a pain, but in a day or a month or a year, is clearly valuable and something I am grateful for.

Rather than working at changing something negative into something happy or good, I think a better course is to be patient with the negative.  Watch it carefully and also my reaction to it carefully and fully.  I am trying to be respectful of the power of negatives and appreciative of my ability to absorb negatives and take them in stride, seeing them as bothers or burdens I have been expecting and as opportunities to open to them and take them in.

These are the sorts of ruminations that occupy me these days.  I doubt I had the capacity or interest in engaging in them as a child.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gracie, Frankie and my mom

Gracie and Frankie is a TV show broadcast on Netflix.  Both actresses, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, play women who have had long marriages to their lawyer husbands.  Those guys have worked together over the years and they have fallen in love with each other and have married each other, leaving the two women, who have never been all that close, to live together and try to bear each other.


Some of the episodes are quite funny.  I enjoyed a recent one where Gracie and Frankie both have back problems and are both on the floor and can't manage to get up.  My mom lay on the floor for a whole day in a similar trapped situation.  I am sure it wasn't funny for her.


The situation exemplifies the sudden change in circumstances that can befall anyone, especially someone whose sight, or strength or balance or breathing or heart can lessen or fail unexpectedly.  One of our usual assumptions is that older people will not suddenly have a heart attack or keel over but sudden changes can and do happen.  The Buddhists like to say that everything changes and I am confident they are right.  


There are grown children who care about their mothers and would be happy to help them up.  If they could use the phone, those grown children would come over and assist.  Normally, the wireless phone would be right there in its cradle but the tv remote gets misplaced so often that it is in the phone cradle and we are not sure where the damned phone is.  Wherever it might be, if we do locate it, it is sure to be nearly unreachable place, a location that is a full challenge to reach or worse. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital bed knows the value of every square inch of real estate on the night stand or other places we can reach. And we are all familiar with the idea that whatever we need just now is not available or isn't working.  


Plus, the kids, God bless 'em, are busy.  They aren't expecting to be asked to interrupt their day and their meetings to fight their way across town to help one of us up.  So, when they do, they aren't going to be in a real happy mood.  And after all we have done for them!  Sometimes, when we lie on the floor for quite a while, discomforted, embarrassed and worried, we aren't as skilled at expressing genuine gratitude as we might be.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Several that will enrich you

I recently posted the TED talks summary I got this past weekend.  I saw that an extra large number of people looked at that posting, even though it took an extra click or two to get to it.  


I am interested in sharing what I think is interesting or inspiring stuff.  There is a great deal that is these days.  We tend to stream "Bones", "Dicte" and "Gracie and Frankie" from Netflix in the evenning and then spend the last hour of the evening (9 to 10) with Lynn doing a jigsaw puzzle and me reading aloud.  Thanks to Mary Jo and Kathy for the recommendation of "A Gentleman in Moscow", a very unusual and worthwhile read.  Mary Jo said of the book that every sentence is beautifully written and I agree on just about every other sentence.  We start TV at about 7 or 7:30 and the timing and length of the programs we watch can leave tidbits of time on our hands.  TED talks has its own streaming channel as well as its own website.  The talks are often great for fitting into a 10 or 15 minute period between other things.  We watched these three lately and I say each is worth a prize by itself.


Sharon Terry is a mom and a chaplain and gives a talk that is just about perfect in delivery and content:


Matthew O'Reilly has a memorable and masculine personality to go along with being an Emergency Medical Technician in New York City.  You will be glad you spent a little time with him.


Katrina Spade has an upbeat message about how to arrange things at your death:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Terms that reveal

I am interested in the terms that emerge in our modern days, especially in relation to communication by computers and smartphones on the web.  I think it is wise to try to stay familiar with some of the basics of marketing since we are all the subject of marketing and ads.  I tend to think of ads as bothersome and intrusive until they are ads for my stuff.  Then, I think of them as important messages that deserve attention and respect.

I used this web site

as well as the book "Data for the People" by Andreas Weigend.  I also used my general knowledge.

Screen time - without too much fussing and thinking, we tend to know what a screen is, whether it is on a tv set, a computer monitor or a phone.  Since we note when a person is looking at us and when they are looking at a screen, screen time is an important activity these days.

Link farms - SEO or search engine optimization is the problem and practice of taking steps to have one's web site and thus opinion or product emerge in the first few search results.  Ex: name the company Amazon or Apple so that it begins with an A. Link farms can arrange for my web page to be linked to many others, which is sometimes taken as an indication of the popularity of my page.

Dwell time - How long a person stays on a web page before clicking off to other things

Tofu, Mofu, Bofu - Think of you and me as beads being funneled into the ad site.  At first we are Tofu, or Top of the Funnel, then Mofu or Middle of the funnel and finally Bofu when we click on the Buy button at the bottom of the funnel.

Bounce rate - % of site visitors that leave a web page without clicking on anything on it

Dayparting and related approaches - I am accustomed to sales that last a day or a week.  The web allows sellers to offer something for the next hour or the next five minutes at a special price.  The day can be parted or segmented to arrange for special prices temporarily.

I am interested in the application of these terms and approaches to schooling and learning.  I suspect that there would be many outrages and failures but there would probably be some positive results, too.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

More good stuff for your mind

There is a steady flow of good stuff that is worth attention.  I realize that I can't read or watch it all.  There is just too much. About this time of the week, I get a summary of notable TED talks: This link goes to a copy of the TED talk summary of the week.

I visit the UWSP library every now and then and I can't pass by the New Books shelf without taking a look.  Several have gotten my attention that might interest you, too. Whenever you have professional and experienced librarians choosing books for an active library, it seems wise to pause and take advantage of their work and judgment.  Maintenance of the collection is no small task and librarians work at trying to stay aware of the latest worthwhile books and make good selections with limited funds.

"Data for the People" by Andreas Weigend, the former chief data scientist for Amazon, is well-written and interesting.  I am reading it now and will probably post some highlights soon.  If you follow me on Twitter, I am @olderkirby and I have posted three times about the book.

Other books seem worth mentioning.  "The Girl in the Baggage Claim" is an explanation by Gish Jen, an experienced Chinese-American author of the difference in outlook and practice between Western people and Eastern people.

I have written before about "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian.  That is probably the best book, the one that keeps coming back to mind the most, that I have read in the last five years.  Harari has a new book, "Homo Deus" (Latin for "Man, the God").  At first I thought the author simply could not write a 2nd book so worth reading.  But there it was on the New Books shelf so I took a look.  Even though it, like many excellent ebooks, costs about double the cost of many Amazon downloads, I bought it.  It was passages like this that caught me up:

True, there are still notable failures; but when faced with such failures we no longer shrug our shoulders and say, 'Well, that's the way things work in our imperfect world' or 'God's will be done'. Rather, when famine, plague or war break out of our control, we feel that somebody must have screwed up, we set up a commission of inquiry, and promise ourselves that next time we'll do better. And it actually works. Such calamities indeed happen less and less often. For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.

Harari, Yuval Noah. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (p. 2). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

I recently enjoyed two novels by Brian D. Meeks.  He has many books but these two related to the story of Arthur Byrnes, an English professor who has not published in a long time and, with the help of friends, assistants and girlfriends, discovers the world of social media and electronic communication.  The stories are "Underwood, Scotch and Wry" and "Underwood, Scotch and Cry", both available only as inexpensive ebooks.


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