Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why I take so long to listen to a good book

I like to listen to audiobooks while driving around town.  Even on a short drive of ten or fifteen minutes, a surprising amount of a book can be heard.  The biggest obstacle for me is the number of explosions of ideas in my head.  

I am listening to The Well-Dressed Ape by Hannah Holmes.  I listened to her The Secret Life of Dust and liked it very much.  She said that the dust that falls on the hood of my car overnight probably contains at least one speck from outside the galaxy!  She has many arresting comments in her Well-Dressed Ape, too.

I suspect that meditation and daily writing, and perhaps aging and years of reading, have increased my mental net of associations.  So, the narratress of the book will make some comment that wows me.  I need to turn the voice off while I recover from my amazement.  If I don't, my stunned state prevents me from grasping what is said next.  I would have missed some wonderful sentences if I didn't stop the playing.

Well, you can see how it goes.  One sentence.  Wow!  Stop.  Think, think, chuckle.  Consider making a note of that comment and what comes to mind because of it.  Ok, play.  Next sentence.  Wow! Stop.  Think, think, still amazed.  Appreciative of the clever comment.  Apply the idea to myself or my friends.  Criticize the assumption inherent in the sentence.  Wonder about counter-evidence.  Limping slowly through a 300 or 400 page book can really take weeks.

I am in no hurry and a good book is fun to digest and fully react to.  I do have to laugh with sends me an email that says something about 6 audiobooks to enjoy over the next month.  That number would be close to a year's supply for me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Walking with our neighbors while we can

It is tempting to say we have been blessed with good weather.  It would be correct: we have.  In a few days, it will be December.  We have had virtually no snow.  The hunters don't like that since it is easier to find game if they can track animals but the rest of us like this weather. Right now, it is 51° F or 10.56 C.  Of course, temperature is not the whole story: is it raining?  Is the wind too strong?

Most days, we walk between 1 and 2 ½ miles.  We usually walk with our neighbors.  It is a level, pleasant walk with little vehicle traffic.  I used to run it but now I only run half a mile and that only three days a week.  We haven't had too much trouble with sore feet, ankles, hips or knees but we realize those problems are always a possibility.  We are not speed walkers and the walk usually takes 45 minutes or so.  

I am enjoying listening to The Well-Dressed Ape, written by Hannah Holmes and narrated by Joyce Bean, in the car.  It is non-fiction, comparing humans to other animals.  Humans are much affected by their posture and means of locomotion.  We are not four legged tables, like most of the other mammals.  Walking on two legs does free our hands and arms but neighborly walking and talking doesn't make much use of our hands.  

Holmes and others I have read emphasize the value of groups for humans.  Socially, mentally, emotionally, being a member of a group is healthy and valuable.  My most frequent companion is a retired professor of chemistry.  Just knowing that he knows about molecules and atoms and chemical reactions alerts me to the chemical world.  His grandchildren are just now entering their adult, professional lives and his tales of their advances and adventures put a little of them in my life, too.

We expect the weather to get much nastier and force us to use exercycles and treadmills but it is nice to walk outside while we can.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Limits and awareness of limits

I live in a small city.  Traffic is not really a problem but I have gotten used to the level of congestion we have.  So, being fourth in line for a traffic light to change means we have built up a bit of a jam.  I understand that my big city correspondents will have a good snicker over such a reaction.  

Whether it is navigating or listening or shopping or other activities, I keep running into limits and awareness of limits.  My patience is limited. My memory is limited.  My time is definitely limited.  We have limited minutes of daylight.  My eyes can stand only so much reading before they reach their limit.  My energy is limited and caffeine can only do so much to increase it.  

My tolerance of ads, intrusions, offers, bargains and money-saving opportunities is limited.  I went to the library to get a book I asked them to borrow from somewhere for me.  You can laugh if you want but the book is about the history of punctuation.  I enjoyed "Space Between Words" telling about the shift from reading aloud to silent reading when spaces were inserted between words.  That eliminated the needtofigureoutwherewordsbeganandwheretheyended.  So, I thought a history of punctuation might be interesting but I don't want to pay $100 for a "might be" or even $50 for a Kindle version of it.  I asked our university librarians to find a copy and borrow it for me.  I had to use the old-fashioned method of transporting myself there and actually carrying the book to my car.  Even today, not everything can be done on line, CyberMonday or not.  

The last few times I have been in the library, I have dutifully reminded myself that I have 200-300 books right here that I haven't read.  I kept that in mind and steered myself right past the shelf of New Books, books, mind you, that professionally trained, alert and experienced librarians selected as worthy additions to the university collection. Not only is there a limit to my patience, but I am also aware that knowledge is steadily changing, expanding, updating, and revising.  So, not too many trips past the new books, please, or else, I won't know about blockchain and food research and better breathing meditations.  I picked up Irvin Yalom's report of his life in psychiatry, Max Tegmark's look at our likely lives when artificial intelligence really gets going and Nathan Sayre's look at ideas and practices that need correction in the handling of our wide open ranges of the US west, plus Adrian Owen's book "Into the Gray Zone" about people in vegetative states and new discoveries about what they can do and sense. Gray Zone got my attention and I am reading it now. The print in the paper book is a bit faint and small and I like the Kindle version much better. Plus I can tweet interesting comments faster and more conveniently.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Don't go!

It can be a shock when my friends have medical troubles. Things are humming along and suddenly I find they are hospitalized or deceased.  No fair! I thought I could count on them to be around for as long as I wanted them to be.  They may well think the same way.  

I have heard of "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" and the unresponsive state of death.  I guess it is not just a rumor and I can expect most of myself and most of my friends to pass away.  I am not sure why the idea saddens me as much as it does.  I don't see or hear from them very often.  It is not that we have daily contact.  Still, please don't leave.  Not yet.  

It is true that photographs and maybe a few audio or video recordings might refresh my memory or allow some recall and the semblance of their presence.  It is true that a bit of their DNA may be found but that certainly isn't going to help much.  Maybe with the right technology, a bit of the DNA could be used to recreate a friend who has left but I am not sure how much it will help if I am a senior citizen and my friend is just now (re)born.  I read of attempts to create artificial intelligence that can simulate my father and his gestures, typical comments, gait and such and that might indeed help.  

Many generations before me have had to bear being left and I suppose I must, too.  I would appreciate it if they managed to stay around for a while.  

I am afraid that sending each friend an email that says "I love you.  I enjoy you.  Please stay", it will just creep them out.  I did more or less try that sort of thing with my mother.  Telling people that you love and care about, how you feel can help but much of the fun of friendship is its continuation, its on-going-ness.  I just don't want my friend or our friendship to come to an end.  In a way, I guess my mother and I knew that we liked each other, loved each other.  There was no last minute revelation that was really needed.  If you have another idea that might help me, please let me know.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Fwd: Activism needs introverts

You can't watch everything or read everything or play everything or eat everything.  Still you might like some of this.  Bill
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: This week on <>
Date: Sun, Nov 26, 2017 at 8:56 AM
Subject: Activism needs introverts

You can help craft a better world. Open in your browser
This week on
November 26, 2017

Sarah Corbett: Activism needs introverts

13:57 minutes · Filmed Nov 2016 · Posted Nov 2017 · TEDxYouth@Bath

Almost everyone has a cause they love and want to support, but for the introverts among us, the traditional forms of activism -- the marches, the protests, the door-to-door canvassing -- can be really intimidating. Take it from Sarah Corbett, an activist and self-proclaimed introvert. She introduces us to "craftivism," a quieter form of activism that uses handicrafts in clever ways to help people think deeply about the issues they're facing. Who says an embroidered handkerchief can't change the world?

Playlist of the week

The power of asking

As these talks reveal: Some things are more within your grasp than you may think ... especially if you ask. Watch »

4 TED Talks • Total run time 48:11

This week's new TED Talks

In this spectacular rant, marketing prof Scott Galloway breaks down the increasing power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. How did these four companies come to infiltrate our lives so completely? You'll hear insights and eye-opening stats about their dominance and motivation -- and what happens when a society prizes shareholder value over everything else. Followed by a thoughtful Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson. (Note: This talk contains graphic language.) Watch »

Across the world, the "informal economy" -- made up of small shops and stands, skilled craftspeople and day laborers -- is the invisible engine that keeps the economy running. It's tempting to think of these workers as tax-dodgers, even criminals -- but Niti Bhan, who studies informal markets in Africa, makes the case that this booming segment of the economy is legitimate and worthy of investment. "These are the fertile seeds of businesses and enterprises," Bhan says. "Can we start by recognizing these skills and occupations?" Watch »

We all know that when we make decisions in large groups, they don't always go right -- and sometimes they go very wrong. How can groups make good decisions? With his colleague Dan Ariely, neuroscientist Mariano Sigman has been inquiring into how we interact to reach decisions -- and performing experiments with live crowds to find out. In this fun, fact-filled explainer video, he shares some intriguing early results on people can think better together. Watch »

Leah Chase's New Orleans restaurant Dooky Chase changed the course of American history over gumbo and fried chicken. During the civil rights movement, it was a place where white and black people came together, where activists planned protests and where the police entered but did not disturb, and it continues to operate in the same spirit today. In conversation with TEDWomen Curator Pat Mitchell, the 94-year old Queen of Creole Cuisine shares wisdom from a lifetime of speaking up, building relationships -- and cooking. Watch »


Wisdom: Brilliant life advice from seniors >>
Hard-won wisdom from long, well-lived lives

We humans: Would democracy work better on the jury system?
Read more about intriguing research into group decision-making

Science: Could these three moons help us find life beyond Earth?
Three moons in our solar system have oceans -- and maybe the conditions for life

Quote of the Week


We've personified these companies, and just as when you're really angry over every little thing someone does in your life and relationships, you've got to ask yourself, 'What's going on here? Why are we so disappointed in technology?' I believe it's because the ratio of 1 percent pursuit of shareholder value and 99 percent the betterment of humanity that technology used to play has been flipped, and now we're totally focused on shareholder value instead of humanity."

Scott Galloway
How Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google manipulate our emotions

ted radio hour: big data revolution

Once invisible details of our lives can now be tracked and turned into data. Will this make life easier or more complicated? This hour, TED speakers imagine how Big Data will reshape our world. Get the TED Radio Hour on Apple Podcasts, directly through the TED Android App, or wherever you get your podcasts. 


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Same old lettuce serenade

I was impecunious in college.  I mean I had very little money.  That was not a big problem since I didn't really need much of it.  I was also a lightweight wrestler.  I didn't have much trouble being below the weight I was supposed to be.  But between low money and low food allowance, I sometimes took a leaf of lettuce, salt and peppered it, rolled in up and ate it.  Tasted good and assuaged my appetite at low cost and low weight gain.

Fast forward 60 years.  We had turkey for dinner yesterday.  That means today, with knife and tearing fingers, strip the meat off the bird.  Take a scale and put about 8 oz. of meat into small plastic bags.  After about ten bags, take a large zip bag, label it 'turkey', insert the small bags.  But save some of the nice slices of white breast for turkey sandwiches with mayonnaise and lettuce.  

After sandwiches, there were a few pieces of lettuce that were not needed for the meal.  "Want some lettuce?", she asked. "Sure," he said,"eating lettuce leaves makes me feel young."  Knowing his history, you can understand why.  

So, if you happened to pass our kitchen and heard 2 elderlies singing "You make me feel so young", through mouthfuls of lettuce, instead of muttering "Not that again", give a thought to the lovely lettuce plant and the way it can inspire song and delight.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Can you dim the wattage on that smile a little?

There is love zapping all around in strong rays.  Each member of the family develops relations with members of other families and they all want to get together and eat and talk and smile and kid around.  We can't fit it all into one isolated Thursday that is set aside for giving thanks for our good fortune.  So, we have to spread our visits out over multiple days.  Our family's main Thanksgiving assembly is today, the day after Thanksgiving, the national holiday.

This special Friday, like George Washington's birthday, is traditionally a fine day for shopping, especially for Christmas gifts.  In a small town, there are only a limited number of stores so the smart shoppers get to them early to scoop up the good gifts.  In Wisconsin, the deer hunt includes the week of Thanksgiving so many of the men are in the woods stalking deer, freeing women and non-hunters to get to the stores and shop.  

Young, energetic people are manning the cash registers, the checkout booths and the counters all set to handle the rush of shoppers.  These clerks and salespeople are primed and ready, enthusiastic even.  Today is "Black Friday", traditionally a day when such bargains and waves of buyers meet that the records for the store's sales for the year will, hopefully, should a black figure of profit instead of a red figure of loss.  

An old guy goes into a main megastore just to get some last minute purchases for today's family dinner: butter, eggs, cooking oil.  He has to don sunglasses to deal with the cashier and the store host.  They are beaming, they are ready, they are radiating expectant energy.  The staff is drunk with anticipation, intoxicated with readiness.  The old guy takes his purchases and walks quickly to the protection of his car, dodging the increasing torrents of additional troops of shoppers.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving afternoon 2017

We are thankful for flowers at this time of year. Photographers often look to early or late hours because more interesting and intricate shadows appear then.  But here at this latitude, we have long interesting shadows more of the day during fall and winter.

We had a dusting of snow last night but the temperature was such that the snow was only visible this morning on the roads and walkways.  I can't see any of that out of the windows in this picture but the reflections from the room obscure the view a bit.

When I think of the cost and ease of taking a photo, editing it, and transmitting it to a group of friends compared to what we did in my college photography club, it is clear that things have indeed changed very much.  The editing software in Google Photos enabled me to change the lighting from the original enough that the panel of painted wall just behind the chair looks more interesting and colorful.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Fwd: Black Friday Preview: $69.95 Ancestry Kit + 30% off Sitewide

We did this twice.  Made me much more aware of the long trek my 'family' has taken from Africa to here.  Bill
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: National Geographic <>
Date: Thu, Nov 23, 2017 at 11:25 AM
Subject: Black Friday Preview: $69.95 Ancestry Kit + 30% off Sitewide

$69.95 Ancestry Kit + 30% off Sitewide — Black Friday Savings on our Best-selling Ancestry Kit, Books, DVDs, Maps, Globes and More
$69.95 Ancestry Kit + 30% off Sitewide MY ACCOUNT    |    VIEW ONLINE
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With a savings of $130, discovering your story just got a whole lot easier. Don't miss out on our best Geno 2.0 price of the year.
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