Friday, November 16, 2018

Having a full and friendly relation with yourself

Pema Chodron (an American-born superior in a Canadian Buddhist monastery:


The basic creative energy of life bubbles up and courses through all of existence. It can be experienced as open, free, unburdened, full of possibility, energizing. Or this very same energy can be experienced as petty, narrow, stuck, caught. Even though there are so many meditations, so many instructions, the basic point of it all is just to learn to be extremely honest and also wholehearted about what exists in your mindthoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, the whole thing that adds up to what we call "me" or "I."

Excerpted from: Awakening Loving-Kindness

by Pema Chödrön,

page 40

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Who is the "Witness"? By Jay Michaelson (Meditation Weekly #76)

From 10% Happier https://www.10percenthappier.com/


You may have noticed that experienced meditators sometimes speak in code. For example, "I'm sitting with a lot of anger right now" is meditation-ese for "I am extremely pissed off at you." Or, "It's interesting to watch all of these thoughts come and go" is meditator code for "I can't freaking sit still for five seconds right now!"


One term meditation nerds often use is the word "Witness." Usually as a noun, though sometimes as a verb. "Rest in the witness," many meditation teachers say. What does that mean?


What the word means, in practice, is that there's a faculty of the mind – a capacity, if you like – to notice whatever is happening, and not be affected by it in the way we ordinarily are. To take a trivial, but common, example, suppose you're driving in your car, doing errands, and someone cuts you off. Reactions may vary, but if you're like me, you might get instantly swept up in anger, resentment, frustration – or, perhaps, fear, surprise, or anxiety.


As you practice mindfulness, though, you'll gradually begin to see that these reactions don't always have to happen, and you can instead "witness" what's happening without necessarily reacting the way you ordinarily might. You can, as the nerds say, "rest in the witness."



Thursday, November 15, 2018

Retirement can be stressful and too busy

There are a million blogs and some are just too good to miss.  You are aging and I hope you are keeping all the right documents in good order and a secure place for your next of kin to do what has to be done later, when, you know, you pass.  But in the meantime, how about talking to the local Kiwanis club about that trip you took?


Some of your friends would love to have lunch with you.  But you can't do it over the next few days: you have that checkup, you want to talk with your investment guy and the car needs an oil change. It helps to exercise so get that morning walk in.  And, how long has it been since you attended your yoga class?


The evidence is strong that five or ten minutes a day devoted to quiet meditation helps you stay in good contact with your body, your mind and your feelings.  There are a ton of Great Courses and another ton of truly wonderful TED talks. Don't miss out on them. Your local library is full of good books and good videos that are free for the borrowing.  I hope you aren't skipping them.


When you are employed, you know what your job is.  When you are retired, the whole world is open to you.  How about a Road Scholar trip to Europe? Ok, at least Canada or the Caribbean.  The League of Women Voters could use a little help from you, the Boy Scouts and your favorite political party are both looking for help, too.


As the years pile up, as the body ages, you can see how a person might be quite drawn to just pulling covers back up and staying in bed. At least once in a while.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thanks to two friends

An English prof and a librarian have given me the author and title I was searching for: "Attachments" by Rainbow Rowell.

What was that book?

Within the last year or so, I read a novel aloud to Lynn.  It was about a young, unattached man who was hired to come in at night and read the emails that employees of the company had sent to each other.  His job was to search for people who were violating company policy. He was fairly attractive and a pair of young women employees emailed each other back and forth during the day.  Their emails included comments about the young man and the interest in him that one of the women felt.


I am not sure if it was the structure of the story or what it was that stuck in my mind.  I know that I read it on my Kindle and I know that I read it aloud.


I recently joined a book club with some other men about my age.  We were supposed to recommend a book of fiction and one of non-fiction that the group might like.  It is no surprise to me that a very high percentage of the books I have purchased for my Kindle are non-fiction.  So, it is easy for me to select a book I liked for the non-fiction recommendation. I chose "Incognito" by David Eagleman.  


I have spent a lot of time and effort trying to track down the email story but I have not succeeded.  I did review many lists and I came across examples of fiction that I like. I thought I would fall back on "Big Trouble" by Dave Barry, a book that I have enjoyed and which is well-written, witty and worthwhile in my opinion.  I also saw on my iPad Kindle app, in the grid view which allows books covers to show in rows and is quick for review, some books by Donald Westlake. One of Westlake's characters is John Dortmunder, a thief who often barely escapes capture and injury and rarely makes a good haul.  I knew that Westlake's books would be a good recommendation as soon as I saw his name.


I was also reminded of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  That I listened to in audio form and it struck me as one of the finest audiobooks I have ever heard.  


I enjoy looking at Amazon's Charts (charts.amazon.com), which show fiction and non-fiction that has been sold and read over the last week.  I often hear how Google and others, like Amazon, are tracking me and recording everything about me. I hear that they can predict me every move and see deeply into my life.  My one little life, seems to have twists and turns that make it difficult for me to follow, much less a big corporation. For various reasons, like a Kindle malfunctioning a while ago and needing to be totally cleared, I cannot find the damned story about the email reader and his romance.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Suspicious of superlatives

This is an age of marketing.  

  • Buy from us!

  • Get the best!

  • Our product is No. 1!


It helps if we only use a single rule, contest, criterion or variable.  

  • Ours is most popular! (in the continental US during 2016)

  • Our is most durable! (if used every other week)

  • We sell for the lowest price (today only)


I wrote a master's paper on Herbert A. Simon's idea of satisficing, as opposed to optimizing.  Maybe we don't seek the all-out BEST. Maybe there isn't really a single best except under special circumstances, measured in a given time and place.  Who is the best batter? The best quarterback? It may be better to aim to have a good product that serves us well, to have a good batter and a good quarterback.  


You may have heard the statement that 98% of statistics are made up on the spot.  I just made up the 98%. I chose it. Truthfully, I doubt that fake or unfounded numbers are quite that common. I don't doubt that there are claims of numbers and of quality ("Ours is the best!") that have little or no evidence behind them.  I also don't doubt that what's best in one setting may be "sub-optimal" (less than best) is another.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Research and real life results about head injuries in football

I don't usually pay much attention to OnWisconsin, the UW-Madison alumni magazine but the cover story on Chris Borland, college and pro-football player who withdrew from playing after reviewing research results by researcher Anne McKee, also a Madison alum now at Boston University's CTE (brain damage) center is very worthwhile.  As a fan of meditation, I am interested in the part meditation plays in helping players handle stress, strange circumstances, and transitions.

https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/features/hard-truth/  
  

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Gripping pictures and facts

The Atlantic magazine ran an article showing some of the world's libraries.  It was put together by Alan Taylor, the magazine photo editor. https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/10/a-photo-appreciation-of-libraries/573811/  My friend, retired pastor Ken Hansen, recently did a similar presentation about world libraries and bookstores so I looked at the article.  


Picture 11, taken by the photographer Adek Berry, shows a very different sort of library.  An Indonesian donkey with baskets of books hanging on his sides. The baskets are filled with children's books and the animal is surrounded by village children looking at the books, choosing what to borrow.  When I think of the selection and freedom available to me as a child in a large city's libraries, I realize I had access to a treasure. I feel that all kids should have such access.


I hate to think of children with good minds and good potential who don't learn to read or kids who don't have access to a good library.  


Another big contrast showed up in an article in the New York Times about Sundar Pinchai, the CEO of Google.  

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/08/business/sundar-pichai-google-corner-office.html  The man who heads one of the most powerful and recognized companies in the world grew up in India.  His house had no refrigerator and the family slept on the living room floor. Quite a contrast with what happens to me.  I imagine we all are better off with some CEO's who know other lives than our typical American ones.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Signals and pictures

I had in mind to write about signals, especially wireless signals that fill our house and enable devices to connect to the internet wherever we are in the building.  They are on my mind since Prof. Buchman of the UWSP music department talked to our learning in retirement group, "L.I.F.E." about music streaming services such as Spotify.  He pointed out that in the 1920's and 30's, the only streaming service was the radio disc jockey who played a song you liked. You might be able to phone him on the job and request a given song, but that was it.  


Now, we have

Which streaming music service is right for you?

  • Apple Music.

  • Spotify.

  • Pandora.

  • Google Play Music.

  • Groove Music.

  • Amazon Prime Music and Music Unlimited.

  • SoundCloud.

  • [And quite a few others not listed here]


There is quite a bit about these services I have yet to find out about and I will get to learning more over time.


However, this morning as I signed on to my Acer Windows machine, this image came up:


I spent quite a bit of time trying to understand how to get more information on what it is, where it is and how to do similar inquiries in the future.  I did learn that Windows 10 has a setting on personalization and that the pictures that appear from all over the world are part of a feature called Windows Spotlight.  


I haven't mastered how to quickly and easily find information about the picture but I did learn that a park of islands and water areas in Thailand called Koh Tarutao in the scene shown.  I was able to copy the picture shown and paste it in the Microsoft browser called Bing.


Evidently, on the rock pictured or nearby, there is a prison which was entirely dependent on regular food deliveries from the mainland.  As the invading Japanese had more and more difficulty in WWII doing all the things that they had taken over, both the prisoners and the guards fell to piracy just to survive.


Friday, November 9, 2018

About managing last days

I am not entering my "last days" but I feel that I can understand some of what they may be like.  I had a cousin who was one year older than I was die at the age of 6 from a blood clot to the brain.  I realize that blood clots can kill and maim. So, hearing that I have some blood clots in my body gets my attention and that of my wife.


We have friends who have died suddenly, and died recently.  So handling matters related to dying at older ages (past 70 years or more) is not foreign topic for us.


Some of our friends and some instances we hear about relate to extensive medical treatments that fail to prolong life or fail to extend life enough to matter, or involve serious deterioration in the quality of life.  So, one issue that arises is refusing to accept further medical treatment. Such refusal involves questions of capability and likely amount and quality of life extension. Do I have my wits about me enough to know what I am choosing and what I am refusing?  In truth, we don't know the future and we don't know my body. Neither the physicians nor my relatives nor me know exactly what is going on nor what is likely to happen in the coming years. Naturally, one's wife wants continuation of mind and body and one's physicians feel they have seen enough and experienced enough to be capable predictors.


If I go through extensive treatment, how much life extension will I get?  A day? A month? A year? We aren't likely to be facing this question seriously at this time but if not this time, maybe next time.  So, how much of an extension matters? Besides, in what condition will I be during that extended life?


My priorities matter, of course.  Besides the priorities in question are MINE!  So, I can feel at the moment that my grandson's wedding is important enough to me that I am willing to skip an appointment with my doctor in order to attend that wedding.  My wife or my grandson may feel that is a stupid decision and my presence at the wedding may simply be a downer and a reminder of death and deterioration. I may develop pain or loss of energy that changes my priorities suddenly and unexpectedly.


My purpose in writing a blog is to express the nature and feel of my days and my thoughts.  A day can have one character while one's thoughts may roam to a very different subject. I repeat that this day feels quite typical and not predictive of a sudden end.  Just thinking and writing at this time.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Update on Bill's health by Lynn Kirby

Yesterday Bill had an appointment with Dr. Islam, here in Point. He is a hematologist/oncologist. First, they took some blood, then Bill had a very long MRI,  and then he met with the doctor. The results of the MRI were not yet available when we saw the doctor.


They said that as massive blood clot as he has is usually caused by something in the body--that it can be a warning sign of something else. Although the blood clot might have been exacerbated by the heavy weights he lifted, they said that it could not have caused such massive clots. So they are looking for something else.


Usual causes of such things are malignancies, autoimmune disorders such as lupus, infections or viruses, and various drugs. It can also be caused by a hereditary tendency to clot. His blood work showed that that latter thing was not the case with him.


There are two areas of interest, a couple of "thickenings" in his small intestine, and something about his pancreas.


The results of the blood work show some things are high and some are low, but we don't know what they mean. I intend to look them up to find out their meanings, out of curiosity.


He will see Dr. Munck, our regular doctor, in December, Dr. Islam in February, and Dr. Kim, a gastroenterologist, soon. And he sill stay on blood thinners at least 6 months.


In the meantime, Bill has been told that he can resume his regular exercise, as he feels like it. He shouldn't overdo it, but there are no restrictions. That makes Bill very happy. Life actually feels quite normal, except for a fat leg on this man.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Other interesting finds on the internet

I habitually use two browsers, Google's Chrome and the Firefox browser.  Firefox is supposed to be somewhat independent and is related to Mozilla, the organization behind the first browser I used to roam the worldwide web.  That one was called Netscape.


The browser that comes with Windows was called Internet Explorer and was symbolized with a blue lowercase e.  Now it is symbolized with a similar lowercase (not a capital letter) but the e has a modern "haircut" that supposedly gives it a jaunty look.  I also use the browser that comes with Apple products once in a while, "Safari" and I use another browser "Opera" sometimes. I am far from an expert in browsing programs but generally I like Firefox.  I open Chrome everyday and I use Google email (gmail) and websites (Sites) and my blog Fear, Fun and Filoz is housed in Google's blogging service, called Blogger.


Firefox still has many good things about it and I use it every day.  Of the browsers I have mentioned here, it is the only one to house "Pocket" on its new page page.  That's the page that comes up when you click the plus sign in the top line of the window on the right hand edge of the tabs that are open.  The other browsers put the sites the user often clicks on or searches for on that new page page and so does Firefox. But it also has Pocket, which tries to search out content and other web pages that the user, given where he has been, might like.  I have been impressed at the quality and imagination of the finds Pocket has suggested to me.


Here is a page on my own web site of some recent suggestions Pocket has given me:

https://sites.google.com/site/kirbyvariety/-pocket-finds


The links are live and the articles are actual items on the web.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Compulsory optimism or Death to Frowners!

In the latter part of her book "Brightsided: How the Relentless Promotion of Optimism Has Undermined America", Barbara Ehrenreich has some interesting things to say about optimism and life in some dictatorships.


In his 1968 novel, The Joke, the Czech writer Milan Kundera has a character send a postcard bearing the line "Optimism is the opium of the people," for which the character is accused of being an enemy of the people and sentenced to hard labor in the coal mines. Kundera himself was punished for daring to write The Joke. He was expelled from the Communist Party, saw his works removed from libraries and bookstores, and was banned from traveling to the West.

[He later became a French citizen.]

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Kindle Locations 3075-3079). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

I read a while back that the Chinese government tries to keep a lid on its populace, given the enormous Chinese population (in the neighborhood of four times the US population - actually 4.25, when dealing in millions, .25 is quite large).  I suppose all governments have an easier time if their people are happily singing on the way to work, while working, and happily on the way home. Like the song in the Disney movie "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", heigh-ho, it's home from work, we go.

I don't know if drugs exist that can put a person in a high and pleasant state while not bringing fatigue or inability to concentrate, or lack of interest in work and effort.  I guess to some extent, beer will do some of that, sometimes, for some people.

Optimism can be carried a bit far, as in the well-known scene from "Spamalot", from the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail":

"Always look on the bright side of life".

Monday, November 5, 2018

Changed my life forever!

Changed my life forever! What did? Everything.  Anything. All the things. The last minute, the most recent moment - never ever had that before.  This last minute that just happened was unique. I admit that it was a rather calm minute. No fireworks or explosions or trumpets announcing the moment.  


Heraclitus had it right: you can't step into the same river twice.  But, Heray, it is not just the river. You can't live the same second twice.  When the next second is going by, it is doing so with that unique previous second in its history.  No other second that that same exact previous second as its immediate predecessor.


Each moment is unique.  I know it is not what is on your mind.  You have other worries and hopes. So do I.  But what we call LIFE is continuously unfolding.  Everything changes, ages, develops, deteriorates, slides, improves, falls apart - all the blooming time!  ALL the time!!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Falling into the market

A guy likes to whittle.  He has a good eye, good hands and sharp tools.  He enjoys creating good figures from wood and he falls back on his practice often.  Whenever he wants to reflect, digest, think, he carves.

Before long, his shop is stuffed with good carvings.  Naturally, he finds a place to offer the pieces he can bear to part with for sale.  His rhinos are especially popular.


Should he carve more rhinos?  It is fun to see his art being purchased.  The income from carving brings in more wood, more tools, more acclaim.  Will he be drawn to carve what sells?


Even if you are the master carver, it may be a little difficult to tell whether you want to branch out into Harry Potter figures and historical figures or whether you get more of a lift from sales and more sales.  He may get all marketing and statistical, studying trends in gifts and carving sales, locating areas where carved figures are a hotter item. He could get a degree or a certificate in marketing and learn ways to push his figures as gifts, tokens of travels or prizes.  He might become "Mr. Rhino" and put his animals on candle holders and vases, file boxes and racks for clothes and keys.


He may desert his art and pay other carvers as his sales, overseas and home, increase.  


Or, he may continue to carve wood into figures that please him, whether or not they sell well.  


No matter whether he works his hobby or his business or manages some of both, he may come to feel that he never really did the right thing.  Getting deeper into sales of wooden carving can saddle him with the suspicion that he deserted his art for crass cash. Producing more figures in a greater variety and getting more expert all the time may give him a nagging suspicion that a good business would have developed if he had put more energy into marketing and sales.  


If you meet the man, give him some cheer, will you?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Humans, emotions and computers

I read the letters to the editor in the Oct. 29 issue of the New Yorker. They were on the theme of dealing with the elderly who have dementia. An old man who had lost his wife appeared to go through the same agonizing blow of grief each time he was told again that his wife had died. He didn't remember that he had heard that before, and the information struck him just as forcefully and devastatingly each subsequent time he asked where his wife was and was told she had died.  His adult children found that if they said she was shopping, he was spared the nasty emotional blow.

 

A neuropsychologist who specializes in dementia seconded that letter, saying that responding to the emotional content of a statement or question is more helpful and effective than focusing on the literal content. One way to respond to an emotion is to sympathize with it as in "I feel that way, too" or in "I often have that feeling."  Another is to join in as in "I wonder that, too."  As with anything else, practicing and observing what works will lead to better responding.

 

I am reading "Algorithms to Live By" by Brian Christian.  It is an exploration of algorithms, rules and procedures that computers generally use that humans can adopt for their own use.  Generally, computers don't have emotions but there are some thoughts that maybe they should.  If emotions are good for humans, maybe computers, robots and artificial intelligence would be better with an emotional side.  Reading Christian's book, it is easy to see the many steps we go through when thinking and dealing with issues of daily life. 

 

If we are quick to blame ourselves or assume we are inferior thinkers or choosers or decision makers, we may be surprised to find that we wrestle with the same issues that computer designers face.  Besides that, there are many logical dilemmas and contradictions that we face in this world that have been proved to be unsolvable.  With the right issues, there may be no perfect solution or best path.  We don't proceed without error or in complete harmony with ourselves, our work and our aims and neither do the smartest, most farsighted machines.

 

Almost the first words out of Lynn's mouth this morning about wondering what to do first and why could have come directly from what I had just been reading in Christian's book on logical obstacles to perfect machine performance.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Forgetting

We didn't find anything we liked so Lynn suggested we try watching "Foyle's War" again.  Google says there are 28 episodes in all. I am confident we didn't watch one every single night.  We usually alternate with a variety of shows. I think we watched all of the "Bones" episodes since we watched Foyle.  There are 246 episodes of "Bones".


Lynn guessed that it has been long enough since we watched Foyle that we wouldn't remember the stories.  Boy, was she right! There are moments in one of the stories that I feel that I have seen the scene before, but they are few, and they haven't lead to my recalling the whole storyline or remembering who did the crime.  Very similar results are happening re-watching the "Doc Martin" series and the "Bones series and "Third Rock from the Sun". Maybe if I had made notes, concentrated and studied in ways as I have for school, I might remember more of the stories.


This leads a person like me, someone who has spent many hours in schools of one sort or another, in one role or another, wondering about school, studying and memory. In my course where the adult students and I tried to recall all the books we had ever read, there wasn't much talk about reading over again books that we enjoyed or were inspired by.  


I was often asked in that course what books had strongly affected me. I usually answered "Mere Christianity" by C.S.Lewis and "The House of Intellect" and "Teacher in America" by Jacques Barzun.  Since reading those books, I have re-read Mere Christianity and House of Intellect but that re-reading was years ago. They are very different books by very different men but I wonder what is in my mind from reading those books.  


I have seen "The Russians Are Coming!  The Russians Are Coming!" And "In the Spirit" many times, probably more than 8 for each of the movies.  I know by heart many of lines and the twists and turns of the story.


When I write a blog, I make five prompts before choosing a topic.  Once I settle on a topic, I write about it. Sometimes, I think of what seems a very promising topic but fail to write it down soon enough.  It can disappear into the atmosphere. It takes me about 45 minutes to write a blog. Then, I read it aloud to Lynn, listening for corrections that are needed.  Once it is in ok shape, I copy it into email for sending in the morning. By bedtime, I often am unable to recall the topic or what I wrote. I have written 3320 posts so I am not surprised that I can't remember them all, but from afternoon to bedtime??

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Buttons

I have read that Amazon dominates online business.  My wife hadn't heard of Amazon's Dash buttons so I read a little about them.  I guess they started with laundry products. After setup, a little button fixed to the front of our washer can re-order our favorite laundry soap when it gets pressed.  It is set to tell the house wi-fi that we want the order size previously agreed to and pressing the button sends a re-order to the company. A couple of days later, our doorbell would ring as the shipment is delivered.  



I just read that 4 people press their Amazon re-order buttons every minute.  So far, I haven't heard of similar button arrangements from any other company.  


I have heard of LifeAlert and similar pendants I can wear to call 911 in case I fall.  But there may be a market for other services, maybe a florist will deliver flowers or the bakery some loaves of bread or doughnuts.  


I did see that someone offers a random set of Amazon Dash buttons on eBay for $26.  The ad says they are used. I am not clear about whether they work or are just for collectors.


The difference between driving to the store, finding the product, checking out, loading it into the car, driving home and having the product delivered to our door seems strong.  It is true that I can order things online but a pre-set button seems faster and less likely to involve errors and mistakes. I have seen on the Amazon website that I can subscribe to a given product that will be delivered every so often.  Coffee or sugar or something that gets used can be subscribed, much like a magazine. But we are not big consumers and I wouldn't want an oversupply to back up in our closets.



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Best, perfect, good

Spurred by a recent blog post, I looked up "Best is the enemy of good".  Coaches, teachers and statisticians often look at tables like this:


1

Harriet

96

2

John

93

3

Jill

92

4

Bill

91

5

Mabel

91

6

Phil

89

7

Zee

88

8

Martin

88

9

Gil

87

10

Jack

76

11

Mary

74

12

Joan

70


Scores on tests and in sports are often (but not always!!!) produced by processes that look like these balls sifting through this sort of set of pegs:


If you take the ball in the right-most slot (the "best scorers") in this set of results) and paint that ball so you can track it, you will usually find that ball more often in the central slots on the next time you pour them through the pegs.  It takes good luck to be in the right-most slot and the painted ball probably won't do so well the next time through.


It is common for one of the balls or one of the players or one of the students to tend to score high consistently but not to be the top scorer.  The coach or teacher may not ever notice how high that "good" scorer tends to be. If we only look at the "best", we may not notice the "good".


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

See what I mean?

I mentioned that we are entering new eras, as we always are.  Hold on your hats as we innovate right, left, center, up, etc.     Here's the latest for O'Reilly's Artificial Intelligence newsletter.  

10. Shrimp and jam pizza

Beans and brie. Chicken, basil, and blueberry. Zucchini, cheddar, and caramel. MIT students collected hundreds of artisan pizza recipes from various food blogs and recipe websites and then trained a recurrent neural network to generate new ones.

+ And for dessert: how about a rosemary and peppermint truffle or maybe a gingersnap and meat truffle?

Monday, October 29, 2018

The most marvelous new thing

For several years, I taught a personal reading course that had the students review all the books they had ever read.  Well, we tried to do that. It only took a few minutes for people to start complaining that they couldn't remember all the books they had read.  They were correct as shown by the next few days. Many students would look over another person's list and suddenly remember that a title on the other's list was also a book they had read but forgotten about.  


It was only natural in such a course for students to start asking each other and themselves, which book was their favorite?  We found as a class that the question is much more useful in a slightly modified form. Instead of asking for the best book, it worked better to ask someone to name a few books that they really liked.


An important part of modern life is science.  By that word, I just mean questioning what we do and thinking of alternatives we might try.  We could take as a rough date of the beginning of modern science the year 1500. We have been in a science age for about 500 years.  There is plenty of evidence that humans go back much further than 500 years. There is also evidence that many of us get uncomfortable with too much questioning and experimentation and innovation, even though, at the same time, we appreciate modern electricity, medicine, communication, entertainment, transportation.  We are learning steadily about better ways of using our genomes, interacting with microbes and better use of machines, smart and otherwise.


All this modern invention produces new and exciting things and ideas, but we can come to understand that descriptions of new things and ideas are scraping the bottom of our adjective barrel in a frantic search for still more superlative words.  We are beginning to doubt colorful claims that your new invention, his new book, their new movie, that corporation's new hiring methods are so fantastic, so pioneering, so wonderful, so amazing. We are getting to the point where we just want to hear about the new thing, what it can do, and what it costs in both money and environmental damage.  We are getting immune to hype and baloney and even thrilled, excited voices. Just tell us what you have and what evidence shows about its effect.

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