Monday, December 31, 2018

Writing daily

Eric Barker writes a free column each week.  It is often something to do to live better. He tries to back up ideas and suggestions with evidence and does a good job. Yesterday's column was about the power of personal writing.

Just like many ancients and Michel de Montaigne in the 1500's, I find that writing daily fills my time with valuable activity and thought. If you know you are committed to write something for the day, you become aware of your thoughts, your reactions, your perceptions since you are on the outlook for what to write about.  I find that noticing up to five subjects and jotting a note for each of them helps me get motivated. I am eager to write but what about? There are times when none of my notes appeal and I pick something else. Once in a while, a picture or a quotation from a book feels more appropriate.

It is no secret that our lives are ticking away and yet it is easy to forget that this minute never happened before, this breath is part of a fabulous system that fuels our lives, that your friendship is precious, that some things and people justifiably irritate you, that you have fears and hopes.  Deciding which ones to mention and what to say about them puts your language skills into play. Having a slightly sore throat is different from having one that I frame words, descriptions about, reactions to such a rotten occurrence - selecting words lets me think from a short distance away.  I get a chance to consider what's up in the world, in my world, in me from a slight distance that gives me a valuable and comforting perspective.

I find it helps to put my thoughts out where others can see them and sometimes react to them.  I realize many people want and need to think about private matters or about matters that require security, not publicity.  

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Which model?

I have been using a Kindle electronic reader for about ten years.  I have many books in my archive and about 60 in the reader itself. I like the lightweight reader that can contain a hundred books but still weigh what a steno pad does.  I like the longlasting battery and the speed of recharging. I especially like that I can get a book silently and immediately using the cellphone-type system that downloads a book in seconds from the air into my device wherever I am.  

The other day I discussed the Kindle a little with someone who had tried one and didn't like it.  I found out by accident that the Kindle that had been tried was the first model that came out. There is quite a difference!

Consider archery:

changed over time to

The old bow might have cost $50 new.  The newer model is advertised for $895.  Hunters pay that price and I am confident they find the innovations worth the money.

Same with Kindles:

morphed into

It is lighter, faster and holds more.  Some excellent books are available at zero cost or very low costs.

I bought a Paperwhite model without an internal keyboard and a smart screen.  I thought I didn't need those features but I was wrong and got the more advanced model.  

A feature that I use frequently relates to highlighting.  As a student, I didn't highlight my texts. Some recent research says that I took a good approach and that students who make notes in handwriting retain the material they are studying better than other methods.  However, now when I am reading and I find a gem of a sentence, I highlight it using my fingertip. Up comes a screen to ask if I want to share the selection on Twitter. I hardly ever post in my Twitter account (olderkirby) other than to share great sentences.  The other part of the highlighting feature that I use is that each selection is added to a file. I can send the whole file of selections to my email at anytime. It makes a fine personal summary of the book I read.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Fwd: What are the most-discussed TED Talks of the year?

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: This week on <>
Date: Sat, Dec 29, 2018 at 8:50 AM
Subject: What are the most-discussed TED Talks of the year?

The first question up for debate: Are we alone in the universe? Read online
This week on
December 29, 2018

Stephen Webb: Where are all the aliens?

13:18 minutes · Filmed Apr 2018 · Posted Jul 2018 · TED2018

The universe is incredibly old, astoundingly vast and populated by trillions of planets -- so where are all the aliens? Astronomer Stephen Webb has an explanation: we're alone in the universe. In a mind-expanding talk, he spells out the remarkable barriers a planet would need to clear in order to host an extraterrestrial civilization -- and makes a case for the beauty of our potential cosmic loneliness. "The silence of the universe is shouting, 'We're the creatures who got lucky,'" Webb says.

Playlist of the week

Curator's Picks: Top Talks of 2018

Want to ponder some very big questions? Browse through TED curator Chris Anderson's latest playlist. Watch »

10 TED Talks • Total run time 2:23:51

This week's new TED Talks

Does everyone experience happiness, sadness and anxiety the same way? What are emotions anyway? For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions, scanned brains and analyzed hundreds of physiology studies to understand what emotions really are. She shares the results of her exhaustive research -- and explains how we may have more control over our emotions than we think. Watch »

If you think democracy is broken, here's an idea: let's replace politicians with randomly selected people. Author and activist Brett Hennig presents a compelling case for sortition democracy, or random selection of government officials -- a system with roots in ancient Athens that taps into the wisdom of the crowd and entrusts ordinary people with making balanced decisions for the greater good of everyone. Sound crazy? Learn more about how it could work to create a world free of partisan politics. Watch »

What would a sustainable, universally beneficial economy look like? "Like a doughnut," says Oxford economist Kate Raworth. In an eye-opening, thought-provoking talk, she explains how we can move countries out of the hole -- where people are falling short on life's essentials -- and create regenerative, distributive economies that work within the planet's ecological limits. Watch »

We get stronger, not weaker, by engaging with ideas and people we disagree with, says Zachary R. Wood. In an important talk about finding common ground, Wood makes the case that we can build empathy and gain understanding by engaging tactfully and thoughtfully with controversial ideas and unfamiliar perspectives. "Tuning out opposing viewpoints doesn't make them go away," Wood says. Watch »


Want to help your New Year's resolutions stick? Make this one-word change in how you write them, says psychologist Susan David. Read more »

Meet the dogs on the front lines of wildlife conservation. These incredible pups catch poachers, sniff out invasive plants and diseases, and more. Read more »

3 ways your memory stays sharp as you get older. It's normal to be more forgetful as you age -- but you also develop some memory superpowers. Read more »

The art — and science — of sharing a secret. There are clear benefits of sharing your private hopes and fears with someone you trust. Here's how and why. Read more »

series: DIY Neuroscience

Watch science in action in this original TED series about cutting-edge neuroscience experiments on a shoestring budget. Learn why mosquitos buzz, how octopus fight, and whether a computer can read your mind ...

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Procreation and fun

As a boy, I thought I would want to get a job I could work in for a long time.  To me, that meant finding work I enjoyed doing. It could have meant something involving guns and justice, or great amounts of money.  But for me, it was people and their intricacies. Psychology or psychiatry seemed to offer the chance to understand different personalities and both peaks and sink-holes of life, but education was much less expensive, and faster to get into.  Running a classroom involves children or young people, and that means connections to women. We are all the products of women and education as an occupation is attractive to women.

I have been attracted to books and fun things to learn or dream all my life.  I have enjoyed the company, personality and insights of women but I am not a woman.  We really are in a time just now where women are emerging as a force, when they are developing all sorts of goals and ambitions.  I hear about male privilege and repression of women. I feel as though I have seen that women do get thrust into all sorts of positions they didn't ask for, and denied all sorts of power they want.  

But I have suspicions and questions.  I wonder about the idea that women "farm" men, control them, for fun and profit.  The farmer has a herd of cattle that he more or less controls. Does the lady of the house have a man that she more or less controls?  Throughout the dance of life, it seems quite possible that both sexes take their knocks, have their burdens, make their mark, reap their benefits and contribute their parts.  

We are reading Michelle Obama's "Becoming" and it is excellent.  She beautifully expresses the pain and frustration and fear of being cheated of what she could do by motherhood and wifehood.  She wanted children and worked hard to bear some. We don't at this time have much pressure on men to carry children for nine months, go through childbirth and then parent the child for 20 years and more.  As we keep urging our girls to become CEO's, top lawyers and find cures for cancer, more of them pushing biological and parenting goals off for later.

Twice, recently I was in groups of mature men and found a way to momentarily try to exemplify pumping up men through purring admiration for their bodies and status.  Neither time took me a full minute, but in that minute, I was surprised to see the reaction. Of course, they were surprised my behavior and deep unsuitability to be womanly, or effectively "in awe" of them.  But I suspect that if I were properly built and dressed and had the right voice, skin and hair, I might be more able to inspire those men to battle or achievement.

I have long suspected that women live longer than men in part because our social patterns for the two sexes promote women's ability to enjoy life in more ways and more deeply that masculine models do for men.  I heartily recommend these two TED talks that I watched yesterday:

Justin Baldoni

Eldra Jackson

Friday, December 28, 2018

Up and down the scale of expletives

He is an active guy.  Putting a roof on the building, he struck his finger while hammering.  It hurt plenty. Then, a minute or two later, he struck the same finger again.  We were not witnesses to the event but some of the animals nearby report hearing shouted expletives high on the scale of severity.  

One trouble with expletives is that they are damaged from overuse. See for example, this passage from Donald Westlake's book "Watch Your Back":

The father waited, but the son merely loaded up with some Froot Loops and glowered at the countertop, so at last the father said, "So? What happened?" "The fuckin truck showed up," Mikey said, speaking through pastel pieces of grain, "but then somebody fuckin wrecked it." "Fuckin wrecked it? What, the fuckin driver was drunk?" "It wasn't the fuckin driver," Mikey complained, taking on more pastels. "He got outa the fuckin truck, some other fuckin guy got into it, drove it the fuck off. We never even got a look at the fuckin guy." "Drove the fuckin truck off?" "Ran it two fuckin blocks," Mikey explained. "We're racin the fuck after it, you know we are. Then this other fuckin guy shows up, some other fuckin car, gets out with a fuckin axe, takes the fuckin axe to the fuckin tires, cuts them all to fuck." "And what are you fuckin guys doin?" demanded the father. "Standin around with your fuckin thumbs up your fuckin asses?" "Nicky and Petey went after them in the Audi," Mikey said, "but then this monster fuckin guy with the axe, he throws the axe at Nicky and Petey in the Audi, and the Audi rams into the back of the fuckin truck and the whole thing goes up in fuckin flames."

The hammerer explained to some innocent teens who had no familiarity with the over-used word in the quoted passage above that when he felt the pain of a hammered finger, he had exclaimed,"Gee whiz!  That hurts". He alleged that striking the same pained finger a second time caused him to exclaim "You silly guy!" The teens are said to have expressed doubts that he was quoting himself accurately.  

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Taking a look inside

Are you hungry?  Do you believe the climate is getting warmer?  When assessing your own beliefs, it can be valuable to take a second and actually consider what your internal state is.  Without doing that, it is possible to just answer from habit.

Here is Wray Herbert on habits of thought, rules of thumb called heuristics:

Heuristics are cognitive rules of thumb, hard-wired mental shortcuts that everyone uses every day in routine decision making and judgment. The study of heuristics is one of the most robust areas of scientific research today, producing hundreds of academic articles a year, yet the concept is little known outside the labs and offices of academia. This book is an attempt to remedy that. Heuristics are normally helpful—indeed, they are crucial to getting through the myriad of decisions we face every day without overthinking every choice.

Herbert, Wray. On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits (pp. 3-4). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

It can be interesting to think of something or someone familiar.  Maybe the street outside or a relative you have seen many times. Then, ask yourself some imaginative questions about the thing or person you haven't asked before.  When were those houses built? Where are the original owners now? How did your grandparents meet?

The book quoted above tells the story of some skiers who got caught in an avalanche.  They had skied that area before and it is assumed that the habit of feeling familiar with the area dulled their watchfulness.  Maybe you have had the experience of dating someone to the point of getting used to their good looks but being reminded of just how good-looking they are by your family's reaction to meeting them for the first time.

You can take a moment to actually feel your hunger or lack of it.  You can take a moment to see what you actually feel about climate change, including the possibility of recognizing that you don't have feelings or convictions on the subject.  Feelings, convictions, vibes and intuitions can get out of date, too. You might have been charmed by the Fonz when you were younger, but aren't now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review, view, preview

Wondering what to write for the day after Christmas, I thought of a flow diagram.  Depending on how the day went yesterday, different ideas might be relevant now. I pictured a Christmas day full of love and enjoyment of others.  I thought of people who spent the day alone or more or less alone. Some undoubtedly were in the company of people they would have enjoyed more in absence than in presence.  

It is very easy for the mind, especially an American mind of today, to have wants.  It might be wanting the great parts of yesterday to continue. It might be happiness that yesterday is over and wanting its absence to continue.  If you didn't get Hot Wheels, you might want some. If you did get Hot Wheels, you might want something different.

There is another line that can be traveled down, the one of just this moment, this minute where a person actually is.  The writings of Eckhart Tolle and his videos on YouTube emphasize that actual freedom we all have, every second, to focus on now, just now.  It can be quite fun to step into the closet of now.

I think most people find it easiest to dip into now, to take shelter in the now, to taste what is now if they relax as many muscles as possible.  Sometimes, just as I focus on the current moment, I catch myself in an exhale. Being aware of that exhalation points out to me that I am alive. I won't always be but just now I am alive.  I might as well participate in that fact, that temporary state of being right now.

There is much research and thought about the human tendency to try to rather quickly sort all incoming perception into the signs of good and the signs of not good, dangers, needs, plans, etc.  What needs doing? But unless the cake needs to be removed from the oven or some other immediate need, it can be good for mind, body and relations with others, to notice what is happening inside myself and around me, right now.  Notice and notice some more.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Exuberant Christmas and clear-eyed new year

I hope during Christmas you can feel the weight and power of the best functions of your body, the value of and love for relatives and friends, the amazing goods you possess, the endless experiences you have enjoyed.

May you have a bright and shining tomorrow and a new year full of both challenge and success!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Cleaning out imaginations

Sometimes it is fun to look back.  My blog has few posts from ten years ago but here is what I posted nine years ago, two days before Christmas of that year

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Promising investment

I am thinking of applying for a grant or a business loan to start a tv station.  It might not work out. I am thinking of broadcasting The Nothing Channel. It will show nothing.  The cooking program will offer recipes for a nothing breakfast, lunch or dinner. We will set a nice table and bring in a platter of no eggs and no bacon.

In "Oh, God!", John Denver is in hot water, on trial for defaming and damaging a hot and popular TV evangelist.  We know he was doing exactly what God instructed him to do but others, including his wife, have strong or even stronger doubts.  Denver is representing himself in the trial, against the repeated advice of the judge. When it is his turn to present his witnesses, he stands and says," Your Honor, I call as my witness Almighty God."  There is a stir but nothing happens. Denver says that even though no one has appeared, there was a second when everyone anticipated the possibility that the Living Presence might actually appear, there in the room.  He appeals to everyone to consider the possibility and states that he himself had that event happen to him.

When I bring in a platter of no eggs and no bacon, making clear that the empty platter is not eggs and not bacon, it helps for a second, doesn't it?  For a second, we can all see eggs, fried or scrambled just as we like, on that platter. We can see and smell strips of bacon, extra crispy or rather limp, the way we want it to be.  We can take a millisecond to consider if we really like eggs or if having them has just been a habit or a custom, maybe one it is time to change.

It helps to have no lunch for a minute or no cup of coffee.  It helps to stop, pause. I like the fact that wide use of symbols, such as for start and more impressive, for pause:

for Start and

 for Pause.  

Imagine having having a symbol for Pause, one that is getting international recognition!  Sure, many societies have trumpeted energy, initiative, take-action strategies but others have long emphasized the value of pausing.  A pause button will merely suspend the action, freeze it. Re-pressing it to remove the pause will get you going again just where you left off.  You won't lose your place but you will have gained perspective and refreshment.

The Nothing Channel will remind its audience of the Pause button and the value of using it.  It will invite the audience to Pause an advertisement, maybe using the moment of silence to consider if the product being hawked is really one that will be likely to improve our lives and fit comfortably in with the dozens of other objects in our lives.

Watch for announcements of The Nothing Channel's Grand Opening and save your pennies to get yourself an investment in a piece of the action.  It's going to be nirvana.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Testing and learning in school and out

Sometimes it comes as a shock that a person with good school grades doesn't do well in later life but someone with low grades does well.  

Just about every day, I hear a question or someone wondering about learning.  I rarely hear what, to me, is enough doubt.

The most basic approach to school testing is to ask the student what was said or written.  Doing that is supposed to be checking to see if the student was paying attention to the subject being taught.  So, if the teacher tells me that Columbus discovered America in 1492, I then seem to "know" what was taught when I repeat that statement back.  Normally, I might be asked to state it two or three months after hearing or reading it. So, the requirements are piling up. Now, I have to pay attention when listening or reading AND I have to remember.  It's no good remembering that it was Mrs. Walters was in a bad mood that day, or that I had a turkey sandwich for lunch. I need to remember Columbus's name and the deed and the date.

You might doubt that remembering and stating accurately what was taught would help students all that much.  There have indeed been many questions raised about the usefulness of school learning. Luckily, a good many high paying jobs expect job holders to have school credentials and those credentials are not given out unless tests are passed.  

A heavy emphasis on remembering what was taught generally morphs into more critical work as schooling proceeds.  What makes us believe that Columbus did what was stated, and when it is said to have happened? What do we know of the results of his discovery?  Was the existence of the Americas known to others before Columbus?

The power to tax is the power to destroy. ATTRIBUTION: This quotation comes from the words of DANIEL WEBSTER and those of JOHN MARSHALL in the Supreme Court case, McCulloch v. Maryland. Webster, in arguing the case, said: "An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy," 17 U.S. 327 (1819).

1798. Daniel Webster (1782-1852). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary ...

When we ask a student to pay attention to the lesson, he pays us to label him "learned" with answers to our questions.  If we ask "Which page of the book describes Columbus's discovery?" or "What do the Navahos have to say about Columbus?", he might not be able to pay his learning tax. In that case, we can consign him to the debt house, or imprison him in a lower class.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Happy winter solstice!

Days on this end of the planet are starting now to get longer.  In the meantime, check out these recommended books.  Bill

Friday, December 21, 2018

Small times

I am fascinated with trying to be very accurate with time.  I want to ring the doorbell as exactly the time I said I would arrive.  The trouble is that it is difficult to know when that exact moment actually is.  My watch says one thing but the clock in my car says another. The living room clock in his house doesn't agree with either of them.  If I want to be super accurate, what can I do?

I remember reading in psychophysics that astronomers trying to be very precise had to reckon with the fact that seeing an event in the heavens and reading the time that event occured meant having a little time lapse between observation and noting the time of the happening. Whenever I try to deal with the exact time, I run into discrepancies.  

There are some times of the day that I want to get right for myself.  I don't want to consume more coffee. I don't want to fall into the practice of drinking more and more of it to be energized.  I give myself a cup of coffee as soon after noon as I want it. That means from 11 on, I am watching the clock. That is when time slows way down.  I look at the clock and see that it is 11:19. I wait a good long time and it becomes 11:22. So slow! I make myself wait to check the time for at least five minutes.  I look at the clock: 11:24.

This process of time slowing to a crawl happens whenever I am eager for a certain time to occur.  I don't dread getting up in the morning but I keep reading that a regular rising time and a regular bedtime are valuable for good sleeping.  I am a big fan of good sleep. I don't want to get up and be active before 6 AM. But waiting for 6 AM does not involve time passing very slowly.   

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Friends and girl football plays

Lynn used the show Friends as a bedtime event for years.  How she could go to sleep with all the jokes, outlandish behavior and laugh track I don't know.  Lately, we have been watching the show on Netflix, where they stream the shows in the intended order.  The Nickelodeon shows jumped around and they terminated the show before the ending bit. So, seeing them in order and getting the final scene after the credits is a pleasure.  Seeing me react to jokes and twists in the plot or character behavior tickles her, too.

Yesterday, we saw an episode where all six characters played football, as Monica and her brother used to when they were kids.  Eventually, players were reassigned to make one team all guys and the other all girls. Phoebe expressed doubts that mere girls could succeed against guys but she invented a new strategy, never seen when the Packers play the Bears.  As an opposing player is running toward the end zone, Phoeb opens her blouse and exposes her breasts in the direction of the runner. The sight transfixes the runner and makes him an easy target. She works this maneuver more than once and it gives the girls an edge.

I am interested in when and how women can mesmerize men with their bodies or expressions with eyes, face, gestures, glances or words of interest in being touched or smooching or making love.  It seems that mere suggestions of the possibility of interest are enough to interrupt men's thought processes, deflect them from their own goals, and weaken their wills. I can see that the business could be tricky.  One wouldn't want to enrage the target, who normally would be physically stronger than the woman.

The whole business seems asymmetrical in most cases since women do not seem to vulnerable in the same way to physical displays or their possibility.  Do women try to see male genitals when men go to the bathroom? Can a woman use "revenge porn", pictures of a nude or semi-nude man, on social media to punish a man for breaking up?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Let's change!

I really benefited from Eagleman's "Incognito" book about the parts of my brain that work in and for me but which I cannot knowingly and consciously access.  I can't tell what part of me "thinks" or is doing!!! I have known this fact for years but Incognito emphasized it anew.  The clearest it has ever hit me was when I whirled and tossed a wadded tissue to the spot where the trash can USED to be.  The moment I did that, I knew that parts of me knew the old location and hadn't updated themselves with new information.

I know I usually just tell myself that I have a habit (whatever that is and wherever it is) but the moment I tossed the wad of paper, I remembered I had moved the trash can to a better location.  I have begun taking another look at Duhigg's "The Power of Habit". The existence of habits shows me that my conscious and unconscious do communicate but not easily.  I guess the communication is slow since merely telling myself to stop doing something doesn't wipe out the urge to perform that way I habitually do.

When I saw Brandt and Eagleman's "Runaway Species", I downloaded it and started reading it.  From the title, I guessed that the Runaway book would be about how humans can ignore, over-ride or restructure their habits, their thoughts and even their bodies.

In the past couple of centuries, there has debate and some research on habits vs. instinct.  John Locke and others thought it was clear that humans don't have instincts like nest building or mating song as in some birds.  Incognito asserts that currently humans do have pre-wiring that affects them deeply but the effects may be so obvious that we tend to miss them.  Locke used the idea of the human mind being born a blank slate that perception and experience write on. Eagleman uses the example of attraction. Normally, we are attracted to another human but not to a frog or a chair.

The existence of habits, and regular routines, and steady likes and dislikes certainly speaks to the subject of stability in human thought and action. Yet, Eagleman, with Anthony Brandt, in a more recent book "The Runaway Species", focuses on change in human thought.  Since I seem to be a person with long-standing likes and dislikes, I am intrigued by the discussion of human desire for variety, for distaste for too much stability and repetition. I have a tendency to decide what color walls I most like and then paint them that color.  Maybe it is my Neanderthal genes that fail to appreciate the value of a new color just for variety. Ever since I read in "Supreme Courtship", Christopher Buckley's novel, about the US president running for re-election with the campaign slogan "more of the same", I have been alerted to the possibility that others have needs for more change and variety than I knew or felt myself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Old posts

I have 3,366 posts (count 'em if you don't believe me).  I know some of them are well-written and interesting. I have a printed paper book from Blog2Print of the posts from April 7, 2010 to May 22, 2011.  I am not sure why I picked that period. I do know that the company did not have the capacity to print all my posts in a book when I looked into the matter.  I have had the printed book for several years and haven't had any use for it. I am not eager to have more like it.

I have experience in data analysis, especially numerical data.  I also have writings, partial journals and notes. I like the idea of looking back at my history and thoughts but I rarely do.

I read the posts of about half of 2009 that had interesting titles yesterday.  I have about 10 ½ years of posts so I calculate I can look through all of them during the next few weeks.  Of the posts I recently re-read, this one stands out:

It describes an event that happened at the college dining room dinner table about 1959.  I had no idea from the title that I would transported back to that time, those people and that surprising event.  That post not only took me back to a funny, memorable time, it reminded me of a lifetime of relations that grew with those people.

Thinking about what reading some of my old posts did to my thinking and memory, I called Doris.  We got to talk with Doris and her husband, Bruce. Decades ago, the four of us played Charades together late in the night many times, faced young parenthood together, exchanged communications back and forth over the years.  Bruce and I walked the streets of our neighborhood in the wee dark hours together, waiting for our outraged wives to cool their anger over the outlandish and complex book titles we wanted them to work out from our excellent but silent acting.  

This is where old guys say,"Those were the days."

Monday, December 17, 2018

Danger right in front

I can be quite slow but maybe I am beginning to get the message.  

Beware of windshield wipers

Sure, they look innocent but they can be very powerful.  

My first taste of the trouble windshield wipers can cause what when my Chinese student went for her driving test.  She and I had used a stick-shift car and driven around a large parking lot. She learned starting and stopping while shifting gears up or down.  She drove around our town smoothly and efficiently. She was ready for her driving test. Unhappily, when the inspector got into the car with her, it was raining.  He said,"

Turn on the windshield wipers."  She said," What are windshield wipers?"

Ok, test over. Failed!  We had practiced quite a bit but never in the rain. She didn't take the result badly.  She learned what she still needed and passed the next time she tried.

Forty years, later, my wife said, "I need new windshield wipers" and went to the dealer to get some.  While there, the mechanics checked her tires, found the tread was too low for safety and informed her that she needed new tires.  Ever since we rented a car on a trip and she experienced warning lights blinking on her side mirrors that a car was in her blind spot to the side, she wanted a vehicle with that feature.  She had found our friend the salesman and asked about used vehicles with that feature. They didn't have any but the salesman and the mechanics agreed: getting a new car with the features she wanted would remove the need to buy both windshield wipers and tires.   

So, that is why I had to drive the new car to the filling station this afternoon and fill it with gas.  I need to learn to drive a car with a fob but no key and strict rules about when and how it will start, shift gears, stop, put the brake on and off.  If you have trouble with the wipers, en garde!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

It's hard to have a good conversation

He has ear buds on his ears and can't really hear you.

She is looking at her phone and we all know that is a sign she is paying attention to what that other person wrote.

When you are both watching television, you may have something to say about how this plot reminds you of that other story, but the other person is deep into that time they got into an argument with their dad and how exasperating dad can be.

When two or more people are fully, comfortably focused on their thoughts and those of others in a conversation, the result can be very powerful indeed.  In fact, there seems to be nothing quite as powerful mentally or in dealing with concepts, plans and possibilities as several talkers/thinkers conversing together.  Some people say we are in a period of anger, where it is fashionable to get angry quickly, but generally, doing so raises shields and deflections from accurate and honest expression.  

Simple interruptions are common these days.  We can just be on the edge of valuable understanding of each other when the phone rings, or your phone rings, or mine, or the timer goes off or the doorbell rings.  The butler could show whoever is at the door into the living room until I can talk but I don't have a butler. When we are talking on the phone, that machine can inform me that another person is trying to begin a talk.  At a minimum, just learning I am getting another call lowers my concentration on you, your voice tone and choice of words as well as the content of what you say.

I had three moving, shining conversations this morning.  As I turned back to other things, I saw I had gotten an email about what pasta sauces were the best ones.  From facing death, from knowing or avoiding our deepest selves, to pasta sauces?? We live in turbulent times, confusing, fast moving times.  I am not deeply against turbulence but I try to face it wisely.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Do I want anything?

I notice that many explorations and ideas seem to be focused on one thing and having that thing right now.  As I age, I realize that parts of me can stop functioning without notice.  Functions may be incomplete. I may breathe less well, my heart may pump less effectively, my memory sometimes works more slowly.  I am more conscious that multiple goals and desires may be of interest. I may desire my breathing to be better, my heart more effective and my memory faster and more complete.

If I ask myself What do I want?, the answer is not a single goal or wish.  Besides the answer changes. When I am cold, I want warmth. When I am too hot, I want cooling.  So what I want now may not be at all what I want an hour from now. I realize that others can dangle products and possibilities in front of me and entice me to want them.  What about a great trip to Yellowstone? What about losing ten pounds? How about some delicious cookies? My memory and imagination by themselves can do the same thing without help from others.  

I remember a trip to Nice, France with strong fondness.  But booking a flight, packing a bag, getting a room, thinking of such steps awakens my doubts.  Will all that be as magic as it was before?

I think I am getting to see many desires as temporary, wants that will rather quickly pass into other, different wants.  

I don't admire a picture of inactivity, sloth, boredom nor pictures of a long string of doubts and fears and hesitations.  I also can't get behind a picture of wasting the energies and possibilities I have now. I am not going to get any younger.  I may be as strong and as vital now as I am ever going to be. It can't be a good thing to waste my current abilities. I realize that my life and current abilities are precious and have expiration dates.  

When I was younger, I sought a pattern for my life, a plan, a direction. I wanted to know what to be, what to become, who to be with.  Now, I know what I am, I have a somewhat foreshortened future, and I know who I want to be with. Have I got everything figured out? Maybe.  

I may be clearer about keeping myself good company and enjoying my time wherever I am and whatever I am doing.  It all feels good most of the time and when it doesn't, I have a valuable opportunity to watch myself deal with whatever comes up, trying to convert it into nourishment and enjoyment.  

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