Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Two kinds of teaching

Probably the older idea of teaching is something like "I know something and I will tell you".  That means generally that you should listen carefully and remember what I say.  An alternative way of teaching is along the lines of "tell me what you know and together you and I will add to what you know and modify the parts of your knowledge that are incorrect, incomplete or out-of-date." That approach will involve more of you telling and me listening and questioning you.  

These models of teaching emphasize oral language.  We both need to be able to hear and understand a language.  If we are in modern times, we will have textbooks and probably videos or movies that we can watch together.  We both need to be able to speak in a way the other can understand.

If I am a young teacher, I may be so aware of my responsibility for teaching and doing that I will feel better and more dutiful if I stand in front of you and other learners, and explain what I know that I want you to know.  If I am an older teacher, I may have given an oral presentation on the topic many times.  It may be a relief and more fun for me to listen to you tell what you know and what you think seems right to expect from a learner who has learned the subject we are working on.  

Most of the schooling I am familiar with requires a learner to pass some sort of test to show learning has taken place.  Usually, neither of us pays much attention to how well you could do on the test without my teaching, how well you could do on the first day of school.  An older teacher is often situated in a way that few of the learners know what is to be taught beforehand.  As an educator, a citizen and a theorist, I am interested in what you know from my teaching and I am also interested in how long you know the material.  I have read that police officers, and others, I imagine, need to be recertified on the firing range or the handling of unruly citizens resisting arrest.  I have often wondered if I might be called back to my high school sometime to be recertified as knowing what was required for my high school diploma.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Fasting today

Unconscious eating before you know it

I was fasting a month or so ago and I was surprised to discover that I was standing in front of our kitchen cupboard, chewing a cracker.  I put the incident down to my unconscious mind steering me toward food without my deliberate decision to eat.  I have read some of Bargh's "Before You Know It" and, just as the title says, my habits and my drives can move me into actions without my thinking openly about them.

Habitual times to eat

When I am fasting, I can go for a couple of hours without even thinking about food.  However, at my usual breakfast time or lunch or dinner time, I suddenly become conscious of the hour.  I suddenly ask myself if I am hungry and, of course, I am somewhat.  The clock prompts me to eat.

Stay out of the kitchen

It helps a lot to stay out of the kitchen and away from food.  It is not that I am starving but the kitchen has food in several places.  If I see it or I think of it, which is likely in the kitchen, I can scoop some nuts or bread or fruit into my mouth, again, before I know it.

Dr. Jason Fung MD - internet, books, YouTube videos

A friend recommended Dr. Fung's books and videos.  The man is actually a nephrologist (a kidney specialist).  He treats people who have to have dialysis, the procedure where one's blood is circulated outside one's body, filtered and returned.  The kidneys are part of my picture of the really important organs: heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.  Dr. Fung finds that the majority of dialysis patients suffer from the results of diabetes.  In his books and videos, he explains how contradictory advice couples with the basic lure of sweets and simple carbs like bread and pasta to keep adding to the burden of a body trying to deal with too many calories.  He mentions that patients he sees have been suffering with diabetes for 10 to 30 years. He is clear on the value of fasting, way before letting diabetes damage the kidneys. Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson ("Bright Line Eating") simplifies eating down to "no added sugar or flour". I guess flour is treated by the body almost as a sugar.

Fasting can be a good tool against diabetes and insulin resistance

There are two types of diabetes, which is a type of malfunction of the body in dealing with essential sugars.  Type I is the type where a child is born with an inability to create insulin, an essential chemical for the body to obtain the energy it needs.  Type II is the type where the adult body develops resistance to insulin, which no longer operates efficiently to shepherd energy into the cells of the body. Thirty million Americans have type II but only 1¼ million have type I.   

Good for body and brain

There are many reasons to fast.  It is not just for weight loss but can be helpful for the whole body.  People sometimes expect to be immediately listless but the body is better designed than that.  It can be scary since it seems like the body is being asked to die.  From the little bit of deeper hunger I have experienced, starving to death would be difficult and miserable.  I have read of saints or very strong-willed people who forsook food for religious or political reasons but I imagine most of us have bodies that would persuade us to eat dirt before allowing us to expire from starvation.  Fasting can take many forms from the 5:2 approach (five days of typical eating and two a week with restricted eating) to several days or longer, often with supervision.  

Monday, February 26, 2018

I couldn't do it

It is very clear that the first few years of life have a big effect on the rest of it.  I have read that dogs have glands between their toes that leave scents that other dogs decode along the ground.  I guess in a similar way the fetus inside the mother tends to receive chemicals from her body that more or less prime the growing baby with a sort of preview of the surrounding area that the mother is experiencing.  Is it a hostile place?  A prosperous and welcoming place?

Then, after being born, the child's mother features mightily in introducing the child to the world, to language, to dealing with anger and loss and joy and love. We listened to Chris Coder, Yavapai Apache tribal archaeologist, discuss prehistoric life in a small band of humans.  He emphasized that the band's future depended very much on the young women in the band, those of child-bearing age.  Regardless of the number of such women there were, the future generations of the band depended on them.  Getting pregnant, bearing the child to term, giving birth and raising the child were all steps in supplying the next generation of band members.  Without those young women, "you're done".  

Many biologists have noted that a single male can supply the male contribution to the next generation for many women, just like the bull and many cows.  With a usual wiring for alertness to physical danger, it is easy for humans to be impressed by the mighty bull and rather overlook the contributions of mothers. This morning, I was thinking of the difference between the little girl at our coffeeshop table and me.  Not just me but all the boys and men present.  The little girl was three years old and she had already attended Quaker firstday school this morning.  In the coffeeshop, there were other children but none quite as young.  There were boys playing board games and girls talking.

This little girl watched the other children while her young mother sat beside her and conversed with women at the table. She pivoted and watched the adults talking.  All the while, she sat or left her chair and stood quietly by it, again looking at activities at nearby tables.

I am confident that if you employed me to duplicate her performance, I would have failed.  I also saw the mother give her daughter attention and words and hugs from time to time, all the while continuing discussion of knitting and other topics with the other women at the table.  I don't have it in me to be the little girl as competently as she was, and I don't have it in me to be her mom.  I would say there is very, very little chance I will be called on to do that, which is lucky for me and for our little band.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Habeus corpus - part 3

I have already written about Habeus Corpus twice so this post is number 3.  The words are Latin, usually translated into English as "You must have the body".  The Latin words are used as the name of a particular type of judicial order.  If my cousin is imprisoned, my lawyer may launch a writ of Habeus Corpus in an effort to find out where he is being kept, what sort of condition he is in, what he is charged with, and related facts.  But the English playwright Alan Bennett used the words as the title of a play about sexual relations.  Through most of our years, we tend to have strong urges for sex activities and there are times when bodies enter into our thinking quite vividly and into our actions in a fundamental and life changing way.  

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I was shopping books suggested by as being related to schooling and the education of young people.  Finland has been the focus of educational thought, research and analysis for nearly two decades.  One of the books mentioned a few simple ideas that feature strongly in Finnish educational practice.  One of them is plenty of physical exercise.

American school over the past two centuries tended to require students to sit at individual desks in class, all facing toward the teacher.  All the students were to be quiet and listen to the teacher.  There may be a recess or two during the day but otherwise "listen and learn".  Since the late 1800's right up to today, many people have pointed out that learning often takes place better, faster and more pleasantly if the students move around.  Western schooling has emphasized the mind and denigrated the body.  The body and its needs and actions are sinful, embarrassing and beastly, in the view of many authors (mostly men!).  

So, we are going through a big change of heart today when we emphasize the interaction of the brain and the body.  The Finns realize the need to move.  The gerontologists realize the need for elder people to move.  The many yoga teachers realize the need to move.  The books by Dr. Joan Vernikos emphasize the need for astronauts and all of us to move, to stand, to bend and stretch, to jiggle, to step out and push off.  The body matters and life is more fun if it gets good use.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sorry, brain overload!

We learned from Dr. Mark Mattson that fasting will not only drop our calorie intake but fasting is also good for the whole body and brain.  The basic idea seems to be that various body systems can use a break from their usual routines and duties.  I learned from David Weinberger's "Too Big to Know" that the internet, libraries and various sources offer way more than I can read, watch or learn.  Just today, my brain's overload light went on.  

I cannot learn anything new.  My experiencer is depleted and my mental file space is full.  No further anything until I empty out some of what I currently have.  I'm guessing every 2nd childhood memory could go.  I've read that procedural memories, such as driving and biking last a long time.  Tying my shoelaces and typing with a steady stream of typos will probably still be useful but I haven't shot a bow, nor had to use a crutch, for a long time.  Maybe I will dump those bins.  

My brain box is full.  It is unpleasant when I get a message "Your mind is not accepting new information at this time.  Please try again later."  It is not like when I was a kid.  I could read two books at once, one with each eye, while listening to a radio program (sort of like a live podcast, Kids).  I may keep an index of what gets dumped just to try to track what I did know that I think I can get along without.

I guess I could train my brain to dump stuff on a regular basis like some email programs do.  I am guessing that stuff that has not be actively used in the last five years has iffy value and might be safely forgotten.  Some things are probably not available once forgotten but other things could be relearned and/or updated.  As we slowly moved from college kids with no money to oldsters with a little, I used to wonder what I would do if our appliances and cars all ceased working at the same time.  I worried that I wouldn't be able to afford mass replacement.  It is a similar problem with learnings from a while back.  Most of those learnings seem to need updating.  Many parts of my learning are out-of-date but I don't really feel like checking up on everything to bring it all up to date.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

Which way to a good life?

I got to thinking about education and schooling today.  I taught the fifth grade for four years and enjoyed it.  I got a PhD in educational research, measurement (testing) and experimental design.  That degree is aimed at doing research in education but I took a job at a branch of the University of Wisconsin that mostly taught undergraduates having their first four years of post K-12 schooling.  In my School of Education, we did offer master's degrees.  They were typically about one extra year of schooling beyond the first four.  Graduate students working toward such degrees were in the program only after getting their first college degree, a license to teach in the public and private Kindergarten to 12th grade and doing some teaching.  

So, I spent time with undergrads, typically aged 18 to 22 years old, and with experienced teachers working on master's degrees.  I have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and a wife who has a PhD in educational technology.  The subject of life between age 5 and age 40 is of interest to me.  We all know that the world and its possibilities is changing all the time.  Things are not as they were when I was a kid, nor when I first became an assistant professor.  

We live in an age of science and research, in which some of us try to apply scientific and critical and imaginative thinking to our lives. Some younger people today, empowered to enjoy sexual life without producing babies postpone becoming parents.  They usually say they want to establish their careers first and have children later.  Sometimes that seems to work out and sometimes it doesn't.  No matter how becoming a parent happens, it is one of the most important events in anyone's life.  

Even a parent who isn't clear about how to be a good caretaker and guide for a new baby generally wants a child to have a good life.  What exactly a good life is remains something of an open question.  We can usually be confident at later ages that we know if a child and later that adult suffered or lived happily.  But when a child is eleven years old or has even grown to be 31 years old, we older, supposedly wiser humans can't say accurately which studies or skills or mates or locations or religions will bring the most happiness.  We have to fall back on generalities such as "Do your best" and "Be nice".  These generalities are time-tested but vague enough that if unhappiness appears we can't tell what went wrong.  

Many Americans still have a basically pioneer-settle-the-country attitude.  They often take refuge in an old idea: whatever you set your hand to, do it with all your might.  So, if I study "hard", work "hard", play "hard", the idea is I will probably become happy, eventually.  So, let's make school difficult because then it will be good.

Reading the Brooking Brief on differences in Republican and Democratic ideas about our schools (the full link is much longer but I used Google's Shortener)
led me to shopping among Amazon's books about schooling (what we do in schools) and education (what we learn from all sources).  You can't wander far among education sources these days without hearing about Finland's schools.  I especially liked this paragraph about "Teach Like Finland" by Timothy Walker and Pasi Salhberg:
Finland shocked the world when its fifteen-year-olds scored highest on the first Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a set of tests touted for evaluating critical-thinking skills in math, science, and reading. That was in 2001; but even today, this tiny Nordic nation continues to amaze. How does Finnish education—with short school days, light homework loads, and little standardized testing—produce students who match the PISA scores of high-powered, stressed-out kids in Asia?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What's on my mind?

A friend told me about the YouTube video "Nothing Box" today.  There are several related ones actually and they are about the difference between the brains and thinking habits of men and women.  Mark Gungor, a speaker on marriage, gives his take on the minds and personalities of men and women.  According to his explanation, men tend to keep ideas and topics in separate boxes and focus in their thinking on one box at a time.  One of the boxes in their brains is the Nothing Box.  When their minds are in the Nothing Box, they are basically thinking about and doing nothing. Women, on the other hand, keep everything connected to everything else and that is why women remember everything.  

One of the basic facts about any difference between the sexes, as far as I am concerned, is that women tend to live longer than men.  A biology professor told me once that there is also a difference between the longevity of females and males in other mammal species, too, such as deer and wolves.  I have heard that various multiple choice tests have shown some advantage men have in mathematics and spatial reasoning while women have an advantage in language and emotional sensitivity.  

I am a fan of simple, regular practice of meditation since I think it feels good and there is a growing mountain of evidence that meditation is good for you.  The result of keeping one's attention on a specific anchor is that when the mind takes one of its inevitable drifts or jumps to some other topic, the meditator can notice the change.  The noticing increases the awareness of what one is thinking about, an awareness often called "mindfulness".  I have wondered if the sexes differ in their ability to meditate or their willingness to do so.

Gungor says that men like to be in their Nothing Box and do nothing and think nothing.  I haven't heard of that happening but I don't know one way or the other.  Since women seem to live busy lives, they may resist  practicing meditation.  For either sex, interest in meditation and experiencing it as a valuable practice may tend to be related to age.  I had not heard of meditation before the age of 34 and I didn't practice regularly nor investigate the topic before the age of 54.  There are many people who think that meditation should be taught to children and be made a part of their lives.  I am not sure about that and I am not convinced that there is any difference between the sexes in how much meditation seems to fill a need for them.  There is a great deal of fairly empty or contradictory chatter about men this and women that.

In this age of research and "research", when we can find statements that "studies show" just about anything and its opposite, it can be helpful to take things with a grain of salt, that is, to be slow to accept this principle or that idea.  One of the best reviews of research and "research" that I have seen lately are the opening chapters of "The Bad Food Bible", in which Dr. Aaron Carroll, a researcher and research mentor at Indiana University, emphasizes the need to study research reports carefully before swallowing conclusions being offered.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

90 seconds

Quite a while ago, I read "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor.  In her 30's, she suffered a stroke while working as a neuroscientist.  She had a pretty good understanding of what was happening as it happened. Still, her mind failed to work as it had and as she wanted it to.  She wanted to call for help and she knew her telephone could do that but she couldn't think how to use the phone.  She found that she couldn't speak coherently nor make sense of the symbols on the phone.

She has a TED talk about the experience and her book is available in paper and in ebook form.

In her book, she refers several times to a 90 second interval.  She says that when something triggers a natural reaction of emotion, say, anger or fear, the natural body circuit takes about 90 seconds to launch and run its chemical course.  She taught herself to wait 90 seconds to experience the trigger, the increase in feeling and its demise.  But she kept her awareness on her feelings.  If after 90 seconds, she still experienced the feeling that had been launched, she knew that she could, after that length of time, decide to stop allowing that emotion or fear to run.  After 90 seconds, she was back in conscious control and could decide for herself how to respond and how to feel about the triggering situation.

I have seen reference to 90 seconds, a minute and a half, in another reference since reading Taylor's mention.  Whether one reads the famous "Man's Search for Meaning" or watches the movie "Life is Beautiful", the same message emerges.  We cannot always control what happens to us but we can improve our reaction to the events that do come our way.  Taylor adds an interval of respect for ourselves, a moment to accept what the body and mind do to respond to events.  But after 90 seconds, we can and should take the wheel and drive in the direction we consciously want.

Many yoga and personal trainers would recommend either simply observing calmly whatever sensations, images, thoughts and feelings come to us during the 90 seconds of natural reaction or use the time to breathe consciously and steadily while waiting for the body and brain to run its natural course.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

When we are ripe

In one of the brain books I have been reading, the author discusses basic inner programs that run in us.  He makes the statement that we cannot be attracted to a frog.  He probably thought of that sort of statement because of the connection in our old tales of magic and spells between kissing a frog and having it instantly change into a handsome prince.  The prince was the victim of a mean old witch who cast a spell on him.  


Scientists know that humans have an extraordinarily long childhood and they used to think that we lack instincts and pre-arranged programs. We must learn everything as children.  However, attraction to a member of the opposite sex is just one of the nearly instantaneous processes that go on in us when we are ripe for them. This is from Eagleman, again:

Take babbling. Deaf children babble in the same way that hearing children do, and children in different countries sound similar even though they are exposed to radically different languages. So the initial babbling is inherited as a preprogrammed trait in humans. Another example of preprogramming is the so-called mind-reading system—this is the collection of mechanisms by which we use the direction and movement of other people's eyes to infer what they want, know, and believe. For example, if someone abruptly looks over your left shoulder, you'll immediately suppose there is something interesting going on behind you.


Eagleman, David. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (p. 84). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


We don't follow our programs until we are ripe for them.  We might not all get ripe and ready after the same amount of time, depending on our genes, our personality, our diet and the happenstances of our individual lives.  I wasn't conceived until my parents' bodies were ready, willing and able.  I wasn't born, talking, physically mature, a parent, capable of carrying responsibility, be a full citizen, educated, aware of myself, retired until I was ripe for that step.  I won't die until I am ripe for death.  I am surprised by the look of my life when it is viewed through the lens of ripeness, of things happening when all the factors needed are properly set. I get the feeling that it is not random and much of it proceeds in steps I know little or nothing of.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Hey, I have a great idea!

More and more, I have been finding myself mentioning ideas from the book "Incognito" by David Eagleman.  I feel that if a book comes to mind during a normal day, when I am not actively reading it at the time, it must have mattered to my little gray cells.  At the same time, I have been reading "Into the Gray Zone" by Adrian Owen, a British/Canadian neuroscientist.  Owen specializes in understanding and trying to help people that are in the "gray zone", such as a coma or similar vegetative state.  Some of the ideas and phrases send me to "Idiotic Brain" by Dean Burnett, a Welsch neuroscientist who also writes a blog that is published in The Guardian, a British newspaper.

I read years ago of Edith Bone, a woman imprisoned by Hungarian authorities for seven years in solitary confinement.  Her book "Seven Years Solitary" describes efforts to stay sharp and interested and to challenge herself.  As neuroscience proceeds, we may get to the point of understanding what certain head injuries and diseases do and finding ways around at least some of them. Whether a person is in solitary confinement or trapped in a cognizant but immobilized body, or suffering from bouts of mind afflictions, they are still alive in some sense.

Eagleman makes clear that the usual body performs many functions, in sleep or in wakefulness, that the conscious mind has little or no access to.  My blood pressure, my digestion, the release and re-absorption of hormones and neurotransmitters happen all the time, without my awareness or understanding of them.  My brain accomplishes all sorts of regulation and oversight without my conscious mind knowing what is going on.  

We are all aware of our minds, memory both short and long term, imagination, emotions and reasoning ability.  We tend to think that our minds are in control but Eagleman emphasizes that most of what happens is not part of our thinking.  He likens the situation to a CEO (the conscious mind) that gets notified of a problem or a contradiction ("I want ice cream but I shouldn't eat any") when the usual procedures are held up or obstructed.  If our sub-parts start arguing with each other, call in the CEO.  Eagleman says that when I have a great idea, my sub-parts have been working on the problem in complex ways for quite a while. Finally, the issue has been passed on to my conscious mind.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fwd: Links to pictures

We will stop pestering you soon.  Bill
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lynn Kirby
Date: Sun, Feb 18, 2018 at 10:45 AM
Subject: Links to pictures

I've been having my troubles getting this pictures up. When I send them as email, the files are rejected by many email servers as too big, so I'm trying facebook. If you're on it, you can see them there.

Here are the links:

From the Verde Valley Train Ride

From the Grand Canyon

It's on my timeline, but I can't get it to give me the link. I am having a lot of trouble with my computer this morning.


Changing seasons

Lynn is preparing a nice letter about our trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon.  She wants to make to several hundred pictures available but they need some editing and culling.  These modern devices can unhelpfully at times snap off 10 pictures of the same scene before you take a breath.  Meanwhile, since I have been in snow, then warmer, then Arizona snow, then home to Wisconsin snow, I have dwindling winter on my mind.  Yesterday, as I walked around lowering shades, I met our amaryllis, all grown up now.
See dates below.

Feb.2, Feb. 10, Feb. 17

Fwd: Our trip

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lynn Kirby
Date: Sun, Feb 18, 2018 at 10:53 AM
Subject: Our trip


I usually write a letter every Sunday, but I missed last week because we were traveling. My iPad and iPhone will not remember lists of people, and I can't remember lists of people, so I can't write group messages very well. Bill brought his Chrome book, and I was planning to use it to write, but it didn't like the internet connection at our hotel, so I have waited to get home to write. 

We left here on Saturday, Feb. 10. It was a normal uncomfortable, boring day of travel--certainly nothing of interest. We got to our motel in Phoenix at about 6:45, and ate what food we could find there. It wasn't bad.

Sunday: It was a gorgeous sunny morning during our couple of hours at the Desert Botanical Garden, warm but not too hot. What a difference from home! The garden itself was beautiful, with many types of desert plants, all planted and cared for. It didn't really look like the desert, where things are more spread out, more haphazardly planted, and where the dead plants remain; this garden was more like a glorified desert, bringing the beauty of the desert to neat, artistic arrangements. It was set up by type of desert plants and biomes, as well. We very much enjoyed it. 

After a trip to a store to buy the things we forgot to bring, we drove to Sedona, about a 2 1/2 hour drive. As we drove over a hill into Sedona, there was a very noticeable change in the color of the rocks. Instead of the grayish tan we had been seeing, these were deep red monuments. Very beautiful.

We got there about 2, and our room was ready, but Beth and Dave's was not. We had adjoining rooms, so we spent time together in our room--even took a little nap. And then we walked around the grounds. We stayed at the Sedona Hilton, and it was quite posh, including the grounds, and our explorations brought oohs and aahs from us. About 4, Beth and Dave's room was ready, so they settled in there, and called us in to see it. Our room was typical: 2 beds, a TV, a desk and chair, a nice sink for making coffee and drinks, and a  bathroom. Their room had a dining room table and 4 chairs, a couch and TV in the living area, a separate bedroom, and a very fancy bathroom. They were thrilled with it, but they felt that we should have gotten the room. But since the trip was our gift to them, we stayed in ours. If we had planned it, it would have been exactly what we would have done.

Somewhere between then and dinnertime, when we met our group and group leader, it began to rain. Rain was a big feature of our time in Sedona. We got all our materials, a description of what we'd do during the week, and a personal introduction of the leader about himself. And that ended the day's program.

Monday: Monday morning we had a lecture about the geology of the area. I am afraid many of us struggled to stay awake during the first half, where he described the origins and nature of each of the 9 layers of rock. The second half (which several people didn't attend) was more interesting, but I honestly don't remember what it was about. Maybe the plants and animals of the area?? 

After lunch we all climbed aboard 2 trolleys to take us to see the sights of Sedona. Site one: the chapel on the rocks. It was very crowded there, and we only stayed about 20-30 minutes. It is a pretty place, but you couldn't appreciate it as much from the inside, and the rain and cold kept you inside. (Bill stood around the votive candles to stay warm.) As we drove around, all the features of the area were pointed out and described. Second stop: the Airport, where there are beautiful views of Sedona from above. However, we didn't see them because a) it was pouring rain, b) the views were covered by clouds, and c) the plastic sides of the trolley were completely steamed over. Our final stop was in a little shopping area, where we had about 20 minutes to wander. And that turned out to be our only shopping trip. 

After we got back, Beth and I went to a few stores to look around, and we took our umbrellas. At one point, we were hailed upon! We bought some necessities, such as chocolate bars.

The evening program was led by a woman who brought in some of her pets for us to see, learn about, and handle. She also told wonderful, funny stories. First was her scorpion Lorraine, a particular kind that does not sting people. When she offered to let us handle it, I was the first person up there. I really got a kick out of not only holding it in my hand, but gently petting its back. Second were 2 tarantulas, Buttercup and King (something). And finally, she had 2 snakes. Other people ended up touching and holding things, and I wanted to hold them all, but I didn't want to be piggy, so I held off. It was a delightful evening.

Tuesday. It only sprinkled a little in the morning, and then it was clear the rest of the day. Yay! We went to a tiny Indian cultural center first, then to Montezuma's Well National Monument. That is a place of cliff dwellings, with a lovely river/stream running by. While there, Bill bought me a Valentine's gift in the gift shop: a stuffed scorpion. Sweet! 

In the afternoon, we took the train which goes through the Verde River valley. It is a 4-hour ride, and it was really lovely. If you get to that part of the county, I recommend you go on it, especially on a day that isn't raining. The train allows you to go back and forth between regular enclosed cars and cars that you can be outside with the scenery and rocks. It was beautiful. Our dinner was late, and we got back late, so no evening program.

Wednesday. In the morning there was a talk by a Native American about the Native Americans. I was tired and didn't attend, but I heard it was very good. The afternoon was free, so the four of us went to Tlaquepaque for lunch and shopping. We had a very, very nice lunch for Valentine's Day in an upscale restaurant. When we went outside to start shopping, it started raining, and since the guys didn't want to get wet hearing aids, we didn't shop. Instead, I napped in the afternoon.

The evening program was a man and his wife who sang many lovely songs of the area and of cowboys. Some we sang along with, too. A fun evening!

The last day of Road Scholar trips is always the most elaborate, and this was no exception. We drove through Oak Creek Canyon (I had never been there before because I was afraid of the curvy road on the map, but I'd do it again in a flash now because of its beauty), to Flagstaff, and then to the Grand Canyon. There was snow on the ground at these higher elevations, but not much. The geologist and his wife led us throughout the day, and they did a great job pointing out features and making it all very interesting and inspiring. Bill and I had said before that we didn't want to go the the Grand Canyon again because we had been there enough (and there are other places we haven't been), but we learned more on this trip than on all the others combined. We learned a lot about the Bright Angel trail down into the canyon, and even went and stepped on it. (It was muddy and slippery, and we didn't go anywhere.) We also learned a lot about the Kolb brothers and their photography and how they lived there. And on the way home on the bus, after our geologist finished telling us stories, his wife led us in singing really old songs that everyone knew. 

This chronicle would be incomplete with mentioning the rain. Apparently they have not had any rain all winter in Sedona--a drought. Their water supply depends on the snow pack melting, and they were getting quite worried. Our leader must have told us at least 20 times that it was so ironic that they had no rain all winter, and that it rained so much while we were there. Beth got especially annoyed from hearing that over and over. Another thing that needs mentioning is the need for naps--altitude induced naps. Lowlanders like us get tired at higher elevations.

Beth had been afraid that she would be the youngest person on the trip, but she wasn't. One woman brought her niece, a woman in her early 20's. She was a real spark on this trip.

Friday. We packed up and drove to Phoenix, where we went to visit with Dave's brother Don and sister-in-law Judy. We did several things, one of which was to go to the Hole in the Rock, where Judy, Beth and Dave climbed up to the hole. BTW, it didn't rain on Friday either. 

Saturday. We arose at 3:30 AM, left to return the rental car, rode the shuttle to the airport, went through check in and security, flew to Chicago, flew to central Wisconsin, drove home from the airport in a snowstorm, got home about 1 PM, ate something, napped, did laundry, and attended Leyton's family birthday party at Pizza Ranch and then Beth's house. And we went to bed early. 

I am going to send pictures in batches because I can't figure out a way for all of you to see all of them. 


Friday, February 9, 2018

Still, I am cautious about age-istic thinking

I suppose each generation can invent new ways to be better and also to be worse than other recent generations.  So, despite my sincere enjoyment of and admiration for yesterday's Millennial Job Interview, I realize that many young people today are very competent.  They may also be faster thinkers and learners than I am.  I like the story line of Millennial Job Interview very much and think the young actress, Melissa Tucker, does a wonderful job.  But some young people anywhere have energy, spirit and ambition and I fully expect to see that all over.

It is easy to find historical documents verifying that older people all through the last two millennia have lamented shortcomings of later generations and expressed confidence that the young will not be able to match, much less surpass, their cohort's achievements.  It may be part of the aging process to fear for a future that doesn't contain themselves.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Millennial job interview

I saw a short video on Facebook showing a Millennial participating in a job interview with a mature or older interviewer.  This video is fictional but interesting.  One of the statements the applicant makes is that Facebook is for "old people".  

The statement immediately made me think of the reaction a campus worker had when I mentioned I was advertising some of the college activities on Instagram.  "You don't belong on Instagram!"  I was a newcomer to social media and took the statement to heart.  Over time, I have personally tried to concentrate on a relatively few outlets I enjoy using and not get involved in too many.

Nevertheless, I remembered that statement.  Just now, I asked Google "Is Instagram for old people?"  162 million results came up.  I checked every one and didn't find a good answer to my question.  Ok, only a few since I don't care that much.  I did find that some people claiming to be 28 years old were bemoaning being old.  So, it is clear that my question is somewhat ambiguous.

Since commercial and advertising interests as well as new inventions and modifications are involved, and since much of the US is somewhat obsessed with whatever is new, I am confident that "new", "exciting" and "out of date" are slippery ideas, changing rapidly and expanding and contracting with fashions, rumors and campaigns.  

I spent most of my working life on a college campus and I have an interest in arranging matters so that college students get both a good education and a good career launched.  I am very confident that it is easier to sketch out what we think a young person should know than it is to get that person self-aware and also knowledgeable about the job possibilities and lifestyles available.  My campus, like most, has career counselors that students can work with but most college students don't take advantage of such facilities even though the counseling and the counselors' tools and training are getting better all the time.  Here is the link to the job interview again:  I hope this girl gets training.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Repairing emotional damage

A friend once told me not to send him YouTube links because he was trying to cut down on his YouTube watching.  That is the way it sometimes is for me with TED talks.  TED talks are excellent and valuable but maybe a little addictive.  I do find that if I watch more than one or two in a row, my brain gets a bit tired.  I found that Sherwin Nuland had given a good talk and I wanted to see what it was.  Turns out he has several.

Naturally, when you visit the TED talks website, you see some featured talks and yesterday, I found Guy Winch, a psychologist. I watched his "How to Mend a Broken Heart" and "Emotional First Aid".  I think that for a long time, matters of feelings were considered too wispy, too transient to matter.  If a person is despondent or deeply afraid or very shamed, they should carefully examine the situation and take corrective action.  That seems like a good idea and as time goes on, better ways to take corrective action emerge.  Dr. Winch makes it clear in his talks that there are self exams and actions that are available that often help a person.  The man has 20 years experience working with people who are in emotional pain and upset.  He knows strategies that can help but that often don't come to mind, so they aren't used.  

His broken heart talk emphasizes that some broken hearts and cases of abrupt, unexpected rejection produce symptoms much like those described in "The Body Keeps the Score" by Besel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist at Harvard who specializes in post traumatic shock disorder.  Dr. Winch describes some instances where people were expecting to be married, even the next day, only to be told by their betrothed "No deal, the wedding is off and I am leaving you."  Van der Kolk and others make clear that a severe and damaging trauma may occur from an unexpected source.  

All the usual things, like being the victim of violence, can certainly be deeply upsetting.  Being mistreated as a child, being in severe domestic violence and experiencing horrible events in warfare are often the sort of events that shock and disorient a person.  But many other things might be traumatize a person, such traffic accidents.  Severe, immediate rejection sounds like it can rock a person's world, too.  Dr. Winch has some good practical and useful suggestions for handling psychological shocks and repairing one's feelings. He also has inexpensive books at Amazon on the same subject.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Art of Aging

I guess we are all aging but we don't usually pay a great deal of attention to the subject.  When it is our birthday, maybe especially on birthdays that include a zero, we are happy and proud to be old enough to join, leave, brag, or whatever.

The next book in the group I am going through is "The Art of Aging" by Sherwin Nuland.  Nuland was a professor of surgery at Yale and he is the author of this book, and "How We Die", "How We Live" and many other books.  I am using two Kindle readers to track through my collection of 40 recent purchases.  Even though I planned to get through them all before buying anything more, I haven't.  

I saw in a Goodreads email that a book called "Educated" was very popular.  That didn't sound like a novel so I looked it up.  Tara Westover was born in Idaho to a survivalist family which didn't believe in public schooling.  Westover eventually got schooled and went on to obtain a PhD in history from Cambridge University in England, where she now lives.  I bought "Educated" but it will not be released by Amazon until later in this month.  I looked up Westover in Twitter and saw that she has praised a novel called "Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?".  I bought that book, too.  I have read a little of it and found that is a story that somewhat parallels Westover's life.  

When I got back to the set of 40, I returned to "The Art of Aging."  Following my own advice, I looked up Dr. Nuland.  I thought I had read that he died and I was checking.  He was born in 1930 and died in 2014.  While looking that up, I found that Nuland made a couple of TED ( talks.  One of them is about how electric shock therapy saved his life.  I have read the electric shock therapy has recently been quite improved so I was interested.  Nuland was an expert in the history of medicine, ancient and recent both.  TED talks usually include a transcript of what is said and a 22 minute talk like his can be read quickly instead of being watched and listened to.  

Nuland was in his 30's when he fell into a deep and debilitating depression while going through a painful and nasty divorce.  He explains in his talk where electric shock therapy came from and why.  He didn't say anything much about improvements but it certainly helped him.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Slogging through the syrup of righteousness

I am very much enjoying "The Bad Food Bible" by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll.  He is a research mentor at the Indiana University Medical School.  He uses his first couple of chapters to discuss various research designs and approaches.  Science research is a marvelous thing but like anything else, it can become a fetish or be misused.  

It is easy for popularizers and journalists to characterize research  in ways that distort the findings.  In today's US, many people want final, uncomplicated answers whether they are available or not.  Carroll discusses Butter, Meat, Eggs, Salt, Gluten, GMOs, Alcohol, Coffee, Diet Soda, MSG, and Non-Organic Foods.  In each case, the actual evidence against the food is weak and it turns out that moderate eating of that food is fine for most people.  One of his comments is that there is a rule in journalism that if the title of an article is a question, the answer to the question is No.  However, if a food is being frowned upon popularly, regardless of the evidence, it is easy for people to decide that food is bad.

His discussion and review of evidence includes emphasizing repeatedly that experience or anecdotes are not research.  My grandmother lived to be 88 and she smoked steadily from age 18 on.  However, that does not mean you or I should try it.  I have mentioned before Prof. John Ioannidis.  His famous article "Why most published research findings are false" is a good explanation of the difficulty faced when trying to uncover new miracles or debunk old myths.

As I read research efforts to establish the value of meditating for ten minutes a day (ok, five minutes), I find assistant professors trying to become associate professors by measuring the benefits or lack of them of the popular subject of mindfulness, awareness of what one is thinking and feeling.  I keep reading about the level of stress and worry even young healthy people experience these days.  Rather than trying to measure this response time or that galvanic skin response, I suggest anyone interested simply sit still quietly for 5 or so minutes.  Concentrate on breathing, count breaths if desired.  Or, simply keep looking at some neutral spot.  For many people, the time immediately starts to drag and the question naturally comes to mind: Why am I doing this?  Sometimes, the question is Am I doing this correctly?  

Rather that reviewing research studies and measuring this variable or that, I suggest simply spending that short amount of time sitting with yourself.  You don't have to prove the benefits.  You don't have to run tests or experiments.  You can spare a few quiet minutes.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ways to explore

If you get an idea or become interested in a person, you can check on the topic in several ways:

  1. Kindle ebook downloads - if you see a book that interests you, you can add it to a list that Amazon keeps for you.  You can buy it instantly and read it right then on a smartphone or computer.  You can look up your local library online and ask them to hold it for you or borrow it from some place else.

  2. Look up author and then subject in Google - What has this writer written about?  Sometimes the connections between people and topics or people and other people are surprising or inspiring.  

  3. Look up author in Amazon, then subject - It is a little different when you look up an author in "Books" instead of the Kindle Store.  Books before 2008 are probably not available as ebooks.

  4. Look up author in YouTube, then subject - authors and subjects are widely represented in YouTube.  Most subjects and many people have videos online that can be watched for free.

  5. Try alternative search words.  Especially with subjects, topics and ideas, there are many ways to represent the idea in a few words

  6. Schedule something or begin now - reading, writing or practicing

It can be helpful if you keep a notebook of ideas of interest.  Even if you are only 20 years old, you actually get more ideas, impressions, associations and questions per minute than you can notice or keep track of.  If something grips your attention or if it recurs, jot a note or two down.  You can keep notes on scrap paper or in the drafts section of your email.  If you have given yourself a Gmail address (free), you have access to Google Docs (free) and the software keeps documents automatically in Google Drive (free).  

If you are 50 years old or older, you get just as many ideas but in addition to the speed of delivery, you also have to contend with the speed of forgetting.  So, take the time to jot.


Note: I am writing this on Feb. 3, 2018 but posting and emailing it out on Feb.4.  If you define winter as Dec. 21 to March 21, the midday of winter is Feb. 4.  So, good or bad, winter is fading.  It is often the last half of winter that gives us big, wet storms so don't put your mittens and earmuffs away yet.  But you might as well give a thought to winter giving way to spring because it is happening.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fwd: The Most Popular Class in Yale’s History

​I find Apple News is pretty good so I thought I would send it along.  Bill​

From: Apple News
Date: Sat, Feb 3, 2018 at 7:17 AM
Subject: The Most Popular Class in Yale's History

Plus: Why the Patriots always win, confessions of an ex-border patrol agent, and more.
Five stories to read this weekend, chosen by our editors.
Happiness 101

Happiness 101

The process of getting into college, especially an elite one, has become agonizingly stressful. Is it any wonder that Yale's most popular class is about how to live a happier, more satisfying life?

The New York Times
Why the Patriots Always Win

Why the Patriots Always Win

Because they run faster, practice longer, and perform better under pressure — especially in the fourth quarter — than anyone else. This is the conditioning strategy that could be their secret weapon this Sunday.

The Ringer
The Uncertain Promise of Egg Freezing

The Uncertain Promise of Egg Freezing

Brigitte Adams was the cover girl (literally) for egg freezing: Single and successful, she put her biological clock on hold so she could pursue her career. But when she tried to get pregnant at 45, it didn't work.

The Washington Post
The Best Small Cities in the United States

The Best Small Cities in the United States

American cities are experiencing a creative resurgence, but not the ones you might expect. From Albuquerque to Ann Arbor, National Geographic makes a compelling case for small-town USA.

National Geographic
Confessions of an Ex-Border Patrol Agent

Confessions of an Ex-Border Patrol Agent

Francisco Cantú spent years policing the American Southwest, seizing drugs and arresting migrants, before returning to civilian life. Then a friend was deported, and he was forced to pick sides.

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