Friday, July 13, 2018


She wanted to try turning off the security program to see if that eliminated the problem.  She found that turning off the security required a special password. Now what was that password, anyhow?  Well, she keeps a list of passwords in the safe. Now what was the combination for the safe?

We are a sort of life forms that need food, shelter and clothing, plus water, air, and amusements but even when those are supplied, we age.  Enough aging and we die. That's not a very secure situation. Take care of yourself and you won't die for a while - probably. Well, unless you get hit by a bus.  Or, a bull. Or, a bullet. Or, the wrong bacterium.

Seems like the best we can do is take some basic precautions but not overdo it.  I read about WWII German forces being slowed down by their need to destroy extensive files that had been created for security and back-up purposes.  A famous seeker of security is Hamlet:

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?

Hamlet, Act III, Scene I [To be, or not to be] by William Shakespeare ...

What is Hamlet saying in his To Be or Not To Be soliloquy?

Hamlet is basically contemplating suicide on and off throughout his soliloquies. In this soliloquy, he compares death to a little sleep, which he thinks wouldn't be so bad. ... Of course, we'd escape a lot by being dead, like being spurned in love. This is that whole "slings and arrows" bit is all about.

Albert Camus (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

"There is only one really serious philosophical problem," Camus says, "and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that" (MS, 3). One might object that suicide is neither a "problem" nor a "question," but an act.Oct 27, 2011

Most people would rather not commit suicide just to reach a secure state.  It is better to seek a balance between secure, secure, locked-up, barred, guarded security and careless hanging the safe combination and the security password on the office wall.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


The first church, Sunday school and summer Bible school I can remember was the First Baptist Church of Pimlico, Baltimore.  Later, my family attended the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. I have attended Lutheran services with my wife many times.  When she became a Quaker, I attended their Meeting. Most of the time, I don't currently have anything to do with churches, organized religion, and any other type.

However, the annual Society of Friends (formal name of the Quakers) Gathering can be fun and instructive and inspirational.  Our friend Judy once drove with us from the Minneapolis airport to Tacoma, Washington for Friends General Conference. This year, it was held on the spacious campus of the University of Toledo.  Not being much of a church person, I chose Gail Thomas's Psalms workshop and I am very glad I did.

This is a picture of our classroom.  It probably doesn't look like a holy place but at times, it is.

There were several times when reading or commenting, one or more of us would feel emotions strong enough to interfere a little with speaking.  One of the lovely passages in the Psalms is

Psalm 139:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;

   you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

   your works are wonderful,

   I know that full well.

It is wonderful, no?  We were knitted together in our mothers' wombs and we are wonderfully and fearfully made. And that was just the beginning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mindfulness and a little update

Here is what I wrote about mindfulness five years ago:

Mindfulness everywhere

What is mindfulness, anyway?  Discussions often equate being mindful with being aware.  When you think about it, most everybody is aware of SOMETHING all the time.  Does that mean that most everybody is mindful? No, because the quality meant is something like a second order of awareness.  Not the first level, the road that I am driving on, not the blog post I am writing but more of an awareness of my own mind, what it's doing, what it's feeling while I am driving or writing.

Doubters, scholars, investigators are likely to mentally step behind assertions to ask "Where did this assertion come from?"  Who is the author of this statement? I can think of that sort of source awareness as a form of attention being paid to the background or motives or contributing influences of a statement or source of information.  The Mindfulness Revolution is about similar awareness of and attention to the background of one's mind, one's thoughts and feelings as they occur.

The best known methods for increasing one's awareness of one's own mind are meditation practices.  Focused attention on a given anchor is the crux of most modern, popular methods for increasing one's mindful attention to what a person is doing with her own mind.  Intending to keep one's attention on a given resting point is involved in the practices of many religions. Once I commit myself to five or ten minutes of steady attention to something to look at or listen to or attend to such as my own breathing, I have a way of noting when my attention has slipped off my intended focus.  When I note that my attention has slipped, I bring it back to my focus. As Jack Kornfield notes, the actions and steps involved are very much like house-training a puppy. Keep bringing my attention back, over and over, and pretty soon, I notice more immediately when it has slipped.

The most developed practices, the most extensive discussions and writings about developing and using mindfulness are associated with the Buddhist religion.  But, as Jacob Needleman shows in "Lost Christianity" and the writings of many Sufis and Jewish mystics show, practices that increase one's awareness of what one is doing with one's attention, have been an important part of the practice of many religions, especially among the more devoted adherents and followers.  The idea was probably Hindu before it was anywhere else.

Nowadays, the practice of increasing one's sensitivity to one's own mental workings is being shown to matter in virtually every field of human endeavor.  From medicine/nursing/healing to police training to improving student performance, mindfulness training is everywhere.


Here is a little updating to that post:

It can be helpful for moderns interested in using their minds better to practice 5-10 minutes of steady concentration on a given target, visual or their breath.  Everytime one notices one's attention has slipped from the target, calmly return to the target, the intended focus. Do that daily and notice in a couple of weeks more awareness of what is on the mind.  Better judgment about whether the mind is being used as desired.

It can also be a help to realize that no one can be aware of everything.  There is too much. Movement in the peripheral vision attracts our attention but these days, we don't have to be quite so alert to predators.  No matter what, we can't attend to everything, in the mind or out of it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Table crashes and joy

I am a fan of the tv show "3rd Rock from the Sun".  It is a comedy that is imaginative in my view, even when it is silly and not too funny.  Four aliens are sent to Earth to learn about life here and report back to the leader , "the Big Giant Head".  The characters, earthlings and aliens, are exaggerated but clever.

Last night we watched episode 22 in the 4th season. The only woman, the out-of-it guy and the teen (actually the eldest of the crew but required for their mission to be a teen in a teen body) go out to a restaurant.  The host wants to sit them at a different table but they want their usual one. While they argue, a huge chandelier crashes the usual table, destroying it and its chairs. This sheds instant light for our group on what we would call "mortality" and the appreciation of life.  Suddenly, they grasp the value of being alive, of having each other. They can see the beauty in a paper clip and in just seeing and hearing at all.

John Lithgow plays the main character and his character cannot stand to miss out on anything, especially when he sees the others are transported by the charms of this life.  His speciality is becoming obnoxious rapidly and he does, while fretting over what he can't seem to see or feel about a paper clip and anything else he is already "familiar" with.

This morning, I got my first look at "The Book of Joy", a NY Times bestseller by the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu and Douglas Abrams.  It was recommended by Susan Hopkins in the Quaker workshop on the Psalms. The Chinese-American Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan has a book called "Joy on Demand" and it is about just that: how to feel real joy whenever you want.  

Episode 22 of season 4 shows that you will do better if you relax and if you don't expect to be in a state of joy all the time.  Generalized joy is great, but so is getting the dusting done and the grass cut. So is commiserating with your friend who has suffered a serious loss.  Was it Jesus who advised moderation in all things?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Fwd: Significant Digits For Monday, July 9, 2018

I should get something more original written sometime today.  Bill

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: FiveThirtyEight Newsletter <>
Date: Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 9:50 AM
Subject: Significant Digits For Monday, July 9, 2018

18,632 state employees

A FiveThirtyEight email

Monday, July 9, 2018


You're reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

18,632 state employees

Turkey fired over 18,000 state employees — including teachers, academics, police officers and members of the military — and canceled their passports, for "alleged links to terrorism groups." The country has been in a state of emergency since a coup attempt in July 2016. [Associated Press]

29,000 homes and businesses

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the Los Angeles area were without power as of Sunday following a triple-digit heatwave. It takes a lot of energy to keep people cool, and peak megawatt usage there surpassed the power department's estimates. [Los Angeles Times]

$650 a night

New Yorkers brag about their efficiency with regard to at least two things: leaving the city for the weekend and spending money. These two skills can now be efficiently combined with glamping (that is, glamor camping) which is now available on Governors Island in New York Harbor. It's between $220 and $650 per night, there's a bar, foam mattresses, "Turkish towels," birdsong fills the air, the views are great and it's all without a doubt nicer than my apartment, which is, you know, indoors. [The New York Times]

1 year old

A 1-year-old boy, occasionally asking for "agua," appeared before a Phoenix immigration judge, where he was asked whether he understood the proceedings. That child, from Honduras, is one of hundreds of children who must be reunited with their parents after the Trump administration separated them from their parents while crossing the border. [Associated Press]

100 volts

Since at least the days of of Darwin, we've known that spiders could fly, miles up and hundreds of miles away. They don't have wings, but they can thrust out strands of silk and float away. It was thought that their silk caught the wind, like a kite. But, in fact, it seems that spiders take advantage of Earth's electric field — spiders can sense it and the air can be charged with as little as about 100 volts, which launches them. To recap: Spiders, flying hundreds of miles, fueled by the high voltage of thunderstorms. Got it. Sweet dreams. [The Atlantic]

69 percent

According to University of Chicago researchers, owning an iPhone is the most reliable indicator of whether someone is rich. "Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016," they wrote. Previous brands that occupied this dubious role were Land O' Lakes butter in 2004, and Grey Poupon Dijon in 1992. Pardon me, do you have any iPhone? [Gizmodo]

If you see a significant digit in the wild, please send it to @ollie.

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