Friday, August 31, 2018

What happens

Two greatgrandchildren of mine and I watched "Coco".  It is a Pixar/Disney film about the Day of the Dead in Mexican culture and excellent.  It is surprisingly complex and meaningful. The movie depicts the idea that there is a Land of the Dead and a dead person lives there as long as someone living remembers them.  When the last person who remembers me dies, I will vaporize from the Land of the Dead and be no more. The concept reminds me of what I think I read about a Swahili concept I read about:

If there are people who remember me in the Coco approach, I can dwell in the Land of the Dead.  But when there are not, I am gone gone. The film shows the vapor of a person who is no longer remembered by anyone drifting off, much as smoke or fog drifts off.  I like to think that vapor, smoke or bits of my grandmother are still around. I just don't know where they are and I won't recognize them if I find them. I like to think, as Bill Bryson puts it in his book "A Short History of Nearly Everything", that cells and their constituent molecules that constitute the current living form of me will someday not longer clump together and cooperate as they do now.  

Instead my fluids will dry up and my cells will not adhere.  It's like Julius Caesar. I suspect that I drank some of the water molecules that once were part of that mighty man but tonight were in my glass at dinner.  Or maybe it was Charlemagne. I don't know. I do feel confident that I am of this world, as it is, even if I don't understand much of it, and even though I am approaching the time that I will be in a very different form than I am now.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Unusual times

Time 1

This Sunday the small local Quaker meeting planned an after-meeting picnic in a local park.  The fee for reserving a pavilion is pretty steep but, I guess by custom, if we start using some tables that are not in use in the pavilion, we can continue on.  My Quaker wife had the idea of the two of us staking out some tables about 10 AM and holding them until the rest of the meeting attenders show up about 11:45.

So, she and I sat in the quiet park pavilion and talked.  An older woman and man sitting quietly talking in the Sunday morning park!  Can you imagine? We have many experiences over the years in that park and it is one of the most scenic in the city.  That is the very park in which a fake representative of the British Crown wearing a fake but impressive uniform arrived at the little island in the Plover river and pronounced the news that the Crown was reclaiming the land despite events in the Revolutionary War.  The London native and resident was celebrating his visit among the Americans he had ushered through Britain years earlier.

Still, we had never, of a Sunday morning, in the fifty years living here, been in the park on a quiet Sunday morning, reading, talking, joking and enjoying the trees.  Now, we have.

Time 2

Both of their parents are school employees and the teachers and teacher aides are called to a day of pre-school meetings and announcements.  So, at 7:20 this morning, we were joined at home by two of our greatgrandkids while their parents went off to work. We talked about what to do with the day and the city's sculpture park was first on the list.  It is about a 15 minute drive from here. Seeing the children, the trees and puddles and wet paths, the sculptures, the greatgrandmother, many thoughts, comparisons and questions flew thru my mind.

Later, after pizza and chicken out, we played Cadoo.  I felt I had threatened my wife's cardio health when I drew the following dragon:

It was successful and got the shout from my greatgrandson: "Dragon!"  But my wife felt my drawing was hilariously pathetic and nearly laughed herself in cardiac danger.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

40 million new internet users in India each year

This item came in a snippet on my Fear, Fun and Filoz web page:

I was alerted to this article by an item in Nate Silver's 538 weekday newsletter "Significant Digits".  I am still wowed by Time magazine's list of surprising big ideas from 2010

Back in 2010, Columbia law professor Tim Wu pointed to tv as something that many of the humans of earth had not experienced.  When I think of tv, I think of being able to turn on the set at any time and watching what I want. On broadcast tv, I have to select from what is offered at that time.  With streaming, I get a much wider selection of interest but I admit that my tv gets hundreds of channels that I have not explored.

That sort of tv requires continuous, reliable electricity but wind or water power can be used to charge batteries as demonstrated by "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind".  It also requires a group of broadcasters and technicians to create content. I visited Europe more than 40 years ago and experienced intermittent electricity so I realize that what I am used to might not be what billions of India's citizens experience.  

When a foreign team of white water kayakers visited near me, one was asked what he thought of the US.  He answered that he had heard of the internet and was eager to experience it.

There are two cellphones in this picture.  Imagine what smartphones are doing to our world.  The three women pictured are all impressed with the performance and possibilities of communication, enjoyment and entertainment, not to mention the transmission of pictures of their lives and activities to others.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sand timers and Dr. Joan Vernikos

Dr. Joan Vernikos has two books on "Sitting Kills" and "Designed to Move".  She also has her own web site and has many videos on YouTube. Vernikos was employed by NASA and had the job of watching over the health of astronauts in space.  She found that the low or very low gravity in space aged the space men and women in much the same way people age on earth but the aging in low gravity was much faster.  

Vernikos makes clear that "using" gravity, in the sense of resisting it, working against it, is important for our health.  The basic idea I have gotten so far is Move! She and many other scientists and health workers have emphasized that all the hours of sitting at a desk, in a chair to watch tv, in a chair to read, in a chair to use phones and Ipads takes a toll on our health.  Yes, the title of one of her books is "Sitting Kills". She recommends standing up, moving around, changing position, using the muscles of our bodies.

Having been warned by Vernikos, I try to move from in front of my computer every so often.  Meanwhile, the add a new browser page feature in Firefox called Pocket has been getting better and better at recommending articles online for me to read.  In the last few days, I read "Taking a stand for metabolic health" by Kathleen A. Page in the Univ. of Southern California Medical School.

I wasn't sure what was meant by "metabolic health" but it turns out the author means the metabolism of children who are overweight or obese.  The article reports on having such children try both sitting for three hours and also interrupting the hours with 3 minutes of moderate walking every 30 minutes.  Careful tests of appetite, food consumption and blood variables showed that the walking benefitted their bodies without increasing their voluntary food consumption.

I bought a three minute hourglass type timer and I have a 30 timer of the same design coming.  I intend to use them alternately while computing and blogging.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Steve Jobs and my life

I have been listening to "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson for more than 2 months.  I often get only 10 minutes played on a short drive so it can take many weeks to get through an audiobook.  When I read a book, I often stop to look up references or make notes about ideas just inspired by the words.  Even when driving, I often switch off the playing because I want to take a moment to absorb the great achievement or the insanely stupid move or comment.  This sort of appreciation and mental digestion extends the total listening time. I often buy the book in print so if I want, I can read instead of listening. But I may forego greater speed for deeper appreciation and digestion.  

I went to college to become a teacher and I did that.  During those early years, I had not heard the word "computer" so now, as I listen to the story of Jobs' life, I am impressed by how much his biography marks out my life.  I had been a campus director of academic computing for a year and I had plenty of experience working with numerical data before the struggle the Apple II computer initiated.  The large computers built by IBM gave way to smaller computers. IBM had built the giant computer I used for academic research so I was interested in their PC ("personal computer") when it came out.  After fidgeting and fretting between buying an Apple and a PC, a particular ad convinced me to try the Apple II.

We wound up buying several Apple II's and Macintosh computers and they had a big effect on my ability to write and our ability to keep track of our money.  I taught statistics and the work of statistical calculation really needs a computer. It can be done by pencil and paper but it is faster, more accurate and easier with a computer.  The work of teaching, with rolls, rosters, and grades is easier to perform, track and modify with computers. I taught testing and grading which also used computers.

I wasn't much affected by the launch of the iPod but I did follow the music recording industry's struggle with album unbundling and person to person exchange of song tracks over the internet.  My family likes games, both individual like "Angry Birds" and multiplayer like "Words with Friends" and their enjoyment was the force behind our venture into the world of iPads. It was the app store that really launched a new set of industries all over the world.  The iPhone and its commercial rivals has indeed changed the world and launched Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media. Google Thought Starter has made clear the growth of the smartphone and the extent to which it is replacing individual computer use.

Many people at Apple, Inc. and other businesses and organizations, large and small, famous and unknown, contributed to our current information and communication riches but Steve Jobs is one of the important makers and markers of our time.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Dataclysm" by Christian Rudder

"Dataclysm" by Christian Rudder is about data and data analysis using records on the web site OK, Cupid.  He cuts the data by sex and race, and discusses his findings. OK, Cupid is a free online dating service that has been in business for 14 years and has accumulated plenty of data about its customers and their choices.  

The social media such as, Facebook, and the many other online communication groups collect more information on people, their communications, timing, habits and goals that has ever been collected before.  Just Facebook alone has more than 1 billion users. The population of the US is one third of a billion so you can see that they interact with people for all over the globe.

I tend to highlight a book that has interesting comments.  With a Kindle, you can make highlights with a fingertip and then have a file of your highlights emailed to you.  Here are my highlights from this book:

People make choices from the information we provide because they can, not because they necessarily should.

You often get the feeling that people just don't want to know.

He interviewed people blind from birth and found the same attitudes about race as in the sighted world.

Say something especially cutting, and your followers applaud your wit.

As I pointed out earlier, by 2015, Twitter users will have exchanged more words than have ever been printed.

I have to say, just pausing to write this book, I'm sure I've lost ground.

The hardest courses I ever took were often entirely skipped by these real mathematicians. The teaching assistants in my high-level courses, the people who handled a lot of the actual instruction and all of the grading, were not only often younger than me (one was sixteen)

The citizens of most countries are usually only concerned with one constitution—their own—but Google has assembled all nine hundred such documents drafted since 1787.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

I dub thee Sir Knight

I read about North Korea allowing visitors from South Korea to enter the country, visit relatives they had not seen for a long time, and return home.  It is sad that people want to be together but have to part because of government decree. I am reminded of the topic of generalities and abstractions in our lives.

I am married.  My name is Bill.  This computer is mine but your phone is not.  The American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck wrote that she flew over New Jersey and New York.  She could see for herself that there was no border between them. She wrote that New Jersey is a "myth".  But the citizens, the government, the transportation companies and many other people and organizations live by and depend on that myth every day.  

Just today, Firefox browser program suggested I might be interested in an article that appeared in "Inverse" stating the results of a pair of scientific studies of the brain.

The studies found that our brains flicker every four seconds.  I gather that they pause, look around to check for dangers and then continue to concentrate on our knitting or driving or whatever.  It is not actually news to thinkers that we don't really see the world because of the necessary steps in the vision process but we depend on and remember our version of what we see.  Same thing with sounds, including sounds of what you say to me.

It is old information that I can't and don't fully take in a scene.  I am wired and experienced to select what seems important and note that.  I don't remember what color dress my mother wore to my wedding. I probably looked at it but didn't register as an important memory to be kept.  Before my wedding, I wasn't married. After my wedding, I was. The book "Sapiens" discusses the very large number of abstractions and myths and arbitrary decisions our species lives with and by.  Laws, customs, games and much of our lives are focused on or laid out according to ideas and distinctions we made up. I am chemically connected to my daughter but not to my wife. I live in a certain place but it is only in Wisconsin by custom and agreement.  I know there are towns near the borders of countries that have changed the countries they are in without moving. The decision that one of the countries extended to here was changed to only be extended to there.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Take a clean fork

The book "The Material World" is a tour of different places in the world.  The authors asked a family here and there to allow their belongings to be spread out on a lawn and photographed.  I remember that some people in the nation of Mali, a Saharan land-locked nation of Africa, had very few possessions.  A family from the US had many possessions.

Sometimes, our cooking and eating, maybe including some visiting guests, depletes our supply of forks or table knives. I don't remember a single time that we have needed more silverware (it's not really silver) and had to rush to re-wash some.  Of course, we have never tested the limits of our capacities, either. We may have invited as many as 20 or 30 guests for a single event but not for a sit-down dinner. Our experiments with groups have led us more and more to a couple, maybe two couples.  That size enables us to concentrate on the visitors and not spend all our time roaming around, refilling drinks.

I often make Lynn and me green tea with ginger and tumeric about 10 o'clock in the morning.  I use tea bags from The Republic of Tea and a salad fork to fish the bag from the hot water. It also is a good implement for stirring ice into the tea, which I like so I can drink it all down right way.  I realize that I can make do with a twig from the woods or a wooden stirring stick from a coffee bar.

I have had a chance to visit the Molly Brown house in Denver, Mount Vernon in Virginia and the Hearst Mansion in California.  I walked through the royal yacht used by Queen Elizabeth and the Scottish dining room where Queen Victoria visited. Of course, if a famous person comes to visit, we want to lay out a good cloth on a good table, have good chairs and a good wine, good lighting, good service and good food.  But the visits to famous abodes show me that fine art on the walls and gold-rimmed plates don't really add much to the event. Good hearts, good smiles, and good words are much more important.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Mousing through life

I noticed that what with ads, hundreds of tv channels, millions of blogs and web sites, it is easy to feel that we are swamped with information.  Often it is exciting information that we are glad to learn about. But that's the way it goes: click into Org Z and get some WOW info. Then, tomorrow or the next day (no hurry), what about checking out what Z has to say.  Pretty soon, we have the habit of checking Z. The people who collect the information there are professionals. They know a good item when they find one. They write great headlines so when we think of checking out Z, it difficult to accept the inclination to skip it today.  That book, the garden weeds, the groceries we need are all calling for help. I want to be good. I want to get those weeds, we do need more bread. How about just a quick peek?

Ninety minutes later, I notice the time, I notice that I have again gotten lured into a little of this and some of that.  Sure, I know more about the flooding and the earthquake but the weeds, the weeds, the book and the other book and the groceries.  So, I am not only swamped with information that is laid out in a habit-forming way, I am cooperating in being force-fed habit-forming drugs.  To top it off, I am cooperating with the whole deal!

More and more, I have to be firm, even nasty with myself.  Turn aside from drinking the wine of habit, the juice of excitement mixed with titillation.  I sometimes require an internet fast, a break from screens, all screens. Take a bike ride, go lift some weights, buy those groceries, get those weeds.  Once I turn away from the latest headline, I don't miss it. I find there is a bright world out there that is happy to have me. My tired eyes, my mouse-shaped hand thank me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Reliability, stability and profit

Some examinations of Buddhist principles say that the whole thing rests on a single idea: Everything changes.  You could modify that to "Everything ages". I have been interested in different versions and editions of software, books, music, and plays.  Now that I think about it, why do cars come out in different models every year?

I would like to know in the case of fashions of dress, versions of software and models of cars, how necessary change is.  I am dumb enough and habitual enough that I am not inclined to change what doesn't seem to need changing. If change is everywhere, and if I and my friends are continuously changing through aging and related deterioration, is it commercially necessary to add arbitrary change in addition?  It seems to me that leaders sometimes take the stance that modification is part and parcel of a successful path of an organization. Is it? Maybe a change, any change, labeled "new" or "improved" or not, helps people stay awake and aware.

I assumed that software, for instance, needed to be modified to remove "bugs" and flaws and errors from the programs.  But if cars have been modified every year for 100 years, they must be nearly perfect by now. I am very confident that air bags, streamlining, better brakes and other features are indeed superior to cars of 1918.  I am still curious about how much of the change has been a genuine improvement in the functioning of the vehicle and how much is merely a chance to use words like "new model", and "the latest".

I have seen that in nearly every political contest, all parties claim that they will make changes.  They seem to look for issues that are either on people's minds as irksome or worse or for issues that the public can be persuaded are in need of change.  I note that in the comic novel by Christopher Buckley "Supreme Courtship" that the incumbent US president runs again using the slogan "More of the same". I realize that I have not heard candidates promise "more of the same" even though that tends to be what we get.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

I'm Dead, Now What?

The book "I'm Dead, Now What" is a hardback, paper book with a wire binding.  It has many pages for filling in information about handling a death. One problem I can see is that pages of passwords or other information that changes cannot be easily updated.  I am confident that there are other problems.

I just Googled "after my death, can my wife use my bank logon and password?"  I realize that her fingers can tap on the appropriate keys but I don't want her arrested for breaking some law about notifying institutions about a death.  I am not nearly as used to dealing with a death as is the funeral home or crematorium. They are obligated to notify certain authorities as is a hospital, I imagine.  The answer I read said that if both of our names are on the account, there should be no problem.

My wife was the executor of her mother's estate.  It was a complex job even though her mother basically died without property or funds.  Either of us might be the executor of the other's last will.

A few times recently, I have experienced an account at an online business or bulletin board being closed after an extended period of no use.  That might happen to social or information accounts that aren't of interest after I die.

I was surprised at the number of books of advice and of pages for recording information that may be important in handling a death.  "I'm Dead, Now What?" is definitely not the only possible choice. Like seeing the doctor, reading a book that you don't want to read and other chores with built-in reluctance, preparing to handle a death can be a drag.  Still, it may be better to work on the related task of information gathering and organizing before it is really needed. That way, there is time to learn and re-learn.

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Haters" - the book

I am to be part of a presentation this week on blogging and web sites.  I have a notion that with free and low cost blogs and web sites available, it makes sense to create them and use them.  But not long ago, I found Bailey Poland's book "Haters" in the new books section of the library. I looked it over and downloaded it to my Kindle.  It is an examination of online harassment of women. I have tried to locate cases of online harassment by women but have not found any so far.

Roughly speaking and in general terms, it seems to me that women want to be liked.  For many women, especially young women, being actively disliked is upsetting. Young mothers and school teachers who are just starting out may be unhappy if a child hisses "I hate you!", even if the feeling seems to have vanished ten minutes later.  

The book and the results of a Google search give me pause about recommending an online presence for women.  Women have powerful minds and valuable ideas. Their conversational skills are beyond doubt and it seems only basic good sense to me to seek their opinion on all matters.  The world as a whole is just beginning to see the value in diversity and gender diversity clears begins with input from both sexes. It seems quite possible to me that many men enjoy challenges and competition and look at doubts and sneers either with disdain or interest.  I was surprised to learn that some laws about harassment on the job including a duty by an employer to provide a reasonably safe environment free of harassment and bullying.

A book I read and wrote about nine years ago, called "The Writing or the Sex" by Dale Spender, an Australian woman writer, teacher, feminist and thinker.

Her book is impressive but embarrassing for men to face.  The book documents situations over the last few centuries when women wrote a book but, it being a time when women writers were not accepted, used a male name as author.  When such a book was a success and praised by male critics, sometimes the author revealed that she was a woman. Spender shows that some critics were surprised and re-examined the writing.  Guess what? Durned if they didn't find that they had been mistaken and the writing was not very good at all.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fwd: The little risks you can take to increase your luck

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: This week on <>
Date: Sat, Aug 18, 2018 at 8:41 AM
Subject: The little risks you can take to increase your luck

Three unexpected ways to increase your luck. View it in your browser
This week on
August 18, 2018

Tina Seelig: The little risks you can take to increase your luck

11:39 minutes · Filmed Jun 2018 · Posted Aug 2018 · TED Salon Brightline

Luck is rarely a lightning strike, isolated and dramatic -- it's much more like the wind, blowing constantly. Catching more of it is easy but not obvious. In this insightful talk, Stanford engineering school professor Tina Seelig shares three unexpected ways to increase your luck -- and your ability to see and seize opportunities.

Playlist of the week

How the brain takes care of itself

Learn about the remarkable things our brains do to stay in tiptop shape. Watch »

4 TED Talks • Total run time 57:26

This week's new TED Talks

Imagine a teeming scrapyard, where people mine electronic waste for recyclable materials. Without formal training, these urban miners teach themselves the workings of electronics by taking them apart and putting them together again. DK Osseo-Asare wondered: What would happen if we built these self-taught techies an amazing makerspace -- where they could make anything they dreamed of? Learn more about this cool community in Accra, Ghana. Watch »

As a tiny child, Mary Maker had to flee her home in South Sudan ahead of a brutal war. She found security and even hope in the school at the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Now a teacher herself, she sees education as an essential tool for rebuilding lives: "For the child of war, an education can turn their tears of loss into a passion for peace." Hear her passionate, unforgettable story. Watch »

When cancer cells are closely packed together in a tumor, they're able to communicate with each other and coordinate their movement throughout the body. What if we could interrupt this process? In this accessible talk about cutting-edge science, Hasini Jayatilaka shares her work on an innovative method to stop cancer cells from communicating -- and halt their fatal ability to spread. Watch »

Can public spaces both respect the past and embrace the future? Landscape architect Walter Hood has explored this question over the course of an iconic career, with projects ranging from Lafayette Square Park in San Francisco to the upcoming International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. In this inspiring talk packed with images of his work, Hood shares the five simple concepts that guide his approach to creating spaces that illuminate our shared memories. Watch »

AI is massively transforming our world, but there's one thing it cannot do: love. In a visionary talk, computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee details how the US and China are driving a deep learning revolution -- and shares a blueprint for how humans can thrive in the age of AI by harnessing compassion and creativity. "AI is serendipity," Lee says. "It is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human." Watch »


Culture: If AI is going to liberate us from routine jobs (see above), then what will we humans do with our time?
A radical proposal to reshape our view of time -- with ideas you can use now

Gallery: Fantastical floating sculptures that will set your mind soaring
Massive art that invites you to stop, look and wonder

We humans: Want to really connect at your next family gathering? Try this
A simple hack to hear amazing stories from the people you love 

Quote of the Week


The work ethic in the Industrial Age has brainwashed us into thinking that work is the reason we exist, that work defined the meaning of our lives. But routine jobs are not what we're about. AI is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human."

Kai-Fu Lee
How AI can save our humanity

TED Radio hour: Behind The Numbers

Is life today better than ever before? Does the data bear that out? This hour, TED speakers explore the stories we tell with numbers — and whether those stories portray the full picture. Listen on NPR, Apple Podcasts or the TED Android app.


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TED talks and people of interest

If you look up TED talks on the internet, you can find more than 2500 talks.  They are short, informative and ad-free. They are often by outstanding thinkers and observers and are very worthwhile.

When you watch a TED talk, you can have captions show and/or see a running transcript ot the talk.  Some transcripts have errors in what the speaker is saying but names of people, places and books are often clearer in writing.  

It can be eye-opening to research the speaker a bit.  Some TED talks are available in YouTube and are not listed on the TED talk website.  Looking up the name of the speaker in Google will usually give some insight into the person's background.  Looking up the speaker in Amazon books will often show what the speaker or sources the speaker uses have written.

Because the globe is entering a stage of greater interconnectedness, more recognition of women, more scientific efforts of all sorts, battles for recognition and supremacy in many fields and types, emergence of all sorts of voices and positions, a much greater variety of speakers and positions is available.  TED talks are a good tool for understanding the basics of some of the subjects and questions.

You can sign up for a free weekly overview of TED talks to be delivered to your inbox.  I have sent some out before and I will send out another in a few minutes. We use a Roku streamer with our Wi-Fi and have a TED talk channel that I sometimes view, also.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Without commercial tools or pills

It's a simple idea: train your attention in such a way as increases your sensitivity to the topic of your thoughts.  It is easy to do and it is quick. It costs nothing. Sit in a comfortable way but gently upright, not slouching. Set a timer that will signal you in five or ten minutes.  Start the timer and keep your eyes on something about ten feet away.  

Start with four or five minutes and move to longer if you wish, after a few sessions.  

Why do these weird things?  Because there are all sorts of valuable payoffs.  This process increases awareness of how you are using your mind. You can do it without medicines or gurus or a coach or magazine subscriptions or apps or classes or weights.  You can do it if you are handicapped, if you are young or old, if you are basically happy and if you are none of those things.

You might have trouble if you are an American.  Americans tend to be afraid of Hindu hackers and plots to take over their minds or their government or their religion.  Americans tend to assume good things have high prices, the better the item, the higher the price. I can sell you a special app, enriched drinks, lumbar adjustments, electric shocks and alpaca cushions.  But you don't need anything. If you have a floor to lie on, you don't need a chair although you might fall asleep.

Don't fall asleep until your timer says it has been 5 or ten minutes.  Ok, set if for 4 minutes at first. It may seem to be a very long time.  A common reaction to trying this procedure is that it is too hard and that one's mind shows itself too flighty, too jumpy.  THAT'S GOOD!!! That's what minds do: bring up new topics, worries, hopes. During this special few minutes, as soon as you realize you have Margie on your mind again, THAT IS THE GOLDEN MOMENT!  All you do in that golden moment is go back to looking at the same something.  It is the going back that IS the training.  

You don't need a special shirt.  You can do the procedure in the nude and you can wear your Yukon jacket.  How many weeks and months? For the rest of your life: 5 or 10 minutes a day.  Go!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Power and potential of women

Dr. Ashley Montagu beat me to it.  He published "The Natural Superiority of Women" in 1953.  But the birds beat us both. They dressed the males in catchy plumage while disguising the precious females in duller dress.  It stands to reason: if the females can reproduce but the males can't, the females are more valuable. It is an old insight that one male can impregnate many females so many of the males are redundant.  

But there is more to the story.  In the wild, the equally numerous males fight for a place.  So, fighting is a big deal. See "Fighting for Life" by the Jesuit scholar Walter Ong.  Ok, males are built to fight, to compete. That means they have a natural tendency to keep an eye out for the extra big, extra strong, likely competitors.  That natural tendency, and in many cases a positive pleasure in physical combat, leads to awareness of weapons, strategy, ways to win over others.

But women carry the babies for months before they are born and care for them and feed them for years afterwards.  In humans, the childhood period of immaturity covers 20 years or more. Just a couple hundred years ago, it was not unusual to lose a child, even several, to death before the child reached maturity.  So care, solicitude, training, nursing, feeding are fundamental activities in the mother's life. Add to that, sensitivity to development, language, emotion, training and you get expertise in tools that are important in groups and group management.

Many academic departments are mostly or entirely men but not in education, my home discipline.  There have been many times when a position in the department attracted job applicants, often 6 women and 2 men.  The least qualified woman was more qualified than the most qualified man. It seems to me that women naturally map out what is expected of them and follow or even exceed those expectations.  Men are more likely to circumvent, out-flank, deviate and perform in ways that stand out from the crowd by breaking the norm. That tendency is a valuable one that leads to new ideas, innovations.

It seems that much of the current world is populated with men who actually believe that men are superior to women.  Many of the outward signs - size, noise, boldness - seem to support that notion. However, as women understand the game, they will play it very seriously.  They can calmly dedicate themselves to steadily and quietly dot every i and cross every t to reach whatever goal they aim for. I admit that biological and social goals of motherhood are a giant additional task for women but as the nuclear age, the disadvantages of war and the ever-deepening complexity of our lives and the need to protect our planet bear down on us, we will all find a way to make better use of female tendencies and insights and impulses.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Memory mechanisms

I have been writing this blog for more than ten years.  It is called "Fear, Fun and Filoz" after a typical sequence of human thought and feeling.  For survival purposes, we and many other animals are alert to dangers, so we can get afraid quickly and about many things.  Then, when possible, we like to have fun, pleasure, joy and related feelings. Finally, because of our minds, we like to think, reflect, question, consider, ruminate and generally be philosophical.

I try to stay aware of the events in my life each day and the events in my mind and feelings each day.  If either type of happening grips my attention, presents a challenge or tickles my fancy, I note them. Generally, I spend more time settling on what to write about than I do actually writing.  The blog has its own web page

On that page, there is a search window and an archive of all 3200+ daily posts.  

For today's blog post, I have two themes I want to mention.  One is hand and brain speed as we age, the other is the power and potential of women.  I am nearly 80 years old. One of several reasons I try to post in this blog every day is to assure family and friends that I didn't die recently.  At my age, I am aware of differences in my body that come with aging. The comic strip "Pickles" is about life as an older person, cucumber pickles being able to age and being bumpy and such.  

One day, the older man Earl was at the breakfast table and with no preamble, he said something like "Gordon".  His wife was perplexed and said so. He explained that Gordon was the name he had been trying to recall last week.  It may sound nutty or impossible or both but very delayed recall actually happens to me. Like Earl, I can know that I know a name or event or number but be unable to think of it.  It won't come to mind. Usually, if it does come to mind, it pops into my consciousness within a few minutes of my attempt to remember. I have learned to be a little expectant and alert to the possibility that an item of memory will indeed arrive in my mind within a minute or two.  When it does, I am grateful and I try not to be perplexed as to why such a thought, often unconnected to what I am thinking at the time, has come to mind.

The blog entries are usually between 200 and 500 words long.  This one is long enough now so I will save the other idea for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


I voted today.  We have a primary election, in which one party has basically one candidate for the highest office while the other party has many candidates.  I am not only a member of a local community and a state, but I am also a member of a nation. The smallest collective I am a member of is a two-person marriage.  

I wrote my dissertation for my doctorate about using a simulation of typical issues that arise for a school principal.  The simulation was envisioned as a pencil and paper exercise that described a problem and there were multiple responses the "principal" could choose from.  While reading about choice, social choice theory and the mathematics involved in selecting a course of action from given alternatives, I learned about Arrow's impossibility theorem.

One of many sources about Arrow's work is this section of Wikipedia:

I have a strong feeling that just about all the readers of this blog will be uninterested in the fine print and the mathematical and formal logic shown and explained in the article.  It has been 50 years since I was wading through some of it and I am not interested myself.

However, just understanding that the logic of elections and of choice is such that voting systems must always leave something to be desired.  Even in a little two person group such as a marriage, it doesn't take much experience before one or both members of the little country of that marriage find that the direction it is moving is not what is desired by at least one member of the electorate.  

Arrow's work focuses on situations where there are more than two choices.  I suspect that if we had enough patience to hold an election between just the candidate with the last name that comes first in the alphabet and the candidate with the second name alphabetically and then ran the winner against the third name, and so ran through them all, we might satisfy mathematical principles.  Of course, many of us are too old to last through such a voting regime and most of us would throw up our hands in disgust.

Even "within" a single person, such as me, desires and plans can contradict.  I desire to vote for the most beautiful candidate and the smartest candidate but find that looks and brains are found in different people.  I might want action A only to decide after getting it, that I don't want it. I am not enamored of the politicians, but I respect the impossibility of their task, not even considering the unknown, unprecedented and perplexing events that occur during their period of responsibility.

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