Friday, May 31, 2019

Commitments and specializations

We have an experienced restaurateur in town.  He has started three successful eateries. I read that his new 4th one is planned to be able to specialize in one sort of food, first Italian, but to be able to switch to another specialization when desired.  An article mentioned barbecue, Asian fusion and Brazilian as future possible emphases. He is the man behind a local place that offers tapas, small dishes expressly designed to allow a diner to order more than one sort of entree.  

This approach appeals to me. If a person uses the internet and social media or email much, if a person gets books suggestions from Amazon and its affiliates such as Goodreads, if a person looks at Google News and the many sources that service taps into, it soon becomes clear that the world is too big to know and his head to too small to contain much of it. The natural conclusion is that I can't do everything, I can't know everything.  I just have to reject some good possibilities. I can't even explore everything.

But!  But! But I like to remain open to disconnecting, switching, beginning, continuing and ending.  As a 12 year old and in the decade that followed, I knew I enjoyed people. I didn't have much money and my high school teachers and my smart mother suggested teaching.  Through some twists and turns, I got a PhD in educational research. It turns out to be a rather vague field and can pretty well cover just about anything.

When I retired, I continued specializing in something that came up in the last decade of my college teaching: distance education, often called online teaching.  I also thought that basic meditation is simple and easy but writing about meditation while more and more others were doing the same thing got to be something of a deadend.  Blogging, following the example of Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) and Sarah Bakewell (1963-), emerged as a natural extension of thinking, writing and lecturing. Using Google's tools Blogger and Sites allowed me to reach out worldwide and think and write as broadly, and also as narrowly, as I want.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


How long does it take to blog?  Shouldn't be that long. The overall purpose here is supposed to be reflection on my own life.  What is hard about that? What have I been doing and thinking? Write that down. Done!

But it can get more complicated than that.  When I first joined Twitter, I was urged to just write down what happens.  Note: that advice omits thoughts and impressions. Sidney Harris wrote a New Yorker cartoon that sums up the triviality of much of everyday life in this cartoon:

Reports of our lives can be too trivial.  I took a breath. I took another breath. I took another breath.  You get the idea. Enough, already!

This morning, I found out people are busy.  The weather is nice. Re-coat the blacktop driveway.  Get the other eye done for cataracts. Take a short bike ride.  Glaze some more pottery for the upcoming show.

I could plead insufficient excitement for a blog post but that would be copping out, giving up.  I could try a little artificial excitement. Boo! How's that?

My niece used to assert that nothin's happenin'.  Of course, dozens of things are happening all the time.  I notice several columns and professional writers aim for the future if needed: Click here for what the European election results will mean over the next few years.  No, click HERE for what the Mueller statement will mean in the next election. But, see, like them, I don't know. I just don't know.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Gotta! Just gotta!

Reading "Aware" by Daniel Siegel, MD, I am learning a few new ideas and wrinkles about getting along with my mind.

For one thing, he stresses that being aware that I am aware is helpful to living.  Being aware that I am thinking of having a piece of chocolate candy is a little different from simply wanting to eat some of that candy.  

Similarly, he advises teasing apart my liking from my wanting.  Just because I like that candy and I know that I like it, doesn't mean I have to zip into the kitchen and gobble some.  If I can feel my enjoyment of that candy, if I can remember my enjoyment and be pleased that I enjoy, I can learn to get pleasure from my experience of that candy without eating more of it.  I don't have to forego the candy for the rest of my life but I can extend my pleasure and my satisfaction with the way I behave. The actual chewing and swallowing the candy is very temporary but being aware of my pleasure, savoring my pleasure even when the candy is far away extends my pleasure and my appreciation.  

Siegel works with addicts at times and sees how they could enrich their lives and pleasure while lessening the damage addiction does if they allow themselves to think differently.

If I am addicted to anything, it is buying books.  I can see that I have basic feelings that tell me that if I buy the book, I "have" it, whether I read it or not.  I rationalize buying by saying to myself that the good price may not last. I ignore the strong possibility I may not.  I figure that I have enough books for the next 60 years. By then, I will be blind and as old as rocks.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Lost in thought

A friend sent me this cartoon today:

It can be subtitled: "Oh, for a dog's life".  Eckhart Tolle stands out in my mind as a teacher and writer who emphasizes the possibility of thinking too much.  When the mind is spinning or a given subject keeps dominating one's thought, it may be time to change subjects. Can it be done?  

Sometimes.  Mindfulness, or greater awareness of what one is allowing the mind to focus on helps in giving one a choice as to the mind's current subject. Mindfulness can be improved by meditating.  The basic meditation method is one way to improve sensitivity to what one's mind is up to. It is often referred to as "one point meditation." That's where you look at a point or concentrate on your breath, and return to that anchor whenever you find your concentration has moved to the meaning of life, or your guy's moods, or what's for dinner.  Doing such meditation can be quite challenging at first, but more and more Americans and other Westerners are finding it very beneficial, as many in Eastern nations have for centuries.

Another approach the over-thinking man in the cartoon might take is the philosophical.  A retired professor of philosophy tells the story of trailing a couple of co-eds to the classroom.  One is engaged in continuous worry and complaint. As they enter the classroom, the listener advises, "Margaret, be philosophical.  Don't think about it." But Socrates and other thinkers took steps toward the subject: What is my question? Not using all the interrogative words that the cartoon man is thinking, but just a few.  

A related subject is writing.  Writing down one's thoughts and questions and worries and confusions can give some perspective.  With today's search tools such as Google and DuckDuckGo, any subject, question or topic can be researched a bit.  A librarian or local professor may be able to suggest various books or movies that shed light on one's thinking.

Two other approaches that might be of assistance are intensification and exercise.  If I am bedeviled by thoughts of poverty or chaos, it may help get a grip and a bit of space by trying to experience myself intensifying the thoughts.  Can I think of deeper poverty? Can I think of poverty everywhere and always? Trying to think more about the subject may elicit the reaction to simply drop the whole subject, being "philosophical" in the sense Margaret's friend advises.

A old approach to gaining perspective is to take a walk.  A modern twist is to mount a bike or a stationary exercycle and pedal away. A solitary walk can be a boon, and a walk with a good friend can help, too.

Monday, May 27, 2019


Yesterday covered a long distance of typical human development.  A greatgrandson graduated from high school while a retired professor celebrated his 80th birthday.  We didn't see any pictures of the professor as a high school student, and we don't have any information about what the student will be doing on his 80th birthday.

Searching Google for "Is there a name for the generation after "millennials"?", the next generation may be "Generation Z".  Seeing young men and women yesterday in a long ceremony, I caught glimpses of joy, worry, fatigue, anticipation and energy. The Google search turns up information that Generation Z makes up 20% of the US population and that the group has more members than the Baby Boomers or the Millennials.

Graduations and birthdays naturally call up questions about the future.  Two friends and I created and taught a college course called "Futures". After listening to many lectures and visitors, I guess the main conclusion I have come to is that I don't know.  I realize that death comes to all mortals and I realize there are some common events in life: marriage, occupations, sickness, parenthood, abiding love. We sat among parents and relatives in leg-constraining bleachers for more than 3 hours, long enough to realize we were celebrating a milestone, a 12-year stone that began when the focus of the day were small and tentative.  They are now ripe and ready to make their way toward their own 80 birthdays.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Getting a job with myself

An interesting piece in a British Psychological Society posting says that a different view of ourselves is possible when we speak of ourselves in the third person.  It resonated a bit with me since that distance provided by thinking of myself more or less externally, much as I do when I speak about myself in the third person ("Bill Kirby was seen…" or "Bill Kirby thinks he") is just the sort of objectivity that has been allowing me a different view of myself.  

It may be normal conscience, or striving to be outstanding or good or perfect.  It may be guilt or awareness of failure to meet goals. Whatever it is, I seem to have a tendency to dismiss my own accomplishments.  It does seem that the older I get, the more I can compare my feelings of achievement or failure of achievement with how I would feel about a similar record of some other person than me.  Over perhaps the last year or so, I have gotten into feeling more able to see myself as a person of my background, experience, age, gender, etc. I know I can't really see myself fully but as someone I know instead of me.  Still, considering a person my age with my past and present, I have been feeling that I am ok. I never had strong feelings that I wasn't, but I didn't have much of a feeling of myself as I appear to others or as a person with my record, strengths, background, nature, etc.  

I do know enough about my internalities and my externalities to be able to see that I would be ok company.  I gather that men can block off feelings of fear or inadequacy when they want to go into battle or some modern version of battle that is challenging or dangerous .  Dissociating from their full emotional selves seems to be a natural tool, but it is nice to be able to be fully in contact with one's total self, too.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Re: The anti-CEO playbook

Something different to watch

On Sat, May 25, 2019 at 8:48 AM This week on <> wrote:
The difference between profit and true wealth. Read online
This week on
May 25, 2019

Hamdi Ulukaya: The anti-CEO playbook

17:17 minutes · Filmed Apr 2019 · Posted May 2019 · TED2019

Profit, money, shareholders: these are the priorities of most companies today. But at what cost? In an appeal to corporate leaders worldwide, Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya calls for an end to the business playbook of the past -- and shares his vision for a new, "anti-CEO playbook" that prioritizes people over profits. "This is the difference between profit and true wealth," he says.

Playlist of the week

10 guiding principles for leaders

It never hurts to have a basic set of guiding principles. Let these insightful talks help shape, redefine and build out your leadership goals. Watch »

Total run time 2:30:00

This week's new TED Talks

Hollywood needs to stop resisting what the world actually looks like, says actor, director and activist America Ferrera. Tracing the contours of her career, she calls for more authentic representation of different cultures in media -- and a shift in how we tell our stories. "Presence creates possibility," she says. "Who we see thriving in the world teaches us how to see ourselves, how to think about our own value, how to dream about our futures." Watch »

A few weeks before his release from prison, Jarrell Daniels took a class where incarcerated men learned alongside prosecutors. By simply sitting together and talking, they uncovered surprising truths about the criminal justice system and ideas for how real change happens. Now a scholar and activist, Daniels reflects on how collaborative education could transform the justice system and unlock solutions to social problems. Watch »

"Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows," says educator and activist Brittany Packnett. In an inspiring talk, she shares three ways to crack the code of confidence -- and her dream for a world where revolutionary confidence helps turn our most ambitious dreams into reality. Watch »

Sloths have been on this planet for more than 40 million years. What's the secret to their success? In a hilarious talk, zoologist Lucy Cooke takes us inside the strange life of the world's slowest mammal and shows what we can learn from their ingenious adaptations. Watch »


How to cope with the end of a relationship. These three steps will help you work through unresolved feelings. You can do this! Read more »

Why every desk at your office should have a plant. Green energy makes you thrive at work. Plus, check out 9 plant recs for your desk. Read more »

4 ways to quiet imposter syndrome. You're not a fraud. Here's how to start believing in yourself -- and recognizing your own worth. Read more »

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Thank you, Hamdi, for this refreshing new view on the corporate mindset. I would like to see this video played in board meetings and executive meetings all over the country."

Commenter: V. ON.x
Talk: Hamdi Ulukaya
The anti-CEO playbook

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Good book well-written

I had a book by Rachel Held Evans, who died at the age of 37 from sepsis recently.  I guess, like A.J. Jacobs she tried to live according to Biblical ideas. Somewhere I think the Bible describes that women should segregate themselves while they menstruate.  So, she set up a tent in the front yard and slept there when she menstruated.

The philosophy/religion group I meet with are good at asking questions.  So, when I read the title of Evans' book "Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions", I thought the book would be of interest to the group.  This group is quite experienced at asking questions of themselves and others.

I used the Amazon page that offers to send acceptance codes to multiple people for an ebook but it turned out to lack good further steps when some of the group has accepted the book and others have lost the acceptance email from Amazon.  The relevant web page did not offer good options for handling a subset of a group that needed to be re-issued offers of a book. Amazon refunded the necessary amount and I issued individual offers to those who needed them.

When all this recent episode started, I had no plan to become a Rachel Held Evans fan.  However, I read "Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions".  It is charming, witty and intelligent. It impressed me and my friends.  I made this web page of my highlights from the book:

But it is better to read the book as is, on your own.  If you do what I did, you may start it with the idea that you will just get a taste and then wind up reading the whole book.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Ebullient, bouyant, jaunty

As an idea or theme for the next blog post comes to mind during the day, I make a note.  Rather than get too many notes, I limit myself to five. Once I have five, I make myself choose one.  I find that I can usually find something worth 200-300 words or more on a theme. I probably have gotten better at judging a theme worth writing on since I began in 2008.  

Last week, I cut the grass for the first time this year.  I had to stay alert to the weather forecast to pick a day that wasn't raining.  Last week, that was Wednesday but this week, Thursday seemed a better bet. Being ready to cut the grass today probably attuned me more than usual to the weather.  We took a short bike ride this morning and the wind was definitely cold but the weather was beautiful.

The fact that trees all over are in beautiful bloom added to everything being fine and double fine.  I had Mozart's symphony #20 playing, composed when he was 16. I am five times that age and I haven't composed any symphonies!  But the sunlight, the blue sky (grayed over when I took this picture and the music combined to make me exuberant. Listen to it yourself:

I am too old, too wise, too wrinkled, too sophisticated to be exuberant.  But I was. I was in the grip of exuberance and I knew it. What is exuberance?




adjective: exuberant

  1. filled with or characterized by a lively energy and excitement.
    "giddily exuberant crowds"

  1. synonyms:

  • ebullient, buoyant, cheerful, sunny, breezy, jaunty, lighthearted, in high spirits, high-spirited, exhilarated, excited, elated, exultant, euphoric, joyful, cheery, merry, jubilant, sparkling, effervescent, vivacious, enthusiastic, irrepressible, energetic, animated, full of life, lively, vigorous, zestful; More

  • informalbubbly, bouncy, peppy, zingy, upbeat, chipper, chirpy, smiley, sparky, full of beans;

  • informalpeart;

  • informalturnt;

  • datedgay;

  • literarygladsome, blithe, blithesome;

  • archaicas merry as a grig, of good cheer

  • "exuberant groups of guests were dancing on the terrace"

  • growing luxuriantly or profusely.
    "exuberant foliage"

    • synonyms:

  • luxuriant, lush, rich, abundant, abounding, superabundant, profuse, copious, plentiful, riotous, prolific, teeming, flourishing, thriving, vigorous; More

  • dense, thick, rank, rampant, overgrown, jungle-like;

  • verdant, green;

  • informaljungly

  • "an exuberant coating of mosses"


late Middle English (in the sense 'overflowing, abounding'): from French exubérant, from Latin exuberant- 'being abundantly fruitful', from the verb exuberare (based on uber 'fertile').

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Re: An Exciting New Approach To Personality Testing Involves Psychologists Analysing Your Decisions In Game Scenarios

On Thu, May 23, 2019 at 1:32 AM BPS Research Digest <> wrote:
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An Exciting New Approach To Personality Testing Involves Psychologists Analysing Your Decisions In Game Scenarios

Personality traits are traits are traditionally assessed by asking people to rate how much various descriptive statements match their own personality, like "I enjoy talking to strangers". This cheap and easy approach has enjoyed great success – people's scores on such tests tend to be impressively consistent over time, and they predict important outcomes from health to career success. However, the questionnaires are far from perfect. Research volunteers might not properly engage out of boredom, for instance. Job candidates might deliberately fake their scores to give a favourable impression.

An exciting possibility for overcoming these issues, according to a new paper in Personality and Individual Differences is to use a "gamification" approach – present people with behavioural options in engaging game-like scenarios and deduce their personality traits from their choices. Continue reading (and see an example) →

Taking Tiny Breaks Is Key To Learning New Skills

A wealth of research has shown that taking breaks is an important part of learning. Resting straight after acquiring new information seems to improve memory of that information, for example, and sleep is particularly important for consolidating what we have just learned. 

Now it seems that even miniscule breaks, just seconds long, are also vital for learning new skills. A study published recently in Current Biology has found that most of the improvement while learning a motor task comes not while actually practicing, but instead during the breaks between practice sessions. Continue reading →

People Have A Hard-To-Explain Bias Against Experimental Testing of Policies And Interventions, Preferring Just To See Them Implemented

Randomised experiments (also known as A/B testing) are an absolutely critical tool for evaluating everything from online marketing campaigns to new pharmaceutical drugs to school curricula. Rather than making decisions based on ideology, intuition or educated guess-work,  you randomise people to one of two groups and expose one group to intervention A (one version of a social media headline, a new drug, or whatever, depending on the context ), one group to intervention B (a different version of the headline, a different drug etc), and compare outcomes for the two groups. 

To anyone who believes in evidence-based decision making, medicine and policy, randomised tests make sense. But as a team led by Michelle N. Meyer at the Center for Translational Bioethics and Health Care Policy at the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, write in PNAS, for some reason A/B testing sometimes elicits moral outrage, and they've conducted several experiments to find out more about how widespread this disapproval is, and why. Continue reading →

Microdosing Psychedelics Can Be Beneficial, But Not In The Way That Users Most Expect

What if you could take a psychedelic drug regularly in such tiny quantities that the immediate effects were not discernible, yet over time it led to a range of psychological benefits, especially enhanced focus and heightened creativity? That's the principle behind "microdosing" – a controversial technique that's exploded in popularity ever since the publication of a 2011 book The Psychedelic Explorers Guide. Large online communities of microdosing enthusiasts have since emerged on sites like Reddit, where dosing tips are shared and the supposed manifold benefits of the practice are espoused.

However, actual scientific investigations into the effects of microdosing can be counted on one hand. Earlier this year, PLOS One published one of the few systematic investigations ever conducted into the practice, by Vince Polito and Richard Stevenson at Macquarie University. Continue reading →

Kids Are More Motivated To "Do Science" Than "Be A Scientist"

It's well known that science has a diversity problem, with women and members of minority groups being underrepresented. A new study suggests a solution aimed at children – reframing science as something that people do, rather than something that defines their identity, can reduce the potentially off-putting impact of the "white male" scientist stereotype.

According to the paper, published recently in Developmental Science, thoughtful use of language encourages greater interest in science among young children – and makes them less likely to lose confidence in their scientific abilities as they grow up. Continue reading →

Editor's pick: Story-listening Shows Promise As An Intervention For People Living With Dementia

Listening to a story is known to be cognitively demanding, in part because the listener has to pay close attention to, and remember, plot and character detail in order to understand what's going on. Attention and memory are both diminished in people living with dementia. Might regularly reading aloud to such people help, then, to train their attention and memory, and function as a treatment? A recent study of people with various kinds of dementia, published in Psychology and Neuroscience, suggests that it could. Continue reading →

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The Psychologist is the monthly magazine of the British Psychological Society. Visit our website for the May issue and latest online articles, including Improving the lives of those affected by dementia – For Dementia Action Week we bring you our top picks on dementia. Also check out all our latest reports and feature articles and much more.
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