Sunday, June 30, 2019

Interesting material

I believe in appreciating my life, enjoying what there is to enjoy. I like variety.  I find that keeping my eyes open and my mind both accepting and probing, there is plenty to enjoy and be amazed about.  I estimate that a good portion of my recent enjoyments have come from "Pocket", which lives on the new page in the browser Firefox.  Google has made it clear that a majority of interest traffic these days comes from smartphones but computers have more power, more speed and more space both the monitor and the memory capacity.  So, what I do and what I experience may well be different from other people.  

My reading and writing are in English.  I make use of Google Translate once in a while.  Translate deals with something like 60 other languages.  I am confident that people in many other parts of the world, even in other parts of the US, have very different experiences from me.  I think that many people have some background and some experience of what might be called "general American life", even though there is no such thing.  People over 65 differ from today's teens and 20 yr. olds. Those living on a farm, in a suburb and in a big city have very different lives from each other.  

Because of the Pocket service in the Firefox browser, I recently came across this article by Emily Todd VanDerWerff

Even though there are unique or atypical things about me, there are plenty of the people who also like to be aware of the good parts of their lives and consciously appreciate and savor them.  There are many people who want to express their thoughts and a good many dream about being paid for their writing. Because of nearly worldwide education, most people can read some language and write:
While only 12% of the people in the world could read and write in 1820, today the share has reversed: only 17% of the world population remains illiterate. Over the last 65 years the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years – from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015.Sep 20, 2018

Literacy - Our World in Data

This is exactly the sort of change for the better discussed in Rosling's "Factfulness"

With free online publishing available, more and more people are writing these days and a good portion of the better writing is appearing online.  
Much like calories produced these days, we are in an "Irtnog" situation
foretold by E.B. White in 1938 and explained by David Weinburger in "Too Big to Know".  Nevertheless, you can enjoy lots of fine, helpful, mind-expanding writing these days. Here is a link to a search of popular, free (but often ad-overloaded) writing:

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sent wrong link to Mozart #20 K134 - here's the right one

Here is the accidentally omitted link to Mozart's symphony #20 K 134, courtesy of my brother-in-law's correction.  Sorry!  Bill

Two good pieces of music

I am rather old and my tastes run to even older. Not in everything but in music.  We just bought a copy of "This Land is Your Land - The Folk Years" and we have enjoyed it very much.  But except for songs and hymns from my early years, I tend to most enjoy classical music.

As I have written, Lynn deeply likes the movie "Strangers in Good Company" 

Watching that movie introduced me to Schubert 148 D.897.

I have listened to the Eggner Trio You Tube presentation many times.  I find it both calming and uplifting.  

We have a recording of Mozart's Early Symphonies.  He wrote good music at age 5!!!!! By the time he was 16, he had written a great deal of music, including his Symphony #20 K133.

The Schubert piece speaks of calm appreciation and beauty while the Mozart is energizing and active.  It starts with a striking and memorable set of three blasts. If you want a lift, listen to his Symphony #20.  

Friday, June 28, 2019

Too much to write about

My wife gets too much email.  I get quite a bit and I bet you get some that does not interest you, stuff you didn't ask for and don't want.  

I like to write down a note about any idea that comes to mind during the day that might be good for a blog post.  Some days, quite a few came to mind. I don't want to post or send out more than one item a day. Today, I have a miscellany of ideas.

A item in the local paper states that Packer fans are not the best fans.  I was pleased that the article in the local paper about Prof. Michael Lewis of Emory University quickly moved to the criteria.  For people in evaluation, which criteria and why are fundamental questions.  

I had a hymn running through my mind this morning.  There are web sites and apps that will help identify a tune, some even say they can help if you tap out the rhythm.  I am not good at singing, humming or whistling. I tried to sing the tune to Lynn but I didn't do well. Now, I have lost the tune in my mind.  I did look thru the index in a Methodist hymnal and a Lutheran one.  

I am surprised at how rich a result stems from simply following language.  Where does communication take place and with whom? According to "The 10,000 Year Explosion", the period of the last 10,000 years has seen the invention of writing and of agriculture.  Human speech is much older. But if you include both speech and writing, you can see how ideas are invented in a mind but quickly spread to others. The group around Socrates and the group of friends knitting and talking, not to mention the "500 million blogs on the internet", can cover many subjects and create both support and opposition to ideas and movements.

Speaking of blogs, take a look at a new one, just created recently by V. McGlone, PhD.  It's called "Where's my watch?" because McGlone is surprised to find a watch isn't needed in retirement.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

What is actually reading?

I start to get a Kindle book every now and then and find that it is free if I am a member of Amazon Prime.  I am, so I usually accept the book temporarily, much like borrowing a book from a library. Amazon only allows ten free books at a time.  Their computers helpfully list the ten I already have when I want an eleventh and give me a chance to return any one I have. They list the price of the book in case I want to purchase it for keeps.  

Until today, I had never tried to get a listing of the borrowed books I currently have on the computer, which is more powerful and flexible than a Kindle reader.  The helpful list is only available on the Kindle reader itself temporarily. While exploring the options for the computer list of the books I have purchased, I learned that there is a filter for books in my archive I have read.  I know the total number from several different displays but I hadn't seen a filter for books that I have read. 

I have been estimating that I have read, by my definition of reading, about 200 of the several thousand I own.  The filters said that I had read about 400 books. I set the filters and looked at the titles. I estimate that more than half of the books were ones I had not read.  The book "Everybody Lies" uses one method of estimating how often people "finish" a book and how much of a book is typically read. I have wondered how much pressure is put on writers to make their books longer.  "Lies" says most people are going to read the first 50 pages, pick up a few points and get on with their lives. My daughter has a practice of giving a book 50 pages of trial and dropping it if by then, it isn't what she wants.  Emily Todd VanDerWurff wrote recently that TV dramas are in such demand that the industry has started dragging out inferior stories just to have something to show. I wonder if books, fiction and non-fiction, are going through something like that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Inertia and me

The main result of a deliberate, careful and short session of meditation when I first wake up is a noticeable drop in inertia.  I have less reluctance to get things done.

We like cookies from a local bakery.  These cookies cost $2.50 each but we think they are worth it.  They are hefty and good and we always split one between us. I like to take the time to stop by the public library on the way home and look over the New Books shelf.  New books on car repair or plumbing don't grab me but psychology books may. I borrowed several including Clapper's "Facts and Fears" about his career in US intelligence, and "The Elephant in the Brain" about complex multiple motivations in human behavior.

I like my habit of looking over titles of books, even though I already have too many to read before I die.  Just seeing what they are about keeps me aware of the world's changing interests and insights. Doctoral students and researchers have to develop book handling so that some idea of the worth of reading the book can be extracted by sampling the language, here and there, looking over the preface and the table of contents, all in a rather short time, like maybe a half hour. 

Both of the books I mention here seem worthwhile.  I confess to doing quite a lot of jumping between books and I probably have 8 or so books I am currently "reading" but I didn't want to drop either Clapper or Elephant.  So, I had a good excuse to work at reserecting my iPod for in-the-car listening. The Classic iPod has an enormous capacity but it has been a pain to get an audiobook from, move the file into the iPod, jump thru all the hoops and over the hurdles and actually listen while driving.  

Clapper's summary of decades of work in American intelligence seemed a lttle less heavy so I choose to install it in audio form and I began listening today.  Much of my driving around town takes 15 to 20 minutes a time so for his 18 hour book, the next few weeks of my driving will probably include a narrator reading "Facts and "Fears".  I can listen at home if I want to and I can download the book if I want to read faster than the narrator speaks. I have the habit of sending good sentences and ideas to Goodreads and Twitter and I may do some of that if I buy the Kindle form of the book.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

His stuff

As Gilbert and his pal Sullivan said years ago, "the flowers that bloom in the spring" have nothing to do with this blog post. Stil, they are in abundance and merry so I thought you might like to see them.

This post is actually about death.  Well, the aftermath, actually. Our friend, John Morser, died abruptly recently and today there was an estate sale.  John was a local professor but he was also a professional photographer. He had some Finnish ancestors as does Lynn.

You know how it goes: there is a house of his that he uses daily, hourly, minutely, until he doesn't.  Once he is gone, his stuff remains. An active, intelligent, long-lived man can accumulate quite a bit of stuff: tools, kitchen utensiles, books, electronics, plus a large collection of photographs, some mounted, some framed and all that now available.  We bought a book about Finland, a CD and some basic tools that Lynn's artist co-op could use.  

Most of those shopping seemed to me to be quite aware of why this house and these belongings were being sold.  Most of us had gray hair and other marks of maturity. I suppose, like me, most of the shoppers could picture their own houses being toured by shoppers.  We all realize that our bikes and our cameras and our saved magazines, our tables and our chairs will all change hands and locations someday, some day far into the future.  One of the shopper told Lynn that another estate sale was also going on, just a little down the road. I really didn't need anything at either place but Lynn gave it a once-over.

Monday, June 24, 2019


I was appreciating a bowl Lynn made and thinking I could design a fine ritual using that bowl. The thought reminded me of a book I have in my Kindle library about "Ritual".  It is one of the Very Short Introduction (VSI) series published by Oxford University Press. There are more than 1200 titles in the series and it is a very short education to simply read the list of titles.

Kathryn Schultz, a very fine author, has an article in the New Yorker archives called "How to be a Know-it-all" about the series.  

Some of the VSI books might be a little demanding but generally they are under 200 pages and will give a reader the basics of the subject.  If you use a Kindle reader (and you should), you can download a book in the series in a minute or less for the typical cost of $6.15. Your local library may subscribe to the series, making it available to card holders online.  This is a good place to mention "Overdrive" and "Libby", apps that allow for the borrowing and returning of books electronically, without needing to travel to the local library.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Direct meeting with yourself

Yes, Pascal was the French genius who founded probability theory along with Fermat. He is the one who said, "All of man's trouble come from being unable to sit alone in a room."  Of course, the idea was learn to have a meeting with yourself, not watching a baseball game or visiting Facebook.

It is good for you know yourself, to comfortable with yourself as you are.  Between what your mother used to complain about, what your mother-in-law disapproves of (she only let you know about the half of it) and perhaps what your inner self condemns, regrets and is ashamed of, it can take some firmness to shut the voices, remembered, current and inner, down.  Getting negatives to shut up, getting negatives shut down, up or down, hold it!


No agenda.  No puzzles, no leader, no background music, no guidance, no companionship, no jokes - just the genuine, actual, unadorned you.  You won't bite. Just settle down. Don't need the lotus position. Just sit up, find

a right angle to observe.

Sitting somewhere, you can probably find a right angle in the position shown: one arm "up" and the other "right".  Just look at the point of intersection. Watch it. Stay alert. Even though you are dealing with an inanimate object.  Look for movement. Be your cat, waiting for any sign of movement.

Count off ten breaths while you keep your eye on that angle.  Next time, set a timer for 5 minutes. Have a short sit-down with yourself like this each day.  

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Charts, Lies and electronic data

Every Thursday, I like to take a look at Amazon Charts.  There are four of them, fiction and nonfiction, and what is being purchased and what is being read.  I wrote about the Amazon Charts several times before:

I think it is impressive how J.K. Rowling's work dominates the Fiction Most Read chart.  My theory is that adults sometimes read her Harry Potter works but on top of that, adults cannot read her fiction in the numbers that younger readers can.  If you are at all interested, I recommend the movie about Rowling's amazing life, called "Magic Beyond Words". It seems to be available on both Amazon tv and Vudu.

Once a week, looking through all four charts does not take long and it seems to be a pretty good way to stay abreast of trends in popular reading.  One aspect of ebooks is that using a Kindle reader (or Kobo or Nook or any other such device, including tablets, phones and computers) is that the total time a given page is showing is detectable.  I imagine that artificial intelligence machines can or soon will discriminate between having a page up long enough to read and move on versus simply having one page showing while you prepare a meal over in the kitchen.

Online data and analysis can reveal all sorts of things that are new or more accurate or both.  The book "Everybody Lies" by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a good one for explaining new insights into human behavior that come from analysing data from online sources and from combining and contrasting such data with other sources such as location information and phone use, etc.  The title Everybody Lies probably tells a truth but rather than focusing on purposeful lying, I suspect that the simple fact that machines can track us tirelessly is more important. We can't keep track of our hours looking at screens or watching tv or nibbling but machines can.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Seafood and peaches

You may know that the city of Baltimore is near at the top of the Chesapeake Bay.  It is a seaport city and with the Bay and the ocean near, it is a seafood city. So, when I moved to Wisconsin, a milk and cheese state, I missed the seafood.  The northern border of Maryland is the Mason-Dixon line, the traditional division between the American north and south. Peaches need warmth so another thing that went missing with a move to Wisconsin is peaches.  

Spencer Wells, a scientist who specializes in genome anaylsis, stated a while back that the human race is getting stirred up, to the point that genetic markers are losing their association with place.  It is a slow process but Wells thought that 100 years from now, it will no longer be possible to trace pathways of travel and points of location by genetic markers. Immigration, emmigration and air travel are re-arranging us all.  I know of several families already whose younger members have jobs abroad.

So, as predicted, since back when we moved to Wisconsin, many things have changed.  Now, we have crab meat, fish from all over, shrimp, and scallops. And we have peaches.  I read that the railroad enabled parts of the US to taste citrus fruits for the first time.  Citrus is excellent and I eat some most days but a truly ripe peach is heavenly.

Word spreads around town and there are ads in the local paper: a peach truck will be in town on this day at this location.  A friend got in line early and gave us the share of peaches we had agreed on.

We have a good variety of foods these days including occasional rambutan:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Ah, the boidies

Each bunch of dropmore honeysuckle blossoms contains several trumpet-shaped flowers.  Hummingbirds come by hourly to fill up on nectar. In the lower window's upper left is a mass of dark leaves.   That where Mrs. Cardinal is sitting on her 3 eggs. We have surrendered to the call of Nature and eat in the kitchen since she is too skittish.  Again, Dr. Anastasi, we are saving the planet!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Dismissing subjects

For two days in a row, I have tried something new: meditating first thing out of bed in the morning.  There have been many days lately when we were too busy to arrange our usual after-lunch session. I don't like to have too many days when I don't meditate.  I have long used the practice of doing only a short time meditating but I don't think completely skipping on too many days is wise.

I find that mornings tend to be a time when too many items crowd my mind. Whatever I am doing, other items that also need to be done come up impatiently.  This time, I noticed a strong feeling of smooth activity, things done as they should be but not hurried or desparate in any way. I am pretty skeptical about judging things using only my impression as evidence, but it seemed that five minutes of concentration on a focus made a genuine difference.  I felt my mind and my conscious self were in unusual harmony.

So, I spend another five minutes with the timer on my iPad again this morning.  Both days, I was surprised that my mind was so energetic and kept giving me other subjects to think about.  I found myself engaged in a story or internal conversation repeatedly. I am always been a morning sort of person and been fully and enthusiastically awake right off.  

The usual advice for meditation is to focus on a target, one's breath or a visual anchor, and to return to that target when one notices the mind has gotten engaged in some story or worry or thought.  This morning, after about a quarter century of meditative practice, I realized something new. Each time I go off into la-la land or fretsville, noticing is indeed a golden moment of mind training, but the next moment after that of dismissing the suggested topic and returning to steady awareness is practice in letting go of something.  So, when my old dog dies or my pick-up breaks down, when the revenuers are closing in on my still and the bank forecloses on the farm, I am practicing relegating worries to the back burner in place of just being aware. I am training myself in controlling my worries. Cool!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Getting formed and forming

Many tv shows and movies use a version of the story line that depicts a guy who is attracted to a woman but shys away from fatherhood and parenting.  I have read that there is an increase in the number of people who want to be together but do not want children.

I think there is no job or occupation that compares to having a child.  I do believe that a person could have too many children. I have read that 2.11 children per woman are needed to keep a stable population.  I was interested in work that focused on people when I was still a high school student. It turned out that teaching was cheaper to get into than psychology.  I still think understanding, as much as possible, what people are thinking and feeling is far more enriching than delivering newspapers or the US mail.

There have been times when articles stated that young people were, in the main, quite focused on making money, lots of money.  I think that is still the case for many. Again, that seems like a deadend to me. If you have a job that you enjoy and care about, if you have a job that is an attraction for you, one that you actually want to do each day, it seems to me that you are on the right track.

But jobs, schmobs - if you and someone you are grateful to be liked by have a child, that is more real, more natural, more basic than bank accounts, multiple cars and fine clothes.  You may already be onto the fact that you and your body are one. I realize there is the possibility of various afterlives but we can all agree that for this life, habeus corpus: You must have the body.  No body, no earthly existence. Once you grasp that you and another body could make a body, just like you were made, it is stunning.

When you get passed over for promotion or your plans are wrecked, there is still the basic fact that your mother and your father made you.  How lovely if you, too, get to so some people making. As an educator of some years of experience, I remind you that it takes a village but it also takes two decades.  So, your parents launched you but your siblings, your playmates, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your teachers and coaches and many other people contributed to who you are and how you got to where you are.  In the same way, you contributed to others, including plenty of others you have forgotten about or never noticed.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day

I write my blog a day early so today's post has nothing explicitly to do with Father's Day.  I want to salute the fathers and the women who contribute their bodies and minds and muslces to making them fathers.  I looked up "Father's Day" in my blog search window and got some good results from previous blog posts.

Personally, I buy the idea that reproduction and parenting are basic to our lives.  I appreciate being fathered and mothered and getting the chance to pass it on.

Numbers and calculation in my life

I didn't like arithmetic in elementary school, simply because it was so easy for the teacher to give us one page of multiplication problems that took a long time to complete.  It felt like simple busy work, and I still feel that way after being an elementary school math teacher myself, and a college professor working on preparing elementary school teachers.  When I taught the 5th grade, I taught all subjects, as most elementary teachers in the US do, but just for the first two years. For my last two years, I taught the arithmetic and other math to all four 5th grade classes.  

While still teaching elementary school, I began night classes for a master's degree.  One of the first required classes was basic statistics. For four or five weeks, I didn't understand what we were doing or why.  Then, the main ideas opened up and I saw what it was all about. Later, in my doctoral program, I learned many statistical techniques of analysis.  

I hadn't been aiming for statistical analysis, just for improving education of all kinds and in any way possible.  Before, as an undergraduate, I was required to accumulate a given amount of credits to earn a degree. When I looked at the offerings, it seemed that some of the math courses would be useful in my life, in my work and outside of it.  Near the end of undergrad studies, I was informed I needed a minor to graduate. I had taken enough math courses that taking a few more would give me a minor.

During grad school in a program designed to produce educational researchers, I was interested in testing and grading.  As a doctoral student, I taught night school classes in testing a few times. When I was hired as an assistant professor, it was a period when large computers where just making an entry into campus life.  In my first semester, I was hired to be the local director of academic computing. I had already depended on computers to analyze the data for my dissertation, which was about formal and mathematical decision-making.  

Several academic curricula try to get master's students and sometimes undergraduates involved in doing research.  Historically, teachers have been trying to get a four year basic education, plus in-depth knowledge of subjects they are planning to teach along with knowledge of teaching techniques and educational psychology.  When actual teaching experience gets piled on top of all that, there is not time left for formal research efforts. So, in some master's programs, a experiment is required.

To analyze the data produced by experiments, statistical techniques can be a necessary tool.  Before long, I was teaching basic statistical methods. Many people who have a basic attraction to teaching have a basic fear of numbers and math.  I tended to teach the subject as clearly as I could manage, with no tricks or "challenges". My campus was headed by a former professor of communication who had been involved with classes that used electronics to teach in America and France classes across the Atlantic Ocean simultaneously.  So, I became a teacher of basic statistical methods on state public television. After 24 years, my materials were deemed too old for current needs. At the same time, educational research has moved to more emphasis on biographic and personal methods. The whole world is beginning to see that we need to know much more than how many questions a student got "correct".

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Information overload in the countryside

A letter to the editor of the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago said the writer was 87 years old and lived in a small town in Nova Scotia.  Note: not in the US. Still, he mentioned his iPad, his Kindle, his general capability of perusing the world from where he was. A friend recently wrote that in his small town, population 155, he was "subjected" to a wash of information daily.  

I just read in the last few days that about half of Earth's 7.5 billion humans use the internet, at least somewhat.  I imagine we can count on the other half being at least somewhat interested. I just read an hour ago about a rich African man stating at an African college graduation that it is time for Africa to have its own Harvard, MIT and Stanford.  African and Asian and Latin American brains and efforts will continue to rise and that will increase the flow of communication and information around the world and into my house.

I suspect that information overload is related to the problem the Buddha pointed to centuries ago: our wants and desires.  Say I click on Cheerio Road, a blog written by the clever and helpful Karen Maezen Miller. Say what I read does indeed help me enjoy my life more and stress futilely less.  Say the next day 1000 other very attractive links appear in my stuff. I realize I am not going to get to Miller's blog. I realize I might just as well not try to save it or a link to it or make a note about it since I have already saved 892 other pieces I think will be good.  I have saved twice that many links. I have saved many notes, too, but I am tiring of saving, storing, getting back to and getting around to. Saying good-bye to a possibility that might be the answer to my life's questions is painful.

I want that article.  I want all the articles I have reason to believe would be good and I want the better half of the articles I don't know about yet.  No wonder I am starting to sag. I am facing tremendous losses and they are set to increase. Woe! Misery! Pain!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Muscles and all

I run three times a week unless a vacation or an injury interferes.  Ten years ago, I ran 2.5 miles each time. Now, I run ½ a mile with two walks included.  The walks are about one lot width, one driveway to the next. I do also have two bursts, each about 2 lots long. This area of the state is flat.  There are a few rolling hills but not anything very steep.

There is one very slight hill on the route I run.  I roughly estimate the steepness to be around 12°. During the winter ice and snow, I don't run outside.  Either a treadmill or a stationary bike has to suffice. So, getting back into some shape during spring is somewhat tough.  At first, I walked up some of that slight hill. Now, I can run up and over. I am not Usain Bolt

but I can feel that the legs are getting stonger and the running is getting easier.  I want to stress my heart enough so that it gets a bit of a workout but not overstress it.  

After a day that includes a run, I don't feel exhausted or listless.  Today, along with the run, I walked 2.5 miles with friends and I lifted weights.

I urge my friends to lift some weights but I don't think they do.  Just holding 30 lbs, maybe two 15 lb. barbells, can do wonders for thigh and overall leg strength when standing from a crouch or a chair.  I usually lift 8-12 times.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Did you see that?

One of the fun things about teaching and being around other people is to see the interaction between the basic person, his family and culture, his education and his current themes and interests.  The novel "Where the Crawdads Sing" is good writing to remind us that a human being is a complex animal. Yes, what his family, his church and his teachers told him matters. Sometimes, you can easily see the influence of parents or others.  

But as teachers like to say, each person is unique.  There is no one else with just his combination of influencing factors, emotions, drives and memories.  I sometimes hear people express doubt or amazement that a given person, maybe a child, could think of something all on his own.  We can get a better grasp of the very wide possibilities a curious and active mind can think up if we take time to think of different possible perspectives.  

Take a look at this blog post from 2010

Take a look at "A Mind At a Time" by Mel Levine.  Some people have an easy time with time sequence. First, we chop the tree and then it falls down and then we haul it to the chipper.  But, for some, sequence is difficult. The link above mentions a girl who happily greeted the mailman with the dazzling information that 6 times 7 = 42!

Some minds are more interested in location and in geometery and land layout than others.  So, as decribed in "Parallel Play" by the Pulitzer-winning music critic of the Washington Post, Tim Page, he was careful to examine the bus route his class experienced when he was in the 2nd grade.  The teacher and the students didn't think of road routes and spent their time observing different things.

We can all understand that Charlie Brown's fascination with his little red-haired girl classmate.  The other girls and many of the boys are not fascinated with her and didn't observe her carefully and frequently, as Charlie did.

You and I would have thought differently and seen differently, no doubt.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,

"To talk of many things:

Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--

Of cabbages--and kings--

And why the sea is boiling hot--

And whether pigs have wings."   

Lewis Carroll, 1872 The Walrus and the Carpenter

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Not too much

You may have heard that the ancient Greeks had some mottoes:
  1. Know thyself - hard to do, thyself is changing all the time, but still worth trying all the time
  2. Make no promises - very hard to do, what with your beloved wanting marital promise, your bank wanting a promise, and your creditors, too
  3. Moderation in all things - worth applying everywhere

A friend recently warned a group of us that it is often best to aim for "moderate success".  Such an aim is difficult if you are an American, especially one who reads and lives by the book of the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes.  That is where it says: Whatever you try, put all your might into it. (9:10) If you're TOO successful, you get bought out by some big corporation, or suffer some similar swallowed-up fate.  Moderate success is better for longterm longevity.

It seems to me that an additional problem often emerges if you are a woman.  You know the saying that a woman has to be twice as good as a man to be considered his equal.  That same problem can emerge for minorities. But, over-stressing superior performance often increases the focus on traditional, basic indicators of quality.  That stress and maybe an tendency to be perfect (perfect hair, perfect make-up, perfect shoes) can combine to create high anxiety and low willingness to be different.  

Since women have excellent imaginations, they and society in general, and any organization they are helping, suffer unnecessary limitation by expending too much effort on perfection and flawlessness.  I say," Do a good job, one that you know is good, and relax!"

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


As we age, our skin gets wrinkled.

Click on the link and choose "Images" to see some highly wrinkled faces.  Or, look at this:

This is my own inner elbow.  I keep telling younger people to respect and honor wrinkles.  They are a sign of wisdom and superiority, I say. But do they listen?

Monday, June 10, 2019

Downhill again ??

I like to look at the New Books in the lbrary.  Books, writing in online publications, blogs, magazines, zines - there are many sorts of writing going on these days.  Much of the time, I find a book on the new book shelf and it seems interesting. I often need about an hour or so to page through a book and decide if I want to spend time on it.  If I do think I want to read it, it often takes only a chapter or two before I decide to at least check if the book is available in Kindle format. If it is and the price is good, I buy it in Kindle.  

Highlighting with a finger tip and sending the highlight to both Goodreads and Twitter only takes a few seconds.  I get to be conscious of how often I am prompted to send a line or two to those services. Files of all the highlights from a given book remain available for pasting on a web page or sending to friends for years after I read the book.  An actual Kindle works better as a book to read for me than using an iPad or Samsung Galaxy tablet.

The book Humanimal by Adam Rutherford is such a book.  I enjoy books that compare and contrast humans and other animals.  I still have the hardback copy from the library and I also have the Kindle book in my Kindle reader. This morning, I began the chapter on "Tools".  

The science-fiction writer Douglas Adams came up with three rules concerning our interaction with technology:

1. Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Rutherford, Adam. Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature's Most Paradoxical Creature—A New Evolutionary History (pp. 21-22). The Experiment. Kindle Edition.

Rutherford explains Socrates' suspicion that new technology called "writing" will ruin human memory, that 16th century churchmen could see that "printing" will ruin religion and asks if there is an important difference between the virtue of reading and evil of video games. It is surprising to me how often I hear people over 70 worrying about the morality, reliability and stamina of younger generations.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Writing it down

A while back, I bought a ball point pen that fits in a short metal cylinder with a metal loop for my key ring.  But the other day, the pen fell out of the cylinder and I couldn't make it stay in any more.

That was just my latest attempt to have something to write with and something to write on with me at all times.  A friend told me that her short-term memory was disappearing. A book recommendation or the name of a good pro-biotic should be written down to be read later and a purchase made.

Long ago, the basics of education were thought to be reading (decoding), writing (composing) and calculation (arithmetic).  Those skills still count even though we have modified versions using computers or other smart electronics. The first major step beyond elementary skills of reading, writing and arithmetic in my life was the acquisition of the computer program Appleworks.  I did take typing in 8th grade but I was rather poor at typing a page or two of text without any errors. I hosted a lab room of calculators, machines to do arithmetic, when I was in grad school but I didn't have a small pocket calculator of my own until 5 or 10 years later.  

There are many approaches to making a note quickly but securely, a note that lasts as long as it is needed and can be decoded accurately later and disposed of neatly.  Even my flip phone, un-smart as it is, can record a short message ("remember to buy milk") and that utterance can be played back and it can be erased. Just hope to remember to play it back.  

So far, I can make a note in writing or by voice and pay attention to it later. So far, I haven't made any note that I can't decipher but I have come close.  I bought inexpensive small pens a while back, and after my key ring pen failed, I took one of the small pens and make it fractionally smaller. I broke off the tiny ring that connected an old-fashioned cheap chain.  The little pen and a folded sheet of 8x11 piece of scrap paper work well so far.

Saturday, June 8, 2019


More than 50 years ago today, we moved to Wisconsin from the East Coast.  It was for my job but it was a big deal. Lynn had lived in small and smallish towns before but I hadn't.  I did visit this town of 25,000 before for a job interview and to see what I thought. I had heard that one of the fathers of Gestalt psychology had moved to a small American town and subsequently had a good career. We were both pleased with the atmosphere of the town and we still are.  When Lynn got her PhD, she took a job in another university town and we moved there. But later, we moved back to Point.

When we moved here, we had two young daughters.  Now we have great grandchildren. There is often the complaint that there is nothing to do, but not often in a college town.  Some places are said to "roll up the sidewalks" at 7 PM or 10 PM. We had a German college student stay with us a few years ago and he was disappointed that our few late-night establishments closed at 2 AM.  He was used to such places closing at 4 AM. However, we have never been enthusiastic night-owls. Besides, times have changed. As a recent letter from Chester Basin, Nova Scotia to the New Yorker emphasized, with smartphones, internet, iPads and streaming, many locations have an unending supply of things to do.  

When we have relocated temporarily for a vacation from winter, it doesn't take long being away before we miss our local friends.  When you have accumulated five decades in a place, it tends to become home. With parents gone and childhood and college friends scattered, there is less reason to travel.  

Friday, June 7, 2019

Well-done and valuable

This link leads to Eric Barker's latest blog post.  The item is well-written and memorable.  The "losing an I" refers to the Buddhist idea that we can't find a part of ourselves that is clearly our Self or our Soul.  Some Buddhists go for the idea that there is no "self" and that we can do better if we don't posit such a thing. 


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Thanks, Folks

I can get enthused by new ideas and new devices. I began graduate school to get a master's degree but I finished with some knowledge and experience with computers.  A friend explained that word processing, spreadsheets and databases were indeed wonderful but I should just hold on until I had experienced the internet. I saw his point quickly after we had email and Netscape, an early and superior browser.  

When I first heard that the railroad and the telegraph were more astounding to people than YouTube and Facebook, I didn't believe it.  Now, I can undestand that, yes, the speed of transportation of both people and goods, and the speed of information achieved by wire were unprecedented and in many cases, literally unbelieveable.  Recently, I found Tom Wheeler, formerly chair of the Federal Communications Committee, and his book "Mr. Lincoln's T-mails" and learned of the frequent reluctance people felt about trying to send messages by telegraph.  It was said to be communication by lightening and some new-fangled force called "electricity."

When I watched the 2003 movie "Luther", I thought I was going to see a story I already knew.  Luther challenged the idea that paying extra to the church could assist a deceased loved one advance from purgatory into heaven.  But here and there, I gathered insight into the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation and centuries of bloodshed, confusion and warfare.  

The other Tom Wheeler book "From Gutenburg to Google" got my attention even more.  After all, I use Google every day. I save my post in Google Drive, send copies in G-mail, post my blog in Google Blogger and publish things on my Google Sites website.  Wheeler pointed me to Johannes Gutenburg and the printing press. I know the book "Divine Art, Infernal Machine" a little bit and have some references to it in this blog.

But I didn't get the connection between the phenomenon of printing and Luther and intellectual open thinking and science and today.  

Yesterday, I attended a board meeting for LIFE, a learning in retirement organization at UWSP.  We started with a quickly made agenda and not much of a mission but the conversations moved across many subjects and areas.  Wisconsin and its Wisconsin idea that the borders of the campus are the borders of the state, is the home of continuing education and county agents and university extension.  That little room showed what communication and language and the tug and tussle of ideas and purposes can accomplish, given the contributions of many thinkers, traditions, and inventors over the centuries.

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