Saturday, August 31, 2019

The kids are fine

I refer to kids in general.  Just as you and I are not smart enough to know ourselves, our minds and our bodies very well, in the same way, we aren't smart enough to fully see our kids, where they are, and where they are headed very well. You may be aware that a strong tradition, going back almost 2000 years, is to bemoan the condition of the world and of the younger generations.  I am here to say,"Cool it. Try not to worry. Their minds are quite sharp, their eyes are open and they have strong dreams for the future."

My oldest greatgranddaughter is a good example.  She is a smart girl and getting smarter. A little while back, she created homemade cards for us: birthday, Mother's Day, that sort of thing.  She knows that many cards these days come with a barcode on the back. So, she created barcodes on her cards. Started as sort of a joke but as thoughts do, they led her forward.  Now, she is crafting small objects like earrings. Earrings should be delivered in some sort of protective container. So, she created this tube to hold the earrings for her great grandmother.  When you were entering the 6th grade, were you in business yet? She will be ready to make you an offer for your business soon.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Climate change

I attended Prof. Katherine Clancy's talk on climate change today. She teaches the subject to students in the UWSP College of Natural Resources.  She explained how measurements and estimates of past eras are obtained. At the end of her talk, she gave the group of senior citizens the CNN Global Climate quiz.

The group was surprised at some of the answers.  When I got home, I urged Lynn to take the quiz, too.  We were both surprised at some of the most powerful moves recommended:

  1. Improve the manufacturing and use, including trashing, of refrigerators and air conditioners (= 629 Million fewer cars on the roads)

  2. Install onshore wind turbines (=593 Million fewer cars on the roads)

  3. Cut down on food waste (=495 Million fewer cars on the roads)

  4. Eat more plants and less meat (=464 Million fewer cars on the roads)

  5. Restore tropical forests (=429 Million fewer cars on the roads)

The item #3 above elicited a comment that one of the group had recently attended a presentation on food waste.  She learned that the major bit of food waste occurs at harvesting. The product needs to be very good-looking and many bits that look less that fine are left to rot in the fields. reports 268.8 million cars in the US so you can see that all of the recommendations would be very helpful in reducing climate problems.  Clancy noted that the specialized substances in refrigerators and air-conditioners are thousands of times more powerful at affecting the climate that the main gas doing so, which is carbon dioxide, the gas we humans exhale.

The production of electricity worldwide is a major contributor to climate problems.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Morning mailbox

Once I started emailing my blog to people, I had a list of names I could relate to.  Before that, I didn't know who looked at it. Blogger gives some statistics by the day, week, month and overall but I didn't know who.  I found what many businesses seem to have found: if things get mailed or emailed directly to a person, those things get read more.  

That goes for me, too.  I get "Significant Digits" and "Numlock News", more or less started by Walt Hickey and then expanded so there are two newsletters that are available in free version and in paid versions.  Judd Legum developed "Popular Information", which is not about numbers in the news but is about insights into current politics and how things actually work. I get many publications in my Inbox from Brookings Institute, Library of Congress, Amazon promoting ebooks, CNN, BBC, Seth Godin's blog, New Yorker, and others.

I was ready to forward today's Popular Information to this blog but I am not sure that is a fair thing to do.  I think that Popular Information is the most daring item I get. I was ready to subscribe but they weren't ready to take the card I wanted to use.  It is daring in the sense that the writer seems to get behind the surface story and give the facts and figures and truths about who is doing what with whom. Judd Legum has some impressive scoops and revelations, such as large corporations that assert their democratic stance while giving big donations to biases politicians.

More and more organizations seem to be on the same track as I have been.  They want to know an email address that they can email information about their great sale, or the virtues of their chairman.  It has gotten so that there are days, like today, when I could stand reading all the stuff that comes in but I am not really in the mood.  Gmail gives me the option to select all messages I have left unread and delete them all with one click. I realize some good stuff is going unread when I do that, but I am not up to reading all that stuff.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Here, read this. No, wait, read THIS!

When we click on a link on the WorldWideWeb, we are often requesting a file be sent to our computer.  Browsers are programs for computers, tablets like iPad, and smartphones that accept such files and display them as web pages.  About 87% of the page views of this blog use the Chrome browser or the one called Firefox. Chrome is Google's browser and Google makes a good deal of its income from ads, as far as I know, which isn't very far.  Firefox is more independent, not quite as much so as is DuckDuckGo. This last one advertises how little they sell my search interests to others. I don't use it much but maybe I should.  

When I visit a web page using Firefox, I usually have a choice to use its "Reader view", which blocks intrusions and focuses only on the main page I am trying to read.  It still comes as a shock to me to think that I can have a nice day without reading their damned message at all. When I do start reading and another page slips across what I am reading, it makes me angry.  I certainly won't buy the jeans described on the intruding page. When a second intruder slides across the jeans page and starts to explain the advantages of this new wonderful credit card, my anger changes to comic relief.  I simply slam the cover of my machine closed and toss it out the window. I can't tell you how many laptops are piled up out there, all wrecked and jumbled.

The advertiser David Ogilvie, see his "Confessions of an Advertising Man", knew that after you show me an ad demonstrating the superiority of brand X over that inferior brand Y, I am the sort of consumer who distinctly remembers that Y was better and makes sure to buy Y from now on.  Trying to get and hold my attention is not easy. You can threaten me but I may be admiring your wonderful shoes during the threat. You can demand that I look you straight in the eye but I will see what lovely eyes you actually have. Are they contact lens or natural?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Examination instead of resistance

From the 8/23/2019 post in this blog:

In "Breath by Breath", Larry Rosenberg tried to avoid fidgeting in a group meditation when he was bitten by a mosquito.  The bite itched but he didn't want to move or scratch. He found that if he attended to the exact sensations that darned bite produced, they were surprisingly complex, unstable and interesting.  The itch comes and goes. It waxes and wanes but it is not steady or unchanging. Quite surprisingly varied. It is easy to say "I was bitten and it itched" but the reality was much more complicated.

Different pictures of many things can emerge when we attend carefully to what we see, experience and feel about the sights and sensations. It is like we have a zoom feature on our minds.  We can zoom in on our toes and gently and fully attend to what we feel as we press our toes into the floor. We can sloooowly lift our toes up. We can rapidly lift our toes up. When sloooowly lifting our toes, can we clearly remember the sensations, the experience of lifting them very quickly?  If not, try again.

See?  We can put our minds into a zoom on our toes.  Toes, legs, breath, taxes, tomorrow - we can put our minds in tiny places and in large, long, lovely places.  

When we think of how sad it was that Aunt Rosie died, how irritating that we stupidly lost so much money in the casino, how much Uncle Gene bugs us, we can make a note to return to those difficult subjects later when we are in a better mood and are more capable of dealing.  But in the meantime, let's deeply concentrate on each breath, on each note, on each scent. As the modern advocate of meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn, advocates, we can actually, carefully nibble a single raisin, paying deep attention to each movement, each micro-movement and its result.  We will get back to Gene and Rosie and our money later.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Tools for cramming it all in

I use the Firefox browser often and I like the New Page feature of Pocket. I have saved quite a few articles to Pocket and they have influenced my thinking and broadened my knowledge.

The other day, I saw an item in their suggested readings for me about a service called Blinkist.  Turns out to be a German service that creates summaries of popular books. The snippet said that the group wanted to change the way we read but once I found they offered digests of important and popular books, I was less interested.  I have noticed that quite a few non-fiction books I look up in Amazon are accompanied by summaries of the main ideas in the book. The summaries are quite a bit cheaper than the book itself and are based on the idea that a person can understand more of the world if fast summaries are read instead of those long books.  I went to the book section of the Amazon web site today and searched for "summary". I was looking for the names of publishers who offer summaries of books. I must have found 5 or 6 different summary publishers.

The whole business of summaries reminds me of Reader's Digest and the article written by E.B. White "Irtnog" (1935).  His article tells a ficticious story about digests and digests of disgests in an attempt to allow readers to keep up with the ever increasing amount to be read each day.  Things got to the point that there was a word of the day that "summarized" all the writings of that day. For instance, the word of one day was "irtnog". Just knowing the word of the day, one could feel caught up with everything that was written that day. [His writing by that name is available on the web if you want to look it up.]

I am sorry to break the news but there are always limits.  We are not going to be able to taste all the good dishes, see all the exciting shows, read all the good books nor visit all the great places.  Yes, the truth is that we will both die without having experienced some truly wonderful things. Shall we weep together now?

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Troubles from the other group

We stumbled into "Scott and Bailey", a 2011 British tv show focused on two women police detectives.  It is interesting and thought-provoking. Virtually every male in the story causes difficulty and trouble.  Good thing this is all fiction!

We watch it on Amazon Prime tv.  The episodes are about 50 minutes long, a convenient length for our evenings.  I have read recently that the various forms of television are gobbling up new and old stories at a high rate.  What I read implied that more shows are longer, running more like 90 or 120 minutes.  

The show is written by Sally Wainwright and others.  It emphasizes the twists and turns that life, especially romantic and married life can take while trying to maintain order, capture the wicked and convict the truly guilty.  Not easy. I get reminded of the idea that women carry a heavier burden in life than do men, bearing children, raising children, loving children, even adolescent children as well as parents, all the while being told what to do, how to do it and how to feel about it all by older women and by men who naturally know everything and are willing to lay their ideas on women whether asked for or not.

I have read repeatedly that women everywhere live longer than men do so women's ways of doing and acting, not to mention their bodies and temperaments, may be biologically superior to men's.  I often use a shorthand explanation for myself that focuses on drives and fighting induced by testosterone. However, the difference in longevity that I found today is 5 years, men dying at 76 and women at 81.  I imagine clever remarks and ideas will continue to be made by both groups. Things like "Women don't live that much longer, it just seems longer" and "Men are weak and desert the struggle earlier."  

Saturday, August 24, 2019


I have been having trouble emailing my blog to those who want to get it in that way.  There is a little window on the blog's web page that allows sign-up to get the blog through it.  I saw the little app and ok'd its placement on the page but I don't know much about it. 

I used to email each post to 150 people but I ran into trouble with many bounces, that is, rejections.  I have recently had similar problems. I don't foresee any big change in my blog or delivery but who knows?  The 2016 election and stories of Russian attempts to influence American voter opinion were probably the beginning of what seems to be a surge in the use of email, websites and electronic connection to videos, as on YouTube.  The questions about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other avenues of communication surprised me. PBS had a two hour story about Facebook communication and the story told about attempts to increase hatred in various places including countries in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific.  

A key word in this increase in attempts to communicate, exemplify and persuade is the noun "influencer".  I first ran into the word about 6 months ago in something like the sentence "Many Chinese youth want to be influencers when they grow up."  If you put the term into your favorite search engine or search for books in online booksellers or libraries, you can quickly come to a rough understanding.  I recommend translating the word into "one's favorite online commentator". Suppose I start looking at Gertrude's weekly vlog (video blog) and I try the face cream Gertrude recommends.  I like it and it does seem to make me look young and handsome. Pretty soon, I am paying more attention to Gertrude's comments on politics, clothes and climate change. Gertrude is an influencer. From what I read this morning, Gertrude can successfully charge $200 for a mention and demo of a product in her vlog if she has 2,000 to 10,000 followers (subscribers) and twice that for 5 to 10 times that many followers.   

I am not paid by anyone for any sort of mention.  I could simply write for myself in an old-fashioned diary.  I do value the comments, reactions and extensions of ideas that come my way from readers of my blog.  The blog does continue to appear on its own web page, where there are snippets of other blogs I like. I do mention products that I like, such as books I read or electronic readers I read them in.  I think it would be quite possible to move Fear, Fun and Filoz to a different platform (supporting company) than Google Blogger.

You can see the potential for vastly increased traffic and demand for email, blog communication and the possibility of more problems emailing each post.  Stay tuned. I had no problems that I know of this morning and I did switch from four batches to five. In this email, I have inserted no pictures and no links but sending out copies may not always be possible.

Friday, August 23, 2019

There is more than just a caption

I am re-listening to Prof. Dan Gilbert of Harvard psychology read his "Stumbling on Happiness".  I remember the book as his rundown of evidence that we generally are not very good at predicting what will make us happy or at how happy something will make us.  He was talking about predictions and about comparisons of events. Were we happier when this happened or when that happened? Very slippery question!

He commented that events are like movies but have even more dimensions, also known as important variables.  They take place over time, they involve sights, sounds, smells, timing and many aspects, but what gets stored in our memory is more of a synopsis containing what we take to be the "main ideas" of the event.  We attended the wedding and were wowed by the beauty of the bride but we have no memory of what tie the pastor wore. Gilbert memorably said that synopses of movies are stored but not the full movie. When we are searching, we don't want to sit through several entire movies.  We just want a quick summary of the "main points" of the movies. We realize that quick summaries are not going to include what tie the pastor or the bad guy wore. We can't store the whole movie in our heads. There isn't enough storage room. We store captions of pictures but not the detailed pixels.

It is no wonder that some Trivia players have to take movie notes on the make of the getaway car and the amount of money stolen.  There is too much information to remember it all. That is the way our memories work: summaries of what seems important at the time.

In "Breath by Breath", Larry Rosenberg tried to avoid fidgeting in a group meditation when he was bitten by a mosquito.  The bite itched but he didn't want to move or scratch. He found that if he attended to the exact sensations that darned bite produced, they were surprisingly complex, unstable and interesting.  The itch comes and goes. It waxes and wanes but it is not steady or unchanging. Quite surprisingly varied. It is easy to say "I was bitten and it itched" but the reality was much more complicated.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Is it time?

"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."

We have even more things to talk of than the Walrus, the Carpenter and Lewis Carroll.  That guy was unable to watch CNN. He may well have given no thought to the future of democracy or of our home planet.

With such an array of possible topics,distractions and interests, we must be prepared to pare.  Without watching the latest tv show or reading that interesting-sounding book, without tasting all the dishes on the menu, we must march forward, resolute but continually bathed in ignorance of all the alternatives.  Stubbornly asserting our right to try without possessing all the answers and even without all the questions, let's carry on!

Blocked twice so far

I have tried sending to fewer addressees after having this bounce twice.  Bill

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Two of four batches blocked

I send my blog out in four batches.  The contents are identical but, of course, the email addresses differ.  Two of the batches this morning were marked by software some place as spam and were intercepted.  

Here is the text of this morning's blog, minus the one link I included to my own dissertation on my own web site.

I am a little worried about my attitude later. I have been good, mostly, for a long time and I think I am going to be cleared for Heaven in the afterlife.  But the thing is I can get critical. And antsy. I can just see myself noticing downsides to perfectly fine things.  

I do it now.  You show me something good and Zip! Before my next breath, I have noticed something that might be a little wrong, a little disappointing, something that is a bit imperfect or slightly off.  I am listening again to Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychology professor, read his "Stumbling on Happiness" book. It is about the foibles humans have in the matter of finding happiness and I have them all.  

I wrote my dissertation "An Application of Decision Theory to Education" more than 50 years ago but I still recall the comments various researchers made about human reactions.  People tend to have positive or negative reactions nearly instantaneously to just about everything. True, as we age, we often get a bit wise to the wiring and temper those initial impulses to downgrade the deal.  But think of it, all eternity! I mean even peaches and butter creams could get old in that much time.

I can just see me developing a headache and being a headache.  I wonder: 

do people ever get ejected for a poor attitude?  I can see me going downhill overtime attitudently, becoming grumpier and more of a pain to all around me.  I suppose Heavenly authorities have developed some measures to deal with boredom, negativity and all. I wonder if they have some pills or something.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Rocky moments

We went to Lake Superior.  That is where you meet rocks.  They are good for throwing into the water, for taking as souvenirs, for bringing home as paper weights.

This stack of papers are prompts for blog posts.  The stack sits below a window so our rocks help the stack to stay where it should be.  The two on the left are genuine Lake Superior rocks but the one on the right is made of felt by Emily Graf of Sheepish Ewe Sometimes, Graf sews them together in a mat or rug or cushion for a chair. 

Rocks matter.  Our greatgranddaughter collected a batch at the lake but forgot them in our car.  We hastened to get them to her. Our own collection of lake rocks has lasted for years.  

Monday, August 19, 2019

Appealing in 2 dimensions

I was surprised when I looked up cartoon characters that mattered to me.  I first think of Wily E. CoyoteThat's him on the right, facing the Roadrunner.  Wily is fast and persistent but dumb and mechanically limited.  He falls when he means to stay upright, he fails to extinguish flames that he should have and he handles explosives from the Acme Co. insecurely. But what surprised me was the large number of cartoon figures I found on YouTube accompanied by what appeared to be Arabic or Russian writing.

Wily matters to me because my greatgrandson laughed heartily at the poor coyote's mishaps.  Thinking of his pleasure, I thought back to other cartoon characters I have enjoyed. Bugs Bunny, Goofy and Tom and Jerry were ok but I liked more unusual personalities more.  Snagglepuss was cocky and quick-witted.

Much of American media and culture is about speed and winning and boast.  So the little dog, Droopy, stands out. He is described as depressed but he is surprisingly capable, winning races and outwitting bad characters while retaining his slow speech and down-to-earth approach to situations. While looking Droopy up, I discovered that he has a twin brother, Drippy, and a son, Dripple.

There is a Wikipedia article on this guy that may be of interest.

Haughty overconfidence coupled with stupidity and bad luck, fast talk and nonchalance and even slow and clear-eyed views of the world can be learned and verified by well-done and memorable cartoons in any language or culture.  

Sunday, August 18, 2019


I can get a good idea for a blog post or a Google search, only to forget it.  Often, when I forget, I am unable to recall it. The best antidote I have found is making an immediate note.  I considered using my old-fashioned cell phone to make a quick voice recording but I haven't developed the habit sufficiently.  I have been carrying a typical 8x11" sheet of scrap paper folded into sixteenths and a small Palm pen:

It works better if I break off the keychain loop, making the pen even smaller and more pocketable.  

It is surprising how smoothly and rapidly the mind moves from one thing to another.  Once I get an idea, I can remember it if I make a note quickly, but there are many ways and things that can intercede. Distractions abound.  

Between alternative things to think about that come from my head and purposely colorful distractions from life around me, it is fairly easy to lose something from my mind permanently that seems valuable.  As I sit here composing, I hear music. What is playing? Who is playing that music? If I were using visiting a high traffic web site, I might find that what I was reading was suddenly covered by an ad or an article about something entirely different.  

It surprises me how many distractions there are around me.  The phone rings. Go check if it is someone I have been trying to talk to.  I don't recognize the number. Try to memorize it and look and see if that number is in my contacts.  Now what was the interesting idea I had? Gone, baby, permanently gone. 

Having been alerted by repeated events, modern practices around here and on the internet, I have gotten interested in distractions.  My wife asks me to take out the trash. "Dear, you look so good in that top! The color goes with those slacks and with your skin tone."  Slip in the right comment and maybe she will automatically take out the trash herself while she basks in her excellent choice of clothes for the day.  Apollo Robbins, that expert pickpocket and reliever of watches and wallets, shows that the right comment, the misdirecting gesture and I will forget what I wanted to think about and begin thinking about something else. 

You want to talk about gun control?  I am glad you brought that up! I like the way you stick to your agenda and keep our attention on issues that matter.  Your fix on what matters reminds me of what my sainted mother used to tell me as a boy: Don't slip and slide! Hew to the line! Let's get back to this when we meet again.  Sorry, that is all the time I have right now.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Gutenberg to Google"

I just finished "From Gutenberg to Google" by Tom Wheeler.  I also read his "Mr. Lincoln's T-mails" and Elizabeth Eisenstein's "Divine Art, Infernal Machine".  I have posted the hightlights I made in Gutenberg here:

I enjoyed the book more than I expected to.  I have read some of Elizabeth Eisenstein's "Divine Art, Infernal Machine" but I feel I have grasped more about moving from writing by hand to printing from Wheeler's Gutenberg.  

In today's world, how could print be exciting?  It's so commonplace, so static. Both Eisenstein and Wheeler explain that the cost of a book when written by hand was high but much cheaper when printed.  It seems natural to me to think of moveable type, but at first the notion was to make a block to print a whole page and then a new block for the next page.  People are reported to be so astounded that a given page in one copy was identical to the same page in another copy, that they figured the producers of this stuff HAD to be in league with the devil.  They weren't kidding! The printers were reported to the police for witchcraft and deviltry.

I learned that Martin Luther, much like Lincoln and the telegraph in Wheeler's other book, happened to post his complaints about indulgences at the time the printing press was available.  I didn't know that earlier complaints had been made but without the printing press or the notion of using it, those earlier complaints had gone nowhere. With the press, all of Germany had good access to the Luther theses within 15 days of their creation.  Those ideas and the speed of their spread resulted in 200 years of warfare, bloodshed and realignment of religious and polticial forces.

Wheeler does a lovely job of explaining that the telegraph and the train moving people and goods were literally unbelieveable.  People worried about the physical effects on their bodies of transporting themselves at (wait for it) 25 miles an hour!!! At a time when most people MIGHT have heard of something called electricity, word spread that messages were being sent by lightening.  It was said that messages and information could be sent across the US in less than a minute. Had to be bull!

Then, just as we were getting used to all this, along comes Marconi with his wireless, sending voice right through the air.  The air! More deviltry! Where will it all end?

Wheeler explains that all of the networks that have grown up, have tended to be centralized, much like today's hub airplane paths.  If we have a few central hangars where we can repair and shuffle passengers, we can cover vast areas with our services. But with the internet and with ubiquitous computers and smartphones, more and more of us can communicate quickly and cheaply with more and more of us. True, some of the communication may be porn or insults or hatred but much of it will not be.  In the last week, as many people looked at this blog from outside the US as looked at the blog page from inside. I have no idea if they gained from looking at it or even read it or even can read English. But not for the first time, things are changing.

Friday, August 16, 2019

An unhealthy diversity of interests

A friend was told she had an unhealthy diversity of interests.  If I get told that, I may consider the statement but I may also ignore it.  I would likely be affected by my feelings toward the teller. Whatever I felt or had recently about the person making the statement, I might be able to shorten my reflection time by asking myself what I felt about my interests.  I guess I would add in thinking about my concentration.

Am I a flitter?  Do I run from interest to interest, leaving too much undone, half done?  Since I am old enough to have had many interests, which I take to mean many things to look at, engage in, consider, I probably have had enough experience to have a grounded judgment about my behavior.  I have several credentials as an interested reader. But my parents and grandparents did not accuse me of reading too much nor of jumping from subject to subject nor flitting around among different books too much.

There is a great deal of writing on the subject of mental concentration and focus.  Much meditation language is about focusing on a single anchor but usually the anchor is an arbitrary point that, in itself, is meaningless.  It seems to me that practicing a strong focus and awareness of a single point tends to increase my ability to notice when my attention moves to something else.  For 10 minutes or so, being more aware of what I am attending to produces greater mindfulness that continues on after the practice session.

However, that single point practice often morphs over time into using a different focus, my attention itself.  If I can watch my mind's associations, its chaining from one topic to another is amazing. Take my grandmother.  I can see her now. I can move from her diminutive stature to her smoking, her comments, her history, her opinions, her love of the drama of professional wrestling on the fun new box, that 10" television set, you know, the box that weighed almost as much as she did.  Should I avoid thinking about my grandmother? Should you? Are you experiencing an unhealthy diversity of interests as you allow yourself to think of my grandmother?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

We are back

Our trip went well. 79 yr olds thinking they are 80 while taking three elementary-school-aged greatgrandkids here and there among forests, lakes, hills and memories is a great way to spend a few days.  Now the few days are spent and we are onto a more typical daily schedule. More over the next few days.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A golden opportunity

Warning! Warning!  You aren't doing what we want.  We have advised you to take certain steps but you are continuing to not take them.  It would be better if you would click here, take our advice, answer our questions, and buy the very special offers we offer you when we offer them.  You must realize, after repeated warnings, that these special products will not be available at these special prices for very long. Please spend your money on what we advise and please let your friends know how happy you are to have taken our advice.

We have given advice to many people.  Why you lang behind in accepting our suggestions is a mystery.  It is possible that you will not continue to receive our advice if you accept messages we compose and send at our expense but fail to take the steps we earnestly advise.  You must not expect to have our advice comes at no cost while you continue to fail to follow our suggestions.  

You have the opportunity now to correct your course.  You can establish a new and impressive record of following our advice carefully and closely.  Why not seize this wonderful chance to change for the better? Your grandparents and their brothers and sisters, ancestors who contributed to this great country would be so proud if you build a solid record of doing what we advise.

This is the time to put the shameful, non-compliant past behind you and step forth into a bright future of doing what, in your heart, you know we deeply want.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Where did they put the brie?

We have three major grocery stories in our town of 25,000.  All of them are owned by chains headquartered elsewhere. Two of the three have recently undergone renovation and redesign of their layouts.  So that is why you can see people wandering the aisles with confused or unhappy looks on their faces.  

I used to be able to go into the store, walk to the Triscuits or the nuts, pay and leave.  When the store was still using its old map, there would sometimes be single pages posted at the end of every other aisle listing many of the main items people buy and the aisle number where they can be found.

Now, we are all confused and this is the time that the location sheets are missing!!  I assume the new operation is data-driven. Let's move the sugar to where the cooking oil used to be because data shows that the sales of cooking oil rise a bit when it is shelved nearer the back of the store.  I suppose the store app will give me the location of the cashews but I don't have a smartphone and I am not getting one. I have shopped in the local store for 20 years and we have not had a serious re-design before.  I hope it is at least that long before we have another one.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Why write

My friend started her own blog, "Where's my watch?".  She is writing about her life, her thoughts and her career.  I email my blog to about 70 people daily. Mind you, emailing to them is not the same as their reading my post.  Reading my post is not the same as them enjoying it or being inspired or aided in any way by it. 

I asked her why she writes and her answer reminded me of my own thoughts.  Karen Maezen Miller, a Zen teacher, posted a comment the other day from George Orwell, "seeing what is right in front of you takes unremitting effort."  Maybe, maybe not. If you think you know what is right in front of you, you might not notice some detail that seems unimportant. I am still roaming around in ideas of attending and noticing, as well as thinking about mind wandering.  I have read lots of books about attending, focusing and being aware but only one, I think, about mind-wandering, The Wandering Mind: What the Brain Does When You're Not Looking by Michael C. Corballis, a retired New Zealand psych. Professor.

The other day I was thinking about gazing and attention.  I thought of a 5 pointed star.It has 5 points that jut out from the body, each made of two short sides.  There are those 10 line segments. There are five points and five internal places where one side starts and another stops.  Ten lines and ten points for a total of 20 items. 2^20 =1,048,576 possible selections from all those items. So, a person who wanted to look at parts of the image might very well dwell on different subsets of what is there for over a million days.  That would give the person more than 2800 years of gazing targets. No wonder you select different aspects of the scene to fix on than what I choose.

That is just a simple 5 pointed star.  A whole day is much more complicated that the diagram.  I might see more money matters in my day than you see, or more environmental themes or note more social or meal-related themes.  If I had the same day twice, I might well stumble onto different subjects on the two versions of the day.  

Between my brain and my keyboard, I use different skills and neurons when I write about a theme or an idea than when I sit still and think.  It is fun and valuable to run through a set of ideas, turn them into what seem to be descriptive words, and get them on a blog page.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Infant vs. elder

Some of my friends or their mates are frail.  Babies seem fragile. "Frail" is "easily broken" and "fragile" is "easily broken, too.  I am wondering whether a 2 yr old or a 98 yr old needs the most care. I realize that most 98 yr olds have had a driving license but now cannot drive.  I am confident that not a single 2 yr. has ever driven a car. The 98 yr old may know that he used to drive and he may be in a bad mood about no longer being able or legally allowed to drive.  

If the elder is losing mental capacities, especially if they come and go, he might think that he can do some electrical work or use a hunting rifle when in fact he can't successfully.  The 2 yr. old would not normally have any idea about electricity or guns but that doesn't mean of course that he isn't going to tug on the trigger or put a metal nail file into a wall socket.

I have not had much intimate care duties of a 2 yr old nor any at all of an elderly man.  I can see similarities between a little kid and an elderly man in both behavior and care needs.  The baby may just explore everything continuously but the elder may get ideas, notions or irritations that propel his behavior or speech. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Recognition by fob

When I got my new car, I was also given a fob.  I suppose the head of the key that doesn't fit in a keyhole just kept being made larger and larger while the teeth of the key became obsolete. Eventually, I have a simple chunk of metal and electronic components that is rather heavy and expensive and makes my pants bulge oddly. 

I got plenty from reading "Incognito", a book that convinced me that my conscious mind is limited and that other parts of my brain and body can do things without my deciding to do them.  My best example has been moving the trash can in this room to a different location and then finding myself tossing a ball of paper over where the trash can used to be.

With the fob in my pocket or my hand, the car "recognizes" me.  If I try to open the door without the fob, nothing. With it, the door opens.  My hands and arms are used to finding the ignition switch and inserting the key properly.  Now there is just a button: press it (with my foot pressing on the brake) and the engine starts.  Again, without the fob close by, nothing.  

I seem to be developing a close relation with my sweet car.  It knows me and it likes me, only me.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Daniel Boone problem

I read years ago that when Daniel Boone spotted smoke from a new cabin's chimney only five miles away, he decided his neighborhood was getting too crowded.  I just read Wikipedia that the story is not true and that he was an important frontier citizen in several locales. I thought "the Daniel Boone problem" was how much citizen density one could take, but the whole thing seems to be hokum visited an innocent little boy and his imagination.  

I read that Camus said that hell is other people but when I checked with Google, I found that Sartre said that, not Camus.  But Sartre wrote the line in a play where three people have just discovered themselves to be in hell, where they were taught there would be fire and torture but learn that they are going to have to be among the company of the other people forever.

Pocket, the new page service in the Firefox browser, showed me this article today:

There seem to be many people trying to decide if they are too alone, have too much solitude, are alone too little, need more solitude.  It might be helpful to distinguish being alone with one's self and no one else, from being rather near others but without speech or other communication.  There is also the situation where one is among others, but they are talking with others only, as on a crowded busy street.

Lynn has been attending Quaker meeting since the early 90's.  The Quakers were interested in doing without the religious middlemen and sought a direct relation with God.  You can be among hundreds of Quakers and find everyone being still and quiet. Lynn also benefits from full solitude, where one is alone by oneself in a field or forest.

Personally, I can enjoy paying attention to another or a group of others without speaking.  Just looking at each other off and on can be quite satisfying. In a still group that is silently meditating and not paying attention to the presence of others, there can be both awareness of others and strong solitude. Hunters in a stand may be very quiet and still while being totally conscious of others in the group.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Mid Day of Summer

Today is the middle of summer.  Well, it's close. I guess the more specific way to calculate it is to get the date and time of the spring equinox and the date and time of the fall equinox.  Take half of that and add that amount of time to the spring date and time. Google tells me that the fall equinox will occur at 2:50 AM on Monday, September 23.  But I think of the 21st of March, June, September and December as the beginning of the seasons. Taking the 2nd month after each of these (May, August, November and February), I take the 4th day of those months as the mid point of the season.  

It seems reasonable to me that the 2nd half of summer would be hotter than the first half, what with heat deep in the land and stones and water.  I just saw an article that the last couple of summers in the northern hemisphere were hotter in the first half. I don't know what is predicted for the US Midwest this year.  I know that August, September and October are often months when big storms rise up in the Carribean area. I hope we don't have that this year but I am not especially optimistic.  

A couple of weeks ago, we had serious weather conditions in central Wisconsin.  A macroburst created very damaging winds, which knocked down large numbers of trees.  Just losing a good tree is quite unpleasant but it is much worse to have a tree crush a car or a garage or a house.  Falling trees broke many power lines, leaving people with no electricity. I realize that the pioneers had no electricity and survived but we aren't pioneers.  We were without juice for about 50 hours straight and we lost quite a bit of frozen meat and vegetables. It would be nice to not have that happen again for another quarter century.  

Sunday, August 4, 2019

"The odds were stacked against me"

"The odds were stacked against me."  I read that sentence recently. It can be surprising that odds are stacked against us in so many things.  It is true that the calculation of odd depends on the event we are talking about. The chance that I lived thru yesterday is 100%.  The probability that I live through today seems like it is less than 100%. That event is uncertain.

Reading The Tangled Wing by Prof. Melvin Konner years ago, I got a picture of the processes that go on in the developing fetus.  He described a nerve connection that needed to arc across the whole brain and connect up to an exact spot way on the other side.  A miss would result in a serious impairment. That sort of thinking made me search Google with the question "What % of American babies are born with handicaps?" I found this:

What are Birth Defects? | CDC

Birth defects are common, costly, and critical conditions that affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. Read more about what we have learned about birth defects and how women can improve their chances of having a baby born without a birth defect.

The chance, the probability, the odds depend on what gets counted.  What gets counted depends on definition of terms. The counting depends on recognition as well.  If I keep an ace up my sleeve, it might not get counted.  

So the odds could be stated to be 32:1 that a fetus develops without a birth defect. But I notice a slight change in language: I searched about handicaps and got a result about birth defects.  I suppose if I am born and classified as not having any "birth defects" but die of alcoholism at age 50, I might have been classified as having a handicap if science and prediction were better and could see further.

Because readers of this blog have reached birth, I got to wondering what are the chances that a fertilized egg implants properly in the womb.  I have read that the chances are not good:

It is widely accepted that natural human embryo mortality is high, particularly during the first weeks after fertilisation, with total prenatal losses of 70% and higher frequently claimed.

Early embryo mortality in natural human reproduction: What the data say

Gavin E. Jarvisa

So the odds were stacked against us even making it to and through birth! I have read many times that women live longer than men.  

The numbers don't lie: women tend to live longer than men. The average American man will live to age 76, according to the latest CDC figures, while the average woman in America will live to age 81

So, you might label me as handicapped for being born male.

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