Saturday, November 30, 2019

Catalogs and calendars

When we have Thanksgiving at our house, 12 people attend.  Lynn takes care of the charity donations we make. Thus, she gets calendars from all over.  She also buys things online and so she gets catalogs, especially in the holiday season. She saves up both calendars and catalogs and those waiting for the turkey to cook spend time looking through catalogs and choosing calendars for the coming year.  

It was not exactly one of those scenes where Pilgrim men sit at a table wearing their hats along with Pilgrim women, intersperced with Native Americans.  It is more of a mixture of shock at some of the dress prices, laughing at the wit of t-shirt slogans and planning who might buy what for whom.  

She gets enough calendars that there are still some left when everyone has taken what they want.  Some people take more than one calendar, for the kitchen, office and/or bedroom. Most of the calendars show all the pictures used inside on the back, where one can judge the beauty and awe and inspiration of the Grand Canyon at sunrise vs. cute baby birds yawning wide for food.  If you are looking for a simple, unadorned calendar, you can find some nice printable ones with a search for something like "2020 calendar". 

One of the catalogs that occupy our attention for a quite while comes from  That is because they sell t-shirts with clever sayings. I like "There are 10 types of people in the world: those that understand binary and those that don't."  I laugh when I see this one, too:

Friday, November 29, 2019

Nikki Lilly on YouTube

Just yesterday,  I found out about Nikki Lilly, a teen-ager who has a million followers of her You-Tube channel.  She lives in Britain and has a medical condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM) – a tangle of blood vessels.  The condition is serious and affects her health and her appearance.  

At the age of six, she took to making videos on You-Tube and has been passionate about them ever since.  She has won awards in Britain for the quality and spirit of her material and the humor and vitality she exhibits on her site and YouTube videos.  If you want to see what optimism and honesty and openness can accomplish, look her up. Viewing and understanding what this young woman is and what she has accomplished may give you pause about today's world.  With 24 hour a day, continuous connection to everyone and everything, it is easy to subscribe to notions that everything is down and sinking. She focuses on makeup and beauty. You may want to watch the video of her having her brother apply her makeup to her.

I have mentioned the book "Haters" by Bailey Poland.  Just now, in looking up the author's name, I found plenty of fiction and non-fiction about haters, hating and related subjects.  Nikki Lilly started her YouTube work with the comments section turned off to avoid nasty comments and put-downs. Over time, she found she enjoyed getting comments and several of the ones I saw were complimentary and uplifting.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Common wisdom - consider the opposite

Many levels and types of schools try to teach "critical thinking".  I just looked up the term and I find definitions and examples that don't always match.  I take critical thinking to be thinking critically, trying to notice statements that don't seem to ring true, statements that seem to contradict one's own experience, statements that are not supported by evidence.  I find it helpful to state ideas or assertions in clear English and then ask Byron Katie's question: "Is it true?"

So, where do I get this common wisdom?  Where do I find the widely accepted ideas that make up common truths, accepted notions?  Ok, there is no one place. But you can look. You can make a list of what different news sources, books of philosophy, what comes to mind from memories of your childhood and your parents and grandparents.  I find a major clue is repetition. When something gets repeated often enough that you notice that you have heard or read that before, you have probably uncovered a bit of commonly accepted information.

It says in Ecclesiastes to try hard.  Ok, it actually says in the King James Bible: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."  My experience is that most parents, coaches and uncles and aunts agree: Work hard.  

So, apply critical thinking.  What if I don't work hard? What if I work soft, easy, lightly, sporadically, sloppily?  If you think about it, you may find things you have accomplished, or found or achieved that you didn't work at but which were a success. Many thinkers have found that considering the opposite of accepted ideas can result in being ridiculed, disliked, ignored.  It can certainly happen that a thorough evaluation of an accepted idea shows that it is an excellent principle, one that you support yourself.

Two of the most commonly spread ideas I run into today are

  • The US is in trouble because of overly deep political divisions

  • The earth is in trouble because of overheating, overpopulation of humans and their activities

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A/B testing

In my studies about research and how to conduct it, "theory" has often been emphasized.  The basic idea was that a good theory would function as a guide and a plan. I was in a group of men that served as data analysis coaches in a statistics lab.  In that time and place, there were no computers available. Our lab was filled with big, clunky typewriter-sized calculators. A statistical analysis was carried out by doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division on our calculations.  

One day, two earnest men came in with big sheets covered with small, handwritten numbers.  They were grad students at Georgetown University and they had "sacrificed" one lab rat a day for 30 or so days.  Each rat body was analyzed in many ways and the men had written down the readings on a large number of variables from each body.  They wanted to know what we could find in the data. We listened and then rejected the analysis plan as a "fishing trip." That was our term for a more or less hopeless search through a mishmash of numbers.  As on a fishing trip, maybe you will catch something but maybe not.  

One of the most helpful books I have read is "Too Big to Know" by David Weinberger.  The book explores the situation of today when all sorts of voices and opinions get expressed by people with all sorts of levels of knowledge, with many different agendas and motivations.  "Too Big to Know" refers to the world, knowledge and the internet. Weinberger is a technologist at Harvard. He recently came out with a new book "Everyday Chaos". I haven't read too far in it but it seems headed in the direction of the death of, or at least less attention to, theory.  

He describes an ad with a woman's picture on the right (A) and another version of the same ad but with the picture on the left (B).  In this case, one arrangement harvested much more response. That's good. A theory-based researcher might well want to know why the difference in responses.  The point is that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) are methods using complex machines that blindly find results, but that run through such totally enormous sets of data that no human in a human lifetime can duplicate their work.  The machines find a pattern but they don't "understand" and they don't "explain".  

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Sex is dirty

I read long ago that God must be a sanitation engineer.  Only someone with that background would run a sewer line through such a great recreational area.  We are reading "Leaving the Witness" by Amber Scorah. Again, strong belief in a creed coupled with life experience and contact with other ideas resulted in changes.  A friend compared this popular and award-winning book to the even more popular and excellent book by Tara Westover, "Educated".  

It is easy to notice that many cultures and groups treat sex as a dynamite topic, which can be surprising when compared to the fact that every human being, as well as most other types of animals get their start with and by sexual activity.  I guess that among humans, sex, procreation and new families and family relations, are iffy topics for many reasons. A nice couple has a nice baby only to have the kid grow up and MARRY!!. Not only marry but look at the choice of partners!  Do we really want to share our lovely, loving family with that strange new person our kid picked up?  

I was surprised to find "She" by the psychologist Robert A. Johnson could show such a long history of stories of bride/mother-in-law conflict.  Not only can sex and attraction and love and devotion lead to difficulties but there is also the matter of career. In America and all over the world, people are letting girls know that they can and should become the CEO of a giant corporation, preferably by age, say, 41.  So, girls all over the world are saying "Whoa, Tiger, where's the condom? I can't fulfill my daddy/mommy/grandmother's dream of my giant, commercial, political, artistic, scientific success if you start 4 or 5 children in me when I am still in my 20's."

Search Results

Featured snippet from the web

Image result for Is the birth rate dropping worldwide
There has been a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having, say researchers. Their report found fertility rate falls meant nearly half of countries were now facing a "baby bust" - meaning there are insufficient children to maintain their population size.Nov 9, 2018

I have never been an attractive woman, but I get the feeling that attraction and sex are sufficiently important that we simply are not going to do away with sex, powerful and anatomical and intimate as it is.  We will continue to wear loin clothes and debate and deflect and distract because sex is dynamite!

Monday, November 25, 2019

What will I do?

What will I do (with myself)? This is a question young people ask as they approach graduation from high school or college.  I thought I didn't have enough money for college so as high school was ending, I thought I would apply to be in the US Navy.  My high school homeroom teacher asked us to write down what we planned to do. He told my guidance counselor who advised me not to join the Navy but to go to college.  I told my mother their advice and she said to check with the teachers' college up the road. Following that advice laid down much of the rest of my life.  

It was actually helpful that Maryland required a master's degree within 10 years of the bachelor's and it was helpful that I disliked my introductory courses in preparation for teaching.  Starting on a master's, doing well in statistics and being interested in improving education and teacher training combined to lead me into a PhD program in testing, statistics and experimental design.  The degree led me through a course in the history of higher ed and a job search that ended in teaching in the Education department of a Wisconsin university for 37 years.  

My greatgrandson is just beginning on his journey through life.  His first step is to learn welding. My daughter is approaching retirement with a long marriage to a man who is already retired.  My friend and former doctoral student has said a couple of times that she is not finding retirement to be just what she expected. At times, they all ask "What will I do? How will I spend my time?  What will my life like?"

The book "What Color is Your Parachute?" is well-known as a source for exploring job and career possibilities.  Richard Bolles, an Episcopal minister, also wrote "The Three Boxes of Life" about education, work and retirement.  I used to have a copy but I gave it away. I just ordered another copy.

When I hear a college student say "maybe I don't want to do that for the rest of my life", I try to persuade them to drop the "rest of life" search and look for something that seems interesting and possible for now, or soon.  Life is too complicated and possibilities emerge and disappear too often to be all that certain of plans longer than 5 or 10 years in the future. When I began teaching, I certainly had no idea that much of my last years would be spent in front of television cameras teaching large classes of students I couldn't see and would never meet.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


It may have been the last 10,000 years that writing was developed.  Yet, speech, talking, spoken language is much older. Whether speaking or writing, the subject of "voice" often comes up.  With speaking, we can hear the pitch of the voice, a high note or a low one. In Western opera, the tenor is often the lover, maybe because a younger man will often not have developed the gravely, very deep voice of an older man.  With writing, by "voice", what is being referred to is often the personality and maybe the character of the speaker, narrator or source of the written words. If an actor delivers all of his lines from the side of his mouth, as though he wants to hide that he is speaking and remained mostly unnoticed, the audience understands that he is not seeking the limelight.  He may be a person sought by the authorities. He may be unreliable or dangerous or both.

Voice, manner and speed of speaking, choice of words ["We found a body" vs. "We came to a bloody, stinking smear of a body"] all add up to information and impression, much like what we get by looking at the face, the gait and gestures, the posture.  Some people say that a person's scent has an important effect on whether one likes that person or not. I don't usually have a feeling of reaction to a person's scent but the speaking voice is different. Just as a tune played on a trumpet, a flute or a guitar will strike me differently, so a person's speaking voice seems to affect how I feel about the speaker.  

Just hearing a voice for the first time is different from hearing that same person speaking many times a year for years and years.  I am impressed with how few words a person can speak on the phone before I recognize who is talking.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Buying and hauling clay

Lynn goes through a lot of clay, making mugs, vases and bowls, as well as sculptures now and then.  Her most frequent source of clay to work with is a clay company outside of Madison. Clay is heavy so it is costly to ship and it is cold outside so a shipment would be hurt if the boxes are left outside to freeze.  It is the holiday season and she needed more clay. So, yesterday we drove to Madison and bought a couple of hundred pounds. It was loaded into her SUV, we had lunch and drove back.  

She lived in a studio apartment for her three years of doctoral studies several decades ago and we both became familiar with the capital city then.  We don't get down there very often so it is a pleasure to see old sights and drive familiar streets.  

I offered to drive some or all of the trip, but she is critical of my driving and likes to drive herself.  I did read some of Braiding Sweetgrass and some of Leaving the Witness to her. She drove the whole time, both ways. 

We had lunch in the Great Dane.  Madison is located in Dane county.  Some of my friends are of Danish descent although it seems to me that Scandinavians are similar to one another, no matter which Nordic country they are from.  Lynn is of Finnish descent and some measures and traditions say that the Finns are the most different from the other Nordics: Swedes, Norwegians and Danes. Part of the territory of England, more or less across the English channel from Denmark was once the "Danegeld", the area where Danish money was the currency.  The family name Kirby is related to the Danish language, from back in the 800's when Danes invaded and controlled parts of England. 

The potter's clay comes in 50 lb. boxes, with 25 lbs. in each of two plastic bags.  It is dense so that even carrying just a single 25 lb bag down to her ceramics area is a little tiring and precarious.  We both feel better when it is all safely stowed in her studio. This time we didn't ask our large and strong son-in-law or greatgrandson to carry it for us.  

Friday, November 22, 2019

Feminine gestures

There is a picture of a woman at a computer wearing a headset that I see when I pay our bills.  She has her head strongly tilted to the side. Just today, I purchased "Delusions of Gender" by Prof. Cordelia Fine.  I am interested in the similarities and differences between men and women today. Sure, I know that big hairy cavemen grabbed women by the hair and dragged them into their caves but in today's world, such behavior is generally frowned on. Still, women have many experiences that I don't and I suspect that I have different feelings, at least most of the time, from those of many women. 

I am the father of two girls and I am married to a woman.  I was actually borne by a woman! I have a sister but no brother.  I taught the 5th grade for 4 years and that means I trained for teaching among women, who are 89% of the American elementary teachers.  I expect that Prof. Cordelia Fine and many others want to support the notion that today's men and women are basically the same except for social expectations.  We are experiencing the emergence of women in many fields, all over the world. More and more, we are hearing that men and women are basically the same and each sex can do anything the other can do.

What they CAN do and what as young, middle-aged and elderly adults, they WANT to do may be quite different.  This whole matter of the equality of women and perhaps the interchangeability of men and women reminds me of some stories I heard from new parents 20 or 30 years ago.  Some young parents were especially interested in emphasizing that their son was not burdened by male stereotypes and sometimes went to special efforts to give their son what they perceived to be sex-free and gender-neutral toys.  Stories emerged that despite parental efforts to keep military tanks and toy guns out of the boy's toys, they found him "shooting" enemies and being brave and soldierly.

I try to stay alert to body movements and gestures that seem gender-related.  Tilting one's head to the side seems a particularly feminine movement.

I saw a woman professor quickly flex both knees as a gesture of emphatic feeling while speaking to a group but I have never seen a man do that.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fire, arrows and spreadsheets

We live in a cold place so I am grateful for fire technology, from a match, a bow or a spark.  
The bow drill is an ancient tool for making fire. The bow rotates the drill, and the friction produces enough heat to start a fire. Tie each end of the string to the ends of the bow. Wrap the string once around the drill.

I was paying my bills this morning and got to thinking about inventions I am grateful for.  I read "Catching Fire" by Wrangham, not the book about the Hunger Games but one about the result for humans of cooking.  When I think of inventions I am grateful for, fire methods come to mind. I was keeping track of my bills with a spreadsheet and thinking how rarely I make a mistake.  That is because of the spreadsheet.  

Her skill and tools turn clay into this:
And fire turns it into this
What other inventions am I grateful for? Way, way too many things to list.  Electricity, tv, ebooks, cars, hypodermic needles, anesthetics, antibiotics, etc, etc,etc.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

You already own this item

I went to a discussion of Michele Obama's "Becoming" the other day. A person in the group mentioned "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt as a book that really helped in understanding those with political or religious views strongly different from one's own.  That sort of personal, direct recommendation has often paid off for me and I memorized the title, telling myself to take a look at the book. I did remember the title and looked up the book. I got the message "You already own this item". In fact, I had bought the book in 2014.

I don't spend much time on poetry but sometimes, it comes up.  Excellent poetry can make my day. I get lifts from Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Ogden Nash, George Bilgere.  I have run into a couple of mentions of Billy Collins' "The Rain in Portugal." Again, I remembered the title.  Again, I thought I would treat myself to the book. Again, I found Amazon wouldn't sell it to me. "You already own this item." I bought the book in 2016.  

I am approaching 3,000 books in my Kindle archive.  I don't expect myself to remember every item I have purchased.  I get two or three Kindle ads per day. Most days, I have the patience to look at what is offered with some calm, rather than just deleting.  Sometimes, something I want is offered at a very low price. Still, I think it is a good sign that Amazon has the coding in place to block a 2nd purchase of something I already own. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Google's stuff

Some of my friends have difficulty with their computers.  I suspect one cause may be confusion about various terms.  When I think of older people using computers, I imagine just a few goals: email, browsing, calculation.  I often urge friends to explore the power of a Gmail logon and password. There are a billion "active users" of Gmail.  Given that there are 7.5 billion people altogether, that figure says that about 13% of the world population uses Google stuff. 

But that is not the point.  The point is that when a user signs into a Gmail account, they are already signed in on that computer to many valuable services, all of which are free.  Ok, nothing is totally free. Just signing in uses up a small part of one's remaining time alive. Quite a few of my friends are wary of anything about Google since they have heard that Google saves all sorts of information about every use of every one of their services.  I retort that I find that Google doesn't track me enough and that I want more attention paid to my every breath. My friends are not amused.  

My point is that a single logon/username and password are sufficient to use all Google services.  I don't always know what to call all the things that Google can provide: Products? Services? Apps?  I point friends to the Google Launcher in the upper right corner of the Gmail Inbox, on a computer, not a smartphone or tablet.  There is a big difference between using a phone and a computer. If you don't have a computer, I highly recommend getting one. You can get very serviceable ones for the same price as many smartphones.  

So, what can you get with Google?  The main thing, as far as I am concerned is that you can use just about any device anywhere. Google uses web pages and connections to the world wide web are everywhere.  It doesn't use software that you have to load onto your computer. So, my iPad, my Mac, my computer, my Chromebook all sign into Gmail the same way to the same thing. I can go to my friend's house and sign into my Gmail and other Google services on his devices.  What other ones?

  • Google Drive - includes Docs (word processing, like Word,), Sheets (like Excel), Slides (like Powerpoint)

  • Google Calendar

  • Google Contacts

  • Google Search

  • Google Voice (for both voice calls and text messages)

  • Google Photos (photo storage)

  • Google Blog (this blog is written in Google Docs, stored on Google Drive and presented by Gmail and Google's Blogspot)

There are probably 20-40 products and services in all, some fairly specialized that might not be of broad interest.  It is true that all computing services are competing with each other so the other computing giants may not make it all that easy to get into Google-land.  Being aware of when you are using Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft can be helpful in understanding use and problems.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Info, memories and associations

Information from the outside, memories of the outside, associations and thoughts can all be floating around in my head.  When I write "outside", I mean the world, both the nearby world of my house and neighborhood and the solar system and the rest of the physical world. My senses include what I see and hear but also tastes and smells and the feel of surfaces.  Those physical senses let me know what's going on, to some extent, even though I can't see some things that exist, like the wi-fi waves that are traveling through the house right now. Memories spring up all the time. We drove from The Inn at the River to Stevens Point this morning.  When I look at the street out the window just now, I remember how the roads looked on that drive.  

We were concerned about road conditions.  In Wisconsin at this time of year, it is only sensible to be on the lookout for weather-related problems.  

Associations are tricky.  I am prompted by thoughts of road conditions to think of road conditions I like and those that I don't.  I see unbidden pictures of giant road chains on giant 18-wheelers' giant tires. Part of me associates the title of the book by Jon Kabat-Zinn with what I have been writing about.  The book is "Coming to Our Senses". I have heard of that book and I suspect I would live better and more fully if I paid better attention to my senses. Did I ever buy that book? Do I already have it in my Kindle library?  [Looked it up and yes, I do have it. Must read it!]

It might be getting older, it might be meditation practices, it might be something else or some combination, but I feel more interest, even a little hunger for meditation.  I was proud of seeing how to enrich my life in just five or ten minutes a day. I looked down on the idea of sitting in meditation for an hour or hours of several days running.  But lately, my senses, my memories, my associations and my thoughts have seemed richer, deeper, more interesting, more satisfying. I can see more value in extended meditation time. 

I have been fooling around with focused attention in a meditative way since about 1980.  I thought I was doing that to increase my awareness of what I was thinking about. If I was obsessing about my hair or my weight, I wanted to notice that I was obsessing and about what.  But now it seems that I actually produce a wider range of sensory observations, memories, associations and thoughts about all of them than I used to. I have also been aware that I am more in the mood to talk to myself than I used to be.  I can quickly question sensory impressions. Vocalizing questions or comments to myself, even in complete silence, seems to pull in a wider range of reactions, questions, realizations.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The afterlife of parents

My parents have been dead for years now and yet I find them still alive and active in my head.  Of course, my grandparents are in there, too. And, yes, I am curious about their own early memories of all four of them.  I never knew my paternal grandparents at all. They died before I was born.  

I guess research tends to find our earliest memories go back to about age 2 ½ but I suspect that feelings of what's right, what I lack, where I shine are more with me than feelings or facts of actual events or speech.  I am interested in the acts of speaking and writing but it occurs to me that I never seem to have received much written communication from my parents.  

There were many times as a boy and as a man, that I disagreed with directives or principles of conduct they supported.  I tended to be an independent thinker and I was and am often motivated by attempts to assist, cheer or obtain admiration.  As a kindergartener, I thought walking back to school after lunch at home would be nicer and more impressive if I donned a pre-tied necktie.  Neckties are decorative and more formal, right? I ignored the fact that I was wearing a "jersey", an upscale t-shirt, whose low collar is not usually worn with a little necktie.  That sort of collar shows the metal clasp behind the neck, an outsized version of the tiny clasp of a high class necklace. This fashion innovation of mine was sufficiently provocative that my teacher phoned my mother to let her know about my sartorial advances.  In this case, I had in fact "improved" my dress without checking with my mom. I was a big boy and didn't need mothering and such.

I have found deep pleasure in libraries and books all my life.  I remember the holiness and concentration and wonder I experienced when my mother took me to the imposing main Enoch Pratt library in downtown Baltimore to obtain my library card.  

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Monster Walk

Yesterday, the physical therapist I have been working with introduced me to the "monster walk".  I guess a lumbering sort of waddle-walk seems ominous and therefore what a monster might do to get himself around.  To do the monster walk, one steps forward but neither straight ahead nor to the side, but in between, about 45° off straight ahead.  One does this sort of walking to strengthen leg, upper thigh and pelvic and abdominal muscles. The therapist says that they are important for joint stability, which means keeping joints, especially the spine, where they should be and not straining them or asking them to move in damaging ways.  

To increase strength, muscles need to be "challenged" or stressed.  Resistance bands, large bands of stretchy plastic, are wonderful for the job.  Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to use and available in all sorts of tension strengths, you can get them online or in retail stores.  Our local Wal-Mart and Target carry them. You can get them in resistances of light, medium and heavy. I bought a selection a few years ago and at the time and with that seller, "gold" bands were the highest resistance.  I just looked up Academy resistance bands and find that they can be purchased in strengths of 50, 60 and even 100 lbs. I recommend you just go light and use whatever an experienced therapist recommends. Some people, especially men, get all gung-ho and strain something or worse.  Naturally, strong irritation, pain and injury put a big damper on plans to be stronger and more fit.

Since the monster walk, going forward and as important or more so, going backward, involves motion, a video can be helpful.  I said to the therapist that I bet the monster walk, with resistance band in place was on YouTube. YouTube seems to have everything and I have a difficult time finding anything that isn't already on there.  She said that monster walks were on many videos and can be searched out.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Disastrous dipsomanic drinkware

Salvador Dali painted "The Persistence of Memory" in 1931.  Who? This man:

What ?  This painting:

You can see that watches more or less melted.  So, you can see why I think this are Salvador Dali-esque mugs:

I have persistently stood up for these objects d'art as the serendipitous warning they are, the artistic happenstance from the gods warning us about temperature, caffeine and alcohol.  I have enlisted the support of a sister artist and am slowly making progress in elevating this treasures from the status of trashy failures to magnificent achievements. The cooperation of two experienced potters went into the creation of these marvels.  Gaze fondly! You won't see their like elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


The caller states that "my social security number has been compromised due to some suspicious activity" and that I need to call him immediately at the number he states repeatedly.  How he knows about this problem is not clear. What the suspicious activity is and what suspicions someone has and who and why are additional topics that are not explored. The caller repeated the urgent message several times and then ended with this statement: "Now, if we don't get a call back immeditately, we will be forced to issue a warrant for your arrest."

So, I have taken to the hills to hide out.  It is quite cold outside and I am unhappy at this development.  It is no fun lugging a pack, a sleeping bag and a camoflage tarp to the hills.  I live far from any hills worth the name so it is a bother. I didn't compromise my account.  I didn't engage in suspicious activity so why is it me that needs to trek back in the hills til this thing blows over?  If you don't hear from me for a while, don't worry. I am trying to nibble on a rabbit and stay warm.

Memories of back then

For our birthdays, the kids and their kids and their kids have made us long lists of things they love about us. To compose several pages of positive memories and traits and comments, multiple heads need to participate.  It is surprising how well a grandmother approaching 60 years of age can remember so clearly being scolded by the teacher in elementary school for forging her parents' signature on a math test. The requirement was to have your parents look at the test and sign that they had seen it.  Ooops! Time to hand in the signed papers and she forgot to get a signature. Oh well, I will just write my parents' name. I did well on the test anyhow so what is the big deal?

The teacher detected the forgery and didn't take the act lightly.  Has the student forgotten ? No, she hasn't. I didn't ask how logical the requirement seemed then or now.  I was also told that misbehavior in the class had earned a loss of recess. The student in question had been sent to the library during the overly-rowdy session.  She was assisting the teacher in alphabetizing cards of borrowed books. The student pleaded her case, pointing out that she wasn't even in the room during the rowdy class.  She was told that the punishment applied to the whole class and the teacher could not make exceptions. 

I am loved because I didn't get angry about the problem of signing the paper.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Muscle memory

A friend was surprised to learn about muscle memory.  He must not have a car that is started with a push button.  If you make a car where a button is pressed to start the engine, what is to prevent the wrong person from pressing it?  Theoretically, a fob.

With the fob in my pocket, I press my foot on the brake and push the start button.  Without the fob, nothing happens. With the fob in my pocket, the car door will open but without it, no entry.  I lived in the big city and used public transportation to date. It wasn't until my junior year in college that I learned to drive.  I have been retired for more than a decade now so learning to drive was many years ago. The whole time, I drove using a metal key to start the engine.  

Get in and insert the key.  My eyes, my feeling of being the driver's seat combine to make me think of the ignition key.  There is no ignition key. It doesn't work that way - anymore. My fob has been doing its job every day for a couple of months now but still, I expect a key.  My hands want a key. There was always a key before. Where is the key?

My muscles, my brain, my nervous system - they can be persistent in their pursuit of the routine, the procedure, the moves they learned.  They are habituated and every time, I get in the car, say 4 to 6 times a day, the body components prompt me to use a key, whether there is a key or not.  I have faith in my ability to learn a new procedure. Some day, I will be at ease with a keyless car.  

Monday, November 11, 2019

paper, phone, email, text messages, links, attachments

Not to mention telegraphs or social media.  I was confident that telegrams can still be sent.  I searched "Send a telegram" and found many sites. One is from PC World (what's a PC? - gosh, you must be old if you know!)

I don't agree that every technology listed in that article is so out-of-date that it is useless.  The world, people and purposes can be quite complex so any blanket statement is bound to need qualification.  We still have archers and blacksmiths, after all. I just wanted to consider the different ways that I might send or receive a message these days.  So, consider paper US mail, email, text messages, links shared and attachments.


The post office still operates.  We have rural free delivery (paid for by taxes) so the mailman drives up to our mailbox, inserts the mail and drives off.  If we have stamped mail in the box, he will take it and send it on its way.

I live in a fairly small town so I can handwrite or computer compose and print out a message on paper and deliver the paper to the house of a friend.


We have a landline, despite the linked article's opinion that we should give it up.  I also have a Google Voice phone number that is handy at times, in addition to my landline home phone number and a cellphone number.  If you call, I may not recognize your number and then I won't answer.


The oldest of the "modern" technologies mentioned in this post.  


This refers to sending a message written in letters and numbers.  People who have a smartphone or a Google Voice number receive a message written on a screen.

 I imagine there are machines that can read text messages aloud if desired.  Often, a text message arrives in a smartphone quietly or with less fanfare and interruption than an email message.  Many people can read a short text nearly instantly and even respond very quickly and briefly. The TED talk by Nancy Lublin reveals how valuable texting can be:


The worldwide web is part of the entire internet and it is well known for its use of hypertext, words or other symbols that also serve as clickable links.  If I am trying to share a large file, say many pages of writing or a long video, I can often send a link to the file instead of trying to transmit that long file.  Normally, the large file resides on a Google or Cloud or OneDrive computer somewhere but clicking on the link connects to that file.


In Gmail, the symbol attaching a file to an email is a paper clip.  So, the wellknown PDF format which tends to be used to send documents that the author doesn't want copied or modified is an example of something that might be attached to an email message.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Digging out interesting memories

Everyone over 60 years old has stories to tell and lived adventures to relate. I admit that some people are not very good storytellers but the memories are there.  Maybe documents, scrapbooks and family pictures can help put the story together. One friend urged another to roust out stories and ideas from his packed, well-educated, experienced mind.  Many of my friends are senior citizens and qualify as experienced.  

It is easy to see how a professor of literature tends to think of literary and classroom experiences as her history and specialization.  However there is more to each of us than our occupational history. It is more or less the same story for someone who has been a train conductor for 40 years.  Sure, the books, the students and the train trips created memories and experiences, many quite fascinating. However, there are always other sides to a person. What about the time the professor was the victim of a carjacking?  What about the book the conductor found left behind on the train that he got into and still remembers? Come to think of it, that book led to other books and he eventually joined the town's library board. It was his forward thinking that made the difference for the library expansion, the installation of meeting rooms and computer kiosks.  He is not just a conductor, you know.

They did get the professor's car back and she recalls having to go to court to relate the whole experience.  

As people age, they drop some ideas, forget some and take some up.  They may be more sympathetic to ideas they once thought outlandish and become less supportive of positions and convictions that once seemed important and valuable.

I realize that dementia, fatigue and boredom can interfere with recall and recording ideas but it does seem to be an unnecessary loss to let old memories and long experience go to waste.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Last week I polished my everyday shoes

They really needed it.  I was once a guy who kept his shoes polished but not now.  Tough weather makes my shoes look rather bad quickly. Once they look rather bad, they don't get much worse.  So, leaving them bad looking is economical even though it is not good for my reputation as a clothes model.

I had been noting the need to polish them every day on a To-Do list and finally got to it.  I should have used a card table or something elevated. Sitting on the floor with more or less straight legs required unusual bending and stressing my back.  It has been hurting since then.

I am tired of using a heating pad, even though I am healing slowly.  Just to check what I have been doing, I paid a visit to Physical Therapy today.  I was prescribed five exercises, one of which I have regularly done before. Now, I am to do a piriformis stretch, a hamstring stretch, side-ways walking, standing on a slant board and doing a yoga-type bridge.  I had similar problems in 2010 and since as described here 

(I put the link in but not as a link in an attempt to avoid tripping spam sensors.) Just about everything I am to do relates to loosening my tendons and increasing my flexibility while trying not to irritate my sciatic nerves.  I have purchased a 15 minute hourglass to use to time myself out of my chair and standing more.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Women investigators feel that discussions of gender tend to be out-of-date

I came across an article this morning about generally held concepts of human gender as opposed to what science has found.  Basically, general notions and some scientific discussions consider male brains and female brains to be quite different. Usually specific differences are expected, such as males are more taciturn and females are more communicative.  The article asked why discussions of gendered brains continue to be based on a notion of permanent, physical differences created by hormones affecting the fetus and early childhood. The authors stated that such a conception has not been supported by studies and that the evidence supports a more individualized experience-based development of characteristics that are very much affected by culture and expectations of others.

One of the authors was Cordelia Fine, a name that sticks in the mind.  Another was Rebecca Jordan-Young, a name new to me. I remembered Fine as the author of "A Mind of Its Own", a book, like "Incognito" by Eagleman, that emphasizes that our brains are not all that under our control, that we get ideas and impulses that we didn't logically deduce would be good to have.  Both Mind and Incognito are about our minds acting like they have minds of their own.  

Prof. Fine is an excellent writer, as demonstrated by this bit of her book:

MY SON, THIRTEEN MONTHS OLD, is crying as if his heart will break. He sobs with his entire body, and I know that in a few seconds he will assume what my husband and I call the tragedy pose. Sure enough, soon he collapses onto the floor and flops forward so that his forehead hits the carpet. I am holding in my hand the accomplice to the act that has obliterated all joy from my son's existence. This object and I, between us, have left no other course available to my young child but to give himself over completely to unmitigated, carpet-drenching grief. I struggle painfully but successfully with the urge to ruin his character forever by returning to him this item upon which, clearly, his entire happiness depends. It is a ballpoint pen.

Fine, Cordelia. A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives (p. 31). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

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