Saturday, June 04, 2005

Words: gremlin

More than 20 years ago, I ran across this word's definition in my American Heritage English Dictionary (AHED), which said the word originated near wartime Gremblin, France, and implying that a nearby brewery somehow contributed to the next day's mechanical problems. Explanation: The planes were afflicted with mythical "gremlins"!

Email: The examined life [SD]

Healthy emotional development usually depends on adequate socialization, but I think on building a sound inner construct foremost. We need to be sensitive and responsive to how others feel, but also stand by our own feelings, beliefs and integrity. (Peer pressure led everyone but me in a group of 40 men back in St. Paul to smoke cigars at social events, but I politely refused due to my principles.) I don't know how people make it in life without one or more close friends or confidantes. Finding your happiness and finding good friends should be among your highest personal priorities. I couldn't live much less survive without that kind of foundation to stand on. If you stay at home all the time -- though I know you are also involved with a good church... Well it is hard to say... Basically, everyone needs to tend to their basic needs as well as to grow... I would say don't neglect your personal and home life, but you need friends and to get out too...

Email: The examined life [SD]

People always ask the question "What is normal? Normal for one person is abnormal for another." But it depends on what specific examples you have in mind. We all need oxygen -- that is normal! Other things are simply tastes or preferences; classical music may be acceptable to many, though some will weep tears of boredom at it. "Goth" teens may carry predilections that are at odds with more emotionally well-adjusted or middle-of-the-road people (though some nice kids hide beneath a goth wardrobe). Trust me, it is normal for me to be this diligent, and I do make time to re-create my inner self (more on this later).

Read Martin E. Seligman's What You Can Change and What You Can't (or also his Authentic Happiness). He notes that the Bible is only concerned with crediting God as the originator of all cause and effect, but by the Renaissance, we learned that through art and science, human actions can also change our world and our selves. So you have the theology right -- God is sovereign -- but that is only half of reality -- humans have gifts and free will as well. Fundamentalists (and some evangelicals) diminish or dismiss the part of people, probably in the belief that God is all in all, and that in promoting him, everything else will take care of itself. And that's true, in a way: Give a body nutrition and, in general, it will heal itself when ill. (In this metaphor, the closer to God a person genuinely -- not just circumstantially -- comes, the more likely he or she will remain emotionally and spiritually healthy.) However, medicine definitely also speeds recovery. (In this metaphor, it helps to be practical too.)

You would really be blown away to see the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? It sounds like a lot of New Age woo-woo speculation, but actually 95% of it presents the very latest discoveries in how quantum physics interact with the physical, intellectual and spiritual world we live in.

Email: The examined life [SD]

I am glad you are finding relief in such physical relaxation techniques. See what happens even to Christians when we do not pay attention to our bodies and emotions? We are body, mind and spirit, and it borders on Pelagianism to act as if only the spirit matters, not the body or the emotions. It is not enough to know what we are supposed to do, or to have the best intentions or even faith (practically speaking); we can't always accomplish the goal without knowing how to do it. That's the difference (ecclesiastically speaking) between preaching and discipleship.

Yes, setting up Quicken for a business would require that you have the business version or at least the business set of categories. They used to be included but I guess now they make you buy one version or the other -- or both, if you buy the "wrong" version at first. (This is largely why I went into computer consulting back in 1986, by the way: to tell people what they needed before they spent money on the wrong things.)

I think if you have to ask the question "What is happiness? Where does one find it?" then, yes, you need to learn how to find the simple answers for what makes you smile. It is not that hard; don't make it more complicated than it should be. Give yourself permission to be happy, and rue the circumstances that colluded to lead you away from the simple joys.

Press: Is Persuasion Dead? - NYT

Is Persuasion Dead? - New York Times: "The signs are not good. Ninety percent of political conversation amounts to dueling 'talking points.' Best-selling books reinforce what folks thought when they bought them. Talk radio and opinion journals preach to the converted. Let's face it: the purpose of most political speech is not to persuade but to win, be it power, ratings, celebrity or even cash.

"By contrast, marshaling a case to persuade those who start from a different position is a lost art. Honoring what's right in the other side's argument seems a superfluous thing that can only cause trouble, like an appendix. Politicos huddle with like-minded souls in opinion cocoons that seem impervious to facts."

Press: Pomp and Circumspect - NYT

Pomp and Circumspect - New York Times: "As the information age matures, eat-your-spinach skills are still necessary, but they are no longer sufficient. The abilities that matter more are turning out to be the abilities that are also fundamental sources of human gratification. [...]

To be sure, this new labor market is not a land in which every person will be able to pursue a passion and instantly arrive at a fat paycheck. Still, we may finally be at the point where we can tell freshly minted graduates: Look, it's a rough world out there. There's only one way to survive. Do what you love. "

Email: Isaac Asimov's Super Quiz [MG]

In general, I’ve been able to remain curious and retentive about almost everything.

More important than knowing all the answers, though, is being able to infer them on slim evidence... or being creative enough to come up with alternative valid answers.

Press: Experiments demonstrate 'trust in a bottle' hormone

(The ultimate date drug, cologne or after-bath spritz?)

Experiments demonstrate 'trust in a bottle' hormone: "Trust in a bottle? [...] Yet that's what Swiss and American scientists demonstrate in new experiments with a nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin. After a few squirts, human subjects were significantly more trusting and willing to invest money with no ironclad promise of a profit."

Media: FTC on identity theft

The FTC has a 52-page book about the dangers and remedies of identity theft, "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft".

Friday, June 03, 2005

Peeves: Microsoft software non-security

Microsoft has done a huge amount of work in recent years to improve its software's usability, and it has always worked to pack in hundreds and thousands of features for the money. It has always had bugs, however. (If Bill Gates says he employs the world's smartest programmers, does that mean bugs are implicit to the medium? Links to Microsoft bug-documenting websites are welcome here.) Its software has also been perennially and woefully prone to being hacked to smithereens; in three words, its security sucks. Microsoft and security historically do not belong in the same sentence. Thankfully, Gatesland is starting to remedy that situation with a major overhaul of Windows XP in SP2.

When teaching classes, I am tempted to cajole my students into doing one thing every time they encounter a bug in any Microsoft product: Snarl sarcastically, "Thank you, Bill Gates!" In time, an emotional animus might build across the population enough to pressure Microsoft to spend more on R&D to eliminate bugs and enhance security, rather than stuff Bill Gates's much-vaunted coffers.

Words: obstreperous

Main Entry: ob·strep·er·ous
Pronunciation: &b-'stre-p(&-)r&s, äb-
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin obstreperus, from obstrepere to clamor against, from ob- against + strepere to make a noise
1 : marked by unruly or aggressive noisiness : CLAMOROUS
2 : stubbornly resistant to control : UNRULY
synonym see VOCIFEROUS

Words: niggard

(How to be politically and grammatically correct)

Main Entry: 1nig·gard
Pronunciation: 'ni-g&rd
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse hnøggr niggardly; akin to Old English hnEaw niggardly
: a meanly covetous and stingy person : MISER

Internet: You Know You're Addicted to Coffee...

These are the ones I can do sometimes even without coffee:

You Know You're Addicted to Coffee When...

You answer the door before people knock.

Your eyes stay open even when you sneeze.

You grind coffee beans in your mouth.

You can type sixty [plus] words per minute -- with [two fingers].

You don't sweat... you percolate.

You short out [computers].

People [used to] get dizzy just watching you.

The nurse needs a [stopwatch] to take your pulse.

You can outlast the Energizer bunny.

You don't need a hammer to [push] in nails.

You go to [church] just for the free coffee.

You go to sleep just so you can wake up and smell the coffee.

You lick your coffee[cup] clean.

You ski uphill.

You speak perfect [sounding] Arabic without ever taking a lesson.

You'd be willing to spend time in [Colombia].

Your first-aid kit contains two pints of coffee with an I.V. hookup.

Your lips are permanently stuck in the sipping position.

Your only source of nutrition comes from Sweet & Low [on some work shifts].

You're so wired, you pick up [or emulate] AM radio [even both sides of a talk-radio program].

You've worn out the [sippy hole] on your favorite mug.

You take your morning coffee with you in the shower.

Your heart beats noticeably faster as a reaction to the smell of coffee.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends who are addicted to coffee.

Email: The Examined Life [SD]

I am glad your counselor understands the inner child thing. I really do think it is all related. Relaxation techniques can help you "center yourself" and release your "energy flow." That kind of language still sounds foreign or New Age to me, but I believe it makes sense [largely because of] a local website about such techniques for public speakers and actors called The Self-Expression Center. [When we experience emotional stress, this expresses itself in physical tension and stiffness. Awareness and motion that releases this tension arises from connecting with our spiritual, emotional and physical center. It really, truly works--because this is how we were made to be.]

Press: Three Decades Later, 'Woodstein' Takes a Victory Lap - NYT

Three Decades Later, 'Woodstein' Takes a Victory Lap - New York Times: "'We're going to always be bound by this,' Mr. Bernstein said, 'and we, together with Ben, have taken great care to keep this identity secret, as well as those of our other sources, and to really practice the most basic of journalistic principles under the most difficult of circumstances.'

[Robert Redford said of filming All the President's Men] "'I'm personally sad, because I feel I stumbled into a high point of journalism and had to watch it slide away when suddenly glamour became the main attraction of getting into journalism. It became a very sad thing for me to watch. I'm glad the real meaning has come back, at least for a day.'"


Free to anyone who registers, the Safe Community Alert Network (SCAN) is "the first national alert system of its kind. [It] allows local police departments and public safety agencies to broadcast emergency information directly to your computer, cell phone or other web-connected devices." SCAN sends alerts for your neighborhood (zip code) regarding sexual predators, criminal activity, weather, health advisories, fire, road closures and more.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Ads: Cat Herders - TV - EDS

Peeves: a lot of people

Presenters and broadcast reporters and anchors who effusively use the term "a lot of people" sound too colloquial and unprofessional for my taste. It's vague on numerics and less formal than "many people" or "hundreds of people," for just two alternate examples. Speaking of numbers, is there any reason why reporters and commentators can't be more specific on that score? Don't say "a lot of people were left without power by the storm" (which even adds the sin of passive voice); say "the storm knocked out power for one thousand homes, according to power company estimates."

Names: Revillagigedo (Spanish)

I have always enjoyed saying this name since encountering it in high school too. Try it: re-vi-lla-gi-ge-do (reh-vee-ya-hee-hay-doh). You'll impress others at parties (maybe)!

Words: arroyuelo (Spanish)

This is my favorite word to pronounce in Spanish because when I first ran across it in high school, I said "Whoa! That's a doozy." Try it complete with the rolled rr: arr-oy-ue-lo (arr-roy-way-loh) is how I pronounce it, but technically it could be arr-o-yue-lo (arr-ro-yeway-loh, with the third syllable pronounced as a tripthong, or three vowels in one syllable).

Email: Insomnia and Methodists [SD]

I am not a doctor, but being mentally tired yet not sleepy probably implies a physical response to whatever is going on with you emotionally. Have you checked the emotional/physical information from Pia Mellody?

Emailing tech support anywhere typically takes two days for a response, and three exchanges or more (in other words, one week) before you ever get a helpful reply (if you ever do). Live chat or a phone call are always better options.

Yeah, Methodists and food... Pot lucks or barbecues are a good mix with faith and community, though. To tell you the truth, I would run in the other direction very fast if your church did not serve food, but only Kool-Aid...

Email: Normalcy and initiative [SD]

I never heard of labyrinthitis before -- but my middle child had it as an infant, and I have occasional low-grade symptoms. (Twice in one day at the gym, after I stepped off the treadmill, the whole room began passing by my head as if it had remained on the treadmill -- what a weird rush!) Stress -- it does strange things...

Like you, people often ask: What is normal? (I prefer the saying: Why be normal?) Normal is a balanced life, is it not? Normal is not to be confused with average -- esp. in this hyperactive, stress-laden (far from normal) age!

Why do other Christians always say things like that? ("When God is ready for you to pursue these avenues, He will make it happen and you will feel peace about it.") In a well-intentioned effort to place the spotlight off the creature and on the Creator, this remains a total abdication of the responsibility for our own lives and decisions, which is where it belongs in any moral universe. You or I can make almost any change we want in our lives right now, if we truly desire and decide to do so. (Persons of faith include God in the equation anyway.) Usually the problem with effecting these changes has to do with ignorance or insufficient motivation. (Repentance -- in the Greek, metanoia -- is best translated as "a transformed mind.") The more we learn and the better we make decisions (in the grand moral scheme of things), the greater God's grace abounds. (Grace will transform us despite ignorance in a pinch, but we shouldn't rely on this as a regular policy.)

The implication that God is the only player in the dramatic production that is our lives, and that we must passively accept life's circumstances and receive "peaceful feelings" about whatever happens, is to me an abrogation of everything I understand about the "fear of God" and free will. It is pablum talk intended to coddle, lull or anesthetize the spiritually immature. It discourages thought, discernment and effective prayer at every turn. Yes, God acts that way at certain key junctures (such as with Peter in Acts 11), but in the normal course of daily events, I believe that God wants Joe and Jane Christian (or any person of good faith) to use their brains, hearts and wills. Why else did he give us these faculties, pray tell?

Proverbs: Stress -- it's a bitch.

Quotes: "Deciphering the Glax portion..." (Bud Sparhawk)

"Deciphering the Glax portion was chore enough, since Glax had seventy-four cases, seventeen tenses, and depended on position to denote whether a word was a noun, adjective, adverb, verb, or tush, this last being rather a weak appellation or strong modifier of whatever preceded it." -- Bud Sparhawk, "Sam Boone's Dry Run" Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 1997 (p. 39)

Quotes: "I didn't lie! I was writing fiction with my mouth!" (Homer Simpson)

Proverbs: There's no place like

Proverbs: Give a man a fish...

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to use the Internet and he won't bother you for weeks.

Quotes: "I used to read, but it's faster to make up stuff." (Wally in Dilbert)

Quotes: Design your life. (Don A. Young, 1996)

Email: Making friends [SD]

Making friends is hard only when some adults make it more complex than it should be. After all, kids do it easily. We adults may set conditions or expectations for ourselves; we have fears or worries. Yes, it is more of an effort for introverts or those with low self-esteem (which are two different things); but even the math-challenged can balance their own checkbook -- or according to Wilma Schneider, "Even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while." It is all about stepping outside of our "comfort zone," isn't it? Growth is exactly that: Stepping into and exploring new territory rather than proscribing ever smaller circles outside of which one will not venture... Making friends is based on hope and adventure, not fear and timidity. "In love, there can be no fear, no fear at all, for fear is driven out by perfect love" (I John 4:18). Yes, God places people in our path in the normal course of events; but we decide those events and that path in large measure. (We choose our involvements, commitments, pursuits, locations and schedule from day to day.) It is easy to accord the Lord with much of the responsibility in our lives -- and a dramatic production will stink without a good director at the helm; but it will fail even more rankly without actors who can, in fact, act...

If the neighbor's dog is still barking at night, you can file a complaint with the police... They should check into it or issue a warning... Most cities or communities have pet and noise ordinances... Again, this is a matter of intuitively knowing (in your soul) what the right thing is to do, and pursuing it when necessary... Every owner is responsible for their animal... And every homeowner deserves a good night's sleep.

Email: The examined life [SD]

As I tell my kids when they fall: "Pick yourself up, brush yourself off; you'll feel better. Now get moving again...!"

Email: A guy can dream (they say) [SD]

I have always been a dreamer... If anything I have been less than completely practical! Of course you should dream... Everyone should dream... What is with this not dreaming...? Dreams arise from the soul of the person... Dreams are normal...! I could say a lot about dreams, imagination and literature -- and I will someday.

Being "serious" (solemn) all your life is one thing -- I am serious about my dreams (which does not exclude having a sense of humor or whimsy about them, by the way) -- but I believe the word you want is "literal-minded." I once spoke with a Christian who said "I don't read fiction; it's not real. I just read Bible teachings." Excuse me, but Jesus used fiction; he spoke in parables and metaphors! Being literal-minded is the flip side of fundamentalism, whose adherents can largely be accused of having little soul or capacity for imagination -- two God-given qualities that are essential to avoid being steered in the wrong direction. It's not necessary to choose between having a mind or a heart; we are supposed to nurture both!

Most people (unless well-heeled financially) put off travel during their childrearing days. Certainly most single parents do! As wonderful as travel is, I think it is more significant to volunteer rocking babies at Texas Children's Hospital than to take a jaunt to Burundi. (Is having jet lag ... a jag?) That said, most people who want to do both, will find a way to do both. My point is that I feel I will never be "done" with children in my life. You see online personals ads where women (and men, too, I am sure) all but say they are "done" with children and ready to pursue "the good life" of travel and carefree "me time"... Frankly, when I travel, I would avoid tourist-oriented itineraries, make my own contacts (through friends of friends) and itineraries in the intended locations, and try to "embed" myself to experience as much of the local lifestyle as possible. (My friend Melanie Flanders has the same approach; actually, she has packed up and moved to live and teach in China for the near future.) I would even prefer an educational or "working vacation" where travelers participate in an archeological dig or build wilderness trails...

Dreaming, imagining or envisioning a healthy romantic relationship is the first step on the long path to finding one... I worry about some women whose personals ads I have seen over the years ("must be unmarried, free of drugs, abusive or controlling behavior, lying, cheating, criminal record, etc."). Good Lord! Is this the best they can do -- define their wants in terms of avoiding all the negative things that invalidate a relationship? (What must they have endured?) I would say that you do not have a relationship if it includes these things. Rather, the definition of a healthy, real relationship includes all the positive things (trust, respect, communication, kindness, affection, free will, moderation, interpersonal boundaries, and so on). In a similar fashion, you do not shop for a car based on what you wish to avoid ("not broken-down, rusted through, flood damaged, excessive miles or altered odometer, etc.") but based on the features and options you want ("sunroof, 4-on-the-floor, DVD player" and so on). Focus on the positive, and the rest should follow. One reaches a destination by paying attention to the road ahead, not by eyeing the rear-view mirror for the potholes in the past.

So dream on... And seize the day!

Press: Loosing Google's Lock on the Past - NYT

Loosing Google's Lock on the Past - New York Times: "Therefore, the secret to burying unflattering Web details about yourself is to create a preferred version of the facts on a home page or a blog of your own, then devise a strategy to get high-ranking Web sites to link to you. Many people assume that a Google ranking has something to do with Web traffic, but that is incorrect, as is the notion that the more links a site has, the higher its PageRank. "

Press: In the Prelude to Publication, Intrigue Worthy of Deep Throat - NYT

In the Prelude to Publication, Intrigue Worthy of Deep Throat - New York Times: "Mr. Bradlee, whose passion for hot stories was famous, said The Post had lost little in waiting to tell Mr. Felt's story. 'It seems to me you gain as much in prestige in keeping your word as you lose in losing the scoop,' he said. 'You know, a pledge is a pledge.'"

Press: Virtually Unprotected - NYT

Virtually Unprotected - New York Times: "Despite the warnings after 9/11 -- and again after the 2003 blackout -- disturbingly little has been done. The Government Accountability Office did a rigorous review of the Department of Homeland Security's progress on every aspect of computer security, and its findings are not reassuring. It found that the department has not yet developed assessments of the threat of a cyberattack or of how vulnerable major computer systems are to such an attack, nor has it created plans for recovering key Internet functions in case of an attack. The report also expressed concern that many of the department's senior cybersecurity officials have left in the past year. Representative Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who was among those who requested the G.A.O. report, said last week that it proved that 'a national plan to secure our cybernetworks is virtually nonexistent.'"

Press: Truth and Deceit - NYT

Truth and Deceit - New York Times: "The lessons of Watergate and Vietnam are that the checks and balances embedded in the national government by the founding fathers (and which the Bush administration is trying mightily to destroy) are absolutely crucial if American-style democracy is to survive, and that a truly free and unfettered press (which the Bush administration is trying mightily to intimidate) is as important now as it's ever been.

"There you have it in a nutshell. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, drunk with power and insufficiently restrained, took the nation on hair-raising journeys that were as unnecessary as they were destructive. Now, in the first years of the 21st century, George W. Bush is doing the same."

Email: So long [MG]

Be good... I am...! (How could I possibly find time to get in trouble?)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Proverbs: People either embrace growth or shrink from it

Email: The examined life [SD]

Your headaches are a concern, and as always, one hopes the doctor will treat the cause, not the symptoms.

An inquiring mind is a blessing and an advantage. It is only "bothersome" to those who do not want to be bothered (or enlightened) -- a whole 'nother kettle of worms (bigger than a can and smellier than fish, trust me).

Transition, growth and learning times in life -- being "bothered" by change (for the good) -- are daunting and hard work. It's eminently worth the discomfort though -- esp. once we get over the initial hump (if traveling over hill and dale is new to us). Think of it like riding a bicycle: Build your (emotional) muscles (slowly, I keep saying), ride through the stiffness of the first stages -- don't look for cramps, enough will arise naturally -- and once you start gliding, you'll never forget how.

Email: A guy can dream (they say) [SD]

Some people may not have dreams, but I do. Call me a dreamer, call me loquacious, just don't call me Shirley or late for dinner (rim shot). Oh I have bigger dreams still; but I can be halfway realistic too. My most-desired travel environs are Ireland and Scotland (esp. the Lake District), the Greek isles and New Zealand. Of course, the whole world is beautiful siren, but I feel I have more significant things to do at home and at work than indulging a desire to "get away from it all." In fact, I see travel as a way to "bring it all home" and "tie it all together" -- just as I do in a smaller way with music, film, drama, literature and all the other arts.

I think dreams are usually linked closely to the heart (as opposed to Rosie O'Donnell in Exit from Eden: "You want to fulfill my fantasy? Paint my garage"). Yes, we all dream of a successful relationship -- but that takes more than dreams.

News: Mark Felt, Hero or Traitor?

How can anyone ask such a question, as MSNBC and others are doing? Yes, loyalty to one's employer -- esp. the President -- is a high trust. But allegiance to the truth is always a higher obligation -- unless national security is threatened -- and here it was not. In fact, Mark Felt upheld our constitutional principles and the rule of law after Nixon had broken them. Nixon left office in disgrace in order to save the country from a crisis of his own making. Felt, Woodward and Bernstein are heroes for their courage and integrity -- which served as a highwater mark for all journalism done since then (esp. in these dismal times for the profession) and an inspiration for all the journalists (including me) who came after them.

Press: 'Deep Throat' Unmasks Himself as Ex-No. 2 Official at F.B.I. - NYT

'Deep Throat' Unmasks Himself as Ex-No. 2 Official at F.B.I. - New York Times: "Mr. Woodward, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment, confirmed as much in comments to The Post's Web site on Tuesday. He said he had decided to confirm his source's identity, despite his concerns that Mr. Felt might not be competent enough to release him from his 33-year-old pledge of confidentiality.

'There's a principle involved,' Mr. Bernstein said in a telephone interview from New York, before The Post's confirmation. 'Reporters may be going to jail today for upholding that principle, and we don't and won't belittle it now.'"

Press: Taking On a Giant (Whistleblowers Welcome) - NYT

The New York Times > Movies > Taking On a Giant (Whistleblowers Welcome): "Their plan is to depict what they and a growing number of critics perceive to be Wal-Mart's sins against society: unfair competition and erosion of the fabric of communities; exploitation of its American workers, and of the government welfare programs many rely on to supplement their wages and benefits; union busting; reliance on suppliers with sweatshops overseas; and environmental negligence - among others.

"They also intend to show how the retailer exerts its outsized influence on American culture through the so-called 'Wal-Mart effect,' by limiting the choices of products like clothing, music - and movies - that are available to consumers."

Press: America's DNA - NYT

America's DNA - New York Times: "In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the U.S. lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They 'make you feel so unwanted now,' said Mr. Das. America was a country 'that was always reinventing itself,' he added, because it was a country that always welcomed 'all kinds of oddballs' and had 'this wonderful spirit of openness.' American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. 'If you go dark, the world goes dark.'"

Press: Beyond Viagra Politics - NYT

Beyond Viagra Politics - New York Times: "There's more, of course, but this gives you a feel for how different our politics would sound if we moved beyond Viagra politics and got serious about our problems. All it would take is enough of us rebelling against a perverse culture in which 'political courage' is oddly defined as 'telling the truth.' After all, if we don't make the world safe for our leaders to do the right thing, who will?

'I like a look of agony, because I know it's true,' wrote Emily Dickinson. It may not be agony citizens are looking for, but common sense tells them that the ratio of fact to flimflam has reached depressing lows. It may take a jolt to the system more powerful than the one Viagra delivers to rouse us from the torpor of charades-as-usual. Then again, now that Deep Throat has been unveiled, maybe anything is possible."

Email: High-tech is a convenience not a necessity [LC]

Email (and cell phones) should be seen as a convenience, not a necessity. The day we do away with the "old-fashioned way of doing things" -- with a smile and a handshake -- would be a very sad day indeed.

Email: A guy can dream (they say) [SD]

Three things I would like to do "for me" if I had time? Travel to Minnesota to see my sons and family and go camping in the Boundary Waters or along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Travel to the Rocky Mountains and go camping or cycling through Colorado, Montana, Oregon or Washington. Travel to France or Hawaii or the British Isles for a month-long vacation. (That's the big picture. What's the small picture?) Catch up with home and office backlog. Build my website. Write my first book. (Note: These goals have never changed.) [Oh, wait, those last three are sort of work-related, right? More on this later, maybe.]

Neologisms: go downg, get downg

Smoke grass, get high.

Rewrites: "Do you despise me, Rick?" (Casablanca)

"Do you despise me, Rick?"
"Well, I suppose I would ... if I gave it any thought."
(with credit to Bruce Brand)

Email: WinXP for $80 (ha) [SD]

I just realized I get spam all the time selling Windows XP for $80... Of course you can never ever ever believe any spam under any condition. Every single word in spam is always a lie! I have received hundreds of thousands of spam emails over the years, and they will simply say anything to try to get you to respond. Never follow a spam link, never reply to a spam, never give it one shred of a moment's attention.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Press: The Urge to Win - NYT

The Urge to Win - New York Times: "For a quarter-century, women have outnumbered men at Scrabble clubs and tournaments in America, but a woman has won the national championship only once, and all the world champions have been men. Among the world's 50 top-ranked players, typically about 45 are men.

"The top players, both male and female, point to a simple explanation for the disparity: more men are willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top. You need more than intelligence and a good vocabulary to become champion. You have to spend hours a day learning words like 'khat,' doing computerized drills and memorizing long lists of letter combinations, called alphagrams, that can form high-scoring seven-letter words."

Press: Devoid of Content - NYT

Devoid of Content - New York Times: "On the first day of my freshman writing class I give the students this assignment: You will be divided into groups and by the end of the semester each group will be expected to have created its own language, complete with a syntax, a lexicon, a text, rules for translating the text and strategies for teaching your language to fellow students. The language you create cannot be English or a slightly coded version of English, but it must be capable of indicating the distinctions - between tense, number, manner, mood, agency and the like - that English enables us to make.

You can imagine the reaction of students who think that 'syntax' is something cigarette smokers pay, guess that 'lexicon' is the name of a rebel tribe inhabiting a galaxy far away, and haven't the slightest idea of what words like 'tense,' 'manner' and 'mood' mean. They think I'm crazy. Yet 14 weeks later - and this happens every time - each group has produced a language of incredible sophistication and precision.

How is this near miracle accomplished? The short answer is that over the semester the students come to understand a single proposition: A sentence is a structure of logical relationships."

Press: Watching New Love as It Sears the Brain - NYT

Watching New Love as It Sears the Brain - New York Times: "In an analysis of the images appearing today in The Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers in New York and New Jersey argue that romantic love is a biological urge distinct from sexual arousal.

"It is closer in its neural profile to drives like hunger, thirst or drug craving, the researchers assert, than to emotional states like excitement or affection. As a relationship deepens, the brain scans suggest, the neural activity associated with romantic love alters slightly, and in some cases primes areas deep in the primitive brain that are involved in long-term attachment. "

Press: Bless Me, Blog, for I've Sinned - NYT

Bless Me, Blog, for I've Sinned - New York Times: "No fakeness? Oh, but there is. And it is the fakeness, the artifice and the performance that make this confessional worth peeking at. The secret sharers here aren't mindless flashers but practiced strippers. They don't want to get rid of their secrets. They love them. They arrange them. They tend them. They turn them into fetishes. And that's the secret of PostSecret. It isn't really a true confessional after all. It is a piece of collaborative art."

Gibberwocky: fenicle, fenacle

A bay window panoramic view?

Gibberwocky: squernel


I'm sorry you are trying to recover extra income by charging for archival articles [older than 30 days]. As a result, I cannot link to and point readers to your articles from my weblog [without deleting posts within 30 days]. If you had one revenue model based on advertising, this would be possible.

Email: Writing a book [VI]

I think you should continue with your research and just begin writing your book. You can always keep revising and expanding it until you think you are done. Waiting until you have enough experience, credentials or academic qualifications is probably a certain way to never get started -- at least to delay until long after the iron has cooled.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Email: The examined life [SD]

It is normal and healthy to react to pain by trying to get away from it. Our physical, emotional and social spheres are all interconnected. It is not a nuisance -- only a fact of life -- that a pressure cooker will explode if left untended. The problem is not that we have feelings, or that we get confused -- but that we must address these things. The unexamined life is an empty one. Feeling and thinking things through -- processing them -- is the only way to live a life that is a response to challenge instead of a reaction to crisis. We may wish to avoid inconvenience, discomfort or pain ("get it over quickly") but any good parent knows that specific steps are required to break a fever and augur recovery from an illness.

Musings: Good memory is a gift

It is funny how a person who tends to remember everything, will be told by a person who does not remember as much: "You remember too much" or "You remember the most unimportant things" or "I have more important things to remember." The person who remembers almost everything is not trying to do so! It just happens. Furthermore, wherever two people speak, one person will always have a better memory than the other; why fault the person with the better memory, and imply that deference should be given the person with the lesser memory? The problem is that those who remember less, tend to feel insecure in comparison -- but only because they were generally insecure in the first place, and are making such comparisons themselves. The person with better memory is ideally only interested in the truth, not in pushing an agenda or controlling an outcome; such are the stratagems of insecurity, not confidence or cooperation.

I say all this not so much with my own experience in mind, but the experience of women with men in general. Women will remember what each person in a gathering wore, on any given day, for years after the event -- while men may be lucky to remember what color the person closest to them was wearing yesterday. (Many other examples may be found.) Yet some men belittle women for remembering "too much." Where, pray tell, is that dividing line, and who is qualified to set it?

Let us all appreciate the persons who have fuller memories, experiences and ideally therefore celebrations of life. Let the fuller life be the standard, not the lesser. It is so with manners, it is so with fashion, it is so with art. Let those with fuller sensibilities judge self and others, yet keep silent about it; let those with lesser sensibilities (which they will perceive, if they will admit it to themselves) not try to drag down a gift through criticisms that do not ring true.

Email: To be or not to be (picky) [LC]

You and I have pursued the "noble ideals" of our respective professions -- social work and journalism -- yet overlooked the financial self-interest that others would not do without. So now we find ourselves aware of working harder than others who have personally benefited to a greater degree over the years. Being so dedicated to our work also has left our personal lives a tad lopsided. It is not "selfish" to look out for our selves -- at least on the basis that everyone else does (healthy remuneration and recreation). Most people do carry loans on house and car, so having those paid up is more a personal preference than financial requirement; but we all choose our own goals. Retirement is a wise thing esp. at our stage in life. Balancing financial goals with personal goals is quite a challenge, huh? I guess responsibilities always come first though, followed by preferences. True? Providing for our needs (and those of our family) comes before pursuing our dreams -- when it has to be an either/or (not both) decision.

There is nothing wrong with having high standards for a relationship. In fact, I would say it is for the best. It is being pickier than "the unwashed masses," but when you consider the comparison, none "too picky" at all! I want something unique, real and lasting too. It is there for you eventually -- no need to kiss every frog to find a prince. In time, you will meet someone whose "royal" qualities resonate with yours.

Others may immerse themselves in work because they do not have a personal life, but it is OK for you to use it as a buffer against getting involved too fast in a relationship, esp. one that would not meet your goals in the long run. I think instead of pinning high hopes on finding a relationship for the mere sake of having a relationship, it is healthier to follow the dictum "Cream always rises to the top": When the right person appears, he [or she] may stand head and shoulders above the rest. We are sometimes uncertain whether "the real thing" exists in love; but I think if it appears when we are not looking that hard for it, we will know it when we see it. (I have always thought that "not looking" was too passive to find a successful love relationship; but now I realize that a "healthy indifference" enables a freer and wiser choice, when it presents itself -- which we cannot make it do.)

It would be interesting to know what you are willing to do (and what not) to find that love of your life! (Being "obtuse" works when you're still figuring out the details.)

Email: Oprah on Futurama [MG]

She is very popular -- women seek (and need) such affirmation! Also almost every women's online dating profile says the last book read was The Da Vinci Code.

Greg Bear wrote a series of science fiction books where a future society venerates The Good Man (who turns out to be Ralph Nader). This is before Ralphie ran for president (twice), of course.

Email: Civility breakdown in the marketplace of ideas [MG]

It has been known for decades that it is common for emails to devolve into "flame wars," ostensibly because the respondents are not facing each other in person, so the impediments to civil behavior are lessened. However, everyone is on a learning curve, so those who are new to email (esp. when they are socially or emotionally immature in some way) fall into this pattern until they learn better self-restraint. It is hard for those of us with decades of experience in email though: With particularly obnoxious respondents, I have instituted a rule of two exchanges (statements and rebuttals) and then dropping the subject, forcefully if necessary. Of course, no one is making us hit the Reply button but our own itchy fingers...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Email: Living our lives [SD]

If Pia [Mellody] teaches us anything, it's that we all respond in predictable ways to frustration and disappointment. Denial is quite common -- at least half the time. Yes, you are doing fine: You are doing something about it, which is more than most people do! I didn't say how long it might take you; you could take less, you could take a lifetime. I'm just saying don't think "soon" as being a few weeks or months. For those of us who are trying to learn these things, we don't put our lives on hold until we learn it all first. We go on living our lives in the midst of all our uncertainties.

Email: Self-discovery and fun [SD]

[Buying Windows] XP Pro [for $50 off a website] sounds like a scam to me; they obviously don't have it in stock, which means they are not legit.

The initial releases you are feeling at journaling and writing down your feelings are a good start. You will continue to experience freedom and growth in these areas as you reflect on and "process" your feelings over time. I think a person is still struggling with "issues" so long as he or she feels distracted, preoccupied or is "working through" them. One has "moved on" not when a person decides to stop thinking about an issue (for that is entering into denial) but when it no longer consumes an inordinate amount of attention; the pesky questions have been answered, so the mind and heart can truly move on to other things.

Finding out who you are should not be a tedious task or "one more thing on a to-do list." In time, it should become as natural as breathing. You know when you are in your own skin; same thing. Reading can be work for someone who is not used to reading or thinking things through; you seem to be doing fine. Just realize that you have a lot in your life, and you can't do everything all at once. Let me also just say that it's taken me eight years so far to get from where I was [during my divorce] to where I am today. And it sounds to me like you have as much or further to go than I did.

Everyone tells me that I need some time "for myself" or "for fun"; that is true, all things being normal. However (as I keep saying), they are not; and I don't believe I should curtail my [responsibilities] because "I deserved a day off for some fun and me time."

Email: Christian trust vs. market competition [SD]

I guess there are two ways to go about it the wrong way: "Trust the Lord" (but do nothing yourself), or overreach for more than your share (try to do everything yourself).

[...] The computer industry is and always has been competitive largely because of Bill Gates (who is intensely so), but mainly there is much money to be made, but it depends on who brings the greatest speed and innovation to market. Why climb a mountain, go to the moon or produce a software product (and these three ventures are about equally complex, though people don't die when the third one messes up)? Because!

Musings: Don't "Adopt A Highway"

As civic-minded and welcome as they are, "Adopt A Highway" and "Adopt A Block" cleanup programs should be called "Sponsor A Highway" and "Sponsor A Block" instead. Why stop using "the A word" to describe a civic program of extremely part-time caretaking that may be renewed or transferred to another party? Because it greatly cheapens the meaning of familial adoption, which is generally a solemn, legally binding, lifelong, 24/7 commitment to the filial devotion and caretaking of a child (or in lesser terms, of a pet). Furthermore, adoptive parents everywhere have usually gone through years of anguish, effort and expense in order to adopt their children.

Using the term Adopt-A-Whatever to describe any volunteer or philanthropic effort, no matter how well-conceived (other than its name), is a slap in the face of every adoptive parent and child in this nation. Moreover, this fact is doubly insensitive, since no authority has yet heeded the words of Adoptive Families of America, or any other adoptive parents who have spoken in recent decades, and imposed or legislated change. Indeed, it is the height of rudeness for a governmental, civic or lobbying body to be that willfully insensitive, as if to say to adoptive parents, "Oh, stop being so sensitive. It's no big deal." If it's no big deal, why not change it? And that's my point: Sponsorship cannot compare to adoption. So let's call it what it is: Sponsor A Highway. After all, Merriam Webster says it best:

Main Entry:    spon·sor
Function:    noun
Etymology:    Late Latin, from Latin, guarantor, surety, from spondEre to promise
1 : one who presents a candidate for baptism or confirmation and undertakes responsibility for the person's religious education or spiritual welfare
2 : one who assumes responsibility for some other person or thing
3 : a person or an organization that pays for or plans and carries out a project or activity; especially : one that pays the cost of a radio or television program usually in return for advertising time during its course

Press: 'But I Neeeeeed It!' She Suggested - NYT

'But I Neeeeeed It!' She Suggested - New York Times: "Although parents have long struggled with their teenagers' desire to own the newest, coolest stuff, these days the battle has reached a new dimension. While teenagers once coveted $100 sneakers and jeans (arguably necessities because, after all, they are clothes), the must-have items now - iPods, cellphones with cameras, and portable DVD players - are high-tech, constantly in need of upgrade and can cost up to $500 each. These items, which teenagers say they must have to maintain their place in the social pecking order, are increasingly out of reach for most high school students, who are less likely these days to hold part-time jobs. [...]

The upshot is that more parents are finding themselves [...] footing the bill so their children can maintain social face. "