Jan 31, 2007
I am in Awe of...
Yesterday I was driving along I-85 next to a two-trailer FedEx rig that kept all 48 or so of its wheels inside its lane markers, despite all the curves. How the hell do they do that?
Same question goes for single moms (at least the ones whose kids are coming along well). How the hell do they do that?
Some years ago, a friend asked me and some other folks for our definition of "hero." What I came up with was that heroes are the people who do, on a regular basis, admirable things that I could never imagine within my capacity. Notwithstanding the gender part, I put good single moms in that category, right quick. And truck drivers.
In case you're wondering, "how about truck drivers who are also single moms?" Above, see Pamela Hein, one such person. She gets an asterisk because her kids stayed with her grandmother while she was on the road, but it's still bloody impressive. See here for the whole story, including the bit about how she wound up in law school.
photo: Mike Northrup / Volante
Jan 30, 2007
The Buddha is a Sh**-Wiping Stick
"There are some fierce, horrifying phrases in Zen: "When you meet the Buddha, kill him..." or "Boil the Buddha! Boil the Patriarch!"...
When one attains enlightenment, one will know the true spirit of Buddha and the highest wisdom directly, not through words... One Zen phrase says, Words fail." Another goes, "As soon as you preach a thing, you miss the mark." So, those who have known the inner Buddha directly through their own experience will not stick to the Buddha's teachings in sutras. When the teachings in sutras differ from or conflict with their experiential knowledge, they are ready to throw them away: that is, kill the Buddha."
Teruyasu Tamura in A Zen Buddhist Encounters Quakerism, Pendle Hill Press, 1992.
Not that I think I've become enlightened, but it's kind of funny that of all the Pendle Hill booklets I accidentally knocked off my bathroom sink today, this is the only one that fell in the toilet.
While (unsuccessfully) looking for an illustration to add to this blog, I discovered that numerous outlets offer copies of this 28-page pamphlet for ~$25.00. It's worth noting that it was originally published for ~$2.00 and is available (in photocopy) from the Pendle Hill press for just $5.00. I seem proud of knowing this fact. Yep. No enlightenment for me just yet...
Jan 29, 2007
Family is the people you've got inside of you -- like or not, for better or worse -- who aren't leaving any time soon...and who you hold near in the Light and in the dark.
-- me, last night, in a quick writing exercise with Quaker friends.
Jan 26, 2007
My pal Mimi at a recent wedding.
Jan 25, 2007
A blogroll welcome to Elrond Hubbard, "featuring musings on a variety of things including dance, work, Iraq, physics, lesbians, Diesel engines. Please come to peruse and abuse."
If you're lesbian or like to swing dance, make sure to read this entry.
p.s. my apologies to other folks on the blogroll whom I've linked to without a proper intro. I've been slack, and Elrond made it easy by writing his own introduction.
p.p.s. a shoutout to THE Adam Schultz who mocked me into finally using the Bloglines account that Dave had pestered me into starting last month. Far freakin' out, man. What took me so long?
Jan 24, 2007
Andrei Codrescu -- from "Smoke-free Easy?"
" The next bastion of die-hards to go down was Dublin. If somebody’d asked me what the last place was where smokers would rather face a firing squad then surrender, I’d have said Dublin. The Irish are big talkers and big whiskey drinkers. Those things I’d have thought inconceivable without cigarettes. The history of modern Ireland, with all its literature and terrorists would have disappeared without cigarettes. Without cigarettes, Ireland would have been Holland. But down they went, the Dubliners, followed into health and the 21st century by the ironic and wistful gaze of Mr. Joyce."
I heard this essay tonight in one of my too-rare stumblings upon his commentary at NPR. Codrescu and his Romanian accent are so brilliant, he makes English a better language (though I didn't much care for his movie Road Scholar).
NPR has many of his commentaires online. Click here for his thoughts on the moustache in modern day. I'm thinking of a shave. He's not helping my decision.
surprisingly staid pic from his faculty profile at LSU's Department of English web page.
Jan 23, 2007
Gresham's Law -- in Action in 2007
The theory holding that if two kinds of money in circulation have the same denominational value but different intrinsic values, the money with higher intrinsic value will be hoarded and eventually driven out of circulation by the money with lesser intrinsic value.
-- Gresham's Law, as defined at Answers.com
Some years ago I learned Gresham's Law in a shorter version that said (more or less) "if the metal in money is worth more than the money's face value, people will hoard the coins." "Yeah, right," I said. Who would ever work that hard for the nth of a cent it would be worth?"
Apparently, speculators do. From Reuters:
Sharply rising prices of metals such as copper and nickel have meant the face value of pennies and nickels are worth less than the material that they are made of, increasing the risk that speculators could melt the coins and sell them for a profit.
Such a risk spurred the U.S. Mint last month to issue regulations limiting melting and exporting of the coins. But Francois Velde, senior economist at the Chicago Fed, argued in a recent research note that prohibitions by the Mint would unlikely deter serious speculators who already have piled up the coinage.
"History shows that when coins are worth melting, they disappear," Velde wrote.
Raw material prices in general have skyrocketed in the last five years, sending copper prices to record highs of $4.16 a pound in May. Since 1982, the Mint began making copper-coated zinc pennies to prevent metals speculators from taking advantage of lofty base metal prices. [click --> full article at Reuters.]
From what I can glean in various articles like this one (from Nobel-winning economist Robert Mundell) or this one (by the non-Nobel-winning but better-writing economist George Selgin), Gresham's Law is often misquoted or misinterpreted. Sounds like it could use an entry in the Dictionary of Allusions.
1962 British penny from here.
Jan 22, 2007
Where Would You Like to Live?
Melbourne, Australia looks really good right now, advertising their sunny and metropolitan self while I creep around a cold and wet Hillsborough.
When I imagine a place I'd like to live for a while, the first thing I think of is good people. I'd like to live among people with hope, imagination, and progressive ideals.
Geography is important, too. I like warm weather, lots of vegetation, and mountains and/or water.
With good people and geography, I'd also hope for a place that's made for walking, not just driving. I don't worry much whether a place is metropolitan or small-town, as long as I can get to its complement without too long a trip.
Here are some places where I could see myself staying long enough to become invested in the community (if only seasonally, where weather is a concern):
...that I've visited:
- San Francisco
- Guadalajara, MX
- Small towns in British Columbia, Canada
...that I've seen on screen or imagined:
- Some quirky, tiny town in the American southwest where I could live like Joel Fleischman in Northern Exposure, except warm. And less uptight. (Me, not the town.)
- A small town on the Mediterranean coast, but probably not in Albania.
This strikes me as a fairly small list, which makes me think I ought to get out more. I do have a much longer list of places I'd like to visit for extended stays -- and as I visit, perhaps I'll find more places that look like places to live, longer-term. Until then, I'll see you right here!
How about you?
Note 1: picture from Wikipedia.
Note 2: Great places I have enjoyed living but don't need to return to, except for vacation:
Jan 19, 2007
Not so Itsy-Bitsy
I (literally) ran into this little guy outside the door to Chamas Churrascaria. It was drifting (or ballooning) on a long bit of silk at about head level when I smacked into it. Then it landed on the table.
During our subsequent photo session, I was surprised to see that the spider seemed to be actively engaged with the camera and me. On several occasions, it stopped walking, elevated its head and forebody, and lifted its front legs in what looked to be a declaration of "don't mess with me, I'm strong."
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but part of my interpretation is thanks to Piers Anthony's book Castle Roogna, which I read in 8th grade. In an early chapter, the book's hero, Dor, encounters a giant spider which expresses very clear interpretations of Dor's various posturings: the first looks like a threat, the second looks like capitulation, and the last finally something like assertiveness mixed with respect -- hands above the head to display size without aggression.
Jan 18, 2007
Reminder: How-to-Watch Basketball Clinic this Saturday!
with Rob Clough
Saturday at the Broad St. Cafe, Durham
2:30 tape watching with Rob:
informal lecture with Q&A.
3:30 game, Duke men vs. NCSU,
with commentary from Rob.
for more info, click here.
Jan 17, 2007
Community Tables and Chinese Christmas
Here's something I'd like to see: community tables at restaurants, for solo diners who would welcome the chance to eat with others.
This idea comes to me from time to time, but most frequently at Rainbow Chinese* where I solo eat at least twice a month. I usually enjoy watching whatever they have on TV, but often as not I see other solo diners wonder if we really ought be eating together instead of watching the TV while awkwardly avoiding each others' eyes. (Theory: we feel awkard because our "isolation despite nearness" runs counter to a human instinct to connect.)
Two other things about Rainbow Chinese:
1. I like how their glasses are mismatched. It makes me feel like I'm eating in someone's home.
2. Back when I was in high school, it used to be called Hunam Chinese (or maybe Hunam Palace). Back then, the local drinking age was 18 but some of my underage high school would go there and order beer without getting carded. According to my (white) friend, Tarus, "we all look alike to them, anyway."
Rainbow Chinese, ~900 W. Main St., across from Brightleaf Square. Lunchtime buffet and a bottled drink, $6.50 plus tip. Don't count on friendly and efficient service or an attractive setting, but it's decent food cheap and fast.
Jan 16, 2007
Marianne Williamson (not aka Nelson Mandela) on Fear
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your paying small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
This quote is widely misattributed to Nelson Mandela, and that's how it was credited in The Power of Flow: Practical Ways to Transform Your Life with Meaningful Coincidence, which I started reading this week. I wanted to share it via blogland so of course I double-checked the source, and what should I find but the fact that Mandela never said it. Dang. The quote meant a lot more to me for the day or so that I thought they were his words. The quote still has meaning without the backing of Mr. Mandela's extraordinary experience, but now I have to interpret it through my own experience, since I know nothing of Ms. Williamson's life or work.
In any case, a couple of thoughts: First, I thought for the longest time (while the book sat unread on my shelves) that The Power of Flow was related directly to the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Turns out, though, that this book focuses on living a life entwined with Jung's synchronicity. To give the Jungians their due, maybe it was a sign that I picked up The Power of Flow when I did. But it doesn't help that the authors have boosted my skepticism by introducing one of their chapters with a sloppy piece of work.
Speaking of pet peeves, here are two more of mine: inaccurately copied quotes and inaccurately attributed quotes. Please poke me if you ever see me generate either. Thank you for your support.
Jan 15, 2007
Thanks to Ray Tomlinson, we type this little sucker all the bloody time. Did you know it had a name ("commercial at")? That it had many names ("ampersat", "cinnabun", "arobase", etc.)? And, quite possibly, a French origin? For the whole story, check in with the folks at aRiKaH. You just might be impressed.
By the by, how many email addresses have you had so far?
Here mine that I remember:
M196 -- my account on the NCSSM VAX system, 1983-1985. The "96" signifies that I was the 96th student (out of my class of ~220) to sign up for an account shortly after arriving on campus. I had walked over to the CS chief's office with my friend Stephen Cole, who got M195. I seem to recall that we signed a one-page form that probably told us what we weren't supposed to do. Some friend's addies that I recall: M113 was Brian Rice. I think of him almost every time I see a digital clock displaying 1:13). M101 was either Scott Snyder or Heath Hart, if I recall. Scott wrote his own computer languages. Was M116 Cindy Stubbs? I'm surprised that I don't remember Erika's, Beth's, and Morin's.
??? -- my account at Carnegie Mellon, 1985-1986. Why on earth didn't I use bitnet to email with my girlfriend back at NCSSM, or any of my other friends around the country? In part because my friend Chris figured out that if you dialed the Sprint 1-800 number, nearly any random 6 digits would give you "free" access to their long distance. Loooved it.
STemail@example.com??? -- my account at Brown, 1986-1989. No clue why I almost never used it until my senior year when I used it only a tiny bit. I think the Mac terminal-emulation system was way slow.
firstname.lastname@example.org (I think), 1995-1996. My first paid subscription. My first 9600 baud modem. I compulsively logged in from work every fifteen minutes, which everyone in cubetown knew about because of the modem noise. It's amazing I didn't get fired.
email@example.com, 1996. My work email. Coincident with my discovery of the internet. (What was that early site with links to attractive women on the web: GWOW (Gorgeous Women on the Web) or something like that? The links weren't to porn or mySpace-like profiles. Just to various websites that had pictures of women and their work or personal pages online.)
firstname.lastname@example.org, 1996-2000 or so, starting from when I went into business for myself. Intrex had its shop in the Europa Center just down the hall from my office. I bought my computer from them and needed lots of tech support, which I would routinely get by walking down the hall and grabbing someone. Thus my first business maxim: If you need a computer, buy it from the company down the hall. And my first business corollary: If you sell computers, do not sell them to the businessmen down the hall.
email@example.com. 1999. Short-lived, under the advice of wise man Dave.
phil@mars...diro.com, 2000 to present. Me rikey. Domain name courtesy of wise man Dave. I think he paid ~$40 to VeriSign for that random/birthday gift.
mars...@yahoo.com, mars...@hotmail.com, mars...@gmail.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and at least a couple of others used for various odds and ends reasons. Grand total ~18. I hope I've hit the end of what I'll need.
Jan 12, 2007
I just now stumbled upon this personal blog of professional journalist Oliver Wang and his friend Junichi Semitsu, and I swear to God, there are so many funny and/or useful things in there of in so many different categories that I cannot possibly choose a single item to quote. So just go there, please. For me.
Jan 11, 2007
Deborah Tannen on Condescension and Connection
The doctor who pats his patient or nurse on the arm, saying, "How are you today, Sally?," may genuinely intend to be warm and friendly. But because the patient or nurse couldn't pat him on the arm and ask, "How are you today, Richie?," there's a (possibly unintended) metamessage of superior status in the doctor's gesture. The ways he has of showing concern or getting close -- using first name, touching, and inquiring about health -- are paradoxically also expressions of superior status, which is condescending.
Many of us, faced with such mixed metamessages, either resent the condescension and ignore the concern or appreciate the concern and ignore the condescension. As in looking at a paradoxical drawing, we can't hold on to both images at once. But they're both there. Feeling either anger at the condescension or appreciation of the concern ignores half the communication.
-- Deborah Tannen, PhD, in That's Not What I Meant! -- How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships, 1986, Ballantine Books.
Deborah Tannen is on my mind these days. Yesterday she was interviewed on NPR about the word "surge" as relates to a proposed increase of 10-20,000 troops in Iraq. And last month, I quoted from her first brilliant book, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. As a longtime fan of her books, I found it interesting to hear her voice for the first time.
Jan 10, 2007
A History of Reading, by Alberto Manguel
In every literate society, learning to read is something of an initiation... In medieval Jewish society, for instance, the ritual of learning to read was explicitly celebrated. On the Feast of Shavuot, when Moses received the Torah from the hands of God, the boy about to be initiated was wrapped in a prayer shawl and taken by his father to the teacher. The teacher sat the boy on his lap and showed him a slate on which were written the Hebrew alphabet, a passage from the Scriptures and the words "May the Torah be your occupation." Then the slate was covered with honey and the child licked it, thereby bodily assimilating the holy words. Also, biblical verses were written on peeled hard-boiled eggs and honey cakes, which the child would eat after reading the verses out loud to the teacher.
-- from A History of Reading, by Alberto Manguel, 1996, Penguin Books.
This is one of several dozen books that I've owned for many years but never managed to read. From my little dips here and there, I can tell you that it is a wonderful book. A beautiful book with many pictures. A well-regarded book and, it seems, for good reason. I typed the above excerpt in part so that I would feel less badly that I am about to give the book away. And in part because I'd like to give the book away. To a reader. To the first local reader to call dibs via the comment link, below.
Jan 09, 2007
The Word -- Stevie Smith
My heart leaps up with streams of joy,
My lips tell of drouth;
Why should my heart be full of joy
And not my mouth?
I fear the Word, to speak or write it down,
I fear all that is brought to birth and born;
This fear has turned my joy into a frown.
-- Stevie Smith (1902-1971), in New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith, 1988, New Directions.
I only have a modest familiarity with Smith's work, but I am a great admirer. I like best her economy and subtlety. Her writing, like that of Carl Sandburg* often uses plain language that makes it readily accessible at the surface, which makes it all the more likely that we'll stick with it to see what lies below. (For those who immediately notice the parallel with Matt Groening, there's even more: Smith often adds her own cartoons to the poetry.)
Said better, here are some of the back-cover notes from the publisher:
Stevie Smith wrote poems about everything -- hats, children, death... friends, foes, and animals... in an inimitable way. ...themes that at first seem simple, almost childlike, cut knife-edge deep to serious concerns;... her mischievous throw-away lines are sly in their subtle control; her humor...is a coin with a dark side.
Go read some. I think you'll be both happy and sad if you do.**
* Do click the link.
** Erika L., I think that you, in particular, would enjoy this writer (if you haven't, already(!)).
Jan 08, 2007
Andre Gide on the Limits of Understanding
-- Andre Gide, 1921.
Quoted in ADD Success Stories -- a guide to fulfillment for families with attention deficit disorder, by Thom Hartmann
image from the French Dept. of Culture
Jan 05, 2007
Aristotle on the Angry Middle
"For in everything it is no easy task to find the middle, e.g. to find the middle of a circle is not for every one but for him who knows; so, too, any one can get angry -- that is easy -- or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable and noble."
image from livius.org, Articles on Ancient History.
Jan 04, 2007
JLP, Shy as a Lass
"We are always misunderstood."
Were you a tall, attractive, shy girl in high school? And did people consider you snobby, snotty, or cold?
Jan 03, 2007
Philosophy of Hoops -- Frank DeFord
Sportswriter Frank Deford discussed The Philosophy of Hoops on a March 2006 airing of Philosophy Talk, available here.
Deford also has a smaller NPR piece on "Duke's Basketball Team: Uniquely Hated", available here.
And, excerpted below, an interview with Sports Illustrated, available here.
SI: So basketball and football are just big time business?
DEFORD: It's just business. So you can understand why they get scholarships. I think, as a matter of fact, they're underpaid. They not only should get scholarships, but they should get stipends, or let's call it salaries. They are workers. They work for the university, no less than the guy who cleans up the stadium, no less than the professor, no less than anybody who's on the payroll. Why shouldn't they get money as well as everybody else?
Jan 01, 2007
Superstition to Start 2007
Superstition Mountain, AZ. Gorgeous image courtesy of John Hernlund.
My mom grew up in the Philippines where they have a superstition that anything you do on New Year's Day, you'll do all year. Being the good son that I am, I keep the practice alive by making the most of each January 1.
Here, my priority plans that I checked off today:
- talked with Dave
- visited Kaudie
- spent time with my folks
- prayed a bit
- did some billable work
- did some art
- got hugs and kisses
- exercised, and
- ate well.
And, some happenings that I now expect to see again through 2007:
- moved myself to a new housesitting gig
- helped a friend move,
- met some very nice new people
- drove all over town
- gave two back rubs
- did laundry
- wrote a blog entry
Not a bad start for my year. I hope the same for you, today and all year. Two thousand six was pretty rough on many of my friends, so I hope extra hard.