Friday, December 15, 2017

On paths to happiness..................................




On plasticity and change.......................


g Understand how much the brain can and cannot changeThis brings us to an important question.  Can we change?   We can all learn new facts and skills, but can we also learn to change how we are inclined to think?  The answer is a qualified yes. 
     Brain plasticity is what allows your brain to change its "softwiring."   For a long time, scientists believed that after a certain critical period of childhood, most of our brain's neurological connections were fixed and unlikely to change.  But recent research has suggested that a wide variety of practices - from physical exercise to studying to meditation - can lead to physical and physiological changes in our brains that affect our abilities to think and form memories. ...
     That doesn't mean the brain is infinitely flexible.  If you have a preference for a certain way of thinking, you might be able to train yourself to operate another way and find that easier to do over time, but you're very unlikely to change your underlying preferences. ... The best way to change is through doing mental exercises.  As with physical exercise, this can be painful unless you enlist the habit loop discussed earlier to connect the rewards to the actions, "rewiring" your brain to love learning and beneficial change. ...
     ...Instead of expecting yourself or others to change, I've found that it's often more effective to acknowledge one's weaknesses and create explicit guardrails against them.   This is typically a faster and higher-probability path to success.

-Ray Dalio, Principles

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On focused persistence..................


The organizations that actually change things are the ones that have a time horizon that's longer than 36 hours.

-Seth Godin, from here

As proverbs go.................


..................................................these are pretty good:

"And do not look outside yourself for the leader."

An important question.................


Am I getting older or has the supermarket begun playing great music?

-question asked here

"To be normal is nothing to brag about...."


...........................................On embracing your inner freak.

On accepting the responsibility...........


....................................................................of being editable.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Simplify...........................




Get rid of irrelevant details so that the essential things and relationships between them stand out.  As the saying goes, "Any damn fool can make it complex.  It takes a genius to make it simple."  Think of Picasso.  He could paint beautiful representational paintings from an early age, but he continually pared down and simplified as his career progressed.  Not everyone has a mind that works that way, but just because you can't do something naturally doesn't mean you can't do it - you just have to have creativity and determination.  If necessary, you can seek the help of others.

-Ray Dalio,  Principles

Innermost prayer...............


“I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and that also that all had some error in them, and while I hold by my own religion, I should hold other religions as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we were Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu; but our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, and a Christian a better Christian.” 

-Mahatma Gandhi

Uncomfortable..................



Successful.....................


     A mind that is concentrated on a positive thought has the power to increase the likelihood that the positive thought will materialize in the world of events.  The most successful people in the world are those who hold in mind the highest good of all concerned, including themselves.  They know that there is a win-win solution to every problem.  They are at peace with themselves, which allows them to be supportive of the potential and success of others.  They do work which they love, and so they feel continually inspired and creative.  They do not seek happiness;  they have discovered that happiness is a by-product of doing what they love.  A feeling of personal fulfillment comes naturally from their positive contribution to the lives of others, including family, friends, groups, and the world at large.

-David Hawkins

Laugh and play...................


Willie Nelson...............................................Frosty The Snowman

 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

An odd coupling..............?


Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton.............Baby It's Cold Outside

 

A child waiting.......................


“I know what I really want for Christmas.   I want my childhood back.   Nobody is going to give me that. I might give at least the memory of it to myself if I try.  I know it doesn't make sense, but since when is Christmas about sense, anyway?  It is about a child, of long ago and far away, and it is about the child of now.  In you and me.  Waiting behind the door of or hearts for something wonderful to happen. A child who is impractical, unrealistic, simpleminded and terribly vulnerable to joy.” 
-Robert Fulghum

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Peace on earth......................?



“What kind of Christmas present would Jesus ask Santa for?” 

-Salman Rushdie

Shower him with love love love........


Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds.............................Christmas Song

 

Opening paragraphs..............


     When the name Hilary Clinton popped up on my phone in February 2017, I realized hers was a call I'd stopped waiting to receive.  On Election Day, the tradition in politics is that candidates personally thank the people who helped most in the campaign.  Win or lose, in the days that follow, the candidate extends that circle of gratitude to members of the party and the donors.  Bernie Sanders called me on November 9, 2016, and Joe Biden, too.  The vice president even came to our staff holiday party.  But I never heard from Hilary.

-Donna Brazile,  from her introduction to Hacks:  The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House

Friday, December 8, 2017

On trusting people.......................


..............................................................................over thirty

Wait,..............................what?


... not telling people what's really going on so as to protect them from the worries of life is like letting your kids grow into adulthood believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.

-Ray Dalio,  Principles

Realities...................


8.   How you wish to be in five years starts today.

-from a list of eleven, courtesy of Nicholas Bate

Recommended..............




     Your faithful blogger grew up in Philadelphia, the son of the manager of the Union League of Philadelphia.  The League was founded in 1862 to raise money and support both the Union cause and the policies of President Abraham Lincoln.  In many ways, over the years, the League became a shrine to Lincoln.  So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that, to my young eyes, Lincoln was a martyred hero and the Union cause just.  Apparently, that opinion was not held by all.
      Decimus et Ultimus (tenth and last) Barziza, born a Virginian, but raised a Texan, had a different outlook.  We all benefit from reading different outlooks.
      Barziza enlisted in the Confederate army as part of Hood's Brigade in 1861.  He was wounded and captured at Gettysburg, spent a spell as a prisoner of war, escaped captivity by jumping from moving train, wandered around the North while making his way to Canada, eventually finding passage from Halifax to the Bermudas, and then finally back to the South.  He wrote a narrative of his experiences.   It is an entertaining tale and I recommend it to you.  Interspersed with his story, he vents a bit and shares his feelings about the war and the North (the story was written and published before the war ended.  The copy pictured above came from our library system).  He had no idea that the Union cause was just.  To wit:

     The desire for power and influence is so strong and influential an incentive, that we need not go beyond this to account for the intense hostility of the democrats of the Administration. The truth is that they all affect a fanatical glorification for the "old flag," and cry out "Union."  And the Southern people would have been much wiser and better off at the outset, if they had made up their minds that neither foreign intervention nor Northern sympathy would ever aid them in their struggle for independence, but upon their own strong arms and stout hearts depended entirely their success.  Resistance, fierce and bloody, has been and ever will be the means of a nation's regeneration from vassalage; and he who lulls himself into inactivity in these vain hopes, will find too late that national and political sympathy and aid are the offsprings of policy and interest.  In this world the strong are ever willing to help the strong;  the rich make the rich richer; and with this feeling of self-interest so intimately blended with our individual selves, we may expect it to be the chief spring of action amongst nations.  There is one other power, however, when it takes possession of the breast, displaces all others, and that is fanaticism;  it raised a Cromwell and deluged a kingdom in blood;  it erected the guillotine and was made drunk with gore;  it pervaded the Northern mind and brought forth war, and is now reveling in a bloody carnival.  Time was when we wished no harm to these Northern people, when all we asked was non-interference with us;  their future prosperity and glory would not even have been displeasing to us.  But for more than three years we have been the objects of their persecution and resentment.  They have at last extinguished every feeling of friendship;  they have provoked our entire population to desperation;  every tie is forever severed, and they have succeeded in turning us into mortal and irreconcilable foes.  There will be no need to make the Southern boy, like Hannibal, swear eternal enmity to the Yankee race.  The blood of their murdered fathers, and the tears of their outraged mothers, will call aloud for vengeance; and whether in our own  national armies or in the ranks of foreigners, defending out own homes or carrying the fires of war in their midst, coming years will yet witness the fruits of the seed they have sown.  Hereafter their honor will be our shame, their prosperity our loss, and in every condition of life, generations yet to come will keep alive those fires of hate they have taken so much pains to kindle.  If we must eventually fall, let us pull down that country and that people in the general wreck.  If ruin must come, let it be universal as regards that nation - loyalist and rebel, friend and foe, "in one red burial blent."    Better, far better sell ourselves to foreign despots, than be conquered provinces of these people.  Let us welcome the bonds of French Empire, or the chains of the Russian Autocrat, rather than bow our necks to the bigoted descendants of the Puritans.  If we fall, America shall fall with us, and rivers of blood shall smoke upon the red altar of Mars.  Let no people have a name and existence who shall stand up and call themselves our conquerors.  And when the worst comes to the worst, welcome destruction, so our foe be strangled in our death-grapple!
   But to my narrative.   During my stay...

The minor fall and the major lift...........


Jennifer Nettles..........................................O Holy Night/Hallelujah

    

 O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

 Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
All chains shall he break, everyone is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
With all our hearts we praise his Holy name!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

On "common sense"........


     People are irrational.  If something feels like it should work, most of us conclude that it does.  We don't have the time or resources to do scientific inquiry on every choice we make.  So we use our "common sense" and our "gut feeling" to get by.  That's the typical worldview.  But the Persuasion Filter says your common sense and gut feelings are little more than magical thinking.
     Most of us believe we have common sense.  And yet we disagree with one another about what that looks like.  That's all you need to know about common sense.  The illusion is that you have this thing called common sense and many others do not.  The Persuasion Filter takes it one step further and says that no one has common sense.  According to the filter, sometimes we make good choices and sometimes we don't.  When things go wrong, we blame the environment or bad luck, or we imagine it was a rare misfire by our common sense.  When things turn our in our favor, we believe it is because we have common sense and it served us well.  In both cases it is no more than rationalization after the fact.

-Scott Adams, as excepted from Win Bigly:  Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don't Matter

Every mother's child.......................


Nat King Cole..................................................The Christmas Song

 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Walt...................................


“The difference between winning and losing is often not quitting.” 

-Walt Disney

Yesterday would have been Walt Disney's 116th birthday.  Friend Sean offers a tribute.

Never quite fits....................




“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” 

-John Berger, Ways of Seeing

photo via

Just start blogging....................




“If you're lonely when you're alone, you're in bad company.” 

-Jean-Paul Sartre

Since we have no place to go..........


Frank Sinatra...............................................................Let It Snow

 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

This may explain a lot.................










-as cut and pasted from here

The complex art...............................


..............................................................of neighborliness.

Am I the only one.....................


..............................bothered by the notion of a "ruling class"?

Perhaps the single most destabilizing political development since the WW2 has been the destruction of ruling class prestige by the Internet.

-quote via

Times have changed...................


     With the powers separated, then, Washington judged it better to contain all the main factions within his administration.   In practice, with Adams as vice-president, speaking for New England, this meant he balanced Hamilton (New York) and War Secretary Henry Knox (1750-1806), a vast, happy, fat man who had started out as a Boston bookseller but had become Washington's most reliable and trustworthy general - both of them ardent federalists - against Jefferson, Secretary of State, and Edmund Randolph (1753-1813), also from Virginia, who were both states' rights men.  These were the six men who met to decide government policy.  These gatherings were called Cabinet meetings, as in England, though, as in England, they had no legal or constitutional standing.  They took place in Washington's house, 39 Broadway, just around the corner from Wall Street.  It would be hard to overemphasize the informality and small scale of this first administration.  Washington had to create it from scratch.  That did not worry him, because he had had to do exactly the same thing with the army in 1776.  The scale of the job was nothing:  until the second half of the 1790s he employed more people on his Mount Vernon estate than in the whole of the central executive of his government.

-Paul Johnson, A History of the American People

Strive.............................


“We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

-Aldo Leopold

Constitutive..................





     Our relative powerlessness before the ocean and its waves is not just a fact of the human condition.  It is a fact we must firmly accept, even embrace, in order to surf.  An attitude of acceptance is constitutive, if you will, of the mentality needed for the very possibility of performing the surfing activity:  without that sensibility, you can't surf a wave.
     Surfing is less a matter of asserting one's will than of transcending it, by standing ready to revise one's best-laid plans, according to what the ocean is offering.  And unless one surfs from a sense of one's relative powerlessness, one simple can't attunedly adapt to each coming moment of wave.  One won't be ready to respond immediately, at the right times, in the right places, in the right ways, ...

-Aaron James,  Surfing With Sartre:  An Aquatic Inquiry Into A Life Of Meaning



...an adaptive relationship...............




Even manly "power surfing" isn't remotely like the delusional dreams of men who go on about "making your own weather" in politics or "creating your own luck" in business.  The powerful surfer lays into a turn or carve, pushing through the rotation, with unusual force and command, but he could never pull this off in a less attuned state.  "Power surfing" comes not from willpower, or mere force, but from perspective, intuition, and anticipation - for one's sense that the ocean and its waves are to be not controlled but respected, and so read and answered, in an adaptive relationship.

-Aaron James,  Surfing With Sartre:  An Aquatic Inquiry Into A Life Of Meaning

Oh raise, raise a song on high................


Lindsey Stirling......................................What Child Is This

 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Skeptical scrutiny................




"Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense."

-attributed to Carl Sagan

What would happen if....................


 ...................................................the next all hands meeting got cancelled and instead the organization had an all hands-on read instead?

Suggested reading list here.

Most things are..........................


"Prosperity is more than an economic condition: it is a state of mind."

-Frederick Lewis Allen, as quoted here

Sort of like..............................


............................................................................life its ownself.

"Markets don’t have hard and fast rules that you can follow where the future will always look like the past."

-Ben Carlson, as culled from here

Rejoice, Rejoice......................


The Piano Guys..............................O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Unfortunately........................


..............figuring out the right questions is pretty hard work:

     "Asking great questions is a perfect way to build a relationship.  But the key word here is "great" questions.  Never ask a mentor a question Google can easily answer for you.  Carve this in stone.  Scrawl it in blood above your desk.  Get a tattoo of it. ..."

-Eric Barker,  as excerpted from Barking Up The Wrong Tree:  The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong

Schooling............................


“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” 
-Plato

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” 
-Plutarch

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” 
-Margaret Mead

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” 
-E.M. Forster

“I'm sorry to say that the subject I most disliked was mathematics. I have thought about it. I think the reason was that mathematics leaves no room for argument. If you made a mistake, that was all there was to it.” 
-Malcolm X

“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” 
-Jean Piaget


"Never let book-learning get in the way of your education."
-unofficial motto of our fraternity, 1970-73

What a wonderful time of year.......




Always good to remember..........


12   Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

-John 14:12,  The Holy Bible, New International Version

Always a favorite..............


Mannheim Steamroller....................................Pat A Pan

 

From his lips..................


.........................................................................to God's ears.

Ouch.....................


"As contemporary Native Americans, we live in the space between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren, between the stereotypes that were created to excuse the wholesale slaughter of our people and the stereotypes that were created to excuse the wholesale appropriation of our identity and cultures. The Trumps and Warrens of the world leave very little space for us to exist — which, when you understand the history of the United States, makes perfect sense."

-Rebecca Nagle, as excerpted from this essay (which you ought to read).  I believe in the greatness of the United States of America.  One of the reasons to study history is to know that even greatness is capable of abominable behavior.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

So, I've been reading....................


..................Scott Adams's book, Win Bigly: Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don't Matter.  Just arrived at the chapter titled "Trump's Rosie O'Donnell Moment," which details an event that happened in the first Republican debate in August of 2015.  Since I neglected to watch any of the debates, a quick visit was paid to YouTube, where the following was found:


 

Here are two snippets from Adams, watch the video and see if you agree:

     "Kelly finished her question and Trump responded with something about the problem of political correctness.  But by then it didn't matter.  The Rosie O'Donell reference sucked all the energy out of the room.  It was a masterstroke of persuasion, timed perfectly, and executed in front of the world.  When I saw it happen, I stood and walked toward the television (literally).  I got goose bumps on my arm.  This wasn't normal.   This was persuasion like I have never seen performed in public.  And in that moment, I saw the future unfold.  Or thought I did.  It would take another year to be sure."

and

     "Like many of you, I have been entertained by the unstoppable clown car that is Donald Trump.  On the surface, and several layers deep as well, Trump appears to be a narcissistic blowhard with inadequate credentials to lead a country.
     "The only problem with my analysis is there is an eerie consistency to his success so far.  Is there a method to it?  Is there some sort of system at work under the hood?"\

We are blessed to live in interesting times.


On the virtue of public debate..............


     Ratification by convention also had the effect of inviting a grand public debate on the issue, and in a way this was the most significant aspect of the whole process.  If Jefferson, Madison, and Adams were right in believing that education, virtue, and good government went together, then there was a positive merit in getting not just the state legislatures but the people themselves to debate the Constitution.  The wider the discussions, the more participants, the better - for public political debate was a form of education in itself, and a vital one.  If, in the 1760s and early 1770s, the Americans, or their representatives, had been allowed to debate with the British, or their representatives, on the proper relationship between the two peoples, the Revolution might have been avoided.  Words are and alternative to weapons, and a better one.  But a debate was refused, and the issue was put to the arbitrament of force.  The Americans had learned this lesson (as indeed had the British by now) and were determined to give words their full play.  In the next decade the French were to ignore the lesson, at the cost of countless lives and ideological bitterness which reverberates to this day.
     So that ratification process was a war of words.  And what words!  It was the grandest public debate in history up to that point.  It took place in the public square, at town meetings, in the streets of little towns and big cities, in the remote countryside of the Appalachian hills and the backwoods and back waters.  Above all it took place in print. ...

-Paul Johnson,  A History of the American People


Yeah, well...............................




“Yeah, well, we're all writers, aren't we? He's a writer that hasn't been published, and I'm a writer who hasn't written anything.” 

-Steve Martin

Harmony........................




I trust if your life is right, the right things will happen at the right time. If the chords are in harmony inside, I think other things will happen in the same way. That sounded highfalutin' to me once, but I believe it now. 

-Gene Wilder

Struggle............................




I believe the ability to think is blessed. If you can think about a situation, you can deal with it. The big struggle is to keep your head clear enough to think. 

-Richard Pryor

Not to be outdone................................


Trans-Siberian Orchestra..................................Carol of the Bells

 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Lesson #5........................


     Finally, the absence of hatred left plenty of room for joy in Churchill's life.   His face could light up in the most extraordinarily attractive way as it became suffused with pleasure at an unexpected and welcome event.  Witness that delightful moment at Number Ten when Baldwin gave him the exchequer.  Joy was a frequent visitor to Churchill's psyche, banishing boredom, despair, discomfort, and pain.  He liked to share his joy, and give joy.  It must never be forgotten that Churchill was happy with people. ...

-Paul Johnson,  Churchill

back story here

Ah, history............................


     He was not at all happy about the number of Germans coming to America, especially to Pennsylvania, where they tended to vote en bloc, the first instance of ethnicity in politics.  "Why should the Palantine boor be suffered to swarm into our settlements and, by herding together, establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours?  Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanise us, instead of us Anglicising them?"  He wanted language qualifications "for any Post of trust, profit, or honor."  He also wanted monetary rewards to encourage Englishmen to marry German women, but dismissed the idea for "German women are generally so disagreeable to an English eye that it wou'd require great portions to induce Englishman to marry them."  These views were by no means unusual among the founders.  Neither Washington nor Jefferson wanted unlimited or even large-scale immigration.

-Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, quoting Benjamin Franklin circa the late 1780s

Fun with the language................
















via

Kicking off the season................


August Burns Red............................................Carol Of The Bells

 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gone, but not forgotten...................


Jim Nabors.................................................The Impossible Dream

 

Perspectives......................




     We were some hours getting into position, but finally formed in an open filed, under the declivity of a gradually rising hill in our front, upon the top of which the artillery was posted;  all things ready, the batteries in our front opened, and were soon hotly engaged with the enemy's guns on the opposite heights.   The enemy's shells screamed and bursted around us, inflicting considerable damage.  It is very trying upon men to remain still and in ranks under a severe cannonading.  One has time to reflect upon the danger, and there being no wild excitement as in a charge, he is more reminded of the utter helplessness of his present condition.  The men are all flat on the ground, keeping their places in ranks, and as a shell is heard, generally try to sink themselves into the earth.  Nearly every face is overspread with a serious, thoughtful air;  and what thoughts, vivid and burning, come trooping up from the inner chambers of memory, the soldier can only realize. ...

     During the artillery fight above mentioned, I saw Gen. Longstreet in a small wood immediately behind our batteries, sitting on his horse like an iron man with his spyglass to his eye, coolly watching the effect of our shots.  Limbs of trees fell and crashed around him, yet he sat as unmoved as a statue.  I really believe he loves the music of cannon-shot;  if so, it is an affection that is not indulged in by his faithful soldiers.

-Decimus et Ultimus Barziza,  The Adventures Of A Prisoner Of War, 1863-64

Sounds like a lot of work..............


     Because of the different ways that our brains are wired, we all experience reality in different ways and any single way is essentially distorted.  This is something we need to acknowledge and deal with.  So if you want to know what is true and what to do about it, you must understand your own brain.

-Ray Dalio,  Principles

The more things change...................


As Amos Singeltary of Massachusetts put it, "These lawyers, and men of learning, and monied men, that talk so finely, and gloss over matters so smoothly, to make us poor illiterate people swallow down the pills, expect to get into Congress themselves;  they expect to be the managers of this Constitution, and get all the power and money into their own hands, and then they will swallow up all us little folks, like the great Leviathan.

-As excerpted from the chapter in Paul Johnson's A History of the American People dealing with the late 1780's process of ratifying of the Constitution.

Opening paragraphs.................


          Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
          The other powerless to be born.

Matthew Arnold's famous lines from "Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse" have long served as an epigram for nineteenth-century Europeans whose past seemed far more certain than their future.  Arnold, the English poet adored by American liberals, looking out from a French monastery in 1850, evoked the tensions and confusion of emerging industrial modernity.  What he said of Europe applied to the post-Civil War United States as well, if only as a borrowed garment,
     In 1865 an older American nation had died, a casualty of the Civil War.  Abraham Lincoln's lesson taken from the Gospel of Mark, that "a house divided against itself cannot stand," had been rewritten in blood.  The old Union had perished in a fratricidal war, but Northerners did not doubt that, again in Lincoln's words, "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom."  They would resurrect the best of the old society with the cancer of slavery cut out.
     Americans did give birth to a new nation, but it was not the one they imagined.  How the United States at the end of the nineteenth century turned out to be so different from the country Lincoln conjured and Republicans confidently set out to create is the subject of this book.

Richard White, from the introduction to The Republic For Which It Stands:  The United States During Reconstruction And The Gilded Age,   1865-1896

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Opening Paragraphs...................


     In the following pages I design to give my adventures for the past twelve months.  What I set down, shall be chiefly those incidents which came under my personal observation.  My style may, perhaps, be objectionable, and the continued indulgence of the pronoun "I" may savor of egotism; but as this is my book I am writing, and my adventures I am relating, I shall ask no one's pardon, and offer no apology.  Many incidents herein will be well remembered by  thousands of Confederate soldiers, and their recall at this time and by this means, will, I know, be agreeable and entertaining.

-Decimus et Ultimus Barziza,  The Adventures Of A Prisoner Of War And Life and Scenes in Federal Prisons:  Johnson's Island, Fort Delaware, and Point Lookout;  By An Escaped Prisoner Of Hood's Texas Brigade

Ed. Note:  Latin students will recognize Decimus et Ultimus as "tenth and last."   Apparently his parents had run out of names by the time their tenth child was born.  Wiki here.

Lesson #4......................


     Fourth, Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meanness of life:  recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas.  Having fought hard, he washed his hands and went on to the next contest.  It is one reason for his success.  There is nothing more draining and exhausting than hatred.  And malice is bad for the judgment.  Churchill loved to forgive and make up.  His treatment of Baldwin and Chamberlain after he became prime minister is an object lesson in sublime magnanimity.  Nothing gave him more pleasure than to replace enmity with friendship, not least with the Germans.

-Paul Johnson, Churchill

back story

Principles..................................


The Rippingtons...............................................Principles of Desire

 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Lesson #3..............................


     Third, and it its way the most important, Churchill never allowed mistakes, disaster - personal or national - accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, and criticism to get him down.  His powers of recuperation, both in physical illness and in psychological responses to abject failure, were astounding.  To be blamed for the dreadful failure and loss of life in the Dardanelles was a terrible burden to carry.  Churchill responded by fighting on the western front, in great discomfort and danger, and then by doing a magnificent job at the ministry of munitions.  He made a fool of himself over the abdication and was howled down by a united House of Commons in one of the most savage scenes of personal humiliation ever recorded.  He scrambled to his feet and worked his way back.  He had courage, the most important of all virtues, and its companion, fortitude.  These strengths are inborn but they can also be cultivated, and Churchill worked on them all his life.  In a sense his whole career was an exercise in how courage can be displayed, reinforced, guarded and doled out carefully, heightened and concentrated, conveyed to others.  Those uncertain of their courage can look to Churchill for reassurance and inspiration.

-Paul Johnson,  Churchill

back story

Friday, November 24, 2017

Lesson #2......................


     Lesson number two is:  there is no substitute for hard work.  Churchill obscured this moral by his (for him) efficient habit of spending a working morning in bed, telephoning, dictating, and consulting.  He also manifestly enjoyed his leisure activities, for him another form of hard work, to keep himself fit and rested and to enable himself to do his job at the top of his form.  The balance he maintained between flat-out work and creative and restorative leisure is worth study by anyone holding a top position.  But he never evaded hard work itself:  taking important and dangerous decisions, the hardest form of work there is, in the course of a sixteen hour day.  Or working on a speech to bring it as near perfection as possible.  No one ever worked harder than Churchill to make himself a master orator.  Or forcing himself to travel long distances, often in acute discomfort and danger, to meet the top statesmen face-to-face where his persuasive charm could work best.  He worked hard at everything to the best of his ability:  Parliament, administration, geopolitics and geostrategy, writing books, painting, creating an idyllic house and garden, seeing things and if possible doing things for himself.  Mistakes he made, constantly, but there was never anything shoddy or idle about his work.  He put tremendous energy into everything, and was able to do this because (as he told me) he conserved and husbanded his energy, too.  There was an extraordinary paradox about his white, apparently flabby body and the amount of muscle power he put into life, always.

-Paul Johnson,  Churchill

back story

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lesson #1...............


     The first lesson is:  always aim high.  As a child Churchill received no positive encouragement from his father and little from his mother.  He was aware of failure at school.  But he still aimed high.  He conquered his aversion to math, at least enough to pass.  He reinforced success in what he could do:  write a good English sentence.  Conscious of his ignorance, he set himself to master English history and to familiarize himself with great chunks of literature.  Once his own master, he played polo to win the top award in the world.  He got himself into five wars in quick succession and become both a veteran of military lore and one of the world's most experienced (and highly paid) war correspondents.  Then he set his sights on the House of Commons and stayed there (with one lapse) for over half a century.  He sough power and got it in growing amplitude.  He never cadged or demeaned himself to get office, but obtained it on his own terms.  He sought to be prime minister feeling only he could achieve certain things.  In 1940 he aimed not only high but at the highest - to rescue a stricken country in danger of being demoralized, to put it firmly on its feet again, and to carry it to salvation and victory.  He did not always meet his elevated targets, but by aiming high he always achieved something worthwhile.

-Paul Johnson,   Churchill

back story

But I'm afraid...........................


.....................................blogging might be one of them.

... I recommend that you write down your three most harmful habits.  Do that right now.  Now pick one of those habits and be committed to breaking it.  Can you do that?  That would be extraordinarily impactful.  If you break all three you will radically improve the trajectory of your life.

-Ray Dalio,   Principles

Reliability..............................


“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”

-Joseph Campbell

No trouble.............................


“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” 

-Steven PressfieldDo the Work

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A full life............................


     In his ninety years, Churchill had spent fifty-five years as a member of Parliament, thirty-one years as a minister, and nearly nine years as prime minister.  He had been present at or fought in fifteen battles, and had been awarded fourteen campaign medals, some with multiple clasps.  He had been a prominent figure in the First World War, and a dominant one in the Second.  He had published nearly 10 million words, more than most professional writers in their lifetime, and painted over five hundred canvases, more than most professional painters.  He had reconstructed a stately home and created a splendid garden with its three lakes, which he had caused to be dug himself.  He had built a cottage and a garden wall.  He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and Elder Brother of Trinity House, a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a Royal Academician, a university chancellor, a Nobel Prizeman, a Knight of the Garter, a Companion of Honour, and a member of the Order of Merit.  Scores of towns made him an honorary citizen, dozens of universities awarded him honorary degrees, and thirteen countries gave him medals.  He hunted big game and won a score of races.  How many bottles of champagne he consumed is not recorded, but it may be close to twenty thousand.  He had a large and much-loved family, and countless friends.
     So Winston Churchill led a full life, and few people are ever likely to equal it - its amplitude, variety, and success on so many fronts.  But all can learn from it, especially in five ways.

-Paul Johnson,  Churchill

Ed. Note:  Stay tuned for more about the five ways.

to interrogate...........................




But when Socrates was  a young man and explored, as he later said, the limits of scientific knowledge, he could not see any way of pushing them further.  The cosmos was mute.  It could be seen but could not speak.  Above all, it could not answer questions.
     That, to Socrates, was the great objection to work on the external world.  He was the Great Question Master.  His deepest instinct was to interrogate.  The dynamic impulse within him was to ask and then use the answer to frame another question.  At an early age - in his twenties, most likely - he saw that science, or the investigation of the external world was, for him at least, unprofitable.  But the investigation of the internal world of man was something he could do and wanted to do.

Paul Johnson,  Socrates:  A Man For Our Times

image via

The classical anxiety........................



The Cruxifiction    Nicola Pisano


     The story of Renaissance sculpture begins with Nicola Pisano, who lived approximately between 1220 and 1284.  He came from Apulia in the heel of Italy, but most of his working life was spent in Pisa, Bologna, Siena, Perugia and other central Italian towns.  He was a product of the brilliant if precarious court culture created by Emperor Frederick II, knows as stupor mundi, of the Wonder of the World.  Frederick build palatial castles in southern Italy, patronized artists and craftsmen of all kinds, imported ideas and technology from the eastern Mediterranean and the Orient and, not least, sought to revive classical forms.  Pisano was clearly trained in one of the emperor's south Italian workshops, and he brought to Tuscany something new:  the classical anxiety to represent the human body accurately, to show emotions not symbolically but as they are actually seen on human faces, to distinguish with infinite gradations between youth and age and to render men and women as living, breathing, individual creatures.

-Paul Johnson, The Renaissance:  A Short History

On getting the mixture right............


     The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures.  No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind.  In now spans four centuries and, as we enter the new millennium, we need to retell it, for if we can learn these lessons and build upon them, the whole of humanity will benefit in the new age which is now opening.  American history raises three fundamental questions.  First, can a nation rise above the injustices of its origins and, by its moral purpose and performance, atone for them?  All nations are born in war, conquest, and crime, usually concealed by the obscurity of a distant past.  The United States, from its earliest colonial times, won its title-deeds in the full blaze of recorded history, and the stains on them are there for all to see and censure:  the dispossession of a indigenous people, and the securing of self-sufficiency through the sweat and pain of an enslaved race.  In the judgmental scales of history, such grievous wrongs must be balanced by the erection of a society dedicated to justice and fairness.  Has the United States done this?  Has it expiated its organic sins?  The second question provides the key to the first.  In the process of nation-building, can ideals and altruism - the desire to build a perfect community - be mixed successfully with acquisitiveness and ambition, without which no dynamic society can be built at all?  Have the Americans got the mixture right?  Have they forged a nation where righteousness has the edge over needful self-interest?   Thirdly, the Americans originally aimed to build an other-worldly 'City on a Hill,'  but found themselves designing a republic of the people, to be a model for the entire planet.  Have they made good their audacious claims?  Have they indeed proved exemplars for humanity?  And will they continue to be so in the new millennium?

-Paul Johnson,  A History of the American People

Monday, November 20, 2017

All I need to know about love.................


.....................................I learned from my dog:

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
Thrive on affection and let people touch you - enjoy back rubs and pats on your neck.
When you leave your yard, make it an adventure.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
No matter how often you're scolded, don't pout - run right back and make friends.
Bond with your pack.
On cold nights, curl up in front of a crackling fire.
When you're excited, speak up.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you'll get what you want.
Don't go out without ID.
Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
Always give people a friendly greeting.
If it's not wet and sloppy, it's not a real kiss.


-author unknown, but borrowed from here

Sorry about that........................



According to the counter thing that Blogger provides, the last post was the 20,000th.  Apologies are extended for littering all over the Intertunnel floor.   Hopefully, faithful reader, you have found a thing or two of value.   I know I have.

Confirmation Bias......................


     Confirmation bias is one of the many reasons your should not solely rely on past experience to predict the future.  Those facts that you think you know from the past might be confirmation bias, and not facts at all.
     Most people know what confirmation bias is, if not by its name, then certainly by personal experience.  We all know how hard it is to change a person's mind about anything important, even when all the facts are on our side.  But what nonpersuaders usually don't realize is how prevalent confirmation bias is.  Confirmation bias isn't an occasional bug in our human operating system.  It is the operating system.  We are designed by evolution to see new information as supporting our existing opinions, so long  as it doesn't stop us from procreating.  Evolution doesn't care if you understand your reality.  It only cares that you reproduce.  It also wants you to conserve energy for the important stuff, such as surviving.  The worst thing your brain could do is reinterpret your reality into a whole new movie with each new bit of information.  That would be exhausting and without benefit.  Instead your brain takes the path of least resistance and instantly interprets your observations to fit your existing worldview.  It's just easier.

-Scott Adams,  Win Bigly:  Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don't Matter

Wiring...................


People don't change opinions about emotional topics just because some information proved their opinion to be nonsense.  Humans aren't wired that way.

-Scott Adams,   Win Bigly: Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don't Matter

wobble and go blind..........


Solomon was busy judging others,
when it was his personal thoughts
that were disrupting the community.

His crown slid crooked on his head.
He put it straight, but the crown went
awry again.  Eight times this happened.

Finally he began to talk to his headpiece.
"Why do you keep tilting over my eyes?"

"I have to.  When your power loses compassion,
I have to show what such a condition looks like."

Immediately Solomon recognized the truth.
He knelt and asked forgiveness.
The crown centered itself on his crown.

When something goes wrong, accuse yourself first.
Even the wisdom of Plato or Solomon
can wobble and go blind.

Listen when your crown reminds you
of what makes you cold towards others,
as you pamper the greedy energy inside.

-Rumi,  Solomon's Crooked Crown