Jeweler Screws

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As a student of behavior, it’s great to make sweeping generalizations inspiring others.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore details that muddy up one’s life.

This is one of those diddly details.  I’m trying to make the best of it, and use it as a lesson for staying on track and being a good STUDENT of behavior, instead of a VICTIM.

For our 25th anniversary, and for Valentines, and for her 50th birthday, and for recognizing neutron stars, I wanted to do something very special for my wife in solid gold.  That’s total gold.  24 carat.  No extra ingredients.

Jewelers don’t like pure gold because it’s very soft.  But I wanted pure gold in a very special shape.  Not only because it was a special occasion with special math involved (halves and all that), but also because physicists and chemists had figured out where gold comes from.

Colliding neutron stars.  Cool, huh?  So all the gold on Earth started out as space dust spewed out from a couple of neutron stars that couldn’t keep their hands off each other.

Now, four years ago when I did this, it was only a partial theory than generally accepted physics, because there was no evidence.  Then, only last year, we got evidence.  Three huge telescopes that are set up to measure gravity waves recorded the collision of two neutron stars.  Bang.  Gold!  And a whole lot of other heavy elements.

Back to me and the jeweler.  I asked them to make this.  They were local, they were nice, and they did it.  Cost a lot.  My bride was very happy.  She always is.  Heck I could have made it out of steel and she would have been just as happy.

Fast forward four years.  The jeweler has moved.  My wife is taking out the jewelry, and guess what?  It’s tarnished.  What?  She tries to remove the tarnish, and it doesn’t come off.

Gold doesn’t tarnish.  I’m feeling, angry, anguished, cheated, vengeful, disappointed, angry again, depressed, and trapped.  Angry with them, angry with myself.  How could I have allowed this to happen?

I’ll go to another jeweler and get it checked.  I’ll go to a lawyer and see what my options are.  But my guess is that the money is gone, along with my friendly jeweler.

What’s the lesson?  I’ll let you help me figure it out.  The bigger point is that I can’t let it get to me.  My wife is still happy, she always will be.  The money is still gone, and it’s unlikely to come back.

At least this life’s lesson, this life event, can live on the internets so that others may be able to learn from it before it happens to them.

Learning.  That’s what being a student is all about.  I just wish it didn’t have to be so darn expensive.

Or painful.

 

Pride and Prejudice: Fight Club

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Fight club?  Isn’t that a reference to a brutal, physical, bloody pugilistic mess of masculinity and violence?

Why, yes.

There is something about watching a well-choreographed fight scene that draws many people, not only men, in order to find out how equal opponents will fare in the most brutal of sports.

The fight becomes more suspenseful when the opponents are unequal.  We expect one to win, and then, surprise, the underdog comes through.

Guess what?

Jane included a fight-club like scene right smack-dab in the middle of P&P.  You guessed it.  The chapter where Darcy comes and proposes to Elizabeth.  She’s the underdog.

I’m in the middle of writing my version of this chapter, and my admiration for Jane has gone up yet another notch.  She’s already pretty high up as it is, but this chapter is brilliant.  Here’s a breakdown of the fight, in five parts.

  1. Darcy comes in swinging.  He states his position, catching her with an unexpected left hook, and he’s confident of victory.  Liz bounces off the ropes, a bit dazed, but still in the fight.  Her “No thank you” is a light punch to the gut.  He’s not fazed.
  2. Darcy comes back with his demands, and Liz lets him have it with some of the best quick punches in history: you say you love me while insulting me!  He’s certainly a bit unsteady with this one.  NO ONE tells Darcy he’s not logical!
  3. He doesn’t fight back, but hits the ropes while Liz delivers some more blows, telling him that he separated Jane and Bingley.  He doesn’t argue, he’s proud of it!  That’s quite a defense there, holding up his hands to his face the entire time.
  4. Liz isn’t done.  Now she brings up the whole Wickham thing.  These are known as “feints” in boxing, because the blows don’t really land.  All they do is distract your opponent, and mix him up it does, as Darcy goes ballistic thinking about Wickham and the past.  But Liz has set him up for a series of punches known as the TKO.
  5. While Darcy is still hot, claiming he was too honest with her, and could have won if he’d been all nice and romantic, hiding his true feelings.  This is called dancing and weaving in the boxing ring.  Liz isn’t having any of it.  She’s focused on the kill:
    1. First Punch, a hard right.  If you had behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.  Wow.  This one draws blood, but he’s still standing.  We find out much later this has been hurting him for the entire rest of the story.
    2. Second Punch, a good left throwing him off balance.  Liz lets him know she wouldn’t have accepted him no matter what he said.  Ha!  At this point he thinks he’s still in the fight, but this is how you tell the great fighter (Lizzy) from the wannabe (Darcy).
    3. Third Punch, the technical knockout.  I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on Earth.  This is the first time ANYONE ever said those words.  And it’s letting him know that he’s dead last in her eyes, Mister “Everyone Adores Me” totally getting cut down at the knees.  Fight’s over.

 

The whole thing is absolutely brilliant.  Darcy has barely enough energy to stand at the end and see her crowned the winner.  He says “You have said quite enough”, which in boxing language is “Uncle!”  He leaves, nursing serious wounds.

So the next time anyone says a romantic comedy doesn’t have enough action, point them to this story, this chapter, and let them read away.  It’s one of the bloodiest fight scenes in literature.  And the best part is that the suspense doesn’t end there, it only gets better.

Thank you Jane.

 

School Bus Moon Bus

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Mom: Ohnny, you’re going even if you turn blue.

Kid: Don’t want to.  What good is a stupid park?

... school bus.

Mom: You’ll learn something you can’t learn here.  See cool things like animals you’ve only seen in pictures.

Kid: But’s it’s going to take days and days and days.  I’m going to die!

Mom: It takes three days each way, and your Rangers will keep you very busy.  And you have to exercise along the way.

Kid: I know I know, I don’t wanna go!

Mom packed up her 9 year old with required gear, some mom-required gear, and then extra for good luck.  All the kids were loaded onto the school bus, strapped in extra tightly, kissed again, and sent off.  The parents breathed a sigh of relief, most of them looking forward to a few weeks of quiet.

The kids split in smaller groups, each guided by their accompanying Rangers.  By way of deserts, jungles, rivers, mountains and cliffs each one got to see a bit of unadulterated Nature, the landscapes of their distant ancestors.

Ohnny wasn’t the best behaved little boy, and during 4th day, a special transport showed up.

Ohnny the Kid: Grandma!

Grandma: Hello spitfire.  I hear you’ve been causing trouble for your teacher.

Kid: Not really.  Maybe a little.  I’m sorry.

Grandma: You’re going to be extra sorry now.  (To the Ranger:) I’ll take him, young man.  And he’ll be returned in pieces if he doesn’t shape up, understand Ohnny?

Ranger and Kid: Yes, Ma’am.

Ranger:  I’m glad you’re here.  He’s a good boy, just, animated.

Grandma: Out of control?  Sounds like his father.  A lot like his grandpa, too, now that I think about it.  That old fart, he just missed his 102nd birthday.

Ranger: I’m sorry.  You must miss him so.

Grandma: I don’t miss the old coot.  He missed his birthday because he’s on Mars helping with the Terran-dome exhibit.  He’s a lichen specialist and that stupid mold is giving them problems.  He’s going to live till he’s 150, unless I kill him first.

Ranger: You must be quite the experts to be full-time Terrans.

Grandma: We know our stuff.  Someone has to repair this place, considering the damage done by our ancestors.  A few more centuries and it will be back to where it was during the Egyptians.

Ranger: You get a whole planet to yourself, one big park.  You’re lucky.

Grandma: Lucky?  This is hard, full-time work.  And I don’t need a snot-nosed kid diddling with my agenda, Ohnny!  Get back here!

Grandma continued: You’ve got the work, turning the whole moon into one huge city.  That can’t be fun, living with all those people breathing down your neck.  That’s another reason we opted to stay here.

Ranger: It’s not so bad.  All the trappings of civilization that used to be in the big cities, like New York or Paris, you can only find those on Luna, and soon on Mars.  Someday it’ll be completely covered, we’re up to over 15 billion already.

Grandma: Good luck to you.  Okay, as promised, he’ll be back by sundown.  And if he so much as breathes funny, let me know and he answers to me.  Got it?

Ranger: Yes Ma’am.

Kid: Yes Grandma Ma’am!

She laughed and walked away, Ohnny holding her hand tightly.

 

Pride and Prejudice: Help Wanted

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Hello Gentle Readers,

Today, instead of releasing creative steam, I’m reaching out to anyone who would like to be an early reader of my book.  I’ve reached the halfway point and I need feedback.

Do you know of someone who likes reading, especially romantic comedies, like P&P?

Is that person a good writer, maybe even an author?

Please forward this to them, or post this on your own feeds.  Since I have no social media presence, it’s unlikely that many of my posts get further than the Kremlin.  (joke!, maybe)

Perhaps you (or they) would like to know what it’s all about.  Here we go.

It’s P&P with strong women, including especially Mrs. Bennet.  Darcy is a woman named Ross, President of a worldwide enterprise known as the Foundation.  Her closest associate is a young woman named Iris.  The setting is mainly the suburbs of Boston in the 1980, with major scenes in New York City and Los Angeles.  The star is a young man named Ken.  Unlike Lizzy, he’s not waiting for Ross to fall for him.  He’s busy researching his own exciting family history.  Not only does this history contain incredible twists and turns, it also connects a loose end that Jane Austen left us in the original novel.

Yes, this book contains insights into the real P&P, and I’m enjoying writing it.  Now I have to find out if anyone out there would enjoy reading it.

So please, pass this on!

Very Sincerely,

Steve

 

 

Folding Yoga

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Yoga and me get along great.  I’m into that whole 8 limbs thing, and the 10-ish commandments called yamas and niyamas.

Most of us get hooked through the asana part of yoga, that’s limb number 3.  The asanas are called poses or postures.  Their purpose is to get us to feel better, avoid future pain, and focus on ourselves so that we can look upon the universe with greater honesty.

It’s crazy, but true.  The more better you see inside, the more better you see outside.

Yeah, yeah, yoga is great and I feel all warm and fuzzy.  But is all a bed of lotus flowers?

Not always.  For me, the best flavor of yoga practice has the name of Iyengar, BKS.  He popularized a very precise and intense form of practice that emphasizes deep understanding.  I’m into understanding stuff, so it works out pretty good.  It turns out he was also fond of experiments and learning, and so am I.  I call him BKS because Iyengar is a caste designation, not a name.

His teacher was also his brother in law, and that guy was awesome.  He could slow his heart enough so people thought it stopped.  He taught every student differently.  He earned 8 doctoral degrees.  That was T Krishnamachurya.  I’ll call him TK.

Here’s my problem.

TK was big on getting things precise and using whatever he could find to help his students learn.  BKS took this one level further, and introduced the brick (blocks), standardized mats (I think), chairs, and, my personal least favorite – the blanket.

The blanket sounds great, but it’s kind of flaccid and floppy and fringy and dusty, at times.  It never sits exactly the way it’s supposed to, and when I touch it there’s suddenly ripples and wrinkles that magically appear.

Of course, a BKS trained instructor tells us the blankets must all be folded in a precise way for the asana.  Look at the instructor and follow her example.

I freak out, but try not to show any emotion.  Inside, I’m frustrated.  Every time I touch a blanket it turns into a bed cover.  The folds have to be in the right place.  The fringe has to be pointing the right way.  The segments have to be even.  The folding pattern has to be done in the right order.

Aaaargh!

I know, that’s not a yoga mantra.  But it’s part of my yoga vocab.

I usually solve the problem by waiting for my instructor to fix it for me.  She’s almost always patient and understanding.  I once explained that I’m folding deficient in fabrics, just ask my wife.  But the instructor just gave me “the look.”

It’s funny, because I’m good at origami.  But there’s something about that dang blanket.

Namaskar.

 

 

 

 

Harriet the Monster

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The daughter recommended it, the wife read it first, and now I’ve finished it.

Monsters.  Specifically, My Favorite Thing is Monsters.  By Emil Ferris.

It’s dark and it’s beautiful.  She draws (literally) upon many iconic images from Chicago during the 1960s, and she draws upon many of the works of art in the Chicago Art Institute.

Since I’m devoted to studying behavior, what does this monster-based thriller teach us?

Here’s where another book comes in, Harriet the Spy.

It's a classic.  Please read it if you haven't!Harriet is also out to solve a mystery.  She’s also learning about the world of adults.  And she’s also wrestling with who she is as a young woman.

The similarities end there.  For Harriet is a tame post card of last century compared to Monsters.

And that’s where our learning comes in.  The differences in the way such a similar subject is treated tells us more about what underlies society than reams of studies and surveys.  Art, done correctly, becomes one of the best ways to look into the deepest psyche of our collective soul.

And that, my dear friends, is where you can find the real Monsters.

Happy Hunting.

 

 

Pride and Prejudice: Misdirection

Magic is a most intriguing form of entertainment.  Would you ever expect to find magic in a novel?

That’s what Jane did in P&P.

Don’t believe me?

Possibly the best novel ever written.

It’s alright, it’s a crazy theory of mine.  But I’ve been getting to know Jane fairly well over the past year, and my respect for her continues to increase.

Here’s the deal.

I believe the author (Jane) created a character (Mrs. Bennet) who intentionally comes across as a silly woman intent on only one thing, marrying her daughters to good men.

Mrs. Bennet not only convinces all the other characters that she is silly, she also convinces the omniscient narrator.

“Ha ha!” you say.  “You are so silly,” you say.

Perhaps.  But consider another small piece of evidence.

Jane Austen is an incredible writer.  At least in P&P, her writing is super tight.  I swear that if you expanded her thoughts to what is considered acceptable in modern novels, you would have a book somewhere around 4 to 8 times larger.

EVERYTHING she describes is put down in words only ONCE.  The majesty of Pemberly, the mannerisms of Mr. Collins, the lethargy of Mr. Hurst.  You only get her to describe them once.  She figures you can always go back to see what she said, in case you forgot.

If you’re like me, you read the book a few dozen times.  I’m to the point where I take notes.

Oh, wait.  Here’s a surprise!  There is one mannerism, one character trait for one particular character that she KEEPS describing over and over.  Care to guess?

Yes, it’s Mrs. Bennet.  She is REPEATEDLY described as silly, unconcerned, focused on one thing only.  Whether it’s the narrator or Lizzy, Mrs. Bennet is continuously put forward as silly.

Why?  Is Jane worried that we forgot?  Is she somehow concerned that of all characters in the book she has neglected Mrs. Bennet.

No.

Like the best of magicians, she is telling us where to look.  And she keeps reminding us where to look.

Mrs. Bennet is silly, that’s where she wants us to look.

But if Jane is the magician I think she is, then we want to look elsewhere.  Because that’s where the magic resides.

And if there’s one thing I know, its …

… Never trust a magician!

Measuring a Teacher

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Have you ever argued for your best teacher?  “Mr. A was the best!”  and your friend says “Oh yeah!  And in college I remember Ms. B teaching me the most.”

Perhaps you may have debated who was greatest among classic philosophers: Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle?

It’s a fun debate, and I’ve revealed my choice earlier.  But here, I can provide us with an objective measure that we should all be able to accept.  It has some shortcomings, but every measure has benefits and drawbacks.

The greatness of a teacher should be measured by how many subsequent teachers they create.

You see, it’s not necessarily important that they teach something totally awesome, although it doesn’t hurt.  It’s not even important that we be able to understand what it is they did.

With respect to philosophy, Socrates taught Plato.

Plato taught Aristotle.

Aristotle taught, hmmm, who did Aristotle teach?  I heard that he taught Alexander the great, but Alex wasn’t exactly known for being a good teacher.  He was more of a doer.

There we have it for philosophy.  So Socrates is the greatest teacher among them.  We can debate which of them had the “best” philosophy [1] but that’s for another day.

How about something like physics?  Archimedes is easily the first in this category, both theoretical and experimental, but we don’t know if he left any teachers behind.  Tycho Brahe was a polymath that included physics, he taught Kepler, and Kepler taught Newton.  Who did Newton teach?  No one directly, as far as I know.  He did teach many indirectly, but I’m not counting that.

Einstein is one of those people who learned from Newton, Faraday, and many others.  But did he teach anyone?  Not sure.

So, are Archimedes, Newton, and Einstein still great scientists?  Of course.  But were they great teachers?

My measure says no.  Is that worth anything?

Now that is something we should discuss another day.

[1] Socrates, with Plato being a close second.  Archie was a hack who sold out for celebrity.

 

Pride and Prejudice: Omniscience

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Way back in olden times, my English professors told us about how a writer can become the “omniscient” narrator.

This makes sense, because the person telling the story is made of words written by the writer.  Since the writer is making up the story, then the omniscient narrator knows everything the writer knows.  Right?

Wrong.

In P&P, they are two very different things.  For instance, the narrator keeps telling us that Mrs. Bennet is silly, but I have found several instances where she drops the act, if only for a moment, showing that there are some brains behind that faded beauty.

You may disagree, in fact I encourage feedback for this is all good fun, but there’s a good chance you can find your own examples where the narrator doesn’t know exactly what Jane knows.  That’s Jane Austen by the way; she and I are on a first-name basis.

Some incredible literates may observe that many writers do this, now.  Perhaps there were some that did this, then.  Good point, the omniscient narrator is treated like another character.

Except that in P&P, Jane makes the “edges” of the omniscient narrator invisible.  Unless you are extremely persistent, maybe even crazy persistent (like me) then the seams become evident.  But they are easy to miss.

Jane was such a fine writer that it’s almost impossible to see any seams, any cracks, any flaws in anything.  P&P is a perfect novel in which nothing ever happens.

So the next time you come across an omniscient narrator, tip your hat and pay a quick tribute to Jane.

 

Today’s Most Influential Woman is …

It’s a few days before Easter, 2018, and as I realized who the most influential woman in the world is as of today.  She may have been influential for many days, but it’s even more so as of today.

#MeToo back in the Golden Age

Today is when a newly famous woman talks on big TV about an affair she had with this guy who is today’s President.  She’s NOT the Influential Woman.

There are lots of other women finally coming forward about what a sexual consumer and predator our president is ALLEGED to be.  None of them are the most Influential Women, either.  (Note, I believe all of them.  Why should they lie?  #MeToo)

No, the most Influential Woman today is…

… his wife, Melania.

I can’t feel totally sorry for her.  She put herself on exhibit, she “caught” him, she has her child, and she can live in her golden cage.

Yet I can notice certain great behavioral components.

Mr. President must be feeling pretty dry by now.  Let’s face it.  He’s pretty much living single, Melania isn’t going to be feeling much “in the mood,” and every move this guy makes is under a microscope.

So here’s what makes her influential.  You guessed it.  Sex.

All she has to do is say, “Do this, Darling, and you can have, this.”

Won’t work?  Check out this story involving pausing a war a few thousand years ago.  Or how about these stories much more recently, described along with a broadway musical about it.

More to the point of this site, we are doing the first extremely public experiment into the phenomenon of “What happens to Men when they get EXTREMELY sexually frustrated?”

I touched upon this a bit a long while ago in this post.  What makes today’s experiment so much more exciting is that we are all able to watch it, live.  Along the way we can have some fun.

How long has it been for Mr. President (no puns intended).

How much longer can he go without?

Can it be possible that he’s escaping to Florida and other places where he can get his “fix?”  If so, how long can that secret be kept?

I’m hopeful that Melania will keep him from getting his fix by being vigilant.  If she realizes she can be that much more powerful if he gets hungry, then that might encourage her.  Of course, the downside to this plan is that she has to, well, “feed” him on occasion, and that could interfere with anyone’s appetite.

Anyway, stay tuned, and enjoy the show.  It’s better than facing reality at the moment.