Monday, October 31, 2011

Where They Speak English

So many languages to be heard on the streets of London. One might not hear the sounds of every language in the world in London, but surely the cacophony on the sidewalks includes many voices speaking many languages. Hard, hard consonants contrast with haltingly soft vowels, staccato sentences contrast with the mellifluous. The American 'Hi,' the British 'Hello' and what follows those greetings clearly distinguishes English from American speech.  Regardless of language or place of origin, the women wear knee-high and above boots and scarves with flair. 
There seems to be a fresh newsrag for every tube trip, a Starbucks on every corner, and a cellphone in every right ear.  
Where else in the world would I sit next to a man from Kuwait who knows a student I taught over 30 years ago? Where else are there at least three plays that are 'must see' for every night one is in town? Where else would there be a triangulation among protesters (Wall Street), a church (St. Paul's, letting the tents stay) and the government (Boris Johnson, let's just hose those protesters out of there)? Where else do history and contemporary life complement one another so well? And about those museums. . . .



Samuel Johnson on London: (in the mid 1700's)
"Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists."
Boswell: Life


In 2011, Samuel Johnson would probably say the same thing: it's the little lanes and courts, the multiplicity of human habitations, the wonderful immensity of London that intrigues us. If he wouldn't say it, I would. I am. 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Same old, same old

Leaving for London early this weekend, so this will be the last post for about ten days. Wrapping things up, I'm here to tell you that Samuel Taylor's Bar-b-que place on Cherry Street finally took down the 'Ugly People Eat Free' sign today. Don't know if it's because they had too many customers or no customers at all.
In preparation for the trip to London, I looked up the blog post from October 20, 2009, when Roscoe and I were spending fall quarter in London.  Wouldn't you know? The entry is me complaining about rain and the four and a half hour bus ride from the Lake Country to London...and me whining about not being patient and having enough gratitude.  Why is it, two years later, that same impatient and ungracious person is still here? Is there any progress or is it all an illusion?
10/20/09
-----All that beauty on Saturday, all the loveliness we thought would never end. Ah, that's what the pastoral is all about, isn't it?
Well, this will be as short as the day was long.
Sunday:
Breakfast
Sweet, light rain, good for an hour's walk.
"Season of mist, and mellow fruitfullness," as Keats said so succinctly in 'To Autumn.'
The trip home:
Boat Ride Across Lake
Walk 35 minutes in rain to train station
Train for 35 minutes.
Off train, into rain for 20 minutes.
New train. Get on, argue with not-so-sweet adolescent males who won't relinquish seats that don't belong to them.
Crowded train ride. "Hey, we're being mugged by Americans" say the three young men who finally give up the seats they had not reserved.
Off train. Wait for bus on wrong side of station.  (Bus needed because our booking agent received from railroad people the wrong date on the tickets, then could not re-issue because by then the train was fully booked.)
To other side of station.
Get on bus. 4.5 hour bus ride, with a driver switch in middle.
"HEY, WE COULD BE IN DENVER OR NEW YORK BY NOW." Sad, but true.
Oh my, where did all that peace go? Oh, send some patience, please.
No patience? How about just a reprieve from full-frontal melt-down in front of students?
Off bus.
Tube ride one.
Tube ride two.
Walk down street.
Praise self for not having had a public display of anti-social behavior, inability to go with the flow, oh so lacking in delayed gratification response. Don't think there's the right photo for this. I make a promise to myself to check this day in the 'memories not worthy of my time and energy, unless I learned some patience and acceptance.
A day later I am already perplexed that I let this interfere for one second in my luscious memory of the hike in the Lake Country. -----
Patience and Acceptance - so elusive...and when they visit, it's just for a short time. Enjoy the rest of October.
 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One Space or Two?

No, this isn't about that grand universe out there. This is about the end-of-the-sentence period and wheter it is followed by one space or two.  A bigger deal than you might think.
You are either older, not much of a techie, or a creature of habit if you are still putting two spaces after a period and the beginning of a new sentence. As I am older, not a techie, and a creature of some habits, it has taken me quite a while to eliminate that second space.
I didn't mean to be in a conversation about The Elements of Style (Strunk and White, if you don't remember) with a group of people over fifty, but sometimes those things just happen.
"What does The Elements say about one or two spaces after the period," I asked.
"What are you talking about?" 
I explained, and was met with utter hostility, with the exception of one woman who is in public relations.
"Oh, it's been at least a decade now that we moved to just one space," she said.
"Who changed the rules?" asked the Greek chorus.
Having just read a long article about the history and reasons for the shift from the original one space to two spaces and then back again to one space, I was about to launch into an utterly boring explanation. But I held off, and decided to let people choose between spaces.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If You're Ugly

"Ugly People Eat Free" said the big sign in front of the restaurant on the side street. Not knowing whether to be offended or to laugh, I did both. Should I go in? "What if I'm not rejected?" I muttered to myself. Dressed in sloppy, non-lulumon yoga clothes and wearing old sneakers, I must just have been welcomed with open arms.
But seriously. Was this supposed to lure new customers into the restaurant for a bowl of chili or a turkey sandwich?  Wondering who the marketing genius was, I sat in the parking lot for a short while to see if that billboard drew cars to the parking lot. Apparently, from my small and short-lived survey, ugly people do not eat lunch.  I didn't go back at dinner time, though I was tempted. I thought better of it, thought better of spending even a nickel on a place where the 'Ugly Eat Free.'
I know there are studies that show ugly people are at a disadvantage in the hiring game, a disadvantage at the getting a raise game, just plain at a disadvantage.  There's even been a small movement to declare 'ugly' as a disability.  But, other than some notion of the asymmetrical face being less attractive than the symmetrical, I'm not sure how one judges the ugly and I doubt there is consensus on who is truly ugly as opposed to who is unattractive.
I also wonder what results would have come if the sign said 'People who are ugly on the inside eat free'?
I'm not naming names, but if the sign stays up in front of the restaurant, I will. I'll give them a day - two at most - for their ugly idea, but then it's time for naming.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Such a cliche - but so true....One just gets a Rocky Mountain high traipsing along the Rocky Mountain trails.
Most of the aspen leaves were on the ground this past weekend, but they glittered in the full sun anyway, as if to say 'it's not over yet.'  And Saturday it felt as if summer would last forever, the skies would be clear, the trails open and firm. So few people were on the trail to Adams Falls and above that one could walk for a couple of hours and not see more than ten people.  The barren trees were the only clue that summer would not last forever, that soon enough snowshoes and cross-country skis would be crafting trails of their own.
In the category of True Visionaries, for me, go the folks who gave us the national parks and national seashores.
What insight and foresight.
But... and why is there always a but?  I read some interesting, but frightening, facts in the Rocky Mountain Nature Association Quarterly over the weekend. A Visitor Study of the RMNP was done in July of 2010 - the survey was approved by the government, park, office of management and budget and the University of Idaho Park Studies unit, who conducted the survey.  Granted, the numbers were small. Of the 1099 surveys distributed, 755 were completed and returned. (If you've ever done a survey, you know the 69% response rate is high). 
Here's the good and bad news:  96% of the visitors were from the U.S.;  95% identified as white;  97% preferred English for reading.
So, with the browning of America, what will happen to those national parks and seashores?  What will attract more diverse groups of people to visit these glorious places? 
Friday night, I saw a play at DCPA about an immigrant studying for the citizenship test. Funny, funny trying to memorize the 13 original states (I didn't get them all, and I even come from one).  Maybe the citizenship test should include knowledge of our national parks and seashores and not whether or not Georgia was in the original 13 states.  Maybe those endless days of nasty testing done in so many schools should be canceled with a sign on the school:  Rocky Mountain National Park has replaced the CSAP. 
What do you think?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lesser of Evils?

Which way to vote?  Well, my official ballot and its secrecy sleeve arrived today.  One easy question (school board election), another benign question, as  'I don't really know if I care if the city auditor can appoint a deputy.' No, I don't care. Third decision: increase state taxes for public education. Little more thought on that one.
But the tricky Ordinance asks whether we want to provide sick leave for employees. It all seems rather obvious. Of course, all workers should be allowed to build up sick or safe time. It's a fair and just proposal. Why should employees have to go to work sick or send their sick children to school because they can't stay home with them?  Why shouldn't anyone, full or part-time, be able to earn some sick and safe time in Denver, CO? So, I was all with it, until I started seeing the signs in windows of small businesses and reading the point-of-view of small business owners.  They can't afford to give people time off; they are barely making ends meet with the lean staffs they have. Many would simply have to hire fewer people to afford to provide the benefits.  I see a sign in The Tattered Cover, one of the last of the independent book stores in America, asking for voters to vote against this ordinance.  I trust everything about the Tattered Cover, everything. I also believe that, if she could, the owner would gladly give sick time to employees and provide other benefits. But these are hard times for small business owners, very hard times. I don't know what to do with this proverbial rock and a hard place situation. Can't leave it blank...it's too important.  It's not that either choice is an 'evil,' just difficult.
Getting into politics is not something I like or want to do on this blog... but how about those Occupy Wall Street mini-victories in NYC and Denver?  Yea!  Funny thing about politics: a group of homeless setting up tents in a city park would probably be hauled off to jail. Who are these people and what makes them think they have rights? My, my.  Wouldn't it be great if the homeless were organized and protesting?  That's for another time. We should enjoy the small victories right now and enjoy last night's mini-victories.
Hard to believe we have one whole year to live through the politics of the next election. Here's a promise that this blog won't be a political rant - well, maybe once or twice. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Identity Theft

Walking this morning about 7:00, I felt pulled by the sun about to rise and shine through. I walked east, identifying more and more with the sun as I turned the corner. However, as I turned around and headed west, I saw the moon, one day past full, looking at me. Suddenly, I was a different person, identifying with the moon, trying to imagine it pulling on me as it does the tides. At one point during this short walk, I felt as if I were exactly half way between the sun and the moon. .. stuck in the middle, imagining I was far from home on a long journey, and deciding which one to follow, which connected to my identity. Reality snuck back in, so I continued west, towards the moon, but then on to coffee, the ultimate rise and shine. Identity Indecision.
Not two hours later, I talked with a friend whose identity had been stolen yesterday by a fishing call. Yes, she foolishly gave out the last four numbers of her social security number to a person who was calling on behalf of her bank. You can guess the rest...With just that little bit of information, the thief was able to withdraw money from her savings account at an ATM.  After calling her bank, the bank she has been with for thirty years, they couldn't give her any information because the birthdate they have for her doesn't match the one on her records. She felt as if her identity was robbed twice. So she was off to the bank with her birth certificate to identify herself.
Not an hour later I was at my bank to make a quick deposit and withdrawal from the ATM. The ATM was out of service, so I had to go into the bank, fill out a deposit slip and a withdrawal slip (neither of which is needed at the ATM in the bank lobby) AND show my license for identity before I could make the withdrawal. It was quite an affair, me without my glasses because there's no need at the ATM, filling out forms and finding my ID.  I finally collected the money and left, but not before making sure I had my official identity, my license, back.  And with a sense of irony of how much more time it took inside the bank, but how much more secure the transactions seemed. I will probably continue to use the ATM because of its ease, but if anyone gets access to my card and identity, I hope he/she goes into the bank itself instead of the machine.
A lot of identity questions so early in the day. What do you think about all this identity theft?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dental Care

Went to the dentist this morning for some x-rays and cleaning. Sounds simple enough, but I live in fear that some tooth or teeth will be in a state of disrepair, forcing me to plunk down my credit card for a crown, a root canal, or some gum disease newly discovered in the way new planets are discovered.  So I sit and take deep breaths.
Same office, same people, same waiting room.  But then I noticed that some new services are being offered.  Yes, there is TMJ work, teeth whitening that can last up to a year or more, and a few signs saying "Do you like your smile?". 
Back in the day, people went to the dentist to try and save their teeth or to get false teeth.  But 'save the tooth at all cost' is so 20th century.... now we want our teeth to be functional and beautiful, whether or not they are real.Maybe it's called progress.
But something else is happening now. The two new services are now being offered are restylane and juvaderm. Well, the good news is that we all know that dentists know how to give shots and injections. I have the Novocaine experiences to testify to several dentists' abilities. So they can do the shots. And why not? If one is going to have some teeth fixed, why not get a facial filler also?  Why not go to the dentist to get that frozen forehead look and to add volume and smoothness to those cheeks, and erase the puppet lines?
It's a pretty savvy idea - one stop shopping for the face and mouth. But I don't really get it. 
Still. . . I wonder what the rationale is.  Of course, there is money to be made, but it has to be more than that.
 Is this about beauty, self-improvement, or reducing the sign of aging or professionals edging into one another's field?  I think it's all, and more. 
But once the digital show of my x-rays begin, I forget to ask all the questions I had about the new services. Next time.  For now, I'm just going to pay more attention to what services various professional offices are adding to their services during these tumultuous economic times.  I'd like a lawyer who does hair, a doc who sells shoes. . . endless possibilities.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pilgrim's Progress

Winter Pilgrim, Ann Sieben, is in Portugal now. Thought I'd paste her latest blog entry here, as it's beautifully written and a glimpse into her days. Enjoy.  winterpilgrim.blogspot.com.



Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 11: This little figgy went to market...

I loved my little walk through very picturesque Portugal.  If I searched to find something negative, it would only be trying to escape well-intended country women with less than 2 kilos of fruit and nuts from their orchard trees.  Although I anticipate a good frost one of these evenings to put an end to the swarms of gnats, the benefits of the autumn harvest are delightfully manifest.  Apples, pears, quince, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds, grapes, more grapes, grapes red and white, and my favorite of all, fat tender figs.  And, bonus, the region is plump with big rounds of sheep cheese - yum.

On my first night off the pilgrim super-highway, as I've come to think of the camino, I made my way over pastoral hill and dale unfettered by road or even a path to a small town just as Mass was ending... it's uncanny how a pilgrim can so often beat the odds of stumbling upon a Mass when there is only one per 12 days.  A short conversation with the grateful priest, who thankfully was fluent in Castillian, got me not only an invitation to his mother's house for the night - an a great cook indeed - but also guidance for the remainder of my walk through Portugal... names, towns, off-road paths, two monasteries, and a google-map.  What a gift!

The days are warm, overly sunny with vast areas of little shade, and full of necessary kilometers.  I'm still averaging that marathon distance of a bit more than 40 mountainous kilometers every day.  Although I've got absolutely nothing to complain about - nothing, nothing, nothing.  After the fourth day, one which involved quite a lot of asphalt and long hilly distances without shade or water, I was internally beginning to whine a bit, quite truthfully.  My attitude was put to rights when a kind family driving home stopped me at the entrance to the town to offer help.  I'm so happy they did as the priest was away and it was a weekend, so the mayor's office was closed.  With a number of phone calls, the father of the family, who considered the honor of the village at stake, got things arranged for me to spend the night at the facility run by the Sisters of Mercy.

A geriatric facility, sure, but what a great experience.  Invited to the dining hall for a dinner of Portugese specialties, I saw dozens of residents shuffling with the aid of walkers and canes, progressing three inches for as many steps... my aching feet still throbbed from the pounding of the day's 45 kilometers, but I was reminded by the experience of how fortunate I am to be able to earn my pain with a great deal of gain.  I recalled an Islamic proverb I recently came upon: 'I  cursed at God because I had no shoes and then saw a man who had no feet.'   Doh! how true.  And how interesting we stumble upon such experiences just when we need them.  St Jerome's handiwork?

The next day, refreshed and facing only 35 kilometers of gorgeous and deeply gorged landscape, I entered a village celebrating in large form the feast of St Barbara.  I was invited to join in the procession through the winding village cobbled streets behind the shoulder-mounted tableau of the venerated Saint and in front of the marching band.  (I switched from boots to sandals, of course.)  What a treat for the heart and soul/sole, and stomach enjoying more of the local specialities.  {Note that every culture I've visited on all my pilgrimages seem to relish tripe soup.  Don't chew, just swallow.}

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why the Fascination?

I say that gossip, detail mongering, and looking for juicy tidbits is silly at best, demeaning at worst. So why am I so interested in Steve Jobs' biological mother and father, his adoptive parents, his half sister, his family in general.
I purchased a Wall Street Journal this afternoon because it had a photo of Steve and one of his biological father. I felt as if I needed a brown paper bag so noone would see me with the paper. Having read the two articles about Steve Jobs, I put the paper aside.  Now I know Mona Simpson is a brilliant writer, but I didn't know is the biological sister of Steve Jobs. Nor did I know, or care, until recently that Steve Jobs has three children with his wife and also has another daughter from an earlier relationship. Now, in the scheme of things, who cares?
I thought those sorts of details could only be found in the magazines at beauty salons, doctors' offices and hospitals, but not this time. Guess there are others besides me interested in personal details of people who have had an impact on our lives.  Genius attracts all of us; a person with motivation, persistence and genius is rare. So we want to know why and how he became who he became. We, or at least I, become investigative reporters, psychoanalysts, and biographers. . . always looking for the If this....Then that... or If Only...This happened because...  Snoopy lot, aren't we?
Before I began this blog, I googled Steve Jobs, and was overwhelmed by the number of articles about him. Promised myself not to read one, and I didn't.  I know enough for now.  And I am extremely grateful that no-one is interested in the details of my life.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Judging the Judge

Still thinking about Steve Jobs today, but also contemplating the roles of judges, lawyers and the law.
It's easy enough to explain the focus: my son Rob, who is an attorney in FL, is here in CO visiting. Tonight we are going to see To Kill a Mockingbird at the theater and will be thinking about judges, justice, lawyers and everyday people. We'll be thinking about choosing between what is right and what is good, what is moral and what is just.

With my mind, focused on the law, it's no surprise I found this article in a NY newspaper. Reading the summary of the case and the judge's dilemma, it seems to me that the judge found a fair, just way to deal with the Marlo Kidd case. And, from my point of view, he did all right by Madoff also. What do you think?

A Judge’s Education, a Sentence at a Time

ON Feb. 2, 2004, Marlo Kidd awaited sentencing before Judge Denny Chin of Federal District Court in Manhattan. She had pleaded guilty to acting as a lookout for two masked gunmen who had robbed a bank in Yonkers, and under federal sentencing guidelines, she faced a prison term of up to six years.
Her lawyer, though, was asking the judge to sentence her only to home confinement, because she was raising five children who ranged in age from 5 to 13, and also caring for her 14-year-old sister, as their own mother had been a crack-cocaine addict. He had said that sending Ms. Kidd to prison would almost certainly result in her children being placed in foster care, destroying what was left of the family.
His arguments gave Judge Chin pause. Ms. Kidd had provided him with copies of the children’s report cards, which showed them receiving B’s and B-pluses, even a smattering of A’s, and very few absences from school.
“The report cards had an impact on me,” Judge Chin recalled in a recent interview. “She was getting them out to school every day, and they were holding their own. I was impressed by this.” Ms. Kidd, who had also apologized for her crime in a letter to the judge, was “a decent mother,” he concluded. Moreover, one of his law clerks had shown him a news report on the terrible conditions in foster homes and facilities for children in New Jersey, where the children would most likely be sent.
But the robbery had been violent, with one robber killed in a police shootout. And the judge was seldom persuaded to grant leniency because of family circumstances — it was, after all, the defendants’ crimes, not the sentence, that caused hardships for families.
In the end, he decided that Ms. Kidd had to go to prison, but he imposed only a 30-month sentence. “I cared very much about the future of the children,” Judge Chin recalled, “but I was willing to take the risk that they would be sent to foster care, even with a shorter sentence.” His decision involved weighing conflicting concerns and interests, he said, “something we have to do all the time.”
Judge Chin, 57, who last year was elevated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, after nearly 16 years on the trial bench, is best known for the 150-year sentence he gave Bernard L. Madoff, arguably the most prominent white-collar sentence in the history of American law.






A Judge’s Education, a Sentence at a Time

ON Feb. 2, 2004, Marlo Kidd awaited sentencing before Judge Denny Chin of Federal District Court in Manhattan. She had pleaded guilty to acting as a lookout for two masked gunmen who had robbed a bank in Yonkers, and under federal sentencing guidelines, she faced a prison term of up to six years.
Her lawyer, though, was asking the judge to sentence her only to home confinement, because she was raising five children who ranged in age from 5 to 13, and also caring for her 14-year-old sister, as their own mother had been a crack-cocaine addict. He had said that sending Ms. Kidd to prison would almost certainly result in her children being placed in foster care, destroying what was left of the family.
His arguments gave Judge Chin pause. Ms. Kidd had provided him with copies of the children’s report cards, which showed them receiving B’s and B-pluses, even a smattering of A’s, and very few absences from school.
“The report cards had an impact on me,” Judge Chin recalled in a recent interview. “She was getting them out to school every day, and they were holding their own. I was impressed by this.” Ms. Kidd, who had also apologized for her crime in a letter to the judge, was “a decent mother,” he concluded. Moreover, one of his law clerks had shown him a news report on the terrible conditions in foster homes and facilities for children in New Jersey, where the children would most likely be sent.
But the robbery had been violent, with one robber killed in a police shootout. And the judge was seldom persuaded to grant leniency because of family circumstances — it was, after all, the defendants’ crimes, not the sentence, that caused hardships for families.
In the end, he decided that Ms. Kidd had to go to prison, but he imposed only a 30-month sentence. “I cared very much about the future of the children,” Judge Chin recalled, “but I was willing to take the risk that they would be sent to foster care, even with a shorter sentence.” His decision involved weighing conflicting concerns and interests, he said, “something we have to do all the time.”
Judge Chin, 57, who last year was elevated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, after nearly 16 years on the trial bench, is best known for the 150-year sentence he gave Bernard L. Madoff, arguably the most prominent white-collar sentence in the history of American law.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

IPad to ISad

And a sad moment it was, last night, to learn of the death of Steve Jobs. Sad, and surprised, actually, by how sad I felt. He was such an iconoclast, such a unique leader, and a very private person. How could one not love the jeans and black turtleneck trademark and the trademark of always coming up with something new?
He married art and science better than anyone, anywhere.  Art, especially calligraphy, and technology merged in the very first Apple computer and the creative, synthetic juices never stopped flowing.
I admired his leadership style; admired the fact that he didn't suffer fools gladly, was not afraid to say an idea was dumb when it was, was not afraid of much.  He doesn't fit the textbook model of leadership, or at least he doesn't right now and I hope it stays that way. One has to hope he isn't transformed into a collaborative, consensus building, all ideas are good ideas model post-mortem.  I liked his edginess, his style, his drive.
 And love the idea that he persuaded us that we wanted things we didn't know we wanted. He didn't wait to find out what the best sellers or favorites were before he began a project: he, and his team, developed the product we learned to want.  A marketing genius, in addition to all the other attributes.
There's not much I can say that hasn't been said in the media. And by now, most of you have read his famous Stanford Commencement speech, delivered in 2005.  But I'm going to post the last part of that speech, because it's drop dead beautiful. I've read and heard hundreds of college commencement speeches, and this is among the very best. Following is the last part of the speech (definitely worth reading the whole thing, if you haven't done so).
"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much."
Let us all stay hungry....and very foolish.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Across Generations

After teaching for a loong time, one figures out pretty quickly who has done the reading and who hasn't. The confidence of the con man or woman has always amused me. Semester after semester, year after year, the ones who haven't read often have no reticence about sharing their thoughts. Usually they know something about the topic, can come up with an anecdote that remotely connects to the topic, and can end with a question that might sound profound to their peers. Some of these students are pretty good at writing about what they haven't read.  It's one of those 'I know you know I know' things that happens often enough. And one comes to realized, after sufficient time, that many of those who don't speak have done the reading, but they are afraid of giving the wrong answer, so stay quiet. 
This year I've come to learn that this isn't a vice or habit of just young people - it's a way of being that crosses generations. This fall I've been engaged in several groups, short courses and long classes.  I'm convinced that nobody talks more about what they haven't read than older people - especially people who had long careers and lives of having people listen to them (that would be mostly men).
The Wife of Bath, talking about marriage, said, "experience, though noon authoritee were in this world, were right enough for me."   Well, she'd meet her match these days with all the people roaming around thinking their experience is authority.  And that experience has to do with economics, the environment, justice, and the law.
I at least skim the readings so I can reference them when I am sharing my thoughts. Still have that Catholic school-girl guilt that keeps me semi, so semi-, honest.
Speaking of  Catholics, one of these groups I am in makes me think I should have been a Sister.  Oh, I'm a Sistah, and have lots of Sistahs, but I'm talking about those women who are nuns.  They not only talk the talk, they walk the talk.  Wall Street, avarice, Greed with the capital G, fierce competition are not qualities and concepts they live with.  The sisters I keep meeting in various workshops or reading groups don't expect much or have much. And that's fine with them. True, they all have the sisterhood/ living arrangements that assure they will be cared for as they age, but they don't require their places of retirement to have entertainment, golf courses, swimming pools, tai chi, bridge lessons and gourmet cooking.
They are too busy trying to help the poor to worry about going to zumba.  And they have such great senses of humor.  I know I am generalizing, but I swear Sister Antonia has the same smile, the same laughter as the Dalai Lama.  It's not as if they live in a silent convent, praying all day. They're as savvy about internet as most people I know who are over fifty.  And that sense of humor. I once thought seriously about becoming a sister, but then I went to high school.
By the way, it's not the Sisters who pontificate on books they haven't skimmed or read. But I do wonder about the others, and wonder if they are the same ones who mastered the Art of BS long ago, or if this is a new privilege come their way, privilege of age.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Public Radio

Who listens to public radio? I think of National Public Radio and CO Public Radio as having a particular audience:  highly educated, on the liberal side of the political road, inquisitive, with diverse interests. I see the type of person who contributes to non-profits, signs petitions supporting public radio, cares about the local library and recycles. Just my picture. 
As most of you know, I take a short walk in the early morning, and see mostly ducks, geese, a few people with dogs, and the workers in the park who begin their work before 7:00 a.m.  Most, if not all, of the workers appear to be Hispanic, as the conversation is always in Spanish.
But, for the second time in several weeks, I have heard the radio of one of the worker's trucks outside the two toilets near the children's playground. Both times, the car radio has been on CO Public Radio. It's just loud enough for me to hear from the sidewalk by the toilets and for the worker to hear in the bathroom. Well, there goes my stereotypical image.  NO - there goes my stereotype of what that Public Radio person looks like.
The person listening, clearing the trash, and cleaning the toilets appears to be Latino. That wasn't part of my visual, at all.  There's probably a story here, but I don't know it. So for now, this post reveals more about me than it does the person listening to early morning radio.  Hope there is more in the future on this one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reasons and Seasons: Always Learning

Reasons and Seasons: Always Learning

Always Learning

Did you know that approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school?
That's just one of the facts I learned from The Girl Effect information (girleffect.org).
Do you wonder what they are doing? I've seen some of them, especially in rural areas of different countries. Some sit on a pile of dirt next to their parents who are both digging or moving rocks. Some run through the city streets, an eight year old caring for her younger siblings while others beg relentlessly. We know about child and sex trafficking, so add a few into that group? What does the future hold for that one-third?
We also know, from the United Nations, that when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.  What a difference, a day, month, year and years in school makes.  Transformative education. Send girls to school and change the lives of everyone.  It's true I've spent more than half a century in schools -  half as a student and half as a professor, but always as a learner. So I have my biases about education.  But these numbers are staggering. And the positive effects are staggering for everyone - male, female, young and old. Education.

I'm a big fan of The Girl Effect organization, and hope you will become a fan also. Tomorrow Tara Mohr's Wise Living blog world should be filled with Girl Effect blog postings. Hope to see you there.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Do you lie? Big or little, black or white, on purpose or accidentally?
After seeing the charming, somewhat silly French farce, The Liar, at the Denver Center, I read the handout that went along with the playbill.
"Lying has long been a part of everyday life. We couldn't get through the day without being deceptive,"
                     says Leonard Saxe, Psychology Prof. from Brandeis. 
Strange, I sometimes wish I were MORE deceptive than I am. I don't think I have any skills at the poker face phenomenon, but maybe I'm wrong. I was at a meeting just recently where two people were driving me crazy. "Why doesn't someone stuff those two big mouths with Smart Wool socks?" I thought. "And the one who always has the right answer. . . ?"  Can they read my body language or am I deceiving them? During this particular meeting, I looked down and realized that I had my arms crossed in front of me, each hand hanging on to its opposite muffin top. Not very deceptive.  But I do try.

The short article is filled with intriguing information.  Having done a study of 147 people, Dr. Bella De Paulo says "Both men and women lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting ten or more minutes; over the course of a week they deceive about 30% of those with whom they interact one-on-one." 
I don't know if any of those 147 people are similar to any of the people with whom I interact, but I wonder. How do I figure out which 30% of my conversation with someone is a lie? How many conversations are really one person deceiving another, and the other responding back with an equally deceiving comment? No wonder we're all screwed up.  And now, with the ability to communicate via phone, e-mail, Facebook, twitter, google+, we have so many opportunities for our bodies to not give us away.

How deceptive am I when I say I've just been to yoga, when I've been to yoga stretch or when I say I read a book when I've really only read the reviews (but in depth!)?  I don't know about you, but I think I deceive myself  more easily than I deceive others.  But I'm going to try to pay attention this week, and see if I recognize an exaggeration or two when they come out of my mouth.