Archive for November, 2020

Xmas filter

Monday, November 30th, 2020

It generally starts right after Thanksgiving. You go into any store — a retail outlet, a restaurant, a Korean deli — and there is Christmas music.

Lots and lots of Christmas music. All The Time.

I like to hear the occasional Christmas song. They can bring joy and uplift during these dark times, and occasionally some much needed humor.

But not all the time, one after another. And another. And another.

So here is what I would like: I wish somebody would invent an Xmas filter.

It would allow you to hear nearly everything going on around you. You could hearall conversations, traffic, the sound of the wind through the trees, barking of dogs, the hum of household appliances.

The only thing you couldn’t hear is Christmas songs. They would simply be filtered out.

Maybe there should be a switch somewhere on the thing, in case you want to hear just a little Christmas music once in a while. But whenever you want, you could reach for that trusty switch and turn them all off again.

I hope somebody will invent one of those soon. Is that asking too much?

Little random notes

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

I like writing little random notes. This is particularly true if I am working on a large project, and have not yet figured out how to organize it.

The notes come to me at odd hours. I might jot down a phrase or two with pencil on paper, and then below that jot down another seemingly disconnected thought.

Eventually I transfer all of those little gnomic scribbles to a computer, and expand on them, maybe turning a phrase into a paragraph. That last part is very helpful, because I often don’t really know why I’ve written a note until later.

After enough of these expanded notes, I usually start to see how they all fit together into a coherent whole. It’s as though the entire picture was there in the back of my mind all the time, but required reassembly to be accessed.

It would be great if one day I could somehow directly access that complete picture, rather than needing to take such an indirect and piecemeal route to see it. That would be a fine day indeed.

Until then, I guess I’ll keep writing little random notes.

Watching old movies

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

One consequence of the pandemic is that I’ve been seeing a lot of old movies. I am having a lot of fun, and I suspect many people are having a similar experience.

Seeing so many offerings from different decades provides an opportunity to think about the vastness of the cinematic arts. You start to see the ways in which each film is a reflection of a very particular time in cultural history.

In a sense, cinema constitutes a parallel reality that moves alongside our evolving culture. It is a reflection of our culture, but it also influences our culture.

So in an important sense, the reflection goes both ways. Cinema not only contains a record of how culture continues to evolve, but also helps to cause that evolution.

Maybe that’s one reason I’m having so much fun watching old movies.

If people were animals

Friday, November 27th, 2020

If everyone you know were a species of animal, what animal would they be? I sometimes find myself mapping people to animals in my head.

This person is clearly a tabby cat, that one a dachshund. Another is a sea otter. One person is so obviously a rhinoceros that I almost expect him to have a giant horn on his face.

Do you find yourself thinking this way, or am I alone in this? Personally I find it very illuminating, and you might want to try it.

Just be sure never to tell someone what animal they remind you of. :-)

Misgivings on Thanksgivings

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Just around now, near the end of November,
As I am enjoying the Thanksgiving cheer
I take a few moments and try to remember
Seventy five million who used to live here

We feel that our story’s important and mythic
A reason for pride and for great celebrations
But dating on back to the Paleolithic
We’re only the latest among many nations

History’s fickle, and keeps moving on
And one day this land will have somebody new
In the future, my friends, when we are all gone
Will anyone notice that we were here too?

Future educational assets

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Every time I teach now, there is a Zoom recording. This is a fundamental shift from the former status quo, in which each lecture was something of an ephemeral thing.

It is clear that all across the world, educational content is being recorded and archived, in quantities never before seen. That is potentially a wonderful global-wide asset.

Shouldn’t there be a complementary effort to aggregate and organize all of these new-found intellectual riches? We are sitting on top of an educational opportunity that the world has never before seen.

I, for one, am excited by the possibilities.

A good start

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

This morning I woke up with the energy to get a number of things done that had been hanging over my head. Maybe it’s because of the approaching Thanksgiving break, but I really wanted to get those things out of the way and off my plate.

There is something wonderful about getting your day off to a good start — just getting everything squared away and being able to clear your mind for whatever comes next.

Annoying shadows always lurk at the corners of our lives, telling us “I know I really should…” (you can fill in the rest of the sentence for yourself). It is so nice when we can shine a nice bright light on those shadows, and watch them disappear.

At least for a while. :-)

Future physical appearance

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Suppose we end up standardizing, as a social norm, on not being physically co-located. What will that mean for fashion and appearance?

When the “normal” way to interact with another person face to face is through the intervention of technology, will we start to change our views of appearance? Will standards of beauty change when how we look in a social situation becomes a fashion accessory rather than an endowment from nature?

Will there be brave and hardy souls who buck the trend and insist, even generations down the line, on appearing in their natural form, the way nature created them? And if so, will other people tolerate this?

Or will being a “naturalist” become something shunned. Or will it even become illegal, the way it is now illegal to walk around in public without clothing?

I guess only time will tell.

Time management

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

How much of life comes down to time management? Given that we usually don’t know how long we have left to live, this seems like an important question.

Assuming a fixed (but unknown) number of years X remaining in your life, how should you use those years? One perspective would be to be as efficient as possible, planning everything out and not wasting a moment, so that you can wring as much out of your time as possible.

Yet another perspective would be that you should do almost the opposite: Relax, enjoy, savor every moment. Rather than spending your time building like a busy ant, you should treat yourself to a sip or two of wine and some good chocolate, wander among trees, spend your evenings simply contemplating the beauty of the sunset over a lake.

I know a number of people who hew to the first philosophy, and others who embrace the second. Both types seem quite certain that they are on the best path.

Meanwhile, there are other factors to consider. While the remaining time X may be unknown, it is not immutable. There are lifestyles that tend to extend life, and others that shorten it.

So I guess a proper answer to my original question involves weaving together these two variables: How to spend your moments, and how to increase the number of years that will contain those moments.

Maybe this requires more thought. :-)

A tree

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

a tree has wisdom
Reaching upward it knows to
Hold fast to its roots