From Conrad Black, a noted historian (among other things).
However humdrum it may seem at times, this system has served us well and there have been fewer than 100 deaths in that time from political disputes, an astonishingly peaceable history. No countries with a population the size of Canada’s have more durable political institutions except the United Kingdom and the United States. In my lifetime, and although I was born in the last year of the Second World War I am not ancient, France has had five different systems including foreign military occupation and a government in exile that regained the country with the allied armies. Germany has had four systems, moving vertiginously upwards in quality of government from the Third Reich.
Most people remember the Soviet Union and many remember pre-Communist China, colonial India, the Palestine Mandate, the Iron Curtain satellites and Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Tito’s Yugoslavia, Peron’s Argentina, the Shah of Iran, Sukarno’s Indonesia and the era when most of the world’s present countries were part of European empires. These recollections take us less than half-way backwards into the history of Confederation, which began when the leaders of the British and American governments were the Earl of Derby and President Andrew Johnson, Napoleon III was the French emperor, Germany and Italy had not been united as countries and Japan was a pre-Meiji hermit kingdom. ...
With regret I respond, briefly, to the urgings of many readers who have asked me to return to the vexed subject of the treatment of the native peoples. In general, that treatment has been shabby, though increasingly well-intentioned and well-funded. There is much to apologize for and I believe in the value of confession, repentance and trying to make amends. But conditions are aggravated and not ameliorated by exaggeration and by putting on the airs, on behalf of Canada, of a criminal nationality that has been guilty of crimes against humanity. ...
Canada is fundamentally a comparatively liberal state and almost always has been, since it became a chiefly European and especially English country. Let no faults be hidden or unrepented, and there were many, but anyone who implicitly assimilates Canada’s leadership as an autonomous jurisdiction to the world’s genocidists and champions of slavery traduces and defames this country and all of its occupants, including the native people. No great weight attaches to the frothings of Bernie Farber, especially on Confederation Day, but the chief justice should fire her speech writer and be more judicious.
After Colorado legalized possession, sale, etc. of marijuana, it was clear that both the supply curve and the demand curve would shift to the right.
But which would shift farther? Would the influx of visitors, coupled with increased purchases by domestic buyers lead to such a massive increase in demand that prices would rise? Or would the relatively easy production lead to a large increase in supply, causing the price to drop?
It turns out supply increased more than demand, despite "marijuana tourism" (see this).
[P]rices are declining faster than some had expected, while the number of people visiting the stores has increased. ...
Since last June, the average price of an 1/8th ounce of recreational cannabis has dropped from $50-$70 to $30-$45 currently; an ounce now sells for between $250 and $300 on average compared to $300-$400 last year. [emphasis in the original] More competition and expansion of grow facilities contributed to this price decline ...
According to the note, sales increased by 98 percent year-over-year in April....
Meanwhile, the popularity of legal weed has sparked a fast-growing industry that ... compares to Silicon Valley.
Brilliant advice from Margaret Wente:
“Do what you love,” we urge our children, as if there’s a dream job out there just for them. But “do what you love” is probably the worst career advice in the world. It implants the notion that doing what you love can produce a sustainable livelihood – which isn’t always the case, alas. It also sends the message that if you don’t wind up doing what you love, then you’re a flop. That’s how you get freelance writers who are still living in a basement apartment at age 35 and wondering why things haven’t worked out the way they were supposed to.
Sometimes you have to compromise in life, but we don’t want to break this crushing news to our children. Personally, I’ve met far too many young adults who graduate from university with plans to work in development/save the world/find a career in environmental sustainability. There’s nothing wrong with these noble aspirations. What’s amazing is that no adults have ever levelled with them.
Reality will bite soon enough, of course. The idea that your job should be your passion is a misguided romantic notion that only the upper-middle-class can afford to entertain. In fact, most people wind up in areas that nobody ever talks about. “Insurance is a very interesting field,” Mr. Laurie assured me. “But no one says ‘I want to go into insurance.’ ” ...
I’m afraid they could be in for a hard landing.
It sounds curmudgeonly to say things like this. But when you read some of the stories in Wente's article and when you know so many people who have experienced these things in person (as many of us do when we work with younger people), it seems important that this advice be given now and then.
Some of us have been lucky. I love economics and I love teaching, so I got to do what I love. I have a number of friends who love computer work and gaming who have found lucrative employment doing those things.
At the same time, I have loads of other friends who haven't been so lucky and who seem uneagre to face their own reality. Sometimes the things people love just don't pay very well, if at all.
For some reason, I'm reminded of the t-shirt that people on rec.theatre used to laugh about back in the old days of usenet:
So, you're an actor!
Sarcastic, but with just enough grains of truth to make them sound pithy (via Clickhole, so also with a grain or more of salt):
Get ready for a harsh dose of reality.
1. There is no job fairy giving out jobs; there’s a job troll, and you have to kill him to get hired: Sorry, new grads, but nobody is just going to hand you a job. You have to seek out the troll’s cave and bash in his skull if you want to get employed.
2. Graduate fuzz will sprout all over your body: Don’t be freaked out by the white, peach-like hairs covering your skin. They’re a normal part of entering the real world.
3. If you show your diploma at a bank, they’ll give you $1,000: Remember, all college graduates can collect their weekly stipend of $1,000 from any bank just by flashing their degree.
4. Instead of reading textbooks, you gain knowledge by slaughtering birds and examining their entrails: Nobody is going to package information in nice, neat little study guides. If you want to learn something, you have to interpret the viscera of seabirds.
5. Life isn’t graded on a curve. When your boss asks how much opportunity you’d like, say, “Eight opportunity”: If you want to be noticed in an office, you have to work hard and ask for the maximum amount of opportunity. Don’t take it easy and just ask for two or three opportunity.
6. Your college years aren’t the best years of your life. Your 40s are the best years of your life:
A few years ago in Canada, The Weather Network decided to stop reporting the Humidex under that name. Instead, they call it "Feels like", which seems in keeping with the general drift toward touchy-feely-ness of the times.
But from what I can tell, it is just the frickn humidex, showing a formulaic combination of humidity and temperature. [see this in Wikipaedia].
The humidex formula is as follows:
The humidity adjustment effectively amounts to one Fahrenheit degree for every millibar by which the partial pressure of water in the atmosphere exceeds 10 millibars.
Yeah, ok. Whatever. I spent a few minutes trying to figure this stuff out (superficially, of course) when this morning I see that the current temperature in London, Ontario, is 22C* but according to The Weather Network [TWN]**, it feels like 30C.
No way this feels like 30C. There is a good, strong wind, and if anything it "feels like" 18C.
So I went to the Environment Canada website. That site tells me the current temperature is 22C, with a humidex reading of 30C. That makes more sense. After all, the "feels like" that TWN uses is just Environment Canada's humidex, so far as I can tell. The humidex name makes it clear that humidity is involved and that it is a computed index number. "Feels like" misleadingly tells us what we should expect the weather to feel like.
I'd hate to go out today, expecting "feels like" 30C and dressed for that, only to find that it actually feels like 18C or even cooler in the shade.
But, as is in keeping with their condescending paternal/maternal-isms, TWN gives us a number with a name that is far less informative than "Humidex".
Note that the same thing happens in the winter when temperature and wind are combined to give us "wind chill" which (to the best of my ability to discern) omits humidity from its calculation. The term "wind chill" at least tells that the wind and temperature are involved, unlike "feels like", for (as everyone on the prairies alleges) a dry cold doesn't feel as cold as a more humid cold.
Part of the problem is trying to devise an index number that is useful to many people. We see this in economics all the time: GDP, CPI, etc. are all indices that try to measure, combine, and reflect useful information, just as "humidex" and "wind chill" do that with temperature, humidity, and wind chill.
But my complaint here is not with the index. Rather it is with the term, "feels like".
*TWN, according my friends in Saskatchewan, means Toronto Weather Network, just as TSN means Toronto Sports Network. They have the sense that these networks focus far too much attention on Trono and not enough on the west.
** For new visitors to EclectEcon, a reminder that C=Canadian; F=Foreign
Apologies to TWN if I am mistaken. I doubt if I am, though.
Last weekend I officiated/officianted at "the Wedding of the Decade," a fund-raiser put on by Murder for Hire for The Sunshine Foundation.
Most of us involved in the wedding wrote our own speeches. The best line of all the speeches was one from the vows written by the "bride" who said, quoting the famous Doris Day song,
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich?
Here's what she said to me.
Recently we bought a Spiralizer (I like the name Spiralator, too). The minute we opened the box and put the device together, we wanted to see how it worked, so we put a potato through it. I wish I had taken photos of it all, but alas...
The potato ended up as extremely long spaghetti-noodle-type strings. Then we did a half onion, and fried them up together [for my Facebook friends: #carbsbedamned]. They were great!
Today we ran a couple of zucchini through the spiralizer, fried up the "noodles" a bit and had them with spicy home-made tomato-sausage-mushroom sauce. It was a delicious and very low carbs.
I do have one photo. It's of the "core" that the spiralator leaves after making the noodle-strings.
I used to love sliding down the banisters at my grandmother's house. The one from the second floor to the main floor was especially fun because it was long(-ish) and had a 180-degree bend in it at the landing.
But I would really like to slide down this banister. I wonder if they rent out the opportunity to do so at various times. The outer banister would be fun if it were continuous. The inner banister looks continuous, though it's a pretty tight spiral.
From some email I received:
Australia ------ Spiral Staircase in Sydney - This amazing spiral staircase is located at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney. It is five stories high and makes your body turn about 6.5 revolutions when you climb to the top, but there's an exit on each floor.
Here's another that would be fun to slide down, and in this case it looks as if the outer spiral would work just fine.
The description I was sent for this staircase:
New Mexico -- a Miraculous Staircase located in Saint Joseph church at Loretto Chapel in Santa Fé,. 136 years after it was built in 1878, it still confounds architects, engineers, and master craftsmen in the physics of its construction and remains inexplicable in view of its baffling design. The unusual helix shaped spiral staircase has two complete 360° turns, stands 20 feet high up to the choir loft and has no center pole to support it as most circular stairways have. Its entire weight rests solely on its base and against the choir loft - a mystery that defies all laws of gravity, it should have crashed to the floor the moment anyone stepped on it. Yet it is still in daily use for over a hundred years. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height. Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails. At the time it was built, the stairway had no banisters. These were added 10 years later in 1888 by Phillip A. Hesch at the Sisters' request for safety sake.
One of my all-time favourites was the staircase of the Alabama Capitol building that we visited during the summer when I was seven-years-old. I think it was dad's suggestion there that this would be a great banister to slide down.
I recently came across this article about Tom Lehrer, which inspired me to look at the Wikipaedia entry for him. Lehrer is a former professor of mathematics and musical theatre! Both items make for good reading, if you remember Lehrer and his songs.
If you are not familiar with his songs, I highly recommend them. Here are links to just two of his classics:
The Elements, in which he lists the elements in a very Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like tune.
I think his wittiest song by far is "We will all go together when we go", an anti-war song of the concerns we all had in the early 1960s about possible nuclear holocaust. The ways he divided phrases and even words to keep his rhyming schemes are hilarious and very clever.
I have a feeling I might no longer enjoy Lehrer's political views, but I still admire his brilliance.
If you have some time, it's worth listening to his songs via YouTube, if nothing else.
When I was a young assistant professor, I dressed like a pseudo-hippie: long hair, long-ish beard, work shirts (often, not always), denims, boots, the full regalia:
But in the late 1970s, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to change my appearance and wardrobe. Just as my colleagues were choosing to no longer wear coats and ties, I started wearing them.
Oddly, I have no photos of me from that era.
My younger son, Adam Smith Palmer, recently wrote that our granddaughter has been admitted to the "...3 G&T program..."
Where do I apply? Is that three gin and tonics per afternoon?
[btw he was writing about Lara, for those of you who remember her.]
I have had several friends extol the marvels of meditation, urging me to try it. I tried it a week or so ago, but I find it really difficult not to think about whatever it is I might be considering for the day or week or month, etc.
This article in WaPo suggests it may be worthwhile giving it a better, more thorough try.
We found differences in brain volume after eight weeks in five different regions in the brains of the two groups. In the group that learned meditation, we found thickening in four regions:
1. The primary difference, we found in the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self relevance.
2. The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.
3. The temporo parietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.
4. An area of the brain stem called the Pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.
The amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
The change in the amygdala was also correlated to a reduction in stress levels.
The doctor interviewed for this article recommends getting a teacher for meditation. The problem I have with this is that I doubt if I will like or get along with any teachers. I wonder if there are any people in my area who tend toward being libertarians and who teach meditation. Failing that, I'll have to search for a good instruction set online. Any suggestions?
Update: at the same time, consider this.
[T]he treatment can itself trigger mania, depression, hallucinations and psychosis, psychological studies in the UK and US have found.
The practice is part of a growing movement based on ancient Eastern traditions of meditation.
However, 60 per cent of people who had been on a meditation retreat had suffered at least one negative side effect, including panic, depression and confusion, a study in the US found.
I know I am an internet junkie. I am addicted to email, to Facebook, to blogs, to news, to internet shopping, and to a host of other wonderful things available over the internet.
I knew I would be addicted many years ago, which was why I put off getting a smartphone for several years. Once I had it, I was on it… a lot! … as I knew I would be.
And now that I am retired, I’m on the internet constantly. I have my laptop open whenever we are “watching television”, which of course means I’m not really watching all that much. And I whip out my iPhone whenever I have the flimsiest of excuses.
Recently I began to wonder just how addicted I am to the internet and to my devices. And so I decided to try to go for 48 hours without using the internet.
I did it. I made it through 48 hours without using the internet from just before midnight on Saturday until just after midnight on Monday.
I turned off the wifi on my laptop so I wouldn’t be connected when I was working on photos or writing projects, and I tried not to use internet when I was reading a novel on my iPhone.
To be honest, the experiment wasn’t completely successful, at least probably not in the eyes of some people, but I think it was a success.
But that was it. So I made it, at least so far as I’m concerned. It was not easy, and I will not willingly to it again.
I wanted to write to some people about an upcoming show. After having studied the script more carefully, I have tonnes of questions, and I must wait to write the people who can help me.
And I have a granddaughter whose birthday started while I was off line. I’d have wanted to write to her sooner.
Also, I had no idea what I might have missed from my friends and relatives. I put a “vacation” notice on my email to let people know what was happening. I hoped that was sufficient.
Doing without email was especially difficult because we have some relatives who are traveling in Asia now, and I know they were constantly sending photos and updates that I wasn’t seeing (I tried not to look at things on Ms. Eclectic’s computer screen during these two days).
I get most of my news via email from various news organizations. I missed those. I detest television news, especially the local telecasts, and being without other news sources didn’t make me like television news any better (we gave up our hard-copy subscriptions years ago).
Finally, I worried that notices about work being done in our condo building might have been missed. Fortunately, there weren't any.
I really missed all the contact with my Facebook friends --- status updates, messages via messenger, photos, sayings, etc. I have only sporadic contact with most of my Facebook friends, and I know it can wait, but I missed it and I hope those who missed my announcements about this experiment will have understood what I was doing.
I wish there had been some way, in addition to my two status updates, to notify people who might have sent messages or posted comments – some sort of “vacation” type notice for FB. Maybe there is, but it didn’t occur to me to look for it.
Something else that bothered me and that I hadn’t thought about earlier --- what were people posting, if anything, to my Timeline on Facebook? I should have reset the privacy settings before going offline! But people rarely “share” things on Timeline, so I wasn’t worried. And I received no phone calls or texts from friends alerting me to anything untoward that may have happened in this regard.
I was astonished by how dependent I am on the internet, not just because of my own personal addictions but in so many other ways as well. If the internet ever shuts down for any length of time, I’ll be done for.
The experiment confirmed what I knew but didn’t want to admit all along: I am easily distracted by email and Facebook. Anytime I get even slightly bored with my work, with what I’m reading, or with what is on television, I check my email and Facebook.
Suspecting this, confirming this, and now knowing this may affect my behavior. I doubt if it will affect much, though.
I know I am addicted to the internet, to email, to Facebook, to blogs, etc. In fact I put off getting a smartphone for a year or so because I knew I would be addicted to using it. And indeed, I have a strong urge to pull it out all the time to check something.
So as of midnight tonight, I'm going to try (TRY!) to stay off the internet for 48 hours.
I can use my phone, but I must be careful not to check mail, etc. I think I have turned off all the banners and notifications, but I'm not sure.
I can use our landline phone, even though we have cable land-line service.
I can watch cable television, too.
And I can use my computer for things like Word or Excel, but I have to turn off the wifi mode for those 48 hours.
I'm not sure I can do this. But I need to try it. [I also NEED to learn a lengthy role for a show I'm doing this coming Friday.]
I'll post an update on Tuesday. I'll probably stay up past midnight on Monday just so I can check my email, etc. ;-)
A few days ago I noted on Facebook that most Canadians I know pronounce the word "asphalt" as "ash-fault". Where did that "h" after the "as" come from, and how did this happen?
The first time I heard this pronunciation after moving to Canada from the US, I thought someone was mispronouncing the word, but judging from the comments on Facebook, "ash-fault" seems to be a very common pronunciation in Canada. Also, from Wikipaedia,
- Many Canadians pronounce asphalt as "ash-falt" /ˈæʃfɒlt/. This pronunciation is also common in Australian English, but not in General American English or British English.
Also, from Wiktionary,
In the pronunciation code, the stretch-S (or integral sign for math jocks) means to pronounce the "s" with an "sh" sound.
How did this pronunciation evolve and become so common in Canada? Are Canucks just trying to be polite and not say the word "ass"? Or is there some other explanation? And how has this pronunciation become so dominant in Canada (and New Zealand and Australia) despite the spelling of the word?
Several years ago, when Lara was an infant, I notice that her nostrils were heart-shaped and posted a picture of them. Last year I posted an update.
I recently visited with Lara, and here are some photos I took, trying to update photos of her nostrils. In the first one, she hid her nose:
Funny girl. But in the second photo, she let me take a photo of her nostrils. It looks to me as if the heart shapes are slowly evolving away from heart shapes.
Compare the above photo with some of the earlier ones here.
I'm just jaded enough to believe these "facts" will be countered by evidence from further studies; that's the nature of scientific inquiry. But they are worth contemplating [via Marilyn via George via?]. Here they are with my comments added in square brackets]:
1. Your favorite song is likely associated with an emotional event.
You and everyone else. (source)
[EE: And it stops being your favourite song when it becomes associated with a negative event.]
2. Music impacts your perspective.
This one seems kind of obvious! A study at the University of Groningen showed that music has a dramatic impact on your perception. (source)
[EE: I know one prof who played baroque music before his classes and another played more modern music. Guess which one was perceived as a better prof. It's likely that the music had nothing to do with it but just reflected their personalities and teaching styles.]
3. The more you spend on others, the happier you are.
According to various studies. Be sure to give plenty this holiday season! (source)
[EE: I'm not entirely convinced. There must be some important nuances here.]
4. Spending money on experience instead of stuff also makes you happier.
Collect memories not things, right? (source)
[EE: Absolutely! Also, as people in my generation begin down-sizing, we don't want stuff. We cherish time with family and friends; I also love new experiences. And if "stuff" is given, it should be perishables, loosely defined, such as fancy cheeses or wines.]
5. Kids are more high strung today than the average psych ward patient in 1950.
Which is pretty scary but not surprising. About half the human population now suffers anxiety, depression, or a sort of substance abuse. (source)
[EE: this sounds a tad extreme to me, but I can believe the qualitative nature of it. Kids have to (or choose to or feel pressure to) multi-task much more than I did as a younger person. But depression was big back then, too, so I'm not entirely convinced.]
6. Certain religious practices lower stress.
“The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Mood Disorders” shows that people who engage in meditation and prayer religiously are less stressed out. (source)
[EE: so many of my friends tell me that quiet meditation is good. I'm giving it a go, but my mind wanders a lot.]
7. Money does buy happiness, but only up to $75,000 a year.
For the average American, $75k a year buys happiness. It liberates you from poverty and gets you what you need in life. (source)
[EE: If this is per capita and not per household, I can imagine it comes close. Also see this, in which I mention a classic book by Tibor Scitovsky, The Joyless Economy.]
8. Being with happy people makes you happier.
This should come as no surprise. (source)
[EE: well duh. Though I know some perverse people for whom this doesn't work; they resent the happiness other people feel.]
9. 18 to 33 year olds are the most stressed out people on earth.
Family, education, work, it can all be pretty stressful. (source)
[EE: exactly. But with family formations beginning later in life, I expect the upper limit is closer to 40 these days.]
10. Convincing yourself you slept well tricks your brain into thinking it did.
Thus giving you more energy. They called it “placebo sleep”. (source)
[EE: I find it hard to lie to myself, but I rarely have this problem anyway.]
11. Smart people underestimate themselves and ignorant people think they’re brilliant.
It’s called the Dunning Kruger Effect, it’s real, and just go on Facebook and you’ll see what I’m talking about. (source)
[EE: I'm almost always in a constant state of doubt, but I really don't take that as a sign of being smart; I take it as a sign of having been wrong so often in the past.]
12. When you remember a past event, you’re actually remembering the last time you remembered it.
Alright, that one blew the hell out of my mind. This is why our memories fade and distort over time. (source)
[EE: I first read this about a year ago. Makes sense.]
13. Your decisions are more rational when thought in another language.
A university of Chicago study showed that Korean citizens who thought in foreign languages reduced their overall bias. Neat. (source)
[EE: Another good reason to become fluent in another language.]
14. If you announce your goals, you’re less likely to succeed.
It’s true. Tests since the 1930’s have pretty well proven it. (source)
[EE: I can see this, but I'm afraid it's also confirmation bias. For the most part, I'm reluctant to announce goals for fear of looking foolish if I don't achieve them. This finding might be important for everyone who is on a diet.]
Bill Szymczyk was a year ahead of me at our grade school, junior high school, and high school. He was the producer for BB King's most popular albums.
From Wikipaedia [via HR],
He [Szymczyk] successfully lobbied ABC to let him work with B. B. King, whose own record label was a subsidiary of ABC and who was a long time idol of Szymczyk. After convincing King that he could improve his sound to make him more appealing to a wider audience, King himself agreed to let Szymczyk produce for him. Among the albums he produced for B. B. King are the 1969 live album Live & Well, King's first ever top-100 album. He produced the follow-up studio album Completely Well, which featured "The Thrill Is Gone", the biggest hit of King's career and his signature song. He would continue to produce blues albums throughout the early 1970s for the likes of King and Albert Collins.
Szymczyk was moved several times while working for ABC Records; first to Los Angeles when ABC acquired Dunhill Records and Szymczyk took over production for the West Coast operations, and later to Denver when he decided to form his own label, Tumbleweed Records. He worked for a while as a disc jockey at radio station KFML, and continued to produce albums in New York and Los Angeles, such as the J. Geils Band's 1971 album The Morning After, recorded at the Los Angeles Record Plant. He did extensive work at the Colorado studioCaribou Ranch, where would be the center of his operations for the rest of the 1970s.
Once again we hear of controversies surrounding the invitations to some people who have been invited, not invited, disinvited, uninvited, etc. to give commencement addresses.
I have a solution. Invite me.
I have openly and unashamedly in the past campaigned to be invited somewhere --- anywhere --- to give a commencement address. Here is a posting (revised, updated, edited) from 2007.
This is a revised repost of an open solicitation I made several years ago:
or any other topic from my blog.
On May 6, 2015, $1 from every Big Mac® sandwich, Happy Meal®, and hot McCafé® beverage sold in McDonald’s restaurants will go to local children’s charities across the country, like Ronald McDonald House®.
Ronald McDonald House is a charity that consistently receives very high ratings from various assessment organizations because so much of the money donated to it actually goes to help people as opposed to paying administrators, etc.
Time to change my meal plans for the day and head out to McDonalds...
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a celebration held on May 5. It is celebrated in the United States and in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla,[note 1] where the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla).Mexican Americans also often see the day as a source of pride; one way they can honor their ethnicity is to celebrate this day.
The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken to be Mexico's Independence Day—the most important national holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16.
My son, David Ricardo Palmer, has been working on this project for some time. It sounds like exciting stuff. I know he's been mighty busy on the project. More here.
When I was 16 years old, a teacher pointed out that my placement of the word "only" in a sentence changed the meaning from what I had intended. Ever since that episode, I have paid more attention to the placement of the word.
To see the importance of the placement of "only", consider this graphic that I spotted on Facebook [via JS]. Try putting "only" in each possible location and then consider how the meaning changes as you move the word from place to place.
Every morning I receive an email message from the New York Times with a list and summary of their top stories. This one struck me, not for its content but for its questionable grammar:
By MICHAEL WINES and SARAH COHEN
The use of police force against minorities and whites alike is poorly tracked, but what data does exist suggests the number of law-enforcement homicides have risen only slowly, if at all.
There are two things that bug me a bit about this brief quotation.
I note with approval that the NYTimes does place the word "only" in the proper location. Too many writers these days would have mistakenly written, "... homicides has only risen slowly, if at all."
The Dulwich Picture Gallery made it known that they had replaced one of their Masters' paintings with a replica ordered from China for $120US. The result:
For nearly three months, visitors to London's Dulwich Picture Gallery have pored over 270 paintings in its permanent collection, including works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough, knowing that there was one $120 (109-euro) fake in their midst.
Around 3,000 people voted for their pick of the replica, but only 300 correctly identified it as French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard's 18th century portrait "Young Woman". ...
The experiment was the brainchild of American artist Doug Fishbone, who wanted to "throw down the gauntlet" to museum-goers and make them look more closely at the great works.
This marketing technique is wonderful. It tells people up front what is going on. It doesn't involve having someone surreptitiously hang a fake and then proudly announce that nobody noticed it. That kind of power-play, I-know-something-you-don't-know would really irritate people. This strategy, however, says "We've done something; it will be difficult to spot and not even all the experts will correctly identify it. Can you?"
I also like the idea that we can get superb reproductions of masters' works so inexpensively.
I have blogged about happiness several times in the past.
One of my more recent mental wanderings led to me and several others to wonder whether one can consciously and conscientiously choose to do things that will make you happier. Shawn Achor argues that we can with these six exercises (I have no evidence other than my own experiences and those of others around me to know how valid these are). My own comments and reactions follow each item.
1. Gratitude Exercises. Write down three things you're grateful for that occurred over the last 24 hours. They don't have to be profound. It could be a really good cup of coffee or the warmth of a sunny day.
I don't actually write these things down, but I probably do something like this most days in my mind. Gratitude has played a major role in my own sense of happiness. And those who knew the late Greg Mate will recall his daily posts of gratitude on Facebook that he began writing upon learning he had terminal cancer; they were terrifically inspiring.
2. The Doubler. Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing down every detail about that experience. As you remember it, your brain labels it as meaningful and deepens the imprint.
This suggestion intrigues me. I don't know that I've done it consciously, and I will now be trying, once again in my mind but not on paper, to do this more overtly. In many respects, many of my postings to Facebook and here on this blog fall into these first two categories.
3. The Fun Fifteen. Do 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity, like gardening or walking the dog, every day. The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant.
Back in a dark period of my life, people kept suggesting things like this. I'm not convinced they worked, but I do try to have some kind of fun physical action nearly every day. And sometimes it's less fun, e.g. doing the stairs instead of taking the elevator to check the mail.
4. Meditation. Every day take two minutes to stop whatever you're doing and concentrate on breathing. Even a short mindful break can result in a calmer, happier you.
I really struggle with this one. I try to stop, but my mind quickly wanders. I guess it takes more work/effort than I'm willing to put out.
5. Conscious act of kindness. At the start of every day, send a short email or text praising someone you know. Our brains become addicted to feeling good by making others feel good.
Please don't include me if you do this. It sounds fake, and if it comes off as an exercise you're doing for yourself, it won't seem all that sincere to the others.
However, a couple of decades ago, I realized that the people who seemed happier were the ones who said nice things to and about others. I realized the causation could go in either direction, but I started doing things like this and stopped being as grouchy and as critical as I had been. It seems to help. Yes, there are still plenty of times when I grouse and criticize, but I keep more of them to myself more often and work through them more effectively.
6. Deepen Social Connections. Spend time with family and friends. Our social connections are one of the best predictors for success and health, and even life expectancy.
Does Facebook count? Does theatre count? Do musical groups count? Those connections are rarely very deep, but they do lead to other connections that are deeper.
Over a decade ago, my older son (aka David Ricardo Palmer) and I constructed this arch. It was displayed that spring at both the Bright's Grove and the Blyth art galleries.
Our artists' statement is a reflection of the existentialism inherent in the Myth of Sisyphus.
L' Arc des Perdants Anonymes
(The Arch of the Anonymous Losers):
A Celebration of the Existential Quest
Like many triumphal arches, this sculpture is a celebration. In this work, we celebrate the process of continued search and quest despite not reaching a specific goal or prize.
Constructed entirely of losing cups from the 2004 Tim Hortons "Roll Up the Rim to Win" contest, our work is rooted in the ontological search for meaning. People who search for meaning in life are often frustrated, feeling lost when they are unable to arrive at some clear and definitive sense of purpose. The existential answer lies in the joy and value of the search activity itself.
We see the experience of playing the Tim Horton lottery as a reflection of this search. People buy cups of coffee hoping to win a big prize. They lose. They go back for more. And the process makes people smile. This simple, day-to-day process is a symbolic representation of the joie de vivre that is evinced in the human experiential quest for meaning.
L' Arc des Perdants Anonymes is constructed with nearly 3000 used, losing cups from the Tim Hortons 2004 contest. The artists used approximately 10 pounds of glue sticks to construct the sections of the structure. These sections are held together in places with 3M hook and loop material. The artists gratefully acknowledge the assistance of their families and persons at their respective workplaces for their assistance.
For more photos and information, see this.