Monday, October 10, 2016

Respecting the Wisdom of Lifelong Expertise

I recently wrote down my Manifesto for a Full, Active Retirement.  (More about that in a later post.) One of my directives to myself is: " Read, listen to, or watch something every day that stretches my mind."

I read often and widely. I love fiction, and most of the time I try to choose fiction that is "meaningful," either because it explores the nuances of a difficult issue or elucidates the complexities of a different culture or historical period. I read non-fiction too. And lately, I've started listening to podcasts instead of music when I walk. I still choose music sometimes, because I'm less likely to get so caught up that I ignore my surroundings. But I've grown to love podcasts.

Today I listened to a Brookings Institute podcast: Political Gridlock and the U.S. Economy.  The subject itself was fascinating. And as always with Brookings podcasts, I was very impressed by the two panelists. They both had vast experience, were well-informed, calm, articulate, and mildly humorous. It left me wondering, yet again, why we have become a culture that treats expertise, knowledge, and wisdom with such disdain.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Mohammed

Don't tell me how educated you are. Tell me how much you have traveled.
-- Mohammed

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

"United we stand, divided we fall" has been variously attributed to everyone from Benjamin Franklin to Abraham Lincoln. One site attributes it to an Aesop Fable about four sheep and a lion. Regardless of its source, this quote seems apropos right now as I watch our country in the throes of the strangest and most nerve-wracking presidential election any of us have ever seen. We are clearly a country that is hopelessly divided to the point that few of us have any idea how to begin to bridge the gap and overcome the animosity and distrust.

Most educated thinking people that I know are horrified that Donald Trump is poised to be elected president. We nervously check the web site regularly to seek reassurance that the unthinkable has a low probability of actually happening. (And I sincerely hope that a month from now, while enjoying splendid views of the Andes, I'll be able to wipe my brow and say "Whew! We dodged that bullet!")

But when the dust has settled, we all need to do a lot of soul searching and try to understand why our country is experiencing two completely divergent views of American values.

I remember my initial reaction to the 9/11 attack was that it was like Pearl Harbor and our country was at war.  Then when we learned that the perpetrators were jihadist terrorists, the "war" took on a completely different character. This isn't a war with any possibility of negotiating a cease-fire. They don't want our land or our riches. They simply hate us because of who we are, and there is really no way to fix that.

The division in our country right now feels a lot like that. I've read several excellent books to try to understand how we got here:

Each of these provides some degree of explanation, but none of them makes me feel very hopeful. I read so many eloquent pleas for reason from inside the intellectual liberal bubble. The latest is this Facebook post by Dan Rather citing the famous Holocaust poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller. Perhaps it's a fitting way to convey how dismayed and perplexed I am by the "other tribe."  Linking to a specific Facebook post is a bit of a challenge, so I've copied the text in full.

The headlines of the moment are in the growing roll call of prominent Republicans who are rescinding their support for Donald Trump. But I am left wondering how his candidacy and those who supported, enabled it, and abetted him until now, will be viewed through the long lens of history. It should be noted that many conservative editorial boards and critics have already come out against Trump long before this latest bombshell in very stark terms.
Apparently everyone has a line, and yet do you feel things would be different if all of these politicians thought Trump could still win in November?And what should we make of all the other groups who have been insulted and marginalized by Trump and yet his supporters stood by him?
He attacked Mexicans as rapists and murderers - but that was not enough.
 He called for barring Muslims from entering the country - but that was not enough.  
He incited violence in his rallies - but that was not enough.
He publicly mocked the disabled - but that was not enough. 
He retweeted anti-Semitic memes - but that was not enough. 
He demeaned a Gold Star Family - but that was not enough. 
He insulted the press and railed against their Constitutional freedoms - but that was not enough. 
He said that those who suffer from PTSD were weak - but that was not enough. 
He had a long history of misogynist and sexist comments - but that was not enough. 
He repeatedly lied on issues big and small - but that was not enough. 
He refused to release his tax records or health records - but that was not enough. 
He joked about violence against his political rival - but that was not enough. 
I could go on, and I ask you to do so in the comments section. 
Perhaps we can tag it with #butthatwasnotenough. 
I know some equate Donald Trump with Nazisim - that goes too far for me. But in recent hours I have been hearing echoes of the chilling poem by the German anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller about the culpability of his country's elite in the rise of Nazism. 
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me." 
America's better nature has always been to speak out for the marginalized and dispossessed. It is an ideal for which we have all too often fallen far short. What about now?  -- Dan Rather, 10/8/2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Leonardo da Vinci

Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind. 

-- Leonardo da Vinci

A much more elegant way to say "use it or lose it."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Sir Richard Burton

One of the gladdest moments of human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. 

-- Sir Richard Francis Burton, 18th century explorer

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Guillaume Appollinaire

Now and then, it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
-- Guillaume Appollinaire 
(early 20th century French poet)

Parenting Tiny Aliens

I discovered this wonderful "letter to the editor" while paging through Real Simple in a waiting room:
Treat your kids like intelligent aliens. Intelligent, because they're wired to learn at an incredible rate of speed and can process far more complex information than many people realize. Aliens, because they don't know the first thing about our civilization and need a lot of instruction to learn to live well in it. Parent long and prosper.
This captures quite well the challenges, complexity, and delight of parenting. For me, some of the most memorable and heart-warming movies and TV shows build on this dichotomy.  

E.T. -- the incredible smart little alien who had to learn to cope with our culture. And the children who befriended him without fear because they hadn't yet fully acquired the biases of our civilization.

Short Circuit with its endearing "Johnny Five" almost-human robot -- able to acquire and process incredible quantities of information but requiring lots of assistance interpreting the rules of civilization.

Mork and Mindy, which put Robin Williams on the map as the alien who struggled hilariously to understand our culture.

Perhaps if we try more often to view ourselves, our beliefs, and our cultural norms from the outside looking in, it will help us be more patient with our children and tolerant of others.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Quote of the Day -- John Updike

Surprisingly few clues are ever offered us as to what kind of people we are.
-- John Updike

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Quote of the Day -- W. H. Auden

Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the differences between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.
-- W. H. Auden

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Simone Weil

Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.
-- Simone Weil

Friday, September 16, 2016

Station Eleven -- Calamity, Serendipity, Six Degrees of Separation, and more..

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is, simplistically, a dystopian novel -- definitely not my favorite genre. Perhaps one of the dystopia scenarios might very possibly occur in my lifetime (probably not the zombie kind) and I should therefore face up to the reality. But I find most novels in this genre to be unrelentingly humorless and grim. I prefer grim reality served up with a human touch and some people that I care about. Thank you ESJMl!

Sometimes, when I'm sitting at a stoplight in my very responsible Prius hybrid, I look around me and marvel. How could we have evolved to live like this? Tall buildings, cars, electricity, cell phones, books, television, social media... A thousand years ago, we were very different, at least as a culture. Our lives today were unimaginable back then, or even 150 years ago. We've evolved culturally to be so specialized that few of us have the expertise to recreate even one element of all the technologies that define our lives.

That's an important premise of Mandel's novel. Her description of the post-apocalyptic world -- after the catastrophic pandemic wiped out 99% of our race -- is understated and matter-of-fact, but effective. Imagine a world without any modern conveniences or modern necessities. No medicines of any kind, including simple things like insulin that keep thousands of people alive every day. Imagine a world without electricity, running water, gasoline, heat or air conditioning. No television, no Internet, no telephone. She doesn't fill in all the blanks of how the survivors cope without all those things, but with her springboard, your mind easily takes you there.

With her lightly but effectively drawn dystopian world as a canvas, Mandel depicts the before and the after for a handful of characters, loosely connected (six degrees of separation) through an aging actor. The story goes back and forth, from just Before, to just After, to Year Ten and (mostly) Year Twenty. The intermingling of the characters' lives is serendipitous, as is their survival of the initial disaster.

As with any good novel, Mandel does an outstanding job of putting you in the shoes and in the heads of her characters. You can begin to appreciate what it might be like to be an apocalyptic survivor. And you are left wondering what it really means to be civilized.

An excellent read! 

Quote of the Day -- John Wooden

You can't have a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
-- John Wooden

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Malcolm Forbes

Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
-- Malcolm Forbes

Friday, September 9, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Garrison Keillor

People with too much money and too little character, all sensibility and no sense, all nostalgia and no history.
-- Garrison Keillor

I can't resist Garrison Keillor's wonderful turns of phrase...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Digital Disruption

People have bemoaned how fast the world is changing for as long as I can remember. I often marveled at the changes my parents (born in the early 1920's) saw in their lifetimes. The ubiquity of the automobile, air travel, television. And then computers, VCRs, microwaves, cell phones, the Internet. That's a lot to happen in 90 years, and they coped pretty well with the degree of change.

But the changes that technology has wrought in the last 10 to 15 years are of a completely different order of magnitude. Social media, crowd-sourcing, a modern "barter economy." Being connected all the time. The Internet of Things. When we talk about educating our children (or grandchildren), we often hear that the types of jobs many of them will have when they graduate from college don't even exist yet. 

I worked in technology of sorts for my entire career. I consider myself more tech-savvy than most of my contemporaries, but it is definitely a struggle. For most of my career, I could at least understand the value and use of technological advances, but that has become increasingly difficult. And I don't think it is only because I am older. We're seeing a veritable explosion in many many directions. Few people can begin to get their arms around all of it.

Take the list on the graphic above. I've only participated in a few of these (Facebook, Netflix, Apple, Google, Skype). I understand the basics of the others, except for SocietyOne. What in the world is a bank with no money? I struggle to explain the value of Facebook to friends just a few years older than I. And it took me a long time to appreciate how Twitter provides quite different value.

As I watch my grandchildren grow and embrace technology as a given, I wonder a lot about the world that will greet them when they enter college, or when they enter old age. And I wonder about the divide between the digital "have's" and "have not's." Will the gap be unbridgeable? And will the generation gap be similarly vast as our grandchildren reach adulthood. 

Digital disruption. Definitely.

Quote of the Day -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Don't judge each day by the harvest that you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, September 5, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Garrison Keillor

This is a great country and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.
-- Garrison Keillor

Sunday, September 4, 2016

On Being a Minnesotan

Jim and I emigrated to Minnesota in 1973. He was passionately interested in public policy and impressed with the "Minnesota Miracle." The University of Minnesota offered a masters in public affairs, which, in part, taught future policy wonks to dissect the miracle and keep it going. I had nothing more pressing to do, so why not join him? I, at least, assumed that it was a temporary move.

For those who weren't old enough to pay attention in 1973 (or don't live in Minnesota), the "Miracle" was all about fairness and sharing and raising the water so everyone's boat would float. It was redistribution of wealth on a small scale. Affluent communities and school districts with a large tax base shared their wealth with less fortunate communities via state-run taxation and distribution. Services and education throughout the state improved.

After a few years, we decided that the Twin Cities, specifically the suburban Minneapolis, was a pretty good place to settle down and raise a family, so we stayed. But two houses later, with our kids approaching adulthood, I still didn't list "Minnesotan" as one of my identities. I didn't identify with any other place (maybe "citizen of the world") but I just couldn't quite see myself as a Minnesotan.

Despite the incredible array of cultural opportunities in the Twin Cities, the good life in Minnesota still meant fishing, hunting, or racing along in an ATV or a snow mobile. Drinking beer instead of wine. Going to church every Sunday morning. None of that was "me."

As retirement approached and we thought about what we would do, we agreed that we loved to travel most of all (except of course for spending time with our kids and grandkids). We wanted time away from the cold, but not in the same place. A different place in Asia or the southern hemisphere every winter, not Florida or Arizona for us. So we embarked on transforming the home where we had raised our kids into a more grown-up place with nicer furniture and wonderful artifacts from our travels. And I decided that I must be a Minnesotan after all, because I didn't have a desire to live someplace else.

One of my daughter's friends recently unearthed an old Garrison Keillor article written during the 2004 election season. It's an acerbic and effective diatribe, and it's also a treatise on Minnesota values and why this state is reliably blue. 
The state was settled by no-nonsense socialists from Germany and Sweden and Norway who unpacked their trunks and planted corn and set about organizing schools; churches; libraries; lodges; societies and benevolent associations; brotherhoods and sisterhoods, and raised their children to Mind Your Manners, Be Useful, Pay Attention, Make Something of Yourself, Turn Down the Thermostat (If You’re Cold, Go Put on a Sweater), Share and Share Alike, Be Satisfied with What You Have—a green Jell-O salad with mandarin oranges, miniature marshmallows, walnuts, and Miracle Whip is by God good enough for anybody. I grew up in the pure democracy of a public grade school where everybody brought a valentine for everybody on Valentine’s Day so we should feel equally loved
I so admire Garrison Keillor's self-deprecating, articulate, and funny prose, especially when he's skewering what I consider the opposition. And despite his corniness, he and his words make me proud to finally officially declare myself a Minnesotan.

Quote of the Day -- Maria Shriver

... the empty nest label is a misnomer -- or better yet, an outdated label. Because once a mother, always a mother. A loving home is always a loving home (whether kids are in their rooms or not).
-- Maria Shriver

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Craig Sager

Time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God and it is not in endless supply. Time is simply how you live your life.

Craig Sager, sportscaster, cancer warrior, crazy, fun-loving guy, and my friend and high school classmate

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Quote of the Day -- David Brooks

The social media maven spends his or her time creating a self-caricature, a much happier and more photogenic version of real life. People subtly start comparing themselves to other people’s highlight reels.
-- David Brooks, The Road to Character

The Ups and Downs of Speaking English

English usage and the role of English on the world stage have changed dramatically in my lifetime. In the 70's, when I was studying literature, educated people often sprinkled their writing with "big words" and the occasional French or Latin phrase. Just plain English was exactly that -- too plain.

At the same time, French was widely studied and spoken by educated people around the world, and many of the educated French were fighting hard to keep it "pure." If they had their way, they would eradicate "le parking" and "le weekend" from the French lexicon. Meanwhile, German was widely considered the language of science.

Colleges and universities provided crash courses in language study to fill the gaping hole in our elementary and secondary education. While Europeans typically spoke at least two languages in addition to their mother tongue, Americans were lucky to be fluent in English. Many of us lobbied hard to introduce language study in elementary schools (when it is the most effective) and sought ways to provide our children with language education outside schools.

For better or for worse, in the last 40 years, English has rapidly become the universal language. Multinational corporations typically require their professional employees to speak and read English competently. Shop clerks and waiters all over the world speak at least enough English to get by, making it less and less necessary for Americans to acquire a foreign language. See "The World's Languages, in 7 Maps and Charts."

The naysayers who argued against investing in language education gleefully say "I told you so" and yet... 

Language education seems on the rise. More and more school districts (at least where I live) are offering an immersion option for K - 6, usually in either Chinese or Spanish. And they are introducing language education (typically Spanish) for all elementary students. People are realizing that despite the prevalence of English, there is tremendous value in learning another language and culture. Much is lost if we always rely on the least-common-denominator passable English to express our thoughts.

In our increasingly diverse country, many children will be truly multilingual -- speaking fluent English with their friends and at school while speaking their mother tongue equally fluently at home with their immigrant parents. Science now tells us that multilingual children develop parts of their brain that will lie dormant in children with only one language. (See, for example, "The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual.") And the global economy will value language ability. So native speakers of American English need to step up and learn a second language or be left behind. And thankfully, our schools seem to be rising to the challenge. I look forward to the day when we in the US have widespread acceptance of the value of multilingualism instead of insistence that "we are exclusively an English-speaking country."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Mark Twain

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
-- Mark Twain

And that was long before the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Art of Understanding -- the Guthrie's Disgraced

We recently had the opportunity to see the Guthrie's production of the relatively new play Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar. It received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. Here's the intro from the playbill: 

"A rapid-fire, award-winning social drama

Amir Kapoor, a successful Pakistani-American lawyer, is happy, in love and about to land the biggest promotion of his life. But ethnicity collides with ambition when Amir and his wife, Emily, host a dinner party at their Upper East Side apartment. Friendly conversation turns confrontational, and Amir makes a costly decision."

In a few short, well-crafted scenes, Akhtar provides important insight into ethnicity, ambition, love, loyalty, cultural misunderstanding, and the pain of loss. The audiences cringes in anticipation of the consequences of inescapable actions and literally gasps when long-buried cultural biases and problem-resolution "techniques" rear their ugly heads. 

In an era when we are subjected to so many sound bites, stereotypes, and catch phrases, Disgraced demonstrates the tremendous value of the arts to explore deeper meaning and provide greater understanding. Each of the four participants in the conversation made unforgivable mistakes in the course of the story, but we the audience can understand if not forgive.

This is an important play that is being produced at regional theaters around the country. If you have the opportunity to see it, by all means, go!

Quote of the Day -- Bill Gates

Most people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime.
-- Bill Gates

(Note: it's a bit ironic that I'm quoting Bill Gates. When he was at Microsoft, I despised him. But now I greatly admire what he is doing as a "retiree.")

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Elizabeth Hardwick

The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind.
-- Elizabeth Hardwick, Paris Review interview

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Understanding Islam

On my morning walk at "the Lake," I breathed in the fresh air, exercised my lower body with hill work, exercised my upper body trying to swat away the hungry new crop of mosquitoes, and exercised my brain with this excellent Brookings Cafeteria podcast. I've nearly completed Hamid's new book -- Islamist Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World.

We can go only so far in our understanding of a culture or religion when we have no firsthand experience or solid point of reference. After all, I can't even really understand the mindset of a fundamentalist who asked me whether I believe evolution or creationism. How can that even be a choice in this day and age?  And yet...  We have to try. We have to try to appreciate what is both important and obvious to others, even if it's neither obvious nor important to us.

Hamid's book and the podcast interview provide many valuable insights, and I encourage everyone to experience both of them first hand. I can't begin to do justice to his wealth of knowledge, but a couple things stick out.

Hamid goes back to the root of Christianity and the fact that Jesus was a "revolutionary" who had no hope or desire of nation-building. The New Testament is all about individuals, what we believe, and how we conduct ourselves. Anything resembling politics or government is conspicuously absent.Therefore, it's not surprising that eventually a Reformation occurred and we find ourselves in a secular society where the role of religion (for most of us) is fairly circumscribed.

The prophet Mohammed, on the other hand, was in a leadership position and was very interested in "nation-building."  The Koran is filled with "laws" about how to conduct ourselves in groups, how to form a law-abiding Islamist society. This is an overly simplistic summary, but Hamid's basic premise is that separating religion and politics for Muslims is very difficult and unnatural. If we're waiting for a Reformation that will somehow make it easier for us to understand each other and share the planet, we shouldn't hold our collective breath.

Another important point. When Muslims think about history, they think about the vast, highly successful and advanced Ottoman Empire. That was their heyday and it has vanished. So they question why it happened, why did God let it happen, and what can they do to get back into God's favor and ascend to their former greatness. Obviously, for many of them, a return to a more observant, pious society is an important step.

And one last story. When visiting Egypt, Hamid encountered a man who was smoking hashish while bemoaning secularism and wishing for the implementation of sharia law. When Hamid pointed out the irony (that the man was wishing for sharia law that would prohibit him from smoking hash), he said he felt bad about smoking hashish and wanted the state to stop him. We've seen this throughout history. For many people, authoritarianism (or fundamentalism) is easier. It provides something to believe in and rules to live by.

I'll never really understand such a vastly different value system, but at least I'm trying.

Quote of the Day -- E.O. Wilson

We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.
-- E. O. Wilson

Sunday, August 7, 2016

On Being Articulate

Recently, while walking around one of the Minneapolis lakes, I listened to a Brookings Institute podcast about the likely impact of the Brexit vote (Brexit = Britain's referendum to exit the European Union). The content was thoughtful, objective, and helpful. But what really struck me was how articulate the speaker Fiona Hill was. She didn't um and ah and speak in partial sentences. But more impressive to me was her vocabulary. She used words that I understood and have possibly used when writing, but words that would be unlikely to cross my lips when speaking. 

Fiona is a Brit. And I notice that the Brit's with posh accents (revealing their education at elite schools) tend to have a speaking vocabulary that matches my written vocabulary. The gap between how they speak and how they write seems smaller than it is for most Americans. I wonder what it is about their education that produces that result? And how much of the gap is caused by the strong anti-intellectual sentiment on our side of the pond. Have we been so discouraged beginning at a young age of appearing too intelligent that we are loathe to introduce "big words" into our spoken repertoire?

Of all the disciplines where anti-intellectualism rears its ugly head, politics has moved to the forefront. In my own lifetime, I remember my reaction to the release of the Nixon White House tapes in the early 1970's. The redacted transcripts were filled with strings of profanity. I found it more intellectually offensive than morally offensive. Couldn't these men in leadership positions in our country find more articulate ways to make their point? It showed such a lack of creativity...

And now we have a "homegrown demagogue" who has reduced his rhetoric to the least common denominator. His speeches are laced with profanity, and he often seems incapable of constructing coherent sentences. It would be funny if it weren't so disturbing. Have we stooped so low that we admire someone who would make even a 5th grade English teacher cringe? (Check out this incredible example.) I worry for my country if we've reached a point where we have so little respect for the thoughtful, articulate, and educated. 

Quote of the Day -- John Paul Lederach

Don't ask the mountain
To move, just take a pebble
Each time you visit.

-- John Paul Lederach via 
On Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. 
-- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Sweating the Small Stuff

One of my mantras of life has always been "don't sweat the small stuff." It might be a bit of rationalization and self-justification, because I'm much more of a concepts person than a details person. So I often tell myself that the details aren't worth losing sleep over. And mostly this works, plus it's a good counter-balance to my Type A, always planning, side.

"Don't sweat the small stuff" was also a refrain of our parenting style. And an important corollary was "pick your battles." I really believe that children from a very young age do far better with guidelines than lots of specific rules. And they are more likely to adhere to a few key rules ("don't run in the street," "don't ever get in the car with a driver who has been drinking") because those rules stand out as crucially important.

But I have always suspected that the hidden secret of this parenting style is laziness. It's often easier to do a chore yourself than to make your children do it. It's quicker to just give kids money when they need it than to figure out the equitable way to dispense allowance to kids of diverse ages. And who really knows or cares if the beds are made every morning?

Nevertheless, for our particular children, our parenting style produced spectacular results. Through some combination of luck (lots of luck) and skill, we raised three very responsible, respectful, financially stable, wise, and compassionate adults. They don't necessarily make their beds every day, but none of them are slovenly, nor do they run in the street or drink and drive. 

So why, at this stage of my life, am I so enamored with Rubin's podcast Happier and with Gretchen Rubin's writing in general? Rubin is by no means a shallow person, and yet her focus in much of her writing and her podcast is definitely about the small stuff. And I lap it up. I've come to believe that you can be happier and you can make your life better by focusing on your daily habits. The small stuff can make a difference.

I'm still a believer in my mantra-- don't sweat the small stuff -- when it comes to the big stories of life. But I've reached a stage of life when I've checked off the big boxes and now the question becomes how to compose a further life (an interesting book by Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of Margaret Mead). And if I don't plan to join the peace corps or some similar noble commitment at this late stage, then doing what I can to make each day better increases in importance. Occasionally, their tips make me feel a little bit like I'm reading Better Home and Gardens or Good Housekeeping (perish the thought!). But usually their ideas are a bit more cerebral and personal... and it makes me happy to participate with them in thinking about the small stuff.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Quote of the Day -- David Samuels

What a wonderful turn of phrase...

" a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press..."

David Samuels, NY Times article

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Tom Brokaw

For parents, bribery is a white-collar crime; for grandparents, it's a business plan.

-- Tom Brokaw

Friday, February 26, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Isaac Asimov

If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster.

-- Isaac Asimov

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quote of the Day -- Ray Bradbury

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

-- Ray Bradbury