500 words

ok. here i attempt to write my own 500 word (or less) expositions. this is an evolving forum based on ideas that i want to explore. thoughts that i want to keep track of. the style is experimental (i.e. the grammar may be incorrect), but that is on purpose. comments welcome!



why write
1 february 2011

I have not been trained as a writer, yet I write everyday. Writing in order to socialize, request, assign, inform, report, keep notes, and perhaps for creative nonfiction (do these expositions qualify?). Here I attempt a different style, something like a cognitive collage (not the technical definition). Blog published with no review. The greatness in publishing something is contributing to the permanent record. However, has this greatness diminished with the spread of digital media? To write I need it on a screen, but to read I need it on a page (though even I admit the pages are getting brighter). Consider the evolution of writing style, and the relationship to writing form and function; how would Marcel Proust compose a text message about where to meet for dinner? The Elements of Style; purists promote style guides. In 1946 George Orwell severely criticized written English, in particular political prose, but are we all cuttlefish and parrots now? Ethics in journalism: fact vs. farce. The cut back of newspapers and the cut in backing of investigative journalism are illustrative of our under-developing society. Don’t ask questions, and especially don’t disseminate the answers. But, there are answers if you know where to look. And, it may be that most Americans are still asking questions. Laziness is a weak excuse. What about accountability? Again, think about the permanent record. Getting published can be like getting on a game show. While a website lacks the tangible permanence of a library shelf, the Internet does remember (do we?). A lot is written, but how much of it is read. Read with understanding. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) records the number and type of books published per country per year as “an important index of standard of living and education, and of a country’s self-awareness”. While there are approximately 700 books published per day in the US alone, output is decreasing. Rewriting textbooks doesn’t boost our standing. Intellectual integrity is cultivated. Intellectual humor is attractive. Linguistics lexicology: morphemes and graphemes, compared to phonemes and cheremes. Lyricists and ghostwriters are probably everywhere. Poetry slams — I should go to more of those again. Zines’ history began with science-fiction fans. Fiction-writer friend trying for his breakthrough novel while living in a converted nunnery during winter in the Pacific Northwest; any challenge can be surmounted. To become a writer, you have to write! Writing can be left-to-right, right-to-left, or boustrophedon. Alphabets, abjads, or abugidas. When learning a foreign language, I think it is easier (generally speaking) to read and write compared to speaking and understanding (not to mention being understood). I am hard pressed to grasp something if I don’t write it down. Pictures, thoughts, then sounds. The speed of handwriting is approximately 30 words per minute. Psychiatrists should give out more diaries and less prescriptions. Writing is a simple stress release. But, why write? As with the bikes, I like it.
definitions, as a place to start
5 february 2011

al·li·ance n.
1. the act of allying or state of being allied; union; confederation.
2. a formal agreement or pact, esp a military one, between two or more countries to achieve a particular aim.
3. the countries involved in such an agreement.
4. a union between families through marriage.
5. affinity or correspondence in qualities or characteristics.
6. Botany a taxonomic category consisting of a group of related families; subclass.
[from Old French aliance, from alier to ALLY]

choice n.
1. The act of choosing; selection.
2. The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.
3. One that is chosen.
4. A number or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of styles and colors.
5. The best or most preferable part.
6. Care in choosing.
7. An alternative.
[Middle English chois, from Old French, from choisir, to choose, from Vulgar Latin *caus re, of Germanic origin; see geus- in Indo-European roots.]

cul·ture n.
1. a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population
c. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.
2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.
3. a. Development of the intellect through training or education.
b. Enlightenment resulting from such training or education.
4. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.
5. Special training and development: voice culture for singers and actors.
6. The cultivation of soil; tillage.
7. The breeding of animals or growing of plants, especially to produce improved stock.
8. a. The growing of microorganisms, tissue cells, or other living matter in a specially prepared nutrient medium.
b. Such a growth or colony, as of bacteria.
[Middle English, cultivation, from Old French, from Latin cult ra, from cultus, past participle of colere; see cultivate.]

pas·sion n.
1. A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
2. a. Ardent love.
b. Strong sexual desire; lust.
c. The object of such love or desire.
3. a. Boundless enthusiasm
b. The object of such enthusiasm
4. An abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger
5. Archaic Martyrdom.
6. Archaic Passivity.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin passi , passi n-, sufferings of Jesus or a martyr, from Late Latin, physical suffering, martyrdom, sinful desire, from Latin, an undergoing, from passus, past participle of pat , to suffer; see p (i)- in Indo-European roots.]

definitions from American Heritage Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary
25 january 2013

In the world we find Alliance Bank, Shippers, Airline, Party, University, Theatre, Semiconductor, Magazine, Game Distributors, Group Limited, Trust, Credit Union, Broadband Service, Program, Exchange, One, Wake, and millions more mergers. As a band, in biology, and for the bible. Star Alliance airline partnerships. Alliance Française – French Institute – teaches language and promotes culture for fledgling francophiles. Dancehall artists, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, live action role-playing, science fiction, and wrestling. Alliance to End Hulkamania. Early 1900s autos in Germany and France. It is a town in Suriname, and in 6 states (California, Indiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, and Minnesota). It is a political party: Alliance, United People Alliance, National Alliance, National Democratic Alliance, Social Democratic Alliance, New Alliance Party, Liberal Alliance. Wiki categorizes as a “disambiguation”, and the direct page differentiates by international relations, political organizations, television, film, comics, video games, business, and literature. Oldest acting political alliance is between England and Portugal, dating to 1373. This gives graces to royal marriages, town twinnings, and past power plays. History holds many alliances of variety Triple, few Quadruple, a Quintuple, a Holy (Grand), and even an Unholy. Alliance vs. Entente. Part political coalition, pact, friendship, and contract. Military alliance equals collective defense, North Atlantic Alliance: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Together the members make up majority of world’s military spending. Operation Allied Force to destroy Yugoslav targets. Bosnian War intervention. On a road trip through war-torn Serbia I saw the shelled out buildings, still untouched. Operation Deny Flight. Operation Sharp Guard. Operation Deliberate Force. September 11 invoked article 5: all members have been attacked. Allied forces invoked for Coalition of the Gulf War. Of the willing (of the willed). Name-only form of Allies vs. Axis powers. This time, Allied victory? Alliance vs. League. How far can you walk in one hour? United States. United Nations. European Union. African Union. Marital union (and required proof thereof). Union of two sets. An alliance is between at least two people, but brings together at least two worlds. Personal is political. Take a turn to social justice: How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege. Unite as humans. Important to form for game strategy, e.g. World of Warcraft. High fantasy allying to align and win. Alliance vs. Confederation. Interesting that indigenous people of Americas historically assigned to a confederacy based on tribe. Implication is something more permanent. An amalgamation of autonomous authority. Or, is it the confederal objective that is different? “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”.
8 march 2011

It has been the focus of numerous radio programs. Dinner conversations. Magazine articles. Books! So, what is the paradox? Overabundance of choice makes us less happy (and there are econometric equations to prove it). [Does this have to be additional choices that still do not provide what we want?] An obvious example is shopping at an American supermarket. Aisles and aisles of products to chose: economic progress, or a huge headache? To avoid brain drain in mega-markets I have to outright ignore most products, and focus on the familiar. Given two choices I may try the other, but given ten choices I tend to pick the same. Freedom and choice vs. Fear and choice. Education level is associated with choice satisfaction. What a unique choice! What a good choice! Regret and disappointment probably need to be managed. Am I a maximizer? Are maximizers more prone to depression? Comparison vs. acceptance. Buyer’s remorse deflected by simplicity – purposefully limiting choices. Or, by flexibility – readily accepting choices. Choices, or decisions. All of this choice may lead to higher expectations and heighten how we feel about the decision: It must be an important decision if there are so many choices; it must be an important decision if it is difficult. Do not trust that a manufacturer cares about a consumer. Consumerism aside, what about choosing a career? “I always wanted to be a photographer.” A place to live? “I always wanted to have a farm in Brazil.” Education is not the ticket to self-awareness. Then what are the tools necessary to pick (a) path(s)? Rejection is easier than selection. It is difficult to lose, but it is okay to gain. Certainty vs. risk. I don’t care how much money it costs, but we have to save that dog stranded on the submarine! Donate one dollar to fight genocide, I’m not sure. Choices involving gains are often safe and choices involving losses are often risky; prospect theory. What about mental accounting? (How context takes an option from outrageous to okay…) Framing of the problem influences the preference for a decision. Positive/negative and absolute/relative. Rational choices maximize the good and minimize the bad. But, what is the cost function? We cannot possibly weigh all of the choices against each other. Since the decider never has complete information, instead we consider what exceeds our personal threshold of ‘acceptably satisfying’. Pick a judgment metric. Good enough is enough. Stop pursuing the best and avoid regret! Although we will likely think long and hard about the decision, and consider what other people have done: still maximizing (it isn’t easy). Another aspect is that reason and intuition may be obscured for the credit-card consumer compared to the cash consumer; where is the power there. Euphoria or Dysphoria. Is this where the prefrontal cortex comes in? What about emotion? Now vs. Later. In the end, learn what you like.
24 june 2012

This roundup is hard to write. My thoughts about culture keep shifting. Shocking? A recent thought that I am working through: historically rich culture may affect a nation’s modern development and access to power. Iran vs. Saudi Arabia. Rooted in our ancestry (including chimpanzees), culture connotes collective ideas and action. Culture: Cultivate. I like that this same word applies to plant life. “…includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society…”. Outer (shared) and inner (personal). Notions of something grand, something actual. The evolution of culture is confusing in the context of conventional evolution. Requires creativity and rationality. Germany bildung. Enlightenment. China middle kingdom. Cultural revolution. The Holocaust. Is this why a liberal arts education includes the option to major in The History of Ideas? Multiple-choice exams assure that there are answers. Otherwise, take the word of a nonpositivist sociologist. American culture, pop! Cultured Americans have a “worldview”. Cultured Europeans are the world to view? East / West. But, distinctions go deeper with civilized, primitive, and tribal. But, those divisions don’t sound good to me. They seem to promote an elite that is defined by art, music, and philosophy – favoring the civilized type. Focus more on the social aspect, necessary regardless of social divisions. Watch and learn, and teach. Innovation – the ratchet works, even if it squeaks. Memes? Collective consciousness. Zeitgeist. Phenomenal patterns. Language, fire, cooking, mathematics, causal thought, self knowledge… culture is the tool. Animals do this too, you know. Is “noble savage” politically correct? I touched culture in a cave – the etchings from people that could not conceive of a national park. Casinos give a boon to native-land boundaries. Does the acceptance of cultural differences have to do with innate curiosity, or with the desire to be liked by other people? Practice can be passed from generation to generation, but preference cannot. That is strange. That is interesting! Stereotypes get some things right, but not everything. Although, stereotypes usually make people laugh, which underlines that we all know why it is funny. Religions foster (define?) culture. Language brings access to others, basic understanding of others. Approximately 20% of Americans speak a second language, and over 55% of Europeans speak a second language. The majority of the world’s population speaks Chinese, but the language of the majority of international communication is English: when will this imbalance require the world to speak Chinese? Might be better to major in Sinolgy. No matter how much study, it is hard to translate jokes. But, our brains are wired to like dancing. Food (or cuisine, depending on where you are from) and alcohol choice seem stronger than border control. Make yourself a nation with a flag, a color, a bird, a flower, a song, a dance, and a hat. The arts. The Olympics. UNESCO again – I need to know more. “We are the world”. Cross-culture, subculture, interculturality, counterculture. The Clash.
1 november 2011

This word choice was somewhat motivated by a recurring thought that I value passionate people. Passion encompasses extensive emotions; an example leant from Stoic Passion that is defined by distress, fear, lust, and delight. Beyond this primary quartet we parallel passion with genius, youth, cathexis, desire, … and we partition passion with reason. Passion and reason present a continuous contest where Erasmus was impassive, Spinoza was active, and Plato was overwhelmed. Pathos’ emotional appeal requires a passionate delivery, albeit with a subjective evaluation. As antonyms go, dispassionate means calm and unbiased. And, what about romance! A delighted duo and the erotomaniac, which one leads to limerence? However, is worth only found in the positive form? This question was another motivation for this essay because of a separate recurring thought that I want to feel more passionate about things in my life. But, does harnessing the positive unfasten the negative? Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion. The emotion is one experience and the display is another. The passions in a philosophical sense address the negative and natural emotional state. Don’t go, ego! Søren Kierkegaard proclaims that paradox is the passion of thought, and that passion is the desire for existence and is therefore aligned with faith. However, is passionate faith the same as religious fervor? Connotation speaks before thoughts can articulate, but I don’t think it is obvious that passion leads to faith. For a given situation, faith feels like a bounded response where passion feels like a boundless instigation. Does passion define human action? Does it empower? Does it bestow super powers? We recognize crimes of passion – crime passionnel. Reckless anger and horrendous acts of rage explained, but doesn’t this mean that we have some control over our temporary insanity. Again, passion vs. reason. We also revere the Passion of Christ. For “The Passion” society responds with gospel songs, passion plays, poetry, proclamations, and dramatic films (from Bach to Bonaparte to Bergman). Mel Gibson’s motion picture can bring spiritual shifts along with a box-office bang. Even the passion fruit fits in with its name from a resemblance to Christ before the crucifixion. Passionately motivated physical feats counter (or connect to) passionately motivated intellectual achievements. Is passion the pinnacle? Notions of less input and more output. Someone must have said that passion makes the world go around. Cue flowery imagery of sunset embraces [the impassioned individual…]. Roberto Unger articulates how passion is linked to personality and identity and social interplay, rousing psychology along the way. Raw emotion with context and not in conflict with reason. Unger analyzes nine passions: lust, despair, hatred, vanity, jealousy, envy, faith, hope, and love. These require imagination but should involve both the individual and the collective to obey civil order, promote tolerance, and achieve solutions. While the utility of this analysis is speculative, the discussion is expansive.




11 november 2011

Last night I regained access to cable television, and while I do not own a television and decidedly do not watch television there are occasions when I cannot resist finding out what a 300-channel subscription may offer. The options from a single scan through were worse than I thought. A synopsis:
Sitcom (including “reality” shows) 38.2%
Movie 25%
Sports 19.1%
Educational 7.4%
News 4.4%
Sales 3.4%
Religious 2.5%
Of total, 5.8% in Spanish (in Southern California)

Channel-surfing sound bites: Could that dark mist (ghost) have triggered our motion detector? / An eagle chip in, and that golf course just about blew up! / This year I am spending holidays at the mall, talking about Ford, ‘cause that’s how I roll. / The only time when any of us took any pleasure in killing another person was when Carlos and I took down the Apache. / Babies are such precious props and decoys. / We are partners for life, well, not partners like yous two but you know what I mean. / I might as well throw my towel in, walk away, and let you close. / That’s a piece you can put on over leggings, and it was sold out both times it was presented and now for only $29.92. / When I broke up with Archie Wilkins he lived with his parents until he was forty. We thought we could joke about the time you were charged with murder, that was kind of a funny time for us. / Multi-sensory stimulation from El Pollo Loco – feel the mexcellence. / Just want you to know that I have three TVs on in my house so I can go room to room… I need a watch to match my topaz earrings, what would you recommend? Definitely the mango multi — a $360 value for just $59.95! / He is the master of the first-round knock out. / You realize that bacon is going to kill you, but you keep eating it. You don’t think I am a good role model but paradoxically you want to have kids with me. / A milf is a lady that is married but is dating, but the men are crazier than the women because sometimes they have 2-3 girlfriends… in a relationship sounds better than being a whore… so start praying on these things. / If you have some ideas on some possible agenda items you could bring those to my attention as we work on the agenda. / I am willing to bet this awesome leather jacket that I am wearing tonight. / Other countries our outsmarting us and how can we spend some much with so little result. / According to the National Sleep Foundation, 70% of us do not like our current pillow. / Another old lady was hurt on the same stairs when Occupy people, these new Anarchists, were in the way. / Emma is about to get a Disney princess day that she will never forget. / That is where he forgot that the Department of Energy is one that he wants to abolish. / Find somewhere to eat and then scrape off the marshmallows. / I am standing here looking like an ass because I had no say-so in this honey-oat-truffle pizza.




a day in the life of
1 january 2012

I write this entry from a computer station at a remote field camp in Antarctica. I just had the inspiration to create a nonfiction-based fictional narrative of those around me, living and working in this polar desert. Modes of work environment noted here vary between a more than 1000-person base station, a 30-person field camp, and a 5-person traverse expedition. Persons landing by military plane on the Antarctic continent at the base station are met by a bus of tremendous wheels, commanded by a driver who is scheduled to operate various oversized transport for the next 3-4 months. “Town” runs like an American outpost / military base complete with full-time janitors, galley staff, dishwashers, vehicle maintenance specialists, and even a hairdresser. Radio station and newspaper The Antarctic Sun. Funding agency representatives gives an introductory welcome. Dorm-accommodation keys are distributed by housing office. Kick-off for galley meals. Science side receives office space and walk through of lab facilities, library, and cocoa-supply nook. Briefings continue to cover safety and sanitary protocol. Hundreds of scientists working in Antarctica stopover at this station, but thousands of staff inhabit. Duty brings lifestyle shift, or lifestyle brings duty shift? Take one: cargo handler. Palletes with tons arrive by ship and tons arrive by plane – while assisted by heavy machinery, these workers rely on their hands and cargo straps. Carpenter’s shop reminds us that everything has been imported. Field safety trainers provide an outdoor crash course and shepard happy campers to overnight in snow caves. Field center staff supply gear and perhaps a chai latte. Food room is out of dark chocolate but still has butter and the granola bars are only three years old. Easily identifiable helicopter pilot (indication 1. jumpsuit; 2. flight talk; 3. helo-tech shadow) walks by. Take two: lead snowmachine mechanic. Hundreds of snowmachines on the continent. Similar number of tattoes on his arm. Look the dishwashers in the eye and say thank you. Isn’t there a sauna somewhere? Is the Castle Rock hiking route open? Otherwise, visit a lounge to shoot some pool, sip wine at the coffee house, slam a beer at low-lit bars, or perhaps it is American night at Scott Base (lime-green kiwi hub). Maybe a band is playing. Conjure the trials of Scott and his team on a walk by Discovery Hut. Yes, that was a chaplain. No, that was not a clown. In a field camp these personalities also thrive, but usually act alone. Heavy machine operator critically moves snow and grates the surface, prepares the ice runway, and moves more snow. Camp manager oversees. General assistants shovel snow. Traverse expedition team load skidoo sleds and dependently navigate the terrain by GPS. Set-up tents. Take-down tents. Shoveling snow links science and survival. To return, small team must step from their individual camp to the field camp to the base station. Delays at each phase inevitable but perhaps provide opportunity to share a holiday meal or join a dance party. Hope for Condition 3. Air National Guard provides net seats and earplugs. Lady in travel office arranges flights from Antarctic continent to New Zealand, and back to US (layover in Honolulu free of charge).




2 march 2012

adj. hap·pi·er, hap·pi·est
1. Characterized by good luck; fortunate.
2. Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy.
3. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase.
4. Cheerful; willing: happy to help.
5. a. Characterized by a spontaneous or obsessive inclination to use something. Often used in combination: trigger-happy.
b. Enthusiastic about or involved with to a disproportionate degree. Often used in combination: money-happy; clothes-happy.

[Middle English, from hap, luck; see hap.]

happi·ly adv.
happi·ness n.

happy =
feliç (Catalan)
šťastný (Czech)
lykkelig (Danish)
gelukkig (Dutch)
onnellinen (Finnish)
heureux (French)
glücklich (German)
hamingjusamur (Icelandic)
felice (Italian)
felix (Latin)
laimingas (Lithuanian)
szczęśliwy (Polish)
срећан (Serbian)
feliz (Spanish)
glad (Swedish)
While in California just before the holidays I noticed a “Harry & David” catalogue in the mail pile with a festive holiday cover highlighting their mail-away bounty and a company slogan happiness deliveredSM. This is an impressive business promise – you too can be happy if you buy a few Royal Riviera pears! Better yet, send happiness to others in the form of overpriced and over-transported apples! I have been amassing thoughts about happiness and this gave me the necessary kick to sort them a bit. If Ronald McDonald is the corporation’s Chief Happiness Officer… then, what is this happiness anyways? There is supposed science to this so I attempt my own hypothesis. Just before leaving Southern California to move to Denmark I was amused to learn that Danes often poll in as the happiest people on the planet. I thought: surely sunny beats soggy… But, what is the metric? Cheery American way is not a SI unit. PERMA (Pleasure, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishments)? Some cite simple pleasures and being content. Revelry for Carlsberg beer, regard for designware, and respect for history. Social mobility / Social safety net. Holiday – Hyggelit – Health care. (Bicycles and herring are bonus). More is not better. But what happened to the homeland aspiration of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Pursuit is the key word here, not happiness. We want more; more is better; better means happy. You look surprised behind your white picket fence. Kierkegaard saw through this: “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair”. Don’t despair, smile! Try laughter yoga! Write exclamation points after every sentence in intimate messages to your 853 friends!!! Be the happy one – positive psychology. Appreciate what you have. Random acts of kindness. However, happiness is differentiated from belief and pleasure; it is not a state of mind, but it is learned like knowledge. It is proposed that rather than “live”, we “flourish”. Synonymous with virtue. Seems like we need to re-root in science to understand. Apparently, genetic factors determine 50% and external factors 10% of our happiness with (only / all of) 40% in our control. This is where we are good to ourselves by exercising, meditating, juicing, while radiating optimism and joy, and logging our gratitude. Forgive and forge social relationships. Emphasize empathy. Memory vs. moment. Epicureans vs. Hedonists. Follow your passion in life. Is this where “change agents”, “global souls”, and even “foodies” fit in? Or, some say follow God, or some say follow government – Bhutanese gross national happiness standard assesses psychology, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality, and good governance. Do the micro-economic happiness equations have an imaginary part? Be aware, I also heard that we are poor predictors of what will make us happy. However, we are much happier when decisions in life are final; so don’t worry our “psychological immune system” will make it all work out perfectly in the end. Hear the music?

A second-hand recommendation:
Haidt, J., ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’.
Layard, R., ‘Happiness’.
Russell, B. ‘The Conquest of Happiness’.




cookies for questions
12 june 2012

A Sunday afternoon. We setup our stand and signs stating our deal: “Take a cookie → leave a question!” Cookies freshly baked and notepaper ready. A few minutes later we piqued some interest, and then before we could think about the practicals… three questions! Crazy us. I had this flash idea to give away cookies in exchange for questions, any question about anything for a chocolate-chip cookie. In my idea flash I didn’t really consider how this would go in reality — how someone may feel to be prompted for a question, and how unsatisfying to not get an answer! We expected (and received) the obvious: “Why are you doing this?”, but remarkably many of the impromptu questions were thought provoking or entertaining. And better than any stranger’s insight was this unique forum to talk to people on the street. We were talking to different people for two hours in the late-afternoon sun, and soon after setup we gained a third behind the cookie pile – a wide-eyed 18-year old Canadian (living in the US) joined our inquiries and shared his budding views on Europe, reflections on his relationship to the world, and how his couchsurfing host turned out to be a nudist. Look out for a Wisconsin edition: “Brownies for Questions”. Next, a smiley uni-cycler on his way home after cheering the Copenhagen marathon runners – he later came back with his girlfriend and visiting friend to share more questions, cookies, and laughs. We made two kids very happy. Two guys stopped by, one guy conspicuously getting both cookies and so enthusiastic about the enterprise that he came back later to give us chocolates (thank you!). Two women stopped by, one left a powerful question and one left the obvious question. Running guy leaves a question. American girls on study abroad. Danish woman, Indian man, their small child and conversations about baking and immigration policy. Cans-for-kroner collector challenges notions of the middle class. A girl gets a cookie for her boyfriend because he looks too embarrassed to participate himself. Many more smiles, a few odd looks, but we were satisfied. However, most people wanted to know why we didn’t give answers. So, along with listing the questions we received I sketched some thoughts – someday I hope to have more answers:

1. Do you think the overlap between maths and rap music is limited to the phrase “for reals” or should we be expecting more similarities?
My Grandma didn’t like rap music, and she also didn’t like math, but as far as I know she was open to just about everything else.

2. What attracts a male duck to a female duck?
Feather color? Odor? I think that ducks are relatively monogamous during each breeding year.

3. How will you contribute to solving the conflict in the Middle East?
“Solution” is a strong notion, but I will focus on “contribute”. As a naïve outsider, I perceive aspects of this conflict rooted in miscommunication and a lack of understanding and respect for the differences of others. Including religious differences, but possibly more controlled by cultural differences and how modern society/media casts the conflict in terms of the history of the nation and the life of the individual. I think there must be more female leadership, with empowerment and equality of women. As part of ongoing work on an essay inspired by my grandmother, I will visit family in Jerusalem and challenge myself to contribute something.

4. Why do you not provide the answer to your/my question? Email me…

5. How to make this society less materialistic?
I agree, and moving away from Southern California has helped expose how easily one can expect a shopping spree or a shiny car to fulfill deeper needs in life. Unfortunately, buying things just makes you want to buy more things. I think we need to train our decisions to rely less on peer/society influence.

6. How can we have more hours with sun in Denmark?

7. In which direction does the bus drive? (picture of bus; answer on back) back: left because you can’t see the doors

8. Why are normal jobs not seen in the same way as the serfdom of the middle ages?
Good question. Still thinking…

9. How many people competed the Copenhagen marathon today?
Over 9,000 people finished (I looked up the answer).

10. Who took my paulaner glass on the bridge?

11. Will Greece leave the euro-zone? In 2012?

12. How far from this side of the lake to the other side?

13. Why are you doing this?

14. Why do you give out cookies for a question?

15. What is love?
A separate essay soon. For now, love is when you see hearts everywhere.

16. If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you choose to be?
I would like to fly…

17. Hvordan kan hårrester fra en klipring stikke en i fødderne når man har hard hud og hår er blødt og bøjeligt? Det er et godt spørgsmål!
This translates to: How can the hairs from a hair cut stick and tickle your foot when you have hard skin and hair is soft and pliable? It’s a good question!

18. What is your relationship with yourself, and why? ☺

19. Hvor gammel bliver en leopard?
This translates to: How old can a leopard be?

20. Why do birds fly in the house?




a small change / something big
14 july 2012

Overtaken recently by a feeling that I have to do something (more), I have been fascinated by the life stories of notorious (self-proclaimed) “change agents”. I am still skeptical about this untouchable title, but I found that some advice of the go small/hit big crowd to be interesting. And cracking inside these perfect shells is downright addicting! Passion is a common thread: these people are nutso for their cause, and could be nutso themselves. There is an advantage to being minorly manic. And, why not be? They often strike a powerful intersection between ability, creativity, and virtue – and, their own life story! TED has made superstars of these individuals and categorizes their colloquies as “courageous”, “ingenious”, “inspiring”, “fascinating”. They can pitch an idea. They can go from concept to yield with apparent ease. They can rally others to commit to action, which is less complicated than rallying others to action – and they understand this difference! Plant the seeds (of change). All rooted in their own experience. How did I survey this sector? Internet archives are a place to start. Also, biggish names have biographies, or at least bioblurbs. I can follow the courses of my friends, family, and peers. Of course, while publicly we acknowledge what someone did, privately we want to know who he or she was and how he or she got to a place where we acknowledge what he or she did. What vs. who, and how. Young, old, challenged, unlikely, access only to a garage… one’s life changes appear essential to change lives. Flatten and then reshape. Focus first on how you can laugh and cry, and then it seems easy how they can turn these raw emotions into a best-selling book, a device to X, a plan to manage energy futures, a reason why you will be happy, or fail. Storytellers get community reinforcement, and the community can remind why it all worked out (in retrospect). Laugh more. Cry more. Radiate. Be a hero. Don’t “unless” yourself. Is it easier to combat the unchangeable openly? Create, or calculate? Stick to simple. Step by step, or one big leap? I started by… How will (or do I want) my story be told? What to throw out from the pile of personal interests? Admit that a problem may require too much energy in for what comes out. Ivory is starting to beige. Lay on the couch. Jump out of bed! Reflect and reset 1: giving always feels beautiful. Smile at strangers. Small perturbations. Challenges can be advantages. Uncertainties can incite. Nothing “should” on a to-do list. “Follow your bliss”, not the expectations of others. Fitful feelings may settle with time, or be thinned by stacking concrete decisions on top of them. This can be a strong strategy paired with reflecting on decisions and their outcomes, weighing these insights against intuition and advice. Where are you in yourself? Ask the answer to this question what to do next, and how to make it big.




The ice-cream vendors were the only signs of life.
1 august 2012

What does this title mean? I wish that I knew. This is the example usage for the first definition of “life” in my digital dictionary. Other common-word uses don’t lend more insights. Or, do they?

Ability: The tax bears no relationship to people’s ability to pay.
Apology: I make no apologies for supporting that policy.
Confidence: It is not possible to say with confidence how much of the increase in sea levels is due to melting glaciers.
Poor: The gap between the rich and the poor has widened.
Rich: Every day the gap between the rich and the poor widens.
Happy: We’re just happy that he’s still alive.
Feel: She felt the ground give way beneath her.
Dealt: The cards were dealt for the last hand.
Travel: The vessel had been traveling from Libya to Ireland.
Courage: She called on all her courage to face the ordeal.
Crash: The coffin slipped out the back door, slid down the hill, and crashed.
House: Do you want the whole house woken up?
Love: Babies fill parents with intense feelings of love.
Share: We gave them all the chance to have a share in the profits.
Country: The country’s increasingly precarious economic position.
Music: Couples were dancing to the music; the background music of softly lapping water.
Cake: A mouthful of cake.
Room: There’s only room for a single bed in there; she was trapped without room to move.
Run: He hasn’t paid for his drinks – run and catch him.
Beer: I’m dying for a beer.
Home: They have made Provence their home.
Wave: He waved a sheaf of papers in the air.
Day: She sleeps all day and goes out at night; the animals hunt by day.
Hide: The sacred relic had been hidden away in a sealed cavern.
Pride: The team was bursting with pride after recording a sensational victory.
Take: He leaned forward to take her hand.
Bike: We hope to encourage as many people to bike to work.
Blind: She suffered from glaucoma, which has left her completely blind; he was blind in one eye.
Trash: If they read at all, they read trash.
Mine: You go your way and I’ll go mine.
Work: He was tired after a day’s work in the fields.
Talk: We’d sit and talk about jazz; it was no use talking to Anthony; you’re talking rubbish.
Flag: The private’s heroism served as an example for every soldier under the flag.
Win: The Pirates won 2-1.
Give: The check given to the jeweler proved worthless.




stella polaris
5 august 2012

An event exemplary in Copenhagen hip, I made it to Stella Polaris for the third year in a row. Sunday: noon to nine. I read that over 30,000 people attended this year. That means tens of thousands of bikes. Masses piling up in the park to chill out to electronic beats. To be seen chilling out. Latest style is on parade in the park, as the park-ground slope toward a small stage makes for prime people viewing. Exuding cool. How to describe it other than: Copenhagen. Pockets of this panorama can be found around the city, for example the bridge between Nørrebro, packed with sun and scene seekers. At Stella Polaris the DJs spinning are not the prime attraction, but at least they looked like they were having a lot of fun. It was gratefully observed that they omnipresent undercut hairstyle of last year has all but disappeared! Men were sporting loose buns this year, which made from-the-back gender judgment difficult. Women worth wowing. 1980’s flair was still there. Cut-off jean shorts. T-shirts blaring “War is over!”, “Use a condom”. Beards. Ray bans. Smoking cigarettes. Rolling joints. Two security guards to manage tens of thousands, but there were no problems. One mad-dancing older lady. Two baton throwers. A few dreadlocked dudes. Now it is feeling like a festival! Still chill. Some food, some kids. A lot of blonde. Seemed to be more infrastructure this year, like pancake bikes, coffee stands, beer (of course), and more toilets (Attention males: city bushes and buildings are not all available as a toilet). You can still find people (male and female) peeing behind any branch of cover. It starts to rain, but no one moves. Always prepared for rain, the umbrellas, tarps, and jackets come out – teenage guys huddled under a blanket cracking Carlsbergs. Psychedelic vibe pumped through a psyched MC. Music style mainly mellow but there were many chances to dance. Entertaining interludes like Bob Ross “happy little clouds” sampled with Scandinavian beats. How many people knew this came from The Joy of Painting? Sunshine Reggae got remixed twice that day, following what has been going on for over thirty years. Electronic music origins are interesting, and evolving in this forum that takes small night-club style DJ spins to crowds in the afternoon air. I left the festival in the evening after some 5 hours of solid sitting and sighting. Returning toward close to jam-jumping crowd was another side of chilling out. Another side of cool. I can’t seem to express the cool – individuals defining the edge. I walked through Østre Anlæg the next day to find myself back at home. The day-long festival makes this place feel like another planet, covering over an otherwise calm greenspace with blankets and beer drinkers. But, in the renewed calm of the evening I could hear some beats coming from the ground… it was not an echo in my head, but real sound coming from somewhere unreal. (There will be a future investigation of the jams emanating from a small green door.)




neighborhood #1
11 august 2012

I used to have a Volkswagen Golf TDI, bought with minimum extras and in order to run on veggie oil. While spartan, the trunk of my unadorned blue warrior housed a CD changer. Six discs to spin. For the first year I owned this car the changer stayed empty. I admit that I used the tape player – resurrecting old mix tapes from high-school (boy)friends, filling the air with memories to counteract the smell of a hot wok. After lending my car to a friend for a period of time, it was returned to me with the changer loaded. Six actual discs to spin. I cycled the selection, quickly picking my favorites on each previously unknown album. After a few months I noticed that certain songs took a place during specific drive-time environs. Freeway in the daytime: Disc 3. Neighborhoods at nighttime: Disc 5. Disc 5 was The Arcade Fire, spotlit by the Indie scene at the time. With the same need as turning on the headlights, when I was within a few miles of home I switched to Disc 5/Track 8. Then, Track 8 and 9 were played on repeat until I was home. Today, with headphones on and my eyes closed I can be there on the night road, the beat synchronizing with traffic-signal shifts and potholes, and my late-night thoughts pulsing. How did this come to be a ritual? My ritual. I like the music, but there must be something more. Past ritualistic listening usually came (and went) after hearing a group’s live performance. The live experience gave power to the speaker sounds for at least a few weeks. But this Track 8 and Track 9 listening was different. The ritual gave power to the music. Scanning my current routine I can’t recognize repeats. Sometimes I listen to the same music when working, but that is more out of ease than out of practice. Beyond music, are there other rituals? I usually bike the same routes across the city. I like to see certain sights at night. Will seeing these sights later bring me back to those moments? Music has more power on the memory. And, we know this from the ability to sing lyrics to decades-old songs, from being reset in a moment by a song that defined a past relationship, a past hardship, a past glory. But, a ritual cannot be recreated. The memory has too much influence on the reality. I am keeping this in mind as I return to my past haunts, back driving a car on the same streets perhaps playing Track 8 and 9. [Insert quote about the separation (or blend) of a present moment with the past and the future!]




loss, not lost
15 september 2012

Loss brings an emotional array: shock, sorrow, frustration, anger, guilt, helplessness, fear, loneliness. Physical pain. Ringing ears? Even if it happens the way you wanted, it is hard to fight the feeling that you didn’t want it to happen. Jumps between rational and emotional. What if it didn’t happen the way you wanted? More shock. While a lot is lost: keys, luggage, cats, letters, it is at other times that we experience loss. It is at other times that we experience deep, aching grief. At a loss for words to describe and console and understand, I started randomly collecting the counsel of others. Cliché? Perhaps, but I will give it a try: People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad. (Marcel Proust) ‘Tis very certain the desire of life prolongs it. (Lord Byron) Oh, for the time when I shall sleep / Without identity. (Emily Bronte) As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death. (Leonardo da Vinci) Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life. (John Muir) Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident – It is as common as life. (Henry David Thoreau) No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow. (Euripides) Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life. (Albert Einstein) The goal of all life is death. (Sigmund Freud) Death may be the greatest of all human blessings. (Socrates) The pain passes, but the beauty remains. (Pierre Auguste Renoir) Every man dies. Not every man really lives. (William Wallace) We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. (Joseph Campbell). We embrace unknown voices, which remain reverberating in anonymity: When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile. ( ) You can close your eyes to things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel. ( ) Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. (my Grandma said this so many times that I give her partial credit) One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching. ( ) Never regret something that made you smile. ( ) It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch. ( ) Today is the first day of the rest of your life. ( ) You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. (A.A. Milne) 20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain) It is not length of life, but depth of life. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight. (Marcus Aurelius) In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing. (Robert Ingersoll) No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. (C.S. Lewis) Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er-wrought heart and bids it break. (William Shakespeare) I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens. (Woody Allen) Tears are the words the heart can’t express. ( ) Cry. Recognize how it was for good. Write a letter. Sort stuff you can touch. Scream. Have a celebration. Wallow. Ask why it happened. Shed more tears. Share stories. Take comfort in tradition, in a higher power, following a notion of wishes that can be heard inside. Hold your heart. Hug family and friends. Go for a walk. Remember. Feel the memories. Smile at something. Watch waves crash. Renew old actions. Process the process. But know that while experiencing loss, what you are missing has not been lost. In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go? (Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha)




16 december 2012

Fresh eyes on McMurdo Station, Antarctica will be wide. First to impress is the sheer size of this outpost: summer capacity can reach 1400 people. Big-wheeled vehicles snarl dirt roads, with Ivan (the Terrabus) an icon. Winfly and early season flights land on nearby sea-ice runway, but there is a move to Pegasus on the ice shelf by early December. This means one-hour transport on ice roads with rough transitions. Obvious there should be melt water in this polar desert? Outside temperature and station population rise together. A dirt tour identifies the brown, blue, and beige buildings. Building 155 is a centerpiece, a kitchen table surrounded by bunk beds. This is also home to the recreation office, gear issue, housing office, laundry, craft room, hair salon, radio-station recording studio, and computer central station. The blue beacon is flanked by numerous dorms (some hosting saunas and the library), two bars, a coffee house, gerbil gym, extensive scientific office and lab facility, hospital, and the Firehouse. A building since condemned had a climbing wall (ceiling) and bowling alley. Kiwi parking designated. Bikes wait for riders. The next tier of facilities include the machine shop, heavy vehicle maintenance, Skua central, science support (hosting snowmachines and field safety experts), the NSF “chalet”, Berg Field Center, science cargo, carpenter’s shop, metal shop, communications building, basketball gym, helicopter pad… More dorms with cutesy names like “Mammoth Mountain Inn” and “Hotel California”. As far as the station is concerned, everyone is issued the same standard clothing, provided the same food to eat, and the same quality bed linens. However, hierarchy is upheld by housing. Atop the utopian undercurrent, the Colonel and the station manager may get their own two-room ensuite, while a first-year dishwasher or a field transient get the key to a bunk-bed warehouse. A renowned scientist on their 38th season may slumber on the top bunk in a 3-person closet. Windows not guaranteed. Divisions are also etched by galley dining location and eating etiquette. Military mingle in the middle. Newbies exempt, people don’t mix much at meals. Likely due to scale anonymity, teams huddle (this is the big city after all). However, a close friend and a familiar face can have similar rank. Full exposure for social spectacles; there is an eye everywhere. The gossip mill grinds (this is a small town after all). What happens on the ice stays on the ice. Go ahead: shave a mohawk and dye it pink, polar plunge, realize the romance that should remain in your mind. How to keep true to oneself in such a home? Invigorated by the Antarctic adventure, energized from what is truly an interesting cohort, the once-in-a-lifetime chance. Or, does one become defined by multi-month stages in such a home? Descending to a normal where you drive a vehicle with 4-foot wheels, direct an LC-130 in a banana suit, have a friend named Sandwich, moonlight in the most popular band around. Emotions go astray. Decision-making becomes an ashtray. But, this feels like living! Consult your green brain. Ask your Implementor. Stay busy. Lack of personal space aside, there are outdoor opportunities, holiday parties, Mt. Erebus in the backyard, and decent cheese at Sunday brunch. An emblem of the American way that provides for all who are accepted and abide by the rules, and even thanks them by banner for staying safe.




I am only going to be who I am…
2 february 2013

… this thought spinning while metro speeding… Paris personas pass at pace. Tall women in sharp heels, small men in sharp suits, a tuba player, a tennis player, a backpacker, a beggar, bread bakers, taxi drivers, tech sets, actors, artists, style gurus, street vendors. High to low you see immigrants and tourists amidst the natives. There are so many people. So many lives. A million faces, yet rarely a smile exchanged. Should I start smiling at strangers? Maybe we desire from the street showcase of material goods and luxury living. Maybe we embrace our place. Admiration vs. aspiration. “Being happy with who I am now means I enjoy living in the moment.” Harder said than done. Meditation necessary. Money necessary? Influences compete. Identity confounds. Figure out the personal agenda. I want to make socially informed decisions. I want to make social changes. I want to smile at my own achievements. Launch from my social category. Use past experiences to shape present perspective, and the outlook. An idea of a goal: of being content in a life that to myself and to others is obviously my own. Side one: I thought of a book idea! I thought of a trip plan! A business plan! Done. … How to stay motivated to work hard for something that seems finished. Not trying to be negative, just noticing. Perhaps not knowing about what exists already is the key. Build up using the tools onhand. Knowing the world has space for endless variations of the same thing. Side two: For an individual, there are essentially infinite books to write. Infinite ways to visit a place. Details of the creation will always be different. Look closer. Think further. Regard the personal agenda. Did I do what I wanted to do today? If not, why? If yes, do it again? Doing vs. accomplishing. Accomplishments take time, and sustained energy. Learning a foreign language, making a scientific discovery, starting a small business, investigating an article. One thing at a time! Passion from the personal and energy from the experience – reasons to do and accomplish. Get up everyday and face it (smiling). It is not important if others think you have a great life, it is important if you believe it. Poetic truth. Again, the notion of jumping out of bed (admittedly requires a bed). Accept the aging process. There will always be something fresh. But, can I answer: who and why am I? Back in the philosophical pit. Private and public images merge. I make another move. Level one: need (to eat, to sleep). Level two: commitment (to work, to relationships). Level three: spirit (to dream, to create). Prioritization required because there are too many sublevels. Put the hesitations aside and use the advice to act on fear. See side of a situation where aiming at all is aiming high. Bigger can be better, but not if it is a barrier. Things going too fast cannot be the focus. While holding on to that, squash the green-eyed monster. No matter who wins, we are only going to be who we are. So, do it!




hearts everywhere
6 november 2012

I started looking for hearts, and then I saw them everywhere. It started just for fun, but has become a visual handicap. There is one! Another! Hand-painted, in-print, nature-made, business logo: this simple form has been constantly blurring my vision. When sought and brought they feel like treasures. The rush of joy when I finally followed the staircase down to find went nowhere but to a giant spray-painted heart! Is it true that hearts are as ubiquitous as my eye would identify, or is it truer that when I opened my eyes for hearts then they were identified? I tried to switch from spotting hearts to sighting stars, but the hearts didn’t go away. Could be due to overstimulation and slight anxiety response to my mind’s view, which object focus may help fight. However, before I got heart-set they didn’t attract any attention. I read that something similar was the case with the color blue: no one really noticed blue until there was “blue”. How does unconscious seeding control awareness? Stepping back, why do we see what we see? Light stimuli are uncertain to us humans, and so we decide what we see is the most probable option of what we could see. Illusions result if there is a mix-up. Fata morgana, for example. Seeing something and interpreting that vision to action (“making sense of the senseless”) relies on past experience, which underpins perception, and is in part a survival tactic. Contrast between multi-object viewing and multi-tasking. We currently see ourselves as pattern recognizers, but mono-taskers. There is a cognitive cost to too much, not to mention fast-paced television. The brain can pay attention to something that you didn’t even know was there. Does seeing the common in objects hinder innovation? Does eyeing hearts open new aspects of my surroundings, promoting innovation? Hearts on that store’s logo; heart-shaped cheese; on a trashcan; a sticker next to an advertisement for local theatre; a leaf; graffiti; restaurant menu – hearts set something apart. Set a spark. We still have visualization, seeing with the mind, which is different from seeing what we have in mind. It may be that the environment always elicits the response, but I believe in our mental powers. Or, assessed by another angle: what is love? I think it is when you see hearts everywhere. (27 June 2013 addendum: I still see hearts.) [Photo log of sighted hearts to follow]




sentimental stuff
8 february 2013

The cute Danish typewriter is in my backpack. The waffle iron from the flea market that makes heart-shaped mornings is in my handbag, below a charismatic blue strainer and a stylish orange lamp. Measuring cups in my purse. One Pokey in my pocket. I am on the airplane. Traveling with such miscellany means I am moving back home. Crampons and cookbooks and coffee percolator in checked luggage. Why is that micrometeorology textbook crossing the Atlantic again? All the postcards that I collected these past years, and other prized collage pieces made it to Utah via a colleague’s silver status. Not to mention the gifted 2 kg stone from Iceland. And the sticks. The wool blanket from New Zealand remains in France for now. Cast iron dutch oven offered to help make tartiflette. Towels, comforters, and even the fluffy pillow don’t make the cut. One with cereales would be smaller. Is that really a tea ball in a pink sachet with a kitty face on it? The soup pot should travel next week with an array of camping and climbing equipment. The tent used for bike touring. The sleeping bag from Canada. Some of this stuff is getting old. Backpacking pack may at last fit the back it is on. Speaking of bikes, I wonder how the Schwinn Sportabout survived new ownership and another Nordic winter. Two others boxed up. Then there are the silly detonation-wire bicycles. It is hard to throw away anything. Ice axes in checked luggage. I have to prove to Peter it was put to practice. The blimp mug rejoined its mate. English-language books dispersed in non-English speaking countries. The real treasures toted already: grandma’s diaries and song cards, love letters and diaries. When did I get so attached to all this stuff? How did I get so close to losing control of where it all is? (And, the yoga mat left behind). Soon to be unpacked for a reunion in my high-school bedroom, and eventually packed and unpacked (at least) once again. Sorting: round 37. Need those guides for the Cascade Mountains out of storage. Finally starting juicing. Not sure about the clay goblets – one cupboard to the next. Alas, the globe. The canon. The telescope. Sorry Mom: keeper of the stuff duties are not over yet. Am I ever justified to buy after giving so much away and being physically confronted (confounded) with my personal belongings? I don’t even own furniture! Any purchased couch is destined to be décor in decades time. Problematic or purposeful. New stuff and managing buyer remorse, regret, return. Accept the external parts of my self and how it feels good when they are around. A way to settle without the structure. All of necessity fit in a Volkswagen Golf. The plastic bins are empty again. Realized in my new place that there is rarely a photo or a frame. Still packed are framed gifts. Maybe that sentimental side is next to be exposed.




first-class viewing
12 may 2013

Upgraded myself to economy comfort after prospect of 4-seat middle position for 10 hours. Nicely positioned now, though unavailable seat map worked as revenue boost judged by all the empty seats in economy economy. However, it brings a new view on the flying front: witnessing international first class through a mesh curtain. Plush blankets and pamper pack await patrons. Champagne and orange juice welcome. Real glasses. First pick of newspapers. (English option is Financial Times.) Hot towels are real towels. Wait, I see an empty seat up there! Pre-meal snacks are not pretzels or peanuts. One host for every four passengers: the sky priority. Wine options poured from bottles – not boxes! Real wine glasses. Real napkins. Silverware. Hot meal exposed on glass plate; side dishes on glass plates. Bread basket with ample sample. Five minutes later, bread round two. Wine, round two. Smells good. Plates removed as individuals finish. Second course? Olive oil in small glass jars, butter pats on a plate. It is a second course. Smiles. Economy eats now too. [Economic notes: Drink cart reasonable. I was offered a real lime wedge. Passed peanuts and pretzels. Neighbor with Jack and coke had a stiff one with two mini-bottles. More drinks, then pasta or chicken, then coffee or tea.] Is that scooped ice cream being served? Chocolate sauce, berry sauce, and a fruit platter being wheeled the short distance on a tea tray. Bottled water selection. At least flight attendants also get classy eats. Plush couch-like seats with width and depth start to strike envy. Now that food has been served, it is time for sleep / entertainment to eat the next hours. Dutiful to duty-free. Mid-flight drink and snack schedule the same, but the snacks up there come with less packaging. I deny plastic cup by handing my bottle, which is filled by water in two plastic cups. Denouncing this version of fulfilling my request, I am told not to worry, “honey”. Watching the consumption of plastic cups is a worry; glass by class. What do patrons pay for such privilege? What do businesses pay for their own class? What do other folk do with their credit cards to achieve such upgrades? Why did we divide ourselves in this way in the first place? Not surprising, of course, given our societal separations and power of money. Paying for privilege is nothing new. Despite jealous tingles, would I leave my scrimped and scrunched seat? No! I don’t think it is fair. Fair is different than fun, and actions following fair last longer than those comfortable hours and unlimited alcohol. While I would not refuse a spot on the other side of the mesh curtain, I do not value it.




sorry, sorrow
27 june 2013

What is this all about anyways? What matters when what mattered is ripped away? Marriage annulled by death. He won’t see the kids grow up. Laughter before bed has paused. Shock and the shockwave. Crying out at night: Dadda? We are all too young to understand. Nothing makes sense if this makes sense. The doors slid open and then slammed shut. Flooded with guilt, anger, sorrow. Sorry. Yet that moment has passed and the reality is what remains. Living the nightmare. What if, what if, what if… Why don’t we have a better word than “hard”? Hard to accept, hard to feel happy, hard to start over, hard to trust again. Trust – a key to connectedness – starts with family. Don’t leave things unsaid. What questions to ask, especially if estranged. Why didn’t they say anything about the heart problem? So not fair. Hindsight is 20/20. Still not fair. Belongings no longer belong. The simple things stand out as important. Photos, experiences, shared creations, children. But the stuff is there, even if it is password protected. Selling, giving, using – none of these seem like the answer. The kids don’t understand, but they feel. Cry. Swear. Scream. Even though felt from the sidelines it is still strong sadness. So sad. I remember hearing that the folk singer Dave Carter died suddenly of a heart attack. I still listen to his songs and sigh in grief. This was a long time ago now, and I never met him. The loss of my close friend’s husband hit deep. I looked at photos of him, sat in his home, played with his kids, and thought about how he is gone; these actions and this thought cannot connect. I miss him too. But even this week has been a step forward in healing. Stories to try and relate – we all have experiences to share. Anecdotes bring pain out of the closet. It is never exactly the same, but it is all around us. Sudden loss, cancer, disease, accident, and old age of others that were loved deeply. It feels like I know of more and more around me. Grandparents and parents at one level, spouses, siblings, friends, and then children up the loss ladder. Yoga, meditation, religion, family, friends, therapy, trauma treatments… do everything you can. Face what you are most scared of. You still care, you still get up – and it is alright if you don’t want to. It sucks. She feels 75% herself, and not sure how to recreate the remainder. I see that she is still the same amazing person. I got to see that she is an amazing mother. Surrounded in support from family and friends. She will make it. Work life vs. home life vs. other life vs. after life. First, break up the pity party! Hold good moments, good days, and then the good life again. There will be late-night laughs in the future. Money is not a substitute but it is a necessity and a security. Build from what is a blessing. That good job you excel at will wait for you. Seize the memories you want to seize. No pedestals. While the life before may hardly seem real, it was fully real because you lived wholeheartedly. Courage continues. You aren’t alone.




mindful moments
3 august 2013

There is truth in opening your eyes to something and then seeing it everywhere. (Like I talked about with hearts.) In a down moment I found myself downloading a podcast for a program that I had heard of only once before. On Being. So beautifully approached and led and delivered, with a wholly appealing program selection. Why did I click on the interview with ‘Jon Kabat-Zinn’, the interview about mindfulness as a way of life? I stood in the kitchen, hanging on every word. For one hour I stopped. Then I listened to it again. It was founded in experience, and furthered by science, and spread by belief and result. Something I never heard of before was after that moment everywhere. Timing is hard to separate, but the surge hard to miss. Radio shows, newspaper articles, magazine articles, dinner chats with friends. Everyone seemed to do it, but had never mentioned it to me. An offering on campus had appeal, and insights, even if not wholly put to practice. “Wherever you go, there you are”: easy, but very hard. Simple but not easy; non-judging; beginners mind; trust; non-striving; acceptance; letting go; patience. “Not so much what you choose to focus on but the quality of the awareness that you bring to each moment”. When I tried I found 12 stairs (instead of 11) between two floors in my building. I found the time to kayak after work. I saw the mountains through the city. I saw the city at night. I sat on the couch and watched the water. A hummingbird. The wake of the float plane and the waves from the ducks. The heron on the logs. Simple moments to smile. I sat with, laughed with, and cried with friends. I realized that yoga is all about breathing. My clarity often comes from nature, but how to put the established program to practice. From his books…The healing power of awareness. Cultivating mindfulness by eating a raisin. Sidestepping a ruminating mind. Sitting with ourselves, befriending ourselves. The body scan, walking yoga, standing yoga, sitting yoga, breathing. Breathing. If we are breathing then we are doing alright. Do I believe that? How can I believe that? The power of attention and the dis-ease of the world. Feel awake in the whole body and in the mind. Interupt ourselves to begin the real conversation. Living an interesting life and not missing it. Less stress. More health. Finding an individual way. Being happy. Being able to hold the good moments longer than the bad moments or the sad moments. Following the bliss, passion, satisfaction, joy, love. Living whole-heartedly. “He who dies before he dies does not die when he dies” – fighting the supreme rationalist. Arriving at your own door. These thoughts and practices can provide a lot to those in academic pursuits, those in personal pursuits. The challenge of identifying and promoting your own self worth, being content with progress even if after struggle and even if not complete. Loving kindness. You don’t have to believe everything you think! Decrease self-injury and grow mentally. A prospect that meditation can improve concentration, memory, compassion, sleep quality and quality of life, while decreasing depression, inflammation, pain. Time is what is needed, and lack of time is usually the source of the problem. Start with a small goal, an achievable effort. A consistent effort to cultivate, reflect, sense, and hold awareness.




29 august 2013

Mentor: a trusted counselor or guide; to advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague). Exploration: the action of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it. Pioneer: a personal who is among the first to research and develop a new area of knowledge or activity. Inspire: fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially creative; create a positive feeling in a person; give rise to. Ponder: think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. Wonder: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable; a quality of a person or thing that causes such a feeling; having remarkable properties or abilities. Grandfather: the person who founded or originated something. Fascination: draw irresistibly the attention and interest of (someone). Influence: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself. Dedication: the quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purpose. Director: a person who is in charge of an activity, department, or organization. Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole; the progress of this as affecting people and things; the conditions of life during a particular period; one’s lifetime. Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. Owe: have an obligation to pay or repay in return for something received; be under moral obligation to give someone gratitude or respect; be indebted to someone or something. Advice: guidance or recommendations concerning prudent future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative. Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Care: the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something. Alzheimer’s disease: the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death. Sadness: feeling or showing sorrow, unhappy. Memories: something remembered from the past; a recollection; the remembering or recollection of a dead person, especially one who was popular or respected. I have a lot of them. That is, memories of my mentor. The first time I visited him (the pioneer of exploration) at the illustrious campus, the summer in the lab, so inspired, the office chats, the first views of a far away place to ponder, the life talks at lunch, the telecons, the dinners with him and his wife. Visits there, visits here, visits elsewhere. Time together. Meals and stories shared. Advice to take a year off. Encouragement to try something new. Care about my decisions. Opening all doors through a shared fascination for things unknown. Like a grandfather. Being a friend. How can you owe someone something that cannot be paid back? How come we want something that we know cannot be brought back? The tears come today, even though the loss began years ago. He used to remark at us, the younger and the older — funny how one can be at the start of life decisions and one can be at the end, yet share the same feeling in the same moment. After that moment is gone the words feel empty but the feelings stay full.




like… i mean… you know… and stuff
september 2013

Oh no. I just clued in that everyone I know or have heard speak a sentence recently cannot get through it without at least a few “you know” and “I mean”, ending with the unequivocal “and stuff”. It has started to paralyze my thought. (I mean) worse yet, (you know) I (like) do it all the time myself (and stuff). My fallback filler is “so”. And, “like”. How did these words creep into every sentence, and why did we stop breathing between vocalizing? Maybe I am too old to be exposed to it anymore, but I grew up in Southern California when “Valley girl” talk was rampant, and now it seems a stereotype limited to select high-school hallways. So, perhaps we can control this. Loquacious Valley teens don’t turn into the same lip-smacking adults. Other versions are quaint, cute, or even cool. “Ahhh”, “yeees”. Option 1: mutterings are largely controlled by environment. If everyone has sing-song speech littered with “you bet” or “y’all” or “like” or “eh”, then how to resist joining the chorus? Any word may sneak up: I noticed that “regime” popped into pop talk after Iraq and regime change dominated news in lead-up to the war. Option 2: mutterings are a manifestation of our diminishing professional-level oral exchange. Do defense lawyers have this problem? No need to discuss in person when you can send e-mail. Though text messaging and tweeting may play a role, my guess is they do more harm to writing than speaking. Option 3: mutterings are a way for pace of thought to catch up with pace of speech. Does mind or mouth set the speed? I think mind moves faster but has to both process and project, so the two aren’t really separate. Option 4: spoken language is digressing. Do all languages have fillers? I have noticed non-native English speakers have different ways to breathe and speak. I was sure the Danes were gasping for air, and a German I knew just puckered his lips. French seem more reassuring in conversation. Age may be at play. Younger follow, older slack. Lifelong mumblers also exist. Understanding eachother (with and without fillers) can also be a problem – what did you say? What was that? Huh?




networking and working
2 october 2013

I am told to do this, to network. For my work, I need to be a name and a voice. Conference attendance is prime time, with schmoozing and boozing one and the same. But, how do others regard this name, and what does this voice say? I am further told it is necessary to exude confidence, to draw them in and to get them to speak out. Shake hands. Maybe even get a pat on the back, or a wink (extreme case example, “you are in man, you are in”!!). Be keen, but with cool intellect. Wit can win. While in my field a suit may be seen as severe, a sharp shirt and shoes that could be shined gain authority. Women have a tough time in this regard. Skirt: unclear. Flashy shirt: No. Someone told me that my professional clothes should fit like a box. Are high-waisted pants required? Another piece of advice is that dangling earrings can distract and confuse. Well, that is too bad… I really like dangly hoops! And scarves! Sometimes pink pants! Makeup may signal that you can’t cut it on the ice. At least I know that I can cut it. Fortunately there is a gracious acceptance of most outward personal presentations. Oddness generally accepted. However, how to be on the inside? Again, advice is against me. Promote yourself. Speak out. Stake claims. Take acclaim. Be shrewd. Be right. Play the game. Strive to be ahead. Make people remember your name. Where does the quiet, often shy in groups, influenced by other people, capable second-in-command fit in? This is science, after all! First step is recognizing there is a place to fit in. Maybe the loudest self-lobbyist does get ahead. But, I don’t actually want to get ahead in that way. What do I want? To be excited about my job when I wake up in the morning. Enjoy the people I work with. Be respected by the people I work with. Be able to make mistakes, be corrected, maybe feel bad about it, but not feel that ‘I am bad’. Work on something that more than five people understand. Learn something that other people can use. Smile more than stress. Collaborate, be part of a team. Feel that I am good at what I am doing. I like to write. I prefer conversations one-on-one. I think I can engage and be interesting in these conversations. I like asking questions. I don’t like to be put on the spot. I don’t like to argue (much). Satisfying some things on this list will feedback to satisfying all things on this list. I need to be more confident, and accept the ways that I may not change. I don’t enjoy having the loud voice, but instead of having no voice I should speak on more comfortable terms. Release from judgment and stop comparing! Hold on actions that matter, and what can be accomplished. Apply for grants. Publish the progress, not only the product. Follow more closely the paths of those I identify with. Make a list, and seek out the good ones. Smile graciously at the others that awkwardly do not say hello. Don’t (promote) gossip, even though it is such an easy way to connect. Do promote other people. Stay positive. Stay off personal topics, except for select colleagues. Seek strength and support from friends. Pick and poise for problems that yield more immediate outcomes. Give where you want to give, but be aware of limited time. Foster a group dynamic. Further undergraduate opportunities. Make a name and niche to stand on. Keep a persona and perspective to sleep on. The job is a lifestyle, but it is not all there is to life!




first days of year 5
6 december 2013

Less of a rush but still a surge of excitement with the return. The travel to New Zealand (and even a stint in business class – although absurd – !), the clothes, the military plane, the arrival. Part of life now, for those this seasoned. Snap shots of Erebus, transport in the Terrabus, briefings, and more briefings. People jumped out of a box with cardboard letters spelling “James” – he was touched to tears. Observed: real friends. Face to face with those familiar brings a sincere smile and big hug. Often: situational friends. “Hey, I know you!” Or, hugs and hoorays but no memory how. The team together again and already share a lot of laughs. Snappy chatter and a comfort to knowing ones habits and humor. Hours in the galley and frosty boy with lunch. New addition with pizza at midnight. Day 1: I feel the place back in me and all arms are open. Meet someone new and catch up with someone from last year, or from 10 years ago. Some things are different (galley arrangements, position rearrangements) but some things are the same (everything else). Make appointments and start the training. Knowing the routine we jump into action. Day 2: Checklist long and air dry. Meeting and planning and doing and planning and meeting. Driver training. Call home, and feel a bit lonely holding a cafeteria tray (but less concerned about the corner table or the lower dining level). Remember that private space does not exist but still steal alone moments. First feelings of being far away. Day 3: Similar to previous day. Day 4: Morning work, then Sunday brunch (even a bloody mary bar). Afternoon walk up Observation Hill. Day 5: Birthday! Food pull! Freezing between the outdoor freezer and the wind chill we stack steaks, veggie mixes with different names that look the same, cheese, butter, bread, bagels. This was the coldest hours the entire trip. Triwals fill fast. More SciCo, TCN, MEC, BFC, MCC, MacOps, Comms … continue the cargo shuffle and paper trail. Person-to-person we go, needing help along the way. It isn’t our fault that we don’t have anything to give in return. Flights arriving and team complete. Old guys reminisce and new guy “not too bad” (decode for Californians: “fantastic!”). Share stories and meals with some, share more stories and beer with others. Good laughs. Day 6: Birthday on US time zone! Answer emails and collect last bits. Told we will TCN until the end (including our underwear), but that time is near. I remain optimistic though know from past experience that this view is to entertain and not to hold. Pole flights cancelled and the weather whizzes. We see our names turn red going from primary to secondary to cancelled. Lars would be disappointed with me taking a “last” shower. But, this gives more time to enjoy what we can here including hikes, and maybe even bikes. Chances to laugh with others coming into town, and to learn something new about this place – for example that there is a record room. (Smiling inside). While it is not sought, the end of the internet may be found. Day begins to consist of walking short distances between meals, and the activities whiteboard is necessary to know the day of the week. Catch up on laptop languishing like building a webpage and organizing downloads folder. Need to keep the mind busy and the body ready: ready to go from daze to dazzle, ready to hurry up and wait.




In between (then and now)

Then. Moving back to a new home. Going back to an old home. Feeling life in both places – a flood of memories and emotion. I don’t just see that street corner, I see a past self and past event. The loss of that time brings a tinge of sadness: unexpected teary times. A deep want to stop moments and take them in completely. I walked the streets again, sat in the moment, watched a version of the scene, noticed new things, ate what I used to eat, and gave credit to a place that has shaped a part of me. Conversations with friends carried by catch-up, but many overlay reports of loss and gain experienced while they were in one place and I was in another. Family challenges and deaths, heartaches and heartbreaks, work turns and triumphs. Smiles, hugs, laughs, memories. What to say? Ask for “news” as in gossip, but get the deeper truth. Not always easy. I hope that the one who changed place feels most awkward. Group dynamic differences are seen and felt. Attuned or out of tune? Feel that morning fog that burns off by early afternoon. My mood can define the active (person-to-person exchange) and the inactive (memory). My heart responds to talk of past lives and loves. So so nostalgic. The stories of people and places. A lot can happen in a few months, but on another side things can stay the same for many years. Time feels slow. Now. Adjusted and settling, semblance of a routine, friend dinners, work progresses, personal accomplishments and enjoyments. Tomatoes still on the vine, but need to uproot. Get rid of non-essentials. Pack it up, again. Do I still lament having to toss my old yoga mat? (And then buy a new one!) Let it go. Relatively painless in function but emotionally intense in form. Taking in the sights and sounds this past week: the city at night, whitecaps on the lake, laughing with friends in the sun, baking bread, eating on the small couch, kayaking into the middle of the lake, … morning delay gave time for the herons to say goodbye. Looking around the soon-to-be past living space and thinking of any given moment where it was full, or empty, or clean, or piled with personal things. Strange to acknowledge how different those moments are, yet how they stem from the exact same space. A space we called our own, but that we have to leave. With so many moments, which ones stand out? Time feels fast. Then. Anticipate return and to unpack. Despite the lack of a couch, I have stuff! We have stuff. Search apartment ads – a constant battle of want/need/afford. The seated side of worklife restarts as the fieldlife retires. Reconnect in one place, then another, and another. Will this be the year to meet my mind’s ambitions head on with reality – to finally cross off items continuously listed to-do? Or at least to redefine “done”. Stray from the path following passions, but keep the map so it is easy to get back. Hold people in the heart and think like a bug in a bowl… what a great bowl this is!




“Lucky accident”
11 April 2015

I heard this phrase, and I like it. A string of events tied to give this moment. Holding thoughts and acting later. Finding out and rushing over: after the hour-long sequence, arriving within one minute of success. Sometimes. Intuition? How to decide what to do and when to act? For example, today: wake, work, pack, wait, clean, work, prepare, rush, plan, then drive. Park car near airport and meet man on the shuttle… he immediately starts storytelling and within minutes delivers the punchline. “You have to live moment-to-moment / take all life has to offer / if you are too stressed then you miss it / worse you could lose intuition”. As I marveled in the moment, he qualified the statements further with an example about how he was returning from Germany when Iceland eruptions were about to close the skies. He wanted to stop at the bathroom but knew he needed to stay in line to try and get on the last flight. The intuition to fight the call of nature was the only reason he made it home – he got the last seat – incredible, eh! Glad for his gut. He kept bonding and sharing deeply personal details as Americans often do but the main message was out. Did I really listen? I remember past times overtaken by urges to make a phone call or turn on the radio – the standout experiences were when I received news that could hardly be considered coincidental. I can still relate to the wrist grip of woman on the street in Copenhagen, in front of the grocery store, talking at me in pouring rain about what I believe and the mental aches of getting older. I was carrying heightened awareness of the number “37” at the time, and she caught me by relating that despite being obviously over 50, some guy on the street thought she was only 37! During this same period of awareness, a friend and I crossed with an unexpected personality that led to giant fruit baskets, an all-night exploration, bouncy balls, bikes, boats, and destiny (even if some mental instability was at play in our fearless leader). Reading coffee grounds? Why not! In Serbia we flipped the cup and my grounds ran in many directions. But, directions exhaust too. Decisions everywhere. Options, options, options. Good, right? Progress? The created life is the easy life. But it is only easy if I believe it is easy, if I can manage to be less mindless. Superstition is also a key word in this but it is more fun to think of it as magic. I found two quarters two days in a row and couldn’t stop thinking about them. Quarters, quarters… searching, searching. Consumed by the thought of one more – where would it be? That same night I walked in a good friend’s house on the evening of good friend’s dinner and there was a quarter sitting in the middle of the floor, and two friends sitting around it. Lucky accidents? I am happy to stumble.



Flat White

16 January 2016

Sitting between jump seats but fortunately not knee-to-knee. Lowest priority but in the air! 15 pax, 15 guard, and probably 15 hours by the time I am in one room to the next. Still won’t be home, but closer. I ate my last pizza and cookies before being reunited with fresh vegetables and fruit. But it was a good season – no, a great season! Always positive and hold the successes. We worked out of the South Pole where all directions do in fact point north (when the GPS compass point wasn’t spinning in circles). What an interesting prospect to sustain American lifestyle at the bottom of the earth. Less oxygen, but more to do. Affectionately termed – “polies” – are just like you and I, and for the one-third of the summer population that was staying on it seemed that overwintering was like a dream come true. We missed yoga and volleyball and circuit training, but managed an appearance at the New Years Eve concert and Carp Shop Party. Never figured out who are the frozen few. The music room and musicians on station were impressive. Is everyone there in a band? Pa-pow! New Pole (NPX) may not have the soul of old pole, but community spaces sowed the seeds (literally – in the greenhouse, and figuratively – in the lounges). Surprising to see was the amount of stuff in the backyard. Rows and berms and piles of gear and materials and aged equipment. Many millvans and jumbles of jamesways. Some had signs like “summer camp” and “chapel”, and others were display items for the Retro Initiative. Plenty of heavy equipment available to move it somewhere, anywhere, or nowhere. Given what individuals pay privately to spend a night at the ALE South Pole camp, maybe these relicts could be auctioned and evacuated as art or collector’s items. The IceCube drill rig could be yours! Cargo team doing what they can, and at least staying entertained with the fake guy (nice to meet you in the bathroom [scream]). We were part of a glaciology contingent (add-on to team SPICE), but the station is primarily Astrophysics. Acronyms undetermined. Never got to see the neutrinos, but hopefully another time. Also missed the -50 degree tunnels, but maybe that is okay. The Beer Can was cold. The kitchen was cozy and cookies baked daily. Note to young men visiting the ceremonial pole: this site is in perfect view from the galley so when you are overcome by urge to pose naked in front of your nation’s flag (or to fly your own), know that you are not alone. Those running the South Pole marathon were comparatively alone, especially 7 hours later. We felt the accomplishment of snowmachining up to 200 km a day until we saw the solo skier traversing the harsh terrain. He was accomplishing an unsupported crossing of the continent – Shackleton’s planned route from 1915. What was he thinking about all day? Sastrugi? We stayed warm, even if committing fashion faux-pas. A beard is recommended. Lots of characters (many with beards) and openness to others needed. Embrace community and big hugs result. Always interesting stories, and only one guy qualified as creepy. Another cup of tea. Two weeks went by quickly but we will be back to drive more lines of longitude and determine just where the ice is coming from. Snowmachines like blanketed steads are waiting. The conestoga is staged. I bet on Titan Dome as the upstream source, or at least hope so since that area was actually flat and white.



Parker Palmer Digest

18 January 2016

Set the thought stage for this essay by listening to On Being interview with Carrie Newcomer (“the other Quaker celebrity”) and hurling across hemispheres. Some words resonate: Light. Thresholds. Kindness. Longing. Questions. Gratitude. I have been listening, reading, thinking, not thinking – confronting who is I. Thank you dear friend for the pocket wisdom in Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak: Is the life that I am living the same life that wants to live me? What does it really mean to show up in your life. Experiences become insights. Purpose. Seeking, striving, getting better.

I don’t know how else to do this other than provide quotes from Parker:

  • I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like it to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.
  • An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for “wholeness” is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of.
  • How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity – the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.
  • Lacking insight into my own limits and potentials, I had allowed ego and ethics to lead me into a situation that my soul could not abide.
  • We must withdraw the negative projections we make on people and situations – projections that serve mainly to mask our own fears about ourselves – and acknowledge and embrace our own liabilities and limits.
  • Self care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.
  • As May Sarton reminds us, the pilgrimage toward true self will take “time, many years, and places”.
  • … there is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does – maybe more.
  • Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials.
  • If I try to be or do something noble that has nothing to do with who I am, I may look good to others and to myself for awhile.
  • One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess… burnout is a state of emptiness… it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.
  • Each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door behind us…
  • One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person’s pain without trying to “fix” it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person’s mystery and misery.
  • True self is a true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one’s peril.
  • Go far enough on the inner journey, they all tell us – go past ego toward true self – and you end up not lost in narcissim but returning to the world, bearing more gracefully the responsibilities that come with being human.
  • When we live in the close-knit ecosystem called community, everyone follows and everyone leads.
  • Our frequent failure as leaders to deal with our inner lives leaves too many individuals and institutions in the dark.
  • “Be not afraid” does not mean we cannot have fear… instead, we do not need to be the fear we have.
  • What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to hang on to?
  • “Living the questions” in ways that have meaning right now and will someday take them into meaningful answers.
  • But wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing our brokenness as an integral part of life.
  • Given all my mess-ups, how have I managed to survive myself?
  • Contemplation is any way one has of penetrating illusion and touching reality.
  • … deal with upstream problems…
  • In one way or another, every wisdom tradition I know says that what we need is here. It’s just a matter of opening our eyes and appreciating what I call “secrets hidden in plain sight.”
  • Here’s an ancient truth about being human: we cannot give gifts to others that we are unable to give to ourselves!
  • … celebrate your obstacles! Don’t fear them or fight them — flow around them.
  • I work hard at what I do, and I bet you do too. So maybe you need the same reminder I do: while my work is important, it is not a measure of my value or worth. Who we “be” is far more important than what we do or how well we do it. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings!



Gathering application: answers to questions
10 august 2017

Who are you? (600 char)

I am a new mother. I am a glaciologist. As an undergraduate in LA studying ice on Mars, I found ice on Earth. I am a teacher. I am listener. I try to be a mentor. I will always be a student. Antarctica is the place abroad that I have spent the most time. Hiking alone in Greenland scarred my leg and changed my life. I bake bread. I prefer to do things for other people. I write computer code but desire to write novels. I was lonely and tagged bikes to get me out of myself (ilikethebike.com). I feel a pleasure/fear pang in my heart when I think about my baby. I revel in the small, and aspire big.

The theme of our conference will be wisdom as a calling for inner life but also public life in the world. How do you think of your mission at this moment in time? How are you expressing that in whatever form community takes in your life?

My work is to understand. To understand the physical mechanisms and environmental controls of glacier change, but also to understand my role in a fragile world that projects a lack of regard for Earth’s fragility. I appreciate there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge, between awareness and action. I am seen within the scientific community but strive to reach students through teaching and to reach across my district through conversations. I am developing two new university classes. Next week I talk with high-school students, next month to retirees. I want to reach further, and deeper.

We live in a moment of uncertainty and change – of vast open questions at the heart of our life together. Rilke spoke of “living the questions”. What questions would you like to pose, hold, and live with others in the period ahead?

What about human nature allows groupings of society to value opinion over fact, and in what ways can personal progress facilitate social advance and bolster a respect for science? Why is climate change a political issue with borders; how do we wholly rebrand it as a human issue? How do we widen regard for human life? Why is stress addicting? Can academia handle the overhaul in diversity, access, and inclusion that it currently seeks? How do I balance family and career without over-compromising the standard I set in my life and in my work? Do core life lessons need to be learned firsthand?



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