altThe Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, 1977)

The Silmarillion had been sitting, unread, on my bookshelves for years, even decades. There's really no excuse. I've been a deeply-committed fan of Tolkien's work ever since high school, when my father's unusually prescient sister and her family gave me the Lord of the Rings trilogy one Christmas. If I had the words to explain how much those stories mean to me, I'd be a paid writer myself.

Since then I've read and loved others of Tolkien's works. The Hobbit is also one of my favorites, of course, and I have a special love for Leaf by Niggle. So why did I avoid The Silmarillion? Probably because it is a posthumous work, created by his son, Christopher Tolkien, from unpublished writings. Posthumus and unpublished works always make me nervous, because, like uncut gems, they lack the beauty and wonder that come from the artist's later efforts. I wonder, too: Would the author be pleased to see his ideas come to light after his death, or would he blush and feel his nakedness exposed?

Be that as it may, I knew I had to dust off this book when I discovered that our 13-year-old grandson had read it before me. I'm glad I did. I think Christopher Tolkien did an admirable job, and I loved learning more of the story that occurs before and around the Lord of the Rings books.

I don't recommend The Silmarillion to everyone, however. Those who have told me they just couldn't get past all the names in LOTR haven't seen anything yet. My head is still spinning. What's more, what I dislike most about the LOTR movies—the emphasis on endless battle scenes, and the lack of the amazing character development present in the books—is in full force here. The Silmarillion reads very much like The Iliad, or some of the Old Testament: lots of names, dry historical facts, and battle after battle, with just enough story to keep you going. It's a treasure trove of gems, but they're uncut, and how I wish Tolkien the elder had been able to give them the polish only he could have done.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, July 28, 2017 at 6:08 am | Edit
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— Glad I learned how to sing harmony. Thanks, Mom, for all those choruses of "Found a Peanut" in three parts when I was a kid!

— We had fun singing in the car, didn't we, sweetie? "Found a Peanut," "Make New Friends,"  "Thou Poor Bird" .... happy memories.

— Lots more than these, too ... dozens and dozens ... you would sing the harmony and I would sing the melody ... it trained my mind for hearing the parts and eventually we could switch.

This exchange between a professional backup singer friend and her choir director mother inspired me to write about a question that has been troubling me: Where do today's young children learn to sing in harmony?  They are surrounded by music (of a sort, anyway) in a way my generation never was, whether by choice on their phones or by chance in the shopping mall. But it's passive; where do they learn to sing?

Many of my elementary school classrooms had pianos. (And bless the teachers, we occasionally were allowed to fiddle on them before and after school.) Sometimes the music teacher came in and sang with us, and sometimes the teacher herself led us in singing. Later, but still in elementary school, we could choose to participate in a chorus, where we learned two- and three-part harmony. By the time we were in eighth grade, there were enough boys whose voices had changed to make that four-part.

Does that sound like a swanky private school to you?  It was actually four different public schools in a very small town in upstate New York. (Even back then districts were fond of moving students around.)

My own children had an absolutely fantastic music teacher in elementary school, and she gave them many experiences I never dreamed of. But when it comes to harmony, I had the better deal. They also had a far more amazing high school chorus experience than I did, but I'm talking about younger children: few high school students chose chorus as an option, fewer still if they had not had a great musical experience earlier on.

Our children also gained an incomparable musical education in church, thanks to a choir director who was both a great musician and a great teacher. But for congregational singing, I was much better off than children in most churches since then.

The church we attended when I was young was not, generally, an enlightening experience, and I was glad when we stopped going and I had my Sunday mornings free. But it, too, deserves a lot of credit in my musical education. We sang from the wonderful red Hymnbook published by a group of Reformed and Presbyterian denominations, a hymnbook complete with time and key signatures and four-part harmony for every hymn. Congregational singing was not as peaked in those days as it often is today, and that experience was foundational for my musical life.

Granted, I'm shy enough that I didn't feel at all secure in my singing until after many years of choir experience, and learning to improvise harmony came almost too late. I wish I'd learned more as a child. But I'm beginning to be convinced that, between school and church, I gained a better musical foundation in my tiny New York town than most children receive today.

What has been your musical experience?  Convince me that I'm wrong!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 6:38 am | Edit
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I found these adorable Ariel swim fins at Toys R Us, and couldn't resist them for our mermaid-obsessed granddaughter. They were on sale, and I thought $14 wasn't unreasonable, because—well, because I am a grandmother, I suppose.

At the same time, we needed an auto booster seat for our grandson. I found this cool seat at Walmart. The cost: $13.

A seat designed to keep a child safe costs less than a pair of child's swim fins?  More than 13% less, actually, since there was no sales tax on the car seat.

It could mean that the fins are vastly overpriced, but I prefer to think that the manufacturer and the state are conspiring to put travel safety within everyone's reach. You can spend multiple hundreds of dollars for a child's car seat—but you don't need to.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Edit
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More from The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien:

He that sows lies in the end shall not lack of a harvest, and soon he may rest from toil indeed while others reap and sow in his stead.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, July 21, 2017 at 5:50 am | Edit
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From The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien:

Those who will defend authority against rebellion must not themselves rebel.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 8:43 am | Edit
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It's time once again to give thanks for Willis Carrier, who made living in Central Florida something people might actually want to do. My grandparents, who lived two blocks from the beach on the Atlantic Coast, where there was almost always a cooling sea breeze, managed fine without air conditioning, but the center of the state is another matter altogether.

I've written before about the Carrier story: Weathermakers to the World. Today you can read a celebration of the 115th anniversary of that great invention on The Occasional CEO, the author's blog. Item #3 is my favorite:

3. I have a lot of favorite stories from Weathermakers, but this might be the best. It was on a foggy evening in 1903, on a train platform in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ... that Willis Carrier conceived the idea that he could dry-out warm, humid air by passing it through water—specifically, fine droplets of a cold water spray. This spray could create a far larger surface area for condensate than metal pipes, and had the distinct advantages of cleaning the air of dust, and avoiding the nuisance of rusty pipes.

To this day, it's difficult to convince some people that a good way to dry air is to force it through water. 

If you happen to be in Pittsburgh and want to visit the spot of Carrier's famous insight, have a meal at the Grand Concourse Restaurant at Station Square.

That rang a bell, and I checked my records: We had done just that, back in October of 1998, when we passed through Pittsburgh as part of Janet's Grand Circle College Tour. This was also the occasion when we met Heather's friend Jon, who would later become our son-in-law. Desirous of treating the college students to a nice meal, we followed someone's suggestion and ate Sunday brunch at the Grand Concourse. At the time I had no idea of its momentous history.

I was shocked by the high prices—$20 per person—which shows how long ago 1998 really was. Or possibly the cost reflected more on the difference between Pittsburgh and Orlando, in which case I am all the more grateful to Willis Carrier for his work to make Central Florida habitable.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 17, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Edit
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One of my goals for the coming 12 months is to re-read Charles Williams' The Place of the Lion (the only book of his I own), plus one more of his novels. Dorothy Sayers said,

To read only one work of Charles Williams is to find oneself in the presence of a riddle—a riddle fascinating by its romantic colour, its strangeness, its hints of a rich and intricate unknown world just outside the barriers of consciousness; but to read all is to become a free citizen of that world and to find in it a penetrating and illuminating interpretation of the world we know.

I'm pretty sure I won't manage all, but I can at least get past one, which did indeed leave me totally confused the first and second times I read it.

While on, perusing offerings such as War in Heaven, Descent into Hell, and All Hallows' Eve, I came upon this:


I'm pretty sure I'll go with one of his more well-known works, but the title does have a certain topical attraction. In actuality, it refers to tarot cards, but why let accuracy get in the way of a joke?

In this classic tale of spirituality, morality, and the occult, a dark plot to murder an unsuspecting Englishman who possesses the world’s rarest tarot deck unleashes uncontrollable elemental forces.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Edit
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Words of wisdom for parents—and children—from S. D. Smith, author of the beautiful Green Ember series. (My reviews are here: The Green Ember and The Black Star of Kingston; and here: Ember Falls.)

Your family is the most potent art you'll ever be a part of creating.

(With humble gratitude to our children and their families for art that makes my heart sing.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 7:14 am | Edit
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altBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

I enjoy reading medical stories, but they carry a risk: it's all too easy for me to look over my shoulder and imagine the patient's symptoms creeping up on me. It's a good thing that anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis is primarily a young person's disease.

This rare and bizarre condition looks for all the world like a severe psychiatric disorder, but occurs when something provokes a person's immune system to attack his brain. What, why, and how are still unknown, but it's usually curable, if caught and treated—a very expensive process—in time. Susannah Cahalan was the 217th person to be diagnosed with this disease, and if she had not been in the right place at the right time, would probably have been committed to a mental hospital for the rest of her shortened life. If she had had his strength, she could easily have played the part of the Gadareme demoniac.

Thanks mostly to being at a great hospital (NYU), and ending up (after several false starts) with just the right doctors, Cahalan made a full recovery. But while anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis and similar brain disorders are now much more likely to be caught than they were in 2009 when Cahalan fell ill, this is still a cautionary tale of the importance of second (or third or fourth) opinions, and of searching for physical causes for abnormal mental conditions. Autism and schizophrenia are just two of the diagnoses that are sometimes erroneously given to patients with these autoimmune disorders. Unfortunately, the specialized tests needed for proper diagnosis are currently too invasive and too expensive to be used routinely.

Brain on Fire is a gripping, well-written, and important book—even if, once again, I found myself regretting the demise of the censor's blue pencil.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 5:24 am | Edit
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A long, long time ago, in a world even my siblings don't remember,  my Girl Scout leader taught us this little song, always sung as a round: 

Make new friends, but keep the old;
One is silver, and the other gold.

Since my time, additional words have been added, definitely not an improvement. I do hope today's Girl Scouts aren't learning it this way; the skin of my mind crawls just reading it. The original two lines are profound and pithy; the addition, simply ... well, here's a verse for you to judge:

Silver is precious, 
Gold is too.
I am precious,
And so are you.

Take that, Gollum.

Which brings me around to the point of this post.

Books are my friends. New books can be silver, but there's true gold in wonderful old books read again and again.

I haven't read The Hobbit since 2014, and I was shocked to discover that the last time I read The Lord of the Rings books was at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. Incredible. My other Tolkien reading goes back to before I started keeping track! As part of my next edition (not yet established) of the 95 by 65 project, I'm including a Tolkien spree, beginning with The Hobbit.

That's where I found these words of wisdom from Gandalf, perfect for those of us who waste valuable sleeping hours fretting about the future.


Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 10, 2017 at 10:06 am | Edit
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altI Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think" to "I Am Enough" by Brené Brown (Gotham Books, 2007)

I have finally completed the current canon of major Brené Brown books for laymen—though I'm certain there will be more.  In keeping with the random pattern laid down by the books' availability at our library, my last book was her first.  I Thought It Was Just Me is the book that started it all (though it was her TED talk that made her famous). My other reviews are here: The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring Greatly, and Rising Strong.  It's probably best to read them in chronological order (I Thought It Was Just MeThe Gifts of ImperfectionDaring Greatly, Rising Strong), but from my own point of view, I'd prioritize them as The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring GreatlyI Thought It Was Just Me, then Rising Strong.

I heard somewhere that this book was originally entitled Women and Shame, and that pretty much covers it.  Later, Brown was to study the subject of shame and men, and conclude that the problems and strategies for combating them are the same, though the issues are different. Personally, I don't think the gender divide is as great as she makes it; I'm sure there's a continuum. I identify with some, but far from all, of the major shame issues for women—but also some but not all of the issues for men.

There's more to it, of course, but at its heart, I Thought It Was Just Me is an elaboration on the following truth: Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.

Here are some more quotations; as always the bold emphasis is my own.

  • Can you use shame or humiliation to change people or behavior?  Yes and no.  Yes, you can try.  In fact, if you really zero in on an exposed vulnerability, you could actually see a very swift behavior change.
  • Will the change last? No.
  • Will it hurt?  Yes, it's excruciating.
  • Will it do any damage?  Yes, it has the potential to scar both the person using shame and the person being shamed.
  • Is shame used very often as a way to try to change people?  Yes, every minute of every day.

Often, when we try to shame others or ourselves into changing a behavior, we do so without understanding the differences between shame and guilt.  This is important because guilt can often be a positive motivator of change, while shame typically leads to worse behavior or paralysis.... Guilt and shame are both emotions of self-evaluation; however, that is where the similarities end. ... Shame is about who we are and guilt is about our behaviors.

When I talked to women about the possibility of shame having positive outcomes or serving as a guidepost for good behavior, they made it clear that shame is so overbearing and painful that, regardless of intent, it moved them away from being able to grow, change and respond in any kind of genuine or authentic way.  Guilt, on the other hand, was often a strong motivator for change.

Power-over is a dangerous form of power.  Dr. Robin Smith ... described one of the most insidious forms of power-over as working like this: "I will define who you are and then I'll make you believe that's your own definition."

When I talk about isolation I don't mean feeling lonely or alone.  Jean Baker Miller and Irene Stiver ... have beautifully captured the overwhelming nature of isolation.  They write, "We believe that the most terrifying and destructive feeling that a person can experience is psychological isolation.  This is not the same as being alone.  It is a feeling that one is locked out of the possibility of human connection and of being powerless to change the situation.  In the extreme, psychological isolation can lead to a sense of hopelessness and desperation.  People will do almost anything to escape this combination of condemned isolation and powerlessness." ...

Shame can make us feel desperate.  Reactions to this desperate need to escape form isolation and fear can run the gamut from behavioral issues and acting out to depression, self-injury, eating disorders, addiction, violence and suicide.

Not to mention dangerous peer-dependency.

When we tell our stories, we change the world.  I know that sounds dramatic, but I believe it.  We'll never know how our stories might change someone's life.

Recently I was eating dinner with a friend.  We both had newborns at the time.  She stayed at home with her baby and her toddler, and I was getting ready to go back to work.  She was telling me the terrible sadness she felt about the fact that she and her husband were probably not going to have any more children.  She explained that even though having two young children was overwhelming at times, she had always wanted three or four and that she was really having a difficult time letting go of that vision of a family. ... My response to her was something like "Two is perfect. ... Plus, you could go back to work or graduate school or something." She looked kind of shocked by my reply and stumbled to find the right words.

I can see why her friend was shocked and at a loss for words.  Brown might has well have said, "You're sad because you're hungry and can't afford to buy food?  But you live on the beach—why not eat sand instead?"

At the doctoral level, if someone asked me a question that I couldn't answer, they'd either assume they had asked a bad question or that I was too smart or busy to concern myself with such foolish matters.  One of the perks of earning credentials is gaining permission to know nothing.  This privilege is rarely afforded to those who aren't protected by plaques, titles, certificates or initials strung behind their names.

In my experience, the most serious threat to objectivity is the very belief that "pure objectivity" and "value neutrality" exist. I have greater trust in those who question objectivity and who believe that people, values and experiences influence our research and practice—they are the ones who make the greatest effort to present their opinions in the appropriate context.

I think I've seen the movie Flashdance at least twenty times.  In the 1980's, I wanted to be just like Jennifer Beals's character, Alex. ... Nothing took the mystique out of my secret Flashdance fantasy like showing up to meet friends for dinner and realizing that all six of us had permed hair, headbands and ripped sweatshirts. ... We all wanted to be Alex.

That's an example of the cultural disconnect I often feel with Brown's books.  I can make a connection with many of her ideas, but the culture she takes for granted often leaves me feeling like a being from another planet.  Perhaps the fact that I've never seen Flashdance could be attributed to the age gap, but I can no more imagine my friends—at any stage of life—dressing up to imitate a movie character than I can imagine doing it myself (Hallowe'en excepted).

Interestingly, to be perceived as "trying too hard" was identified as an unwanted characteristic. ... We want perfection, but we don't want to look like we're working for it—we want it to just materialize somehow.

She's speaking of motherhood here, but I first noticed this among musicians, when I learned that "Wow, that's an incredibly difficult piece" is the worst thing you can say after a performance, no matter how much you mean it as a compliment.  The performer's job is to make it look easy.  If you're thinking about how hard it is, they've failed to make you hear the music.  That's true of other professions too: the perfect waiter is the one you hardly notice, the perfect event seems to have produced itself.  I don't believe this attitude is all bad:  we want people to hear the music, not the performer, and to enjoy the event without thinking about how much planning and effort went into it.  We certainly don't want our children going through life worrying about all the trouble they're causing us!  The problems come when we assume that because things look easy, they are easy.  Gratitude, appreciation, and respect are everything.

When we choose growth over perfection, we immediately increase our shame resilience. ... When we believe "we must be this" we ignore who or what we actually are, our capacity and our limitations.  We start from the image of perfection, and of course, from perfection there is nowhere to go but down. ... When our goal is growth and we say, "I'd like to improve this," we start from where and who we are.

In our culture, the fear and shame of being ordinary is very real.  In fact, many of the older women I interviewed spoke about looking back on their lives and grieving for the extraordinary things that would never come to pass.  We seem to measure the value of people's contributions (and sometimes thier entire lives) by their level of public recognition.

Nope.  Not me.  When I grieve, it is much more likely to be about the ordinary things that did not, or will not come to pass.  It never occurred to me to regret not being famous for my cookies, or not turning cookie-making into a successful business.  I save my regrets for lost opportunities to make cookies with my grandchildren.

It's not a good idea to back people into a corner.  Even making a valid point doesn't warrant using shame or intentionally putting someone on the spot in front of other people.

[Quoting one of her correspondents] My faith is a very important part of my life.  I want to feel free to talk about my spiritual beliefs just like people talk about their politics or their social beliefs.  But I can't.  If I even mention the word church, people get offended.  They look at me like I'm crazy and I'm trying to convert them.  I used to have a voice mail message at work that said, "Thanks for calling, have a blessed day." My boss made me erase it because it was "offensive." The people in my office use the "f-word" all day, but they try to make me feel like I'm the outcast because I say "blessed."

It is critical that we catch ourselves doing things well.  If we can acknowledge our strengths, they become tools that can help us meet our goals.

It doesn't take momentous events [to change the culture]—it takes critical mass.  If enough of us make small changes in our lives, we will see big changes.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, July 7, 2017 at 8:43 pm | Edit
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My 95 by 65 project is complete. The two and a half years have flown by, and suddenly I am an official senior citizen, with all the discount privileges thereof. (Along with the thrills and expense of being on Medicare, but that's another story.)  The details are in a companion post, 95 by 65 - The Tally. Here I want to ruminate about the purpose of my 95 by 65 project, and what it has accomplished.

I went into this adventure simply with the idea of focussing my efforts and providing some documentation for my accomplishments, though as time went on, the purpose of the project took on a more coherent form. The items on my list were chosen, some purposefully, some almost randomly, from a "to do before I die" list so overwhelming it would make me live forever if I had anything to say about it.

Then there were the activities I put on the list because I knew that they were things my husband wanted to do. That worked out better than I had imagined. As is true for many women I know, I had looked forward to my husband's retirement with mixed feelings. Sure, it would be great to have him happier and more available, but while retirement meant more time for him to attend to his own projects, it meant less time for me to work on mine. The 95 by 65 list turned out to be a great way to get us on the same page for a number of activities, which was a mental health boost for both of us.

Another very useful, unanticipated side effect was the project's value in establishing habits. True, this slowed down my progress through the list, because when I completed, for example, #59 Achieve 40,000 DuoLingo points, I did not stop doing DuoLingo lessons, thereby freeing up time to work on something else. I had established the habit. I hope to use this leverage more purposefully for next year's list.

Yes, there will be a next year's list, and my sister-in-law plans to join me again with one of her own. We both feel the need of a shorter time span than two and a half years, and have chosen July - June as the period. There's to much else that goes on near the end of the calendar year to want to go from January through December. Besides, I want to get going on the new list!  Not that the new list is complete yet, but I have enough to get started.

I'm convinced it was to my advantage to have the list. I learned a few things about making such goals, such as that "do something X times" allows for procrastination leading to failure (as with #52 Write at least 10 letters to political officeholders), but usually works well and is much less stressful than "do something every month," which leads to fear of missing a deadline and doesn't allow for working ahead.

I also learned that several of my goals were impossibly large, such as #92 Organize photos 2012-2016. Despite the huge amount of time I poured into the project, I managed to complete only one of those years (2015), though I did make some organizational progress on the others. And while all this was going on, we did enough travelling to add far more new photos to the processing pile than I had succeeded in removing. Of course, I did know at the outset that this would be a big project; it was foolish to lump all those years together in one goal, but I did so because I had run out of the "95."  I was only fooling myself.

When I began, I really thought I had a chance to reach all of my goals; certainly I didn't expect to be happy having accomplished just over half. But I am. It's nothing short of miraculous how the list helped me—helped both of us—focus. I accomplished many things that I know simply would never have been finished without the list (e.g. #57 Experience all 37 of Shakespeare's plays), and others that would have been hit-or-miss or procrastinated to death (e.g. #51 Write an encouraging note each month to someone other than family). Would we have still made our visit to The Gambia if it had not been on the list? I like to think so, but I also know how easy it would have been to let the months fly until the window of opportunity had passed.

Without this list, it would be too easy to focus on what I have not (yet) accomplished. Even with it, I'm painfully aware of projects (and whole areas of projects) that have been sorely neglected in the past two and a half years. But without the list, that's all I'd see; with it, I can say to myself, "but look at how much else I did."  What's more, several of the items inspired similar non-list accomplishments.

It's an experiment worth refining and repeating. Onward and upward!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 3, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Edit
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When I began my 95 by 65 project, my 65th birthday seemed distant, but the time has come. How did I do? I completed only 50 of the 95 goals, but to my surprise am quite pleased with that. It was an intense list!  Here's the breakdown.

I had divided my 95 goals into four sections, based on Steven Covey's "To Live, To Learn, To Love, To Leave a Legacy." 

To Live: completed 11/33, 33.3%

Item Date Completed Notes
Create the Leon Project 1/12/2015  
Create 95 by 65 list 1/24/2015  
Research and purchase food processor 1/30/2015  
Practice deliberate relaxation twice a day for a month 5/16/2015
Find a GPS distance tracker that works for me 11/11/2015
Walk/run the equivalent of home to Hillsboro 12/16/2015 Greatly exceeded; also "walked" from Hillsboro to Swtizerland; averaged 38 miles/week.
Get a working back porch sink 8/24/2016 Thank you, Porter!
Swim 5 miles / Brachiate 1 mile (cumulative) 9/12/2016 Exceeded: swim 10 miles, brachiate 2 miles
Design 5 Life Playground stations 4/1/2017 Pool Track, Pool/Braciation Ladder, Balance Board, Juggling Balls, Mini Trampoline, Exercise Ball
Create an herb garden 6/15/2017 I hope to expand this.
Develop a quick system for travel prep and packing 7/3/2017  
Create/tweak/finalize/codify 60 family recipes    
Develop and sustain a system for making bread regularly   Developed a new cookie recipe instead.
Develop and sustain a system for making yoghurt regularly    
Experiment with making kefir    
Finish Janet's birthday 2009 recipe book   Maybe by 2019?
Go through all recipe books, digitizing what looks good, getting rid of all but essentials/favorites    
Complete a biking challenge    
Develop a stretching plan and execute at least 3x/week for a month    
Execute 50 pushups nonstop on the higher bar at the park   An injury broke my steak, and I never got back to it.
Reach desired weight goal    
Run nonstop 3 times around the park trail then participate in a 5K race (any speed)   So close!  I made the three times around nonstop in May of 2016, but again an injury broke the momentum. It healed, but the momentum was broken and I'm just starting over now.
Declutter and organize phone   Ah, yes ... decluttering was definitely a casualty.
Declutter blog template files    
Declutter computer    
Declutter garage    
Declutter marked items in Janet's room    
Declutter my office    
Declutter our filing cabinets    
Declutter sewing supplies    
Recycle collected ink cartridges   Partially done
Set up identification system for files to grab in an emergency    
Create another goal-oriented project for when this one is complete   Working on this.

To Love: 22/23, 95.6%

Item Date Completed Notes
Join Twitter 2/9/2015  
Visit King Arthur Flour 2/12/2015  
Visit a state I've never been to 4/9/2015 Missouri
Try at least 5 new restaurants 4/10/2015 Greatly exceeded
Watch Unbroken 4/24/2015  
Visit Universal/IoA four times 5/15/2015  
Share at least 20 meals with others 8/13/2015 Greatly exceeded 
Watch NCIS LA from the beginning 10/23/2015  
Convert our Christmas card system to postal plus e-mail 12/5/2015  
Join Google+ 12/10/2015  
Visit a country I've never been to 1/15/2016 Belgium (airport), Senegal, The Gambia, Spain (airport), Mexico, Cuba
Visit either Costa Rica or the Gambia 1/15/2016 The Gambia
Attend 15 live performances (e.g. music, drama, lectures) 1/31/2016
Visit Venice 4/18/2016
Keep up a 10 posts/month blogging schedule for 20 months 8/17/2016 Exceeded: 30 months, often more than 10/month.
Visit our friends who live in Arizona 8/26/2016 Instead of our visiting Arizona, they came to Florida.
Refrain from negative speech for 1 day. Do this 30 times. 10/24/2016 This is a whole lot harder than it looks.
Visit with all immediate family members at least once per year 11/22/2016
Write at least 75 physical letters to children/grandchildren 1/13/2017
Send at least 4 care packages to each of our freshman/sophomore nephews 2/3/2017
Write at least 5 notes of encouragement to each nephew 4/6/2017 This did not turn out to be ask I had expected -- brief, friendly, USPS notes of encouragement. This generation has little use for physical letters, unless they have cookies attached. But there were so many other forms of communication --visits, e-mail, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook -- that I consider this goal met.
Write an encouraging note each month to someone other than family 6/5/2017  
Write at least 10 letters to political officeholders   I managed one....

To Learn: 13/17, 76.5%

Item Date Completed Notes
Read the Koran 4/14/2015  
Listen to all of Pimsleur German I (30 lessons) 5/30/2015  
Finish chronological Bible reading plan 7/29/2015
Achieve 40,000 DuoLingo points 11/3/2015 Exceeded: over 81,000 points.
Start and keep up with other daily Bible reading plan(s) 11/25/2015 Exceeded: completed six plans total.
Complete 100 Great Courses lectures 12/30/2015 Exceeded: over 300 
Make 30 museum visits 4/21/2016 Exceeded. but I stopped counting. 
Read The History of the Renaissance World 7/5/2016  
Read 130 books (new or old, print or audio, any level) 10/19/2016 Exceeded: 175
Complete George MacDonald reading plan (50 books, 14 completed in 2014) 10/24/2016  
Experience all 37 of Shakespeare's plays (attend, watch, and/or read) 10/25/2016  
Set and attain Khan Academy goal 6/3/2017 Complete Math Missions from Kindergarten through 8th grade, plus Algebra 1 (refreshing my own experience through 8th grade)This took longer than expected because Khan kept adding requirements.
Read 26 existing but as yet unread books from my bookshelves 6/7/2017  
Learn sufficient Javascript and/or jquery to know if it will work for creating my GTC website    
Set and attain BrainHQ goal   Instead of these three I concentrated on Peak and WordChums.
Set and attain Memrise goal    
Set and attain Sporcle goal    

To Leave a Legacy: 4/22, 18.2%

Item Date Completed Notes
Rocket boost genealogy work by end of January 2015 (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over approximately 2 weeks) 2/1/2015  
Make 2 baby blankets 5/14/2015  
Rocket boost photo work (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over approximately 2 weeks) 9/29/2015  
Convert WRL memorial PPT to video 6/9/2017  
Copy LPs to CDs    
Copy tapes to CDs   Partially done, thanks Porter!
Complete conversion of bits PPTs to videos    
Create 20 new GTC shows    
Create a form of GTC independent of YouTube and useable offline    
Create scent bits    
Make new family bits   Modified from "for Heather"--Janet needs them, too.
Print bit back labels for Heather    
Clean up, expand, and document the lines I currently have in my genealogy database    
Enter unentered genealogy data    
Publish revised editions of Honor Enough volumes 1-4    
Update Phoebe's Quilt and print in "final" form   I made a lot of progress, even though it's not complete.
Create one photo album with Picaboo   Since I tied this to Phoebe's Quilt, I made progress here, too.
Digitize photos    
Digitize slides    
Organize photos 2007-2011    
Organize photos 2012-2016   I completed 2015, and made some progress on other years.
Research and purchase scanner suitable for prints and slides    

I'm happy with the "To Love" and "To Learn" categories, and okay with "To Live" though it needs work. "To Leave a Legacy" was sorely neglected, and there are two clear reasons. First and foremost, this category is where most of my gargantuan personal projects ended up. Projects like "Organize photos 2012-2016" and "Clean up, expand, and document the lines I currently have in my genealogy database," each of which requires far more time than most of the other 95They are also complex, and require a lot more focussed and continuous thought—and decision-making—than, say, reading a book or inviting someone over for dinnerThis is the kind of work I do best when I can put on my Li'l Writer Guy persona:

He rather likes to imagine he’s seated in some academic cloister, inhaling the intoxicating scents of polished wood, leather, and books old and new. On the table before him are the paraphernalia of his profession: stacks of books, pads of paper, writing implements, bookmarks, his laptop computer. Lost in thought, he stares out the window, but he’s not seeing the cityscape. Now and then he rises, and paces between the table and the stacks. At the end of the day, he reluctantly packs up, puts on his coat, and steps into the outside world, blinking owlishly and realizing dimly that time has not stopped for others as it has for him.

It's a lovely way to make progress in one area, but it leaves the rest of life at risk of disintegrating around me. Clearly, I need to figure out how to divide these projects into tiny parcels, in addition to giving them higher priority for next year.

Still, as I said, I'm overall very pleased; that is, inspired to begin another such project immediately, with modifications based on experience. Further ruminations are in a companion post to this one: 95 by 65 - The Analysis.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 3, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Edit
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Some days I feel for Don Quixote. It may be just a windmill, but it looks like a giant to me.


It was such a good word, and now I'm beginning to loathe it.


(Definition from Merriam-Webster online.) To me, the word "partner" has always meant definition 2a: one associated with another, especially in action. That actually covers most of the other definitions as well. My daughter and I make up a team on WordChums; we are partners. If together we owned an ice cream shop, we'd be business partners. If we decided to rob a bank to finance that ice cream shop, we'd be partners in crime. It's a good, descriptive, practical word.

But lately I've been seeing it used as in the following two quotes from a book I read recently.

We need to understand how we can support and connect with our partners, sons, fathers, brothers, friends, and children....

Certainly women—mothers, sisters, partners, girlfriends, daughters—also shame men about their masculinity and power....

Do you see what's happening here? Mother/father, son/daughter, sister/brother are recognized as distinct entities, but husband/wife is gone. Even the inclusive "spouse" is gone, replaced by "partner," definition 2d, which is not at all the same thing.

Certainly my husband is my partner in that sense, as well as in the more general sense of 2a, and for that matter most of the other definitions. But "partner," in more recent usage, is far too broad a term, boiling down basically to "the person I'm having sex with on a regular basis."  The marriage relationship is so much more than that.  (I tried substituting "the person I love and am living with," but as that can include children and other family members, it's clearly not what is meant by this sense of "partner."  Sex seems to be the obvious distinction.)

Most pernicious, it seems to me, is that "partner" loses the ideals of exclusivity and permanence. Marriages may fail at either or both, but the intent and the ideal are there from the outset. Partnerships are generally formed for a limited, specific purpose, and with the understanding that they can and probably will be dissolved at some point. A nation's allies will change; dancers will "cut in," my daughter may decide to she wants to be on her aunt's team for the next WordChums game; maybe a business partnership will split into two or three different companies.

One term implies a lifelong, exclusive commitment—not only to a person but to that person's family and especially to any children of the union. The other implies that eventual dissolution is normal and even to be expected. They are not interchangeable.

That's a giant worth battling, even if the world sees only a windmill.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 2, 2017 at 9:28 am | Edit
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