Flying AA 1263 DFW to LGA. Over all Walls, Barriers and Fences.

Not a statistically significant sample for the Data Kings, but good enough for me. Here’s a driver profile summary for my last 5 Uber rides in Dallas:

“Egber”
Descent: Kurdish, 1st generation arrived in U.S. age 1
Car: Hyundai Elantra (spotless inside)
Music Playing: Country
Uber Rating: 4.88
My Rating: 5.0

“Fouad”
Descent: Egypt (1st Gen)
Car: Toyota Camry (Spotless)
Music Playing: Classical
Uber Rating: 4.82
My Rating: 5.0

“Rafat”
Descent: Jordan.
Car: Toyota Camry (Spotless)
Music Playing: Classical (soft)
Uber Rating: 4.88.
My Rating: 5.0

“Bennie”
Descent: U.S. Lake Providence, Louisiana. African American. “Retired Grandpa of 5. Love People.”
Car: Lexus ES. (Spotless)
Music Playing: Jazz
Uber Rating: 4.94
My Rating: 5.0

“Jason”
Descent: Jamaica (1st Gen)
Car: Nissan Maxima (Spotless)
Music Playing: Pop
Uber Rating: 4.91
My Rating: 5.0

This Rider (DK)
Descent: Canada (1st Gen). Green Card Resident.
My Uber Rating: 4.92

Punch line:

God Bless America.

I love this country.


Photo: (via me-poppins)

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

  • Photograph: San Diego Zoo. Dromedary: 7 to 11 feet long; 6 to 6.6 feet tall at the shoulder; weights 880 to 1,320 pounds when grown. Gestation of 12 to 14 months. A newborn camel is able to walk beside the mother within half an hour.  Camel calves nurse for 10 to 18 months. Reach full adult size at age seven. Median life expectancy is 17.8 years.
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

Invisibly, almost without notice, we are losing ourselves

Physicist, novelist, and essayist Alan Lightman has added his own manifestoIn Praise of Wasting Time. Of course, the title is ironic, because Lightman argues that by putting down our devices and spending time on quiet reflection, we regain some of our lost humanity, peace of mind, and capacity for creativity—not a waste of time, after all, despite the prevailing mentality that we should spend every moment actually doing something. The problem is not only our devices, the internet, and social media. Lightman argues that the world has become much more noisy, fast-paced, and distracting. Partly, he writes, this is because the advances that have enabled the much greater transfer of data, and therefore productivity, have created an environment in which seemingly inexorable market forces push for more time working and less leisure time.

Lightman starts his book with an anecdote from his recent time in a rural village in Cambodia. When he asked a villager how long it took her to bike daily to the market ten miles away to barter for food and goods, she replied that she had never thought about it. Lightman is “startled” at this, and jealous. He points out that we in the “developed” world (his scare quotes) have carved up our days into minuscule portions, not a single one to be wasted. He admits that “from the instant I open my eyes in the morning until I turn out the lights at night, I am at work on some project. First thing in the morning, I check my email. For any unexpected opening of time that appears during the day, I rush to patch it, as if a tear in my trousers…” 

Lightman points to several productive, creative individuals who routinely had unstructured time in their days. A fellow physicist at MIT, Paul Schechter, used to sit for hours daydreaming on park benches, which he credited with helping come up with important ideas, including a formula for the number of galaxies with different luminosities. Gertrude Stein used to drive around in the country every day and find a place to sit and write; much of that time was not spent writing, but gazing at cows. Mathematician Henri Poincaré, after a few weeks of fruitless work on functions, drank coffee one evening and in his sleeplessness found that “[i]deas rose in crowds; I felt them collide under pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. By the next morning I had established the existence of a class of Fuchsian functions . . . “

Lightman feels we are in a “dire” situation:

Invisibly, almost without notice, we are losing ourselves. We are losing our ability to know who we are and what is important to us. We are creating a global machine in which each of us is a mindless and reflexive cog, relentless driven by the speed, noise, and artificial urgency of the wired world.

~ Anitra Pavlico, from “Alan Lightman On Wasting Time” (3quarksdaily, January 7, 2019)


Photo: Financial Times

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


Photo: Starling by Ostdrossel (Michigan, Jan 5, 2019, National Bird Day!)

Sunday Morning

Carrying a day
is like carrying a mountain,
Brooding over your own horizon
those endless small words
The silence at the end of sentences.
Come to the bank
Breathe the snow
Put your day down

Terrance Keenan, excerpted and edited from “Lullaby of Crossing the River” in St. Nadie in Winter


Notes: Poem via The Vale of Soul Making. Photo by Patty Maher (The Quiet Storm).

What’s Your Spirit Bird?

 

I sit at the kitchen table preparing to read the NY Times. I separate the front section from the rest of the paper, and then pause.

I get up, go to the fridge and grab the remains of yesterday’s leftovers.

I turn to the Opinion Pages, my first stop, and scan the titles. My eyes spot an essay by Margaret Renkl.  I’m a fan-boy of Margarets. I see that her piece is titled “Spring is Coming“…well that’s a bit aggressive on January 5th, no Margaret? 

I read on.

“There’s a New Year’s tradition among bird-watchers: The first bird you see on New Year’s Day is your theme bird for the year. Your spirit bird, the bird that sets the tone for your encounters with the world and with others, the bird that guides your heart and your imagination in the coming year. It’s hardly a serious ornithological exploration, but there are plenty of birders who will wake before dawn anyway, no matter how late they stayed up on New Year’s Eve. They will drive off to some wild place teeming with avian life, all to increase the sunrise odds of seeing a truly amazing first bird. Who wouldn’t love to be matched for a year to the spirit of the snowy owl? What a gift to be guided for 12 months by the soul of a Bohemian waxwing!”

I pause.

Yea, OK, it’s January 5th, it’s well beyond New Year’s Day but there’s no reason I can’t find my bird now. I need my spirit bird Now.

I stop nibbling on my sandwich. Get up. Step out the back door, watch, and listen.

Silence.

I wait a few moments longer, in my short sleeve t-shirt, in 38° F temperatures.

Nothing. 

Perhaps some encouragement. Come on Red! Where’s that Red Cardinal? There are four bird feeders in the backyard. All hang on their poles silently. No breeze. They don’t swing. They are Still.

Nothing.

I step back into the house, pull the sliding door closed, and finish up Margaret’s essay.

No Bird. Wonder what that means.

I reach for the remaining quarter of my sandwich, and look down…

Chicken Sandwich…

What a gift to be guided for 12 months by the soul of a Bohemian waxwing!


Photo: Ostdrossel

Big Baby

A rare black rhinoceros calf, born on Dec. 9, is seen with his mother Maisha at a zoo in the Czech city of Dvur Kralove nad Labem. (David Tanecek, wsj.com January 4, 2018). More on the story here.

T.G.I.F. (It’s been a LONG Week!)


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly

Goethe’s final words: “More light.” Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that’s been our unifying cry: “More light.” Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier’s field. Little tiny flashlight for those books we read under the covers when we’re supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and foot-candles. Light is metaphor. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom – Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home – Lead Thou me on! Arise, shine, for thy light has come. Light is knowledge. Light is life. Light is light.”

— Chris Stevens (played by John Corbett), “Northern Exposure” (TV Series 1990-1995)

Notes:

  • Portrait of John Corbett. Quote via Schonwieder
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

True story: One summer, years ago, I went tubing…The sun was blazing, and the water was cool. It was a perfect day to close your eyes and let the current carry you. I was enjoying myself, until we rounded the final bend and saw the parking lot. I leaned back to get my arms in the water and I started to kick and paddle. In a froth of churning water, I passed my mom, my sister, my boyfriend and my brothers, and as I reached the dock, I shouted out, “I won!”

That’s me. All my life, I’ve made lists and set deadlines, never content, or even able, to just glide.

That kind of drive has served me well when aimed at challenges within my control, like writing a novel…I never stopped hoping that if I worked hard enough, wanted it badly enough, I’d finally get the acclaim that I craved…

That did not happen. And my brain, which had propelled me toward so many successes, could not push me past disappointment. Instead of focusing on everything that had gone right, including how lucky I was to make a living as a writer, it got stuck on what had gone wrong. Let’s think about it! my brain suggested, like a Roomba endlessly butting itself into a corner. Let’s think about it a lot. Especially at 3 in the morning. Let’s go over every single choice. Let’s dwell.

I tried yoga. I attempted meditation. Nothing helped. Instead, each spiritual setting and inner-growth-focused class presented new opportunities to compete: I held that pose for longer than anyone in the class. I’m way more Zen than she is. Finally, I remembered reading about how learning something new — creating new neural pathways — was a way to send your thoughts in different directions.

And so, after a 35-year hiatus, I started taking piano lessons again.

I had been an indifferent piano student as a kid…By high school, I had bumped up against the limits of my natural abilities. So I quit. I turned my attention toward activities at which I could excel…


Photo: videvo

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