Saturday, July 27, 2019

June and July novels: Alia Tero and Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop

I just noticed a didn't post about a fiction read in June. Last month I re-read a favorite sci-fi dystopian novel called Alia Tero. The reason I re-read it was because I had heard that the authors had re-written/edited it and I wanted to see what changed. However, I think in my version, nothing changed. That's a problem I have with Kindle books. The changes don't always get pushed to your device. I even checked the list of books that had changes ready, and Alia Tero wasn't on the list. One time I complained to Amazon about this and they said that they don't usually bother when the book is cheap or free. I do think I got Alia Tero for free so maybe I'm not allowed to see changes. And they don't even let you delete the book and then buy it again to see the changes. Then again the page count on Amazon seemed to be the same as the page count in my book. But even that is hard because let's face it, it's an e-book, it doesn't have pages.

At any rate, if you like dystopian novels, I recommend this one. It doesn't have any violence. In this version of earth, it's sort of a socialist society where everyone pitches in to do most everything (except for advanced careers like doctors). One lives life in 4-month rotations, always changing homes and jobs every 4 months. The book follows one character as he goes through several rotations and learns that maybe there could be a different type of life. As you might imagine, some characters are grumbling about the rotations and how they want to rebel and just stay put and have a family. My one complaint about this book is that this part of the storyline is never fleshed out. The rebellion could be a huge part of the story, or maybe that will be a sequel.

This month I realized around July 25 that I hadn't read a novel yet. I'm kind of bored of my monthly free Kindle selections, and in fact this month I didn't even download one because they all looked so bad. So a couple days ago I just searched for Kindle bargains to see what looked good that day. For $2.99 I got a British chick lit (is there any U.S.-based chick lit???) book called Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop.

It was the usual British chick lit but I was happy because in this version, when the main character gets dumped by her cheating husband and she didn't see it coming and then she gets really drunk and does something stupid, well, in this version Rosie buys a camper van and decides to live in it on the road. So I learned about van life, in Europe anyway, and that part was interesting to me.

I might have to read that Bernadette book next month just because at least I know it takes place in Seattle.

Friday, July 26, 2019

July nonfiction: Small Places: In Search of a Vanishing America

This month was a re-read of an old book by Thomas H. Rawls. Small Places: In Search of a Vanishing America. I picked up this book when we lived in Montrose and there was a Saturday market by my house every weekend, including a used bookseller. I really miss Montrose. This book was published in 1990 and now as a re-read I see it is actually outdated. One would think that the subject matter of small towns disappearing would remain current, but in this case there are a lot of references that just don't apply anymore.

At the time of writing, the worldwide web hadn't taken off, and the author suggests that the vanishing of small towns is "new" phenomenon that just started "twenty years ago" which would have been 1970. Therefore reading the book with the idea of small towns disappearing being a "new" thing is an unusual and outdated slant. I also disagree that small towns just started disappearing in 1970. I mean, that's just not true. Look up the history of any mining ghost town.

Chapter 2 covers Antelope, Oregon and the Rajneeshees, a story that has recently fascinated the public thanks to the amazing Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. But it's now kind of a strange read because in 1990 the Rajneeshees had not yet completely exited Antelope. Bhagwan had been deported by then, and the public was aware that a few of the Rajneeshees had deliberately spread salmonella in The Dalles, but the compound still existed at the time of the book's publication. So, this is not by any means a full story of Antelope, and in fact I can only imagine that the 2018 release of Wild Wild Country has changed the town of Antelope yet again. I say "I imagine" because I have not yet been there (though I want to go), because it really is in the middle of nowhere. This is one example of why I feel that Small Places is sort of outdated in its concepts. By zooming in too close the author seems to miss that places grow and shrink and grow again over longer periods of time than 20 years.

I do like the author's writing style in that he is not overly sentimental or nostalgic about the alleged loss of these places. He traveled to all the places he wrote about, and he interviewed the locals, and just factually reports what they said and what he saw. I liked that he observed that it was not illegal for the Rajneeshees to purchase that land and build a compound, a fact that was also clear from Wild Wild Country. 

In another chapter he observes that people moving from a big city to a small town tend to try to bring the city to the town, instead of changing their own ways to adapt to a small town life. A local laments that the outsiders were sending their children to private schools, indicating that the small town public school wasn't good enough. Complaining. But maybe it really wasn't good enough. How much adapting is necessary and how much is actually making life more difficult or even more dangerous? In another chapter the author interviews a local who makes the comment that what the town really needs is a fire engine. And the author wholeheartedly agrees. Would upgrading the town's fire response system really be so terrible?

The book raises a lot of debates or questions such as these, but reading about these towns and knowing that a whole lot has changed in these places, and in the economy, since the book was written left me with a lot more questions and doubt about the judgments that were implied.

However, if you view this as a history book, you can get a 1990 glimpse at the following towns:
Grinnell, Iowa; Antelope, Oregon; Mount Hope, Ohio; Chelan, Washington; Dott, Pennsylvania; Keuka Lake, New York; Lynchburg, Tennessee; International Falls, Minnesota; Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin; Osceola, Missouri; Nye, Montana; Point Reyes Station, California; Palmer, Alaska; North Danville, Vermont; and Stillwater Township, New Jersey.

I thought about donating the book, but I do feel nostalgic for Montrose. Further proof that I bought it in Montrose was the fact that I found an old Hillary Clinton sticker in the book that I had been using as a bookmark. It was from her first campaign.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

June and July classic movies

In June my classic movie was Peter Pan. I didn't realize that I hadn't actually seen it before. The Disney Channel used to show so many clips from various scenes throughout the movie, from beginning to end, that it felt like I had seen it. But there were definitely scenes I didn't remember, most notably the scenes with the Indians. I purchased the movie because I'd like to get my kids to watch it before our next Disney vacation, especially because I would like to show them Fantasmic!

In July, my classic movie was A Letter to Three Wives. This 1949 black and white film was nominated for Best Picture. It didn't win, but did pick up Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Direction.

I liked this movie a lot. I rented it on Amazon but I liked it enough that I would consider purchasing it so I could watch it again. The plot was relatively unique compared to most movies, and very interesting. The 3 wives are headed to a charity event on an island (without phones) when they receive a single letter addressed to all of them. It is from a divorcee that they are all jealous of, and the divorcee tells them that she is leaving town and taking one of their husbands with her. The women stoically go on with their day and do not gossip much with each other, but each one is clearly fraught with worry or wonder over what they will find when they get back home. The next chapters are a set of 3 flashbacks, one for each wife, illustrating how each of them has a very different type of marriage, and each of them also has a reason to worry that her husband is the one who has left. Every character/actor in the movie is very strong, even the supporting actors. The audience favorite is Linda Darnell who plays Lora Mae. She's the dark-haired one in the picture. But my favorite was Ann Sothern who played Rita Phipps (pictured in the center). 

As for the ending, they do reveal whose husband strayed, but I did not like the ending so much. I hope it is not TOO much of a spoiler to say it is resolved happily. I thought the last minute (literally) happy ending was too nice and I would have liked it to end without the last minute or so.

The film was based on a novel called Letter to Five Wives, and I would have liked to read it but it appears the print version is extremely rare (it was originally published in magazine format). And some readers are saying the movie is much better anyway. Which I guess is why it won Best Direction and Best Screenplay.

Friday, June 28, 2019

June nonfiction: You Are The Placebo by Joe Dispenza

Once again I don't remember who recommended this book to me. You Are The Placebo by Joe Dispenza, published in 2014. As I write this, I see that he has a newer book that just came out a few months ago, called Becoming Supernatural. That title doesn't surprise me, based on Placebo. Here are my book notes.

To summarize in one sentence, I would say that Placebo is "out there" and yet believable at the same time, when Dr. Joe describes what the human mind is capable of doing to the human body. As a skeptic, I was initially put off by the first couple of chapters, but Dr. Joe does well in describing the science behind his claims. I would say that on its own, I don't think this book would convince a skeptic. But knowledge of other studies and the daily discoveries made by quantum physicists lends support to the claims in Placebo. In general, I believe Dr. Joe does a pretty good job of describing the physical changes that happen in the body in response to various outside actions, but my opinion is that not all of those things are "placebo" in the medical sense. For example, we all know that stressful thoughts/emotions trigger the fight-or-flight reaction in the physical body. I do not feel like that reaction is placebo, though it is an example of thoughts/mind controlling the body. But that is just semantics, the advice is still good, so do not get hung up on whether or not an action is a medical placebo or something else.

Here are my book notes.

Preface: Dr. Joe describes a rather unbelievable story of being a 23yo chiropractor when he was run over by an SUV during the bicycling part of a triathlon. He then grows a new spine (I exaggerate somewhat) in 9 weeks, simply by thinking about it. I really have a hard time believing some of the details of this story. I have heard plenty of similar stories on Bulletproof Radio and the like, but not someone getting well in only 9 weeks. The preface made me immediately skeptical of Dr. Joe personally.

Introduction: He explains that a placebo is not about lying to one's self. If you are sick, you don't tell yourself that you are actually well and expect your body to believe the lie. The placebo effect is about believing in a potential transformation, from illness to wellness.

He also clarifies that just because a placebo works, does not mean that other treatments do not also work. In chapter 2 he repeats this with the more specific example of what you may already know, that placebo outperforms antidepressants. I am making up this example: suppose a drug was tested against a placebo sugar pill. And suppose that 40% in the drug group got better, and 45% in the placebo group got better. Some may argue that those who got the drug were only responding to their own placebo effect and that the drug didn't work at all. But Dr. Joe explains that this is a flawed conclusion. We don't know that the drug doesn't work at all. All we know for certain is that 45% in the placebo group got better. I did think it was interesting that Dr. Joe went out of his way to stick up for antidepressants. It was very unbiased of him to point this out, especially since he intended the story to give respect to the power of placebo.

Chapter one: a series of stories that I had mostly heard before, demonstrating the placebo effect. No new information if you haven't been living under a rock.

Chapter 2: more stories illustrating the placebo effect, dating back hundreds of years. Description of the "nocebo" effect. I thought that was a slang word but it's actually a real word. It means when someone is harmed by a harmless substance or event simply because the person believed it would harm him or her. So, the opposite of what a placebo does.

page 32: describes 2 studies from the 1970s that changed what we know about placebo. The first study proved that placebo effect was happening in the body, not the mind (or, not ONLY the mind).

The 2nd study showed that body could be conditioned to have a physiological response to an inert substance, smell, or even thought. It's complicated to explain, but it was a study on rats that ended up with some rather scary results from a nocebo.

page 35-36: an example of laughter as medicine (though Dr. Joe did also note that the patient also was taking massive doses of vitamin C), and then another example of laughter as medicine but studied with gene expression as evidence.

page 36-37: the 'placebos outperform antidepressants' discussion that I mentioned earlier

page 38: we started studying placebo effect with brain scans in 2001, proving brains were reacting to placebo.

page 40: "there isn't just one placebo response...but several." For example there is consciously thinking of wellness (or illness), and there is also proof that the body can be conditioned without you being conscious of it all, e.g. those poor rats from page 32. There are also subconscious effects like what color the placebo pills are (example on page 42).

Describes the 2010 study that you may have heard of before, in which participants were plainly told that they were getting a sugar pill and not actual medicine, and still got better. Note that the patients were told they were participating in a placebo study where they were expected to get better on placebo. It's not like they were told "this is a sugar pill that we expect to do nothing." This is important to see the difference. It ties back to Dr. Joe's initial statement in the introduction that placebo requires believing in a potential transformation.

page 41: describes another study I've heard of before in which hotel maids who were told that their jobs gave them lots of exercise, lost weight. Compared with a maids at a different hotel who were not told the same thing and did not lose weight. In my mind this is NOT evidence of placebo effect; it is evidence that awareness leads to outcome. Like how you take more steps when you are using a step counter. However, later in the next chapter Dr. Joe will include this concept as part of placebo, although he concedes that this is a conscious effort.

page 42: "When we put greater intention behind what we are doing, we naturally get better results." Dr. Joe explains that the reason he tells us these studies is so that we (readers) can get better results from the placebo effect. By putting greater intention into achieving the placebo effect.

page 43-44: illustrative examples of what I would call self-fulfilling prophecies. Believing you are going to fail a test so then you fail the test because you behaved as if you were going to fail. I am paraphrasing, he doesn't actually use these words. So then he does suggest that the self-fulfilling prophecy could be taken to a greater extreme if you believe a drug or surgery is going to work or not work...could it be the same concept as your attitude causing you to pass or fail a test? Is the brain so powerful as to make you well or unwell based only on your thoughts?

page 54: If you want change, "you must become conscious of the unconscious behaviors you've been choosing to demonstrate, that have led to the same experiences, and then you must make new choices, take new actions, and create new experiences." This should result in evolution within your brain.

page 57: discussion of how learning and remembering actually alters the physical structure of the brain.

page 63: "The hardest part about change is not making the same choices we made the day before. ...The moment we are no longer thinking the same thoughts...we immediately feel uncomfortable. This new state of being is unfamiliar; it's unknown." "That's the moment we know we've stepped into the river of change."

page 68: "...The conscious mind isn't really in charge. The body has subconsciously been programmed and conditioned to be come its own mind." This part is where Dr. Joe is explaining that our thoughts trigger emotions and our emotions trigger physical reactions in our bodies and that enough repetition of these same thoughts cause the physical reactions to become hardwired. This goes back again to the complicated rats example from page 32. Where a series of events triggers an outcome, until eventually the body memorizes the outcome such that the series of events is no longer required.

page 69: interesting comment linking repetitive thoughts and behaviors with aging. "When the same genes are repeatedly activated by the same information from the brain, then genes keep getting selected over and over again, and just like gears in a car, they start to wear out. The body makes proteins with weaker structures and lesser functions. We get sick and we age." Wow, there are A LOT of claims in these few sentences. Are any of them true??

page 69 again: describes 2 scenarios where the body reacts to repetitive thoughts and emotions. (1) The cell that is consistently receiving the same information, adapts/evolves/modifies itself to accommodate the constant barrage of same information. Comparison made to supermarket opening up additional checkout lanes when lines are too long. In this manner, the body has physically changed to adapt to the mind. (2) The cell that is consistently receiving the same information gets overwhelmed and adapts by ignoring the information. The cell only 'notices' when the lines increase even longer/brain is feeling heightened emotion.

page 70: both scenarios from page 69 mimic addiction. In (1) if the chemicals/emotions are not present, the cell craves them and then our brains notice the craving. In (2) this probably reminded you already of drug addicts who require more and more of a chemical for the same thrill, or a person who "needs" to get angrier and angrier at nothing just for a stimulant.

page 71: Dr. Joe suggests that we are only 5% conscious and 95% subconscious. (This reminds me of the 10% Human theory, which suggests that we are 90% driven by bacteria and microbes.) Therefore it will require some effort for that 5% to override the other 95% if that other 95% is going in the 'wrong' direction.

page 83: discussion of DNA in which Dr. Joe says the concept that our genes pre-determine 'everything' is an outdated concept from 1970 that is repeated constantly in news and other media, but actually is not true. Genes are not eggs that ultimately hatch. Instead, genes may be expressed, OR NOT, and our thoughts or lifestyle trigger those gene expressions, OR NOT.

page 84: Knowledge about genes and DNA changed dramatically in 2003 when the human genome was mapped and the hypotheses that had been put forth by the researchers turned out not to be true. Specifically, in 1990 when the project began, they predicted that humans have 140k genes, but in 2003 they found it is 23,688 and that's it. So this messed up their hypothesis that each gene does only one thing, because our bodies make about 140k different proteins for different things. This led to a new hypothesis that various gene combinations working together, turning on (expressing), or turning off (suppressing) that produces the 140k different proteins.

page 85: Genes are classified by the type of activity that causes them to turn on or off. Some genes are expressed when we are learning, some are expressed during exercise, etc. So they might be classified as experience-dependent, activity-dependent, or behavioral-dependent. Behavioral-dependent genes are activated during stress, emotion, our thoughts.

page 86: references further reading, The Psychobiology of Gene Expression

page 87: gets into deeper scientific explanation of how genes are expressed

page 92: Epigenetics refers to the control of genes from signals coming from the environment and not the DNA. The Human Epigenome Project launched in 2003 immediately after the Human Genome Project was completed. The scale of the Epigenome Project is massively larger than the Human Genome Project.

page 94: good example involving twins. Twins are born with the same DNA but they don't get the same diseases, etc. As the twins get older, researchers find their gene expression gets more and more different, proving that the expression is caused by the environment, and not a 'program' within the body. Twins are like exact copies of the same model of a computer. The 2 computers begin with the same starter software but over time they downloaded different software (epigenetic variations) along the way. The computer itself is the DNA, which does not change.

page 95: examples of medical studies in which epigenetic changes were made very quickly, over 3 to 6 months in the examples given.

page 96: if cells aren't ignited in a new way, they won't change. They don't just magically decide to change, you have to change your thoughts, environment, something.

page 98: stress is super bad, you have to relax

page 105, chapter 5: now taking it a step further by having thoughts based on a future environment that doesn't exist yet. Make your brain think the experience has already happened. Must do this repetitively in order to physically change the brain/body. Examples that you probably heard of before: athletes rehearsing in their minds, professional dancers "practicing" in their heads, musicians practicing in their heads, then when time to perform their bodies react perfectly.

page 132: following a discussion and examples of hypnosis. "Suggestibility combines 3 elements: acceptance, belief, and surrender." "Suggestibility isn't just an intellectual process. [You] can intellectualize being better, but if [you] can't emotionally embrace the result, [you]  can't enter into the autonomic nervous system...which is vital because that's the seat of the subconscious programming..."

page 134: These can't just be any emotions. Negative emotions such as anger, anxiety trigger the fight-or-flight survival reactions in the body. We do not the body to go into survival mode based on past conditioning. Positive emotions such as gratitude and peace will not trigger the fight-or-flight response and will allow genes to express that would not normally do so in fight-or-flight.  Additionally, note that you can't "try" to make something happen with your thoughts. This is a struggle against your analytical mind. You just "allow" or accept/believe/surrender. Yoda reference on this page.

page 135: Dr. Joe suggests that feeling gratitude is the best way to increase suggestibility in your mind/body. Imagine the outcome and feel grateful as if it already happened. When repeated, the body will begin to believe the future event has actually happened.

page 139: "...The placebo works only when the analytical mind is silenced so that your awareness can instead interact with the subconscious mind...eclipse your conscious mind with your autonomic nervous system."

page 141: begin discussion of implicit or procedural memories. Example, the action of reading, typing on a keyboard, or tying your shoes is subconscious, your body has memorized what to do and you don't even have to think about it. Discussion of how these implicit memories are tied to emotions and suggestibility and the difficulty of suggestibility.

page 148: begin discussion of meditation.

page 169: might want to skip this story, it is a troubling study about Cambodian women in the 1980s who were going legally blind. It was found that these women had witnessed unspeakable acts during the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s and their brains apparently reacted by making them go blind. There is some description of the unspeakable acts and it is very disturbing.

page 172: something Dr. Joe will end up reiterating for the rest of the book. "Just changing your beliefs and perceptions once isn't enough. You have to reinforce that change over and over." Examples and discussion follow.

page 181: begin discussion of quantum physics. It's a good chapter, but I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the Nova The Elegant Universe before.

page 199-end: the rest of the book gives examples of "personal transformation", images of brain scans I didn't really understand but he tries to explain, and text for a meditation that Dr. Joe wrote. As he continually states, he says the meditation needs to be done DAILY in order for the placebo effect to work. It is lengthy, he says there is a 45-minute version and a 1-hour version. You can record it yourself or you can purchase a copy of Dr. Joe reading it from his website.

Friday, June 07, 2019

May 19 for 2019 update

This month's novel was Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause. It was one of the free Kindle selections in May. I liked it a lot. There's some plot twists and it wasn't too predictable. One of the characters has really bad OCD, so if you're not comfortable reading about mental illness, it might not be for you. I personally never figured out the author's intent for writing so much about OCD. I am not sure if she really meant to educate the reader somehow, or if this was just a marketing gimmick. There were times that I felt it was in poor taste to make a character disabled if it was just to make the book more interesting. But, I really wanted to know what happened, so I kept reading. There are other references to mental illness as well. Some people do die in the story, and there is a reference to a supporting character's suicide, but all of this happens "off screen", so to speak. Anyway, an interesting set of stories in these two women's lives, and how they eventually intersect.


My nonfiction book for May was Live Your Truth by Kamal Ravikant. I got this one in July 2018 but I had never read it. I like the Ravikant brothers, and I think this book was on sale at the time. However, I did not find this book to be very memorable. Kamal wrote it after a breakup and after recovering from illness and depression the year before. So I think the intended audience is "sad people" and it did not resonate with me at the moment. Kamal seems like a sad sort of person and also a weird person. I have a novel that he wrote in 2017 (it's coming back to me now, I think that one was on sale too), and maybe I'll read it...maybe I won't. I'm not really selling Kamal very well but if you are feeling sad or going through a breakup then either this book or his first one (Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It) would be recommended. As I write this, I noticed that the blurb reviewers for the book are Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, and AJ Jacobs. Search for Kamal's interviews with any of those guys if you'd rather to listen to something a little more interesting than this book. Also note that of the 2 brothers I do prefer to listen to @naval.

This month's classic movie was War Games, which is currently available to stream for free if you have Amazon Prime. That was a fun movie to re-watch, and see all the old 1980s references that now we see in Stranger Things. I had recently heard some discussion about this movie on the 99 Percent Invisible podcast, though I don't remember which episode...sorry...but I'm sure it helped to inspire my choice.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

April novel and classic movie

My April novel was The Woman on the Orient Express.

I believe I got that one for free on Kindle, and I chose it because the woman is a fictionalized version of Agatha Christie, so I thought it sounded interesting. I've read a little bit of Agatha Christie, including 2 different novels that took place on the Orient Express, so I was definitely intrigued by this one. I liked it, would recommend.

My April classic movie was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

I wanted to choose a Marilyn Monroe film. I didn't think she was so great in this one, she was only ok, but Jane Russell really stole it. Mike and I are thinking next we'll do a later Marilyn Monroe film to compare. We both seemed to remember that we thought she was funnier in Some Like It Hot. I am guessing the acting lessons really did improve her skills after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sowing the seeds

This spring I have made huge progress in remaking our front lawn. For the past several years we have looked out the window and been really depressed at what is nothing more than a huge jungle. Managing a one acre (less house footprint) jungle is overwhelming. And yet suddenly this year for the first time I have been able to manage it. I am not sure what is different this year. Perhaps the weather has been agreeable - not raining AND not hot...I do remember trying to tackle the lawn last year and that it was just too hot to work. Also Mike says he believes I am not so busy now as I was last year. That must be true too. So in the last few weeks I have completely ripped out everything from the front yard, including bushes and all the existing grass. I planted 7 trees in the ground, hauled rocks, built a new rock wall, and I re-seeded the lawn. Several garden snakes have had to find new homes. All that being completed, I would guess we're only about 20% done with the whole acre...? There is a lot more work to be done before it gets hot.

Here's some photos of Libby and me putting down grass seed.

Friday, April 26, 2019

April nonfiction - The Miracle Equation

For my April nonfiction I chose the new book by Hal Elrod, The Miracle Equation.

It was just published last week and I accidentally bought 2 copies during the preorder phase. I bought the Kindle version as well as a signed hardback. I'm still waiting on my signed copy, so I guess it's lucky I got the Kindle one right away. Obviously I'm one of Hal's followers. I can honestly say that he changed my life, though it wasn't because of his Miracle Morning series of books which is what he's known for. The reason Hal Elrod changed my life is because his podcast is the first one that I ever listened to that I really enjoyed, and if it weren't for his podcast I wouldn't have found Jordan Harbinger, and if it weren't for Jordan Harbinger I wouldn't have found James Altucher (side note, that's probably not true, because James Altucher is friends with Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics and I also listen to SD), and if it weren't for both Hal Elrod and James Altucher that I wouldn't have found Dave Asprey, and if not for that I wouldn't have introduced Mike to Dave Asprey, and Dave Asprey changed Mike's life.

So I've been following Hal Elrod for several years now, and last year he spent beating cancer, so I followed that as well. He had suddenly been diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer and all the podcasters were talking about it and they were so shocked, but we all knew that if anyone could beat an extremely rare and aggressive cancer it would be Hal Elrod, and so it really was zero surprise that he did.

He tells his cancer story in one chapter of The Miracle Equation. It's necessary to learn his story in order to understand how one can remain positive in the face of such a challenge.

The Miracle Equation is deceptively simple. Hal says you define a mission for yourself, and then the mission will "miraculously" happen if you put forth Unwavering Faith and Extraordinary Effort.

As I read the book it raised a lot of questions for me, particularly about the Extraordinary Effort, but eventually all my questions were answered and I was comfortable with the equation.

Regarding the Unwavering Faith, Hal gives a lot of examples that you are probably familiar with. Dr. Seuss's books getting rejected. Elvis being told he couldn't sing. Michael Jordan being cut from his school basketball team. When you have Unwavering Faith, these types of rejections don't shake your belief in your mission. And the mission may take a really long time.

Regarding Extraordinary Effort, it turns out it's not that extraordinary after all. It's just the Jerry Seinfeld "don't break the chain" philosophy. The Extraordinary Effort is that you do something toward your mission every single day, even if it's just 15 minutes. But you have to do it Every.Day.

What really helped me further accept this concept is that Hal says you do not attach any emotion to your effort and you don't measure results. I have actually been working on a big project that I might consider to be a mission, because it is taking a long time. Since it is taking a long time it causes self-doubt and negative thoughts to creep in whenever I'm working on it. But after I read The Miracle Equation all my negative thoughts went away. I work on my project for an hour each day and it doesn't matter if I don't finish or make any measurable progress. My progress is simply that I'm an hour further along than I was yesterday. Since I have faith that my project is worthwhile, then the incremental progress is all that matters.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

March 19 for 2019 update

This month's novel was Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I had to read it really fast before we went on vacation, because it was a library book and I had to wait a long time to get it. It was good, has a weird plot twist in the middle that you don't see coming.

My nonfiction book was The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. That one was a re-read because it is that good. It helps you narrow your focus to only one thing at a time. My choice to re-read this one is timely. We have had our PA for about a year now. She has made our daily life a lot better, but my time is still much too unfocused and split. It doesn't seem like there is a way to remedy that. My time is split between homeschooling the kids, my 2 jobs, and my volunteer work. I made the decision to quit the volunteer work. I made that choice before I re-read The One Thing, and reading the book only underscored that I'm certain it is the right choice for me. yes, I know the DAR has been such a big part of my life for the last several years. But at this time it is not moving my life forward or making my life easier. It used to give me an ego boost, in fact, many of the decisions I made were entirely ego-driven. So let's face it, my ego doesn't really need that any more. I'd say I have enough validation to last me at least a year! Ha ha. Gary Keller says, p. 191: "Someone once told me that one 'yes' must be defended over time by 1000 'nos'. Early in my career I didn't understand this at all. Today, I think it's an understatement." He also says that saying 'yes' when people need you is a heady thing. Well, that is what DAR is to me now. Now that the Vietnam book, monument, and website are finished, the rest of my job has become a to-do list that represents a 'yes' that now forces me to say 'no' to 1000 other things. I'm giving a speech in May, and I also have one more Vietnam committee meeting in May. I have one job I could step down from immediately. That leaves one other elected position in which I have one more year to serve. This then will be one less never-ending to-do list, one less distraction from my other jobs. I'm sure you all know the next job on the chopping block. That will be a good day. My one thing is to do whatever I can to get me to that day.

My classic movie was The Flemish Farm, which is available free if you have an Amazon Prime account. It was kind of weird because it is a WWII movie that was released in 1943. It was based on an event that occurred in 1940. So I realized it was a kind of propaganda. It must have been filmed and released to help British morale. It is allegedly the true story of the Belgian Air Force, who buried their flag when they realized they were about to be conquered by Germans. Six months later one of their own returns on foot to occupied Belgium to retrieve the flag. A DOG DIES so do not watch if you are especially opposed to doggie-snuff films. There is a lot of speech about how the flag is more important than life. It was interesting and Mike and I both liked the movie except the part where the dog gets killed when it is carrying the flag. Although at least it is not graphic or gross.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

February novel and classic movie

I finished my February novel earlier today, just in time for month end in a few days. I read The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee, which is the 2nd in The Thousandth Floor trilogy.

I liked this book, though maybe not as much as the first one. It's marketed as Young Adult fiction, but it's not juvenile. It's set 100 years in the future in New York and the sci-fi descriptions are very cool and the first reason I like this series. Some of the tech is already coming to reality, so perhaps we won't have to wait 100 years to live this efficient life.

That being said, I'm not sure I'll ever get around to reading the third book, though I admit I kind of want to know what happens.

My classic movie for February was Cleopatra.
Which is 4 hours long and I only had 48 hours to watch it because it was a rental. So I blocked out a Friday and Saturday night so I could watch it all. You would think I remembered how it ended since we just had the home school lesson a few weeks ago. But oh no, I didn't, so it was sad with the Romeo and Juliet ending. I did think the sets were impressive, no CGI and all that, but I am not sure it stands up to modern movies as so many passionate reviewers would have you think.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

February nonfiction: Stealing Fire

I finished one nonfiction book so far in February. I have a couple more in pile for February, but one is my minimum requirement for 19 for 2019.

I chose Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal.

There are no official book notes because there is nothing I wanted to remember about this book.  I hated this book.

I bought it last year or so after hearing these guys on a podcast. It must have been a really fascinating podcast to get me to spend my money on this. It was bugging me that I hadn't read it yet, so I put it on my list, which was basically the purpose of the 19 for 2019 resolution.

The book is basically about what normal people call flow state, but more like an extreme version of flow state they call ecstasis.

They begin with a very interesting chapter about the SEALs and how their most critical requirement is the ability to achieve hive mind or group think or whatever you want to call it. And how this (mostly, so far) has been nearly impossible to screen for (which they then disprove in later chapter, ref: AI Ellie). I liked that they did not take one second even explaining what hive mind or group think is. Although I must say, if I had never experienced it myself (exactly one time that I can remember) I might have been skeptical right from chapter one.

They also go on to state right away that this ecstasis is also historically achieved through religious experience, psychedelic drugs, meditation, extreme sports, and dancing. I liked that they included "dancing" (they don't define it further) because my mind meld experience happened at a ballroom dance. They did also separately reference playing music and listening to music as anecdotal sources of ecstasis. I don't recall if they actually referred to any studies confirming this, I suppose because that would make it too "normal", as we see in the later chapters. I can personally confirm the "playing music" source, as something else I witnessed once. Though I wasn't part of it, I did once see a large group (30+) of strangers playing drums together in an impromptu jam, and it was really something to be seen and heard. No one was speaking, and they sounded amazing.

The following chapters reference a huge amount of research, books, etc on technology that is not available to us, drugs that are illegal, neurobiology, church, state, etc. I thought at some point they would describe a "try this at home" scenario that actually applies to home-schooling mothers who also have 3 other jobs. But the closest thing comes on page 137: But for the rest (of) us? Those with lives and wives and things that matter? Are we shut out of these "alternate universes"? Do we have to make an impossible choice between dedicating decades to practice or accepting intolerable risks to get there faster? 

And then sadly, they go on to answer their own question by suggesting that we book an appointment at iFly.

That's it. That's the answer. Book an appointment at iFly.

They don't actually go back and revisit their own statements about music (playing it or listening to it), dancing, meditation, even seeing a movie.

The research and "facts" are fraught with confirmation bias, and every page is dripping with Burning Man elitism. They actually acknowledge this in the last section of the book which must have been required by their editor or publisher, which is sort of a brief apology that their book has the tone that it does.  Unfortunately you have to read all the way to the end to even get this half-hearted apology.

I'm not really sure who the intended audience is for this book. If not Silicon Valley, who is already aware of the tech/neurobiology described, then who? I would assume it would be for more of the layperson like myself. However, it's not really cool to make a big show of showing us behind the curtain, when all that's back there is stuff that still doesn't apply to us. And for experienced biohackers, there's actually nothing in the book that I didn't already know. It is a good list of resources for further research, but if you're already in this field of study, you wouldn't be starting with this book. Perhaps this is meant to be recruiting type of book for someone just starting to study, someone at least 20 years younger than myself.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

January novels and classic movie

As part of 19 for 2019, I'm reading at least one novel per month and watching at least one classic movie per month.

For January, the movie was The Million Pound Note. 

It is currently available to stream with Amazon Prime. It is based on a Mark Twain story and stars Gregory Peck. I knew nothing about it. Mike watched it with me and he said he recognized the story from an Eddie Murphy movie. I had to look that up on the Internet and came up with the Eddie Murphy movie Trading Places. I haven't seen that one either. We liked The Million Pound Note although the love story is outdated.

I read 2 short stories for my January fiction.

The first was The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank. It is a fantasy/ghost story and it has great traditional Christmas imagery.

I also read The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie. It also has nice imagery and a happy ending. It's included in The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries which was released in 2013 as a book of vintage/pulp stories.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

{genealogy} Foote ancestry part 6 - John Foote

John Foote

Heather’s 12th great grandfather

John Foote was born about 1523 in Royston, Hertfordshire, England. He married Helen Warren in 1548 in Hertfordshire, England. They had four children during their marriage, including my ancestor Robert Foote. John died in 1558 at the young age of 35, assuming he was born in 1523. He left a will, so it is possible that he was ill. The will is undated, but was probated 18 Jul 1558. His parentage is unknown, both according to the Foote Family Association and NEHGS.

He owned a small manor house along with some land in the town of Royston, according to the Foote Family Association.

His will indicates that his occupation was tallow chandler.

Extract from his will:

His will revealed that he had a wife named Helen, sons Robert and John, and daughters Aves or Avis (Alice) and Elizabeth.

The will also eluded to the testator's brother Foote, first name not stated and his two older children.

He left to the church of Royston, 20s;
To wife Helen, all lands and tenements in Royston for life; and L80 to be divided among all the children;

To servant Maud Smythe L6/13/4 to her marriage;

L3 that my brother Foot oweth to his two eldest children;

To wife's brother Richard Warren the younger and to her uncle John Jenawaye of Stoone, 40s each;

To wife the rest;
To son Robert a goblet, feather bed and bedding;
To son John Foot a silver salt, feather bed and bedding;
To Aves Foote and Elizabeth Foote, daughters, each three of the best spoons, bed and bedding;

All the remainder to wife named executrix.


William Meede, citizen and grocer of London;
John Jenaway,
Nicholas Warreyn of Bassingbourn
Richard Warreyn of Bassingbourn.

Regarding the alleged Foote coat of arms: I hate to be a spoilsport, but it is not registered with the official College of Arms in the UK. In other words, it isn't really a coat of arms. It perhaps was just someone's fun idea of participating in heraldry 100 years ago, which is fine, but it's just art, not a coat of arms.

There is also no evidence of the existence of the alleged James Foote who allegedly received the award. Sorry!

{genealogy} Foote ancestry part 5 - Robert Foote

Robert Foote

Heather’s 11th great grandfather

When Robert Foote was born in 1553 in England, his father, John, was 30 and his mother, Helen, was 33. He married Joan Brook on June 18, 1576, in St. Leonard’s Church, Eastcheap, London, England. They had 9 children during their marriage (some genealogies mistakenly omit youngest son Francis). The 9 children included my ancestor, Nathaniel Foote Sr. Robert died in February 1608 in Shalford, Essex, England, at the age of 55. Joan Brook was baptized 11 May 1555 in St. Leonard’s of Eastcheap, London.  She died 10 Oct 1634.

Their burial location is unmarked. The original St. Leonard’s Church in Eastcheap was burned in a fire in 1666 and was not rebuilt. Another St. Leonard’s Church exists in nearby Shoreditch, London, and is often confused with the Eastcheap St. Leanord’s. Even so, that location was heavily damaged in WWII and no gravestones remain.

At one time some genealogies suggested that Robert’s father was also named Robert, and that his mother’s name was unknown. The American Genealogist by NEHGS published 2 deep-dive analyses on this family in 1977 and 1978. One needs to read both analyses together, but ultimately it seems proven that the person originally believed to be the elder Robert, actually does not exist. This Robert’s father is John Foote who married Helen Warren. Some records associated with John were confusing enough that early genealogists attributed his records to someone they thought was named Robert. Thus, the elder “Robert”, and the John who married Helen Warren, are actually the same person.

Robert’s father died when Robert was 5 years old. His mother Helen then re-married to John Hall, trumpeter. 

Here is Robert and Joan’s marriage record:

Robert had a brother named John Jr. who was a wealthy grocer (grosser) in London. Robert’s will indicates that he was by no means poor, but was not as wealthy as his brother. Robert was a yeoman, which meant “freeholder”, just under the rank of “gentleman”, and meant that one owned a small estate of land. Robert owned property in Shalford and in Royston, and had the occupation of fishmonger. We learn his occupation from the will of his father-in-law.

Here is text from his will:
Robert Foote of Shalford, Essex, yeoman, 27 January 1608, proved 15 Feb 1608.

To the poor in the parish twenty shillings. to the poor in Wethersfield 20s. To my well beloved wife Joan, during her natural life, all such yearly rent as to me is reserved out of my lease of certain tenements which I hold for divers years

yet enduring by the grant of Sir Robert Chester knight and lying and being in the town of Royston, the yearly rent whereof to me reserved is at this present eight pounds. I give her also one annuity of four pounds to be paid during her natural life by my son Robert.

To my son James 5oF.
To son Daniel 40L at four and twenty.
The same each to sons, Nathaniel, Francis, and Josua at like ages .
To daughter Elizabeth Foote 40L at day of marriage or at age of thirty.
To son Joseph my lease and term of years in a certain hopground called Plomley w hich I hold by lease from Mr. Josyas Clarke and his wife.

Other gifts to him. Certain household stuff to wife.

Elizabeth Ormes my maid servant.
To --Tibbet, wi fe of William Tibbett, 5s in recompence of her pains she hath taken with me.

To Mr. Richard Rogers preacher of God his word 20s.

The wife of George Elsing. Thomas Cott.

To my son Robert my free tenement or mansion house wherein I now inhabit, with the land and the stock of hop poles upon the hop ground, he to pay the legacies & c.

The residue of my goods &c. to all my children.

If it happen my daughter Mary Heewes to be departed then her part to be paid to her children.

For the execution of this will I do ordain, nominate and appoint my well beloved son Robert Foote to be my sole executor and I do desire my well beloved brother John Foote of London grocer and my son in law John Hewe s of Royston to be supervisors and assistants to my executors. Dorset, 21

{genealogy} Foote ancestry part 4 - Nathaniel Foote Sr.

Nathaniel Foote Sr.

Heather’s 10th great grandfather

When Nathaniel Foote was born in 1592 in England, his father, Robert, was 39 and his mother, Joan, was 37. He married Elizabeth Deming around the year 1615, in England. They had 7 children during their marriage, the first 6 being born in England, and the 7th probably in Massachusetts. One of those children was my ancestor, Nathaniel Jr. Nathaniel Sr. died in 1644 in Wethersfield, Connecticut, at the age of 52, and was buried there, in the burying ground in the rear of the Meeting House.

He has his own Wikipedia page here:

He is listed as a Puritan in A Catalogue of the Names of the First Puritan Settlers of the Colony of Connecticut, p. 133.

From A Modern History of New London, Connecticut published 1922.

NF being first of New England record at Watertown, Massachusetts, where he took the oath of allegiance in 1633. Later, he became of the first settlers of Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he died in 1644, “an intelligent, pious, and industrious farmer,” and one of the magistrates of the colony of Connecticut.

From The Great Migration:

Origin: Shalford, Essex
Migration: 1634
First Residence: Watertown
Removes: Wethersfield, 1635
Freeman: 3 Sep 1634, Watertown
Offices: Deputy for Wethersfield to Connecticut General Court, 9 Sep 1641, 9 Nov 1641, 5 Jan 1642, Apr 1644. Also served on jury twice.
Estate: Watertown had homestead of 16 acres and marsh of 2 acres. Acquired by Henry Curttris late 1635 or early 1636.

His birth estimated at 1592 based on his apprenticeship record, being age 16 on 21 Sep 1608.

In 1644, there is a reference to him suing Robert Rose and winning. (Robert Rose is also my ancestor.)

From 80 Immigrants, published 1969:

"Nathaniel Foote was one of the first 10 settlers at Wethersfield. They were known as “the adventurers” and he was the largest holder of so-called “Adventurer’s lands”, amounting in all to over 400 acres. His home lot was at the south end of Broad Street, and his name is still perpetuated there by a street known as Foote Path Lane. He died intestate."

(Heather writing:) The word “Adventurer”, though it sounds heroic and dramatic, actually is just derived from the word “venture”. Also, Foote Path Lane still exists at the end of Broad Street in Wethersfield, just as described in 1969.

From Hartford County, Connecticut, Memorial History 1633-1884

"In addition to John Oldham, the few persons known in the Wethersfield records as the “Adventurers” (that is, occupants of land not deriving their title from the town) were, either in person or by representation, the settlers of 1634. Among these were the following, all from Watertown: William Bassum, John Clarke, Abraham Finch, Sgt. John Strickland, Robert Rose, Andrew Ward, William Swayne, Leonard Chester, Nathaniel Foote.

NF had the largest share of adventure-lands, his coming to CT was not the earliest; it having been, according to all indications, in 1635. He was an elderly man, and among his posterity have been some of Connecticut’s most distinguished sons."

From The Great Migration Newsletter, 1993:

"This all may be true, without requiring that the permanent settlement actually began in 1634. The Adventurers may simply have invested financially in the move to Connecticut at an early time, and this would seem very likely for such wealthy men as Nathaniel Foote and Leonard Chester."

From Foote Genealogy Vol 2 by Abram Foote, published 1932:

Abstract of the record of the record of the apprenticeship agreement of our NF from the Court of Rolls of the Borough of Colchester as follows: “NF aged 16 years, son of Robert Foot of Shalford in Com. Essex yeoman doth put himself apprentice to Samuel Croylye of Colchester, aforesaid grocer and Free Burgess from the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel last past for the term of 8 years. Dated 21 Sep V James I (1608). Sealed and delivered in the presence of me Robert Foot and of me George Lumpkin.”

(Heather writing:) A “grocer” at that time was a “grosser”, meaning, a wholesale merchant. Someone who sold big lots of things, by the gross, not by the pound or small quantity. The Foote Family Association also reports that Nathaniel was a grocer himself as of 18 Oct 1619, when he bought a “messuage” from Beatrice Barker, located on East Street, St. James Parish, Colchester, England. A messuage is a dwelling house with outbuildings.

From Foote Genealogy  by Abram Foote, published 1907:

"Nathaniel Foote, one of the first settlers of Wethersfield, Connecticut, belongs, not to that great class of men who fill a large place in the world’s history, because called by some great emergency into positions of power and influence, but to that more meritorious class of pious and excellent persons, who, born to the great inheritance of labor, walk meekly along the paths of common life, perform every duty, public or private, love and help their fellow men, and act always as if in their Great Task Master’s eye. It is to such men that society owes at once its peace, stability, and progress, and yet history takes no note of such, and hence “The world knows nothing of its greatest men.”

His business in life was that of agriculture, necessarily the leading pursuit of New England in its early history.

From all that we can learn, NF came from Shalford, in Colchester, England, and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. The first mention I find made of his name is in the Records of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, in 1633, when he took the oath of freeman."

Abram Foote goes on to write several pages of flowery language to try to paint a picture of what life in the New World was like for those early colonists.

Inventory taken after Nathaniel's death:

One source says that goats were a rare farm animal at that time.

Following Nathaniel Sr.’s death, his widow Elizabeth married Thomas Welles. When Elizabeth died in 1683, she also remembered her son Nathaniel Jr. as well as her grandson Nathaniel III in her will:

His grave is unmarked, but in 1908 the Foote Family Association placed a marker at the original home lot, now called the Broad Street Green. 

SEPTEMBER 17, 1908

In the foundation, under the base is a sealed copper box, containing a copy of the Foote Genealogy 1908, reports of the first meeting of the association, list of moneys given to the memorial fund, and the members of the association.

Rededication in 2009:


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