Month: July 2019

Saturday Soundtrack: A Human Touch

I first saw Jackson Browne in the 1970s. Today, at 70 years of age, he is still writing and singing some of the most beautiful and heartfelt music around. A Human Touch is among his most moving. Written with Steve McEwan and Leslie Mendelson for the Paul Haggis documentary 5B, the song captures the compassion of the caregivers in the 1980s in San Francisco General’s Ward 5B, the world’s first AIDS ward unit. The video of the beautiful Browne / Mendelson duet includes footage of how courage and compassion changed the way doctors and nurses approached and treated AIDS as the epidemic spread fear and hatred throughout the world. “You can call it a decisionI say it’s how we’re madeThere’s no point in shouting from your islandProclaiming only Jesus savesThere will always be sufferingAnd there will always be painBut because of it there’ll always be loveAnd love, we know, it will remain Everybody gets lonelyFeel like it’s all too muchReaching out for some connectionsOr maybe just their own reflectionNot everybody finds itNot like the two …

The Moon

The start of a good idea

“The only thing any of us can do completely on our own is to have the start of a good idea.” The line — an unanticipated gift near the end of the 2018 Michael Lewis book The Fifth Risk — is simple on its face yet it captures so much of the spirit that is needed today in America. This look towards collaboration also seems appropriate as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space and later the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heard the “start of a good idea” line once and it stayed with her. The message she took from it was that exchanges of information from “odd groups, outsiders to the program under study,” were how people learn, adapt, and build exciting new tools and programs to serve humankind. Individuals seldom add value when they come into those conversations with strong agendas built on furthering their professional practice, a rigid ideology, or personal greed. In Lewis’s telling …

Thinking, Fast and Slow

(NOTE: I first posted this short review of Daniel Kahneman’s monumental book on how we think and the ways in which our minds work on December 1, 2013, as part of an essay on several recently-completed books. Since then I’ve wanted to link to this specific review on multiple occasions. To make that easier, I’m pulling it out and reposting it here alone. I learn so much every time I open Kahneman’s work. As I said in the initial review, “Just read the book — you’ll thank me for it later.”) Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. In the late summer/early fall, I began this amazing 2011 book by psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow takes Kahneman’s groundbreaking research over several decades and brings it together in this tour of how our minds work. There is so much here to absorb that it is impossible to do this book justice in a couple of paragraphs. Kahneman begins by explaining our two systems for thinking — one fast, highly intuitive, and emotional, and the …

To wander. To dawdle. To live.

Wander. Dawdle. Already two of my favorite words, they now seem perfect for a gap year. For years I looked for books to help encourage my desire for a slowing down of the daily rat race. Not surprisingly, I tended to find and read them while on vacation. One winter holiday, when one usually focuses on resolutions for the new year, I was instead leisurely enjoying a book on the wandering mind. Author Michael C. Corballis wrote, “It seems we are programmed to alternate between mind-wandering and paying attention, and our minds are designed to wander whether we like it or not.” That sure rings true in my experience. In The Wandering Mind: What the Brain Does When You’re Not Looking, Corballis argues that, “Mind wandering has many constructive and adaptive features — indeed, we probably couldn’t do without it. It includes mental time travel — the wandering back and forth through time, not only to plan our futures based on past experience, but also to generate a continuous sense of who we are. Mind-wandering …

Right or lefgt

Making big decisions

After running through the woods in the gathering darkness, four young people warily approach an old house. The dialogue begins: “Let’s hide in the attic.  No, in the basement.” They look around wildly, and one female pleads “Why can’t we just get in the running car?” A male character responds, “Are you crazy? Let’s hide behind the chainsaws.” The voice-over comes in to say, “If you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. It’s what you do.” After the pitch for saving money with Geico Insurance, there is the scream, “Run for the cemetery!” and all four take off from the garage full of chainsaws to . . . who knows what.  But we’re safe in assuming it will be bad. I still laugh every time I see this clever commercial. Decisions. We all face them. And making big or difficult decisions isn’t easy, even if you’ve never been in a horror movie. But we all see examples of poor decisions leading to disastrous consequences on a daily basis. When we have to make quick …

The ORACLE of Takoma Park

The American equation

It was an easy call as to which Washington region July 4th celebration to attend in 2019. I’ve been writing about the July 4th parade in nearby Takoma Park for the past decade, and each year has featured a different spin on wackiness. In 2012, it was the precision grill team (with signs of cherry pie and the tag line: “You want a piece of this?!”) along with Mitt Romney’s poor dog Seamus, of the famous car top ride to Canada. Elvis made one of his frequent appearances in 2014, as did the Takoma Park Kinetic Sculpture Racing Team. Last  year was a well-received appearance by the Mad Dog PAC featuring their MAGA (Mobsters Are Governing America) float and stickers. Admittedly, it will be difficult to match the antics of the “Salute to America” — featuring “your favorite president, me!” — on the National Mall this afternoon, but in looking for the real spirit of America, I know I can find an important piece of it here in the region’s only nuclear free zone. We …

Happy Birthday, Lilly

July 2nd was Lilly’s birthday. That means nothing to anyone outside the four people in our family, but to us it brings back great memories of our wonderful Sussex Spaniel, Lilly. It has now been ten years since she was last with us, but anytime we gather, her name inevitably comes up. I’ve told the story before of how Lilly joined our family, after her “show career” was over. When “Stump” — another Sussex Spaniel — won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show, I knew that inevitably I’d be stopped during my morning ritual of walking Lilly by someone who was fascinated to see this breed ambling* along the streets of Silver Spring. Lilly was also a fixture at the annual Blessing of the Animals at the Washington National Cathedral, where her dark coat and “Sussex Smile” would draw attention. When we said farewell to Lilly, I wrote a long post that included our best Lilly stories. Most show her faithful and gracious side, but she wasn’t always that way. Sussex Spaniels …

Nationals Logo

Baseball is boring. Then suddenly it isn’t.

I know I’m going to jinx them. I just know it. As soon as you start talking about the Nationals this year, they do a face plant and fall back off the pace. Again. Their bullpen implodes. Again. They remind you that Mike Rizzo isn’t a genius when it comes to constructing bullpens or picking managers. Again. Nonetheless, I’m going to take a chance. And I’m doing so because Max Scherzer is worth it. Who breaks their nose (in a freak bunting accident, no less), then 24 hours later goes out with said broken nose and amazing black eye and punches out 10 Phillies (boo Bryce Harper) via strikeouts? Then five days later throws one-hit shutout ball — again with 10 strikeouts — against the Marlins? Finally, yesterday, in his first return to Detroit since signing with the Nats as a free agent, Max — still with a discolored eye and broken nose — goes 8 innings and has 14 strikeouts in a 2-1 win that brings the Nats home for July 4th with a …