Monday, June 11, 2018

Some Advice from an Ancient Wise Man

Seneca, the Stoic, on how and why to avoid anger:

1) Recognize that anger is awful

2) Make the attainment of a tranquil mind your highest goal

3) Choose your friends wisely

4) If you have a hot temper, use art and music to calm the mind

5) Learn your anger triggers and stop it early

6) Resist the impulse to be curious

7) Don’t seek reasons to be angry

8) See yourself in the offender

9) Just wait

10) Do battle with yourself

11) Build a collection of anger case-studies

12) Develop tolerance

So, here's the thing: All of these principles are what Jesus taught, too. 

Funny, isn't it, how the great, and by this I mean the REALLY great, teachers have the same basic philosophy. 

Do check out this link if you want to understand what's behind each of these twelve rules. (Because, if you're like me, you're wondering about Rule No. 6, "Resist the impulse to be curious.")

Or, better yet, read the Book of Mormon! The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (Official Edition)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Some Good News

From The Daily Kos:

And ultimately, of course, the question of limits on presidential power will likely be decided by the courts. By “the courts,” I mean two: The D.C. Court of Appeals, the most important federal circuit court in the country, and of course the Supreme Court.
Let’s start with the DC Circuit Court. And this is delicious.
Who is the current chief judge of the DC Circuit?
Watch out, Republicans. You may wish you’d have let him get to the Supreme Court after all.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Fiction Friday: If you Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now

This is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time, and at the same time sad and anxious throughout most of it. At least it has a happy ending.

(I don't feel bad about that spoiler, because I wish someone had told me ahead of time it was all going to be okay in the end. Well, it's actually not okay in the end, but the two main characters are okay in the end, in spite of the troubles they're going through. Okay, that did it! Total spoiler!)

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By NowAlso, you don't have to live in the L.A. area to appreciate this book. Though if you've ever visited there or know someone who lives or has lived there, particularly in Tujunga or any other such town in the area around LA, you'll do mental double-takes about every page or two.

And here's another thing: Why was this published in 1997 but I'm just now reading it, 21 years later, and enjoying it this much? It's totally (TOTALLY) up to date, with the attitudes and conversations and everything that happens, and even some of the names are still recognizable.

The author, Sandra Tsing Loh, is absolutely brilliant.

I'm sending my copy to a friend who lives in LA and works (and used to work) in Tujunga. Don't worry, Friend, you don't even have to read the whole book. Or any of it. Just glance at the first page, and you'll see what I mean. I skimmed through it super fast so I could get it in the mail today, and still got the gist of it.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Thursday Book Review: More on "Crooked"

When I reviewed "Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery," by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, on Sunday, I left out a few details about the author's recommendations. A friend of mine commented, "It seems like there'a a lot of stuff in the book about how bad all the 'back pain industry' solutions are. But what about other solutions?"

Toward the end of the book, the author writes about remedies for back pain that have worked for many people. Not surprisingly, these don't include personal training in gyms. Surprisingly, they don't include all physical therapy, either. 

In fact, she mentions  physical therapy places with "shake and bake" recommendations. I have personally witnessed this, when I had some PT for a shoulder injury, required by my HMO before they would consider the actual surgery that eventually relieved the pain. The physical therapist flipped through a folder with photocopied pages of photos demonstrating various exercises, chose five of those pages, photocopied them again, then cut out the ones she was going to demonstrate on me, taped them to another sheet of paper, and photocopied that one. She followed that through the series of exercises she had me perform, then gave it to me to take home, along with a wide green rubber band which I was supposed to attach to a doorknob and pull a few times twice a day. That's "shake and bake": minimally educated and trained hokum for the masses.

My friend's experience was slightly different:  He went to a place, again, permitted by his HMO, where the first physical therapist who saw him, an intern, had herself never suffered a sports injury that required PT, and admitted she couldn't relate to the pain my friend was experiencing. When her supervisor took over, it wasn't much better, b/c the supervisor only knew a couple of "facts" about back pain, and, using those "facts," put my friend through some major pain before she believed him when he said, "That doesn't help, and it's making it worse." 

So what does Ms. Ramin recommend? There are knowledgeable and actually trained people who can see what you need to do, and can help you. Even here, all the techniques aren't exactly the same, nor are the models behind them. There's a camp of those with a mechanical or mechanistic model of the body, they figure out how to manipulate it to make it work. And then there's a camp with a more holistic model, who also figure out what will help, and teach you how to help yourself. In both these camps, the trainers are actually educated in body mechanics and techniques, and are required to go through years of training and interning before they're allowed to practice on their own.

Stuart McGill is a practitioner the author mentions approvingly. It's fascinating to see that he recommends what he calls the Big Three, which are essentially yoga poses, and which I know, from watching another friend work through these, really do work to relieve immediate pain and strengthen the back to prevent further pain.

Here are some photos.  And here is Stuart McGill narrating a video of someone demonstrating these exercises.  You can buy books by Dr. McGill, but they're very expensive, and you can probably get all the benefit you need by online reading and videos.

Also, the author recommends, based on her conversations with many specialists on back pain, most (but not all) yoga exercises, but definitely does not recommend Pilates.

She also recommends something called Feldenkrais, which looks like it's available in many metropolitan areas in the U.S.; Rolfing; and the MedX lumbar extension machine, which is harder to find but appears to be beneficial for most back-pain sufferers. 

That's all for now. I hope to receive comments from any and all interested readers. What more do you want me to add? What is helpful here, what is not helpful? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Wednesday Book Review: The Physics of God

Here's another book that didn't need to be written. It should be good, and interesting, with great chapter titles such as "The Religion of Science" and "The Science of Religion." Unfortunately, the content doesn't live up to the chapter titles. 

Do I have to say (write) more? No, I don't. But I will. Here's the subtitle: "Unifying Quantum Physics, Consciousness, M-Theory, Heaven, Neuroscience, and Transcendence." 

In my humble opinion, an author who claims to be able to do that should be knowledgeable in at least one of those fields. However, according to the back cover of the book, Joseph Selbie is "a dedicated meditator for more than 40 years." Which is supposedly enough to help him "make the complex and obscure, simple and clear." And presumably to place commas correctly in sentences.
So, Dear Reader, don't waste money or even time on this book. Forewarned is...etc.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Tuesday Book Review: Inside the Atheist Mind

Inside the Atheist Mind: Unmasking the Religion of Those Who Say There Is No God

I don't even know why I'm mentioning this book, because it's so bad. Oh, yeah, I know why: Because it's so bad.

Warning: This is a bad, stupid, irredeemable book. I got it from the "New" book shelf at my local library, and can hardly wait to get it back there.

Not only does the author (Anthony DeStefano) have absolutely no idea what is "inside the atheist mind," but he is also an insufferably arrogant prig who doesn't know how to write.

I'm going to give only one example, and then go rinse my mouth out: the author has invented a new phrase unique in the history of oxymoronics, when he says that atheists are all "profoundly superficial."

Because life is too short to go through this book again.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Monday Book Review: Paris In Love

Paris in Love: A Memoir

Don't worry---I'm not recommending some cheesy romance novel here (though the author, Eloisa James, is well known among romance readers for her work). This is a fun set of vignettes from Ms. James's life in Paris with her family a few years ago.

And, I was relieved to find out, the author herself is not built like a bean-pole or a Vogue model, which idea you might get from the cover, but is just a normal mother of two, on sabbatical in Paris with her husband. and kids.

The stories were originally blog posts, which is charming in itself, because you know they were written in the moment, or in the evening of the moment.

You know how hard it was being an 11-year-old girl in school with mean girls and teasing boys and difficult teachers? In this book we get a double dose of that, as Ms. James's daughter Anna is going through all that, in Paris, in an Italian-language school. (And Ms. James and her husband are also going through all that, dealing with the teachers and administrators, and of course dealing with Anna's deliberately "forgetting" to bring her recorder home to practice it every night, "because I might lose it."

But that's not all. If you go to the door one morning to receive a package from the building's gardienne, dressed in your pajamas and with your hair not combed because you've been working on a deadline, you know that every other tenant in the building will have heard about it by that evening.

You might be surprised at how many "mediocre" restaurants there are in Paris, "without a tourist in sight as an excuse."

On the other hand, you will find some great and inexpensive restaurants, fun places to visit with children or on your own, the best (and worst) shopping places, and a couple of recipes for your own homemade fine-restaurant dishes.

You can get a "Used, Very Good" copy of this very cheaply on Amazon, and I recommend that you do. That's how I got my copy, and how I'm getting two more copies to send to people I think will enjoy the book as much as I did.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Machine That Goes Bing

Thanks to Monty Python for this, aka "The Hospital Sketch":

The Sunday Book Review: Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery

Have you ever had back pain so bad you couldn't get up? Couldn't move at all? Spasms that racked your whole body with pain?

This has happened to me exactly once in my whole life, after which I never again have taken lightly the aches and pains of another back-pain sufferer.

And so, since some of my family members have had this kind of pain more than once and in fact are still suffering from back pain almost constantly, I was glad to find this book, which I rushed through in a single day so that I can send it on to one such family member.

It is full of information you're never going to hear from your primary care physician, orthopedic surgeon, chiropractor, personal trainer, or physical therapist.

And the author , Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, obtained this information the hard way, by suffering excruciating back pain for years and going through all those recommendations from all those people mentioned in the previous paragraph, without finding relief until she disregarded their advice and found her own way....and at the same time realized that there is an actual "back pain industry" that relies on keeping patients immobile, compliant, and passive.

Here are some of the main points, in the order they appear in the book:

---Why "chiropractic" might fail you: Chiropractic was founded by a quack, and even though many modern chiropractors don't believe in the pseudo-medicine preached by its original practitioners, their procedures don't actually help with many of the aches and pains they claim to heal. In fact, there is a statistical correlation between a certain chiropractic neck "adjustment" and stroke.

---Why you don't want, or need, an MRI: Results shown on MRI images may convince you that you have a condition far worse than you thought, which may actually increase your pain and suffering (and, as we all know, there is a difference between pain and suffering). In fact, as one article from a reliable source states, "When it comes to diagnosing most back pain, MRI machines are like Monty Python’s medical machinery that goes “bing.” For back pain, MRI and X-ray are medical machines that make false alarms."

---How epidural spinal steroid injections can go wrong, and why lumbar spinal fusion is almost never the solution to back pain.

---Why other back-pain-specialist treatments are often contraindicated, except by the specialist who stands to make money from them.

---The truth about NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Ibuprofen --- which BTW is why I'm going back to pure aspirin.

---What you can really do to get lifelong relief from back pain, as experienced by the author.

There's more, lots more. So, instead of researching online articles to cite here, because, you know, life is short, and I have to get ready to go to church, I recommend reading the book carefully on your own to find out what might help the individual back-pain sufferer.

One thing I like about the book is the way personal experience, the author's personal search for relief, is incorporated into the reading. She is an investigative journalist; she knows how to find original sources and analyze every possible kind of claim and counter-argument; yet her own experience is almost her best credential in this subject.

Another great feature of the book is a set of notes for each chapter, with source materials and additional information; and the link to the author's own website for more.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

How to learn and/or  a foreign language: Read The Book of Mormon in that language, alongside your native-language copy, so you can look up the words you don't recognize. At least that's how I really learned Spanish when our family moved to Venezuela.

Reading a book called "On Anarchism," comprised of a bunch of quotes from some writings and lectures by Noam Chomsky (previous post), I'm struck that he provides a message about how the world can be a better place. And it's not through the American idea of "anarchism" or "libertarianism," but it is through a system where everyone exercises free agency and develops the talents they want to develop, and where families are important and love and kindness are the guiding principles. 

Then, reading an interview with Jess Walter, at the end of his 2012 novel "Beautiful Ruins," I see this wonderful quote: "I remember reading 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' and marveling at all that happened just in the first sentence. ("Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.") There's a whole novel in that sentence."

Alas, Dear Reader, the rest of this post is still lost and apparently irrecoverable. But let me add that it started out to be a review of the book "Beautiful Ruins," and ended up with a bunch of quotes by various authors, about the great book "One Hundred Years of Solitude." 

When we lived in Venezuela, I bought a copy of this book, in the original Spanish, determined to read it that way, instead of the English translation; and determined to do so in spite of the warning from the clerk at the bookstore: "It's written in a very flowery prose, very difficult, even for a native speaker of Spanish." Well, she was right: it was too difficult for me at that stage of my Spanish language skills, and would be even more difficult for me now. I went back to studying The Book of Mormon in Spanish, which was hard enough but gave me the reward of improving my understanding of gospel principles, in addition to improving my Spanish.

But that reminds me: There's a Spanish III class being offered in the Clark College continuing education program this summer. I think I'll take it. And meanwhile I'm re-reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish, too. 

But, back to where I started, where this post was originally going before it got messed up and then lost: How the world can be a better place, according not only to Noam Chomsky but everyone who has seriously thought about this and doesn't live in some adolescent male fantasy world:

It's through a system where families are important; love and kindness are the guiding principles; and everyone exercises free agency and develops the talents they want to develop.