Thoughts, Reading, Doing

This week I seem to be trying to do too much at once, and not getting much done. Today I’d planned to work most of the day on my new library booklists site — moving, reformatting, and link-checking a bunch of booklists to a new website — and study French.

frogonwisterialeavescloseraug2007Instead, I added a new feature to that new website and added new content to that feature; I’ve read a lot of interesting articles online (more on that below); I pruned the wisteria to within an inch of its life, cut back the bleeding hearts which are finally yellowing, cut out some dying raspberry canes, and cut new arrangements for inside the house — mostly hosta leaves and other foliage, as my garden is primarily shade and the local groundhog eats most of what flowers; swept the house and porch and did some spot-cleaning; took photos of a small beige-coloured frog that was clutching onto the wisteria; played with the dog; did some library blogging; made some phone calls; and updated the checkbook.

Some days I seem more able to stick to a to-do list (even if it’s only in my head) than others. Lately, I have been on a de-cluttering adventure that seems to trump all other work and play. Yesterday, after going to Eucharist and having lunch with a friend, I cleaned out the kitchen pantry, tossing perishable food items (like flours and vitamins) brought with us to this house in 2002; cleaned up and re-defined the kitchen junk drawers and cubby holes; moved items off the countertops; and tossed old OTC and prescription medications — some for the previous canine members of the family, who died in 2003 and 2004. Later, I enjoyed spending time with a college friend’s son and his girlfriend who were driving through town. And I did cover a whole French lesson (“Entertainment’) before hitting the hay last night.

So here’s what I’m reading online and thinking about today:

>> Scott’s blog entry on victims, another look at resentment (though he doesn’t use the word)

>> An article in the WSJ, Waiting for the End: When Loved Ones Are Lost in Limbo by Jeff Zaslow. Apropos, as a friend’s friend is in day 20 of a coma due to a hemorrhage.

“‘We’re prolonging life, but we’re also prolonging dying,’ says Mercedes Bern-Klug, an end-of-life researcher at the University of Iowa, who studies what she terms ‘ambiguous dying syndrome.’ Hundreds of thousands of people are surviving longer with advanced dementia or traumatic brain injuries, or in coma states. For their loved ones, ‘coping with the ambiguity creates a unique type of stress,’ says Dr. Bern-Klug. ‘It’s a form of angst we don’t even have a name for in our culture.’

>> Things I Talk Too Much About: 6 Annoying Fetishes at ZenHabits: “Here are 6 things I obsess over and am way too proud of and talk way too much about, annoyingly.” His are coffee, Macs, Gmail, Firefox, Veganism, and Simplicity. Mine, off the top of my head, are Girardian ideas, dogs, Flickr, Google, and blogging. Others?

>> A Sense of Proportion at Everyday Wonderland:

“When there is something on the horizon in your life situation that you either want desperately to avoid or to acquire, in essence if there is a possibility of a future event with high stakes of some kind, a situation of gain or loss, the mind goes hyper with trying to do something about it. If there is something you want to avoid, the mind will either focus on it almost constantly, reasoning that remembering it gives you a certain level of control over the situation; or the mind will resort to boredom, which is little more than a tactic to cover up thoughts you want to avoid rising to the surface. Behind the stream of compulsive thinking that goes on in most people’s minds, day in and day out, is a deep seated belief that the thinking is a way of staying in control.”

>> In Defense of Dangerous Ideas by Steven Pinker at Edge, reprinted in the Chicago Sun-Times. He asks questions that tend to appall, anger, shock, disgust, and incite people. He asks questions that get at “dangerous ideas” — “ideas that are denounced not because they are self-evidently false, nor because they advocate harmful action, but because they are thought to corrode the prevailing moral order.” These are “statements of fact or policy that are defended with evidence and argument by serious scientists and thinkers but which are felt to challenge the collective decency of an age.” First I wondered why he didn’t present these as statements rather than questions, but I think it’s because even to ask the question and broach a conversation about it is too unthinkable for many people.

Examples:

  • Has the state of the environment improved in the last 50 years?

  • Do most victims of sexual abuse suffer no lifelong damage?

  • Did Native Americans engage in genocide and despoil the landscape?

  • Did the crime rate go down in the 1990s because two decades earlier poor women aborted children who would have been prone to violence?

  • Is homosexuality the symptom of an infectious disease?

  • Have religions killed a greater proportion of people than Nazism?

  • Would Africa have a better chance of rising out of poverty if it hosted more polluting industries or accepted Europe’s nuclear waste?
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