Monday, June 30, 2008


I am in the midst of a fascinating book entitled, "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. The author's premise is that the rapid cognition that goes on in the first few seconds of an event is powerfully useful and should not automatically be discarded.

Most of us have had an immediate hunch about a person or event. Our training is to shove those hunches aside, but Gladwell says they are part of a second decision-making process that runs alongside our deliberate conscious mental processes.....just a lot faster.

Just as our conscious processes can suffer from blind spots and wrong conclusions, so can our rapid cognition, but that doesn't mean the the result should be discarded.

More later....this is good stuff.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Living together happily ever after is the outcome we long for in marriage, but I think most of us are suspicious of the probability or even possibility of that really happening. Marriages fail all around us with depressing regularity. find happiness, is it better to marry and stay married, or to try a second or third marriage, or is it better to keep one's options open by just moving in together?

Social science has done some measuring on the happiness question. It turns out that the best chance for happiness comes with a wedding band, and keeping that same band on one's finger for a lifetime.

"Happy" better describes married people than any other relationship group. Marrieds are less likely to report psychological distress, anxiety and distress than the single, widowed or divorced. One tabulation found that 40% of the married described themselves as "very happy" with life in general compared to under 25% of those single or cohabiting. 15% of the separated reported themselves to be very happy as did 18% of the divorced and 22% of the widowed. While not every marriage is very happy or even happy at all, the potential is clearly highest there.

Certainly, walking down the aisle is no guarantee of happily ever aftering. Living on the flip side of the high happiness ranking are those marrieds who are not very happy at all.

But, is a period of unhappiness in a marriage necessarily terminal? Interestingly, in one study, an astonishing 9 in 10 considering separation who stayed together were still married five years later -- and 3 in 5 of those had changed the rating of their marriage from unhappy to very happy or quite happy! These are impressive statistics and argue strongly for sticking it out and working out the kinks.

In our post modern, cynical society, marriage must seem sometimes like a relic out of an unenlightened past, an unnecessary impediment to adventures in relationship. But the truth is this: the old relic works, and properly cared for, it is the very best chance of happily ever after we are likely to find in this life.

Related posts

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Like everyone else, I came equipped with muscles as standard equipment. I have made few efforts to do anything special with them over my 58 years, however.

I did take a running class in school, and I have always walked a lot. During our 30 months in Sweden earlier this decade, I calculated that Linda and I walked somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 miles.....not unusual in that fit society. I worked out in a gym every day for a couple of weeks once, and was surprised to find that at age 47, it's still possible to gain strength. By direct calculation, I found that I had increased the strength of some of my muscle groups by at least 50%. It's possible to gain strength at any age, I was told.

Since early 2007, I have been making a special effort, and now months later, I am starting to really feel some of the benefits of it. I joined an athletic club, and the combination of weight equipment, steam room, and loathing to pay for something I don't use has proved irresistible.

I started a year and a half ago with the ability to do zero pull-ups. Today I did 21 -- 10 without stopping and the balance in sets. I bench pressed 140 pounds, my best yet. None of this is impressive to those who do this all the time, of course, but I am writing to encourage you if you are in your middle years and feeling the toll of time and inactivity.

I don't use the added strength often, naturally. My work doesn't require much physical strength. But it's like having a sharp chisel when you need it.

And, there are some other benefits. First, when I am done each day I feel pretty good -- "runner's high" I suppose. Second, I have felt increasingly good about myself. Third, Linda admires the new bulges on my arms, chest and back. I'm vain enough to like that. Fourth, it is supposed to be good for my long term health.

I didn't have time for this. A busy work schedule made it seem impossible. But prioritizing that 6 or 8 hours a week has been one of my better investments of time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Psalm 36

David, the Israelite prophet and king that forged the 12 tribes into a nation, was a man after God's heart. This morning I read Psalm 36 in my Swedish Bible. I have read the words before in English, but reading the words in Swedish gave me new perspective on David's understanding.

It's easy to think of David living with few worries in a king's palace, but that would not be true. His mistakes were huge and his tribulations were many, but his faith was strong and he persevered through it all. In his words we can catch a glimpse of the source of his strength.

Hear with your spiritual ears these words translated from Swedish:

Lord, up in Heaven stretches your mercy,
your faithfulness, even to the skies.

Your righteousness is as mighty mountains,
your judgments as the great sea deeps.
Both people and animals fear you, Lord.

How precious is your mercy, God!
The children of mankind have their refuge under the shadow of your wings.

They are satisfied of the rich gifts in your house,
from your streams of loveliness you give them drink.

Because in you is the fountain of life
in your light we see light.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The New Bike

I don't think I have had a new bike since I was a kid. My family all contributed to the purchase of a new mountain bike / commuter this past weekend, and it's great!

My main reason for the purchase is being able to ride back and forth to my part time work. It's only a four minute commute by car, and it's 25 minutes by bicycle, but I like the exercise. I also like not paying for the gas and I like not transferring more carbon out of the earth's crust and injecting it into our atmosphere and ocean. And then there's the fact that we own just one internal combustion machine, and I'd like to keep it under two.

There's a bit of a hill or two along the way, but scarcely worth mentioning. There are bike paths or low speed suburban roads all the way, so it's a good, safe route.

The bike is red and white, has 21 gears and disc brakes and goes like crazy. The boy in me likes it. :}

Monday, June 23, 2008

Birthdays and Global Communication

On Friday I turned 58. It was a day full of communication with family and friends, and a reminder of how global and Internetty we have become.

The day started early with a Skype (via Internet) call with a friend in Uppsala, Sweden. Near the end of that call, I had a landline call from my brother calling to wish me a happy birthday. He was using Skype Out, so we hung up the regular telephone and had a much higher quality conversation on regular Skype. He was calling from a hotel room in Tokyo.

Then I talked to my parents. They were sitting out in their backyard in Dallas calling from their mobile phone. They called our Seattle (Vonage) line which tunnels from Seattle through the Internet to a router in our office which connects to line two on our business/home phone.

Later, my sister called from Dallas as she was driving home from a gathering with friends. She was using her mobile phone. Our daughter called from her mobile phone from somewhere in Anchorage.

Perhaps it's just having been born in the middle of the last century that makes me so aware of all the changes in communication and transportation. In any case, I am glad of these changes that makes possible contact with friends and family who are often so far away.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Canoeing on the Kenai

I just came back from a really pleasant trip with some friends on the Kenai Peninsula. For many years I have looked with interest at the canoe and portage trails on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and two years ago, Glen and I took the trip. That was great fun.

Last weekend, four of us took the better part of four days for a leisurely swing through the Swan Lake route. We put in at the "west entrance" and took out at the "east entrance." It's not a particularly long trip in terms of miles, but carrying canoes and gear makes for a more time consuming trip. And then, of course, you have to fish, and that takes time, too.

The loons were the most evident of the wildlife, followed by swans. We saw assorted other creatures large and small, and the spoor of others, like bear and wolves. Mosquitos weren't bad at all, although there were a few places where they verged on it.

The pictures tell the story best: