Education

The Russian Winter

 

Minard grafficDear Russell & Friends,

A short post on a long book?  The graphic by Minard above is hanging in my study.  I first saw it in consultation with our hospital’s statistician.  He described it as the best information graphic ever.  I purchased the inexpensive print in an Edward Tufte conference on the graphical display of information that my oldest and I attended together 5 years ago.  Hobby Lobby did the rest.

The graphic depicts Napoleon’s march to and retreat from Moscow in the War of 1812.  And that was the extent of my knowledge until reading Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace.  Like a visit to Israel, reading and reflecting on this book takes time.  Tolstoy has fascinated me since I read that his apologetic influenced but did not convince Gandhi.  I took Oprah’s advice to read Anna Karenina and found my favorite opening line ever, an explanation for my upbringing, and a hope for my children and grandchildren:

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

Like so many of you, my history and future is an amalgam of the clauses of this brilliant sentence.  I found that Anna Karenina was a profound portrait of humanity and I found in Levin a man I could admire and even emulate in his pursuit of authentic faith.  So, when the the itch to read War & Peace arose, I was ready to scratch.  I listened to the story from Audible, just less than 1 hour a day with occasional splurges on the way to the airport.  It took a quarter of a year.

And here I am – – done.  I wrote the topics that Tolstoy approached in my journal and I’d like to share them here soon.  It is astonishing.  Calculus, astronomy, medicine, literature, theology, history, philosophy and so much more.  The characters, at least 20 major, became friends or even worthy opponents.  And here I am – – done.  As the Texas Winter begins I can’t help but feel let down.  Finishing an amazing book leaves me wistful.  Will my life ever be apportioned with the time and knowledge to write like that, even read like that in more than borrowed minutes?

Consider this an introduction if you will.  I missed you in the blog and hoped that writing about reading would help get me off dead center.  May I ask?

  • Do you enjoy long books?
  • Do you feel a let down when they are done?
  • Have you read Tolstoy?
  • What were you surprised to learn in War & Peace?

Pascal – – 1:16

photo credit:  Charles Joseph Minard’s work, hanging in my study

Unwell

 

moon

I’m not crazy.  I’m just a little unwell.  I know, right now you can’t tell.   Matchbox 20

Dear Russell & Friends,

My oldest son and I joke that the best thing for writer’s block is to write about it.  Perhaps that’s why the musician strums and plunks, the sculptor abstracts, and the poet zooms into the mundane.  One week ago I took the first two pills of a z-pack, the five day course of needless antibiotic that I sometimes retreat to after several days of sore throat, low grade fevers, and general crumminess.  Whether it was placebo effect, anti-inflammatory property or response to a true bacterial bronchitis I do not know.  I do know that the rest of the week felt progressively better.  And that I was able to take two hour naps with vivid, forgotten dreams. Unwell.  Why can’t I be thankful in the interregnum?  Why must illness remind me of health?  I can’t be alone.

This season has been more of intake and thought than output.  I’ve read more, written more in my journal, and prayed more on long runs that I hadn’t been capable of in some time.  I lost two colleagues in sudden death.  In career, in family, in calling I’ve been asking that classic middle-age question:  what do I want to be, who do I want to be, when I grow up?

One concept that came back to me was you.  This is only my second foray into digital life.  The first was a blog called The Breakfast Table that neither Russell nor I can find even with the internet wayback machine. I abandoned that blog as the cognitive load of corresponding with strangers was more than I could handle. What is different ten years later?  I have not Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  There is just a friend who no longer believes, his family who may, and many people like him.  There is just my family and me who do believe, and a deep desire to find the intersection.  I need something that will last past fifty even though I am more aware than most that I may not.  You see, I’m an oncologist.  I have more experience than many with those who live with an awareness of the end.  And more recently with those who live life fully with no idea that today’s dawn is their last.

First rule of writer’s block rambling?  Keep it less than 500 513 words.  So, what?  I’m reading Francis Schaeffer, Thomas Paine, Isaiah and Leo Tolstoy.  I’m thinking of the 2,000 people who follow this blog and the 6 people who joined Charity Miles.  I’m thinking of why this effort matters to me and why it is okay to pause and grow and even to decay.  I’m thinking of fifty and how not to fail.  I’m thinking of a book called failure at fifty that I’ve been writing in my head.  All chapters start with an “f” word of more than four letters.  I need help with one for career.  More soon, I hope.  Just a little unwell.

Pascal – – 1:16

photo credit: Russell, his telescope & the 2015 blood moon

First Day of School

first day

Dear Russell and Friends,

Sigh.  P1 went to college yesterday.  We helped him move in, took a tour of the campus with his brothers, went out to eat, and left.  My heart aches.  Was it only 13 years ago when the first day of school was accessorized with a lunchbox rather than a laptop?  P2 is gone for cross country practice.  P3 is packed and ready to go.  I completed my first day of class as well – – CrossFit – – fighting the middle age slide.  Russell and J are sending R1 off to kindergarten.  Sigh.

Share your first day stories with us?  Mixed emotions love company.

Pascal – – 1:16

 

How to Remove Rainbow Banner from WordPress Reader (Temporarily)

In her post titled Listen Up WordPress, InsanityBytes explained her frustration over the rainbow banner that WordPress put at the top of the Reader – signifying marriage equality and the Supreme Court’s decision today – and her inability to remove said banner. If you still see the rainbow banner (I have no idea how long they’ll keep it up) and want to temporarily remove it, there is a way. It’s as simple as unchecking a box, but finding the right box will require a bit of exploration into the inner workings of browser code (which might be fun for you). The downside is that the rainbow will show up again if you refresh the page, but that shouldn’t be a problem since the Reader loads new posts without reloading the whole page. If you need a more permanent solution, go here.

How to make the rainbow banner image disappear from the top of the WordPress Reader

Step 1 – Make sure your on a page with the rainbow in a desktop browser…RemoveRainbow1

Step 2 – Pull up the browser’s developer tools somehow (you can Google how to do this for your browser). In most it’s in the menu at the top or even in the right-click menu. Here’s how I get to it in Safari. Right-click and then “Inspect Element”.

RemoveRainbow2

You should be able to find a page of elements like this. Congratulations, you’re looking at the HTML you’re browser uses to render the website. This is called the DOM (Document Object Model). Select the DOM element you see highlighted here called “header”. It’s nested under html and body.

Find it? Great! Notice what happens when you click it? Look at the style rules (click around to open them if they aren’t visible). They change depending on which DOM element you select. The one for “header” has a CSS style rule for “.masterbar” that looks like a rainbow of colors. That’s the culprit and you can see it at the bottom right of this image. You’re almost done…RemoveRainbow3

Step 3 – Uncheck that box under the “.masterbar” style rules (see screenshot). That’s it! Check your other window where the WordPress Reader is…RemoveRainbow4

You should now see this! No rainbow. 🙂RemoveRainbow5

 

Personally, I like the rainbow and join with WordPress in celebrating marriage equality. However, they should have provided a way to permanently remove it. If you forget and refresh the page, you can just do these three steps again to make the rainbow disappear from your Reader again.

Feel free to play around in the developer area of your browser, explore and learn new things. It doesn’t affect anything permanently and any changes you make will be gone when you refresh. It’s just affected your local browser window. I hope this helped.

Gentleness and respect,
–Russell

INFJ

INFJ

Dear Russell and Friends,

I was truly thankful for Russell’s last post on personality types and on the possible correlation with belief.  I had previously taken the brief version that Russell had recommended and remembered that my type was INFJ.  Yesterday, in an executive education seminar at work I took the longer form M with my classmates with results listed above.  I resonate with several of our readers who compared the experience to reading a horoscope with the understanding that it is indeed something different.  Although not perfect, this test has been administered to 40 million humans over the last 90 years.  Rather than being based on my birthday, it was based on honest answers to questions about my way of thinking, working, and perceiving the world.

I loved the comments of our friends and readers.  I loved how you offered each other understanding and empathy.  I promised more musings too.  So here they are.

Although I knew I was an introvert the holistic meaning of my personality didn’t come into relief without the impasses that Russell and I often meet.  We know that we care about each other.  We also know that we just don’t process things the same.  All models are wrong.  Some are useful.  That’s the way I feel about going through this exercise on the blog and in the long form yesterday.  This is useful.

Russell (INTP) and I are both introverted intuitives married to extroverts.  Mrs. Russell is ENFJ.  Mrs. Pascal is ESFP.  Mrs. Pascal and I had a great time reading our own and each other’s personality types.  I realize that confirmation bias is likely at play, but the profiles were surprisingly accurate.  For my wife and I the differences are dramatic.  There was a weekend when we were dating where we took a 48 hour time out to determine if we would get engaged or never speak to each other again.  Twenty one years later we find our differences to have stretched us both and to be a source of deep energy.  I didn’t have the language to describe it then and probably didn’t need it.  I realized that we were very different and that we liked each other very much.  The decision to love each other was the best we have ever made.

So Russell and I match in the introverted intuitive domains but contrast in the thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving dichotomies.  Is the whole greater than the parts?  With 16 personality permutations the answer is surely yes.  I do, however, feel that Russell and I most often disconnect when I feel and he thinks.  Does that mean he doesn’t feel and I do not think?  Of course not.  But it does explain the epistemology of science, and history, and love.  I feel that love can be an epistemology.  I know that my heart can deceive me, but it hasn’t in the long term.  Love made me marry.  Like is not a decision – – I liked my wife and always will – – it is the quirky spark of compatibility that drives my happiness every time I see her again.  Love was a decision — an epistemology that trumped the thinking that could have talked me out of it.  Love is why I believe that Jesus saved me.  Do I find science in conflict – – no, not really.  Do I find some things beyond my comprehension?  Yes.  Can my mind be changed by a call to justice and mercy.  Yes.

Perhaps Mrs. Pascal and I work so well because the yin and yang of I/E, and commonality of F balance any conflicts in the N/S and J/P domains.  Or not.  Maybe an intuitive needs a sensor and maybe a go along for the rider needs someone who loves to drive and plan the trip a year in advance.  And maybe that planner should plan a day with nothing.  Duly noted.

Russell, where does this leave you and me?  In a better place.  I’m so glad to understand you better and to be understood.  I’ve always respected you and always will.  I like that we have different ways to process and relate and now I get it better.  As part of our exercise in the class there were cues on how to better relate to those of different personality types — how to speak their language if you will.  I think that we’ve tried to do that for each other by reading or listening to things that the other likes.

P1 just took the test at our request.  After complaining about seeming redundant questions he came back ISFP.  We work well together.  He can put concrete steps to my big idea.  I also understand his messy room a bit better.  Thanks again for this Russell.

Question:

Has knowing (or guessing) the personality type of your loved one helped you to respect and communicate better?

Pascal – – 1:16

Letter to our Firstborn

Morning Study

Mrs. Pascal and I celebrated our first born son last night with his two brothers and our church family.  His real name is Caleb and here is the letter we read to him.  Blessings – – Pascal  1:16

Dear Caleb,

As we gather with our church family to celebrate your coming graduation, your Mom and Dad are pleased to write a brief letter with our thoughts. Just nineteen years ago we were talking about and praying about your name. The family joke has always gone that we chose Caleb because it had only two letters more than the abc’s and we wanted to start life out simple for you. But, being joke – – that wasn’t the real reason. Here’s the real reason for your name, found in God’s word in the book of Numbers.

But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. Num 14:24

That was our prayer for you and prophesy over you when we gave you a name. And that is what we thank God for today – – that we have seen him say yes to that prayer and to fulfill that prophecy in your life. Yes Caleb, you have a different spirit. Yes Caleb, we have dedicated you, evangelized you, brought you to God’s house, baptized you, and discipled you. Now we see that you do follow Christ fully. There is no greater joy. Are we proud of you for working hard and for graduating from High School? Yes. Are we proud of your diligence and ambition going forward to college and the beginning of your adult life? Of course. But here is where our pride most lies:

Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. Jer 9: 23-24

We don’t know if time and age will bring you wisdom, might, or riches. Those are good things, but not the first thing. Our desire as you move forward is for you to boast in the Lord and in knowing him. Then our pride is well placed. Our arrow well launched.

With Much Love,

Your Mom & Dad

Cognitive Load and the New Phone

attention-economics

 

Dear Russell & Friends,

I mentioned my weekend adventure to the Apple store in the last post.  The day before I had gone to fix the battery problem on the iPhone 5.  If your phone powers down suddenly with apparent battery life left, check this link as we’re close to the end of the recall window.  They were efficient and repaired the phone.  I left with a great hand-me-down for P3 and . . . and iPhone 6.  Mrs. Pascal is groaning in the other room.  I really can not be trusted in an Apple store.

I used the store’s super-fast wi-fi to restore my data to the new phone through iCloud.  It worked really well and as far as I know there is little missing.  My wordpress e-mail populated correctly as did our home account.  Where was the work e-mail?  Hmm…  It did not import well.  No worries.  We have a tech desk at work with friendly people who would be able to re-establish the connection.  Family, blog community, work contact in my pocket all the time.

The weekend went on.  I knew when we had new followers here or when a comment deserved a read or reply and I knew when our home schedule needed to be revisited, revised or refreshed.  But why did the volume seem less?  Why did I feel like I had extra breathing room?  I checked the work e-mail once on Saturday, once on Monday morning as I wrote here.  In aggregate perhaps 20 messages — things slow down on the weekends.  Then I parked in my Star Wars space at work (far, far away) and walked in thinking.

Do I really want e-mail back on the phone?  I have a desktop computer and check e-mail several times during the day.  I am accessible to my closest colleagues and bosses by text message.  Do I want the cavalcade of 5, 17, 23 superscripts advancing through the day and demanding my attention?  I asked my closest colleagues – – so, what effect would it have on you if I no longer had e-mail available while I was away from the desk?  You could still text.  They smiled and shrugged – – “honestly Pascal, we don’t need you as much as you think we do” – – I’m liberalizing the response, but that was the gist.

So. I. Didn’t.  My whole life has not changed.  My walks up the stairs have.  I think and pray and don’t risk life and limb to watch the e-mail ticker rise.  My attention is not commanded.  There is cognitive margin. Cognitive load theory comes to us from education literature and is fairly simple:  your amazing computer has limited working memory.  You can’t multitask nearly as well as you think.

Family stay on the phone.  You here stay on the phone (I still risk life and limb reading on the stairs – – writing, not so much).  I don’t consider these streams to be a load or a burden, but a joy and a calling.  Work will wait for me to get back to the desk when I can focus and answer well.  Sigh.  Smile.  Panic attack?

Pascal

–1:16

photo credit:  Russell’s screenshot (actual) – – let us take a moment of silence for Russell & hope that he knows to read this.

 

 

 

Learning in Conversation

Der_kleine_Kinderfreund_T11_img05

Dear Howie, Russell & Friends,

As Russell and I approach our first anniversary of blogging and second anniversary of friendship, I’ve been reflective.  I tend to be that way before milestones of all types.  As a runner and hiker, the milestone analogy has always resonated with me.  It also fits well with my realistic expectation that I’ll be dead in less than 50 years.  Where am I?  Where have I been?  Where to next?

The reading, writing, and breakfasts of the last two years have been invigorating.  I’m learning again.  I felt that way when I read both of your responses to my comments on Romans 3: 1-4.  I wrote this doozy of a sentence:

I think that my faith in my own love of people, justice and mercy would be shaken as my intellect finds non-theistic normative reasons less convincing.

This was in response to Howie’s question:

I’m curious: if tomorrow all scientist, theologians, and philosophers got together and came to a 100% consensus that there are no gods would you then stop loving people, justice, and mercy?

Russell wisely replied this (to me):

Can you clarify this sentence a bit? I think I’m misreading it.

I’ll work backwards.  Russell, you are not misreading, I am miswriting.  I know better (only because I keep failing) than to use big words obscurely rather than smaller words well-joined.  Here’s a replay of my sentence with better communication (more words, but less dense):

If I did not have God as a reason for my morality, I acknowledge that I would still be moral.  My reasons include strong and positive personal experiences with very moral very skeptical people (you first among them).  But, if God as the basis of my morality went away I would be less sure of myself.  I would not understand why I wanted to be good when there is a stronger impulse in me to do the wrong thing.  It may be (as I have often suspected) that my nature is more corrupt than yours.  Genes and experience have made me less kind, gentle, and forgiving.  So I may be that person who needs religion more to civilize me.

Back to Howie.  He replied:

When I was a Christian I chose to follow the Jesus I thought still existed because I believed that he represented what is truly good. I was drawn in by some of the beautiful sayings in the sermon on the mount. I wasn’t following because I thought he was the most powerful one with the keys to afterlife so I better listen to whatever he says no matter what he asks, even if it goes against my moral sense. This seems to be the theme of the Abraham/Isaac story, as well as the genocidal conquests in the old testament and those things go against my own moral sense.

Then Howie referred me to thoughts he had about morality.  I read for an hour and the time was well spent. I especially appreciate the referral to a clean article on the concept of infinite regress.  Russell has mentioned coherentism before and I didn’t take the time to learn that it was a possible solution to the problem of infinite regress (constant asking of “why?”, like a child).

Like Howie, I find this topic important.  Do I claim that the moral law is imprinted on our spirits by Creator God?  Do I allow that he did so with the behavioral aspects of human evolution?  Do I consider “these truths to be self evident”?  Did Plato get it right?  I do claim the first assertion, yet my reasons are not yet sufficient to reply to honest questions.  One thing I’m appreciating about this process is that I need more humility and patience.  I need to listen well.  I honestly find this more interesting than my current car listening adventure of why entropy validates the arrow of time and makes macroscopic closed timelike curves unlikely [insert wry grin].

This place is safe for respectful argument.  This place is safe for conversation.  I’m one of the most ignorant people here and I’m excited about learning!

Do you have skeptical or believing friends who exemplify morality to you?  I would answer:  Russell.  Why do you think they are that way?

Pascal

–1:16

photo credit:  Der kleine Kinderfreund by Anonymous Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Der_kleine_Kinderfreund_T11_img05.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Der_kleine_Kinderfreund_T11_img05.jpg