Archive for the 'Practical Wisdom' Category


29 December 2009

“Character is easier kept than recovered.”

from The International.

Build an Igloo

6 January 2009

Wanna know how to build an igloo? This handy NFB doc shows it being done. This is radical simplicity in the service of practical needs.

Pessimism, Optimism, and Realism

28 June 2008

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts his sails”
William Arthur Wood

Patience and Pain

28 March 2008

There’s a correlation, I think, between the capacity to voluntarily tolerate discomfort or pain (as in zazen) and patience. If you’re willing to tolerate discomfort or pain then you have at least practiced being able to tolerate the discomforts and self-denial associated with being patient.

I am also reminded of something attributed to Shunryu Suzuki in Crooked Cucumber: by David Chadwick:

“Hell isn’t punishment. It’s training.”

Suitcase Nukes Survivable?

2 March 2008

Irwin Redlener, MD, president of the Children’s Health Fund at TED 2008 on how to survive a suitcase nuke: (via BoingBoing’s Mark Frauenfelder)

1. Avoid staring at light flash, keep your mouth open
2. If very close, duck and cover
3. Get away from initial fallout from mushroom cloud (10-20 minutes) or shelter in place (underground or above 9th floor).
4. Move downwind or crosswind for 1.2 miles (away from area with building damage)
5. Try to keep skin, mouth, and nose covered if it doesn’t impede evacuation or sheltering
6. Decontaminate ASAP, seek medical care

Slide Into Evil

1 March 2008

7 Social Processes that Grease the Slippery Slope of Evil

…according to Philip Zimbardo, creator of the Stanford Prison experiment. The following is a slide from his presentation at the 2008 TED conference.

1. Mindlessly taking the 1st small step
2. Dehumanization of others
3. De-individuation of self (anonymity)
4. Diffusion of personal responsibility
5. Blind obedience to authority
6. Uncritical conformity to group norms
7. Passive tolerance of evil through inaction, or indifference

The point of families

20 December 2007

Ian Brown of The Globe and Mail quotes Jean Vanier on the importance of creating a family for the disabled – but it’s true of families, generally – this is what they’re for:

 “I realized instinctually,” [Vanier has written of his first encounter with the disabled], “that what they needed most was a family environment, a place of belonging where they could be themselves, grow in inner confidence and freedom, and enjoy life with others.”


This is strikes me – inner confidence and freedom – is what we’re supposed to be striving to give our children. 

New Frontiers in Child Management

12 October 2006

From the highly estimable fussy who is quoting Amy Sutherland’s article in the New York Times:

“The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging.”

Reward what you like. Ignore what you don’t. And the advantage of ignoring what you don’t like rather than punishing it is that you avoid the risk of reinforcing what you don’t like by giving it the reward of your attention.


Useful “truths”

12 October 2006

There ought to be a name (and probably is) for concepts which it is wise to believe in regardless of their truth. I have two examples immediately to hand.

1.Karma is the notion that life fits what you need to learn. So in the face of any challenge, ask yourself, what am I supposed to learn here?
2.Good always triumphs in the end.

I don’t really believe that there is such a thing as karma. That is, an active principle that so orders the events of one’s life such that it presents the soul (problematic concept in itself) with a lesson by means of which it improves itself. But I do believe that I will be a better and a happier person if I act as if that were true.

I really don’t  believe that Good will always triumph over evil in the end. But I do believe that I will be a better person and a happier, even a saner person if I act as if it were true.

Pets vs. Travel

3 March 2006

Pets or travel. I don’t think you can have both. (Thanks to The Prairie Home Companion.)