Julian May: Author par Excellence

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I have just finished re-reading a couple of books by Julian May. The books have the general title of “Intervention” and were published as two separate volumes titled “Surveillance” (1987) and “Metaconcert” (1987). May is also the author of “The Saga of the Pliocene Exile” series. There is a very good chance that I shall re-read that very soon.

“The Saga of the Pliocene Exile” predates “Intervention” in publication and includes four novels: “The Many Colored Land” (1981), “The Golden Torc” (1982), “The Nonborn King” (1983) and “The Adversary” (1984). She added “Jack the Bodiless,” “Diamond Mask” and “Magnificat” to her creation around 1992. I’ll have to see if I can get a hold of those three.

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Julian May was born on July 10, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, and died on October 17, 2017. Her parents were Matthew M. May (Majewski) and Julia Feilen May. She was the oldest of four children.

May became involved in science fiction in her late teens. She sold her first professional short story, “Dune Roller,” in 1950 to John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. It was later (1972) made into the movie “The Cremators.”

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May met her husband, Ted Dikty, in 1951 at a convention in Ohio. They married in January of 1953. She sold one more short story, “Star of Wonder,” to Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1953 and dropped out of science fiction for a while.

During that time, May wrote science encyclopedia articles for Consolidated Book Publishers. In 1957, May and her husband founded a production and editorial service for small publishers, Publication Associates.

With a move to Oregon in the early 1970s, she began to reacquaint herself with the world of science fiction. Over the years, she used a number of pen names: Bob Cunningham, Judy Dikty, Lee N. Falconer, John Feilen, Wolfgang Amadeus Futslogg, Matthew G. Grant, Granny Roseboro, Ian Thorne, Jean Wright Thorne, George Zanderbergen and The Editors of Creation.

Writing as Ian Thorne, she novelized several movie screenplays: The Blob (1982), The Deadly Mantis (1982), It Came from Outer Space (1982), Frankenstein Meets Wolfman (1981), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1981), The Mummy (1981), Frankenstein (1977), Dracula (1977) and The Wolf Man (1977).

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Her understanding of the global politics during the time that “Intervention” was supposed to have taken place (“Surveillance” begins in 1945 and “Metaconcert” ends in 2013 with the epilogue ending in 2113) is comprehensive and made it all seem very real. Unfortunately for my husband, he was a bit turned off by all the time she spent discussing international relationships. And while I did appreciate the research that went into it, I think that May went on a bit long about it in certain places. I stayed with it, though, because of the overall quality of the writing and my interest in the story. It had been so long since I had first read it that I had very little memory of how it all played out.

“Surveillance” is basically about the evolution of mankind’s higher mind powers and its inclusion into galactic civilization. She takes many different viewpoints throughout the two books. It is written in the “present” and also as a memoir of one of the main characters. May makes little side trips to the aliens who have been observing humanity and shepherding it. These are fairly amusing from time to time and one can only wish that any aliens that might possibly be out there observing us right now would look upon us as fondly (or at least with the same amusement) as May’s aliens do.

Even though the point of view does hop around a bit, May still manages to keep it all under control and eminently understandable. I never lost track or had to backtrack to get my bearings as happens in some novels I have read. Her list of characters is quite large, but they are presented in such a way that you have no trouble remembering who is who and what part they are playing. May writes skillfully and seems always to keep the needs of the reader in mind.

Even if you are not a fan of science fiction, you might find these two books interesting. May looks at familial relationships, religion’s role in life, ethnicity and how it shapes how we see the world and many other issues that relate to all of humanity and not just those possessed of psychic talents.

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I’ve given away a lot of books over the years. But these two will stay in my book case forever.

How to Paint a Bathroom

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I don’t normally do numbered or bulleted lists, but here goes:

1.  First select the paint color. (But of course this doesn’t take into account the fine art of negotiating with your significant other necessary to do that, or the hours, days or weeks that might be involved in said negotiation.)

2.  Decide on the quality of paint you wish to use. (Here again some negotiation might be required. Is there a type or brand of paint that you particularly like to use? Is it more expensive than your partner wants, does it have low or no VOCs, what about odor, etc.)

3.  Pick the finished surface (sheen). (You think semi-gloss makes sense in the bathroom but your partner likes flat. Get the picture?)

4.  Figure out if you are going to paint the bathroom entirely with a brush or will you be using a roller (your partner thinks rollers are faster and you think brushes are neater requiring less cleaning up) and then buy all the necessary equipment and tools if you don’t all ready have them. Ideally, none of these negotiations should take place in the home improvement store you have decided to patronize (matronize?), but alas, that isn’t always an option.

5.  Or you could decide to paint the bathroom entirely on your own and make all the decisions entirely on your own. This is always an option, but if your partner isn’t as easy going as mine, there might be trouble.

I am capable of linear thought, more or less. But I don’t think it always gets the job done as it should be done as you might have figured out from the above numbered list. So now, let me offer this:

In reality, there was never a question of who would be doing the painting of our bathroom. I’d all ready done the guest bathroom by myself (Bernd, my husband, works full time), decided I was happy with the color and the finish, and thought it would be a good color for our master bathroom. How did I pick the color originally? I looked at a couple of chips, said this looks nice and bought it, no fuss, no bother. My only concession to Bernd was that I would do it only when we were able to leave all the doors and windows open all day and all night.

We hadn’t quite reached that point with the weather when I just couldn’t stand it hanging over my head any more. And besides, I had started to ignore all the white spackling compound (necessitated by changing all the towel racks, light fixture and toilet paper holder) on our boringly off white walls. That was a sure sign that I had waited long enough and it was time to paint.

I don’t really much like painting. I especially dislike painting ceilings. I like preparing to paint less than painting, however. And cleaning up afterward … well let’s just say I don’t like it at all.

But good preparation is half the outcome. Make sure the walls are free of dust, lint, cat or dog hair, human hair, spider webs and the like. A Swiffer® floor cleaner works amazing well for that.

If you are not using a self-priming paint, you may have to wash any greasy or oily marks from the walls first as well. If the walls are really dirty, just wash them, it will save a lot of frustration later. Finally clean all the tops of door frames, shower or tub surrounds and the little teeny tiny ledge along the top of the base molding.

Remove all the switch plates and outlet covers. Please do not paint around them. That’s just tacky. Take down any lighting fixture covers and exhaust fan covers. Please don’t paint around them either. If you are not good with a brush, use the blue painter’s tape to mask any surfaces you do not want painted. Clear everything from the counter top and take the lid off of the toilet tank (I don’t much like painting around the toilet but it has to be done). Set out all your tools and supplies (did you remember a drop cloth?). If you did not buy the paint within a day or two of using it, stir it well. Now you are about ready to begin painting.

Open as many doors and windows as you can. Even if the day is a bit warmer (or cooler) than you might like this is still a good idea. The new paints on the market have low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) but they are still not good for you over the long term. After I’ve painted, I usually have a very bad headache for several days. The faster the paint dries to the touch the better. The faster it cures … even better. Warmth and dry air are good for this. So try not to paint in the winter, or when the air is really humid. And keep in mind that paint doesn’t cure or stick well if it is applied at a temperature that is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Don’t just start on the middle of the room willy-nilly. Think about it a bit first. Will your partner (if you have one) need to take a shower immediately upon getting home from work? If so, consider doing the area around, and the ceiling above, the shower first. Also, consider which parts you might come into contact with the most and consider doing them as early on as possible.

After doing the precision parts, paint around all the places where the towel bars and switch plates and the like go. Do not repaint those areas as you are filling in the entire wall. This way that paint dries sufficiently to replace the fixtures as soon as possible. I always like to do that when I’m all done because it looks so nice and I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Even if you use a roller, which I don’t because I can’t seem to keep from making an abysmal mess when I do, you will have to use a brush around the door frames and on the inside corners. How steady are your hands and arms after you’ve been painting for a while? Mine get tired pretty fast so I do all the parts that require precision first. I know I mentioned using painter’s masking tape, but I just hate going to all that trouble. And truth be told, it never does perform as advertised; especially if your walls have a definite texture. So I just carefully paint around everything with a wide, but thin brush that tapers to a nice precise edge. The cheap brushes they sell for applying a sample color work well for that.

Are you planning on painting the ceiling? If so, this should be your next step. Painting the ceiling is back, neck and arm breaking work and so I get it out of the way while I’m still relatively fresh. After finishing the ceiling, it is a real treat to work on a wall.

A couple other tips:

1.  Even if using a drop cloth, look down often. For sure there will be some patch of floor that isn’t covered by the cloth and the drips will be sure to find it.

2.  Also look lower on the wall, sometimes the drip hits the wall and dries partially before you get to that section. It can be hard to get rid of that drip once it’s dried a bit.

3.  When using a brush, never dip more that the first third of the brush in the paint. Actually, more like a quarter is better. Even if you are using high quality paint with lots of solids, as soon as you press the brush to a surface, the paint will start to squeeze out and drip. And if the paint works its way up to and under the ferrule, it will be very hard to clean completely. Paint that dries in the brush makes it difficult to use the brush again.

4.  Move a freshly loaded brush slowly to avoid trails of paint splattering all over. A little patience while painting is rewarded in a lot less mess.

5.  Watch where you step. Walking on a fresh drip and stepping off of the drop cloth can make a huge mess on your floor.

6.  If you have decided to use a roller, more power to you. Be sure to put drop cloths on everything: over the toilet, on the counter top, etc. Rollers splatter paint everywhere. Wear a hat and safety goggles. If you normally wear eye glasses, be sure to wear an old pair. Also, you will need to buy a little more paint than recommended because the roller wastes so much of it. I will say this about rollers, they are good if your walls have a definite texture. For a lot of texture, get a roller with a lofty nap (wastes even more paint, though). Our walls have a lot of texture and I spent a lot of time brushing all sorts of directions to get it all covered (that was so not fun on the ceiling).

7.  My general rule of thumb is that anything you set out to do will require three times as long to accomplish as you think it will so plan accordingly. I like to finish an area or a room in one day so that when it comes time to clean up, I only have to do it once.

8.  When you are finished and have put everything back and have cleaned up all your tools, step back, take a good look at it and say, “Ahhhh. That looks so nice.” Then go take a nice, long, hot bath. Your back will thank you for it.

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Random Thoughts, Part 2

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Parallel Universes and a Perfect World

How many times have you heard someone say something and your unspoken (or maybe not unspoken) reply was, “Yeah, sure, in a perfect world.” I hear that little phrase, or some close variation on it, more and more. Is our world becoming more and more imperfect? Or are we just becoming more and more aware of its inherent imperfections? All those little nagging thises and thatses that go wrong and make up our daily lives. Or is it just an excuse for someone (maybe our very selves) not doing their best or even their 50% of best?

I can’t help but wonder if somewhere, in some other dimension, there is a Dianne making all the right choices and doing all the right things. Always working at her 100% best … nah.  Ain’t gonna’ happen. Not as long as her name is Dianne. Still … no that’s just a fantasy. Shake it off and move on.

Lend Me Your Ear

For just one minute. I have to make a thorough examination of it because I think there is something seriously wrong with it. Oh, sorry, I forgot, you’re my husband.

Just last night as Bernd was sitting in front of the computer I walked up to him and waited for him to acknowledge my presence to be sure I had his attention. His eyes went right back to the monitor and I said to him, “Sweetie, I am going to go brush my teeth, wash my face and take a bath.” His reply was, “Unhuh.” Which was relatively easy to say because his mouth was already hanging partially open.

Now these are not momentous events as I have laid them out and really have no significance to him except as they provide an estimation of when I will be ready to get into bed. Still, I had the feeling that after he had looked at me with a happy grin and adoration apparent on his face and in his demeanor, that he had in a fraction of a second dismissed my presence and not heard a word I had said to him.

So next I said to him, “Honey, did you hear what I just said to you?” He looked away from the monitor and then back at me with this silly smile on his face and thought for way more seconds than I considered to be really appropriate and then said somewhat sheepishly, “Bath? Something about a bath?” My statement was a simple one and should have been relatively easy to repeat verbatim had he paid attention.

Is it possible that we wives have already said everything of any value that there was ever to be said and that there could not possibly be anything that we can add to that now or in the future and so there is no real reason for our husbands to pay attention to us? I think not. So why don’t our husbands listen to us when we speak to them? Or maybe it’s just that we haven’t figured out all the rules quite yet. For instance, a question (“Honey, did you hear what I just said to you?”)  will get him to pay closer attention to what I am saying than a statement. So, here’s a tip for all you similarly afflicted wives:  Phrase everything you say to your husband as a question. I’ll give it a try tonight and see how far it gets me.

“Get up in the morning, shower and shave, and take two turns on your worm.”

This was not the craziest thing I ever heard in my high school biology class, but it ranks right up there. We were discussing that day, the kinds of parasites that can infest the human body. There is one particular worm that develops from an egg laid just under the skin. About the only way to remove it is to attach it to a small stick (like a toothpick) and draw it out very slowly because it is segmented and any segment can re-grow the entire worm. So if you try to remove it quickly and it breaks off at the surface of the skin, you’ve accomplished nothing. Our instructor did not intend this as a metaphor for patience, I suspect he was relying on information that indicated that teenagers enjoyed this sort of thing and was going for the gross out factor. He had pictures to illustrate.

You might be asking yourselves why I bring this up right now. I’m wondering that myself. Can I really be held accountable for the things that just randomly pop into my mind?

More Things That I Have Learned

It’s never a good thing to think too highly of yourself. When you do, someone usually comes along and summarily takes you down a notch or two.

No one is going to think any better of you than you do of yourself.

I may just have figured out why I spend so much of my time in a fairly confused state.

No matter how carefully you say something, someone will always misunderstand what you have just said. It’s not always your fault.

Patience is a virtue, but knowing the right time to speak up just might save you some pain.

Skunks like peanuts just about as much as blue jays do. If the jays don’t eat all the peanuts you so thoughtfully put out for them, be sure to clean them up before nightfall.

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I Caught my Husband's Cold

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If Bernd gets sick, I almost always catch what he had. Because of his job (optician; the guy who sells you your glasses after your exam), he comes into contact with a lot of people. Not all of them are in the best health. He does his best to keep the viruses and bacteria at bay, but he isn’t always successful.

Bernd is a good sick person. He never complains. He just works his way through it with an equanimity that totally escapes me.

I am not a good sick person. I complain. A lot.

And it always seems to me that I have a harder time with whatever he’s given me than what he had with it. So totally unfair.

The last couple of days have been tough. Can’t breathe through my nose so sleeping is out. Coughing up my lungs so can’t work out. My right eye has started watering a lot adding to the congestion in my nose. And no words can adequately describe the headache pain. Thank goodness the soreness in my throat has abated.

Remember, I did say that I complain. A lot.

The weekend just passed was an orgy of hot liquids, chicken soup, and movies on DVD. But now it’s Monday, Bernd has left for work, and I have to somehow get back into the swing of things.

We’ll see how well that goes.

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Random Thoughts

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Bait and Switch

My husband, Bernd, once did a a search for affordable term life insurance. We both have whole life policies, but they have a declining balance and as we get older, they will pay out less and less when we die. There is a side fund attached to the policies that, if we had been financially able to contribute to it, would have made a nice retirement account. But sadly it has, more often than not, been used to pay for the primary policy.

He located one policy that looked promising and got a quote on-line that seemed affordable for us, but then more information came in the mail. There were questions to be answered and so he called a representative to inquire further. Because he answered the questions honestly, his quote was increased by about 40%. He was irked. That was our word for the day. We did have some fun with it.

Our beef was, if their rates were so darn reasonable and the best in the industry, why not just be up front about the conditions and provide an accurate and truthful quote in the beginning? What could it hurt if you are genuinely competitive? And it would be so much less irksome. It’s no fun thinking you are getting an awesome deal only to find the real deal is a lot less attractive. Kind of like, you know, when the wig, the bra and the girdle finally come off. I know what you are thinking, but I’m not really talking about cross-dressers here. My step-dad married my mom anyway.

Bernd did a little more research, talked to some more people and found that the new, 40% higher quote is still relatively low and he will most likely go with that one, which he also finds to be somewhat irksome.

Then there is the whole we-just-opened-this-bright-shiny-new-gas-station-and-we-are-going-to-give-you-really-cheap-prices-in-the-beginning-and-then-sock-it-to-you-once-you-get-in-the-habit-of-buying-your-gasoline-from-us thing. How stupid do they think we are?

We had one of those bright, shiny and new gas stations open up in the commercially zoned property right at the front of the complex in which we live. Their initial gas price was very low. We have continued to use the station we always use, which is precisely 11.2 miles from our house. Their gas prices are always lower than anyone else’s. So there.

Recreational Vehicles

Have you ever looked at the names that the manufacturers of recreational vehicles give to their products? They are fanciful, charming, emotive and all together unrealistic:  Four Winds, Horizon, Sun Voyager, Kountry Air, Southwind, Weekend War, Prowler, Monaco, Mountain Aire, and more. You get the idea. They create idyllic visions of far off places that are so much better than where you are right now and the desire to just get on the road and go. But let’s be real.

I feel that if manufacturers named them more accurately, there would be a lot less possibly not so disposable cash spent on them. There would be a lot less of them cluttering up the road, cluttering up driveways (and have you seen some of the special garages people have built to house the things?) and a lot less gas guzzled (well okay, maybe that isn’t such a valid argument after all considering how little these things are used as evidenced by our daily walks around where we live). Consider, instead, something like this: the I Paid Way Too Much For It Fifth Wheel, the It Just Sits Around Gobbling UP Insurance And Maintenance Money Trailer, and the Gee We Thought We Would Use I A Lot More Than We Do Motorhome.


This article would seem to be about calling things as they are. Guess I should look at my life and see why this is bothering me so much right now. Well, that’s not really true … it always sort of bothers me. Guess I just get bothered easily.

Regardless, I got an e-mail from my sister once in which she mentioned something about how the death of our father affected our mother’s attitudes about some things. But she didn’t write, “after Dad died.” No, she wrote, “after Dad passed.” Now I know what she meant but the thought occurred to me, “passed what?” The point of no return maybe? Some folks say, “passed on.” But passed on what, a good deal? Now that would be sad.

We have all sorts of ways to pussy foot around and come at it sideways in stead of taking the mask off and actually saying the words dead, death, die, dying, etc. Why? What difference does it make? We all know what is meant. Does “kick the bucket (can anyone tell me why this one stands for the word dead?),” “expired (as in a carton of milk maybe, yeah, that can be nasty),” “pushing up daisies (as if the dead had nothing better to do … oh wait, maybe they don’t),” or “six feet under,” really make anyone feel any better. Well, okay the funny euphemisms might get a giggle or two after a sufficient amount of time has lapsed since the loved one “went to sleep with the fishes,” but come on, why not just say it like it is?

I’m not insensitive, really I’m not. But if those words are such a problem, why are they even in the language? Many words have fallen out of usage over the years for one reason or another. Why not these then?

Some Things I Have Learned

You really can’t always get what you want, but that should never stop you from trying.

Whining and complaining will quite frequently get you want you want, but will not make you well-liked.

Anyone who is willing to listen to you tell the same story for the fifth time is a good friend and you should keep them.

It’s always a good idea to end your article with a paragraph that sums up what you have written and reinforces your main points. Oh well.

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Income Taxes

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I hate doing our income taxes.

Yes, I could pay someone to do them, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I used to buy an income tax program, but with our current method of accessing the Internet the connection is too slow to download them. Tried that last year. Wasted all kinds of time trying to get it to work. Finally decided to get the forms and the instructions and do it myself.

We don’t have a mortgage. Every time I add up our medical expenses, it doesn’t meet the requirements to be deductible. We live simply and don’t have rental property. And we are not self-employed. That might change if I make any money from writing. Sadly, I haven’t made enough money from my first novel to need to file  Schedules C and SE. But even if I did, I don’t think that would be beyond my abilities.

We are both over 65 years of age and I could use the new 1040-SR form. I’ve looked at it and I’m fine with the standard 1040. Our state form doesn’t change much from year to year, so it’s fairly easy to figure out.

Mainly we take the standard deduction. I consider it to be generous. And now that we are both over 65 years of age, it’s even better.

It should be easy, right? But I always feel compelled to read the instructions in order to be certain that I am doing everything correctly. Have you tried reading those instructions?

And it isn’t always clear whether or not you need to include all the numbered schedules and worksheets  with the return when you mail it in. I don’t usually. And so far, it seems to have been okay.

I’ve made a good start on the Federal form in the last couple of days. I’ve checked my arithmetic and it looks good. Another couple of days and I should have both the Federal and State income taxes completed.

It occupies my mind to the exclusion of just about everything else. And my fact checking gets a bit obsessive:  Did we make too much money from the garage sale? Oh. Doesn’t matter how much you make really because you sell everything for less than you paid for it. So okay. Then, what about the money made from your jewelry making hobby? Is it really a hobby as defined by the IRS? Or is it a business? And on and on.

All in all, it wouldn’t seem to be too bad. Right?

What I really hate about it is the time it takes to get it all done. It’s time I could spend on writing, doing housework, walking Maddie, or, heaven forbid, goofing off for a little while.

I have a neighbor who does income taxes for clients. She pretty much disappears around the beginning of January and we don’t see her much for the next six months or so (some of her clients need filing extensions and the like). I don’t see the appeal. Not at all.

Okay, back to the grind.

How to Really Learn Something

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“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.”

— Mortimer Adler

When I was in high school, I took a number of science related courses. They were hard. The information I needed to take in was huge. The concepts were sometimes alien. But it all fascinated me, even if I didn’t exactly get it. Science still fascinates me today.

When I would get home from school, my mom would, pretty much without fail, ask me if I learned anything interesting that day. I’d launch right into a summary of what I’d learned in my science classes. Often times, I found that after explaining it to my mother, I had a better understanding of it. Other times, I realized just what it was that I didn’t get all that well because I had a hard time explaining it so that she might understand it.

I was convinced that these sessions with my mom were what helped me get through those classes with any kind of aplomb. If she didn’t ask me that important question for some reason, I’d start the conversation on my own.

In college, I took a psychology course titled, “Behavioral Science Taught Behaviorally.” It further helped to refine my ability to learn something well by offering up “SQ3R.” It means: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

By following those five steps, I was assured that I really understood something. It helped in the “Recite” phase if I had someone to recite it too, but it wasn’t essential. Sometimes just saying something out loud helps by slowing you down and having to make real sentences.

Just today, I ran across an article on Pocket. That’s the service that Mozilla provides that suggests articles to me that I might like to read. This one mentioned Richard Feynman and his four step process to really learn something.

Feynman was famous for saying that knowing a word for something is not the same as knowing that thing. Or something like that. Jargon gets in the way of true understanding. So if you can’t explain a thing to a person who has little knowledge of the subject and do that in simple everyday words, then you probably don’t really have a good grasp of it either.

So what are his four steps for learning something?

  1. Choose a Concept
  2. Teach it to a Toddler
  3. Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material
  4. Review and Simplify (optional)

The author of the article, Shane Parrish, went on to elucidate and broke it down this way:

Teach it to a Child

When you write out an idea from start to finish in simple language that a child can understand using only the most common words, you force yourself to understand the concept at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas. If you struggle, you have a clear understanding of where you have some gaps. That tension is good –it heralds an opportunity to learn.


In step one, you will inevitably encounter gaps in your knowledge where you’re forgetting something important, are not able to explain it, or simply have trouble connecting an important concept.

This is invaluable feedback because you’ve discovered the edge of your knowledge. Competence is knowing the limit of your abilities, and you’ve just identified one!

Organize and Simplify

Now you have a set of hand-crafted notes. Review them to make sure you didn’t mistakenly borrow any of the jargon from the source material. Organize them into a simple story that flows.

Read them out loud. If the explanation isn’t simple or sounds confusing that’s a good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work.


If you really want to be sure of your understanding, run it past someone (ideally who knows little of the subject). The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.

I’ve seriously simplified what Parrish wrote. But I think it still gets the point across.

Sometimes you get lucky and learn something important at a young age (like how to really learn something). Other times, it takes a while. And really, the best thing is to keep learning all through your life. Anything that makes that easier is a blessing.

Hare Brains

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Yesterday, as I was on my way home from running errands and grocery shopping, I thought my heart was going to stop.

There is this wacky couple mile long stretch of road between my last stop and Prescott Valley. So when I exit the parking lot of Costco, I get immediately over into the inside lane of a three lane section (five lanes in all, three in my direction and two in the oncoming). This three lane section shortly becomes two lanes (four in all). Not long after that the road widens to three lanes in one direction (six in all) again and the inside lane I was in becomes the middle lane. Once again, not long after that, the road narrows again to two lanes each way and I am traveling in what has become the outside lane. Don’t ask me why someone thought this little bit of insanity was a good idea.

I prefer to be in the outside lane because I don’t exceed the speed limit and it causes fewer problems for me with the other drivers. Dirty looks, horns honking, that sort of thing. Plus sometimes nasty gestures.

So there I was, driving along in the inside lane of an undivided highway and already outside of my comfort zone. I was heading for a downhill stretch and knew my car would speed up. As I approached an intersection, my speedometer read 51 miles per hour and the limit is 45 mph. So even though I would be braking going into an intersection with the traffic signal green for me and the people behind me, I put my foot on the brake pedal and started to brake just a little. I’m a little fanatical about obeying the speed limit.

Good thing I did that. A woman at the front of a line of cars in the oncoming lanes was in the left hand turn lane waiting for the green arrow. For some insane reason, she opened her door. It stuck out right into my lane. That’s when I thought my heart would stop.

I pressed down hard on the brake pedal. Her eyes flew wide open and her mouth made an “O” and she yanked her door closed. Just in time.

I honestly believe that if I had not already had my foot on the brake pedal and was already pressing down on it, that I would surely have hit her door and maybe ripped off her arm in the process.

I was pretty rattled all the rest of the way home. I can still see her face and her expression. I have no idea why she thought opening her door at that moment was a good idea. Maybe she had a bee in her car, or a sudden and intense need to see the black top. In any case, it was harebrained. That was the word that popped into my head. I know, you’re probably thinking all sorts of swear words were going through my mind. That didn’t happen until much later.

Being the person that I am, I had to look up harebrained when I got home. It means what you’d think:  rash, ill-judged, foolish, reckless. But why?

This is from word-detective.com:  Our modern English word “hare” (in Old English, “hara”) comes from Germanic roots, possibly carrying the sense of “gray,” which many hares are. The adjective “harebrained” first appeared in written English in 1548, simultaneously with the appearance of the noun “harebrain,” meaning a witless or reckless person.

Another site says it stems from “having no more sense than a hare.” A hare is a cousin to a rabbit. Given that rabbits around here are prone to darting into the road in front of cars, I suppose this is apt.

I survived the encounter. Made it home. Prepared a nice Valentine’s Day dinner for me and the hubby. But I can’t help being a bit angry that some crazy, harebrained woman tried to kill both of us.

Waiting for the Hot Water

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Every morning before dispensing my supplements, I wash my hands. I’ve rubbed our cat’s belly, given the dog a good scratching all over to help her wake up. Maybe I’ve cleaned the litter box. Often, just as I am about to wash my hands, Bernd is ready for our good-bye kiss ritual and wants me to hurry up because he has to go to work. But there I am, waiting for the hot water.

I can’t seem to wash my hands with the cold water that precedes the hot. I don’t feel right until my hands have been warmed by some nice hot water. That it is currently winter and we keep our house at around 65° might have something to do with it. But I do the same thing in the summer.

I have a bit of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder. It’s not as bad as Adrian Monk’s from the television program “Monk,” but I do have some things in common with the character. Just not the fear of germs that he has … despite the hand washing. But I do tend to count repetitious things and there are just some items that beg to be touched. Really.

Hot water on my hands in the morning is all about feeling “right.” And that’s a fairly easy thing to parse out. When my hands are warm, the rest of me feels warm too. When I put my hands into cold water, I shiver all over. So I wait for the hot water.

I have waited for other things in order to feel good as well. But many of them are less tangible and much harder to figure out. Usually, the realization comes well after it would have done me any good. That’s when I slap myself upside of my head and say, “I could have had a V-8.”

A lot of people equate feeling good or feeling right with happiness. I’m going to say this just once. It is not possible to be happy all the of the time. And the expectation that you should be happy all of the time can be a major source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. So just dump that expectation. I know. It’s not nearly as easily done as said.

But how many times have you found yourself thinking you could be happy if you had a little more money? Or a new car? Or if you lost ten pounds? Or if you were a little smarter. Or if you were married? Or if you had kids? Or didn’t have kids? Or a little more time. Or maybe it’s not even as concrete as any of that. Maybe you hunger for something more and do not know what that something more might be and you are waiting for it to just fall from the sky.

So … are you waiting for the hot water? And the next time you find yourself waiting for something, ask yourself why. And then maybe get off your back side and go get it. There’s never a better time than the present.

Practical Jokes and the Need to Laugh

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I think it’s interesting to note that sometimes in a still shot laughter can look like a grimace of pain.

Both my parents loved practical jokes. My mother told me that once she sewed shut the flies in all of my dad’s underwear. Apparently, he was not very amused, but she laughed and laughed.

My parents played practical jokes on me and my sister when we were still very young and not really able to understand what was going on. Mostly I ended up feeling very stupid while they would laugh until tears would fill their eyes. I don’t think they knew how it affected me. If they had, I’m sure they wouldn’t have done those things. Well, I’m mostly sure.

I remember one time in particular when my sister was about three years old and I was around six. We were in a restaurant (something that didn’t happen very often) having dinner. Both Mom and Dad (by some unspoken cue) jerked suddenly and lifted their feet off the floor exclaiming “Did you feel that!?” Then Dad looked under the table and said “There it is! There it goes! What IS it!?” In a fraction of a second, both my sister and I were standing on our chairs and then she started crying. As soon as Mom and Dad started laughing, I knew it was another one of their practical jokes. It scared the … you know what … out of the both of us.

Unfortunately for us, we were easy marks and fell for that one a couple more times. And oddly enough, my younger sister “wised up” before I did. I was still fair game for such pranks until I was around 13 years old. If they were trying to teach me skepticism, they did finally do a good job of it. It wasn’t their fault it took me so long to get it.

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Along with practical jokes, my dad loved sight gags, slapstick and pratfalls. He thought the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote were hilarious. And we went to see every movie the Three Stooges made. Mom wasn’t as into that sort of thing, but she loved a good gag just about as much as she loved strawberry ice cream. No … make that Neapolitan.

I think I was born serious. My dad did not display much emotion (other than laughing at tasteless jokes) and fancied himself a totally rational and logical man. But I think the truth was that he was an imp inside. He showed one face to the world and lived another in the privacy of his mind. So I have no idea where all my seriousness originated. It certainly didn’t come from Mom who continually delighted in the “Quick! Pull my finger” gag.

I think practical jokes are basically cruel. There, I said it. Giving someone a fake winning lottery ticket is simply mean spirited. Okay, there are some practical jokes that are basically harmless. Like putting a rubber band around the sprayer on a kitchen faucet so that someone gets sprayed when they turn on the tap. I’ve laughed at that.

Or putting shaving cream in someone’s hand while they are sleeping and then tickling their nose so that they slap the cream all over their face. That is, providing they are not allergic to shaving cream. I’ve often thought that whipped cream would be better, but then I’m allergic to milk and others are too. See my problem?

Oddly enough, I’m not nearly as serious today as I was when I was younger (ordinarily you would think it would be the other way around). Oh, I could play and laugh and have a good time with all my friends. And I was enthralled by the beauty of a sow bug or a butterfly. The sky could just send me. I had a good time as a kid … I still do. But there were just some things that were not funny to me that most people thought were hilarious. I never could understand why “hurting” people was funny.

Then there is the other kind of seriousness that can be a detriment to your life. The kind where you take every little thing so seriously that it causes you undo stress. I went through a very long phase of this. I’m glad to say that I’ve cured myself of that … mostly. But I still don’t personally get the appeal of practical jokes. And I may never.

However. I do understand laughing at adversity. I understand the need to make light of difficult situations in order to better cope with them. So, most likely, practical jokes will be with us forever. Just don’t try pulling one on me. You might not be happy with the result.

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I have to admit, whoever did this was brilliant.