Posts from August 2009.

Five Things

  1. Myself, thank you for getting past the cringing that the upcoming enrollment testing induced.
  2. Thank you to the developers of Read It Later. Awesome tool.
  3. Thank you to David Allen for bringing together the ideas in Getting Things Done. Progress is slow, but your book has made a difference in my life.
  4. Thank you to the taxpayers and students who pay my salary. I try to give you your money’s worth.
  5. I am thankful for my continued health. Exercise and diet seem to have made Monday headaches a thing of the past. (it used to be like clockwork, every Monday.)

Cosmic Calendar: Mother Star

The Cosmic Calendar resumes, but I’ve moved it over to Sense of Wonder. The latest outpost on the calendar is the explosion of our Mother Star.

Five Things: Midweek Edition

  1. Lacey, thank you for being ready to understand my viewpoint even if you don’t share it.
  2. Thank you to me for learning to be persistent in my projects.
  3. Thank you to my coworkers who make my work life much less stressful than other places that I’ve worked.
  4. Thank you to me for struggling to live with integrity despite the discomfort of change.
  5. Sun, thank you for keeping me warm and in the light.

Five Things

The self-centered edition. Thank you to me for…

  1. … being persistent with my exercise program. I’m feeling pretty good.
  2. … standing up for my boundaries.
  3. … forgiving me for not being perfect. It gives me the space to improve.
  4. … working on my posture. Standing and sitting straighter makes me feel more confident.
  5. … looking for more skillful ways to live.

Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know about Sex

Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know about Sex

I recently read Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask). This book is the product of the authors’ years of experience taking questions from otherwise capable parents who find themselves flummoxed by their child’s sexuality. The title reflects the frequent doses of humor that help ease the sense of dread that sometimes accompanies thinking about S-E-X and K-I-D-S at the same time.

The authors did their best to help everyone, even people who will ignore parts of their advice. I’m thinking specifically about religious parents, those of us who feel duty-bound by our religious convictions to, for example, teach our children only abstinence despite the research that this generally leads to poorer outcomes. The authors provide the best advice they can. If parents choose to ignore that advice, the authors do their best to provide workable alternatives to the optimal strategy without laying on guilt trips about being a bad parent. They try hard to help everyone.

I learned a thing or two about childhood sexual development that helped me to accept my own awkward, faltering steps toward adult sexuality. It helped me lay aside some residual embarrassment and guilt. In that respect, I think it’s fair to call this book life-changing for me.

Who knows? My children might even benefit from my having read it.

Going Forward

I have a new language bête noire: “going forward”. It adds no value to otherwise respectable sentences. Its jargoniness hurts my brain every time I hear it (or worse yet, catch myself uttering this execrable phrase). Each time someone trots out this favorite, I’m reminded of Stephen Covey and the precious moments of my life forever lost while sitting through a soul-sucking business meeting.

What’s wrong with “from now on”, “in the future”, or (best of all) dropping the phrase entirely?

Five Things

  1. Thank you to the Parks who allowed my family to invade their space this weekend and were excellent hosts.
  2. Thank you to all those who created and maintain the National Park Service. My family had fun on our recent visit to Lehman’s Caves.
  3. I’m struggling to avoid making this a backhanded compliment, but I suspect that I will fail. Thank you to the Mormon church for teaching me inhumane standards of sexual conduct. My struggles with trying to comply, the resulting shame and fear, and my eventual escape have all helped me to transcend and become more humane. Without that history, I would be less capable of compassion.
  4. Lacey, I may say this a lot, but thank you for living with my quirks, the things that make me unpleasant to live with on occasion. I’m still working on it.
  5. I am grateful for the realization that I am mortal, that my life is a finite resource.


Lifeblood flowing through morning arterials, all returning to our places, ready to do our patriotic duty: to keep the machinery of civilization running.

5 Things

  1. Thank you to the folks who take care of the parks where I take my girls to kick around a ball or swing a bat. Your work makes family moments possible.
  2. Thank you to the people who grow my food. You contribute to health and well-being.
  3. Thank you to my teachers, everyone who has ever taught me anything. I have only risen above ignorance with your help.
  4. Thank you to the makers who take satisfaction in creating something of lasting value and beauty.
  5. Thank you to the thinkers who have helped me to examine life and see it more clearly.

The Color Purple


Do you believe in the color purple?

Obviously you believe in purple because you can see it with your own eyes. It’s part of your everyday experience. What more proof do you need?

It’s not a silly question because purple lacks the same kind of physical existence as other colors.

A prism casts a spectrum of pure light. Where is purple?

A prism casts a spectrum of pure light. Where is purple?

Color is how our mind perceives different wavelengths of light. Red light, the longest light that humans can perceive, has wavelengths of about 625–740 nm. Any longer than that and the light becomes infrared, light that human eyes fail to perceive.

As the light gets shorter, it passes through orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet light. Violet light at this other extreme of the light spectrum has short wavelengths ranging from about 380–450 nm. Any shorter than that and the light becomes ultraviolet, again imperceptible to human eyes.

Standard color wheels show purple between red and violet, on the opposite side from yellowish green or orange, but what wavelength can be simultaneously longer than red (i.e. greater than 740 nm) and shorter than violet (i.e. less than 380 nm)? Pick a number less that 380 and greater than 740.

No single wavelength can cause our eyes to see the color purple. It is a non-spectral color created by our minds when red and violet wavelengths are mixed together, a quale representing the presence of two wavelengths. It is a fiction.

Pure purple light doesn’t exist, yet we perceive it like the spectral colors. Our minds are tricksy like that: simplifying reality, presenting a seamless experience to our conscious awareness, and providing no caveats to what we believe is raw sensory data. If we want to know how the world outside of our heads really works, these simplifications make our work more difficult.

What other parts of our experience have our minds constructed?

I leave with another fun color illusion. Do you see green and blue spirals in this picture? Your brain has fooled you again. Both spirals have the same color: #00FF97. The context of the spirals causes our minds to present two different qualia for the same color.

Color Spiral Illusion