Monday, December 31, 2007

Right now I'm quilting, trying to finish my Black and White Guild Challenge before tomorrow. To keep myself company, I'm listing to talks from TED--which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.

The talks are held in Monterrey California and only 1,000 people can attend the live sessions. I first heard about this from David Pogue's Tech Tuesday column, when he was an attendee (he gave a shorter 3 minute "in-between" talk). The rest of the talks run about 18 minutes and draw from a varied range of speakers from all different fields. By the way, if you want to attend, it's $6,000 a ticket. If you are invited to talk, you get a free pass.

Online, head to However I'm streaming it down via iTunes as a podcast. Head to Higher Education (show all), then TEDtalks.

Saturday, December 29, 2007



Thanks, David!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cool sunrise the other morning.

Dave had to rush in the house to get ready for school (he had to give a final), but I lingered outside to watch the sky ripen.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

For Alice: Paper Shops in Venice

Obviously one too many tourists had bugged them. This was the sign in their window.

They were closed while we were there--on vacation from all those tourists, I suppose--so I snapped these photos through the window.

The name of the paper shops we hit were: Il Papiro (there's several locations) and Carteria Tasotti, on Calle de la Bissa (or at least that's what it says on their receipt). If you try to walk from San Marco Square through to the Rialto Bridge, these two shops are on opposite sides of the lane from each other, just down a bit.

The shop in the pictures above was on a lane if you were trying to get the Accademia bridge from San Marco (parallel to the Grand Canal).

Friday, December 14, 2007

What's the difference between lucky and blessed?

What's the origin of each? How was it originally used? I started thinking about this after hearing the phrase "Yes, the Lord has really blessed me" too many times in church, usually in response to a compliment about their children, or other such tangibles.

Joan Armatrading has a song that begins:
I'm lucky
I'm lucky
I can walk under ladders
Yes I'm so lucky
That I'm as lucky
As me

Richard Wiseman thinks that he can help you find some luck; in fact he's broken it down into four parts. I'm sure if you want to part with some money, he'll share the secret with you in his book.

Another question: Does my good luck in achieving X-quantity imply that you have bad luck if you haven't achieved it? The X-quantity could be a good marriage, children who are happy and adjusted and nice, grandchildren, wealth, health, or good teeth, ankles and bones. We might as well add in being cancer-free.

Wikipedia posits that luck refers to that which happens beyond a person's control. This view incorporates phenomena that are chance happenings, a person's place of birth for example, but where there is no uncertainty involved, or where the uncertainty is irrelevant. Within this framework one can differentiate between three different types of luck:

1. Constitutional luck, that is, luck with factors that cannot be changed (place of birth and genetic constitution are typical examples)
2. Circumstantial luck, that is, luck with factors that are haphazardly brought on, such as accidents and epidemics
3. Ignorance luck, that is, luck with factors one does not know about. Examples can be identified only in hindsight.

If I say I'm blessed, does that imply I did something to cause that? Is blessed different than lucky? Is blessed an adjective, or a state of being?

WordNet says it's an adjective meaning highly favored or fortunate (for example, by divine grace) as in "our blessed land" or "the blessed assurance of a steady income."

Blessed is also used informally as an intensifier in a phrase; "not a blessed dime"; "I'll be darned (or blessed) if I'll do any such thing"; "he's a blessed fool," "Bless me if it isn't my old friend!"

If I were a Roman Catholic and proclaimed to be one of the blessed, I'd be worthy of veneration. I think the term I hear is more along the lines of the final definitions: enjoying the bliss of heaven and characterized by happiness and good fortune.

But doesn't fortune imply luck?

Does one word imply a spiritual dimension, and does the other reside in a secular world with rabbit's feet, four-leaf clovers and found pennies?

I guess my answer to above is blessed is personal, luck is not. Today while pondering and writing this post, I received a package from someone who has known me for a very long time. I opened it, set it up to gaze at it. One might say I'm lucky to have such a friend, lucky to receive such a gift. But this was a deeply personal gesture of sharing, and it came because of our relationship--honed, crafted and tempered over years of thrust-and-feint, forgiveness and kindness. In an instant, the answer to the question was made apparent. Blessed happens on a much deeper level, and bandying it around in response to compliments is a trite use of the word. Perhaps luck is more appropriate to that scenario.

But blessed in the higher sense comes from the most extra-ordinary feelings of inclusion, of being given gifts for no other reason than the giver is good, is kind, and loves unconditionally. The feeling and emotions that spill out are a sign of the profound and mysterious, the unexplainable. Blessed is something, then, that you can only know, can't easily articulate, and can happen even in the midst of what others might call bad luck.

And that's the difference.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Alex contemplates how to put the ornament on, or if he should take it off and put it somewhere else. He was a great help, as was his father.

Andrew just likes to take them off. His big contribution was shoving a plastic water bottle into the tree--found when he started opening all the cupboards in the kitchen while his mother cooked us a delicious dinner.

The tree all lit up.

Christmas has come to the bedroom as well.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gerard's one of my students in my English comp class. That's not a ball at the end of the string--that's a sleeping yo-yo.

He wrote an "Explaining a Concept" paper on yo-yo-ing and offered to give a demonstration in my class. He was a hit, as you can see. Turns out he's the 2007 Southern California yo-yo-ing champion. My favorite trick was the yo-yo with a large die on one end, that he flipped over and back and around and everywhere--not attached to his finger, but free-falling.

One young mother in the class wants to book him for her son's birthday party. I'm trying to think of what event I could host, so I can hire him as well.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dots, Three

Alice's picture of Zurich, lit up for Christmas

An illustration for holiday cooking from the newspaper

cool Black Hole picture