Saturday, December 3, 2016
Today was a free day at the Denver Art Museum, so I took the light rail downtown (half-price fare for senior citizens, hurrah!) to see the exhibit on Renaissance Venetian painters.
My favorite painting was Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor by Carlo Crivelli (1430/1435 - 1495) from about 1490.
Exhibit caption: "Although active in central Italy for most of his career, Crivelli continued to sign himself "venerus" (Venetian), a proud reference to the city of his birth and early training. In this panel, Crivelli places the Virgin and Child between Saints Francis and Bernardino of Siena, while the small figure of the donor who commissioned the painting kneels in adoration. Still influenced by a late Gothic decorative taste, Crivelli dazzles the viewer with his illusionistic skills, effortlessly rendering at the same time the transparency of Christ's undergarment and the smooth hardness of variegated marble."
I especially like the Virgin's expression. She is not a woman to be trifled with.
Another wonderful painting was The Annunciation by Vittore Carpaccio (1465 - 1525/1526).
Exhibit caption: "Vittore Carpaccio shows the influence of Netherlandish art in the domestic interior of the Virgin's chamber in the Annunciation. Details such as the open book on a ledge, or the curtain drawn to reveal Mary's tidy (and thus virginal) bed, echo the carefully described interiors found in Northern European art and highlight the artist's fondness for narrative scenes."
There are many things to appreciate in this 1504 painting. I especially like the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven in the form of a supersonic dove. Also, Gabriel's striped wings are sporty. Mary appears to take it all in stride.
In addition to viewing the Renaissance art, I had a look at the art museum's exhibit on pre-columbian art. I saw this strange figure.
Exhibit caption: "Incense Burner with Fantastic Reptile. Potosi Applique style, about A.D. 500-800, Costa Rica or Nicaragua, Greater Nicoya region earthenware."
"Fantastic Reptile" my foot! The wheels and gears are the unmistakable record of an ancient invasion of alien lizard robots. Who knows when they will come again? Mankind, you have been warned!
Friday, November 25, 2016
My younger son and I decided to forgo the typical Thanksgiving turkey. Instead, we made a Thanksgiving vegetable lasagna.
Here is the assembled tower of lasagna, ready for baking. My son left two inches on every side of the lasagna for water to collect and then boil off. This helpful technique keeps the bottom of the lasagna from getting waterlogged.
The finished lasagna, nicely browned.
With the addition of a side dish of asparagus and green beans and plates of homemade wheat bread, the Thanksgiving table was set.
My son made his famous oatmeal-raisin-cherry cookies for dessert.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Yesterday's presidential election results surprised me. I am humbled to confess that I lack the slightest knowledge or intuition of the workings of American politics.
This year I have already been humbled by my clear lack of understanding of international relations, the Federal Reserve, the stock market, and the principles of bicycle mechanics. (I also do not understand women. But, in this case, I have never been foolish enough to assume that I could.)
Saturday, October 15, 2016
I took a brief walk to the nearby park to photograph the trees in their autumn splendor. A number of Indian (Asia) families were also out walking. The Indian women were dressed in bright autumn colors themselves.
It would have been an invasion of privacy for me to photograph the Indian women (not to mention the risk of being punched in the nose by their husbands), so I took no pictures of them. The reader must be content with a similar (although somewhat more sultry) representation from Google Images.
Anyway, let me calm down now and return to the autumn colors of the trees.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
While visiting in Iowa, I discovered this exotic plant growing in the front yard of one of my father's neighbors. I searched Google Images to identify the plant and came up empty. Therefore, my working hypothesis is that the plant is of extra-terrestrial origin. Keep an eye on the Iowa news just in case some kind of "invasion of the body snatchers" mischief is afoot.
On the way back from my visit to Iowa, I stopped by West Branch to visit the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. I toured Hoover's birthplace and a reconstruction of his father's blacksmith shop.
Hoover was born in a small cottage roughly the size of a one-car garage with a small shed and a little porch attached in back. The "shed" portion housed some pantry shelves and a small cook-stove. The cottage proper was divided into a parlor and a bedroom.
The parlor was cozy but primitive -- no flat screen television or recliner.
I walked down the street to where "Bert" Hoover's father Jesse had his blacksmith shop.
A historical-recreation actor (who is also a competent general blacksmith trained at the Amana Colonies school) answered my questions about smithing in the late 1800s. He is shown pulling on a lever to work the six-foot-long bellows. His forge burns coal.
I highly recommend visiting the site.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
This is a day for counting blessings. I rode my new 3-speed bicycle downtown this morning and met with my younger son for scones, cappacino (for him), and iced chai tea (for me). The weather for cycling was perfect -- sunshine, temperature in the high 60s, and no wind.
Afterwards, as a rode home from downtown, I had leisure to reflect on my many blessings: good health, adequate wealth, friends, continued employment, a supportive church congregation, and many others.
I find I can do serious thinking while riding a bike and do so nearly as well as when hiking. I don't think as deeply whatsoever when driving in the city. At first blush it seems that depth of thought is inversely proportional to velocity of travel. On the other hand, while driving in the wide open spaces on I-80 in Nebraska and Iowa, I have come upon some substantial insights. So perhaps depth of thought is inversely proportional to the attention one needs to pay to the traveling. If so, the advent of self-driving cars should enable deeper thought in the populace. (This may be overly optimistic.)
Saturday, September 3, 2016
My younger son and I finished building my 3-speed road bike this afternoon.
We rewrapped the handlebar that I had botched earlier. Then we added a half link to the chain, which had been too tight before. With the addition of the half link, the chain is now slightly loose but workable. If I find that the chain pops off when I hit a bump, I may need to add a chain tensioner.
Then we ran the shift cable back to the shift mechanism for the Nexus gear hub. As the final build step, we put on the pedals.
I took a test ride around the neighborhood and the 3-speed rode marvelously. The proportions of the bike put me in a comfortable riding posture. The shifting was precise and immediate.
I am very grateful for the entire build process, which has progressed in fits and starts since October last year. Working with my son is always a pleasure and the end result is a bicycle I should enjoy riding for years.
Here are the glamour shots.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
This weekend my younger son helped me make progress in assembling the 3-speed bicycle that we have been intermittently working on for many months. My son hooked up the brake cables and adjusted the brakes. We cooperated on wrapping the handlebars with long strips of synthetic leather. My son took the left side of the handlebars and I took the right. He did a tight, professional job of his side. My side was slapdash but adequate.
His wrapping somehow put me in mind of a lady's black stocking on a shapely leg. Judge for yourself. (Yes, I probably need to get out more.)
My son is an excellent teacher. He lays out general principles, describes specific techniques and pitfalls, and then lets me blunder ahead. The objective is to get me to roll up my sleeves and take ownership of my actions. Then, just as I am on the verge of doing damage to the equipment, he patiently steps in with gentle comments and sets me straight.
For instance, I put the chain on the sprockets and found that there was too much slack. My son gave me a chain-breaking tool and showed me how to remove a link. Then, he gave me a so-called "master link," a sort of slotted metal snap to fasten the chain together again. I set to the task with my usual mixture of anxiety and impatience. As I was preparing to snap the master link into place, my son quietly said, "It's probably better to go with the traditional chain design instead of a Moebius design." In my tunnel vision I had inadvertently rotated one end of the chain and was about to introduce a twist.
We are about a week away from finishing the bicycle. Stay tuned.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
On my way back from this morning's hike, I stopped at the Cherry Creek farmers market to load up on salad fixings and cantaloupe. The place is always festive. Plenty of produce, lunch tents, and arts-fair stuff.
There were two bands. Three men in the prime of life (that is, gentlemen my age) were playing a peppy version of "Arkansas Traveler." I complied with the ancient custom of the bards: You snap a picture, you toss a dollar in the fiddle case.
Two other gentlemen were playing electric guitar and accordion. Great fun.
Every Saturday the market draws a good crowd. Today I was pleased to note a contingent of plump, middle-aged beauties. The "heifer" factor was high.
I took a hike this morning at the Matthews/Winters Park. The park authorities were boasting about a new extension to their Red Rocks Trail, and I was eager to check it out.
The main trail starts with a view of the prairie abutting the foothills.
I reached the foothills and took the new trail extension, which veers down into an isolated valley. I couldn't see or hear a soul.
I emerged from the valley and saw a huge boulder covered with yellow and white lichens. This is a case of the plant kingdom vandalizing the mineral kingdom.
I took a brief rest sitting on a flat rock. At my feet was a strange, little bush with curved filaments covered with light fuzz.
It's easy to miss interesting sights if you're moving too quickly.
I walked around my neighborhood and took pictures of flowers. My apartment borders a large office park, and I get to enjoy some first-rate flower gardens placed at the major street intersections.
I enjoy beauty in all its forms: flowers, scenic vistas, paintings by the Old Masters, Raquel Welch -- both the younger and the mature versions. Anyway, here is a small selection of the flowers I saw.
Monday, August 8, 2016
My brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and niece are visiting from the Midwest. Yesterday we went to the Denver Botanic Gardens to enjoy the plant life.
We began with the tropical conservatory. To a rhubarb fancier such as myself, there were wonders to behold. Imagine the rhubarb-strawberry pie you could make from these beauties!
Another tropical plant had decorated itself with pink streamers.
The botanic gardens had four or five lily ponds scattered about. Here is a snapshot of the largest one. I was intrigued by the great "platter" at the lower left. On the far side I saw a few tiny ducklings, like fuzzy ping-pong balls, paddling around the lily pads while Mama kept a watchful eye on them from the concrete curb above.
Here is a look at a smaller pond.
I wandered back toward the Asian section of the gardens and found a Chinese pine tree with a festive multi-colored trunk.
The botanic gardens had a dozen or so sculptures on loan from Minneapolis. Here is a horse of scrap wood.
This bright sculpture seemed almost alarming to me -- like a very aggressive alien life form rising up.
The most surreal sculpture was The Hare on the Bell. I could imagine The Mad Hatter lurking behind the trees.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
I have been reading Prescott Lecky's book Self-Consistency: A Theory of Personality, edited and interpreted by Frederick C. Thorne.
Prescott Lecky (1892–1941) was a lecturer of Psychology at Columbia University from 1924 to 1934. At a time when American psychology was dominated by behaviorism, he developed the concept of self-help as a method in psychotherapy of the self in the 1920s. His concepts influenced Maxwell Maltz in his writing of the classic self-help book, Psycho-Cybernetics. Lecky stressed the defense mechanism of resistance as an individual's method of regulating his self-concept.
Lecky's self-consistency theory is that self-consistency is a primary motivating force in human behavior. Lecky's theory concerned the organization of ideas of the self and the self's overall need for a "master" motive that serves to maintain for the self a consistency in ideas. Self-consistency theory remains relevant to contemporary personality and clinical psychologists. He was well known as a psychologist and counseled John F. Kennedy when he was having trouble at Choate preparatory school.
His students gathered together his ideas and posthumously published them as Self Consistency: a theory of personality in 1945.
Well, Lecky was a maverick psychologist during an age dominated by Freud and his disciples and by the new upstart behaviorists. Lecky gained little professional esteem or influence during his academic career. After his untimely death, a few of his students -- keepers of the flame -- gathered their class notes and the small store of Lecky's articles and presentations and published a thin book in 1945. This book was subsequently expanded in 1950 by Dr. Frederick C. Thorne into the book I am reading.
I like some of Lecky's insights. I will here stretch "fair use" to the breaking point and give excerpts from the book.
LEARNING AND SELF-CONSISTENCY
From Chapter 7:
If it be true that learning is essentially a means of resolving conflicts, it follows that a conflict must always be present before the learning can occur. This conclusion, indeed, seems inevitable from a theoretical standpoint, even the nature of the ambiguity in any particular instance of learning may be difficult to demonstrate. Conflict then is a necessary accompaniment of personality development, and the progressive assimilation of disturbing stimuli the only practical means by which a stable organization can be attained. But in that case a well-adjusted personality is not a matter of emotional habits so much as an emotional achievement, though after the learning has been accomplished, of course, there is no apparent difference. If the habit theory were applied in a literal manner, however, and the child shielded from conflicts in order to exercise him more thoroughly in so-called habits of confidence and cheerfulness, we could confidently predict a profound maladjustment later as the outcome of his lack of preparation. It seems to us that behaviorism must give up the habit theory and frankly recognize the organism as a problem-solver before it can consistently explain its own experiments....
Learning is not mechanical but adventurous. If a certain type of situation has been assimilated, its presence tends to support the attitude of confidence, but if it has not been assimilated the normal attitude is threatened, and the process of assimilation itself brings about a temporary disturbance. Thus the problem of development is that of maintaining and strengthening the normal attitude by gradually assimilating the situations which formerly had a disturbing effect. To use a spacial metaphor, the field of normal behavior grows at the expense of the abnormal.
From Chapter 8:
The greatest handicap to constructive action in education is the well-entrenched dogma that learning is the direct result of teaching, a mechanical reaction to the school environment instead of a purposive achievement. Learning cannot be understood as a process of forming separate habits, but only in terms of the development of the entire personality. When one value has been accepted, it opposes the acceptance of other values which are not consistent with it. Hence resistance must be accepted as a normal and necessary aspect of learning. Indeed, a unified organization could not be maintained without it. Early impressions are important not only in themselves, but because they set the conditions for rejection of other values, whatever their nature, which would tend to precipitate a conflict.
Nevertheless, since the experience of everyone is more or less haphazard from an educational standpoint, there are always present in the system a certain number of values accepted on insufficient evidence. These values, whose retention depends entirely upon the success with which they can be rationalized and made to seem consistent, or at any rate not inconsistent, give rise to resistances which are likely to be detrimental to the individual.
The clinical technique which follows from the theoretical conception of the problem must therefore aim to bring about in the subject a reexamination of those values which block his development. Academic difficulties and social maladjustments are both conceived of as due to resistances arising from the subjects conception of himself. If a student shows resistance toward a certain type of material, this means that from his point of view it would be inconsistent for him to learn it. If we are able to change the self-conception which underlies this viewpoint, however, his attitude toward the material will change accordingly.
[Lecky takes the case of an intelligent student who is deficient in spelling.]
This deficiency is not due to a lack of ability, but rather to an active resistance which prevents him from learning how to spell in spite of the extra instruction. The resistance arises from the fact that at some time in the past the suggestion that he is a poor speller was accepted and incorporated into his definition of himself, and is now an integral part of his total personality. A standard is a conception that a person maintains because he has accepted it as a part of his personality. Standards need not be admirable, even from the standpoint of the person who maintains them, so long as he believes them to be valid. As in the present instance, he may accept as his standard the conception of his own inferiority in some particular respect. His difficulty is thus explained as a special instance of the general principle that a person can only be true to himself. If he conceives himself as a poor speller, the misspelling of a certain proportion of the words which he uses becomes for him a moral issue. He misspells words for the same reason that he refuses to be a thief. That is, he must endeavor to behave in a manner consistent with his conception of himself....
So-called laziness, lack of concentration, etc., are due to the acceptance of definitions at cross purposes with one another. Such individuals cannot act in consistency with one definition without being inconsistent with another. For example, a student may define himself as intelligent, but poor in mathematics. To maintain the first definition, he should make high grades in mathematics, but to maintain the second he should fail. However, since he must act, as long as he is playing both roles at once he is forced to compromise. His grades in mathematics will split the difference somewhere near the passing mark, and the teacher will characterize him as lazy. For his own part, he will claim that he cannot concentrate, and the claim will be perfectly true. This seems to be the explanation of the characteristic level of performance already noted in regard to spelling. As long as the definitions remain unchanged, the characteristic rate or grade of activity tends to remain constant.
The remedy is not to be found by means of tests which reveal the specific weakness, therefore, or in persistent drilling on the fundamentals, but only in changing the definition. Energetic concentration simply means that a person is free from conflicts and able to bring his united efforts to focus on the task at hand.
What a person is able or unable to learn, in other words, depends, to a large extent at least, upon what he has already learned, and especially upon how he has learned to define himself. Differences in native ability cannot be summarily dismissed, but at present this explanation is frequently dragged in simply to serve as an alibi, both for the school and for the individual.
LECKY'S DEFINITIONS (Freudian terms reinterpreted from the standpoint of self-consistency)
Resistance is determined by the nuclear structure (Ideas of Self), with specific patterns being related to the distribution of positive and negative ideas. Experiences which are perceived as a threat to unification will be resisted since their assimilation would require reorganization of the nucleus.
Repression occurs when new ideas or feelings are interpreted as threatening to existing organization. Dream distortion and symbolism, dissociation, humor [!] and error and many other psychopathological phenomena may be understood in therms of the dynamics of nuclear organization and the striving to maintain unity where inconsistent ideas reflect disorganizational phenomena.
Infantilism and Fixation reflect failure of normal reorganization responsive to normal maturation processes, i.e., the nucleus is largely composed of infantile or immature ideas of self.
Escape Mechanisms, as in alcoholism or drug addiction, reflect the attempt to maintain inconsistent unrealistic nuclear composition by refusing to face new ideas which would involve a threat to ideas of self and force a painful reorganization.
Conflict is a natural phenomenon, a process in which by the constant assimilation of new ideas and attitudes the individual's conception of himself evolves continuously as he learns to define himself in terms of ideas of self which have greater consistency both internally and in relation to reality. Conflict only becomes pathological when disorganization phenomena become so acute as to destroy unity and cause dissolution of self.
Rationalization is a process in which an attempt is made to preserve unity of the organization of ideas by a method of self-justification whereby intellectualized reasons are given to account for an unconsciously motivated thought or act. A plausible excuse makes it possible to maintain a semblance of self-consistency.
Thinking, Day-dreaming, and Dreaming to lesser extent, are dynamic mental processes involving reorganization and recombination of ideas regulated by the need for unity and self-consistency.
Identification occurs when ideas consisting of interpretations of enviable or admirable qualities in other persons or institutions are assimilated into nuclear structure and thereby result in enhancement of self. Identification with undesirable qualities sometimes occurs in the presence of nuclear composition characterized by negative ideas of self.
Feelings of Inferiority have their origin in areas of behavior in which the person is unable to maintain one or more ideas of self. Once a negative idea has been assimilated, the person will behave consistently with his negative self-evaluation. Restriction of behavior then occurs, and negative attitudes may progressively pervade nuclear composition and eventually result in a neurotic structure with more or less disorganization.
Ambivalent Behavior usually indicates that a given nuclear idea is undergoing transformation. It reflects unstable nuclear composition.
Projection describes the process of striving to maintain unity and self-consistency by attributing to others the ideas and complexes which belong to oneself, in pathological degree it can result in unhealthy nuclear composition characterized by logically systematized delusions which are maintained in the interests of self-consistency.
Introversion characterizes a type of nuclear composition in which there is a tendency to interpret the environment subjectively and with the self as the center of reference. In Extraversion, nuclear composition is much more responsive to external stimulation and much less concern with the subjective viewpoint.
Defense Mechanisms tend to maintain positive ideas of self by resorting to fictions. Threats to unity are reacted to by withdrawal, escape mechanisms, symptom elaboration or compensatory mechanism.
Wish-fulfillment involves the vicarious satisfaction of the striving for unity through dreams and phantasies. Frustrated desires reflect themselves in compensatory interpretations of experience.
In order to be effective any form of therapy, including psychoanalysis, must result either directly or indirectly in a genuine nuclear reorganization. The first step in therapy is to identify ideas or attitudes which are inconsistent either internally in relation to other ideas, or externally in relation to reality. The second step is reorganization consists of demonstrating the inconsistency of untenable ideas under conditions where the resulting conflict can be controlled within reasonable limits. Third, now and more valid ideas are introduced which are more consistent with the striving for unity. A genuine nuclear reorganization results in the rejection of immature or infantile interpretations which are replaced with more consistent and realistic organizations.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
I live in an affluent part of town. Not being particularly affluent myself, I can only afford a one bedroom apartment. But I get the benefit of the scenery.
In a semi-arid desert region of the country, prosperity is signaled by an abundance of trees. Today, as I walked to the nearby state park, I paid special attention to the trees.
My apartment complex has many nice trees. Here is the view between two of the apartment buildings.
I walked down the street toward the state park. Fashionable neighborhoods are thick with trees on either side of the street.
I entered the park. Here is what all this area looked like one hundred years ago.
I stepped off the path to snap this butterfly shot.
I stopped and rested beside the reservoir, enjoying the shade and the watching the antics of kayakers and paddle boarders.