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Feel anything from grumpy to homicidal when you have to get up in the morning? Yeah, we hear ya. Luckily, a bunch of researchers at — where else — Harvard have discovered a neat trick to soften the punch of the alarm clock: stick a bouquet in your bedroom.

The behavioral study found that those of us who don’t consider ourselves “morning people” report feeling happier and more energized after looking at flowers first thing in the morning. This, in turn, makes us more positive throughout the day, which makes those around us a tad friendlier too, thanks to the whole “emotional contagion” thing.   (Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings)


Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown


In thinking about and trying to come to terms with the recent presidential election, I have been reading a number of articles including some books I read long ago.  Here are a few.  More in future posts.


Herb Stein’s Unfamiliar Quotations

Stein’s law: if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

If you meet a madman who says that he is a fish and that we are all fishes, do you take off your clothes to show him that you do not have fins?  –Milan Kundera, Risibles Amours, 1984

I love this in part because I am proud that I translated it from the French, which, in turn, was translated from the Czech. But I love it even more because it has saved me so much trouble. In the past when I encountered some outlandish inanity–often about taxes–I would sit down at my keyboard and write an answer. I am still tempted to do that, but since I encountered that quotation, I have resisted.

You may ask: How will I know if he is a madman? The answer is: Don’t worry, you’ll know. And if you are in doubt, assume he is mad and leave the refutation to others. You have plenty to do in the world without having to worry about debating people who may be mad.


Trump’s “Unpredictable Starting Now” Foreign Policy Already Here (Bloomberg)

Trump Takes On China in Tweets on Currency, South China Sea (Bloomberg)

Why people are making such a big deal about the Trump-Taiwan call (Washington Post)

If Trump challenges the basis of the One-China policy “at the same time that he places pressure on China over trade, we could be heading for a very rough road,” said Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra … “In time, Trump may realize the limits of the powers of the White House in foreign-exchange markets,” said Sean Callow, a Sydney-based senior strategist at Westpac.


Italian PM to Quit After Voters Reject His Constitutional Reforms—Euro News

Italy is the world’s 8th largest economy and America’s 14th largest trading partner. Should the change in government lead to an exit by Italy from the EU, the economic consequences could be dramatic.


Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown


Hold Still: Sally Mann on the Treachery of Memory, the Dark Side of Photography, and the Elusive Locus of the Self

“Photographs economize the truth; they are always moments more or less illusorily abducted from time’s continuum.”


Richard Feynman:  The Meaning of It All

So I discussed it at some greater length to discover what was going on and talked to the lady for a while, and she explained among other things (we talked about many things—we did this on a friendly basis, you will be surprised to hear) that she was not a member of the Birch Society but there was something that you could say for the Birch Society, she saw some movie about it and so on, and there was something that she could say for it. You’re not a fence sitter when you’re in the Birch Society. At least you know what you’re for, because you don’t have to join it if you don’t want to, and this is what Mr. Welch said, and this is the way the Birch Society is, and if you believe in this then you join, and if you don’t believe in this then you shouldn’t join. It sounds just like the Communist Party. It’s all very well if they have no power. But if they have power, it’s a completely different situation. I tried to explain to her that this is not the kind of freedom that was being talked about, that in any organization there ought to be the possibility of discussion. That fence sitting is an art, and it’s difficult, and it’s important to do, rather than to go headlong in one direction or the other. It’s just better to have action, isn’t it, than to sit on the fence? Not if you’re not sure which way to go, it isn’t …

I therefore consider the Encyclical of Pope John XXIII, which I have read, to be one of the most remarkable occurrences of our time and a great step to the future. I can find no better expression of my beliefs of morality, of the duties and responsibilities of mankind, people to other people, than is in that encyclical. I do not agree with some of the machinery which supports some of the ideas, that they spring from God, perhaps, I don’t personally believe, or that some of these ideas are the natural consequence of ideas of earlier popes, in a natural and perfectly sensible way. I don’t agree, and I will not ridicule it, and I won’t argue it. I agree with the responsibilities and with the duties that the Pope represents as the responsibilities and the duties of people. And I recognize this encyclical as the beginning, possibly, of a new future where we forget, perhaps, about the theories of why we believe things as long as we ultimately in the end, as far as action is concerned, believe the same thing.


Pacem in Terris (in English)

Pacem in Terris, or in English (full title) On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity and Liberty was a papal encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII on 11 April 1963. It remains one of the most famous of 20th century encyclicals and established principles that featured in some of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and of later popes. It was the last encyclical drafted by John XXIII; he was suffering from cancer when he drafted it and died two months after its completion.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  Letters and Papers From Prison

Here and there people flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness. But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and eyes to the injustice around him.


Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable.


Against folly we have no defense.


If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large part of mankind; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of the others. It is not that certain human capacities, intellectual capacities for instance, become stunted or destroyed, but rather that the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that men are deprived of their independent judgment, and – more or less unconsciously – give up trying to assess the
new state of affairs for themselves. The fact that the fool is often stubborn must not mislead us into thinking that he is independent. One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him. He is under a spell, he is blinded, his very nature is being misused and exploited. Having thus become a passive instrument, the fool will be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. Here lies the danger of a diabolical exploitation that can do irreparable damage to human beings.


Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, artist unknown