Sunday, February 19, 2012

Making Sense Out of Suffering

Several years ago I came across a gem – the book, Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft (a professor of philosophy at Boston College).   He covers the "easy answers" (atheism, pantheism, etc), hints found in myths, literature (even "children's literature",like The Velveteen Rabbit, The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, etc.), world religions (Buddhism, Taoism, etc.) and resolution in the Answer rather than answers.   Professor Kreeft's use of Socratic dialogue - employed in several of his books - helps to make this book more conversational - "let's talk about it" - rather than just some kind of spiritual lecture or "feel good" book loaded with platitudes.   Mr. Kreeft joins us and walks with us through the tough questions.   I did not read this book in one sitting.  The content was so thought provoking that I purposely read slowly and looked forward to reading each and every chapter.        

About Peter Kreeft

What is God's Answer To Human Suffering?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Funky Kitty Echo Ringtone

For your amusement, here's a link to a ringtone I created from the unique meowing of our cat, Panther.

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Minding The Mind: Using Your Personal "Neck Top" Computer! (Part II)

When I was growing up, I read books about people who had incredible gifts of memory or number crunching.  It was so fascinating, but it never seemed attainable - it was like being some kind of superhero. It seemed you were either born with the ability or not.  Most of us are familiar with  the impressive abilities of "mega savant", Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman's character Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man.  Are we all capable of these incredible feats of mental gymnastics?  While I definitely do believe that these things are gifts, there are some skills that can be learned and mastered which can help us with memory or math(s).

On July 30, 2007 I was honored to meet Mr Scott Flansburg - "The Human Calculator".   (Scott could have mentally calculated that it was a Monday)  I had seen him before on television promoting his human calculator learning materials.  He was on tour doing a bottled water promotion and was in Jacksonville for the day.  For a few hours he was at the Jacksonville Landing - which was within walking distance from where I worked.  I walked over and quickly found him under a canopy;  free cold bottled water was available and I took a drink and cooled off and listened while Scott asked the woman in front of me what was her date of birth - month, day, year.  After she told him, he quickly told her what day of the week she was born on.  I told him mine and - zing! - he said that I was born on a  "Sunday" - absolutely correct!  I knew that there was a formula for determining the day of the week from the month, day and year.  When I was a kid, I collected a few math books and some slide rules.  I especially liked the books that had math tricks or shortcuts in them.  In one book, I remember coming across this formula and calculated the day of the week just as Scott had done.  However, it took me a few minutes and I had a pencil and paper.  Scott calculated it in about 3 seconds!  
He is truly blessed with a wonderful gift;  I was totally fascinated with how lightning fast he could calculate.  It was awesome to meet a real life version of  "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes"!  He took the time to show a group of us some of the shortcuts he uses to add columns of numbers (from left to right, instead of the way I was taught, beginning in the units column and working left),  multiply two digits numbers, etc.  He is a great teacher and loves to help make math fun for young and old.  I wish my wife & sons had been there.  Later, I showed them what I remembered - it was not as impressive.   I was so fascinated that I forgot to ask him for his autograph!

Where to begin?

 The first book I recall reading on the subject was The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics by Jakow Trachtenberg and Ann Cutler.  I had the paperback version.  Of course when I say that I had read the book, this really means that I took pencil and paper and followed along by attempting the calculations myself.  I had already been exposed to the "new math" and I could see how many of the techniques were based on some of the techniques that I had learned in algebra.  This is a good book.  However, it is not necessarily "user friendly" or fun.

In addition to the fantastic materials available by Scott Flansburg , you may also want to take a look at the following two books by Mr. Bill Handley:

Speed Mathematics: Secret Skills for Quick Calculation
Speed Math for Kids: The Fast, Fun Way To Do Basic Calculations

Also, Edward H. Julius has some very good books on Rapid Math Tricks, too!

When it comes to math, are you more of a "hands on" type of person?  There is a calculating system just for you - literally.  Have you heard about "Finger Math"?   I was impressed by a demonstration that I had seen on a Talk Show by some young children.  They called it Chisenbop/Chisanbop (Korean for finger calculation).  No pencil nor paper - just fingers being used to perform some hefty calculations - columns of numbers, multi-digit multiplication, division, etc.  The technique is based on some of the same techniques used when working with an abacus.

For further information:
Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain by Ron Hale-Evans  
(see Chapter 4 Math ... Turn Your Hands Into An Abacus)
The Complete Book of Fingermath: Simple, Accurate,Scientific by Edwin M. Lieberthal
The Complete Book of Chisanbop : Original Finger Calculation Method by Hang Young Pai, Sung Jin Pai

There are some online tutorials available, too:

ChisanbopTutorial 1

Chisenbop Tutorial 2 

Also, check these out on YouTube:

Chisenbop addition and subtraction

Finger Math: The Basics

Cute Child Demonstrating Technique

There is much more information available!  Just search the internet and specific sites (like YouTube)  using the key words: "Finger Math", "Chisenbop" or "Chisanbop".

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

May I Please Have Your Undivided Attention!

We have, no doubt, heard someone address a crowd or group with the words, "May I please have your undivided attention". The same words, more or less, are appropriate in our everyday conversations and relationships with family, friends, co-workers, clients, etc. This is not to say that we do not need to have several things accomplished by the end of the day. It does mean that instead of juggling and giving "time slices", we learn to really "be there" in the moment and honor the person we are with or do justice to a task by being engaged, rather than half-hearted. Ever seen the bumper sticker, "I'd rather be fishing"? Speaking from personal experience, the way the person was driving his/her truck - I also wish he/she was off the road and in a boat! We've recently become aware of the dangers of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. Everyone THINKS they can do it successfully; in reality, driving performance is degraded - and so is the conversation!

In her blog, Laura Grace Weldon has some interesting insights on the subject of multi-tasking:

This reminded me of something I had read by Metropolitan Anthony (Anthony Bloom) years ago. In his book, Metropolitan Anthony writes:

In the beginning, when I was a physician, I felt it was most unfair to the people who were in the waiting room if I was slow in seeing the person who was with me in the consulting room. So the first day I tried to be as quick as I could with those in the consulting room. I discovered by the end of my surgery hours that I had not the slightest recollection of the people I had seen, because all the time a patient was with me, I was looking beyond him with clairvoyant eyes into the next room and counting the heads of those who were not with me. The result was that all the questions I asked I had to ask twice, all the examinations I made I had to make twice or even three times. When I had finished, I could not remember whether I had done these things or not...

Then I felt this was simply dishonest, and I decided that I would behave as if the person who was with me was the only one who existed. The moment I began to feel, “I must be quick”, I would sit back and engage in small talk for a few minutes just to prevent myself from hurrying. I discovered within two days that you no longer need to do anything like that. You can simply be completely concerned with the person or task that is in front of you, and when you have finished, you will discover that you have spent half the time doing it, instead of all the time you took before; yet you have seen everything and heard everything. 

(Bloom, Anthony. Beginning to Pray. New York: Paulist Press, 1982)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thank you, Teachers!

C. J. Stegall-Evans in her blog, Writing As A Sacred Art ,has written the following about the teaching profession:

I wanted to become a teacher because teachers do this amazing thing; you know the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, well, teachers just give it away. Teachers stand in their classrooms every day and dispense the keys to success
 In Praise of Teachers

As a parent and someone who has taught non-professionally (homeschooling, Sunday School, etc), I can relate to Ms. Stegall-Evans article.  I would encourage the reader to reach out and show your appreciation to a teacher(s) in the next few days and let him/her know what a difference (s)he has made in your life. 

I also invite the reader to read the rest of this brief article and others found at her site.  See, for example, her post, Words on a Page about writing!  Excellent and insightful.

Writing as a Sacred Art

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Seniors on a Mission

Went on a wonderful, short term mission trip yesterday with Seniors on a Mission!!! 
The Lord has given Joanne Hickox an awesome vision/ministry which blesses our seniors and blesses the non-profit organizations in our community. 
You can read more about it at their website and on Facebook.

By the way ... one of the ladies on the Seniors on a Mission trip yesterday was Nina Johnson - 105 years old! (Her birthday is next month). Here's a great/inspiring video of Nina from the Westminster Woods site:
(Click on the Nina Johnson link)