Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #724 - Penguicon 2017: Part Three

Me meeting Mr. John Scalzi
At Penguicon 2017 - 1704.29
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #724 - Penguicon 2017: Part Three

Hi Mom,

So this is long overdue. Like two months late, actually.

I have to get this up, so I may skimp on some of my content.

In fact, as I come back and insert this comment, I have realized that I have to stretch my content to other parts.

Get ready. There's lots of notes here, but I think they are somewhat intelligible.

John Scalzi
The highlight of the con was meeting Scazli as shown in the photo. My neurotic self had worried ever since that I did not thank him profusely enough for his kindness in signing my book and also in taking this photo with me.

Thanks, John!

I kind of acted like a fan boy meeting John Scalzi. I think he only signed my book and took a photo with me, though I was off to another thing, so I hope I didn't take advantage.

Seeing John Scalzi read was a hoot! More on this later, maybe. He read from the next LOCKED IN book called Head On. Very cool. Looking forward to book next year, which I know from his blog that John is currently busy finishing. In fact, he announced that he needs to hide from the news in order to finish it in a timely fashion or suffer disapproving looks from his editor. And nobody likes to see those looks.

Highlights were also meeting and interacting with Cory Doctorow and Ada Palmer. I wish I had pictures of myself with those fine folks, also.

Two months later, I have finished Cory's new book Walkaway, which was excellent, and I have just started Ada's Too Like the Lightning, and I think it's pretty great, too. I had already read Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire by the time I was at Penguicon.

Since I have been at Penguicon, its listserv has been choked with "discussion" about the Penguicon staff's managing of various issues to do with conduct, inclusion, and diversity. Criticisms have been directed to the con staff as misguided SJWs, particularly for its handling of gender issues, handicapped accessibility, and other practices that some feel are making Penguicon a "mono-culture" and exclusive rather than truly inclusive. For the most part, I think the debate is quite silly because the efforts of the con staff were by and large thoughtful and accepting. Yet some of the criticisms of how the con implemented its culture and made some who do not identify as SJWs feel excluded is worthwhile and it's something the con staff should listen to.

In any case, I love Penguicon, and I hope to go back next year, which may be a bit more challenging as soon Liesel and I will be living in Woodland, WA, near Vancouver, near Portland, OR.

Anyway, here's my previous three links of Penguicon 2017 content.

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #660 - I am going to PENGUICON 2017.

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #661 - Penguicon 2017 - Part One

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #662 - Penguicon 2017 - Part Two

So, as I left off my description of the con with Friday night, I had not had dinner until about 21:00 hours. I didn't get to sleep until around 23:00, so I slept in a bit, but I had breakfast delivered at 7 a.m. so I was up for that. I ate breakfast and worked a bit before heading out for the day.

Here's my schedule. I didn't make it to the start of the first panel, but I caught about half of it.

Saturday 4/29

09:00 - Listening to Your character
10:00 - Censorship & Information Control
11:00 - Cory Doctorow Reads from WALKAWAY
12:00 - Scalzi reads
14:00 - Career Building - Mock Interview
15:00 - LUNCH
16:00 - Teaching Python Informatics to everyone AKA The end of Dilbert -
18:00 - Giving work away for free
19:00 - Why doesn't everyone self publish?
20:00 - DINNER

Cory Doctorow (L) and Ada Palmer (R)

I took extensive notes  for the the panel with Cory Doctorow and Ada Palmer on CENSORSHIP AND INFORMATION CONTROL, which is also a project through the University Of Chicago, where Ada Palmer is a professor.

I was going to try to rewrite the notes, but why do that? I am might be able to post this entry sooner (as it is already so very late), if I just publish my notes with minor edits.

Also, Ada brought some really old books, and I have a few pictures of those...

I wish someone had taken a video of this talk. I know I missed things. It was so packed with good information and IDEAS. You know I like ideas: SEE THIS.

- what can we learn from the print revolution after the invention of the printing press.
- getting hackers and activists together with book historians and rare book librarians

- people are the gatekeepers for information are taken over from the new gatekeepers of information

- originally, around the time of the invention of piano rolls, composers said that recording our music is an act of theft. Of course, composers lose and the recording industry is born. Then there was another fight when the recordings were broadcast on the radio, and the fight repeats for cable TV, the VCR, and now digital - NAPSTER...
- What is the legitimate progress of art and culture and what is “theft pure and simple”
- recurring themes

- recurring theme: parallel technology
(1450 Gutenberg) - at first, print books are not the majority (vs. handwritten manuscript)
Print books do not become the norm for 80 years.
- This is the curve - the exponential curve (as print books replace handwritten books by the proliferation of more and more presses and people who know how to work them.
- Gutenberg has one press - he teaches one person to work it and build one and that person teaches two more and so on - it takes until 1700 until there is a saturation (over 200 years).
- another challenge at the beginning is that there is no distribution system. Gutenberg prints 80 bibles but there are only 6 people in his town who want to buy the Bible. Gutenberg goes bankrupt. Eventually a printing press is established in Venice and printers sell books to ship captains to be transported to other places - a distribution system begins.
Eventually, there are book fairs - books for cheese economy - a trade system.

- Cory referenced Clarke’s second law - when a scientist tells you something is possible, he’s probably right but when he tells you something is impossible, he’s probably wrong
- connects this idea to DRM - the DRM engineers hide secrets in technology that he gives to his adversary - wishful thinking

- the Ulysses Pact

- information’s use value has a point at which it starts to diminish but there is a point of no return for its dissemination.

- the goal of this system is not to destroy the information but control who has access to the information. Even in the inquisition, they did not destroy all copies of the book, but they simply controlled access to the information, to the banned books. The inquisition starts printing in the 1500s the index of banned materials.

- We trust the elites to have access to this knowledge but we don’t trust the general public to have access to this information.

- The continental versus the English system of information control.

- Old books are very rugged - almost indestructible - leather, pages of on woolen material
Ada brought 400-500 year old books.

- system in England was backwards - you could print anything
but you had to print your home address on it - if the authority thought the information was dangerous, they would come arrest you.
- psychological effect on the creator
- in continental system, you are writing for the censor, writing for the clerk who works for the inquisition - gatekeepers
- but different in English system – see Milton’s writings – different initial audience in mind

- did censors ever censor something that they should not have censored - did discuss controlling over-zealous censors
- protected literature and fables with naughty bits that are harmless - such as the Decarmeron - 50% are stories of monks having sex with each other - one where a monk dresses up as the angel Gabriel

- Jansenism - extreme Catholicism in the 18th century

- If you can outrun the censor by creating public celebration of your work, then you might get a pass - like NAPSTER, more people signed on to Napster than voted for GW Bush at the same time
- in 1976 when the VCR was invented, no one knew the danger it would present to art and distribution
- but in 1984 when the supreme court ruled on the beta max case, the VCR could no longer be banned because there were six million VCRs in homes and a video store in every neighborhood
- People will never vote for someone who wants to take away something people depend on.

- Those who want to control information need to anticipate the impact of a technology to ban it in advance.

- bans were sweeping - ban printed versions of the writings of Martin Luther and all books printed by that printer.
- others banned all books coming out of Geneva and Amsterdam
- but once 50% of all books that are printed in Amsterdam, too many people want books from those cities, so the censors require, to work around the ban, they only need to cross out the publication location as to make it permissable - the crossings out (which were on each page) there was a constant reminder on each page of this “wall” between Catholic and the Protestant world.

- this business of how to out run the rules - cory’s connection to the Amsterdam work around - America becomes a country that exports designs to countries who make them - WTO agreement - but eventually China becomes the only country where everything is made - China can ignore attempts to enforce trade controls because they make everything and businesses rely on China for their goods because we don’t make anything here in America anymore.

- notice and take down - copyright and control - for example YOU  TUBE is a great proprietor of notice and STAY down - copyright proprietorship can ask for anything with an AV hash be taken down, all things - originally copyright proprietorship would want pre-approval control for videos on You Tube or Tweets, which is impossible.

- when they created rules for pre-ban of technology, such as Amsterdam, what’s the work around?
- printing starts in Germany but goes bankrupt, then Venice where it is financially solvent, then printing hub moves to Paris because France by itself has a population equal to the rest of Europe, then Amsterdam becomes a printing hub.
- the reason Amsterdam works is that it’s both a port city (distribution) and has no censorship
- some books “lie” claiming they were printed in Amsterdam even though they were not

- in the inquisition, the penalties for owning banned books were always fines not burning at stake and also sitting through tedious lectures (correction through orientation) - but also confiscation of a personal library.
- this is a big deal - People had small fortunes in their libraries.
- handmade manuscripts costs as much as a house - but early print copies cost as much as a 2-3 month salary for a teacher - so confiscation of a library was a big deal.

- parallels are blowing cory’s mind

- Edison invents movies in New Jersey but Edison had patent enforcers and only allowed films with his approval
- artsy jews chafed at this and went as far west as possible and formed a little town near the Mexican border called Hollywood and formed a new film industry, eventually when patent enforcers of Edison’s from out east reached them and tried to shut them down, it’s too late, they’re established.

- copies - “in the vault”

Hannah Markus, scholar at Harvard
- The Inquisitorial licensing process
- doctors apply for exceptions for banned medical texts
- Pliny - not because of the information about the immortality of the soul but about epilepsy
- BUT permission expires after 3 yrs
- but doctors keep adding things to the permission list
- few things that become hot buttons - are Machiavelli and Galileo - CAN’T HAVE THEM - but you can have them if you are a king or a duke or if you are a Jesuit - then suddenly tons of people join the Jesuits so they can get access to clandestine stuff
- dukes and kings have big libraries and have court librarians who provide access to forbidden texts
- The Inquisition hates this and tries to stop it but they do not have their own enforcement tools, they must go to the local police to get their enforcements, but they cannot get too many enforcements
- States carve out elite access to their approved population

- certificate transparency - invisible certificate submission to approval - and then certificate permissions are removed.


CORY DOCTOROW - Talks after short reading from Walkaway.

- creative commons - https://creativecommons.org/

- cory is going to release Information Doesn’t Want to be Free on CC next week
- cory has a without DRM condition on all books
- why can’t I buy your books anonymously, he’s asked, because I am not a bank, he says.
- Standard deal of back end with e-book with traditional publishing is 25%.
- Authors are creating separate e-book stores to circumvent e-book rates of big publishers
- cory did not self publish because he wanted a 30 city book tour and a higher readership
-SOMEONE ASKS - “Am I a bad person for getting a pirated copy of WALKAWAY last week and read it?”
- Not much different than borrowing book from library - so okay
- Vote with your ballot and your integrity and not with your wallet


- character who is privileged who is trying to set privilege aside (unearned privilege) and do good in the world - activism
- class warfare uses identity to set us against each other
to ensure equitable treatment for everyone we need to care about intercesstionalism??
or did he mean intersectionalism

- people whose resilience is lacking
ULYSSES CONTRACT - knowing that wehn your resolve is trongest, lashing yourself to the mast to protect yourself from when your resolve is the weakest

- Aaron’s Law - violating the EULA was not a felony

Aaron who founded reddit
- committed suicide

_ privatized prisons are coming back under Trump but never went away under Obama

97% plea rate suggests that our prisons are filled with people who are not guilty - people plea to get a lesser sentence because they don’t think they can beat the system and get an acquittal

- named in the lawsuit the EFF is engaging against the govt
DCMA - named in lawsuit
- back door into the legislative system
- Matthew Green
- Bunny Wang - broke the X-Box

- currently breaking DRM to make a filter to look ahead in a video for strobe effects to protect content from epileptic people who are prone to seizures is a felony and so this DCMA clause does not pass constitutional muster

- our (EFF's) argument is part is that you are not allowed to break DRM for fair use and this is not right

will congress fix the CFAA??
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Creative commons considers and “gets right”

Larry Lessig’s four forces, also known as Pathetic Dot Theory
code - what’s possible
norms - what’s acceptable
markets - what’s something that can make money
law - what are legal

the actual problem with copyright is that public knows nothing about copyright

but if you have to understand copyright law to be entertained then the system is busted and no progress can be made in the education of the public, say, in regards to the 12 yr old who wants to write Harry Potter fan fic

how do we test who is a publisher or who is a bank?
Industrial regulation?
Does lending 10 mil make you a bank? What if we have hyper inflation and a sandwich costs 10 mil, no a bank?
So making 1000 copies of something makes you a publisher, then are we publishers when we make copies of something with our computer then are we publishers?

Copyright advocates - if it’s all or nothing, then we will take a little less

DCMA - now creeping into tractors and cars
$70K machine to fix a GM car
- parts will only work when enabled
- farmers need John Deere to enable tractors to accept the parts
- $150 minimum to have JD tech come to farm and turn on the bit that enables the part in the tractor

More to come...


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 726 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1706.30 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #723 - Me and Dad - Jan. 1969 Throwback Thursday - photo series one #25 - Taking Again - Conversations #12

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #723 - Me and Dad - My 7th Birthday - Jan. 1969 Throwback Thursday 1706.29 - photo series one #25 - Taking Again - Conversations #12

Hi Mom,

At first, I thought this was a black and white photo. But then I saw the yellow on the clown candle, and I realized that this is just a very washed out color photo. I do not have that many pictures of Dad let alone me and Dad as he was usually taking the picture. This picture is from the Schoolcraft house, which I barely remember at all. I have lost a lot of details of it, and I am not sure we have that many pictures of it, inside or out.

I cannot make it much of the food on the table. Was I into scalloped potatoes yet at 7 years? Is that corn and some other vegetable in the double dish? Did I like spinach yet? And what's on the big tray? I somehow doubt I was a steak eater at seven. And that would be  A LOT of steak.

I like seeing that I am already in my pajamas.

So, that's the photo analysis, Mom. Hi again. Time for some conversations as I pledged to return to the stream of consciousness talking to you thing, which is the whole point of this blog in the first place.

I didn't finish this on the day it's date and time stamped (June 29th). It's now June 30th.

I will probably keep this one somewhat short as there's lots to do today.

So, I shared this content in an email about getting our house ready to sell:

Painting is more or less done with still one thing for next week. Shower may not be installed until after the house sells. Chimney cap is on. Looks nice. We're working hard on situating and getting ready to show. I wanted to truck a bunch of stuff to Dad's with a trailer this week, but I had a huge mix up with U-Haul. I am concerned about the much smaller sq footage of our new home and the lack of a basement. So Dad is getting a lot of stuff that I may ultimately keep, if I have space, or get ride of when I visit. My first few visits will be dealing with my stuff. But I am already culling out things to get rid of. I am taking comics to Fanfare today. Not many, but some. It's all a process.

The painting has been the best and smartest thing we did. It really looks great.

And then, in another email, a friend asked if I will graduate and the status of my schooling. Here's what I wrote:

I will not graduate. I was never for sure getting another degree. Mainly, I was taking classes to go to grad school, which I may do, but for now, I am going off the traditional education route and plan to hit a MOOC and then a coding boot camp and then, yeah, try for one of the many coding jobs in the Pacific NW. Even though I am not in class now, I am working with a tutor to make sure I know C and Java. Then I am hitting Python and Javascript and maybe Ruby/Ruby on Rails. It's all the same, really, just different lingo. Computers are just all input-output. That's really all it is.

But yeah. the hope is that if we make enough of the sale of this house to send me to Coding Dojo, then I land a sweet job and we are not house poor and suffering the higher cost of living. 

I could go on at length, but I need to be done with this entry.

Sure, I have tons to share, but this is a short "phone" conversation, Mom.

But in recap, I did take the comics to Fanfare and earned some nice store credit. I had a good outcome with the dental work. I had a nice therapy appointment talking about how I am managing stress, which I am doing fairly well.

I will write more next week. Next Tuesday is the two year anniversary of your death; next Thursday, the next Throwback Thursday, will be the two year anniversary of starting this blog feature writing to you, Mom.

That feels significant.


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 725 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1706.29 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #722 - Seneca's letter to his mother - grief - and a song

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #722 - Seneca's letter to his mother - grief - and a song

Hi Mom, As you know, I am always looking for content to feature as I am not able to produce daily original content in the volume I would like. My main criterion for choosing content requires selecting something that I want to read.

I have received the weekly BRAIN PICKINGS newsletter for a few years now. I don't always read the entries, but I have posted shares of the content several times, most notably last week with the article on Ursula LeGuin and story telling, which has proven quite popular.

I saved this entry when I saw it because I knew I would be thinking about grief and the grief process.

There's always synchronicity. It's why Jung wrote about it.

Stories of grief surround us. Stories we learn may slip from our minds, but then we are reminded of them, such as a close friend of mine who lost his son late last year. Or the workers who have been passing through our home, all with stories of grief: the young crew worker for the mason whose mother in in hospice and the painter who lost his wife last year to cancer.

And I talk about grief with others, needing to put my own grief in perspective. Just as I was trying to quantify loss, someone said to me that all loss is loss, and it's all worthy of grief. But in making such a public spectacle of my own grief, and trying to continually frame it in terms of life and celebration and happiness -- as I have for the last two days -- I also need to keep the feelings of loss in perspective because others have experienced much greater pain.

Unlike our situation, Mom, many losses are unexpected and random. Someone is suddenly gone. With many of these tragedies, the person is young, taken from the world too soon, and there's a feeling of injustice. What happened, it's just not right. It's wrong. This is my friend's story. His son was snatched from life after completing his first year of college, age 18, all promise and possibility ahead of him, suddenly gone. I had not been thinking of Finn, until something reminded me of him and his story, and so with this instance of synchronicity comes the perspective.

And then there's the diagnosis and swift decline of the disease caught too late to save the individual as with the stories I have heard recently from those spending time at my home. More synchronicity and more perspective.

I am so blessed that I was able to share 53 and 1/2 years of life with you, Mom, before we you passed on. I feel so fortunate that we had 15 extra years with you after the meningitis that put you in a coma and almost killed you, then, in the year 2000. We had a lot of time for goodbye. My story is not like those other stories. Loss is the common factor. And yet, I am hesitant to compare my loss to theirs. The other day, hearing the painter's story, I didn't even share our story, Mom. It was not necessary. I listened. I said good things, consoling things, empathizing things, and left our story out of it.

Our story is full of blessings, Mom. And maybe one thing I have learned in the last two years of writing this blog is that I don't have to wear my grief on my sleeve. I am not wearing my grief on my sleeve. But the grief is there. I feel the loss, as mentioned in this article, via Abraham Lincoln as “a sad sweet feeling in your heart.”

So, when I read this article about Seneca's "Consolation to Helvia," I am reminded of the unfathomable losses that many experience. I am an infant in the loss department compared to the story of Helvia.

Granted, your death, Mom, has been the most significant loss of my life to date. I have seen tragedy. I have seen close friends die tragically. One took his own life. One died in a freak accident. But neither of those deaths affected me as yours does, Mom.

But I keep an eye on the perspective, the spectrum of loss, the quantifier of loss.

My life has been very easy compared to so many others. I am blessed, and I am lucky.

So, what follows is the share from BRAIN PICKINGS.

And here's the full letter of Helvia by Seneca as well.


FROM - https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/05/02/seneca-consolation-to-helvia/

Seneca on Grief and the Key to Resilience in the Face of Loss: An Extraordinary Letter to His Mother

Seneca on Grief and the Key to Resilience in the Face of Loss: An Extraordinary Letter to His Mother

“All your sorrows have been wasted on you if you have not yet learned how to be wretched.”

Seneca on Grief and the Key to Resilience in the Face of Loss: An Extraordinary Letter to His Mother“Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be,” Joan Didion observed in her classic meditation on loss. Abraham Lincoln, in his moving letter of consolation to a grief-stricken young woman, wrote of how time transmutes grief into “a sad sweet feeling in your heart.” But what, exactly, is the mechanism of that transmutation and how do we master it before it masters us when grief descends in one of its unforeseeable guises?
Long before Didion, before Lincoln, another titan of thought — the great Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca — addressed this in what might be the crowning achievement in the canon of consolation letters, folding into his missive an elegant summation of Stoicism’s core tenets of resilience.
In the year 41, Seneca was sentenced to exile on the Mediterranean island of Corsica for an alleged affair with the emperor’s sister. Sometime in the next eighteen months, he penned one of his most extraordinary works — a letter of consolation to his mother, Helvia.
Helvia was a woman whose life had been marked by unimaginable loss — her own mother had died while giving birth to her, and she outlived her husband, her beloved uncle, and three of her grandchildren. Twenty days after one the grandchildren — Seneca’s own son — died in her arms, Helvia received news that Seneca had been taken away to Corsica, doomed to life in exile. This final misfortune, Seneca suggests, sent the lifelong tower of losses toppling over and crushing the old woman with grief, prompting him in turn to write Consolation to Helvia, included in his Dialogues and Letters (public library).
Although the piece belongs in the ancient genre of consolatio dating back to the fifth century B.C. — a literary tradition of essay-like letters written to comfort bereaved loved ones — what makes Seneca’s missive unusual is the very paradox that lends it its power: The person whose misfortune is being grieved is also the consoler of the griever.


Seneca writes:
Dearest mother,
I have often had the urge to console you and often restrained it. Many things have encouraged me to venture to do so. First, I thought I would be laying aside all my troubles when I had at least wiped away your tears, even if I could not stop them coming. Then, I did not doubt that I would have more power to raise you up if I had first risen myself… Staunching my own cut with my hand I was doing my best to crawl forward to bind up your wounds.
But what kept Seneca from intervening in his mother’s grief was, above all, the awareness that grief should be grieved rather than immediately treated as a problem to be solved and done away with. He writes:
I realized that your grief should not be intruded upon while it was fresh and agonizing, in case the consolations themselves should rouse and inflame it: for an illness too nothing is more harmful than premature treatment. So I was waiting until your grief of itself should lose its force and, being softened by time to endure remedies, it would allow itself to be touched and handled.
[Now] I shall offer to the mind all its sorrows, all its mourning garments: this will not be a gentle prescription for healing, but cautery and the knife.

Art by Charlotte Pardi from Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, a remarkable Danish illustrated meditation on love and loss

In consonance with his strategy for inoculating oneself against misfortune, Seneca considers the benefits of such a raw confrontation of sorrow:
Let those people go on weeping and wailing whose self-indulgent minds have been weakened by long prosperity, let them collapse at the threat of the most trivial injuries; but let those who have spent all their years suffering disasters endure the worst afflictions with a brave and resolute staunchness.
Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up by toughening those whom it constantly afflicts.
In a sentiment of uncompromising Stoicism, he adds:
All your sorrows have been wasted on you if you have not yet learned how to be wretched.
Observing the particular difficulty of his situation — being both his mother’s consoler and the subject of her grief — Seneca finds amplified the general difficulty of finding adequate words in the face of loss:
A man lifting his head from the very funeral pyre must need some novel vocabulary not drawn from ordinary everyday condolence to comfort his own dear ones. But every great and overpowering grief must take away the capacity to choose words, since it often stifles the voice itself.
Instead of mere words, Seneca proceeds to produce a rhetorical masterpiece, bringing the essence of Stoic philosophy to life with equal parts logic and literary flair. He writes:
I decided to conquer your grief not to cheat it. But I shall do this, I think, first of all if I show that I am suffering nothing for which I could be called wretched, let alone make my relations wretched; then if I turn to you and show that your fortune, which is wholly dependent on mine, is also not painful.
First I shall deal with the fact, which your love is longing to hear, that I am suffering no affliction. I shall make it clear, if I can, that those very circumstances which you think are crushing me can be borne; but if you cannot believe that, at least I shall be more pleased with myself for being happy in conditions which normally make men wretched. There is no need to believe others about me: I am telling you firmly that I am not wretched, so that you won’t be agitated by uncertainty. To reassure you further, I shall add that I cannot even be made wretched.
We are born under circumstances that would be favourable if we did not abandon them. It was nature’s intention that there should be no need of great equipment for a good life: every individual can make himself happy. External goods are of trivial importance and without much influence in either direction: prosperity does not elevate the sage and adversity does not depress him. For he has always made the effort to rely as much as possible on himself and to derive all delight from himself.

Art by Maurice Sendak from We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy

Echoing his animating ethos of deliberate preparation for the worst of times, he adds:
Fortune … falls heavily on those to whom she is unexpected; the man who is always expecting her easily withstands her. For an enemy’s arrival too scatters those whom it catches off guard; but those who have prepared in advance for the coming conflict, being properly drawn up and equipped, easily withstand the first onslaught, which is the most violent. Never have I trusted Fortune, even when she seemed to offer peace. All those blessings which she kindly bestowed on me — money, public office, influence — I relegated to a place whence she could claim them back without bothering me. I kept a wide gap between them and me, with the result that she has taken them away, not torn them away.
Seneca makes a sobering case for the most powerful self-protective mechanism in life — the discipline of not taking anything for granted:
No man has been shattered by the blows of Fortune unless he was first deceived by her favours. Those who loved her gifts as if they were their own for ever, who wanted to be admired on account of them, are laid low and grieve when the false and transient pleasures desert their vain and childish minds, ignorant of every stable pleasure. But the man who is not puffed up in good times does not collapse either when they change. His fortitude is already tested and he maintains a mind unconquered in the face of either condition: for in the midst of prosperity he has tried his own strength against adversity.
For this reason, Seneca points out, he has always regarded with skepticism the common goals after which people lust in life — money, fame, public favor — goals he has found to be “empty and daubed with showy and deceptive colours, with nothing inside to match their appearance.” But the converse, he argues, is equally true — the things people most commonly dread are as unworthy of dread to the wise person as the things they most desire are of wise desire. The very concept of exile, he assures his mother, seems so terrifying only because it has been filtered through the dread-lens of popular opinion.
With the logic of Stoicism, he goes on to comfort his mother by lifting this veil of common delusion. Urging her to “[put] aside this judgement of the majority who are carried away by the surface appearance of things,” he dismantles the alleged misfortune of all the elements of exile — displacement, poverty, public disgrace — to reveal that a person with interior stability of spirit and discipline of mind can remain happy under even the direst of circumstances. (Nearly two millennia later, Bruce Lee would incorporate this concept into his famous water metaphor for resilience and Viktor Frankl would echo it in his timeless assertion that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”)
Seneca then comes full-circle to his opening argument that grief is better confronted than resisted:
It is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it. For if it has withdrawn, being merely beguiled by pleasures and preoccupations, it starts up again and from its very respite gains force to savage us. But the grief that has been conquered by reason is calmed for ever. I am not therefore going to prescribe for you those remedies which I know many people have used, that you divert or cheer yourself by a long or pleasant journey abroad, or spend a lot of time carefully going through your accounts and administering your estate, or constantly be involved in some new activity. All those things help only for a short time; they do not cure grief but hinder it. But I would rather end it than distract it.

Art from Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch, an uncommonly tender illustrated meditation on life and death

Seneca points unwaveringly to philosophy and the liberal arts as the most powerful tools of consolation in facing the universal human experience of loss — tools just as mighty today as they were in his day. Commending his mother for having already reaped the rewards of liberal studies despite the meager educational opportunities for women at the time, he writes:
I am leading you to that resource which must be the refuge of all who are flying from Fortune, liberal studies. They will heal your wound, they will withdraw all your melancholy. Even if you had never been familiar with them you would have need of them now. But, so far as the old-fashioned strictness of my father allowed, you have had some acquaintance with the liberal arts, even if you have not mastered them. If only my father, best of men, had been less devoted to ancestral tradition and had been willing that you be steeped in the teaching of philosophy and not just gain a smattering of it: you would not now have to acquire your defence against Fortune but just bring it forth. He was less inclined to let you pursue your studies because of those women who use books not to acquire wisdom but as the furniture of luxury. Yet thanks to your vigorously inquiring mind you absorbed a lot considering the time you had available: the foundations of all formal studies have been laid. Return now to these studies and they will keep you safe. They will comfort you, they will delight you; and if they genuinely penetrate your mind, never again will grief enter there, or anxiety, or the distress caused by futile and pointless suffering. Your heart will have room for none of these, for to all other failings it has long been closed. Those studies are your most dependable protection, and they alone can snatch you from Fortune’s grip.
He concludes by addressing the inevitability of his mother’s sorrowful thoughts returning to his own exile, deliberately reframeing his misfortune for her:
This is how you must think of me — happy and cheerful as if in the best of circumstances. For they are best, since my mind, without any preoccupation, is free for its own tasks, now delighting in more trivial studies, now in its eagerness for the truth rising up to ponder its own nature and that of the universe. It seeks to know first about lands and their location, then the nature of the encompassing sea and its tidal ebb and flow. Then it studies all the awesome expanse which lies between heaven and earth — this nearer space turbulent with thunder, lightning, gales of wind, and falling rain, snow and hail. Finally, having scoured the lower areas it bursts through to the heights and enjoys the noblest sight of divine things and, mindful of its own immortality, it ranges over all that has been and will be throughout all ages.
The full letter was later included as an appendix to the Penguin edition of On the Shortness of Life (public library) — Seneca’s timeless 2,000-year-old treatise on busyness and the art of living wide rather than long. Complement it with these unusual children’s books about navigating grief, a Zen teacher on how to live through loss, and more masterworks of consolation from such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, and Albert Einstein, then revisit the great Stoics philosophers’ wisdom on character, fortitude, and self-control.


The post needs a song.


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 724 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1706.28 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #721 - I'm Happy - the dancing gorilla video

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #721 - I'm Happy - the dancing gorilla video

Hi Mom,

Take a look at this video of the dancing gorilla. He seems really happy, doesn't he?

Did you watch the video?

It's really worth watching, and it's short.

Come on... watch the video.

Okay, so what I wanted to share, post-video is that like the gorilla I wanted to make clear that I am also happy.

Yesterday, I wrote about when you started actively dying and where I am emotionally two years later.

My message was "Let the Sun Shine In" and "Hello Sunshine, come into my life."

Very positive.

Open, accepting, and full of optimism.

Good vibes.

Since it was Dad's birthday, I talked to him about it. He shared that the anniversary of the beginning of your end days did not make him sad. He, too, is happy. We're both embarking on new adventures in our lives. I am moving to Vancouver, WA with my wife and dogs.

Life is exciting.

I have said it before, and I will say it again.

Marrying my wife, Liesel, is the smartest decision I have ever made in my life. If not for her, I would not be moving, and I would be missing out on what will be a grand adventure.

So, Mom, this is a short one as I am preparing original content for future posts. I have the week planned out because I have a lot of packing and situating to do to get the house ready to sell.

I expect to reflect a great deal on your end days from two years ago over the next two weeks as we march to the anniversary of your death on July 4th.

The sadness and loss I feel is more fact than lodestone. Mostly, I am celebrating life. My life, Dad's life, my sister who seems to be awakening fully, my wife who is getting what she really wants with this move in so many ways, and me, I am celebrating my life. I know this is what you want, Mom. I have shared these thoughts before, but I think they deserve to be repeated.

So, it's funny that I should mention being happy as I have spent much of the day packing stuff and choosing to get rid of a lot of stuff. But I am happy. And I owe it all to my wife, Liesel.

I am happy.

Now, everybody dance!


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 723 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1706.27 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #720 - AQUARIUS - Let the Sun Shine - a Musical Monday Mix for 1706.26

Aquarius Zodiac sign
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #720 - AQUARIUS - Let the Sun Shine - a Musical Monday Mix for 1706.26

Hi Mom, Here's a mix dedicated to sunshine. Last week we had the first day of summer.

Also, two other things.

Today is the Big Guy's, my Dad's, 82nd birthday. Happy Birthday to Robert Tower, architect, husband, father, caregiver, and handyman. I add the last one because he had a full day handyman odd jobs Saturday between my house and Faye's.

Here's what I shared for the BG's birthday last year:


It's a nice tribute to how great my Dad is.

Also, around this time, this day, Mom, is when you started actively dying two years ago. Actually, it was two years ago on the first day of summer, June 21, 2015.

I wrote about that here:


I think that entry is worth re-posting:

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #350 - A year ago, it began

Hi Mom,

A year ago, today, is the day we consider that you started actively dying. Following our pizza party for Dad's 80th birthday and the 2015 Father's Day, the next day, a Monday, you would not eat.

13 days later you were gone.

But that was a long 13 day period.

So, we're closing in on a year since your death, and I am trying to figure out how I feel.

The obvious feelings are all here inside of me. I miss you. I am sad. I am grieving.

It's the more complicated feelings that I am trying to pin down. Or perhaps, I am trying to pin down the more elusive feelings. Not complicated, just difficult to define.

I have spent all day, today, thinking about this issue, these feelings, you, your death, this date a year ago. I have few answers. But I am about to quit and finish this in the morning. I need to sleep on it. So this will be another post that will be posted late.

I remember last year when Dad called to tell me you were not eating. We had not yet defined at the time that you were actively dying. We did not say those words yet. But we knew it was not a good sign that you would not eat.

There's an emptiness that I cannot define. And I guess, it's this emptiness that is also complex. The emptiness is caused by many things or exists for many reasons. I plumb this depth often, trying to find its shape, its meaning, its origin.

I have learned in this year to examine closely the rational-emotional split inside me. Rationally, intellectually, consciously, I knew you would not live forever, Mom. I knew we were on borrowed time since 2000 when you got the meningitis. I felt that I was prepared. We had so many close calls. So many bedside vigils. But emotionally, I was not ready; I was not prepared. And there's a place in me that has all this emotion for you, Mom, that is empty because it is never refilled with experience with you, at least not physically in person in corporeal form.

It's the adjustment of my emotions that is still in progress and maybe it always will be. Judging by the experiences of others who have lost a parent, or a mother, I can see that the grief goes on and on and on. I know from your own experience of losing your mother that you grappled with that grief for the rest of your life. I expect to do the same.

And so I mark these dates. I reflect. I connect. I strive. I have moved on. I am not trying to hold on to you, Mom. I am celebrating my life as lived now, in the moment, and I cherish the love we had and the loves I have now. And though my life is wonderful, there is something missing, and something I do not want to be missing, you.

Today is a day that I would really like to talk with you, Mom, and I have as best we can now. I hear you, and though it's not the same as it was, it will have to be good enough.

Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 352 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1606.21 - 10:10


Now, a year later, I am saying "Let the Sunshine In."

I am a year farther down the path of grief, and I have found that grief becomes manageable. There are flare ups at certain times. Mother's Day was hard. This time period, especially the Fourth of July, will be rough. But not as rough as two years ago, and not even as rough as last year, but the lodestone of pain and loss will always be there, it has just become something that I acknowledge as truth and that I live with.

So, in recognizing the two year anniversary of when you started actively dying, I also recognize that very soon (July 6th) I will reach the two anniversary of this blog feature.

As I have mentioned before, originally, I had chosen to do what I did with the T-shirts blog, 365 of online journal writing and personalized content. But when I neared 365 days of entries in 2016, I decided to keep going. I kept going not because I am clutching my grief tightly and won't let you go, Mom, but because the blog has become a way to celebrate your life, Mom, my life, and all of our lives, the world, everything. In a sense, the blog feature just allows me to dedicate content to you. Sure, I am talking to you, but more often than not, you would not be interested in what I am sharing. What's important is that I am interested in what I am sharing, and maybe, some other readers will find the material interesting, too.

And so, two years removed from your downward spiral, your last days, your ending, I am writing about beginnings and sunshine and positive, happy, and beautiful things, and love. Liesel and I are moving out west. We have a beautiful fur family (and some human family members, too). Life is good. Sure, I miss you, Mom. But I feel you with me all the time. I feel you surrounding me in a loving embrace of spiritual energy. It helps me.

So, I can be positive. I can say that life is good. I can say, "let the sunshine" because it is, it does, and it will.

So, this mix. Obviously, I started with the signature song from the musical Hair and the Fifth Dimension's cover of "Aquarius - Let The Sunshine In." You Tube brings me great gifts for these songs, such as the Bubblerock Promo, but since I also like the straight single version, I framed the mix with both, starting and ending with "Aquarius - Let The Sunshine In."

Maybe this is all super cheesy, I know, but I couldn't resist.

So then songs about the sun or about a wonderful day seemed natural choices. I have always had a weakness for "Soak Up The Sun" by Sheryl Crow. It's such a happy song, such an almost perfect pop song. So even though my wife will criticize me for white appropriation of Hawaiian culture in Crow's video, I had to include the song.

Even though I recently featured it in another mix, I had to include this video of "Hello Sunshine" that someone made with clips from South Lyon, MI in it.

And then You Tube makes suggestions, and I often take them as I like the way I find these things I would not have found otherwise -- serendipity. And so, I come across the Bangles appearance on American Bandstand from 1986 with "Manic Monday" and "If She Knew What She Wants" and Dick Clark interviewing! Also, what someone calls "the best pop song ever written" with "SOS" and commentary from Top of the Pops 2 from the BBC.

Some songs may not seem to fit -- such as "Closer" -- but some change of pace helps keep the mix interesting. I could have saved "Hey Ya!" for another mix but I liked it. The Art of Noise track came up in a recent drive with Liesel, and it felt right to share it. I like this remix. Speaking of Liesel, she's been singing a lot of Carpenters around the house lately, so "Top of the World" seemed right to add to this mix. Ditto the Bill Withers song, which came up on a Pandora station she was playing.

And great videos! Two tracks from performances at the White House with the Carpenters and Stevie Wonder. The aforementioned American Bandstand and Abba live stuff. Bill Withers singing. Elton John live from 1974. Beth Orton in a duet with Ted Barnes from 1998.

U2 at Slane Castle?? Wow. And a Haircut 100 revival that I wish I had been at? Priceless.

Haircut 100's Pelican West is the best pop album that you are not listening to (unless you are). I love that album.

I think this is a great mix.

Welcome to summer.

"Hello sun shine... come into my life..."


1. "Aquarius - Let The Sunshine In" - Bubblerock Promo - The Fifth Dimension
2. "Ain't No Sunshine" - Bill Withers
3. "Moments in Love (beaten remix)" - Art of Noise
4. "Closer" - NIN - covered by Kawehi
5. "Soak Up The Sun" Sheryl Crow
6. "Hello Sunshine" - Super Furry Animals
7. "Beautiful Day" - U2 - Live at Slane Castle (2008)
8. "Fantastic Day" - Haircut 100 - Rewind Festival 2011
9. "Top of the World" - Carpenters - Live at the White House - 1973
10. "Manic Monday" and "If She Knew What She Wants" - The Bangles - Live on American                      Bandstand - 1986
11. "SOS" - Abba -  with interviews from Top of the Pops 2 from the BBC
12. "Hey Ya!" - Outkast
13. "Brighter Than Sunshine" - Aqualung
14. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" - Elton John -1974
15. "I Wish I never Saw the Sunshine" Beth Orton
16. "In the Sunshine" - Arrested Development
17. "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" Stevie Wonder - Live at the White House - 2011
18. "Aquarius - Let The Sunshine In" - The Fifth Dimension (second version)


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 722 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1706.26 - 8:40 EDT

Not waiting on this one. Want to get it up early.