Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quotations by Richard L. Weaver II

Prepare yourself now in every way that you can, as often as you can, and as much as you can. In that way, you have no excuse for missing an opportunity.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And Then Some News

The first two paragraphs of Thursday's essay, "Mental aerobics," read as follows:

A colleague and I began writing about mental aerobics more than 25 years ago. Our articles on the subject were published in academic journals such as Innovative Higher Education and Educational Horizons.  Our article, "Mental Aerobics: Directed Discussion," was the lead article in the Journal of Communication Studies (Volume 7, Number 2, February, 1989, pp. 1-8).

Our most recent article on the topic appeared in The Clearing House (Volume 65, Number 3, January-February, 1992) and it was titled, "Mental Aerobics: Just for the Fun of It."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Incognito: The secret lives of the brain

By David Eagleman

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

There is a 25-page bibliography and 25 pages of notes as well. I found his information on "perception" in the second chapter particularly interesting and noteworthy — enough to reproduce material (with permission, of course) on "Activity; from Within" (pp. 44-46) for my section on "perception" for my 11th edition of Communicating Effectively 10e (McGrawHill, 2012).

Also, I thought his information on attractiveness and the relation between alcohol, sex, and sexual desire was especially insightful (pp. 92-94), and because it relates so well to college students, I will (with permission), include it in a special box in my 11th edition.

One reviewer at (Bee from Seattle) writes: "One of the more intriguing facts revealed in this book is that one part of the brain invents stories to justify what another part sees or feels. Our brains constantly look for order and reason, even when there is none, leading us to regularly reach erroneous conclusions. Now apply this to politics or intimate relationships. Thinking about the implications makes my head spin." The reason I find this especially intriguing is that it fits perfectly into my textbook section entitled, "Deletions, Distortions, and Generalizations" (pp. 49-50), a part that supports the conclusion, "Any perceptions you have are less than perfect" (p. 49). It is a difficult concept for people to fully understand.

I thought the information on how brains differ, and all of the factors that affect brain development (pp. 157-158), was well developed. This is the kind of material readers — especially those who are unfamiliar with neuroscientific understandings — need to know.

Eagleman’s distinction between blame and biology, in the section, "The Shift from Blame to Biology," was superb (pp. 172-172). His explanation of the limits of neuroscience was exemplary: "[A neuroscientist] can say nothing about the minutiae of the microcircuitry, nor the algorithms that run on the vast seas of millisecond-scale electrical and chemical signaling" (p. 174).

One of the points Eagleman makes, and which people need to know for sure, "people do not arrive at the scene [any scene!] with the same capacities. Their genetics and their personal histories mold their brains to quite different end points" (p. 187).

I thought Eagleman’s arguments (evidence) to support "a biologically informed jurisprudence" were (even though a bit premature at this time regarding a complete legal theory) were exceptional (pp. 151-192). It is a terrific idea. Eagleman directs the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law and, thus, is in a position to promote such a proposal.

If you are trying to understand the structure of this book, Eagleman explains it in Chapter 6, "Why Blameworthiness is the Wrong Question": "We’ve spent the first five chapters exploring the degree to which we are not the ones driving the boat. We saw that people have little capacity to choose or explain their actions, motivations, and beliefs, and that the captain’s wheel is steered by the unconscious brain, shaped by innumerable generations of evolutionary selection and a lifetime of experiences. The present chapter has explored the social consequences of that . . ." (p. 190).

There is so much information in this book. Eagleman not only writes clearly, but he has avoided technical language and put the material into contexts readers can easily understand and appreciate. What this book does, and it does it in spades, is to challenge you, to make you question, and to cause you to think in new directions.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Humor

A Cowboy sitting in a saloon one Saturday night, he recognized an elderly man standing at the bar who, in his day, had the reputation of being the fastest gun in the West.

The young cowboy took a place next to the old-timer, bought him a drink and told him the story of his great ambition.

'Do you think you could give me some tips?' he asked.

The old man looked him up and down and said, 'Well, for one thing, you're wearing your gun too high. Tie the holster a little lower down on your leg.'

'Will that make me a better gunfighter?' asked the young man.

'Sure will,' replied the old-timer.

The young man did as he was told, stood up, whipped out his 44 and shot the bow tie off the piano player.
'That's terrific!' said the hot shot.. 'Got any more tips for me?'

'Yep,' said the old man. 'Cut a notch out of your holster where the hammer hits it. That'll give you a smoother draw'.

'Will that make me a better gunfighter?' asked the younger man.

'You bet it will, ' said the old-timer.

The young man took out his knife, cut the notch, stood up, drew his gun in a blur, and then shot a cuff-link off the piano player.

'Wow!' exclaimed the cowboy 'I'm learnin' somethin' here. Got any more tips?'

The old man pointed to a large can in a corner.

'See that axle grease over there? Coat your gun with it.'

The young man went over to the can and smeared some of the grease on the barrel of his gun.

'No,' said the old-timer, 'I mean smear it all over the gun, handle and all.'

'Will that make me a better gunfighter?' asked the young man.

'No,' said the old-timer, 'but when Wyatt Earp gets done playing the piano, he's gonna shove that gun up your ass, and it won't hurt near as much.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Some of life's truisms

You never believe that you’ll be in a position to offer some of life’s truisms much less lessons learned. First, you think, who are YOU to offer them? Second, why do you suppose YOU have had enough experiences or possess enough knowledge to suggest such ideas? Third, you know your point of view represents so few others, or such a narrow perspective, that it would be a set of very skewed, biased, and probably distorted (twisted?) ideas. Hey, but here goes anyway!

It was when I was in college that it suddenly dawned on me, that I didn’t need to, nor should I, depend on my instructors and teachers for learning/knowledge. It is the teacher in YOU that counts. How much you learn, how well you learn, and even if you learn at all, is all dependent on YOU.

You are responsible for what happens to you.

I always believed that there was some measure of entitlement to life. That is, I was special and, thus, shouldn’t have to work at it—life was a gift. But, I quickly learned that there is no elevator to success, and if I wanted to be successful, I would have to take the stairs. The harder I worked, the greater the entitlement; I got what I earned. It was ME, all ME. I was responsible for my own success or failure; life was nobody else’s fault but my own. You own your successes, but you own your failures as well.

An additional learning along the way came from observing the behavior of others. I noticed so many of my peers did not work as hard as I did. We are all born with an equal opportunity, I realized, to become unequal, but becoming unequal was not going to be difficult!

I had tremendous success in school, and I discovered I could trust my instincts and abilities. When I worked hard, I achieved success; but the lesson I learned was that I could set my standards or goals higher than I had been setting. When people aim for what they want out of life, most aim too low. I found I could achieve even more when I set the bar higher.

Life is a game. The more I played the more I won. The more I won the more successfully I learned (and loved) to play the game. Just as life is a game, success is a game. And you never get tired of winning—or being successful!

Like any game, life will throw you challenges. A challenge, however, is only a new way to learn and grow. Challenges keep you alert and thinking, responding and adjusting, open and flexible.

Success breeds success. When you set the bar higher and you attain the higher level, you not only grow in confidence, but you begin to trust yourself and then set the bar even higher the next time. Confidence breeds confidence, too.

Somewhere along the way—while I was in school—I discovered that I not only had something to say but that I wanted to share it with others. That made my desire to do well in school even more important and urgent. Now, I was trying to achieve something specific— increase my knowledge, improve my ability, develop my skills—and get a good education! Along with my desire to improve, I realized there were no limits, only expectations. I expected to do more, and the more I did. That is the beauty of personal desire, responsibility, and motivation---- they are your expectations. You are in charge.

School provides a great place to use and practice life skills. There are numerous times where you can achieve success—or something less. Think of the papers, reports, projects, and exams alone. I found I could let the bad times, and there were some, make me bitter or make me better. I used my bad times as learning experiences where I could grow, develop, and change in positive ways.

Sometimes, when bad things happen, it is easy to become resentful, hostile, and even distressed. I had a Ph.D. student whom I advised, who had a horrible grading experience with one of her professors. She wanted to quit school. After talking with her extensively, I told her that getting a Ph.D. was far more valuable to her than retaining the grief, pain, and unpleasantness that a single negative experience had caused. If she could let future possibility outweigh past adversity, she wins. A life not put to the test, is a life not worth living.

For much of my life I preached that you need to do everything you can, at all the points you can, to keep choice-making in your own hands. When you are not making the choices, someone else has the advantage over you.

I believe that there are two kinds of people in the world, the quick and the dead, those who choose to run, and the also-rans. The dead never have to be your concern; to give them your time and effort (as a competitive professional) is a waste of your time.

I have often been asked, "why do you work so hard and fast?" There are no speed limits on the road to excellence. If you operate on the 80-20 principle, you know that you can get 80% of the way toward excellence with only 20% of your accomplishment. That leaves 80% of your time and energy left to devote to your next undertaking. It has been a winning approach for me, and, when necessary, I have delegated the authority to others to help my endeavors reach 100% (even though I can come very close to that level of perfection with 20% exertion).

Commitment, effort, perseverance, and patience are the lubricants that effectively oil the gears of success. When your life is in gear, you live in balance, harmony, and comfort.

I was unaware of it at the time, but as I look back on my education, I realize now that I was in love with it. Doing what I loved, for me, made education a lot less stressful and a heck of a lot more fun. It led to my decision to be involved in it for my entire professional life.

The best feeling in the world is getting paid to do something you truly love to do.

When you are living your life to the fullest, you will discover that every day may not be great—nor even good—but there's something good—maybe even great—in each day. When you look for the good—or even the great—in each day, you can make the most of it. However, if you can't improve on it, change it, or alter it in any way, then change the way you think about it. That is a matter of attitude. When you believe in your ability to find the good—or even the great—in every day, and believe in your ability, too, to change what you find, you not only reinforce your strengths, but you learn new ways to grow, develop, and change.

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Janet Cranford has a terrific short essay, "How to believe in yourself (again)" in which she offers readers five tips: 1) List your past accomplishments, 2) Use your strengths, 3) Shift your focus to the needs around you, 4) Express gratitude, and 5) Take action. Cranford concludes her essay saying: "As you start to believe in yourself again—that you are capable, that you can succeed—don’t be surprised if you begin to notice opportunities that weren’t there before. That happens when you open yourself to possibilities."

At AGIS, , Suzanne Mintz has a brief essay, "Believe in yourself ...take charge of your life." In the essay, she discusses the following four ideas: 1) Keep a positive attitude, 2) Know yourself, 3) Be positive, and 4) Research is another word for being prepared. The last line of her essay reads, "It’s largely about recognizing that you do have choices and making the ones most likely to support you in your caregiving role."

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Copyright July, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Quotations by Richard L. Weaver II

In one way or another, we influence everything with which we have contact.

We are more flexible than we think. When necessary we are capable of being bent, turned, or twisted without breaking. We must only free ourselves from the restraints that imprison us.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And Then Some News

The first paragraph of Thursday's essay, "Some of life’s truisms," reads as follows:

You never believe that you’ll be in a position to offer some of life’s truisms much less lessons learned. First, you think, who are YOU to offer them? Second, why do you suppose YOU have had enough experiences or possess enough knowledge to suggest such ideas? Third, you know your point of view represents so few others, or such a narrow perspective, that it would be a set of very skewed, biased, and probably distorted (twisted?) ideas. Hey, but here goes anyway!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sideways on a scooter: Life and love in India

By Miranda Kennedy
Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I picked up this book for one reason. In my college textbook Communicating Effectively 10e (McGraw-Hill, 2012), I include boxes that are labeled "Consider This" and "Another Point of View." These boxes are designed to illustrate, add further value to, and even counter the ideas offered in the textbook, and they have proven to be, over many years now, popular features of my book. I am always looking for new student-friendly material to insert into these boxes for each new edition.

My quest was satisfied by Kennedy. I found an interesting description of how she had "to transform [herself] into a proper married lady" (page 23), and an explanation of middle-class Hindu weddings" (p. 197) that more than fulfilled my expectations. It was just these specific, detailed narratives that I was looking for. If you are seeking various contrasts between the Indian and American cultures, this book is a great place to begin.

Remember as you read this book that Kennedy is a reporter. She is not a trained historian, a well-honed intercultural specialist, a cultural anthropologist, or a person of sophisticated educational credentials. What she has, and this is important to understand, is a background of writing "extensively about women, caste, and globalization in India" (back flyleaf). She is a journalist, and she is a fine writer.

Sideways on a scooter offers a down-to-earth, pedestrian, person-of-the-streets, personal point-of-view. There are a few "selected" books in her "suggested reading" list, but she has no footnotes nor any index either. This is not a well-researched, academic examination. She is just describing some of her observations, adventures, and experiences. If you are looking for an enjoyable read while learning something (albeit superficial) about Indian culture, once again, this is a good place to start. She is entertaining.

In addition to Indian attitudes toward homosexuality (it is a criminal act there), the entire dating, husband-hunting, arranged marriage, and even Indian attitudes toward sex is explored by Kennedy. She handles all of this with aplomb. Consider, for example, the joke she offers on page 138:: "How do you tell the difference between a good Indian marriage and a bad one? The cynical punch line to that joke is that you can’t: Both are grim tests of endurance."

Another aspect of the book is Kennedy’s own relationships with others. Her conclusion, when it was clear her relationship with Benjamin was deteriorating, was that she "was too itinerant, independent, and cold to hold down a relationship with anyone at all" (p. 188).

Her own reflections on her life were interesting: "And the evidence was mounting that my current lifestyle—tromping around Asia, covering conflicts and having affairs—was not sustainable" (p. 189). Watching Kennedy grow up was certainly an integral portion of some parts of this book: ". . . my friends in New York were growing up, too. Each time I went back, I’d half expect everything to be the same as I’d left it, and would inevitably be pisqued to discover that my friends now had priorities other than downing weeknight margaritas at our favorite Mexican bar in Brooklyn and making dinner of the free chips" (p. 189).

Kennedy’s treatment of the ways that Indians handle sex, sexual issues, discussions of sex, and sexy clothing (pp. 243-251) did not come as a surprise for me since I lived in Pakistan (now Bangledesh) for a year and traveled throughout India, Kashmir, and Napal during the month of Ramadan. Their ideas are backward, archaic, and incredibly naive.

Take this book for what it is, a personal narrative about Miranda Kennedy and her relationships with others, her accommodation of Indian culture and its various expectations, and her observations about all that occurs around her while living in India for five years.






Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Humor

You see my next-door neighbor worships exhaust pipes, he's a catholic converter.

A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: ''I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.''

I tried water polo but my horse drowned.

I'll tell you what I love doing more than anything: trying to pack myself in a small suitcase. I can hardly contain myself.

. Went to the corner shop - bought 4 corners.

A seal walks into a club...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gettysburg Walking Tour

It is difficult to describe all the feelings I experienced walking through the city of Gettysburg. There are 42 tour stop destinations on the "Gettysburg Historic Walking Tour" created by the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, and we walked nearly the entire thing in about 3½ hours. (This was in addition to our 6-hour and 10-minute auto tour of the Gettysburg battlefields the day before. Our conclusion after these two days was a simple one: We have come to know all of Gettysburg very well!)

We began our second day in Gettysburg by proceeding directly to the Visitor’s Bureau at 571 West Middle Street. (This, after picking up 6 lunch bags from the Hampton Inn and stopping for additional lunch supplies at the Giant supermarket. We carry an electric fridge in the car to keep everyhing cold.)

Our stop at the Visitor’s Bureau proved beneficial because not only did it provide the "Historic Walking Tour" brochure, which we closely followed, but it gave us, too, our starting point for our tour: a visit to the National Cemetery.

The National Cemetery was visited first because it is beyond the walking tour, and you must drive to get there. This is where the monument to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is located (just within the Taneytown Road entrance). We spent about one-half hour visiting the Soldier’s National Monument—near the site of the Gettysburg Address. We walked along the upper Cemetery Avenue noticing the cannon of the Union Army along the crest, the Evergreen Cemetery (Gettysburg’s public cemetery established in 1853, just behind a black, iron fence, and the five metal plaques with inscriptions—excerpts from Theodore O’Hara’s, 1847, poem entitled "The Bivouac of the Dead," a poem commemorating the American dead at the battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican War and still befitting the American soldiers buried in National Emetery—and, finally, the New York State Monument—the only state memorial in the National Cemetery—commemorating the number of New York soldiers who lost their lives fighting at Gettysburg—more from New York than those from any other northern state.

From National Cemetery we drive directly to the public parking garage behind the Historic Gettysburg Train Station (in the central area of downtown Gettysburg) where our walking tour began.

The Train Station is a beautifully restored building that is the location where Abraham Lincoln arrived on November 18, 1863 (4½ months after the battle) to dedicate the Soldier’s National Cemetery. It is, too, a visitor’s center, and the woman behind the information desk gave us a great deal of additional information about Gettysburg,

Now, it is impossible to report on each of the historic sites visited along this walking tour. As noted, there are 42 of them. But, here I would like to provide some general impressions and a few specific highlights. After all, the city is full of history—history at every turn.

We loved the brick. Many of the houses and commercial buildings are made of it, and the overall impression is beautiful. Along with the brick, many of the structures are tied to each other with no spaces in between—like "row houses," which were quick and easy to build and more energy efficient as well.

Just one block from the Historic Train Station is Lincoln Square. This is the round-about where York Street/Chambersburg Street and Baltimore/Carlisle Streets meet (and change their names). Lincoln Square is surrounded by magnificent buildings—and it is where four Civil War-era buildings remain.

The most important of these buildings, because of its historical significance, is the David Wills House, built in 1816, and purchased on April 1, 1859 (just 4 years before the war) by David Wills, a prominent lawyer and 1851 Gettysburg College Alumni. Not only did this home shelter wounded men, house Provost Marchall Marsena Patrick, who commanded the military’s after-battle recovery, provide Wills a place to organize the creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, but it is where Abraham Lincoln spent the night November 18, 1863, where he completged the draft of the Gettysburg Address.

As an aside, I loved the "Return Visit" statue in front of the Wills’ home, sculpted by Seward Johnson, Jr., and dedicated in 1991, which shows Lincoln pointing to the second floor window where he stayed. He is wearing his black top hat, and his right hand is on the back of a modern-day man dressed in corduroys and a sweater with a copy of the Gettysburg Address in his right hand. We had a number of pictures taken at this statue by a passer-by: Bert Danielson of the Gunnar Galleries in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (He gave me his business card.)

At 242 Baltimore Street (#16 on our walking tour), we entered the small wine shop which was the birthplace where Jennie Wade—the only Gettysburg civilian killed during the three days of battle. This was a small frame house typical of working-class housing during the mid-nineteenth century.

We were allowed (by the owners( to tour the home, and in the owner’s corner office on the second floor, we looked out a window precisely where Confederate sharpshooters took aim at Union soldiers.

The belongings of the home have been preserved, and it was delightful to put ourselves back into the time when Wade was born.

At stop 18, we stood in front of the home where Jennie Wade was killed while in the kitchen cooking bread.

This is, too, near where we turned around and began our walk back to the parking garage. But, this is the area, too, where there were a number of souvenir shops where we found tee-shirts, puzzles, a small, decorative saber, and I bought a beautiful, white, knit shirt decorated with embroidered stars on the shoulder.

There was an old ice-cream shop (built in 1819) about half-way on our walking tour where we all bought single-serving cones or cups. We sat at a table made from a cross-cut from a tree originally in the front yeard of this building. We figured the tree must have been 200 years old. There was a photograph on the wall that showed the dirt road in front of this building in 1863, just 5 days before Lincoln came down the road, heading the the National Cemetery, just before he gave his famous speech.

What made this walking tour especially impressive was not just the number of historic sites we visited, the houses with the ammunition damage still visible in the brick walls, or even the various stories we read on the historical markers on the sidewalk along the way. What made this walk impressive was being able to relive (in our minds, of course), the lives of these ordinary villagers who, in July, 1863, watched 163,000 soldiers converge on their tiny village by the way of the ten roads that end in downtown Gettysburg, and then wage battle for three days in their town and on their farm fields. It was a battle that changed this town, these citizens, and this nation forever.

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Information on the history, geography, and climate of Gettysburg is located at:,_Pennsylvania but the most interesting information, at least to me, was the material on the Civil War.

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Copyright July, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Quotations by Richard L. Weaver II

It is only an ego problem when someone else’s ego interferes with my own

Life is not a stagnant pond but a flowing river. That’s why you can’t step in the same river twice.

To realize that you must ‘go with the flow’ means that you must change with changing circumstances. Not to do so is to become stale, foul, putrid and smelly—just as some would describe that stagnant, motionless pond.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

And Then Some News

The first paragraph of Thursday's essay, "Gettysburg walking tour," reads as follows:

It is difficult to describe all the feelings I experienced walking through the city of Gettysburg. There are 42 tour stop destinations on the "Gettysburg Historic Walking Tour" created by the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, and we walked nearly the entire thing in about 3½ hours. (This was in addition to our 6-hour and 10-minute auto tour of the Gettysburg battlefields the day before. Our conclusion after these two days was a simple one: We have come to know all of Gettysburg very well!)

Monday, July 15, 2013

God, no! Signs you may already be an atheist and other magical tales

By Penn Jillette

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

If you already know about Penn Jillette, this will not come as a huge surprise: This book is full of "filth" — off-color words, off-color references, and so much coarseness and profanity that if you are easily offended by salaciousness, avoid this book. Jillette doesn’t mince words at any point. He is lewd, rude, vulgar, and foul. He tells it (whatever "it" is) as he sees it, and uses his colloquial language. It is the language he uses every day of his life. He confesses, "I’ve always sworn . . . a lot" (p. 45). Despite his crudeness and vulgarity, Jillette says, "I never used obscenities around my mom and dad" (p. 44). But, he didn’t mind being explicit, offensive, and outrageous with his readers!

The second thing you should be aware of right at the outset is that the book has little to do with atheism and is full of Jillette’s ramblings. If you are surprised by this, then you didn’t read, nor take seriously, what Jillette said in his introduction: "This book is just some thoughts from someone who doesn’t know. I’ve tried to throw in a couple of funny stories, and there’s a lot of rambling. Some of the stories have nothing to do with atheism directly, but they will give you a feel for how one goofy atheist lives his life in turn-of-the-century America" (p.xix).

One case Jillette made for atheism was through his sister and brother-in-law. They contended that when you see church (Christian) people acting like they do (in this case, forcing a female pastor out of her job for something that was none of their business (that she was a lesbian)) it makes a case for atheism: "‘These are church people acting like this. That’s wrong. There’s so much suffering and unkindness in the world. There’s no god’" (p. 45). It certainly doesn’t require an issue as strong as lesbianism to witness church people behaving badly. Sometimes it is the pastors themselves. It happens often; thus, the case for atheism is repeated frequently.

I thought Jillette was having fun when he said that atheists "need to help believers. Someone who believes in god is wasting big parts of his or her life, holding back science and love, and giving ‘moral’ support to dangerous extremists. If you believe something, you must share it; it’s one of the ways we all learn about truth" (p. 62). His argument for proselytizing was a spoof of the charge all evangelicals face, but it got him into some trouble. His description of all of this is certainly interesting.

It is hard to believe that Jillette has "never had a sip of alcohol or any recreational drug in [his] life" (p. 23). It seems clear, however, he makes up for this in the language he chooses to use and the sex he enjoyed.

Here are a few things I found fascinating. I loved Jillette’s contrast (in Las Vegas) of his (Penn’s) and his partner (Teller) with Siegfried and Roy (pp. 3-10). Delightful! His description of Extreme Elvis (p. 21) may be accurate, but it is truly foul. As the description continues on pages 22-23, it gets better and quite funny.

I thought his characterizations of his family, where he lived, and how he grew up was worth reading. His story of the masked magician was fun.

His discussion of the difference between atheism and agnosticism was priceless (pp. 75-79). Of course, you get a preview of his point of view in the chapter entitled, "Agnostics: No One Can Know for Sure but I Believe They’re Full of Shit." There are no chapter numbers in this book.

Going Zero-G (pp. 83-94) was exciting. Penn Jillette is a great story teller — obscenities and all. And he doesn’t flinch on the description nor mince words on the details! A good example is his letter to Penthouse (pp. 116-120). Then there is the story of getting homecare for his parents and how he had to lie to them so they wouldn’t know he paid for all of it (pp. 141-144).

The third thing you should realize about this book is that there is little structure to it. Oh, he uses the ten commandments for titles to parts, but then he includes chapters within these parts that appear to readers as having little relation to the part title. On top of that, he offers cute stories within chapters that seemingly have little or no relationship to the chapter or part. He occasionally makes connections, but sometimes they make little difference — or sense. He rambles. Now, it may be that Jillette really knows how all the parts fit together, but I felt much of it was stream-of-consciousness. As long as you know this in advance, and you are willing to dispense with any thought of some superior organizing principle, you will enjoy the book more — and the stories (if you don’t mind the obscenities) tumble out, one after another, and (for the most part) they are engaging and enjoyable.

Don’t worry about Jillette’s position on god or politics. Get over all the obscenities and professed debauchery. Stop getting disjointed about all the preaching and the use of his bully pulpit. Forget all the digs made about other entertainers (especially those who think they are magicians or psychics). Don’t become unglued about a fellow who grew up in Greenfield, Massachusetts, a "failing public school student" (p. 183), making pronouncements about things far outside his expertise ("I accused Richard Nixon of crimes" (p. 183). Never allow his use of the Internet (watching porn) or the music with which he identified to bias your thinking. Don’t even think about his cockiness, self-assuredness, and egotistical self-absorption. In this way, you clear the path toward enjoying this entertaining (and unique) book. I have never read anything quite like it.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Humor

I went down the local supermarket, I said, ''I want to make a complaint, this vinegar's got lumps in it'', he said, "Those are pickled onions''.

I backed a horse last week at ten to one. It came in at quarter past four.

I swear, the other day I bought a packet of peanuts, and on the packet it said ''may contain nuts.'' Well, YES! That's what I bought them for! You'd be annoyed if you opened it and a set of socket wrenches fell out!''

A truckload of tortoises crashed into a trainload of terrapins, What a turtle disaster.

My phone will ring at 2 in the morning, and my wife'll look at me and go, ''Who's that calling at this time?' ''I don't know! If I knew that we wouldn't need the stupid phone!''

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gettysburg Battlefield Highlights

In my first essay on our "Audio Tour," narrated by Wayne Motts, I simply listed the sights we saw—the auto-tour stops—and I did not take the time to record some of the highlights and my impressions of what we saw.

We took six hours and ten minutes on a tour designed for about two or two-and-one-half hours or less, we were told, depending on how much time we wanted to spend. My wife and I were accompanied by our daughter and her three kids, ages 14, 11, and 10. This is important because the kids have studied about the Civil War in school and, too, because all of them watched the movie "Gettysburg" and were especially interested in all that was "Gettysburg."

It would be easy to characterize the entire battleground area as "just a bunch of fields," but when you have seen "Gettysburg," then the introductory movie at the "National Military Park," then viewed the exhibits at the museum, you easily see more than mere fields—you can actually visualize the men, the uniforms, the horses, the conflicts, the smoke, and you can here the gunshots and the canon. Everything becomes real.

One good, overall observation—to give one reason why this this battle was so important is to understand what was at stake. This was a battle for the soul of America, and the outcome would determine—in no uncertain terms—what this country would look like: Would it be a country of slave owners? Or, would this country be one where, truly, "all men are created equal"?

I liken this battle to the one waged between the Republican and Democrats in the 2012 general election: Will this be a government that represents all people? Or, will this be a limited government where the wealthy are protected, preserved, and honored and the middle class get only what "tricles down" once the wealthy have what they feel is rightfully theirs? —what they feel they have earned and, thusly, deserve?

Union General John Buford, who was in Gettysburg on June 30, 1863, knew what was at stake and ordered his force of 2,900 men to defend the ridgelines west of Gettysburg until the infantry could arrive.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear as you tour the area is the importance of the ridges (like McPherson Ridge, Oak Ridge, Warfield Ridge, Seminary Ridge, and Warfield Ridge), hills (like Oak Hill or Culp’s Hill), woods (like Pitzer Woods), orchards (like The Peach Orchard), and dens (like Devil’s Den), and the place called "Little Round Top"—a low hill from which many of the other ridges, hills, woods, dens, and orchards could be seen.

The ridges and hills were places where sharpshooters (on either side)—expert marksmen—could have the best view and take their best shots. They were desired locations and easily noticeale as we toured the entire area.

One of the places that most inspired me was "Little Round Top." One reason was the stone tower with its circular, narrow, stone staircase that at the top gave us a view of the valley below and, too, a view all the way to Cemetery Hill. A second reason was the bronze statue of Brig. General Gouverneur Warren—the hero of Little Round Top—standing on a boulder with his binoculars in hand, looking to his left, with a serious, concerned look on his face.

Warren was General Meade’s chief engineer and when asked to ascend Little Round Top, he was by himself on this high point and realized quicikly (and sent word to General Meade) that a division was needed to hold this critical terrain.

I asked a tour guide why Little Round Top was left abandoned by the troops of the noarth, and he said General Sickles was responsible and made the decision because he thought he saw a better site to defend.

Seeing, from his elevated position, the glistening gun-barrels and bayonets of the enemy’s (Confedrerate’s) line of battle far outflanking the position of the Union’s troops, he also requested a battery in Devil’s Den to fire into the trees along Warfield Ridge.

Cleared of trees on its western slope (as it is today), Little Round Top was an ideal location for artillery. (Big Round Top, although higher, was fully wooded). Little Round Top allowed Union troops to fire at the Confederates all the way to Cemetery Hill. Can you imagine the advantage if the Confederates gained control of Little Round Top?

Walking the tree line along Little Round Top allowed me to see what Warren saw, appreciate the role Colonel Patrick O’Rorke had on July 2, 1863, when he arrived at the summit just in time to bolster the right end of the Union line as it was being overrun. Even though 500 of his men plunged down the slopes, slamming into the Confederate lines, and O’Rorke himself was killed in the fighting, his quick action pushed the Confederates back down the hill.

Below Little Round Top is Devil’s Den—the second of my most favorite sites on our auto tour. It is one of my favorites not because of its role in the war but because, physically, it is a beautiful place. The rock formations, the contrasts between the green grass and trees and the rocks, and the view of Little Round Top all make this place a delight—a photographer’s dream.

From Warfield Ridge (mentioned above in what Brig. Gen. Warren saw), the Confederates overran Devil’s Den and Captain James Smith’s artillery battery and their sharpshooters used the rocks in the Den for protection as they fired at Union soldiers on Little Round Top above them. This battle (between the Confederate sharpshooters in Devil’s Den and the Union soldiers on Little Round Top) created a place later named "The Slaughter Pen" and "the Valley of Death" along Plum Run, because of the ferocious carnage that occurred there.

Although some of the heaviest fighting of the entire Civil War took place on July 2nd in the Wheatfield, the Wheatfield itself was not much to look at. Today, however, it is dotted with monuments to commemorate those slain there.

I might say, too, one of the most well-known battles of the war, "Pickett’s Charge" (July 3, 1863)—often referred to as the "High Water Mark" of the Confederacy—was designed by Robert E. Leee to blast the center of the Union line with the simultaneous firing of 150 Southern canons. The area where this took place—a bit similar to the Wheatfield—was not particularly distinguishable nor, what I would say, attractive.

What happened during Pickett’s Charge was truly remarkable. The Confederate cannon fire missed the 6,000 soldiers that formed the Union’s front line because the cannon smoke obscured the vision of Lee’s gunners, and when the mile-long line of Confederate soldiers marched forward, Union gun crews "took careful aim and began firing shot and shell into their ranks with deadly imparct" (p. 74, Gettysburg Field Guide, 2nd ed, Travel Brains, 2010).

All 6,000 of the Union troops unleashed a devastating volley into Pickett’s front lines and soon followed with close range canister fire. The Confederates continued to surge forward, even traversing a small stone wall between them and Union troops, but Union troops crowded in on all sides and fired on them at point blank range and with General Lewis Armistead’s (the General in charge of this assault) mortal wound (shot in the arm and leg), the Confederates lost their momentum, began to disintegrate, and retreated as best they could (trying to avoid death!).

To me, seeing the field where General George Pickett attempted to make his charge, revealed insanity—a death wish! The Union soldiers clearly had a superior position along Cemetery Ridge, and despite the 12,500 Confederate troops emerging from along Seminary Ridge, the field between was too wide, the Union sharpshooters were too accurate, and the assault was destined to fail.

As an aside, the stupidity of Pickett’s attempt confirmed what I learned of his "success" at West Point: "His lackluster performance at West Point . . . earned Pickett the nickname ‘goat," a moniker bestowed on the student who graduates at the bottom of the class" (p. 77, Gettysburg Field Guide, 2nd edition).

I didn’t have a great deal of interest in all of this before our trip to Gettysburg—and we went because of our grandkids, not ourselves! But, you cannot escape it when you have experienced it first-hand. Sure, it’s the combination of elements working together. We talked to our older daughter who said about Gettysburg: "It takes about an hour to see it." We don’t think it can be done that quickly, and it becomes immediately clear who has an interest in American history and who doesn’t.

If you take the time—even without prior preparation—the movie, museum exhibits, auto tour (with narration) and the battlefield markers along the well-marked route, make this a total, encompassing experience that all enjoyed—including our ten-year-old grandson who wanted to get out and explore at every auto-tour stop.

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This is the official website of the Borough of Gettysburg, and it has a lot of current information about the place:

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Copyright July, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Quotations by Richard L. Weaver II

The most important growth that can occur is that which takes place within yourself.

When you find yourself in a whirl and things seem to be spinning out of control, check to make certain it’s not your ego that’s holding you at the center of your orbit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

And Then Some News

The first two paragraphs of Thursday's essay, "Gettysburg: Battlefield highlights," read as follows:

In my first essay on our "Audio Tour," narrated by Wayne Motts, I simply listed the sights we saw—the auto-tour stops—and I did not take the time to record some of the highlights and my impressions of what we saw.

We took six hours and ten minutes on a tour designed for about two or two-and-one-half hours or less, we were told, depending on how much time we wanted to spend. My wife and I were accompanied by our daughter and her three kids, ages 14, 11, and 10. This is important because the kids have studied about the Civil War in school and, too, because all of them watched the movie "Gettysburg" and were especially interested in all that was "Gettysburg."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beyond Blame: Freeing Yourself from the Most Toxic Form of Emotional Bullsh*t

By Carl Alasko

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

There are 319 pages and 17 chapters — close to 19 pages per chapter. There are no footnotes, bibliography, suggestions for further reading, or even an index. These are elements which, for me, make reading more meaningful. I can find out what sources the author is reading, from where he or she is getting information, how I might expand my understanding, and what kind of outside support ideas have. I think — before actually reading this book — these are flags that make me a bit suspicious. I may be proven wrong, but my antenna is up.

The book is full of stories. It is the way the book is constructed. Alasko has simply amassed numerous stories that he derived from his 25 years of work as a practicing psychotherapist working with couples and families. There is nothing wrong with this, and the book reads well because of all the stories, however, the illustrations work effectively as Alasko moves from describing blame and how destructive and confusing it is, to why it is misunderstood, how it is deeply rooted in our biology, and then offers an explanation of the three-part syndrome initiated by a blame attack and how people respond to it.

Watch the way stories are used as primary (exclusive) support for his ideas: "Walter and Suzanne’s story is not all that unusual. Their drama illustrates how we can illegitimately use an external force such as destiny or a Greater Power to shift responsibility and justify behavior that can have serious life-changing consequences." Research shows that their story is not all that unusual? Other psychotherapists have heard the same story over and over? Historically, there is evidence that Walter and Suzanne’s story is similar to many others? No, in Alasko’s clinical work alone, it is not all that unusual!

The first eight chapters explore the "nature of blame and how it shows up in our relationships under a countless variety of guises. Now it’s time to grapple with the solution, how to part of the book, Positive Accountability" (p. 101). On page 231. Alasko calls this the undergraduate portion of his book.

The second part of the book examines positive accountability in dating, marriage, parenting, and the workplace. Alasko calls this master’s level work. Part three of the book, the Ph.D. level course of study, looks at the law of personal limitations and the paradox of criticism.

In addition to his stories, he uses a great deal of personal experience. For example, "I learned an early lesson about criticism in a college freshman English class. My professor sported a bushy white moustache and resembled Mark Twain. His way of teaching was as unique as his looks . . ." (p. 50). Again, this makes for enjoyable, light reading that moves quickly.

Another example of the use of personal experience, and there are many: "My clinical experience teaches me that most of us have scant knowledge about how our emotions function and the dominant role they play in our lives . . ." (p. 80). The statement isn’t to be doubted necessarily, but surely there is extant research that clearly demonstrates people’s scant knowledge of their own emotions, much less their biology, physiology, or intelligence for that matter.

At one point Alasko says: "It’s a biological and behavioral fact that we’ll respond with anger to defend our position of being right" . . . (p. 84). Well, if it is truly a biological and behavioral fact, then it can be easily documented and the source provided, can’t it? Why not? There are many of "The Point" parts throughout the book, and many of them could use a footnote to direct readers to the appropriate research and literature.

The book is incredibly practical as you would expect from a practicing psychotherapist. It is definitely a "hands-on" experience. You can almost feel as if Alasko is sitting in his clinician’s chair talking directly to you. The only problem is that you are getting just one person’s opinion. You do not know — at least from reading this book alone — whether his ideas have support from other psychotherapists, from the research literature in the field, or from any historical roots. I have to admit, that his ideas appear sound and his advice appears to be correct; however, I would certainly be interested in hearing from other practicing psychotherapists or from research that proves that his methods are well-accepted and widely adopted. Unfortunately, one person’s opinion is just that: one person’s opinion.

How do we know that "Blame is a Three-Part Syndrome"? —except that Alasko claims that it is. Even his law of personal limitations and the paradox of criticism go entirely uncited or unreferenced. I may have missed a reference or two, but I don’t remember seeing a single reference to an outside source except as Alasko claims them to be in support of his ideas.

There is no doubt that from reading this book you will come away with an understanding of the concept of blame. And from all Alasko’s advice and suggestions, you are likely to develop different personal behavioral outcomes as a result, and, too, a better understanding of others. For these reasons, his book is worth reading. I think for the general public and lay readers, it makes a useful contribution and a worthy book choice.




Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Humor

So I went to the Chinese restaurant and this duck came up to me with a red rose and says ''Your eyes sparkle like diamonds''. I said, ''Waiter, I asked for a-ROMATIC duck''.

Four fonts walk into a bar the barman says ''Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here''

I was having dinner with Garry Kasporov (world chess champion) and there was a checkered tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt.

There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest.. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

I went down the local supermarket, I said, ''I want to make a complaint, this vinegar's got lumps in it'', he said, "Those are pickled onions''.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Gettysburg: When Redundancy Works!

There are two positive reference points for our exploration of Gettysburg. The first is the excursions we take when we are on a cruise and our desire is to gain an overview of some foreign country or port. The second reference point is the three private tours we have taken in 1) Beijing, 2) Rio de Janeiro, and 3) Valparaiso, Vine del Mar, and Santiago (all one excursion).

The first reference point is relevant—excursions we have taken—simply because I found Gettysburg like a foreign territory. We have never been here before (not entirely true since it has been 20-25 years and our memories are dim), we have very general—meaning not specific—ideas of the Civil War and what happened in Gettysburg, and, finally, we wanted to get an overview of the battlefield, battle, and town.

The second reference point is even stronger. We have taken three excellent private tours in the last two years, and what we did today (04-03-12) compares favorably with each of these previous tours.

Let me briefly describe what we did before taking our tour. We went from the Hampton Inn—and a wonderful, full, unlimited, hearty breakfast (and bags of food items the Inn provided for each of us that we could use for lunch)—to the Gettysburg National Military Park (1195 Baltimore Pike). There is an admission price and because a private foundation is running the Park for twenty years (only 3 years have passed!) Before turning it over to the National Park System, our Golden Passport did not work. (It gives us free admission to all national parks and monuments.)

We began with a 20-minute movie that described the 3-day batle (July 1, 2, and 3, 1863) with Morgan Freeman as the narrator. It was an excellent movie and offered a comprehensive view of the issues, the major actors in the confrontation, and the territory where it all took place.

From the theater, we were told by one of the hostesses to make sure our shoes were tied (there was a busload of young people in the front rows), because we moved from the theater up a 2-story escalator to the cyclorama located at the top of this huge, 10-sided building. The cyclorama requires viewers to walk around during the narration, to take in the entire landscape. It is truly a superb spectacle and when we left the cyclorama via a one-story staircase, we could read on the floor below the cyclorama, how this mural was created.

We walked down a second flight of stairs and into the museum portion of the National Military Park building. The exhibits, artifacts, recreations, additional short movies, descriptions, and various displays further explained—through behind-the-scenes, and specific, detailed examinations—what we saw in the movie and cyclorama. It is as if the museum offers the reinforcement, support, and buttressing that supplies the evidence—the depth—for understanding the whole experience. The redundancy is both appreciated and educational.

From the museum we went to the Museum Book Store where, in addition to books, there are a wide variety of interesting sourvenirs. In addition, they had four levels of audio tours available: 1) for kids; 2) a short version for those without sufficient time; 3) a a mid-priced tour (the most popular audio tour) that takes approximately 2 1/2-hours; and 4) an elaborate tour that not only takes longer but adds increased depth and more description. We purchased the thir option.

The "Gettysburg’s #1 Audio Tour" narrated by Wayne Motts, the Executive Director of the Adams County Historical Society and a popular Licensed Battlefield Guide. We were not disappointed (even though the cost, about $26.00 with tax, was a bi high).

Along with the double CD Audio Tour (explanation of 7 points of interest on each CD), there is an 8-page, full color, "Gettysburg Field Guide, 2nd ed." that accompanies them that offers maps, pictures, early photographs, photographs of each of the generals, and the various battlefield maneuvers, deployments, and activities for each of the three days of the battle.

As an aside, when we entered the National Military Park building, the gentleman who first greeted us gave us important information. First, he told us (suggested) the order of our exploration (the order I have described was based on his suggestion). Second, he said we would get a complete explanation of the battle and battlegrounds from the movie and exhibits, and that we should make the decision to purchase the audio tour only after viewing and seeing these. And, three, he said we could do the auto tour with the brochure he handed us alone. That was the decision we had to make. (Our unanimous decision after taking the audio tour was that it was well worth the expense!)

We began the auto tour from the parking lot, and there are three positive benefits of using the CD: 1) The tour route is clearly morked. We were told on the CD that during the summer months, the roads can get crowded and the parking spaces can be full. Even at this time a year (on a beautiful day, I might add), we noticed how bad it could be if it were high season. Already, there were a number of tour buses and many cars, but we were always able to find parking places at the numbered tour stops.

The second advantage of using the CD is the clear, thorough explanations given at each of the tour stops. Before departing our van, we would sit quietly and listen to Wayne Motts talk. (After the tour was over, I asked our grandchildren, aged 14, 11, and 10, whether they liked the tour, and their response was unanimously positive.)

The third advantage of using the CD was not just the narration between each of the stops but how well Motts would prepare us for what we were about to see. Although we had a comprehensive understanding, to be in the field where the battles actually took place is significantly different than seeing a movie, viewing exhibits, or overlooking the cyclorama.

As an aside, our daughter prepared her three kids for this trip by watching the four-hour-movie "Gettysburg" before coming to Gettysburg,

The auto tour took us from the Visitor Center, to McPherson Ridge, Oak Hill, Oak Ridge, Seminary Ridge, the North Carolina Memorial, Virginia Memorial, Pitzer Woods, Warfield Ridge, Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, The Wheatfield, The Peach Orchard, Trostle Farm, Father Corby, Pennsylvania Memorial, Spangler’s Spring, Culp’s Hill, and High Water Mark. At most of these places, we got out and walked around the monuments and read the information placards.

It is impossible, of course, to describe each of our tour stops in detail, but each was unique, worth a stop, and impressive for its part in the battle and for its place on the battlefield.

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Copyright July, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quotations by Richard L. Weaver II

When the focus moves from oneself to others, one’s point of view enlarges, and you begin a new life of expanded vision.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

And Then Some News

The first paragraph of Thursday's essay, "Gettysburg: When redundancy works," reads as follows:

There are two positive reference points for our exploration of Gettysburg. The first is the excursions we take when we are on a cruise and our desire is to gain an overview of some foreign country or port. The second reference point is the three private tours we have taken in 1) Beijing, 2) Rio de Janeiro, and 3) Valparaiso, Vine del Mar, and Santiago (all one excursion).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Life Itself: A Memoir

By Roger Ebert

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Of the 21 books by Roger Ebert listed on the page before the title page of this book, I have read . . . let’s see . . . exactly zero of them. I watched some "Siskel & Ebert" shows, but it was more likely to be by accident (surfing through the channels) than anything purposeful. I always liked their reviews, however. My point: I went into this book with very little previous information.

Ebert is an excellent writer. The narrative flows smoothly, and his detail is amazing. Also, his stories are captivating and engaging.

Several things that I found particularly outstanding include, first, Ebert’s memory. It wasn’t just the experiences he recounted but the specifics about each event in his life that was phenomenal.

The second thing I found fascinating was how open Ebert was about his life. He really self-discloses, and it is not just appreciated, but it is truly involving. You not only get wonderful glimpses into Ebert’s personal life, but you get a view of all of life during his lifetime. For example, I learned how to set type in junior high school, and Ebert’s recollections about setting words into hot lead on Linotype machines (p. 101) brought back vivid memories of Mr. Yeakle’s printing class. How things have changed!

Third, Ebert makes his chapters (there are 55 of them) just as long as necessary to tell his story. Some tend to be shorter than others (one was just three pages!), but they average about 7 ½ pages each, which is just about perfect.

There is a fourth element, too, that I found amazing. Ebert has led an incredible life. My goodness! It is hard to fathom that any single person could have had all the experiences, met all the people, and completed all the writing he has. That is one thing that makes this book an interesting read: variety!

The fourteen pages of pictures (some black-and-white and some in color) are very good, and I absolutely loved the final one of Roger Ebert at home in his office. His description of all the stuff he has and has collected and treasures (Chapter 27, pages 202-205) was delightful, to say the least.

The chapters covering celebrities Russ Meyer, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Ingmar Bergman, Martin Scorese, Werner Herzog, Bill Nack, and Studs Terkel were worth reading, but I found the other material in the book more interesting. I loved his chapter on Gene Siskel (Chapter 41, pages 312-323).

His problems with alcoholism, involvements in romances, and relationship with Chaz were fascinating and fun reading.

I loved this book. It is, perhaps, more than I ever expected or wanted to know about Roger Ebert, but because he is a great writer and tells engaging stories, he makes this 436-page book worth reading.