Involuntary Invocation
Confidentially Speaking
Mind Manipulation
Unblocking With The Young Bloc
Me And My Buddy?
How I Think I Think
Never Prejudge A Prejudice
Malevolent Males
Creators Of A Fictitious World
Wind Beneath My Wings
Brain Behavior
Bidden Thoughts
Life Cycle of a Narcissist 


Involuntary Invocation                                           April 3, 2014

Today we finished a two day Ryder Cup-like golf tournament, Duel In The Desert, year “rounders” versus snowbirds. Last night there was a dinner/dance attended by competitors and spouses. The club president thought we should all be treated to an invocation given by some local church flunky.

He appealed to his God on our behalf, blatantly assuming his God was everyone in the room’s also. Asked him to keep our great country (USA) strong and free though at least a third of those in attendance were Canadian. And asked him to protect and help “our” military who are in harm’s way.

Let me see, I think he was saying my religion is the only religion, my country is the only country and my killers should be the only killers. What audacity lets people think their mission in life should be to save the rest of us from ourselves? Don’t they see the irony in espousing religious freedom at the same time they overrule it? Now if they prayed that politicians who send soldiers into harm’s way might attain the common sense needed to prevent doing that, I might be tempted to join in.


Confidentially Speaking                                        May 26, 2014

What allows a well-trained, gifted athlete to make the step to professional? Some think it’s a killer instinct, a ruthless, aggressive competitiveness. Get the opponent down and stomp on him or her. Maybe that’s true, in some sports more than others. Although when one watches the graceful, almost carefree, movement of a superstar like Robinson Cano or Ken Griffey Jr or Brooks Robinson or Fred Couples or others from various generations and sports, one sees a competitive urge which is not ruthless. Even the King of Swat was not ruthless (couldn’t resist that).

Athletes at all levels are nearly always competitive. More than anything else, I think it’s confidence which separates out the stars. Confidence that they can accomplish their objectives without fail. Often that confidence is so strong they rationalize that the inevitable failures must be caused by factors outside their control. Certainly not any lack on their part. A batter goes hitless, he says you just have to tip your hat to the pitcher, he had his best stuff today. The fact that the batter swung at horrible pitches time after time doesn’t enter into his thinking.

Golf illustrates this better than anything. A golfer on a hot streak is said to be in the zone but actually he has gained confidence in his swing and putt. A few errant shots and the confidence is shattered with a ballooning score the result. I played a number of times with Rick Acton who lost a promising PGA career through a car accident and nevertheless carved out a good career off the tour and ultimately joined the senior tour before his health failed him. On one pro-am event, I outdrove him three holes in a row. After the first, he blamed the ball and changed it. By the third time, he was convinced that the driver he was all of a sudden “experimenting” with must be robbing him of his normal distance. He played with supreme confidence in his ability on every shot, no matter the outcome.

We’ve all felt that confidence at times. I have. Yet when faced with the transition from warm, dry golf in the desert to wet, soggy play on a less forgiving course in the Northwest, my confidence is shattered. Scores go up (worse, for non-golfers) by over ten percent. Notice how I blame it on the course conditions? I also blame it on my antiquated clubs. Can’t do anything about conditions but I can buy new clubs, which I have done. Sure hope my game improves with them since I’m giving up a valuable excuse for poor play.


Mind Manipulation                                                   June 25, 2014

I’m reading an interesting book – not interesting because it is captivating or even particularly well written. What’s interesting is the perspective it gives on how our brains work. Most literature on brain function gets all wrapped up in this piece controls this and that piece controls that.

Colin Christopher is a hypnotist and years of training and experience give him a much different insight into brain function. He tends to treat the brain as two main computers, which he refers to as the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Babies are born with only a subconscious mind. The conscious one shows up later during the child’s growth. I extrapolate that to claim it never shows up in at least most animals.

Colin says the subconscious mind only works with things it can visualize. In fact it handles the mapping of visual signals into the image we see, controls muscle functions, etc. To do this, it processes up to 20 million tasks per second! But it only lives in the present and totally ignores abstract thoughts like “don’t”, “yesterday”, “tomorrow”, etc.

The conscious mind on the other hand deals with abstractions, guides the learning process of the subconscious mind and acts as a gatekeeper for information reaching it. To do this it processes no more than 40 tasks per second. The book delves into how it does what it does and discusses how we can improve its functioning. Fascinating stuff.

Perhaps more important, it explains why some of those frustrating golf misadventures occur. If only I can manipulate my conscious mind to better manipulate the unconscious one.


Unblocking With The Young Bloc                         August 23, 2014

It’s been a  while since the last ad lib. Remember when I claimed I never experience writer’s block. Guess that’s only true when working on a story since it’s proving hard to come up with a new ad lib.

One thing happened the other day which prompted reflection on behavior of an element of the younger generation at our golf club. Back when I was their age we were boisterous like them. But there was a difference. We respected other members and endeavored, usually successfully, to avoid infringing on their right to enjoy the course as much as we did. I’m sure many of the present clique are the same way. Yet there are some who are totally self-centered and laboring under the belief they can do anything they please. Over the past year, this has included urinating off the clubhouse deck in mixed company later in the evening, breaking into a wine storage facility after hours, screaming f-bombs at each other on the course and putting greens and most recently playing golf with a boom-box blaring out of their golf cart.

When I took issue with some of this, they informed me in no uncertain terms that I was out of touch with the modern world. I should leave. Go join another club. After twenty-nine years of contributing substantially to the evolution of our course into a position of leadership in the Pacific Northwest, this is hard to take from people who have yet to contribute anything.

Unfortunately, in many respects they are a reflection of our society in general. “Me, me, me – to hell with you!” In many ways our moral fiber is fraying, in some ways it’s in tatters. What’s the cause? Over a generation of two parents having to work with no time for child rearing? The explosion of social media and digital communication? Relaxed education standards and work ethic? These and other things? Who knows the root cause? We are all seeing the result and often it’s not pretty.

The other question that comes to mind is how widespread is it around the world? I tend to think of it as predominantly an American disease. That may be naïve. Perhaps the secret lies in population density. The sense of values and respect for others still seems to thrive in small communities and rural areas. Maybe those of us who miss that should move to one of them. Of course, if enough of us do that they will become infected with the urban disease. Guess a better solution is to simply block out the unruly bloc.


Me And My Buddy?                                                      September 15, 2014

Yesterday a young man entering his second year at Gonzaga University asked us if he could play one hole of golf with us. He wanted to show his visiting friend this particular hole. He began his request by informing us, “Me and my buddy are returning to university tomorrow …” University? “Me and my buddy?” We fought back the urge to correct him.

Truth is, we’ve heard announcers on TV and radio use “Me and …”. Is it becoming accepted English? We are unfortunately living in an increasingly Me Me Me world and I got to wondering if “Me and my buddy” is simply a reflection of that. We used to put our friends first, “My buddy and I”. Apparently not any more.

At the risk of being branded an old curmudgeon, I still like the correct form. And I like “We” instead of “Me and the others”. Sometime in the past twenty years, the “W” did a handstand and never recovered. Granted, English usage changes with the times and if that was the only thing involved here, I would shuffle back into my cave. But the cultural aspect is a whole different kettle of fish.

The selfish focus on what the world is doing for Me with disregard for everyone else is a harbinger of a crumbling society. More and more of the population is becoming armed. Mass killings are commonplace. Road rage is prevalent. Wealthy people are driven to hoarding rather than philanthropy. Tent cities are a novelty instead of embarrassment. These and probably many other similar factors result from a lack of respect and caring for each other. Proclamations of the great land of the free ring hollow today. We are no longer free to go anywhere we want and live in confidence that no harm will befall us. We become more wary by the day and leery of night excursions.

We need to right the “W” and return Me Me Me to We We We. And maybe add the odd thank you … my buddy.


How I Think I Think                                               December 14, 2014

As I approach the age when years are counted in trombones, I find myself pondering again how brains work. As a hypnotist, mentioned in an earlier post suggests, we have in simple terms a very high speed computer that operates at a subconscious level and a much slower one operating at the conscious level. This is simplistic, of course, since the mass inside our skulls probably contains a myriad of parallel processors.

It’s useful, however, to think of the subconscious computer as one that takes inputs from all of our sensors and under the influence of past events, reacts instantly with outputs to nerves and muscles as well as a follow-up report to the conscious level computer. It does things like causing a blink when an eye senses an approaching speck, so fast we are unaware it happens until the after the fact report comes in. Even more amazing, it takes in all the retina signals and composes a visual image for the conscious level to admire, with real time updating. In my case, it even compares signals from both eyes and uses the best of each to provide an image free of blanked out areas due to macular degeneration. They’re there if I close one eye, not with both open.

Obviously, this part of the brain evolved first since it is present in babies and most animal life. The conscious level computer grows as babies and higher order animals develop. I like to think of it as a vast storehouse of experiences that needs refreshing to remain as memories. A brain wave must fire through each little memory segment periodically or it will fade away. Repetition  strengthens memory. That’s why we remember good things, pleasant images and traumatic events. It’s hard to imagine how so much data can be stored in the front half of our dome, although memory device technology is beginning to provide evidence that it’s possible.

If the conscious brain operates on memories of past experiences, how can one conceive anything truly new and different? Invent something novel? Perhaps we never do. I think the brain triggers related experiences, even though we fail to see the connection, to create a new awareness or idea. When the apple fell on Newton’s head, his brain probably triggered memories of other objects falling, all at apparently the same rate. Who knows?

What’s all this got to do with age? Well, as the memory bank fills up there should be more opportunity for invention. I like to think there is. Yet, it’s claimed that many of the most significant inventions were conceived by young people, even child prodigies in cases like Mozart. How can that be reconciled with the view above? Perhaps the answer is in the firing mechanism. Geniuses and people with great memories must enjoy increased brain electrical activity. Most if not all synapses are being fired repeatedly. Even though these young people’s reservoir is far from full, they are utilizing well what they have acquired.

Conversely, a memory bank full of a long life of experiences is of little value if the firing diminishes or in the case of senility, the gaps in the strings cannot be bridged. So what started this diatribe? Trombones? No, age and creativity. Or perhaps, creativity versus age. Related to my writing, I choose to believe there’s enough firepower remaining in my skull to take advantage of a substantial databank of experiences. And about that, I don’t want to hear what you think.


Never Prejudge A Prejudice                       February 23, 2015

Are prejudices always bad? Usually, at least for those that most often come to mind. If they arise from bigotry, they’ll be bad. From fundamentalist religions, darn good chance they’re bad. Violation of the Golden Rule, never good. Maybe there are no good ones. Well, a prejudice against automatic guns (pardon me, NRA) is good in my books. Prejudice against ISIS? They make it hard to think it as anything but good. But these are good prejudices against things. Are there any for things? Of course. I’m just leading you on, setting you up for what I had in mind at the outset. I’m prejudiced about my daughter’s photography skills and her talent for interesting composition. (Actually, I’m prejudiced in her favor for a myriad of things she does.) Scoff at an old man’s prejudices if you want, you won’t shake me. Here’s an example of what I mean. Saguaro

Taken in the full afternoon sun, I love how the light reflect off the cactus. He’s a very old man absorbing a little warmth as he looks steadfastly to the future. One thing that amazes me is even knowing the cactus location, it’s hard find the exact view. It’s tempting to offer a reward to the first person who can find the cactus, even with the caveat that it’s within our subdivision. Just to illustrate the difference between a dramatic shot and a postcard type, here’s one I took recently not far from our abode. OK but ho hum.

Cactus and Fountain


Malevolent Males                                        April 16, 2015

I read and reviewed an interesting book recently, Women After All, by Melvin Konner, M.D. (do I put another period here to end the sentence?). Mel (he used that name when he thanked me for the review) is an anthropologist who looks at how animals and especially humans have evolved. Turns out we males were originally females converted to males by the introduction of androgens and testosterone during fetus and early childhood development. Take that male chauvinists!

More importantly, introduction of two genders gives rise to three possibilities: female dominance, male dominance or equality. Mel gives abundant examples of each in the animal world. For humans, he points out that we had equality during our hunter/gatherer era. However, when crowding forced introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry, we consolidated into tribes and eventually into the societies we know today. When this happened, the male role changed to capture and protection of territory and resources, including reproduction resources, ie., females. Male dominance and aggression took over.

For about 3,000 years this has resulted in wars, genocide, infanticide, rape and untold brutality. We don’t have to look far to see it in action still today. However, in the last 150 years women have made a growing push for equality. Mel points out that the difference in male and female brain development in general causes women to be more cooperative and conciliatory as opposed to male aggressiveness. They find ways to work out differences. One example he cites is the role female legislators played in breaking the stalemate in 2008 with women from both parties emailing and talking to each other, then cajoling sufficient males to back off their hard line stances to avoid complete economic collapse.

Of course there are many males with similar traits, Obama being an obvious example. Still, one would have to say (as a good friend does) there are too many of the other guys who “take their plays right out of the republican-tea-party-fear-mongering-sabre-rattling-negative-ad-campaigning handbook”. We need some Tea Partresses. Perhaps more important, a Mohammetrix is long overdue.


Spoon-Fed                                       July 7,2015

A too distant relative posted this on Facebook.


I love it because it captures one of the fundamental realities of human (and perhaps even animal) existence. Babies starting with nothing eventually grow into adults that eclipse their parents. Just when the eclipse occurs sometimes is in the eyes of the beholder, often much earlier in the eyes of children than those of parents. And it’s a precious child that hides its scorn and ridicule from them. Many do not and they should heed the wisdom of the spoon.

This wisdom doesn’t simply apply to one’s own children but to youth and young adults throughout society. This was amply illustrated at our golf club last year when what I would call an immature young adult (not so young at that) saw fit to tell me off when I turned off a boom box blaring in a golf cart during a tournament. I was informed that I’m an old fart who should get with the times or better still leave the club and golf somewhere else. I wasn’t welcome anymore. It hurt even though others saw fit to thank me for making a statement about golf club etiquette.

Was it just alcohol speaking or truly a rebellion? And if the latter, what justifies it? As far as I can tell, he has contributed nothing to the club. On the other hand, I spent five years as a director, one as club president, captained the marshalling for two of the three major tournaments we’ve hosted, brought in Reese Jones to upgrade our course from good to exceptional, chaired the program to build a new clubhouse, was one of four founders of the Men’s Division, developed a tournament scorecard program the club used for twenty years, served on the House and Invitational committees…I’m running out of steam.

The point is—should a person in the club for a couple of years belittle a member steeped in thirty years of club life? Does he already know the route for the future? Or perhaps, just perhaps, should he stop and think of those who taught him to play, spoon fed him an excellent swing and showed him how to chip and putt? Sure, those my age can’t begin to match his game, in fact most of us never reached his skill level. Still, there’s a need for respect and tolerance in all aspects of life. Of course it works both ways:



Creators Of A Fictitious World                                  August 2, 2015

In a TED talk, Yuval Noah Harari presents his rationale for how humans have conquered planet Earth. It’s entertaining and thought-provoking. You can read it at:

He suggests that on an individual basis we are not competitive with a wide range of animals. However, we are unconquerable because of our ability to co-operate in large numbers with people who are strangers and thereby unite behind often fictitious causes. Underlying this is our unique ability to think in abstract terms and create fictional entities such as religions, countries, states, laws, governments, movements, money, etc.

Of course, people may argue that some of these things are real because they believe in them so strongly. But in reality, they are all a figment of human imagination. Animals can only live in their present real world (though I think there are some minor exceptions) and can only trust relatives and known members of their group.

I love Yuval’s example relating to money. We might readily exchange a piece of paper with a dollar written on it for a banana but good luck trying to get a chimpanzee to part with a banana for a five dollar bill.

Our ability to band together behind causes is both boon and curse. The best course requires diligence in discerning where a selection will lead us. Creation of a democracy and bill of rights versus a Third Reich, slave-based economy, Crusades, ISIS or Tea Party politics (had to throw that in). The point is that cooperation with strangers to further a common cause allowed us to rise from little bands of cave-dwellers to today’s societies. But it also has allowed many to band together behind horrible, treacherous or selfish causes that could make one long for the simple, care-free life of, say …



Wind Beneath My Wings                                  August 10, 2015


As I sit out on our deck this evening the air is still and warm. The quiet is complimented by the strains of that beautiful melody coming softly from the living room. The pasture grass which looked dry and yellow this afternoon now has a green tint to blend with the darker evergreens. The sky, mostly a gradually darkening blue, contains a multi-hued collection of small clouds. All in all an idyllic setting conducive to meditation.

About what? About how seldom humanity now enjoys these moments. It’s not clear that many people are still capable of stopping to ponder the meaning of life—their life—let alone the future of our planet and its conglomeration of inhabitants. So often we see people pull out a smartphone the second they encounter a break in their daily activity. It’s become a reflex as if it’s socially unacceptable to pause without drawing one out to surf, text or play a video game.

My phone suffers from loneliness. Usually it stays at home. Sometimes it makes it to the car and very, very occasionally it finds itself in a pocket. I use waiting rooms as an opportunity to gaze idly at carpets, walls, people and out windows. Virtually everyone else sits down and pulls out their phones in much the same way people would light up a cigarette in days of yore. If they bother to glance at me, they probably conclude I’m a retarded zombie.

But which of us is the zombie? Those caught up in the rat race of modern technology must fall asleep exhausted by their keyboard treadmill. While not quite stress free, my life certainly isn’t stressful. The many periods given over to meditation, contemplation and creation rejuvenate and give direction to my life. They are the wind beneath my wings.


Brain Behavior           November 13, 2015


This is NOT a post about Trump or Carson, yet perhaps it is in a perverse, dangerous way. Watched an intriguing PBS show titled The Brain With David Eagleman, a subject that fascinates me. David approaches the brain from the direction of how it reacts to neural inputs. Each point is backed with real life illustrations or experiments. I will only hit a few high points.

Humans are extremely social animals. Our brains thrive on contact and interaction with other humans. In fact, when deprived of that contact (as in solitary confinement) the brain gradually shuts down causing the victim to pass through a lower animal existence into nothing more than plant life.

When seeing another human, our brains form a judgement of that human in about 33 milliseconds (the blink of an eye as discussed in the book Blink). The judgement often happens subconsciously leading us to trust, covet, love, distrust, distance, hate or fear the person. Although our skill develops with age, the capability is inherent in babies.

This judgement comes primarily from reading body language and out our ability to communicate socially is largely controlled by our sensitivity to facial body language. It turns out that we tend to reflect the signal received from someone with very slight facial muscle movement. For example, even if a smile doesn’t provoke a full smile in return, it does cause the trace of a smile. And our brain responds to the neural input from that trace. So what? Well, when Botox is used to deaden facial muscles in an effort to prevent wrinkles, it degrades sensitivity to others. Various forms of autism involve the absence of this ability and psychopaths are devoid of it. They are completely blind to the feelings of others.

Our need for social connections leads us to form groups; teams, clubs, fan bases, gangs, troops, religions, political parties, clans, tribes, etc. Many of these are healthy but now we come to the dark side. We derive mental strength and happiness from groups but too often the group differentiates itself from others by claiming superiority. Outsiders are to be distrusted and looked down upon, perhaps even destroyed. David has studied the mechanism which leads to genocide and discovered that when outsiders are put down the brain deadens feelings towards them. In Corsiva, for example, this allowed Serbs to kill Muslims they had known personally as friends for years and it explains how the Holocaust could happen as well as the many genocides still occurring today. It explains how slavery becomes acceptable to otherwise decent human beings.

So what causes most groups to be at least tolerable and others to be diabolical? The difference-maker is propaganda. By repeated condemnation or lies, we start to believe there is truth in the statements and our brains stop reacting to the real situation. (You thought I would never get back to Trump and Carson, didn’t you?) The tragic thing is that it can happen in any society…German, Irish, Roman, even American. The only antidote is to detect and expose the lies, hate-mongering and self-serving agendas.

And apparently, operating on a brain does not make the surgeon any brainier. However, watching David Eagleman would.


Bidden Thoughts                       December 6, 2015

Thoughts often come unbidden, but are they? This week I travelled to an annual Sahalee invitational golf tournament all of forty miles into downtown Phoenix. It qualifies as an away event even for me since stay at the hotel is mandatory—no driving home at night. Twelve of us host four of our Pro staff for the four day tournament.

It’s a great event since we carefully select a highly compatible group. The four Pro’s are excellent golfers and wonderful role models. We all play better in their presence and their 250 yard three irons and 300 yard drives leave us dreaming of a youthful game we actually never enjoyed.

One of our leaders and a treasured friend of all, Jerry Jones, passed away a little over a year ago. Jerry was notorious for giving putts. Early in the week they ranged up to three feet but that expanded to five as the tournament wore on. To this day, a questionable putt is referred to as a Jones gimme. So on the third day, I had a three foot putt that rolled up to the hole and stopped. Resigned, I stepped forward to retrieve it with the comment that Jerry would have given it. Then, suddenly, it wavered forward and dropped. I looked up and thanked Jerry. The thought that his spirit watched us yet was unbidden. Or was it?

Ten years ago we lost the founder of this golf expedition, Don MacKenzie. About two years later, I had a vivid dream that a number of us met for breakfast in Redmond when Don walked in and sat down. After greetings, we asked how he was doing and he pressed us for the latest Club gossip. When we got up to leave he simply dissolved. Just a dream, you say. Only problem is, it was not a rehash of anything that happened previously. Was it unbidden thought or a bidden visit?

To be honest, I don’t believe in spirits that hang around or souls that go to the happy hunting ground. I do tend to believe that our brains and thought patterns are not isolated within our skulls. They communicate with each other far more than we realize and certainly beyond our conscious control. And often they lead to thoughts we may feel are unbidden simply because the bidding went undetected.

Propaganda is a treacherous form of both bidden and unbidden thought. Over the past few years we have been inundated with it to the point where a large percentage of the population, including intelligent people, believes the climate threat is a hoax, we should counter mass murders with increased gun proliferation and wage war on any non-white Americans who practice a religion claimed by a fanatic minority. The parallels with Nazi Germany and Kosovo are frightening. Even debunked lies are believed if repeated unrelentingly and often enough. People fail to see the fallacy in extrapolating obvious truths unwarranted lengths to an unjustified conclusion. One cannot help but wonder if the silent majority is a majority and if they will remain silent in 2016. Or will the boorish behavior of buffoons finally rouse them to save the nation?

Life Cycle of a Narcissist                                    December 16, 2016

Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of self and a deep need for praise and attention from others.

Often encountered but not always recognized, narcissists can be good or bad. On the good side, a team leader who inspires performance well beyond expectations; an entertainer who needs an announcement that “Elvis has left the building” or a man who publicizes technical innovations from personal computers to smart phones. Is it a coincidence his products begin with an “i”? Perhaps the man who is pioneering the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. There are countless examples.

But what about the bad side which requires others to suffer? The playground bully who gathers a group of cronies and physically and mentally abuses the weak. In the corporate world, I have watched them first hand. They begin with a charismatic personality that seduces followers and starts them up the corporate ladder. Soon you notice that when they call a meeting, it always begins with a speech in which they describe how smart they are and how they will bring about a great outcome. Before they relinquish the floor, they make clear how the meeting is to conclude. Each meeting contains their lapdogs to nod and applaud on cue.

Anyone who tries to suggest a flaw in their logic is overridden (“You’re not listening to me.”) and is earmarked as an opponent. Opponents may be toyed with for a time or led into a false sense of security but eventually their career is destroyed. I’ve seen it happen numerous times. I could have told Romney hell would freeze over before he would be appointed Secretary of State. His position is like that of the mouse caught by a cat. Glimpses of escape are offered, then stifled by a pounce to prove the cat’s dominance, eventually leading to the mouse’s death when the cat tires of the game.

Unabated, narcissists clamber for more and more power, more and more glory, more and more worshippers. They might even come to think they are gods like the African dictator who descends from a cloud on national TV to make proclamations to his people. So, what shatters these delusions of grandeur?

The playground bully is stopped by the hero who calls him out with sufficient strength to beat him. The bully slinks off, with or without his cronies. In the corporate world, it is an upper manager or board of directors who recognize the situation and pass him over for promotion. Often, he jumps ship to another company in search of a new empire. In the case of Hitler and his puppet, Mussolini, it took a devastating world war to bring them down. Mussolini incited a band of rabid followers and Hitler helped manipulate him into power. Both these narcissists managed through propaganda to overcome a too silent majority of people who knew better than to support them.

In the end, the sociopathic narcissist is undone by reality and collapse of the delusion he has created. The burning issue is how much harm has he does before that happens.


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