Archive for the 'time' Category

Lunar time tables

February 15, 2016

This happened to me before, but it still took me by enough surprise that I found myself trying to plumb it more thoroughly this time around.

I could not figure out why today I was feeling, shall we say, down.  I went off for a walk, and fairly early on in it, it came to me that I should check, when I returned home, an online yahrzeit calculator.  So when I got home, I found one and plugged into it the date of birth and death for the premature infant I delivered over thirty years ago, and sure enough, the yahrzeit is tomorrow (as well as in a month from now, because it’s a leap year and so the month of Adar occurs twice), according to the Jewish calendar.  On the solar calendar we use in secular American life, the anniversary is not until near the end of this month.

As I said, this has happened to me before, I could even probably figure out which year.

When it happened last time, I remember having some thoughts about why I was in sync with the Jewish calendar on this schedule of commemoration — I remember thinking, for instance, that it might have to do with picking up on other people’s practices.  I think with this year’s repetition of the experience of grief arising on the yahrzeit according to a lunar year, I am thinking more about whether my internal rhythm for marking a year might be on its own more in tune with a lunar calendar than with a solar one.

In any event, being able to name a point of reference for my mood has helped.  I found a candle and lit it, although, as I recall, the rules of Judaism don’t include mourning in this way for someone who lived less than 28 days.

My mourning on this occasion is fairly vague at this point in my life, but it’s certainly there, deep in my heart.  Like the original grief, it has a certain independence of existence, it exists and calls my attention to itself regardless of whether I am consciously thinking about it or wish to deal with it.  Something wants to rise up within me, such as I sometimes experience when I meditate.  It comes out, I let it express itself through me while I pull myself to the side, and then the moment passes.  I won’t say it’s cathartic, but something is released and a more peaceful state returns.  If one religious practice doesn’t want to support that need, I am not above finding others that do, just as I will go along with using the particular calendar that seems to suit my rhythm of mourning, even if it’s not the calendar I use every day.


News access

January 31, 2016

I haven’t really changed how I access news, but the ground has been shifting, with the result that what used to work for me doesn’t, at least reliably, anymore.

For example, I was able to watch the first minutes of the Democrats’ town hall meeting last week, and then the website insisted I input a password from my cable subscription to continue.  Since I don’t have a cable subscription, and the other watching options I read about online required at least some sort of paid subscription to some company, I forwent the rest of the event.

On the other hand, I do pay for two print newspaper subscriptions, The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and their delivery became unreliable about a month ago.  We are still sorting through that.  My Times delivery has not yet been assigned to a new permanent driver, so sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.  The new Globe delivery person has already inserted one of those envelopes for remunerative consideration.

Then there’s streaming news broadcasts online.  The one I try to watch can be missing in action altogether or begin somewhat late into the program.  When I try to find it on a TV broadcast, I am not always successful, either.

Whatever the contributing factors are to these various situations, the net result is that things ain’t what they used to be.  I assume that for people using different means of access, ways of getting the news have improved, that I’m just not in the right segment, using the means being catered to now.

With the primary races for the presidential nominations going on right now, analysts sometimes try to figure out how people become disaffected.  I would say that these sorts of impersonal business decisions by multiple organizations simultaneously can produce a sense in the consumer of being left by the side of the road.  I don’t know, maybe there are other things to do along the road’s shoulder, like watching some birds or observing cows grazing, listening to water running over rocks in a stream, imagining what the clouds in the sky might resemble.  Lord knows, I always have plenty of chores and paperwork to do, I could cut back on how much time I spend taking in the news and put that time to other use.  It’s a thought.


Response before the query

July 5, 2014

I was helping my mother this evening with some “business,” as she likes to call it, and sure enough, I discovered that the fix to an old problem had not been taken as described (the amounts of money were not the same).  Even though it’s a holiday weekend, I almost immediately sent off to the person handling the matter the email pointing out the issue, because it was much easier to write the email while the details of the matter were still fresh in my mind.

And I received pretty quickly an automated response about how my recipient was out of the office and would be back on Tuesday.  No big surprise there.

But my thrill was that when I transferred the two emails to a folder for storage, my recipient’s response preceded my query in the list, even though this list sorts the emails according to when they were “Received.”  Both have the same time stamp, but the reply comes first in the list.

I love it.

I had always wanted to ask Kinko’s to photocopy my college papers before I wrote them.  This comes close enough — close enough to a physical representation of a concept I love, a concept of a much more fluid experience of time, an experience of time which includes the possibility that what comes later can be inserted back into the past.


December 12, 2013

I got an email from a small business I’ve bought things from in the past.  It’s called KIOSK, and they have an idiosyncratic inventory.  I think I originally came upon them when I was looking for small wooden eating utensils.

Anyway, I get this email and I do them the courtesy of a loyal customer of taking a look to see if there’s anything that I need.  I notice mittens, and the pair I generally use for snow shoveling has gotten kind of worn out to the point the mittens are not that warm anymore.  So I contemplate buying a pair of their deerskin mittens, even though they are sized for men.  Since I used to wear a pair of Willy’s deerskin mittens for snow shoveling, before they, too, got too worn out, I thought I ‘d give this pair a try.  But I was also thinking, “These mittens really don’t match my coats.”

So last evening a friend of mine followed through on giving me a hand-me-down down coat she had been talking to me about for a long time — maybe over a year?  Anyway, I had been picturing this coat as black, because that’s the color of coats I’ve seen her wear, but this one turned out to be navy blue — and with a gold lining that matches the mittens I ordered the day before.

Although my friend is taller than I am, the coat seems to fit and I accepted it.

It also reminded me of Willy’s last down parka — navy blue.  Somehow the hood on that coat became misplaced, I thought during the dry cleaning process, but my dry cleaner said no.  The hood has never surfaced in the house, but who knows, it might still.  My hand-me-down has a hood.

Now here’s the kicker.

It is true that both Willy and my friend were/are engineers, although Willy was an electrical engineer and my friend I think is a structural engineer, so maybe the following is not so surprising.  But:  after we walked up to Robbins Farm to view the city lights and we came back to my house and had supper, she had to go off to hear a presentation from someone in her field.  I had asked where she needed to get to, to figure out how much time we had, and she had earlier said Concord.

When we got back to my house and she looked up her lecture and directions to get there, it turned out to be at MIT Lincoln Lab in Lexington — where Willy worked.

I gave her directions off the top of my head (which she confirmed on her phone).

I felt as if I had been visited by a lot of old memories.

Unintentional quotation

September 8, 2013

I like to read the Sunday op-ed columns on the NYTimes on Saturday.  I usually look for them in the late afternoon.  I sometimes have trouble locating them.

Today I read Nicholas Kristof’s column first, but there was no place to post a comment, so I went on to Maureen Dowd’s and Ross Douthat’s columns.  I was interrupted by something before I finished my Douthat comment.  Afterwards I read Tom Friedman’s column but abandoned my attempt at a comment.  Eventually I found Kristof’s blog post on which to submit my comment.  For some reason, I didn’t notice Frank Bruni’s column until much later, when the home page for the Sunday Review replaced the one for Saturday’s op-ed page.

So I was much embarrassed to discover that my last sentence in my Dowd comment tracked Bruni’s column so closely, including in word choice.  I apologized both there and in a “reply” to my own Dowd comment, but it’s kind of tough to explain this quirk I apparently have of picking up in some way something that I haven’t yet actually read.  I know I’ve done it before, I remember an instance in which it was some Kristof images and words that I wrote in a comment before I read his piece.  I may even have written about this quirk on this blog before.  But I haven’t yet figured out a way to handle it — how to avoid the initial unintentional quotation or how to apologize afterwards.  I hear myself sounding either too wacky or too defensive, so I try to keep my apology simple.

I’m not 100% sure how this phenomenon occurs.  It seems to me that it could have to do with something going on with time and sequence of events getting jumbled, it could have something to do with merging with somebody else who has already read the piece in question and picking up the words and images from them unwittingly, or it could have to do with something else entirely — I really don’t know.

But I find it embarrassing.


July 1, 2013

Twice today (here and here) I wrote a comment on the NYTimes website that unwittingly echoed what somebody else wrote.  In both cases I hadn’t read their comment when I wrote mine.

This is not the first time I’ve had this happen, and it’s not always an echo of other people’s comments — sometimes it’s other articles and columns in the paper I echo without having read them.

I’m not sure what to do about it.  I think it happens because of how I take in information.  I also sometimes find myself having an emotional reaction before an event actually takes place, so there’s probably also another element, involving my perception and its relationship to linear time.  So I don’t think the issue going to go away, that its occurrence is just an aberration for me.

I will mull this over to figure out whether to change my process for writing comments.


February 10, 2012

I know someone, but not very well, who has often mentioned that some family members died in a car accident.  I knew it happened years ago, and for some reason today I asked him how old he was when it happened and what time of year it had been.  And it turned out the anniversary is this Monday.

A few days ago I asked my son about something, kind of a check-in about how something was going, and he assured me all was fine with it.  Only to text me a day or two later that it wasn’t.

I’ve wondered for a long time how we know stuff, what we are sensing, and to what extent our sensing of the stuff actually could affect it.  I know people who think we affect things a lot, that our fears, for example, throw monkeywrenches into what goes on.  I tend to think that the whole notion of causation is probably misleading us, anyway, that things happen for some sort of complex reason that is below the surface of what we perceive and can try to manipulate, and that at a certain level the notion of causation isn’t very meaningful, anyway, since it is predicated on time.



January 2, 2012

When the kids developed a habit of prefacing a question with, “Can I ask you a question,” or, “I have a question,” we developed an initial response of, “The answer is 17.”  This had something to do with 17 as an interesting number in math in some ways I don’t quite remember, but I do remember that in a number theory class I took on Saturday mornings at a science honors program at Columbia University while I was in high school, that number loomed large (in fact, when my brother-in-law and I were trying, years later, to figure out if we had been in that same class at the same time, that was the identifying characteristic that cinched it — we did a lot of proofs involving demonstrating that there are infinitely many primes, and when the professor would ask the group, I think for a prime number to start off with, 17 was often the choice of this knot of students who sat near the windows — I think Michael turned out to have been one of them).

So, my dad begins a topic of conversation on Friday with, “I have a question for you.”  And I explain to him why my immediate reaction is to want to tell him “17,” and he says that actually in some ways is relevant to what he wants to ask me about, which turned out to be about how to obtain his paper tax forms for 2011, including Publication 17.

I was reminded of the clock that has stopped that still manages to give the correct time twice a day.

Physicists and shamans

November 10, 2011

I watched the Brian Greene program about time on Nova last night and wondered why he was acting as if he’d never heard of a shaman or what one does.  Even if he personally doesn’t “believe” in what shamans do, he could learn from the parallel concepts.  But it’s like someone who doesn’t want to ask for directions, he and his friends are going to find this stuff out for themselves.  Which is probably as it should be, but if in the interim they destroy the planet, and for personal profit, it’ll be a pretty hollow moment of understanding, for all of us.