Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Distribution of Family Names

There's a nifty application that provides you with the distribution of last names in the United States and Canada. I looked up some of my grandparents and great-grandparents surnames. Not surprisingly, Taylor is the most common name.In regards to my family history research, however, Taylor is not really our family name. Supposedly my great-grandfather was adopted by Taylors because his parents were killed, though we have never confirmed this. His surname was Miller or Muller, and he was born in Wisconsin. Ironically, the one great-grandparent I have that was born in the United States is untraceable! Whereas in Norway I was able to trace branches of the parental line going back to the early 1600's. In Canada and England I've gone back to the 1700's.

Monday, May 28, 2012

More Pictures From Utah

     When I visited Utah in April I was actually going to skip Zion National Park, since I had limited time, and I had been there before. Thank goddess I didn't skip Zion. Zion is undoubtedly a sacred place. This time around I hiked the Watchman Tower trail, and the Emerald Pools trail. Watchman was like a mini version of Observation Point, which so far has been my favorite hike in Zion. The Emerald Pools trails were crowded but very beautiful. Check out the waterfalls! Someday I will see Zion once again!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Graphs on Google

Since Google has digitized millions of books published since 1800, you can type in a word or phrase or sentence and see a graph of its occurrence over time in English as well as other languages. Here is the graph of the word 'gay,' which was used frequently in the early 1800's, but apparently had a different meaning. From 1960 on, the word 'gay' has resurfaced to a peak in 2000.
Graph these case-sensitive comma-separated phrases:
between and

We can see the word 'lesbian' is not all that popular, or nonexistent until 1960. This goes along with feminist, though there are rumblings of the word as early as 1900. 
Graph these case-sensitive comma-separated phrases:
between and  

Graph these case-sensitive comma-separated phrases:
between and

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tips for Meditation

Since March I've been attempting to meditate everyday. My duration depends on the day, sometimes 45, 30, 20 or 15 minute sessions. I have a 'sacred' space in my room, with a candle and a Buddha statue. Most of the longer sessions I've completed have been in classes. I've attended several classes lately at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, such as: The Way of Awareness: An Introduction to Vipassana Meditation. 

It's motivating to hear the teachings and be with others.  
To motivate me further there is a nifty application that I downloaded on my iTouch called "Insight Timer." There are several applications to choose from, but I like Insight Timer best. You can keep data on how often you meditate, the duration per day, and the total duration over weeks and months. So far I've meditated a total of 11 hours, 42 minutes. Best of all you can connect with other people worldwide. 

Another tip is that I don't judge myself in comparison to other times I've tried to meditate. Sometimes I do think: "Oh my God. I'm so distracted!" But then I just refocus myself and bring myself back to my breath, my body sensations, or noises in the environment. Luckily my kitties have gotten used to my meditation, and don't bother too much anymore!

I also use mantras to focus. I repeat the loving kindness mantras as follows: 
"May I have mental happiness."
"May I have physical happiness." 
"May I be at peace with the comings and goings of events."

Sometimes I branch out from myself and focus on beloved others, but mostly I'm at the first stages of loving-kindness and you are instructed to begin with yourself. Sharon Salzberg's book "Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness" is a must read.

Also I find Susan Piver's books, website, and videos to be incredibly helpful.  

I am just a beginner. Here is some of my data.

Date             Duration (Minutes)       Total Days Meditating
05-21-2012 20:47,15.0,                  33 
05-20-2012 21:12,20.0,
05-19-2012 18:19,15.0,                  Average Time
05-18-2012 19:35,30.0,                  20.6 minutes
05-13-2012 19:00,30.0,
05-12-2012 22:09,15.0,                  Total Time
05-11-2012 21:13,15.0,                  11 hours, 42 minutes
05-10-2012 20:11,20.0,
05-09-2012 17:00,30.0,
05-07-2012 19:00,45.0,
05-05-2012 19:22,30.0,
05-02-2012 17:48,20.0,
04-30-2012 21:48,30.0,
04-09-2012 22:34,30.0,
04-02-2012 23:00,20.0,
04-01-2012 15:47,20.0,
03-28-2012 19:27,20.0,
03-25-2012 15:29,10.0,
03-24-2012 18:24,20.0,
03-23-2012 16:16,20.0,
03-21-2012 21:01,15.0,
03-21-2012 18:48,15.0,
03-20-2012 17:02,20.0,
03-19-2012 23:24,25.0,
03-14-2012 19:05,15.0,
03-13-2012 17:31,20.0,
03-12-2012 21:38,25.0,
03-11-2012 21:08,15.0,
03-10-2012 15:05,15.0,
03-06-2012 19:52,15.0,
03-05-2012 19:39,15.0,
03-04-2012 15:36,15.0,
03-03-2012 15:50,17.0,

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hillary Clinton on Human Rights

Here's a speech Hillary Clinton recently delivered at the International Human Rights Day Convention in Geneva, Switzerland. She talks about worldwide human rights in general, but is brave enough to address LGTB rights in particular. This woman is my heroine, and now you can see why.

Jennifer Bonardi is Famous

My friend Jennifer Bonardi was recently featured on local television, on the BNN News. She's the executive director of the Ford Hall Forum run by Suffolk University. For over 100 years, the Ford Hall Forum lecture series has invited various speakers on numerous topics, and has held panels, debates, and lectures for free. Listen to her spiel. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What My Grandfathers Made in 1940

Grandparents Gwen & Hjalmar on left, 1930's
With the 1940 census just being released at the beginning of April, 2012, I've already perused it. Most of the information I know, like the names of my family members, and their birth dates, etc... Though it is still exciting to witness history captured in time, the census seemingly doesn't add much detail to the family story. However the 1940 census recorded salary information, so I looked up what each of my grandfathers made in 1940. 

Surprisingly, both were employed, which I guess during the Depression was a feat in itself. Not surprisingly, my grandfather Taylor (my dad's father) made more money than my grandfather Grimstad. I say 'not surprisingly' because my grandfather Taylor was a U.S. citizen. My mother's father, on the other hand, was a Norwegian immigrant and also not a U.S. citizen at the time. I'm assuming it made a difference in terms of employment opportunities. 
My grandfather in 1957, still at Elliott
I know my grandfather Grimstad worked as a painter, and probably received a salary 'under the table.' He made 340 dollars in the year 1940. My dad's father William worked as a printer machinist at The Elliott Addressing Machine Company in Cambridge. The building still stands in Central Sq. In fact, my grandfather William served as an auxiliary military police officer during the war from 1943-44, as a guard for the company. In 1940, he made 1,130 dollars.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Henri, the Existential Cat

Life is an absurd delusion......