Monday, July 30, 2007

Nursing home cat can sense death?| Oddly Enough| Reuters

We can all sense more than we know... And Oscar is a good example

Nursing home cat can sense death?
| Oddly Enough
| Reuters

Friday, July 27, 2007

Re: 6 degrees of separation

This came from a friend, and I like it so much that i'll post it here:

i think there is another answer. It lies in the resonant structures that form things out of empty energy in a closed system where waves rebound from the boundaries and create patterns. Since the ocean is swimable (that's why we can get to the other shore) resonant structures attract each other.

Then again we could approach it from comparing the dream state in sleep to the dream state we call waking.

I think this happens a lot to people with a wide world. I once went to work as a headhunter. a few weeks later a new employee was placed at a desk opposite me. Turned out we had met in India in a few places 10 years before that. Went to a party at his home and his wife grew up a block from me and her sister was a classmate. He also met her in India. and i knew on other person there from Hawaii 12 years previous.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation? Really?

We’ve all heard that saying, “Six Degrees of Separation”, meaning that everyone on earth is connected by a maximum of 6 person to person links. What most people don’t know, though, is where this notion came from, and that it’s not exactly true.

  • Item: My friend, Sasha, a musician in London, knows three (3!) people I know on a first name basis: an economist in Boulder, CO, a research engineer in Princeton, NJ, and a German psychologist (though she may actually live in London — but London and its environs have 12 – 14 million residents). To my knowledge, none of these people knows each other. What’s going on?

“Six degrees of separation” came from an experiment done by Stanley Milgram, the psychologist, in the 1930s. It is said that he gave 300 random Nebraskans an envelope and told them to send that to someone they knew on a first name basis, who they thought could get it to a particular stockbroker in Boston, with instructions for them to do the same, and that the envelopes got there in an average of 6 steps. That’s not entirely true. The average of all 300 envelopes was 6 mailing legs to get to the target — but Milgram gave 100 of those envelopes to people in Boston, 100 of them to blue chip investors, and only 100 to random Nebraskans. And of the 100 given to the random Nebraskans, only 18 got to the target! But Milgram was on to something.

  • Item: Last weekend, I went to a hypnotherapy class in Oakland, CA, which had 5 participants besides me. At lunch, I discovered that one of them, an attorney in Sydney, Australia, is a good friend of, and sometime attorney for, the my one friend in all of Australia. What’s going on?

Or perhaps you’ve heard of the game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where players try to tie a given actor to Kevin Bacon in as few steps as possible, based on the movies they’ve acted in together. So if an actor has worked in a movie with Mr. Bacon, he has a Bacon number of 1, if an actor has worked with an actor who has worked with Mr. Bacon, she has a Bacon number of 2, and so on. As you can see in the table below, using data from the internet movie data base,, which has over 500,000 actors, the vast majority of actors are within 3 degrees of separation from Bacon, and virtually all are within 4 degrees:

Bacon Percentage
Number of Actors

1 .3
2 24.1
3 84.9
4 98.8

The book, “Six Degrees”, by Duncan Watts, from which the above data is abstracted, is all about “small world” networks, looking at networks as different as movie actors and the power grid from a mulitdisciplinary approach. After considering several models and research from the 1930’s onward, he concludes that “As long as individuals are more likely to know other people like them, and — crucially — as long as they measure similarity along more than one social dimension, then not only will short paths exist between almost anyone almost anywhere, but also individuals... will be able to find them.” And other research suggests that the two most powerful dimensions to explore are geographical connections and professional ones.

  • Item: A few weeks ago, I went to an NLP training in Novato, CA. The trainer, from NJ, turned out to have grown up a few blocks from me, and to have been a patient of my (MD) father’s. What’s going on?

So it’s reasonable that you’ll be connected to anyone, anywhere in very few steps, and that you’re most likely to find them by asking where they’re from and/or what they do for a living. But I’m still not sure that explains what’s happening to me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to Really Connect on the Phone

Many years ago, I was the head of customer service (and a few other things, too!) for a small business that sold proprietary products to the fire service. One of my duties was to answer questions from any fire captain or chief who called in to ask about the products, or to get the information they needed to them. Another thing I did was to help staff our booth at 3 - 5 fire service trade shows each year, which meant that I eventually got to meet many of the people to whom I had spoken on the phone.

I began to notice that, when I met them, I already knew what these men (and they were almost exclusively men) looked like! Now, it wasn’t that they looked exactly as I had imagined them, had I even been aware that I was imagining them. Rather, if I described the impression I had, that description would have exactly matched the person. So while it wasn’t like seeing an exact photo of a particular chief, I would have described him, say, as being slightly overweight, with shaggy brown hair, smallish light eyes, a regular nose and a mustache — and that description would have fit!

And then I began to wonder how I did that.

What I realized was that as I heard a voice, I was unconsciously flipping through my internal data base of all the people I’d ever met and their voices, and making a picture of the person I was talking with based on that. I’m sure you do it, too. Think about it — you can usually tell a woman’s voice from a man’s, or hear someone’s approximate age (though I can’t say how), or native language, or which region of the US he or she is from, and sometimes their ethnicity. A more resonant voice is generally a larger person, though not always. How do I ‘see’ eye color, or hair color, or facial hair? Avoiding the obvious blond jokes here, I can’t put my finger on it — but again, flipping through that data base in my mind gives me clues.

Then there’s the emotional stuff. You can hear tension in someone’s voice — happiness, sadness and anger, too. You can hear uncertainty in “uptalk”, the way someone raises their pitch at the end of a sentence. Or certainty and confidence in the opposite — a lowered pitch at the end of a sentence. Yes, you can hear a smile — or else why would all those sales training folks tell you to smile when you call a prospect? Or maybe what happens is that the smile changes someone’s internal state, and you can hear that. If you pay close attention, you can even hear people’s emotions when they’re trying to hide them. Maybe it’s in the length of the vowels, or the breathing.

You can do this! Part one of connecting to people on the phone is to listen to how people talk, and not just what they say. Pay attention to how fast they’re speaking (can’t you just see certain people gesticulating wildly?), whether they speak with a more even pitch, or whether it has lots of peaks and valleys, how loud they are, which words they emphasize, where and when they hesitate. And notice what impressions come to you from this, however they come. You may not be “seeing” the person on the other end of the line, but you may learn a lot about him or her.

In fact, you are probably already doing this beneath the level of your conscious awareness — maybe you’ve already decided you don’t like someone you just “met” on the phone, for example. But making it conscious for a while will help you improve the skills you already have.

And when this noticing becomes automatic, phase two of “how to connect on the phone” is to begin to match the other person’s speech. Maybe you slow down a bit if you’re talking to someone in the South — or speed up a bit if you’re speaking to a New Yorker. Maybe you have more peaks and valleys than you normally have, or maybe your tone of voice is more level than usual. Or perhaps you just address the feelings implicit in someone’s tone of voice — if (s)he sounds hesitant, ask what that hesitation is. This may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but keep at it, and eventually, you’ll connect with people just as well on the phone as in person.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Birthday Rats!

This is so cool, I just had to share!

One thing I did for my birthday was to go for a long walk on the beach. When I came home, I found a HUGE rat right in the middle of the “Welcome” on the door mat! My cat, Beast, who is a great hunter, but hadn’t brought me any ‘gifts’ for quite some time, brought me a birthday present!

My husband, whose birthday follows mine by 6 days, and I had a birthday party on the Saturday in between our two birthdays. Nothing fancy, just inviting lots of people for a pot luck, since no one seems to RSVP any more. The morning of the party, we were frantically cleaning, but had yet to put out any of the food or the utensils. We do clean occasionally, so this should not have set off alarm bells for Beast. Nevertheless, he showed up with yet another rat — his contribution to the pot luck!

After the party ended, Beast showed up with yet another rat, and headed for my husband’s favorite chair. Perhaps it was his gift to my husband?

Do you have a good animal story, a time when one of your pets “knew” something they couldn’t really have known?

In case you’re interested, there’s a great book, “Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals” by Rupert Sheldrake. I read it a long time ago, but if I remember correctly, he shows many instances of dogs (and birds?) who know psychically when their humans are returning.

Everything Happens for a Reason, Doesn't It?

You hear it a lot, don’t you? “Everything happens for a reason” -- but doesn’t it often seem like random things are happening to you? Here’s another way to think about that. It feels a little like a shaggy dog story, but there is a point, or even two.

My official business address is a post office box in a town I used to live in, about 45 minutes from where I live today. One afternoon a few months ago, when I checked it, I found several items for “Debbie Smith” (obviously not her real name, which is much more unusual). A couple of these looked like they might be checks and a couple more looked like W-2s. The address was P.O. Box 265, and then a street address, and then the town. I guess Debbie has my box number at a private mailbox place, but somehow these said P.O.B. instead of P.M.B. By law, the post office must deliver anything that says P.O.B. to a post office box, even if it has an address following that, so they ended up in my box.

As it happens, Debbie used to work for me, many years ago, when she was in high school; her mother, “Karen” is a good friend of mine. So I did what any friend would do, and called Karen, and left a message saying that these items were in my mail, and should I drop them at her house before I went home (as I don’t know where Debbie lives)? I did a few other errands, and since I hadn’t heard back, I gave the items back to the post office, explaining what had probably happened, and asking them to deliver them correctly. Shortly thereafter, I heard back from Karen, who said she’d call Debbie, who had recently moved back to town, to let her know about the mail. Then Karen said she’d be meeting a mutual friend of ours shortly for an early dinner, and did I want to come? Sure! I changed my plans and met Karen and my other friend for dinner at a Chinese restaurant a few doors from the post office.

While we were eating, Debbie walked into the restaurant and joined us, having just picked up her mail. Sure enough, there were 2 checks and 2 W-2s, and she was thrilled to have gotten them. Then she said, “You know, just today I was visualizing money coming in the mail to me. I was clear that I wanted it, and that I wanted it today!”

So here are the points of the story:

Everything happens for a reason, but it may not be your reason
. Everyone else out there has their own intentions. So enjoy being part of someone else’s synchronicity.

Be clear what you want — and others will be enlisted
, perhaps without your or their conscious awareness, to help you get it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Context is everything!

Sometimes, context is everything. It’s how you understand the meaning of a given word, right? When I was a kid, we played a game where the words “coffee pot” were substituted for two versions of a homonym, and you had to guess what the words were. So my mom would say, “I coffee pot the ball” and “I drove coffee pot the tunnel” and I had to guess the words “threw” and through”.

And sometimes it’s how you recognize people. Bear with me, here.

My office is very private. It’s pretty separate from the house; it’s downstairs, behind the garage, with its own door to a private patio. The patio is accessible only by a gate to the front yard and stairs up to the main deck and yard, which I can see from both my desk and the sofa where I sit to “read”. No one ever comes in unless I invite them. Even my husband checks the phone line to see if I’m busy before he comes down, and he comes from the inside; there’s never anyone except the cable guy or the phone guy on the patio, and that’s because I’ve called them. When I work, the only other creature there, besides me, is my cat, Creature. That is, my office is very private, and very safe -- which is important, because I need to be completely secure in the outer world so that I can focus on the inner world for/with my clients.

Last Wednesday morning, I was in my office, doing a reading/NLP session for a client. I had my eyes closed, paying close attention to the inner landscape, and was therefore not particularly aware of what was going on in my office. All was well. We had gotten to a place where my client was touching one of his big issues, which, frankly, he would rather have avoided. (This is how many issues get to be big issues — when they’re little issues, we avoid them because it’s easier or more comfortable to avoid them than to deal with them. That lets them grow unchecked, attracting other experiences like the one that caused the issue in the first place. But I digress.)

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! Went the back of the patio door.

Oh, my God! I practically screamed into the telephone, and then apologized to my client for blistering his ear as I rushed to the back door. There was a man standing there! And all the possibilities of who this could be flashed through my mind (PG&E? PacBell? The cable company? But I haven’t called any of them. A new neighbor? But why would a new neighbor come to this obscure, protected door?)

“Who are you?”, I asked the stranger.

“Steve”, he answered, with a slightly shocked look, as if to say, “you idiot!” — and immediately his very ordinary features morphed into the unique ones of one of my best friends from decades ago, as if all my experience of him suddenly populated his face. (Actually, we’ve known each other since we were teenagers and have stayed in touch all these years. No, I haven’t seen him in 5 years, but he really doesn’t look different from how he looked then.) It’s just that I talked to him the evening before, on his home phone, in NC, to say “thank you” for the birthday present he sent, so I “knew” he was home in NC. Since I didn’t expect him, I didn’t “see” him. I explained that I was really “out there” from doing the reading, and he readily forgave me.

How do you prevent this from happening? How do you ensure you recognize someone? I’m not 100% sure you can, but I have a couple of ideas.

The first one comes from my late father, who was a doctor in a small town in NJ, with a huge practice which spanned the state. Almost everywhere we went, someone would say, “Hi, Doc!” and he’d look momentarily blank, and then greet whomever by their name, and ask them something relevant to their lives. Once I asked him about that blank look, and how he remembered everyone, and here’s what he said: “When someone says, “Hi, Doc!, I know it’s someone from my practice, so I “see” them in the office — and then I know just who they are, their name, what they do for a living, kids names, all that stuff.”

So the first trick is to widen the visual frame of your memory, to see someone in the context in which you met.

The second trick is from “memory experts” who tell us to envision someone’s name stamped across his or her forehead.

Put the two together, so you see the person’s name, stamped on his or her forehead, in the context in which you know each other, and you’ll be all set!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

As American as cherry pie

Made from my photos of cherries, red peppers, night sky, roses, narcisus, and squash.