The Longest Night

Thank you Liza for reassuring us that we can bring back and expand the light.

photo: Candle in the dark, by Andy Hay

Like Liza, I have been sifting through memories of my Christmas Pasts, to find ones that nourish new possibilities. I am so content with what I have, my seasonal joy is now from gifting things to people who are in dark times, to surprise and delight them.

When I studied Psychology, I learned that people collapse under crises just after the worst is over. Forget the common idiom, “the darkest hour is just before dawn”; the darkest hour is the one just after dawn. People tend to give up just as things start to get better. That is one reason to appreciate that Christmas and New Years are after the Solstice; after the darkest, longest night. That means that the most important time for action is now.

What is making your days merry and bright? How are you brightening the dark times of others?

(This might be especially true for people close to the North Pole. I have not found a comparable tradition for Southerners; short days are less drastic for them.)

Deeper Roots

Tonight is the longest night. At 5:03 the shortest day of the year ended and the winter solstice, the longest night began.

My family lit candles – six candles on the menorah for the six (thus far) nights of Hannukah and four candles on the Advent Wreath for Peace, Hope, Joy, Love. We won’t light the Christ candle until Christmas Day. My family gathered in the flickering flame. The light looked so fragile, the shadow and the darkness beyond so vast and enclosing.

It feels like it is the longest night in our nation as well.   The President of the New York Police Department Union said “There’s blood on many hands tonight….That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.” In fact there is blood on many hands. There has been for many generations. Since the first Native was murdered, since…

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Sweating Small Stuff


80% of our effort produces 20% of our results

something has to change by at least 5% for us to notice the difference

Consider that less than 20% of our effort might make more than 80% of the difference.

Parroting the Pareto Principle

More than 100 years ago, economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced 80% of his peas, and 20% of Italy’s population owned 80% of Italy’s land. Other people have found that this Pareto Principle applies to many other countries, and even the world. People are applying this principle to other situations, like resource management, showing that 80% of a person’s effort addressed 20% of the problems, 80% of the products were produced by 20% of the machinery, etc.

Man_in_pelvis_cloth_lifting_weight Man_in_pelvis_cloth_lifting_weightb~3

Weighing Weber’s Law

Nearly 200 years ago, physiologist Ernst Weber discovered that a weight lifter could perceive smaller differences in weight as the weight decreases. For example, when people were lifting 100 lbs., they usually didn’t notice if you added or removed less than 10 lbs.; but when they were lifting 10 lbs., then they noticed a difference of 1 lb. or more. Thus, he found that it took a 10% change in weight for the difference to be noticeable. Many people began applying this Law to other senses: for hearing, the difference is around 5%, and for vision, 8%.

So What?

I wanted to make the most of my time. I understood that I could be like most, and waste 80% of my time chasing after the bottom 20% of my customers and profit. I wanted to apply the Pareto percentages so that 80% of my time built up the top 20%.

Don’t sweat the small stuff?

Then, I kept coming across the idea that we don’t notice small changes, so I considered stopping chasing the small stuff.

Maybe life doesn’t work well that way.

…It’s all small stuff

When I put the greatest amount of my effort into the smallest things, I excel.

In college, learning 20% of the material took around 80% of my effort. It was the difference between C and A grades. I could have shown up for class and done the minimal required, and gotten Cs, but I chose to master the details to get mostly As.

In other areas of my life, I could have done what 80% of the other people did, and fit in. Instead, I addressed details that others didn’t notice, and excelled.

I propose that 80-99% of life just happens. 80-99% of our bodily functions probably happen on their own for 80-99% of the people. My most essential functions require the least amount of my attention: breathing, circulating blood, dreaming. But greater health comes from attending to the optional 1-20%: expanding awareness.

So, I’m sweating the small stuff: savoring 1% of the music that I hear, 1% of the foods that I eat, 1% of the plants that I see, 1% of the words that I read…you get the idea.

What small stuff do you want to sweat today?



Photo credit:
“Man in pelvis cloth lifting weight” by Muybridge, Eadweard, 1830-1904 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Family Ghosts by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Happy Day of the Dead!

I like Mike’s sense of humor/horror. This is one of my favorite ghost stories.

I’m haunted by my family.

No, really. All my dead relatives hang around as ghosts. When someone dies, you don’t lose them, they just gain the ability to walk through walls.

It’s been like that for generations. They gradually fade and become harder to converse with, so I can’t ask the original Scoville, but according to family tradition it was some sort of curse. Offended an old homeless woman, you know the sort of thing. We’re always careful to be nice to the homeless these days.

Not that it’s entirely a bad thing. Oral history projects are super easy, and you can go back a lot further, not that anyone will necessarily believe you. And family reunions are especially well attended.

The problem is that they do hang about at inconvenient times. In particular, they’re fussy about us–the male members of the family, since we carry the name and the curse–and who we marry.

It’s a wonder, really, that anyone gets married at all. Though coming from such a large, close family, you do want to carry on the tradition. The girls are lucky; although they see the ghosts, and become ghosts themselves, their husbands and children don’t. But we men transfer the curse to our wives.

That means we have to tell them all this at some point. The coward’s way (I’m looking at you, Great-Uncle Gregory, and you needn’t make that face; nobody’s frightened), is to wait until they see the ghosts, generally the morning after the wedding, and then tell them. The more risky way is to tell them first and propose afterwards.

The problem with that is that it sounds delusional.

You’re backing away, and I don’t blame you.

Um, is it too late to just do the proposal part? See, the older ghosts like it that you dress modestly, and it’s good that you wanted to wait to get, you know, more intimate, because with your family in the room all the time, that just wasn’t going to…

Oh, yes, fair enough. Well, goodbye.


How would  YOU  handle the marriage proposal?


Read more by Mike Reeves-McMillan


Photo Credits:

“Family Ghosts” composite by Grace Buchanan. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Mom’s Bedroom” by Moto “Club4AG” Miwa. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Ancestors” by SyliusOwn work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Black, Chinese & White Laborers In A Gold Mine In South Africa” by Frank & Frances Carpenter [RESTORED by Ralph Repo]. Licensed by Ralph Repo under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Easington Pit Disaster” from Eastington District Council’s Past and Present Archive. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

Moise Cherezli and Claire Crespoin wedding“. Licensed by David Lisbona under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Amazon Update

You know how I feel about Amazon. I still have a few used items for sale at their website, but will continue to lean toward using alternative websites when I have another item to sell.

Today I got an email from Amazon stating that if I want to sell a DVD with a MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of $25 or more, I will have to apply for the privilege, starting in November. “We are implementing this restriction because these products may have a higher risk of authenticity issues. ” That sounds reasonable. After all, I’m in favor of protecting intellectual property rights. But the application process requires a Professional Selling Plan with a monthly fee of $39.99.


Call me cynical, but I think that Amazon is pushing its sellers into this monthly subscription program  under the guise of increasing the legitimacy of the products that they sell through their “doors”.

  • another reason why I am supporting alternatives to buying and selling through Amazon.


Image credits:
Composite of images by Grace Buchanan, Creative Commons License
This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Image Components:
Woman in denim jeans in Paris 2007, by Mark Skipper
I got to pick the film we watched Friday night 🙂 by Lisa Risager
Pirate by Jess
Discarded DVD Cases by Rym DeCoster
Discarded DVD covers by Harald Groven