A Very Good Save-the-World Software Development Idea. Please Help Yourself! :-)

Will some brilliant programmer please step up and design a google-type software program that can linguistically analyze and determine a speaker/writer’s cooperative tone and intent?


Your new program could identify and distinguish among those writers/speakers whose communications promote a sense of division, partisanship, negativity, polarization, blame, attack, incivility, rudeness, destructiveness, unfriendly competition, bickering and hate—and those promoting a sense of positivity, creativity, life-affirmation, support, harmony, acceptance, forgiveness, productivity, civility, courtesy, equality of opportunity, caring, cooperation and unity.


Your software could have endless useful and profitable applications. For immediate profitability, please consider using your product for security purposes, to helpfully ward off unfriendly attacks and attackers (of whatever kind) upon individuals and enterprises (of whatever kind.)


Imagine leaders young and old in every field vying for their communications to be screened and certified via your software. Why not simultaneously award a “Truth-bearer” (or some other such logo) “gold seal of approval” identifying individuals and organizations as positive communicators, healers, light-bearers?


Your prestigious and desirable software “accreditation” could motivate many people to investigate and understand the important distinctions between peaceful and contentious communication purposes, and to recognize and encourage humanity-unifying goals as non-threatening and potentially beneficial to all earthlings, while discouraging communications with adversarial, hostile ends. Your software would also surely stoke national dialogue, while heightening awareness about the many distinct (although often confusingly-disguised) differences between helpful and harmful human communications. Your software would take care not to exclude any gentle, friendly, cooperative practitioner of any ideology, religion, political party, nation, organization, affiliation, etc.


One important goal of your software would be to educate. Hopefully, everyone would eventually become enlightened enough to merit universal inclusivity (by acting as good, positive communicators) according to your accrediting software, which might also be developed Wikipedically, or perhaps Amazon-style—i.e., open-sourced, by inviting motivated reviewers and voters opportunities not only to build your site, but also to offer feedback opportunities and provide needed talent to shape and debug upgrades and develop next-generation software.


Recipients of your approving nods (such as Nobel prize winners and mild-mannered third-graders) could proudly display and announce their cherished new affiliation and certification on their websites, on Facebook, business cards, in TV commercials and advertising, on coffee cups, tee-shirts, shopping bags….


Additionally, your software could assist web surfers to more-judiciously select helpfully-screened websites, products and opinions as the very ones they will most benefit from investigating. Perhaps your software could also eventually include a function which would recognize and refute inappropriate co-opters of your symbol of acceptance and stamp of approval—an iterative process that would call out abusers while encouraging more awareness and discussion.


Your software will stimulate lively dialogue; increase the impact and number of creative, thought-provoking, and controversial-but-civil exchanges; reduce (by virtue of indifference and neglect) the quantity and influence of divisive communications arising anywhere in the world; universally improve facility in verbal and mental processing of complexities, innuendo and nuances; and inspire us all to pull together cooperatively to resolve our common personal, local and global problems.


While you're programming, please give extra points for humor?


And if you're not a programmer, but merely a earthlinged, godlinged promosapient like me, please pass this idea on to any similarly-inclined programming/software folk or foundations, or to whomever might be interested!


Thank you…. 🙂


Nancy Pace





















































































Some Sane Policy Strategies, Both Foreign and Domestic, for a Dazed-and-Confused America

The best strategy for insuring a reasonable share of post-war oil is for the U.S. to follow China’s admirable (and successful) approach to foreign relations: make friends with every country; don’t try to control events; don’t take sides with factions by using bribes and threats and offering weapons (all of which strategies make more enemies, while making conflicts harder to resolve); offer apologies as necessary; and spread goodwill by generously supporting, in every country, only open, popular, peaceful initiatives of selected proven-peaceful leaders with broad-based, loyal coalitions.


We should withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately, leaving U.N. peacekeepers to support the transition, and giving thoughtful consideration to all those we leave behind, financially supporting common goals and peaceful compromises, as well as aiding refugees, rebuilding, and easing resettlement (to the U.S.) of all those U.S.-supporters who might be at post-war risk.


We should abandon our war on terror, and support instead an efficient international crime-fighting network, and a peaceful international campaign to resolve future conflicts before they turn deadly. To accomplish these goals, we need to work to end economic injustice/violence, political and state violence (i.e., all forms of war and lawless incarcerations), and the spread of weapons, fully support world disarmament and other cooperative global peace and environmental initiatives, curb violence in entertainment, and aggressively prosecute hate crimes. We should also build a national and global culture of peace through the stated domestic and global initiatives of the proposed cabinet-level Department of Peace (www.dopcampaign.org) .


We clumsily attempted to avenge the loss of three thousand innocents murdered on 9/11 by killing and maiming many thousands more innocents (both ours and theirs) on foreign soil, and are now threatening to waste even more lives (both theirs and ours) by sword-rattling in Iran’s direction. We must find a way to forgive others and ourselves, make no more enemies, and recognize and address the grievances of the many who are presently turning from desperation and despair to violence (i.e., “terrorists”).


We need to attend to the real “illegals” in American life—not the immigrants who daily seek respite and freedom from the world’s violence and injustice on our shores, but the thousands of prisoners rotting forgotten in illegal dungeons throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Cuba, and elsewhere. We must find a way to bring due process of law to these imprisoned and abandoned “illegals” who have been deprived of their most basic human rights, and also end our inhumane criminalization of the inevitable south-to-north global migrants whose only crime is fleeing poverty and terror–by finding hospitable ways to assimilate them into American life.


We must resist the partisan temptations offered by Monica Goodling’s immunity to attack the very culpable Alberto Gonzales, Condaleeza Rice, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and other Bush administrative and military bunglers, leave vengeance and blame to God and his horde of very willing historians, and focus instead on uncovering truth, taking right action, and reconciling a nation.


Lee Iacocca recently urged the need for courageous leadership during this difficult time. We indeed need true leaders who can move us past our collective darkness toward solving the real problems we must now face: the ravages of disease, injustice, hopelessness, hunger, greed, environmental degradation, corporate accountability, natural disasters, ignorance, addiction, prejudice, nuclear proliferation, global warming, crime, migration, poverty, war, immorality, cruelty, indifference, terrorism, and yes, violence itself.


All the strategies described above depend upon our growing awareness that nothing we may fear is more dangerous than fear itself, and no weapon more effective than love in all its forms—kindness, patience, understanding, acceptance….  It is not hate, but fear which builds up armies and stockpiles nuclear weapons; not hate, but fear which looses destruction upon hapless presumed enemies, and thus upon ourselves. The Golden Rule–treat others as you would be treated–works just as well in international relations as it does with individuals. Just as families and businesses must learn to accept, respect, and support others (just as they are) in order to be successful, so must all political leaders, their party members, and their followers—indeed, all citizens everywhere—learn and teach acceptance, respect, and support for all our brothers everywhere, all God’s beloved children, every one—if we are to survive and thrive together on our tiny blue planet.





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Central Station, Not One Less, Children of Heaven, Autumn Spring, and Other Wonderful Movies….

I just watched the award-winning 1998 Brazilian film, Central Station (about the importance of connecting, belonging, and giving.) Two desperate, appealing, and brilliantly acted characters in dire straits—one a recent orphan, the other a sad retiree—are thrown together, and reluctantly save one another. The story centers on a relationship that develops during a journey. This movie drives home in a touching and entertaining way, how important family, friends, and security are in life, and how fragile and easily lost they are in life’s changing circumstances, and through cynicism, defeatism, and self-isolation. This gripping, beautifully-directed movie is also a revealing snapshot of everyday lives in a variety of intriguing rural, suburban, and urban settings in today’s Brazil.


Among many other wonderful, critically-acclaimed foreign films I’ve seen recently through Netflix, the following are truly the best of the best….


For families with young children, and for every adult, these films have my highest recommendation, as entertaining, well-made, and, well…just plain wonderful. Like Central Station (above), each has great potential for discussion, for insight into different cultures and human values, and for just about every pleasure one can find in a really memorable, insightful movie:


Children of Heaven, a not-to-be-missed, touching slice-of-life story showcasing a child learning values while making difficult choices, is set in working-class Iran. Not One Less (the same, with an emphasis on perseverance, is set in rural China. Rabbit-Proof Fence, an Incredible Journey-sort of film, except that it’s set in historical Australia, is based on true events. The three sojourners are Aborigine children trying to return home….


These three movies are all gentle, touching stories of winning children/families living typical lives in far corners of the earth, all highly enjoyable for all ages. They will stay in your mind forever.


For teens and their families, or for any adult, I recommend The Road Home, a sweet love story set in mainland China, and the funny and moving Secrets and Lies, about a successful (black) daughter’s reunion with her troubled (white) birth mother/family, who gave her away before seeing her as an infant (set in London).


The Battle of Algiers is a well-made, sad, dark, and moving historical film about an Islamic uprising against French colonists. I recommend it only (but especially) for adults who, like me, are interested in politics and history. It compellingly sheds light on current Middle Eastern conflicts.


The Barbarian Invasions is an interesting story of a father-son reconciliation, as well as a marvelous depiction of what a “good death” might entail. You'll see some fascinating Canadian culture, strong direction, a funny, thought-provoking and touching script, and solid performances by a delightful cast … recommended for any adult who finds this synopsis appealing.


I not only found Autumn Spring (about a Czech retired couple) delightful; it also taught me something I had forgotten about men—that they need to feel free to be men or they’ll die inside. Right after seeing this movie, I encouraged my husband to buy the bike of his dreams, which he is simply thrilled with…. I’m so happy with his new happiness that I’m reminded, as I write this review, to keep listening for and supporting the rest of his dreams…as he does mine….


Finally, a sometimes slow-moving but memorable and powerful film for anyone interested in immigration, migration, and refugees in any country, including our own, is In This World, about two young Afghan cousins who undertake a secret/illegal, and very arduous journey to improve their lives in London.


I am so grateful to all the creative and brilliant film-industry workers who made these films, and also to Netflix, truly the bargain of the century for culture-lovers…. Thank you!


(Please click on “reviews” to see earlier outstanding movies I've reviewed….)


Please send your comments to epharmon@adelphia.net






The Weather Changes But We Don't

My father's delightful response to thunder-and-lightning storms and big windstorms was to pour himself a drink, pull a chair up to the window, and watch all the excitement of nature's beautiful fury! My mom always told me to look for the good and beautiful in weather, because you can't do anything about it anyway, so why let it spoil your day?

My husband (a runner) responds to the wind and cold and snow and ice (which used to keep me indoors on such days) by dressing properly so he's never cold; he's taught me how to run every day and not be cold either. (I draw the line at biking below 50 degrees, however!) 

Having lived in Texas for many years, I resist sameness in weather; I want different weather every day, which is what I get living in Maryland. The weather in Wisconsin, Texas, and even San Diego and Hawaii wasn't varied enough for my picky tastes, but many people love those places…. Give me four distinct seasons! Even the kinds of snowy, windy, rainy, warm, cloudy…days in Maryland are each different.

People who don't like to sweat, or who don't sweat often, usually have a hard time with warm temperatures, whether inside or out. A good cure for broadening one's comfort range in temperatures is to exercise/sweat often; sweating gets your cooling system working more effectively.

I see rain as pennies from heaven…..

I'm slowly learning to accept that people's reactions to weather are learned pretty early, and are hard to change, like deep-seated childhood fears, and try to remember that many people are ill, and “bad” weather makes their life that much more burdensome. My goal is to reprogram myself to enjoy all weather and temperatures as much as possible…. 

I hope this comic strip reinforces how important perspective is. We can see the good or the bad–because our minds will put whichever one we tell them to, “out there.” That different people enjoy and dislike so many different things about weather is proof of the importance of attitude….  Weather is one of those “what is” things we can't control, so it seems a waste of time and energy to expend negative energy on it. Good and bad weather is much more about how we are than about what the weather is…. I hope everyone enjoys today's beautiful snow!

Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net






Finding Time For What's Most Important

I have more time these days to…. I started to say, to do what I want to do, but everyone does what they want to do twenty-four hours a day, if you count wanting to go on living, wanting to eat, stay warm, take care of loved ones—in short, most everyday activities.


So, rephrasing…these days I have more time and money to choose activities beyond caring for the immediate needs of myself and loved ones—and I feel very lucky about that.


I’m surprised, though, to find that even people with “free time” can put themselves under a lot of self-inflicted pressure, feeling we should do more, better, or different with our new-found time. I’d hoped that all that rushing around would be behind me when I had more time.




Now that I think about it, the world’s most influential people stay pretty busy—although they don’t act rushed. I guess they’ve mastered the art of living in the present moment (think Bill Clinton?), focusing on their most important agenda items, and taking satisfaction in what they can do.


My husband tells me “involvement” is the key for him. Whether he’s fixing a drain or paying a bill or working on job-related projects, he’s contented, so long as he feels “involved.” I know he makes seemingly boring tasks more interesting for himself by holding to high standards of excellence, focusing, and paying attention to detail. And of course he never gets his long list done either. But he’s pretty good at attending to his “big rocks” first, accomplishing them as well as he can in the time he has. (The “big rocks” theory says you can squeeze more rocks and pebbles and gravel and sand into a jar only when you put the big rocks in first.)


I used to put all my little pebbles in first—hoping to address them quickly so I could get on to all my big rocks—but then I would run out of energy and motivation, and never get around to my most important, if less urgent, goals. Now I’m learning to take care of my big rocks earlier, and to fit all the others in where I may. To my surprise, even a few minutes a day on my big rocks elates and energizes me, and I’m more, not less, likely to get to—and enjoy—my little rocks.


And which are my big rocks? That’s hard to figure out, too. My big rocks are those activities and goals which give me the greatest sense of meaning, usefulness, happiness, and contentment. Each person’s set of big rocks is quite different from any other persons’. I’ve also learned to identify what it is I value most, compared with the values of others’, by looking back on what I’ve chosen to do with my time in the past. (I’ve noticed, for instance, that I camped, backpacked, and hiked whenever I could manage it, even when I didn’t have much time and money, so I’ve recognized that being active in nature is very important to me…. These days, I garden.)


Another way to identify big rocks is to think about what I would do if I had unlimited money. International spiritual and activist treks always drew me, though other goals won out; nevertheless, here I sit at last, traveling the world through the internet, and writing my spiritual/activist blog.


It also helps me to think about all the famous people I admire–athletes, leaders, stars, writers, artists; all the things they're so good at are quite different from each others'–so they had to choose, too, and make hard trade-offs during their own twenty-four hour days.


Finding time for what’s most important to me also requires listening attentively to my intuition. Of course, I still keep good old reason-and-logic handy in my big bag of decision-making tricks, but nowadays they share equal space with my gut-feelings. In any case, I’m aware that I often use “reason” just to build a case for established preferences—so why not just pay attention to them to begin with? I also sometimes intuitively pick up a long-neglected activity because, “If I don’t do this now, it won’t ever get done.”


I’m more courageous now about letting go and trusting God to guide me toward what’s most important on each day—having lived enough of my life to know that, while life often feels chaotic while I’m living it, staying close to my own unique self, my sense of integrity, has been richly rewarding.


What’s most important to us—our own personal set of “big rocks”—is unique to each of us. While having good relationships is always valuable, many feel equally drawn to money-making, career, public service, art, travel, education, health, adventure, politics—the list goes on. No one can choose everything, at least not all at the same time; so we have to pick and choose among many competing options every day, every season, every decade. Configuring one’s own personal—and changing—sets of big rocks, weighing and prioritizing, balancing and selecting from among the infinite range of options, is a difficult thing to do.


Sometimes, when my big-rock choices are frustrating me, backfiring on me, or offering little short-term satisfaction, it helps to remember that every single choice, no matter how worthy and legitimate, is fraught with its own unique set of challenges, heartaches, and trade-offs. The hardest thing for me at such times is to turn my back on all those other delectable, competing “want to’s,” “have to’s,” “oughts,” and “shoulds.” It helps, at such moments to focus on the present and future joys and rewards of the goals I’ve chosen. Each tempting new rock and pebble may be very legitimately appealing and persuasive, but first things first; lifetimes hold a lot of hours.


During my crazy early days, when I blindly and not-so-patiently began weaving the first few strands of my own life’s tapestry, I certainly couldn’t see any underlying unique patterns or themes, any beauty, grace, or inspiration in it. I did cling fiercely, however, to a mole-like faith, that as long as I tried my best, led with my heart, and moved toward my passions, I would be all right. (And, to everyone’s surprise, I’m not dead yet.)


I know, in retrospect, that considering who I was, and considering what I knew back then, my life’s tapestry couldn’t have been woven any other way.


I used to envy a dear friend in faraway Idaho who sent me letters filled with such fascinating activities—travel, adventure, hobbies, classes, friendships, causes, achievement, nature, exercise, creativity—so many things I longed to do. I admired her so much (and still do) but felt like such a boring creature in comparison. What I wasn’t honoring at the time, as I provided day-care to babies, was my own choice to dedicate my own particular twenty-four hours a day (the same number everyone gets) to giving those babies (and my own) a good start. Looking back, I wish I had valued my own very reasonable “big rock” of that time as much as I did my friend’s equally well-chosen, wonderful ones. I wish I had appreciated and enjoyed the good work I was choosing, instead of putting negative energy into yearning for the other things I wanted to be doing simultaneously. Many of my temptations later turned into my big rocks of other years, each in their own time. And I know I’ll never regret any of the time I spent being home with my little girl.


My sister Sally, a devout Mormon mother of nine, once wrote a skit about time pressures and priorities, for her church’s women’s group. I thought her creativity so wonderful (she was wonderful) that I saved it, to re-read whenever I feel overwhelmed, envious, or unsure about my present priorities:



Skit for Relief Society Birthday Dinner

April 4, 1986

By Sally Jean Cole Andreason



Doll #1: “Sister W. always looks so great. The women in the church just seem to do well at everything. I don’t think I can live up to that. It would be so much simpler to stay home and play my dear piano.”


Doll #2: “Whew! Doing my aerobic exercises makes me feel great—and doesn’t hurt my looks, either! I wish I felt as enthusiastic about genealogy.”


Doll #3: “What a joy getting those names into the temple brings me! Talking to people who can talk back, like my teenager, is a lot harder. I could use some good ideas.”


Doll #4: “I love being able to talk with and be a friend to my daughter. But I wish I had the nerve to be a better missionary to her friend’s family.”


Doll #5: “She said ‘yes’! My friend at work said ‘yes’ to talking with the missionaries! If I start today, I might have the house in shape enough for them to give the discussions next Saturday. There goes the week!”


Doll #6: “I love to make my home a beautiful place for my family. I do wonder, sometimes, though, if I could transfer my homemaking skills to the job market if I needed to.”


Doll #7: “It surely feels good when I’ve worked hard on the job and really contributed. My boss knows he can count on me. I’d like to do something to help at my children’s school too. I just haven’t the time to be a room mother or a PTA officer.”


Doll #8: “I can really make a difference in our town. The school, the Little League, are really worth my efforts. But sometimes I wish I would make the time to learn to play the piano as beautifully as Sister K. Her talent must greatly add to her and her family’s enjoyment of life.”


Doll #1: “Really?!”


Doll #9: “The church and our Relief Society lessons take us as we are, and help us to grow. We all excel in different ways. We learn to appreciate and share our own talents and knowledge, and learn from our sisters’ examples and abilities too. One step at a time, everything in its season, each individual is unique. I’ve heard that a good woman is one who is trying. In the sisterhood of the Relief Society, we can help each other. The Relief Society is for every woman.”


There’s a gentle joke among Latter Day Saint women, that they sometimes try to take on too much—waking up an hour early to exercise, and then staying up an extra hour to pray, and then setting the alarm just one more hour earlier for inspirational reading, and then staying up just one more hour later to quilt/write/draw/whatever—‘til eventually they’re going to bed when it’s time to get up. (That was our Sally.) Sound familiar to any of you ambitious types? Sally packed a lot of joy and love and good work into her life, which I’m sure was exactly just long enough for whatever she and God most wanted and needed to do together.


God is bounteous, and provides richly for each of his beloved creatures whatever we need to live the life he expects of us. If we offer him our wholehearted best in doing whatever he gives us the inspiration, strength, and wisdom to do now, if we focus on our tasks and activities positively and passionately, one-by-one, I’m sure our lives will suit him, and us, just fine.


Please write your comments to epharmon@adelphia.net







The Three Quiet, Dark Months

A boyhood in snowy Wisconsin left my dad with an aversion for January, February, and March—the “dark months” which he merely endured, sighing through a long boring waiting period of sniffling, cold feet, snow shoveling, windshield scraping, drafts, freezing bed sheets, slick icy patches, dangerous driving, and being cooped up indoors…


And lo, he passed his distaste for winter on to me, who then wasted years of perfectly useful winter months. Writing them off just like my childhood hero did, I dragged myself through them, counting the dreary days til spring.


When Dad died, I realized I couldn’t afford to throw away a quarter of my life on mental darkness anymore, so I graciously deigned to inspect the mixed blessings of this gift more closely….


Hmmmm. No big family holidays during these months; family gatherings here at home are wonderful, but I love my quiet schedule, too…. And no “perfect” weather to lure me outside, away from indoor work and play.


So I looked more closely, and saw that…


These three months are a special time to refresh, review, re-energize, rejuvenate, reorganize. All my achievements of the coming year find their first forms within these months’ quiet listening. They’re productive, rewarding months, where I find the inner resolve to do what’s important the rest of the year.


In all the other months I can go rushing around like an idiot, babbling with spring, bursting with summer’s red-hot pleasures, skyrocketing with the harvest of fall’s energy….


But winter nudges me to stay inside, slow down, nurture myself and my own, lift spirits with art and beauty, stop and smell the comfort food, cross things off my life-list, throw stuff away, create a new habit or a new masterpiece, start my year thoughtfully and meditatively….


Winter is mother earth’s rest time, when all her little earthlings roll themselves up like moles into warm balls of fluffy blankets, to drowse, to sleep, to dream of life renewed.


And when I tire of retiring, I’ll bundle up and go outdoors for a crunchy walk in all the variations of wintry weather, see the snowbirds, the gaunt trees, rosy faces, icicles, snow angels, and the soft winter sun….


(Author’s addendum: If you’re working on trading in winter blues for “cold’s opposite,” as I did, here’s a different and very helpful observation on the “dark months” from “Seasons at Eagle Pond,” by the amazing word-painter and idea-smith, Donald Hall….)


“Some of us…are darkness-lovers. We do not dislike the early and late daylight of June, whip-poorwill’s graytime, but we cherish the gradually increasing dark of November, which we wrap around ourselves in the prosperous warmth of woodstove, oil, electric blanket, storm window, and insulation. We are partly tuber, partly bear. Inside our warmth we fold ourselves in the dark and its cold—around us, outside us, safely away from us; we tuck ourselves up in the long sleep and comfort of cold’s opposite, warming ourselves by the thought of the cold, lighting ourselves by darkness’s idea. Or we are Persephone gone underground again, cozy in the amenities of Hell. Sheltered between stove and electric light, we hollow islands of safety within the cold and dark. As light grows less each day, our fur grows thicker.”


Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net