June 2011

Here are the books on my post-graduation reading list, in alphabetical order. Anything I should add? Anything I should move to the top? Anything you’ve read that I should remove from the list? I do not yet own the books marked with an astrisk. Also, I’ve been off fiction for six years–anyone willing to give me their top-five-or-so-fiction-of-all-time list?

A Pattern Language

A People’s History of the World, Harman

Achilles in Vietnam, Shay

An Ecology of Mind, Bateson*

Animals In Translation, Grandin*

Animals Make Us Human, Grandin*

Attachment, Trauma, and Healing: Understanding and Treating Attachment Disorder in Children and Families, Levi & Orlans

Biochemical Individuality, Williams

Clinician’s Guide to Systemic Sex Therapy, Hertlein, Weeks, Sendak

Cognitive Theory and the Emotional Disorders, Beck

Collapse, Diamond

Conceptual Revolutions, Thagard

Consciousness Explained, Dennet

Dynamic Assessment in Couple Therapy, Hiebert, Gillespie & Stahmann

Enhanced Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Couples, Epstein & Baucom

Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken the Heart and Mind, Walsh

Everyday Zen, Beck

Eye to Eye: The Quest for  a New Paradigm, Wilber*

Futurehype: The Tyranny of Prophecy*

Generations, Strauss & Howe

Genograms, McGoldrick

Gestalt Theory Verbatim, Perls

God In Search of Man, Heschel

Grace & Grit, Wilber*

Growing Old is Not For Sissies*

Handbook of Emotion Regulation*

Handbook of Emotion*

Healing Emotions: Conversations With the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health

Healing Parents: Helping Wounded Children Learn to Trust & Love, Olans & Levi

Healing the Soul Wound: Counseling with American Indians and Other Native Peoples, Duran

Healing Trauma, Siegel*

How Doctors Think, Groopman*

How the Mind Works, Pinker

How To Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People, Alford

Internal Family Systems Therapy, Schwartz

Lies My Music Teacher Told Me, Eskelin

Lies My Teacher Told Me, Loewen

Life Maps, Fowler*

Look Me In the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s, Robison

Love & Survival, Ornish*

Love Is Never Enough, Beck

Loving What Is, Katie*

Mad in America, Whitaker

Mans Search for Meaning, Frankl

Manufacturing Consent, Herman & Chomsky

Natural Capitalism, Hawkins, Lovins & Lovins

On Becoming a Person, Rogers

One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality, Wilber*

Pain Free at Your PC, Egoscue

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire

Phantoms in the Brain, Ramachandran *

Play In Family Therapy, Gil

Positive Words, Powerful Results, Urban

Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy, Fromm-Reichmann

Protecting the Gift, Becker

Quickies: The Handbook of Brief Sex Therapy, Green & Flemons

Resolving Sexual Abuse, Dolan

Revisioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice, McGoldrick*

Reviving Ophelia, Pipher

Rituals for Our Times: Celebrating, Healing, and Changing Our Lives and Our Relationships, Imber-Black*

Rituals In Family Therapy, Imber-Black*

See What I’m Saying: The Extraordinary Power of Our Five Senses, Rosenblum

Self-Compassion, Neff*

Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Wilber*

Size Matters: How Height Affects Health, Happiness, and Success of Boys, Hall

So Sexy So Soon, Levin & Kilbourne

Story, Symbol and Ceremony: Using Metaphor in Family Therapy*

Strange Attractors, Butz*

Successful Aging, Rowe & Kahn*

Survivors Club: Secrets & Science that could Save Your Life, Sherwood*

Telling Lies, Ekman

The 12 Stages of Healing, Apstein & Altman

The Albert Ellis Reader

The Collected Works of CG Jung, Hopcke

The Dance of Anger, Lerner

The Divided Mind, Sarno

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Mlodinow

The Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think, Aunger

The Emergence of Everything, Morowitz

The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad, Wilber*

The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Maslow

The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotions in the Making of Consciousness, Damasio

The Gift of Fear, Becker

The Healer Within, Jahnke

The Inklings

The Laws of Emotion, Frijda*

The Myth of the Chemical Cure, Moncrieff

The Nature of Emotion, Ekman & Davidson

The Personality Puzzle, Funder

The Presence Process, Brown

The Problem of the Soul, Flanagan*

The Quantum Mind & Healing, Mindell

The Science of Good and Evil, Shermer

The Science of Trust, Gottman

The Simple Feeling of Being: Embracing Your True Nature, Wilber*

The Stages of Faith, Fowler

The Therapist’s Guide to Psychopharmacology, Patterson

The Toe Bone and the Tooth, Prechtel

The Unwritten Rules of Human Social Interaction, Grandin*

The Way I See It: A Personal Look At Autism and Asperger’s, Grandin*

Theory-Based Treatment Planning for Marriage and Family Therapists, Gehart

Thinking In Pictures: My Life With Autism, Grandin*

Time for a Better Marriage, Dinkmeyer & Carlson

Traumatic Stress, van der Kolk

Unconditional Parenting, Kohn

Up From Eden, Wilber*

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, Levine*

What’s Really Wrong With You: Muscles & Health, Grivier*

You Ain’t Got No Easter Clothes, Love

Actually, you can’t. Sorry. There is no way to do that, according to the moderately nice woman I just asked at the United Airlines gate in Denver, when I once again saw that I was on the wait-and-see list. It would have improved my chances if I had paid extra for an “economy plus” seat, but even then there is no guarantee.

When I didn’t get a seat last week, on my US Airways flight, the woman at the gate (who became very nice after I didn’t get on the plane) said I didn’t get a seat because I was the last person to check in. My on-time-but-last check in, for complicated reasons, was their fault, and they were very, very sorry about all this. Would I accept a check for $127 for my inconvenience? Even better, would I rather have $200 toward my next US Airways flight? I took the money, hoping never to have to deal with this company again. Aside from the great sympathy after I didn’t get a seat, every interaction I’ve had with US Airways has been abysmal. My experience may just be a fluke–the guy I sat next to on the flight they (barely) got me on several hours later, who had had a much worse time on US Airways than I had that day, said he’d been flying US for years with never a hitch. Based on my experience, though, I’m surprised that US Airways is still a viable company.

So of course I tried to check in online last night–as soon as allowable–for my flight this evening. It didn’t work. After an hour of being on hold and talking to a couple people, the very nice United Airlines customer service representative fixed whatever the mistake was and I could print my boarding passes. I noticed I had no seat assignment for the third leg and told him I felt nervous about that. “I cannot give you a seat assignment right now, but I guarantee that you’ll get a seat,” he said, and even asked me if I preferred a window or aisle seat. I preferred an aisle seat.

Well, I’m writing this while sitting on the United Airlines flight (a window seat) that I was hassling over last night, but just barely. When I asked the moderately nice woman at the gate how it was that I had come to be on their wait-and-see list, she said it was because I was the last person to check in for coach class. Apparently, every one of the 60-or-so coach passengers sitting around me checked in during the hour and some I was hassling with the United Airlines website and then hassling with the United Airlines customer service. Incredible.

I love how hot it is in Joshua Tree. I love the feeling of the heat on my skin when I go outside. I love how palpable the sunlight is. In Oregon, sunlight is mostly just something to see by. In Joshua Tree, it penetrates you. You breathe it in. It fills up a vital part of your psyche. I love how quiet it is at night, and dark. I love how it is just slightly cool and perfect for looking at the stars and the Milky Way, which are clear and brilliant.

Today, I loved lazing around in the living room with almost my entire family, talking about food and posture and babies, and listening to the Brandenburg Concertos. And after that, I loved lying in the hammock, drinking a mango lassi, listening to the warm, dry wind move through the elm leaves above me, watching the sky turn colors as the sun set.

JT Sun, Back Porch

Living Room 1

Living Room 2

Ely, Christina, Oliver Lee

Damian, Oliver Lee

Hammock, Mango Lassi, Gilmore

It has been almost exactly two years since Reanna and I started our long-distance relationship. Yesterday she had her interview for her K1 fiance visa and we are on track to finally live together in nine days. I haven’t written much about our relationship or being long distance (except here,   hereherehere,   and here) but it has been a huge part of my life for two years. It has been a challenge at times, but mostly just amazing and beautiful, mostly because of what an amazing and beautiful person Reanna is. Yes, an amazing and beautiful experience that I am SO GLAD IS ALMOST OVER!

Nathen & Reanna by Ruth Pike

I don’t have good language for this experience, but as soon as I held my new nephew I could tell that the existence of this tiny person changes everything, that my knowing him is one of the major before-and-after events of my life.

With Oliver Lee, June 22, 2011

It is my dad’s birthday today and I was lucky enough to spend it with him in Joshua Tree. One of the nice things about growing up is that I get to appreciate my parents more and more. Today I have been thinking about some things that I appreciate about my dad.

I appreciate having always had such a solid masculine presence in my life. My dad figured out a way to work from home. This was partly, I think, because he could never tolerate having a boss, but it was also so he could be near me, my brothers, and my mom while he made our living. Unlike so many other kids, I got to see what my dad did for work. I could hang out with him while he worked. I watched him be creative, flexible, intelligent, persistent, and diligent. I watched him charm his clients. I saw him take his work seriously. And he was available. It has been rare in my life to not be able to talk with my dad whenever I needed support.

On top of that, he is very affectionate, fun, funny, and he is a great dancer. I love him very much. Happy birthday, Dad!

With My Dad, 1974


With My Dad, June 13, 2011

I am leaving Eugene in the morning for Joshua Tree to see my first nephew, Oliver Lee. I am very excited. Here are three of my favorite photos of him so far:

Oliver Lee by Steve Lester

Oliver Lee and Maya, by Reanna

Oliver Lee and Damian, by Maya (I think)

When my auto insurance company found out that I now have a masters degree, they said they are now taking level of education into account when calculating risk. The result: a three-dollar discount. Thanks, Progressive!

Now if only everyone would start calling me “Master Nathen.” That would be the icing on the cake.

My dad bought me my first Rubik’s Cube for my 9th birthday, in 1980. I tried to solve it most days for months with nothing like success. I never gave up, but I probably would have eventually, as the method I had come up with, solving one side and then trying to solve adjacent sides, would never work. I had not grasped the logic of the puzzle, that the center pieces never unscramble, so that there is a preordained, final resting place for every piece of the cube, and that you have to solve the pieces, not just the stickers. Without those insights, Rubik’s Cubes are maddening. You solve one sticker and mess up another.

One morning I woke up to see my solved cube sitting on top of a copy of James Nourse’ The Simple Solution to the Rubik’s Cube. That solved cube is still such a vivid memory for me–magic! It turned out that my dad had bought the book for me and then stayed up all night, deciphering its codes and solving the cube. That gave him his fill of cubing–I never saw him touch it again–but I went through the book over and over, learning the method, eventually memorizing enough of it to reliably solve the cube. By mid-1982 I could solve it in just over 3 minutes.

It turns out that while I was doing my 3-minute solves, there were already national speed-cubing competitions. The world record solve at that time was 22.95 seconds, held by a 16-year-old kid in Los Angeles. I did not meet anyone else who could solve one until I met Greg Alkire in 1985. He had actually come up with his own method–a feat of reasoning that is to this day far beyond me. My genius, if you can call it that, is more in the realm of persistence than reasoning.

I bought a new cube in 2007 with no premeditation, and without having played with one for at least 20 years. I saw a display in a department store and thought it would be fun. I started watching people do these super fast solves on YouTube, and soon realized that Nourse’ “simple method” was actually very complicated, that lubricating my cube made everything easier, and that it was much faster (and cooler looking) to use my fingers instead of my wrists to make the moves.

I have been in grad school, so no time for real practice, plus my 39-year-old knuckles start to hurt a bit if I work too long, but I am down to averaging just over a minute in my solves, using Badmephisto‘s beginner method. I am also using F2L, which is (slightly) short for “first two layers,” meaning you solve two layers of the cube at the same time. Here is my most recent average of ten solves on cubetimer.com:

It has been slow progress, but very entertaining and challenging. As Badmephisto says, solving the cube is easy, but solving it quickly is very difficult. It’s this intense mixture of pattern recognition, hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, and memory. In his great little book, Mastery, Leonard says you have to “love the plateau.” With cubing, I do. I go slowly. I practice looking and thinking ahead. I practice keeping track of where the important pieces are when they are out of sight.

I was slightly tempted to put up a video of myself doing one of these solves, but became too embarrassed. I can love my plateau, but I don’t yet love you seeing my plateau. Speedcubing is like dancing, that way. If you can’t do it, you think anyone who can is amazing. If you can and you watch an intermediate-level dancer or cuber, all you see are the problems. All I see when I watch myself dance is the awkwardness and the neck-jut. When I watch myself cube all I see is how long it takes me to find pieces that I am looking for. And I’m a solid intermediate Lindy Hopper, but still a beginning cuber. I think you have to be doing 40-second-average solves to qualify as intermediate.

Here’s the current world record solve of 6.24 seconds:

Here’s the current world record for a blindfolded solve, at 30.90 seconds:

If you are interested in learning to solve a Rubik’s Cube, I recommend buying a good cube here right off the bat (they  don’t cost much more than a crappy one from a department store), and learning Badmephisto’s beginning method (here for excellent video tutorials), which is both easier and will cause fewer problems than the method that comes in a new cube package when you eventually ramp up to more sophisticated methods.

I have received several letters from my past self, as part of a ritual we do sometimes at Not Back to School Camp. The idea is to send the feeling and ideas of an experience forward, a reminder of the sense of clarity, inspiration, and purpose that is common at the end of a session of camp. It’s always interesting to get one of these letters, but they don’t often hit home like this one that I just received from myself of one year ago, just before I started seeing clients.

Hi Nathen,

I just did this guided imagery thing w-Jonathan Stemer in Child & Family Assessment and am to write or draw to you, my just-graduated self. I imagined myself as an old man, wrinkly, bald, spotty & beaming. The thing is, you will be an old man and you will look back on your just-graduated self with real love, with fondness & satisfaction. One thing you would want to say to yourself is that everything works out. You wouldn’t exactly say not to worry about it, because the worry is part of everything working out, but it has that flavor. Your story is good. You are worthwhile. People have been better off for knowing you. You are, right now, doing great. Notice it if you can.

Have a great summer, Nathen.



Add drawing of old-man Nathen here –>

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