Category Archives: Education

White History Month’s Greatest Hits

I’m not normally fond of using WordPress’s “Press This” function, because it only pulls a few words into my blog from the original post. It’s good because it means anyone wishing to read the article can see it in its entirety as originally published, but it also means I might have to copy some words over to make the post a little more intelligible and to provide some needed context.

Nevertheless, this article is one I consider extremely important . . . for white people to read. As I commented when posting it to Twitter and Facebook: “We may not have invented racism, but we sure as hell have benefited from it these last 3 or 4 centuries. It’s up to us to end it. That’s the real “White Man’s Burden!”

Check this article out. You might want to read more at The Root as well.

After a grueling 28 days of watching corporations, institutions and random white people pretend to care about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and that other Black guy with the big part in his afro (I think it’s Booker T. Douglass), we now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Source: White History Month’s Greatest Hits


TJ’s 5-Tab Browser

A friend of mine posted an interesting picture the other day. She’s a librarian and often posts items of interest regarding libraries, books, reading, and education in general. It was of a 300-year-old library tool that enabled a researcher to have seven books open at once. She also commented, “Now they’re all just browser tabs,” referring to how we do research nowadays using multiple tabs on whatever browser we happen to be using, whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, etc. Below is the photo from her post.

Old-Fashioned Browser

Seeing it instantly reminded me of a tool I had seen over a decade earlier when I had the opportunity to visit a vendor in Charlottesville, Virginia, the owners of which I had become friends with. I was on my way back home from a conference in Maryland and stopped to visit with them for a couple of days. Inasmuch as Thomas Jefferson’s mansion and slave plantation, Monticello, was nearby, I felt obliged to check it out. It was in Jefferson’s library that I saw the item this tool had reminded me of. It was another type of research tool (depicted below) that served the same purpose. Also, I remembered it specifically because, at the time, I thought the same thing my friend did; this was the 18th/19th century equivalent of having five (Jefferson’s wasn’t quite as lavish as the one above) browser tabs open simultaneously.

TJ’s Monticello Five-Tab Browser

I also had the pleasure of visiting the University of Virginia, which had been founded in 1819 by Jefferson. Seven years later, Edgar Allan Poe attended the University where, apparently, he had to raise money for tuition by gambling because his father hadn’t sent him to school with enough money to get my. Below are a few more pictures from my visits in Charlottesville.

Fully-Mustachioed Rick Apres-Visit
Jefferson’s Burial Plot Marker
I Think This Is The Entrance To The University Of Virginia
Edgar Allan Poe’s Dorm Room, Which Is Sealed. This Photo Was Taken Through A Window On The Other Side Of The Room. Can You Say, “Nevermore“?

My Battle With COVID-19

On Christmas Eve, not quite three weeks ago, I felt I was becoming ill. I initiated an e-visit with Kaiser, and was able to get tested the following Monday. The following day, results showed I was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus best known as COVID-19. I had to quarantine (meaning stay in my bedroom the entire time) for ten days. During that time I got pretty sick … almost going to the ER on (I believe) the 30th. I attempted to share my experience, as best I could given how sick I was, with my friends on Facebook. What follows is a concatenation of each of my posts as I struggled to ride this illness out. I’m happy to report, with the exception of some residual weakness and light-headedness, I seem to have recovered. Given my age and numerous comorbidities (especially COPD) I expected to become far sicker than I did, and am both relieved and grateful I seem to have recovered rather quickly. I have contacted my doctor and requested a follow-up visit to determine if the virus has caused any damage to my heart or lungs. I will follow up when I have something to report.

Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

12/24 at 14:37:

Out of an abundance of caution, I initiated an e-visit with Kaiser to determine if I’ve got COVID. I don’t have any of the worst symptoms, but I definitely have some of them. I’m scheduled for a test this coming Monday.

12/28 at 09:48:

Getting my COVID-19 test in the parking lot.

12/29 at 09:12:

Well … Now if someone asks if I personally know anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19, I can answer “Yes.”

Me!

So … the illness I really didn’t want to test my immune system and my overall health on finally got me. Now I have to isolate for 10 days. I think I’ve already been through the worst over the weekend.

I’m taking MucinexDM once every 12 hours, an occasional Aleve, and vitamin C. I can’t taste a damned thing and I wasn’t terribly hungry for the past four or five days; I’ve lost eight pounds in the last six days.

I’m feeling good today. No fever this morning and SpO2 is staying around 95%. No congestion, hardly a cough.

I know this thing can offer some surprises, so I’m monitoring myself carefully, but it looks like I won’t suffer as much as I thought I might, which is a pleasant surprise. Still, being cautious seems prudent.

12/29 at 20:08:

Have I mentioned I feel like shit. I have a mid-grade fever and I’m sweating under the blanket, but I get the chills if I get out. Typing this is difficult. Stomach is sour and SpO2 has dropped as low as 91%. I’m dizzy, weak, tire easily, and can’t take a deep breath without bronchial pain.

Other than that, I’m feeling just peachy.

12/30 at 10:02:

Sitrep:

As of this morning, I am feeling better. No fever, but that’s how yesterday started. SpO2 is 96. I think the low reading I got yesterday was an anomaly. I have never felt as though I was having trouble getting enough oxygen. Still taking MucinexDM every 12 hours, which seems to be working quite well as a cough suppressant and expectorant. Also taking vitamin C. Still hurts to take too deep a breath, but doesn’t cause spasmodic coughing. Kaiser and many, many people have sent me lots of instructions, many of which I will choose to ignore, because that’s the kind of asshole I am. Haven’t left the bedroom.

Bottom line. This sucks, but I don’t think it’s going to kill me. Then again, this virus has proven to be treacherous and I have waaay too many comorbidities to let my guard down. Stay safe y’all. At least try … that’s what I did.

12/31 at 17:31:

The battle continues. My normal temperature is 97.6. This morning it was 98.7. Since then it’s been as high as 102.5 and everywhere in-between. Currently, it’s 101.1.

Linda went out and got me some vitamin D, Zinc, & NAC, all of which are said to be efficacious in combating this fucking virus.

Happy God damned New Year, reprobates.

01/01 at 12:21:

Happy New Year everybody. Well, these last few days have been trying and difficult, to say the least. I can finally taste again; not completely but it’s getting there. I no longer have to pay as close attention to my breathing as I have for the last couple days, as my bronchial tubes are opening up and taking deep breaths is far easier than it’s been up ’til now.

I still have another five full days before I can even leave the bedroom really, at least without wearing a mask and worrying about what I touch. I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s daylight, not an oncoming train. I’m very grateful.

Temperature continues to be normal. Still dizzy and weak, but a bit more aware. Onward and upward.

01/01 at 15:47:

Man! This virus doesn’t give up. Temp is back to 102.3° F.

01/02 at 10:26:

OK – Health update. I can’t recall the last time I had the flu, or anything for that matter, that caused me to have a fever, so I’m not sure if what’s been happening to me is the normal progression of dealing with a virus. As noted over the past few days, I wake up feeling reasonably well, with no fever, and by mid-afternoon I’m burning up.

Last night it got up to 102.5, the highest it’s been since last weekend. I feel as though my fever broke last night. I finally had to take my t-shirt off. It was soaking wet. I put another one on and it was pretty soaked by 9pm, so I took it off as well and, for the first time since this started, I was comfortable sleeping without a t-shirt, which is how I normally sleep.

I had taken two Aleve, since my fever seemed to be climbing and within about an hour it was down to 98.3, which is still nearly a degree above my normal temperature of 97.6, but a good sign.

So . . . the signs are all good, but I’ve heard too many stories of people seeming to be on the mend then, boom, they’re in the hospital being intubated. No victory lap for me yet. Eight more days of quarantine. Hopefully, by next weekend I’ll be chomping at the bit to leave the bedroom. I haven’t really cared this past week.

ADDENDUM – I should add my breathing has improved considerably. I can take pretty deep breaths without pain or the need to cough and I have no congestion at all. I almost didn’t take a MucinexDM this morning, but decided not to tempt fate.

01/02 at 15:58:

Yesterday at almost exactly the same time, my temperature was 102.3. Just now it was 99.1. I would call that an improvement. So there.

01/03 at 19:12:

FYI – No news is good news.

01/04 at 13:14:

Update: While I believe I’m pretty much out-of-the-woods wrt the possibility of being hospitalized, recovery is clearly going to take some time. I just took a shower for the first time in a week and I almost couldn’t finish. I had to stop and rest halfway thru drying myself. This virus really takes a lot out of you. I can only imagine how much more difficult it might be for people who are really overweight. I feel so much better being clean (I was too sick to care for a week) but I’m beat from the effort.

Be careful out there, folks. There’s a far-too-large contingent of obstinate assholes out there whose selfishness is making it harder to avoid becoming infected.

01/09 at 12:51:

While it may be effective, I’m here to report that being infected with COVID-19 is far from an optimum weight loss strategy. I just dropped to a weight I haven’t seen since high school … and I’m 73. Think I need to eat something, stat.


Is There A Doctor In The House?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I suspect just about everyone is aware of the flap over an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding our soon-to-be First Lady’s credentials. Written by Joseph Epstein, it’s entitled “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” and subtitled “Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.”

My most recent job was as the Business Manager for a Machine Learning (AI) Software Development firm, the co-founder of which had a PhD in computer science. When last I spoke with her, which was at least a year ago, she was not using her title, which she feared was seen as somewhat presumptuous. I’m not sure how she feels about it now, and I’m inclined to agree with those who see this op/ed piece as misogynistic and hollow. Frankly, I have often wondered if I could use the honorific “Dr.” in front of my name because I have earned a Juris Doctorate (JD) when I graduated Law School in 1976. However, I’ve never done so because the amount of schooling, and the quality of work, required for the degree don’t match up to that of a PhD or EdD. Actually, I tend to agree with those who suggest calling oneself “Dr.” when in possession of a law degree is ridiculous and pedantic.

It’s been discussed at great length by now, torn apart and analyzed by people far better at it than I, but I’d like to bring up what I think is an ancillary issue to that of the rank sexism and hypocrisy that exists wrt men and their seeming inability to accept women as their equals. What I’m referring to, which affects both men and women, regardless of race, creed, or color (though there are differences in degree and approach) is the depth of anti-intellectualism that has come to seemingly dominate our public life.

Just look at how many people are not only comfortable with, but are absolutely adamant about, ignoring science, facts, and reality-based analysis/synthesis. The number of people who believe most scientists are only doing what they do for the money is astounding. It’s likely one of, if not the, main reasons we’re doing so poorly in handling the pandemic here in the States.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Hardly! I recall deciding in the third grade (that would have been around 1955) I didn’t want to be seen by everybody as an egghead, which changed the trajectory of my life . . . and probably not in the best way it could have. I remember feeling at the time that I wouldn’t have any friends if I continued on the path of academic excellence I had been on. Part of me wishes I hadn’t made that choice, though my life turned out pretty well regardless. It’s just that, in retrospect, the decision was made because of the negative view most people I knew seemed to have about being too intelligent; or, at least, being willing to use that intelligence in a positive way.

I believe this is one of the reasons the United States is in the bind it’s in right now. We’re just coming off of a four-year bender with the sleaziest and dumbest President in our nation’s history. He came to power as the result of years of anti-intellectual posturing and reality TV-informed ignorance. I am thankful I have never watched one reality TV show, especially not The Apprentice or Celebrity Apprentice. It’s clear Donald Chrump managed to suck a large portion of the nation into believing he was a highly successful businessman when, in fact, he’s a serial fuck-up who managed to burn through tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars given to him by his father.

These past four years of the worst “leadership” of my lifetime has been brought to us by our nation’s well-developed sense of anti-intellectualism. This does not bode well for maintaining our position as a preeminent nation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Our quality of life in the United States is what it is in large part because of our scientific accomplishments. It amazes me so many people don’t recognize the value that science has added to our lives, be it at work, home, or play. Virtually every aspect of our lives is enhanced by science and the products and enhancements it brings to us on a heretofore regular basis. I fear we’re going to lose that edge. Perhaps we already have. More the pity.


How To Be A Patriot

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It seems to me that anyone who really cares about their country, who is a genuine patriot, has to care for everyone. Life is NOT a zero-sum game, where the gains enjoyed by others are a loss to you and yours. No, life and human society are highly complex, interdependent systems where every part has a role to play, and when we don’t provide optimal conditions for the health and well-being of some of the parts, the whole body suffers. Would you want your car’s engine to go without one of its spark plugs? While it would still get you to where you were going, it wouldn’t do it as efficiently, nor as effectively. In the end, it would almost certainly cost more to deal with the results of an imbalance in the engine than it would to ensure all its components were kept in good working order.

Yet many approach life as though they are living on an island. It’s difficult to fathom the level of insensitivity, blindness to reality, and the callous lack of empathy it takes to turn one’s back on people who may not directly affect your life in a way you can feel immediately, but who nevertheless impact the organizations and institutions you deal with all the time.

For instance, by not ensuring all children receive healthcare, adequate nutrition, and early education, we ensure our up and coming workforce will be less prepared than they otherwise could be for the kinds of jobs that will be available in the near future. The net result is we not only handicap those children, we also handicap their families, their friends, and the entire nation. By guaranteeing they need more help for far longer than might otherwise be the case, we add to both their burden and ours.

We hobble ourselves with mistaken, outdated, unsupportable notions that give far more importance to diversity as a bad thing; as something that takes away from our sense of worth, of self. Instead of understanding, celebrating, and taking advantage of all the ways in which we complement and enhance each other, too many of us turn those virtues into imaginary vices and use them to divide and separate us. What a pity.


A Death Cult

Quite some time ago, I finally came to the conclusion the Republican Party has no business being in government. The job of a public servant, which is what a member of Congress is (both Representatives and Senators,) is to protect their constituents, the oft-referred to “American people.” Yet, it’s quite clear the Republican Party doesn’t care about the American people, which they have amply demonstrated by their obstruction of any program that might have alleviated much of the pain suffered by millions due to the Corona virus and the near collapse of our economy. It’s also clear to me their definition of economic growth, and their criteria for success, skew heavily in favor of capital and the inexorable forces of consolidation and monopoly.


Image by herotimes from Pixabay

If the shenanigans of the Republicans during this last election hasn’t shown you who they are, I submit you’re either not paying close enough attention or you’re a closet Republican. How does one explain the constant drone of allegations of election fraud, which are made more ridiculous by the reality not one Secretary of State—Democrat or Republican—has come forth with any evidence of fraud?

In fact, what little fraud has been uncovered was a couple of instances of people illegally voting for Donald Trump . . . and what are we to make of the revelation by the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia that Lindsey Graham suggested he find a way to dump legitimate Democratic ballots?

Now we find ourselves in the unenviable position of having a lame duck POTUS for the next 64 days. Unbeknownst to the majority of us, the transition period between administrations has always been a time of heightened vulnerability and, thanks to the narcissistic sociopathy of the outgoing president, this time may be the most dangerous in our nation’s history.

Trump has always been the show pony, the elephant at the circus, designed to keep our attention while the guys under the bleachers steal our wallets and photograph our daughters’ underwear. The grift should be ending on January 20, but you can bet your house the Republicans will be jockeying for position to mingle under the bleachers.

We need to stop this cycle. Think of how much cleanup there was after the GWB administration; an eight-year period that made Dick Cheney a far richer man than he had been, while coming close to bankrupting the entire country. Seems like every time we have a Republican president, at least through the last three to five, we’ve had to claw our way back to solvency. Did I mention the thousands, maybe tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from our knee-jerk reactions (and over-reactions) to 9-11 and the ongoing, so-called “war on terrorism?”

I’m not letting the Democrats off the hook entirely, either. The majority of the Party are enthusiastic supporters of capitalism, an economic system that has, in my opinion, outlived its efficacy and needs to be adapted and adjusted to meet the exigencies of the times we’re in.

This pandemic has made it clear we need to take better care of our people. We need universal healthcare. One’s health, and the health of one’s family, should not depend on where you work or how long you’ve been there. Healthcare should be seen as a right, not a privilege.

We also need to institute a much fairer way to distribute the wealth of our nation. We produce so much of value, yet the majority of that value is captured by a very small percentage of the population, hence the constant referral to the 1%. It’s a bit more nuanced than that, since there’s a lot of wealth that goes to the top 10%, but there should be little doubt the value produced by the labor of the 90% is not inuring to the benefit of those who create it.

Although I voted for Joe Biden, and I will support his presidency for the most part, he was not my first choice. In fact, nobody in the Democratic Party actually represents or advocates for the direction I’d like to see the country go in, which is socialism as the predominant form of economy. I’ll have much more to say about this in the weeks, months, and years to come.

I have long said I would be a Democrat, but they’re too conservative for me, but I was not only a member of the Simi Valley Democratic Club, but served as an officer (Corresponding Secretary) for the years 2018 – 2019. I only left that post because my youngest daughter was threatening to drop out of school. Since she was a sophomore in High School at the time, I had to work hard to show her what a bad idea that was.

As of today, she’s not only thriving in this online schooling methodology, she’s actually improved her grades dramatically and is doing very well. I still have to help her, but I refuse to do her work for her. She’s gaining confidence as she’s learning her subjects. Now I have to go and take her to the orthodontist. Hopefully, they’ll be removing her braces soon. She’s really tired of them.


On Being Correcto

I Can Also Speak Spanglish

We Americans (in the United States, that is) are, in my opinion, a little too fond of bad-mouthing people who don’t speak English, don’t speak it well, or speak it but don’t pronounce it like we do . . . the latter of which, given the number of regional accents in the U.S., seems a bit ridiculous. Furthermore, have you ever listened to most English-speaking Americans try to pronounce any other language? It would be humorous were it not pathetic.

I’ve always felt that pronouncing another language correctly is both a sign of respect, and an exercise in emulation. I don’t understand people who can’t learn to pronounce words from a language other than their native tongue. After all, the people who speak that language have no trouble with the pronunciation, and they’re human beings too. We share the same physiology, so what’s the problem?

It seems to me it’s cultural and, with many, culturally chauvinistic. I know, when I was younger I felt a little odd pronouncing Spanish words correctly, as they didn’t quite sound like they were coming from me. I have to admit it took a while before I was able to really pay attention and learn how to properly pronounce words that weren’t native to me. Especially important, and somewhat difficult, was learning how to roll my “Rs” when speaking Spanish.

I taught myself Spanish before I traveled to Cuba with the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade, in the Spring of 1973. I purchased a Spanish/English dictionary and a book called “501 Spanish Verbs Fully Conjugated” and I spent hours every day reading and practicing. I also had a book of short stories written in Spanish with side-by-side English translations.

The rules of grammar were not terribly difficult; they’re def easier than those for the proper use of English. My first discovery was that of patterns in infinitive verbs and their conjugation in the three basic tenses: Past; present; and future. It really made the use of verbs fairly easy once I knew the infinitive. There were some irregularities, but nowhere near the quantity found in my native tongue.

Pronunciation, however, was another story entirely. I came to the conclusion—and believe it to this day—that native speakers will forgive grammatical errors more easily than they forgive errors in pronunciation. Think about it the next time you’re listening to someone speaking English with a foreign accent.

With that in mind, I spent a great deal of time learning how Spanish is pronounced. I practiced continuously. In fact, I distinctly recall sitting on the bus in which we were traveling around the country during the last week of our two-month stay, heading for the western province of Pinar del Rio. The name presents a pronunciation challenge, as the “r” in “Pinar” is pronounced with what is called an “alveolar tap,” where you touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The letter generally ends up sounding like the letter “t” or “d” in English pronunciation.

The “R” in “Rio,” however, is rolled (also referred to as “trilled”) as are all “Rs” at the beginning of a word. Double “Rs” are always rolled, regardless of where they occur in a word. I would sit in the bus, staring out at the Cuban countryside, repeating “Pinar del Rio” over and over and over, until I could effortlessly shift from the alveolar tap to the trill without screwing it up.

One problem this created for me was that people for whom Spanish was their native language, upon hearing me speak Spanish, assumed from my meticulous pronunciation that I could speak fluently. I could not. I could carry on a decent conversation, though deep philosophy was not in my repertoire. I can probably still carry on a conversation all these years later, and am quite certain I could blend in to a Spanish speaking area within a couple of weeks.

Bottom line . . . speaking, and pronouncing, another language correctly is both an intelligent thing to do and a sign of respect for those who speak that language as their primary tongue. The human mouth, tongue, and throat are designed to make the sounds that humans make, regardless of where they’re from or how strange their pronunciations may seem to you. It just takes practice and, maybe, a little courage.


Dan Mirrors My Feelings

I have to share these few paragraphs written by Dan Rather. They mirror my feelings well. I would like to add that staying home during this time has exacerbated the difficulties we’re experiencing with (mostly) our younger daughter. Things were tough enough when she was actually attending school. Now that she’s home all the time, it’s increased the friction and made my life far more stressful than, perhaps, it’s every been. Now for some Dan:

Dan Rather

I sit locked in a self-imposed isolation as a deadly virus surges outside. Time frames for returning to any hope of a faint echo of normalcy stretch into the many months or years. This distant horizon strikes particularly deep for those of us at a certain age and stage of life. Our nation is adrift amidst rocky shoals with cruel incompetence as our captain and enabling cravenness as the first mate.

What a perilous time to live.

I know I am extremely fortunate. Neither the roof over my head nor the food on my table are in doubt. I have the privilege of protecting myself and my loved ones more than many. We don’t work in meat processing plants, or distribution warehouses, or even in hospitals. I strive to keep habits and schedules, but hours bleed and to-do lists go unchecked.
What a moment to contemplate the future.

The basic tenets of decency, truthfulness, and compassion are torn across our political divide. We see scientists denigrated and charlatans exalted. We see the rule of law and the norms of our democracy debased for personal gain. We see our allies bullied and our adversaries coddled.

What a time to be an American.

But that’s just it. It is a time to be an American, to contemplate our future, and to live. We have had very dark days in the past. We have had deep, systemic injustices. We have faced daunting odds. And women and men of courage, of ingenuity, of resolve have stood up time and time again. They have said some version of, “we will not abide.” It is our duty to not abide either.

From the streets, to newsrooms, to online social and political activism, I see countless millions of Americans who are not abiding. We are living through damage, loss, and sadness that could have been avoided. Much trauma lies ahead. But I know most of my fellow citizens agree that this shall not be us.

I desperately wished this was not our lot. I wish so many things. I wish the hospital wards were empty. I wish kids were having a summer and could go to school safely. I wish small businesses weren’t closing. Heck, I wish I was at a baseball game trying to not have the mustard drip on my pants. That’s not where we are.

We must be true to ourselves to recognize that much of what we are seeing now was not only the product of the last few months or even the last three-plus years. We have big problems, wherever we look. But we see them now. And we must do the hard work to fix them, not only through the ballot box but through the energy of our hearts and power of our imaginations. Whatever despair I might feel is tempered with a hope that is growing within me. I will not abide, and I believe most Americans will not abide either. Courage.

Dan Rather


Trevor Noah on George Floyd

Thought I would share a couple of videos from Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show (currently called “The Daily Social Distancing Show.”)

Trevor on How Things are Connected
Trevor on Looting and What Really Matters


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