Category Archives: Education

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


Gloomy

A Little Spring Backtrack

I didn’t really realize until Linda pointed it out, but helping my youngest with her classes is forcing me to relive High School . . . and I hated it! I cut so frequently, it took me an extra semester and two excruciating terms of Summer school to graduate. And she’s only a sophomore!

Concurrently, time is beginning to exert itself. I had no trouble keeping up with my kids through my sixties, but my energy level is waning, probably exacerbated by the need to stay put, which results in lack of exercise and eating a little too much . . . of some of the “wrong” things.

Oh, well. It’s raining (actually, mostly drizzling) outside, so gloomy seems to fit the moment.


Less Than Perfect

The following is a post from an earlier blog of mine, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was posted on February 27, 2006.

Why do people, perfectly rational in other ways, defend the indefensible? Why do they continue along a path that is demonstrably wrong and easily abandoned? I’m not talking about the barbarous torture being carried out in our name, with our money, by our government. I’m talking about the indefensible butchering of the English language by educated, enlightened people.

I’m talking about people who are scientists, who make their living off understanding and precisely defining physical properties of phenomena in order to reshape the world and our relationship to it. People who demand, and thrive off of, minutiae – accurate minutiae.

I heard three words in a meeting the other day that just drove me crazy. These three words were:

  • Libary (for library)
  • Ec Cetera (for et cetera), and
  • Hierarchial (for Hierarchical)

Hearing these words butchered gives me the chills, but I learned a long time ago not to question an Engineer’s pronunciation of any word, lest one wishes to be the recipient of a surprised, somewhat pained expression followed by a derisive comment on one’s propensity for detail. Something like “Well. You knew what I meant. What are you? A Lawyer?”.

Well. Maybe. Maybe I knew what you meant and maybe I am a Lawyer. The latter part of the question is of no real consequence, and can be safely ignored as the silly attack it is, but the former isn’t necessarily all that clear. I knew what you meant? Could I be certain?

One of the simpler equations in physics is f = ma (force = mass x acceleration). Would an Engineer complain if I expressed it as f = na in a paper or in an analysis of a design or test results? Would it be OK if I said “Well, it’s only off by one letter and, after all, you know what I meant” (hee hee)?

I suppose, to be fair, there is the tongue twist factor to take into consideration. After all, library, et cetera, and hierarchical take a bit of concentration and practice to say properly. But here’s the real issue. Language is used to – now get this – communicate. Good, accurate, complete communication requires precision. It ain’t horse shoes or hand grenades.

So here’s what I have to say to those sloppy speakers who complain about merely being asked to correct their butchered pronunciations and complain they’re close enough to being “there”.

They’re ain’t no there their. You’re turn to figure out where your going (sic.)


12 Museums From Around the World That You Can Visit Virtually

So . . . looks like we’re all going to be confined to our houses, apartments, or wherever we’re lucky enough to have a place to rest our weary bones, much longer than we’ve ever had to hunker down before. I came across this link and thought I would share, as well as memorialize it for my own use as I attempt to entertain myself and my children. Enjoy!


Google Arts & Culture teamed up with over 500 museums and galleries around the world to bring anyone and everyone virtual tours and online exhibits of some of the most famous museums around the world. Here’s a link to 12 of them.

12 Museums from around the world you can visit virtually


Screw “The Rule of Law!”

Can we please stop using the phrase “Rule of Law?” The law has been used in this country for some of the most racist, vicious, and nefarious acts committed anywhere and it’s not, IMO, a useful phrase. Better that we use “Equality Under the Law.” Here are a just a few examples of laws that have been passed or rulings that have been handed down that make the point:

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 – At the time it was passed, Chinese were only .002% of the population, but white people were worried about maintaining “racial purity.” Like today’s fears of immigrants, it was claimed they were taking jobs from white Americans.

People v. Hall – 1854. In this case, the California Supreme Court ruled that Chinese people had no rights to testify in court, adding them to the language of the laws at the time that stated “No black or mulatto person, or Indian, shall be allowed to give evidence in favor of, or against a white man.”

The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was facilitated by numerous laws and Executive Orders, including EO 9066, signed by our “Democratic Socialist” President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. My own in-laws were forced to assemble at Santa Anita Racetrack, where they resided in captivity until they were transferred to the Granada War Relocation Center in Colorado (AKA “Amache”) where they were interned for over two years.

Slavery – The laws supporting slavery are too numerous to recount here, as each state had its own “Slave Codes,” which were designed to give slave owners absolute power over their slaves, including forbidding slaves to even defend themselves or their family. In many, they were forbidden from learning to read or to leave their plantation without written permission. All of these restrictions were perfectly “legal” at the time.

The history of the U.S. and Native Americans is rife with treaties and acts continuously taking away land or forcing entire communities to leave their ancestral lands and move to less desirable locations, as well as hundreds of treaties which were broken by the U.S. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced the removal of five tribes, culminating in a forced migration later known as the “Trail of Tears.”

There are numerous instances in history, especially notable ones being the laws passed in Nazi Germany making it unlawful to aid Jews and providing for their imprisonment and extermination. All these were done under the color of law, e.g. the “Rule of Law.” We need to stop using this term. As I noted above, “Equality Under the Law” seems far more on point if we’re interested in freedom, justice, and equality of all peoples.


Let’s Clean Our Own House!

I posted the following on Facebook late yesterday, partly in response to all the angst that’s being spit out by the chattering class about Bernie and Fidel:

How come, when we talk about the suffering of Cubans, Venezuelans, and others from dictators and (horrors!) socialism, we don’t also talk about the role of U.S. Imperialism and historical colonialism?

So far it’s been liked by over thirty of my friends and it’s received nine comments and four shares. As of now, that’s after 14 hours since I posted. I don’t know if it will get more, but the response is interesting. What I was attempting to point out is something that really chaps my hide about my fellow Americans. A lot of y’all are really uninformed; either that, or you’re abysmally stupid and incapable of understanding history, economics, and society.

Now . . . to temper what I just wrote, let me add that I’m of the opinion most of us can’t be blamed for this ignorance of our history and what we’ve wrought in the world wherever—and whenever—we’ve put our grubby little money-making hands to work. As I was writing this, I noted another post by a friend who had liked the post I refer to here. She shared a comment from someone else and I think it’s quite relevant to the point I’m making here. Here’s what he said:

“There’s been a lot of criticism of Bernie Sanders for his praise of the Cuban literacy program that was initiated very soon after the 1959 Revolution. Under this program, young people who had been fortunate enough to learn to read and write were sent out into the rural areas, where most people hadn’t, armed with literacy materials and a kerosene lantern. During the day they helped their host family with whatever needed to be done; at night, they taught reading and writing. Cuba became one of the most literate countries in Latin America.

“According to the critics, this was a bad thing. The people learned to read, but they couldn’t read anything they wanted, and what they were given was propaganda extolling the virtues of the Revolution. So there’s 60 years of this evil stuff going on in Cuba. I’d just like to point out that we in the US have a much longer history of propagandizing, extolling the virtues of our system of predatory capitalism in classes like ‘civics’ and ‘social studies.’ The virtues include denying health care to many, keeping many from full involvement in the political and economic life of our country, enculturating people into the happiness that is being less-than-living-wage laborers at the mercy of shareholders and CEOs.

“Nobody in the US has any business calling what other countries do ‘propaganda’ unless they are willing to acknowledge our own long history of it.

~ Ronald Kephart

I’d like to point out that, although I am a Marxist (i.e. a socialist) I’m not much of a Bernie Sanders supporter. Nearly four years ago I posted my reasons for voting for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary of 2016. That post is located here. I just voted in the California primary for this year’s election and, again, I did not vote for Bernie. However, as I stated back then, should he secure the nomination I will vote for and support Bernie with gusto. Despite my misgivings, he’s head and shoulders better than Trump or any Republican currently in office. I’d even vote for him if he was running against Bill Weld.

So . . . the point of this post is not necessarily defend Bernie but, rather, to point out the incredible hypocrisy of those politicians (including Democrats running for POTUS) and pundits who are criticizing him for what he said about Fidel and the Cuban revolution.

There’s a doctrine in equity called “The Clean Hands Doctrine,” which states that one can’t complain about, or seek equitable relief from, an offense when one has participated in or supported actions that are as offensive as the action being complained about. I think it fits rather nicely into the common trope about socialist countries and leaders who have wrongly punished their opponents.

I shouldn’t even have to list anything the United States has done to make this point . . . but I will list a couple of the most egregious ones:

  • Our treatment of native Americans
  • Slavery & Jim Crow
  • The Chinese Exclusion Act
  • Japanese internment camps

I would also suggest that anyone who wants to really understand how the United States, by its actions (mostly done to protect predatory economic interests) has created most of the problems we’re now dealing with, especially those issues related to immigration from the southern half of our hemisphere, should read “The Enemy: What Every American Should Know About Imperialism,” which can be found here.

We may not like what Fidel did after the revolution in 1959, but we drove him into the hands of the Soviets back then by being indecisive in our dealings with Cuba. We later initiated an economic blockade that was unwarranted and immoral, IMO. There are literally dozens of other actions we’ve taken over the years throughout Central and South America that resulted in the deaths of thousands and that kept the economies of numerous countries from thriving. Felix Greene spelled it out a half century ago. He wasn’t wrong then . . . and his analysis is still instructive today.

PS – I’m leaving out the effects of our Imperialism in the Middle East, as that’s another clusterfuck that’s likely going to come home to haunt us. Perhaps I’ll address it at a later date.


My “Daughter’s” Project

My youngest daughter (I have two) is in the 10th grade in high school. Her history class is studying the French Revolution right now and, during the Thanksgiving break she decided she wanted to build a scale model guillotine for extra credit. She, of course, enlisted my help. It never even occurred to me that I could probably find something online that would suffice and, in fact, I just looked and found a couple of places I could have purchased a kit. Here’s a really simple one. Here’s another.

As it turned out, I think I jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange our ridiculously stuffed garage, so I could get to my woodworking bench and use all the tools I’ve purchased or was given over the years and haven’t used for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, they all worked despite some rust and corrosion.

I took some pictures as I was going along, and finished it yesterday so she could bring it to school today. This afternoon, I came across the original note her teacher gave her with the “rules”, e.g. it must work, it can’t have a sharp blade, and it isn’t due until Friday . . . grrrrr. Frankly, I became a wee tad obsessed with pulling this off and I’m glad it’s done and gone. I was having a hard time doing anything else, even though there were periods of time in between gluing and when I needed to build up my confidence that I could pull something off. Sometimes it mostly involved my remembering how to do something.

I made the whole thing out of a plank of 3/4″ thick Pine and a hobby piece of 1/4″ Oak. Since most of the table called for 3/4″ square pieces, I had to use an old table saw designed for onsite carpentry. It belonged to a friend of mine and, even though it’s been in my garage for at least 17 or 18 years, it still belongs to him. I just get to use it. Some of the cuts I had to make concerned by fingertips greatly, but they all managed to survive.

At any rate, here are some photos.

Here, the guillotine is mostly finished and assembled. You can see I was making a set of stairs, which I hadn’t planned on doing, but my daughter insisted was necessary.
I made the blade out of plastic, so it’s incapable of cutting, the spacer out of some Oak I had to purchase to get the 1/4″ thickness I needed for a few pieces, and I made the counterweight out of a piece of 2×4 that’s probably been sitting in our garage for the last two decades.
If you compare the stairs to what I started with and have depicted in the first photo, above, you’ll note I ultimately ended with four steps. I think it was because I realized I’d made them too tall to begin with and had to scale them down. The steps and the table/platform are made of Oak and here the whole thing has been treated with Watco Danish oil.
Getting the blade to actually drop was a bit of a challenge because cutting the channels on the two uprights so the blade assembly would be able to slide smoothly up and drop fairly quickly down was challenging, and they weren’t quite as smooth as I would have liked them to be. Nevertheless, I got it done after a bit of trial and error.
We have a little squeeze toy I picked up at a conference a long time ago from Hitachi. It’s a Sumo wrestler and, unfortunately, his head has managed to depart his body, though we keep him around (why, I don’t know). My wife thought he fit rather nicely with the device, so here ’tis. Next photo is from the other side.
That’s All, Folks.

13 Reasons Why People Don’t Share Their Knowledge – and what to do about it

This is another paper I found on my computer. Truth to tell, I have no idea who wrote it. It could have been me, but I don’t remember. I searched the phrase from the title in Google, but could not find anything. Inasmuch as I retired from Rocketdyne (and the pursuit of enterprise-wide KM) nearly 10 years ago, it could be from something I encountered more than a decade ago. Nevertheless, I’m sharing it with the caveat that I’m not claiming to have written it; I’m only asserting it’s an important document for anyone who’s struggling with getting their organization’s people to share their knowledge for the benefit of their company. My experience, as well as my discussion with those who are still involved in the corporate world, is that knowledge sharing is still nowhere near as widespread as I think it should be. So, without further ado, here’s that Baker’s dozen of reasons people aren’t sharing:

  1. They don’t know why they should do it. Leadership has not made a strong case for knowledge sharing. Solution: Have the leader of the organization communicate regularly on knowledge sharing expectations, goals, and rewards.
  2. They don’t know how to do it. They have not received training and communications on how to share knowledge. Solution: Regularly communicate and conduct training, webinars, and knowledge fairs. Web-based training and webinar recordings should be available for all tools.
  3. They don’t know what they are supposed to do. Leadership has not established and communicated clear goals for knowledge sharing. Solution: Establish and communicate clear knowledge-sharing goals.
  4. They think the recommended way will not work. They have received training and communications but don’t believe what they are being asked to do will work. Solution: The KM leaders, knowledge brokers, and other members of the KM team have to convince people in small groups or one-on-one by showing them that it does work.
  5. They think their way is better. They are used to working on their own or collaborating only with a small group of trusted comrades and believe this is the best way. Solution: Regularly share stories of how others are benefiting from sharing knowledge using the recommended ways. This should help sway those stuck in their current ways to consider using better ways.
  6. They think something else is more important. They believe that there are higher-priority tasks than knowledge sharing. Solution: Get all first-level managers to model knowledge-sharing behavior for their employees, and to inspect compliance to knowledge-sharing goals with the same fervor as they inspect other goals.
  7. There is no positive consequence to them for doing it. They receive no rewards, recognition, promotions, or other benefits for sharing knowledge. Solution: Implement rewards and recognition programs for those who share their knowledge. For example, award points to those who share knowledge, and then give desirable rewards to those with the top point totals.
  8. They think they are doing it. They are sharing knowledge differently than the recommended ways (e.g., sending email to trusted colleagues or distribution lists). Solution: Assign people to work with each community and organization to show them how to use the recommended ways and how they work better than other ways. Providing a new tool or process which is viewed as a “killer app” – it quickly and widely catches on – is the best way for the old ways to be replaced with new ways.
  9. They are rewarded for not doing it. They hoard their knowledge and thus get people to beg for their help, or they receive rewards, recognition, or promotions based on doing other tasks. Solution: Work with all managers in the organization to encourage them to reinforce the desired behaviors and stop rewarding the wrong behaviors.
  10. They are punished for doing it. As a result of spending time on knowledge sharing, they don’t achieve other goals which are more important to the organization. Solution: Align knowledge-sharing processes and goals with other critical processes and performance goals.
  11. They anticipate a negative consequence for doing it. They are afraid that if they share knowledge, they will lose their status as a guru (no one will have to come begging to them at the time of need), that people they don’t trust will misuse it or use it without attribution, or that they will not achieve other more important goals. They are afraid of asking a question in public because it may expose their ignorance or make them appear incompetent. Solution: Position knowledge sharing as being a critical success factor for the organization. Facilitate ways for people to establish trusting relationships through enterprise social networks and face-to-face meetings. Recognize those who ask in public, and provide ways to ask questions on behalf of others.
  12. There is no negative consequence to them for not doing it. Knowledge sharing is not one of their performance goals, or it is a goal which is not enforced. Solution: Work with all first-level managers to get them to implement, inspect, and enforce knowledge-sharing goals. This needs to come from the top – if the leader of the organization insists on it and checks up on compliance, it will happen.
  13. There are obstacles beyond their control. They are not allowed to spend time sharing knowledge, they don’t have access to systems for knowledge sharing, or they don’t have strong English language skills for sharing with those outside of their country. Solution: Embed knowledge sharing into normal business processes. Provide ways to collaborate when not connected (e.g., using email for discussion forums). Encourage those with weak English skills to share within their countries in their native languages.

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