Category Archives: Education

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We hobble ourselves with mistaken, outdated, unsupportable notions that give far more importance to diversity as a bad thing; as something that takes away from our sense of worth, of self.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


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 “Equal Justice 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.


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