07-14-17 Update

What I’m reading
I finished reading The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen. I found it interesting and quite informative. Although these witch trails occurred over 300 years ago, I see similarities in the way the conservative movement’s attempts to regulate women’s heath care and reproductive rights. In America we have nearly a 400 year history of fearing independent women and and in the current regime that fear is as prevalent as it was in the 17th century.

Our society still holds centuries old assumptions about women’s place in society and how they ought to behave. We also have a deeply embedded tendency in our society to hold women ultimately responsible for violence committed against them. That tendency and those assumptions still grip us as much today as they did in 17th century New England. However, that paradigm seems to be in its death throes and the longstanding patriarchy is desperately trying to hold on to them as women continue to voice their discontent and dissatisfaction. I say good riddance to it.

I’m now reading Lucid Dreaming by Charlie Morley. I’ve had an interest in the subject and I want to learn more about it. I’m finding that it’s not as easy as I’d thought it would be. Maybe I’ve perceiving it as more difficult than it is or I just need more practice and open my mind to it.

What I’ve been listening to
This week I listened an episode of Star Talk Radio, called Let’s Make America Smart Again. The discussion talked about what draws scientific talent to a university or a country for that matter. It’s not necessarily about the money but rather the quality and intelligence of the colleagues and post graduate students they work with. By cutting funding to public universities and dumbing them down, we do our nation a great disservice. We can make America great by shoring up its educational institutions, particularly in public education and by making Americans smart.

We become great by attracting greatness and being in the company of greatness. We cannot create greatness on our own. We are not great because we declared ourselves to be great but because the world perceives us a great.

What I’ve been watching
Though it’s in the ‘chick-flick’ genre, I recently watched the first season of Anne with an E on NetFlix. It started with my granddaughter wanting to watch it and I kind of got hooked.

Quotes I’ve been pondering
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” ~ Aung San Suu Kyi

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” ~ Aung San Suu Kyi

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today is National Nude Day and this week is Nude Recreation Week. I don’t have any particular plans for these occasions. I really don’t need a special day or week, just a place and an opportunity. Here are  a few related quotes:

“Nudism is about comfort, freedom, friendship, and acceptance. Nudism is a way of life and a belief that the nude human body is not inherently sexual or obscene. We only have one body and one life to live. We should learn to accept ourselves and others as they are and for who they are.” ~ Anna Smith

“Don’t be so serious. Don’t make nudism a religion. It is a thing of joy. Try to get some joy into your own system! Let it overflow, so that it may spread among your friends!” ~ Julian Strange (1934)

“Why should we think nudity is such a revolting thing in a land where there is so much violence and corruption and racism and hatred? Nudity seems like a welcome relief from all the bullshit in life.” ~ Anthony Kiedis

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05-12-17 update

What I’m watching
I’ve been watching The Tudors for the second time on NetFlix. One of the things I like about it is that it follows the history reasonably well. They changed a few facts for whatever reason, but they manage to get many of the events of Henry VIII’s reign pretty close, very unlike many other historical drama series I’ve seen.

What I’m reading
I’m still reading The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin when the mood to read strikes me. Several reviews I read on Goodreads complained about his explanations of the meteorological background but I found them interesting and felt that they added to my understanding of the events of that tragic day.

Project I’m working on
I got busy getting the garden ready for planting. I raked out the twigs and weeds which had accumulated over the winter. Then I turned over the soil using a shovel which, for my small garden space, worked fairly well. After that I mixed a few bags of topsoil and manure together, and mixed with the the existing soil. Hopefully, we’ll have a good harvest this year.

Events I attended
On Tuesday we attended Jacob’s last concert with the Wayne Choir. It was quite enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the Choraliers’ rendition of Queen’s Somebody to Love and the full choir’s beautiful treatment of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

On Thursday we watched Abigail perform in her last concert at Weisenborn. She played tympani, cymbals, and snare. She’ll be moving on to the high school band in the fall and attending the marching band camp this summer.

Technology I’m working with
About a month ago I created a little Bash script to copy an image file from a temporary folder to my journal and Dropbox folders on my PC. The script worked well enough but it lacked error checking and robustness. I changed the method used to build the destination directories incorporating the year and month passed in the command line arguments. I added tests to determine the validity of the image file and the existence of the destination folders and call a function to print the command-line syntax in the event any of the tests failed. I also added tests to confirm successful copy and move operations.

Quote I’m contemplating
“When a wise person says education is the key to our future, he or she often means tomorrow’s adults must be educated well enough to advance their interests and the interests of society. When a politician, pundit or preacher says education is the key to our future, they often mean tomorrow’s adults must be dumbed down enough to advance the interests of politicians, pundits, and preachers.” – Paul Sunstone

Educating our children

Give your children your love, but don’t give your ideologies. Don’t make them Catholics and communists; that is poisoning them. Don’t make them Hindus and Jainas and Buddhists; that is very destructive. Give your love, give your loving nourishment, and give them strength enough to inquire who they are, what this reality is all about. Give them every support so they can go on in life with an adventurous spirit. Then you are helping them; then you are really educating them. Ordinarily, whatsoever exists in the name of education is nothing but mis-education. Real education is helping the person to be himself. It is possible only if you love the person for his own sake, for no other motive. If there is a motive, your love is contaminated. Then you are not a real father or a real mother.

Osho

Just think how different the world would be if we didn’t pass down our ideologies and dogmas. We need to give them the tools they need to think and act on their own, to do what’s right for themselves, for others, and the world, to act rationally, responsibly and compassionately. That’s so much better than passing on our prejudices, our ignorance, and our hate.

Elephant Journal Reads

Some things I’ve read at Elephant Journal recently:

Getting A Couple Of Things Off My Chest

The High Cost of Public Information

After dragging its feet for months, the United States Department of Education has asked a tiny nonprofit group to pay a ruinous sum for public information on the impact of a law that bars students who have committed drug offenses from receiving federal grants and loans. The government argued that the request was not in the public interest. The fee represents an increasingly common tactic that is used by the government to discourage public inquiries. (New York Times editorial published Feb. 4, 2006)

It appears to me that these are just another example of King George’s Gestapo tactics to keep the public uninformed about the government’s activities. If the administration has got to keep secret things that ought to be public, then they are obviously up to no good. If your activities must be done in the dark because they can’t stand the scrutiny of public disclosure, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing them. All things come to light eventually. I fully understand the needs of national security but, for the most part, domestic policy does not fall under that caveat, particularly the Department of Education.

I fear more from my own government than I do from terrorists. Terrorists have not curtailed our liberties; our government has. Terrorists are not spying on U.S. citizens but our government is.

You can’t fight terrorism with armies; we can only fight states that sponsor or condone terrorists within their borders. Once we invade, the terrorists can either move on or stay and train themselves by fighting our soldiers. That there hasn’t been a terrorist attack since 9/11 does not mean that the Bush administration’s “war on terrorism” is working. It’s more likely that the terrorists are lying low, waiting for us to let our guard down as we eventually will. A high state of vigilance cannot be maintained indefinitely. After a few years, we will feel safe again and relax our vigilance. That’s when the next terrorist attack is likely to occur.

The war on terrorism is a war against a concept. Terrorists are criminals and bringing them to justice requires good police work and the judicial process within the framework of the legal system and international law. We must eliminate the root causes of terrorism and spread good will among the nations that seem to produce terrorists.

But what do I know about international terrorism? I’m just an average citizen with justifiably more reason to fear the U.S. Government than Al-Quaeda. I, for one, do not feel safer under the protection of good King George. I actually feel less safe than I have at anytime in my life. I lived in Germany under the specter of anti-American terrorism for three years and once found a homemade bomb (a 5-gallon propane tank filled with C4) in front of my apartment building. Yet, I felt safer then than I do now. How did we get through it? By stepping up security, exercising a little more vigilance, and taking a few common sense precautions. Other than that, we carried on with our lives. We didn’t need another inept, cumbersome, monolithic bureaucracy charged with protecting us. We used the resources at hand and made better use of them.

The U.S. Failed To Understand

Stupid in America discusses education (or the lack of it) in America. It’s rather obvious to the most casual observer that many (most?) of our school systems are failing. “Despite spending a record-breaking $10,000 a student a year, [the U.S.] still ranks 25th out of 40 countries that took an international standardized test. Ahead of us – South Korea (No. 2), Poland, Latvia – not exactly rich countries.” Perhaps we should give each student the ten grand and let him get his own education. As a nation that rewards mediocrity, incompetence, and stupidity, we probably have the public education system we deserve.

It was the Irish poet William Butler Yeats that said, “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” He was absolutely right. Education isn’t about learning a lot of facts and figures to pass tests. That’s filling buckets and the buckets generally have holes in them. If you never use that information for anything, you soon forget it and the bucket empties.

The purpose of education is to light a fire, a burning desire to learn, for the sake of learning, because it interests you, or because it’s useful to you. Education should spark your curiosity, drive you to ask questions and seek answers. Unfortunately, real education is the antithesis of the public education system. Curiosity, asking questions, and seeking knowledge are disruptive and, for many educators, a detriment to good discipline. In our system, the perfect student is one who sits quietly at his desk, absorbs information, and successfully regurgitates it for the test. Students who follow their curiosity and ask questions are usually labeled troublemakers or diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and doped up with Ritalin. Who knows how many potential Einsteins and Edisons have been silenced simply because they were not content to absorb and regurgitate?

What educators should be doing is providing their students with the basic tools they need for learning and at the same time, light that fire that makes them want to learn. My favorite teachers were those who put aside the textbooks, took the material a little further than was required, asked questions that required some thought on my part, drove me a little harder, and inspired me to learn because I wanted knowledge, not so I could pass a test.

Even when I was in school, those teachers were rare but I was fortunate enough to have studied under several. These teachers tended to be mavericks who didn’t always follow the rules established by the Board of Education or state bureaucracies. They chose to be teachers because they wanted to impart their knowledge and wisdom to another generation. They taught because they loved to teach. I am eternally grateful to have had teachers like Clifford Buck, Glenn Dawson, Lawrence Carter, and Jane Braden. I had many other good teachers and there were other excellent teachers I knew of by reputation, but those I mentioned are the ones whom I still fondly remember; the ones who made an indelible impression on me.

Do teachers like them still exist? I pray that they do because the are the only hope for our youth. We need teachers who push their students a little harder and inspire them to greater things than a standardized test score, teachers who have the courage to innovate and reach out to their students, and teachers who, themselves, continue to learn.

The answer to the education crisis isn’t to throw more money at the problem or to put more computers in the classroom. It is definitely not more administrators larger bureaucracies, or lower standards. The answer is more good teachers who are allowed to educate and inspire the pupils placed in their care. I’m sure most of them would be up to the task if we got the bureaucracy off their backs. Of course, this is a utopian dream. Once a bureaucracy has become entrenched, there is no uprooting it. So many of them have long ago outlived their usefulness and exist only to perpetuate themselves.

“I never let schooling interfere with my eduation.” — Mark Twain


Dickheads of the Week (for the week ending Jan 7th, 2006)

I found the dickheads who left their young children to fend for themselves while they partied in Las Vegas the most disturbing. Well, at least the dogs had adult supervision. Some people deserve to be neutered and not allowed to breed. As for Pat Robertson, I have a pretty good idea where his head is. He should be forced to attend children’s Bible study classes as a student and actually read his Bible, especially the “red” words (they’re the important ones).


Rice Admits U.S. Underestimated Hamas Strength (New York Times, Jan. 30, 2006)

“The secretary of state said the U.S. failed to understand the depth of hostility among Palestinians toward their longtime leaders.”

I think Condoleezza hit the nail on the head when she said, “The U.S. failed to understand.” (The emphasis is mine.) That pretty much sums up U.S. foreign policy. It also aptly describes U.S. domestic policy.


Still clueless after all these months

Louisiana in Limbo (New York Times, Jan. 30, 2006)

“The Bush administration has rejected the most broadly supported plan for rebuilding New Orleans while offering nothing to take its place.”

The rebuilding should have started as soon as the water began to recede. The paperwork and the funding could have been sorted out later. I’d have to say it’s the worst case of “reconstruction” in the South since the end of the Civil War (with FEMA and their contractors as the carpetbaggers). You can bet the plans to rebuild Trent Lott’s house have been approved and are well under way.