Category Archives: Education

Do Not Feed the Living Languages!

Language changes with the times. This is why the Romance languages, that is those that evolved from Rome’s Latin, eventually differentiated into French, Spanish, Italian, etc. In times such as ours, there are many changes due to advances in technology, or even threats like the novel corona virus.

When I was in school, we were taught that words were categorized by gender while people were described by sex. Sometime, oddly enough either during or shortly after the Sexual Revolution, someone decided that using the words people and sex together was unsightly, offensive, or something. People suddenly were categorized by gender, just like words.

By doing so, even your great-great-aunt Prudence wouldn’t be offended. Of course she grew up referring to people by sex and probably lived on a farm on which the animals repeatedly engaged in scandalous behavior.

In any case, we have it all modernized.

However, in other languages the gender and word thing didn’t go away. The Romance languages still assign a gender to nouns as do the German language. In German, a fork is feminine, a spoon masculine and a knife neutral.

We still have vestiges of the gender comment in modern English. A ship, for example, is referred to as she.

But what’s important is that we keep people and sex apart.*

 

I wonder if any guy has told his significant other, “Wow! You look really gendery tonight?”

 

Random Thoughts

There’s no specific theme or topic–just goofy stuff that has gone through my head as I self-isolate.

1. There’s no understanding the lengths people will go through to take advantage of others. A museum near Amsterdam closed because of the COVID-19 emergency. Someone–or several someones–broke in and stole a Vincent van Gogh painting, The Parsonage Garden at Neunen.  As near as I can tell, except for artwork that the Nazis looted, there are less than a dozen masterpieces that have been stolen and not recovered.

Imagine if the thieves had put their time and talent to work doing something worthwhile. Then again, maybe they think that they look good in fluorescent orange jumpsuits.

2. The hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy supporting New York and Los Angeles are amazing. They started out as commercial supertankers, and if memory serves correctly, were cut in half to make them longer. USNS indicates that the ship is owned by the US Navy, but is not a commissioned vessel. The crew is a combination of military and civilian mariners under the direction of the Military Sealift Command.

The 1000 bed medical facility is under the command of a captain from the Navy Medical Corps or Navy Nurse Corps. Each has a complement of diagnostic and treatment facilities including radiology, CT Scan, 12 operating rooms, and a burn care unit.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the USNS Mercy and she’s an awesome ship. Both have helicopter landing pas for patients being medevaced. The trauma receiving area–similar to an emergency room–has its deck painted red, an old tradition so blood isn’t as obvious. After all, these were built to support combat casualties.

 

Heroes

When I was growing up, there were heroes I looked up to.

  • Chuck Yeager–the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight.
  • John Glenn–the first American to orbit the earth and later US Senator
  • Neil Armstrong–The first man on the moon
  • Gene Kranz–NASA Flight Director for Gemini and Apollo

Each of these people did something noteworthy–PLUS three of the four are from my home state of Ohio. Gene Kranz graduated from the same high school I did.

Women who did great things in the 1960s didn’t get the spotlight, or even worse, the credit went to a male instead of the female who actually did the work. VADM Grace Hopper, NASA’s Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and their colleagues would not be publicly acknowledged until decades after they had achieved great things..

The closest I came to considering a celebrity as a hero was Jimmy Stewart. I liked his laid back style, but I admired the fact that he enlisted in the Army as a private as soon as he could, became a pilot, and volunteered to fly B-24s over Europe. After the war, he remained in the Air Force Reserve, attaining the rank of brigadier general.

Who are today’s heroes? Who do our children and grandchildren look up to? Who inspires them?

Rules of Acquisition

The Ferengi appeared as aliens in several Star Trek iterations. They were the ultimate business people who frequently quoted from their 286 rules of acquisition. I’ve heard they were originally planned as the villains for Star Trek: The Next Generation, but came across as more silly than intimidating.

In my favorite interaction, one Frengi asks, “What if this becomes a war?” The other replies, “Rule 34.”

The first responds “Ahhh, war is good for business. But, but, what if it doesn’t lead to war?” The response is “Rule 35.”

“Ahhh, peace is good for business.”

Today there are real Ferengi; not as exotic looking, but every bit as greedy:

  • People pretending to be employees with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are knocking on doors, wearing white lab coats, telling residents that they’re testing for COVID-19. Then they rob them.
  • A former White House advisor asked if people staying home to avoid the virus is worth the economic consequences.
  • Senators dumped stocks after being briefed on the coronavirus, but before that information was released to the general population.
  • All kinds of scammers are selling phony medications or religious talismans.

Oh, wait. Rule 14.  “Anything stolen is pure profit.”

Medical Mayhem

One of the problems with medical issues is that scientists’ and physicians’ assessments must constantly be revised. As additional facts are uncovered, logical conclusions are changed. That is difficult for some people to accept.

For example, 1.2 + 1.2 when rounded is two. However, if additional research adds a mere .1 to the equation, the answer would be rounded up to three. This is how science works.

This is how reality works. This is how life works.

The view of the effects of coronavirus is changing as more data are available.  This is good. This is how the intellectual process works. This is a time for thought, not emotion.

Viruses are unaffected by opinions, polls, or politics. So too are suffering and death. It is by keeping an open mind, examining the facts, re-examining the facts, and focusing on facts that we can progress.

Numbers Never Lie?

Innumeracy (book) - Wikipedia

 

Innumeracy is like illiteracy, only with numbers. There’s a lot of it going around–hopefully it won’t reach pandemic proportions.

I’m not talking calculus, trigonometry, or even  quadratic equations. I’m talking simple, easy, yet important math concepts.

Let’s use round numbers and examine the stock market’s recent actions. Before the coronavirus spooked the market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 29,000 points (rounded). After the virus scare, it dropped to about 25,000 points (also rounded), a loss of 4,000 points.* The loss of 4,000 points in this case is about 14 percent (1- [25000/29000]).

If the market, while at its low point, gains 14 percent  it seem like the market has recovered all its losses. Down 14 percent. Up 14 percent. (14-14=0)

However,  (25000*1.14) = 28,500, not 29,000. It’s still 500 points below its high mark, which is still a loss of 2 percent. It would take an increase of 16 percent to recover all its value.

Well, I found it interesting.

 

*Did you ever try to spend a point? Don’t!

 

Corona Virus Side Effects

There is a lot of angst regarding the corona virus (COVID-19). Oddly, most news coverage focuses on its impact on the stock market.

The news media, critically important for a democratic society, focuses on stories that sell newspapers, encourage internet clicks, or result in more pharmaceutical advertising during the evening news.

However, it’s best to put things in perspective.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are now 459 COVID-19 [link] cases in the United States. There was a death  today, which although is regrettable, makes a total of one.

On the other hand, influenza (the flu) has sickened at least 19 million across the U.S. and led to 10,000 deaths and 180,000 hospitalizations. This does not seem as significant because we encounter influenza every year. The Spanish flu in 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world.

The disease that infects millions and kills thousands is no big deal because we see it every year. A new disease, because it is novel, scares us to (near) death.

I’m not minimizing the potential of the virus. However, COVID-19 has been sensationalized, so the threat and probability of encountering it are more prominent in our mind, regardless of likelihood. Each of is, at least at this point, far more likely to be seriously affected by or to die from influenza, yet we focus on COVID-19.

I wish each of you good health–and a speedy recovery for your equity holdings.

 

It Shouldn’t Be Complicated

In my ongoing effort to needlessly complain about modern life, may I present the next chapter —- the bathroom.

Like everybody (or, at least, almost everybody) else my parents managed to teach me how to properly deal with my personal effluvia before I went to college. At home, it was the porcelain toilet (or as Archie Bunker would say, “terlet”) with the seat adapter for small derrieres, the little step, etc. I figured I was golden.

My father bought a small, swampy piece of land near Lake Erie and built a cottage. He built a boat–a great story for another time–which was tied up out front (COOL!). However, the cottage was originally one room, ergo, no indoor plumbing. However, my aunt and uncle, who had built a year-round house next door graciously let us use their outhouse (EWWWWW!). That was almost enough for me to backslide–but I didn’t. Things putted along normally through the 1950s, 1960’s and into the 1970’s.

I forget what the original reason was, but in the 1970s, there was a huge move to save water. People would put a brick into the tank on the back of their toilets to reduce the amount of water per flush. The mantra was “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” When visiting someone, it was awkward–do you flush, or not?

Things settled back in, briefly, then high-tech public restrooms became de rigeuer. Self flushing toilets–which scared the you-know-what out of youngsters when the toilet kept flushing as they sat there.

Then, automatic faucets, automatic soap dispensers, automatic towels, and automatic doors took over. The problem is that no two bathrooms are alike, hence I find myself holding my hands under a faucet with a handle or trying to find the handle on an automatic faucet. It’s the same for soap, towels, etc.

If there’s one bodily function that should not be intimidating—you get the idea.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to, you know.

Christmas Thoughts

This blog is written from the perspective of a Christian, with no intended slight to my friends and readers of other faiths.

It’s highly likely that Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, we have no evidence as to what His birthday might be. Early Christians were not historians and shared their thoughts to convey the theological message rather than to chronicle events as journalists. Many, if not most, early Christians expected Jesus to return during their lifetime, so they saw little reason to record an accurate history.

It’s only fair that we don’t know Jesus exact birthday. Those who came before His birth didn’t know when He would come, so it puts all of us in the same boat.

Did Christians co-opt a midwinter pagan festival? Probably. I think it was an early form of ecumenism. The word gospel means “Good News,” and shutting down peoples’ holidays would not be perceived as good news. Instead, additional content was added to the existing event.

So in that same spirit, enjoy a wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or any other holiday you can find between now and New Years.

Oh, and here’s another interesting fact about Christmas. Many people take offense at it being referred to as Xmas and see it as removing Christ from Christmas. Actually the X is not an X. It is the Greek letter chi, the first letter of the Greek word Christos–Christ.

Christos

Christos

 

The Quirky Brain

Courtesy US Army

The human brain is a wonderful creation, able to provide understanding, to critically evaluate ideas in order to separate fact from fiction, and even convey emotions. It does, however, have its flaws.

Our brains try to make order out of  chaos, but in the process often make chaos into–well–other chaos. A few examples:

  • People complain about how a lost item is always in the last place they look. Naturally this is true; when one finds what they were looking for, they stop looking.
  • When an overwhelming tragedy occurs, we try to find a reason. If we cannot find one, we make one up. It makes no sense that President John F. Kennedy was killed by one wacko acting alone. There MUST be a better reason–a conspiracy that is being covered up. This is a more satisfying answer, even if not necessarily true.
  • We prefer to hear people propose simple answers to every problem, even incredibly complex ones. If the solution begins with, “All you have to do is just . . . .” it must be a good solution.

 

When in Doubt–History

I love history–but you probably knew that. History, at least as taught, is imperfect because of two reasons:

  1. History is written by the winners, and it some times takes a century or more mitigate such bias.
  2. Much of the blood, sweat, tears, excitement, and intrigue gets removed, leaving only names and dates. Boring!!!

So here are some historical “facts” that I found interesting. I call them “facts” because we believe them to be true, but frequently,  as more research is done, we have to revise our understanding in light of additional evidence.

The “facts” I share are of no particular significance. I just find them interesting.

  • Creases in pants were once considered the opposite of fashionable. The upper crust had clothes custom tailored while those of less wealth purchased “off-the-shelf,” pre-made clothing. The crease indicated that the garment had sat on a shelf for a long time.
  • The term “an officer and a gentleman” refers to the fact that the elites were entitled to and enjoyed preferential treatment, including being assigned the senior positions on a ship. The “men,” on the other hand were commoners, often assigned to ships after being kidnapped. More than a few sailors started out at the pub enjoying free drinks but woke up, not only with a hangover, but also on board a ship at sea.
  • There is a legend that when the Emperor Charlemagne died, he was interred in a tomb sitting on a throne wearing a crown, holding a scepter, with his hand on his sword. Grave robbers, intending to steal the valuables with which he was interred, entered the tomb. They claimed that the seated body of Charlemagne began to draw the sword from its sheath. They did not stick around to find out what happened next.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day (no apostrophe) honors all those who served in the US Military, past and present.

Sometimes people–including some in uniform–make a differentiation between active duty military and reserve members. I am of two minds on this. First, most of the military officers I served with in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait were reserve or national guard. It wasn’t until we began sending individual augmentees that the active duty numbers swelled.

Vice Admiral John Cotton asked if the reserve members who were killed were any less dead than active members. Obviously not.

The other view does have some merit, but not in the way that you might expect. Back in the 1980’s, so the story goes, the status of reservists rose with the Royal Australian Navy. Like most members of the Commonwealth, their Navy uniform has a curl above the stripes indicating an officer’s rank. For years, reserve officers in the Royal Australian Navy had an “R” inside the curl, but when it was proposed that the uniform should be the same for active and reserve. Naturally, there was a lot of discussion.

When asked if the R should be removed for reservists, one reserve officer answered that the R should be retained. This met with approval by the active duty officers, until the officer continued.

“I certainly don’t want people thinking that this is the only way I can earn a living.”

Surrendering to iPhone

After trying almost every other brand of mobile phone over the past quarter century, I finally ended up with an iPhone. I guess it was inevitable. The kids have had iPhones for the past few years; they’ve told me why  they like them, but it didn’t seem to make an impression. Nevertheless, it was important to them.

Several of the family smartphones were showing their age. I’m suspicious that just like the Mission Impossible tape players, smartphones self-destruct when their amortization is complete, but I cannot prove it. In any case, one had several cracks across the screen, while another had a chip out of the side of the screen.

In any case, we ended up with iPhones because of one feature not available on other smartphones.

When we can’t figure out how to do something, we can ask the kids for help.

Missed Us by That Much!

Hurricane Dorian headed out to sea without to much damage here. There was some flooding and the cities opened up some shelters, but only a few folks went to the shelters. Based on experience, they probably live in areas that routinely flood.

There are two main reasons for regular flooding:

  1. The sea level is rising while the land mass is sinking.
  2. Lots that were once considered unbuildable are now being developed as waterfront.

Unfortunately, this means that some newly constructed homes will not last as long as their mortgages. One house, in such an area, had a “No Wake” sign on the mailbox, which was only partially in jest.

 

 

A Different Coda

As we’re trying to downsize, I’m trying to cull the musical herd. My daughter gets to take the piano once she gets her own place. My son’s clarinet doesn’t take up to much space. However, my guitar collection and the drum set do. I hope to get down to my Taylor 6 string, Greenbriar by Peavey 12 string, Peavy Raptor electric, and of course, my Brian May guitar.

My current guitar amplifier is an oldie but a goodie, a Peavey 112 Bandit Sheffield Transtube, Silver Stripe. By the long name, you might expect it to be big. It is. It is also heavy and loud.

My new Peavey Vypyr VIP1 is smaller, lighter, and has all kinds of effects built in. It’s got a 32 bit floating point computer processor, which is a marketer’s way of saying, “You have to learn how to program it.”

The bottom line, I now have a guitar amp, cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc., ad nauseum ALL of which are smarter than I am.

I miss the days when my biggest challenge was to get the VCR to stop flashing “12:00”.

Sports???

As regular readers know, I am not much of a sports fan. After Chuck Ealey was relegated to the Canadian league (my Northern-North America friends got a great quarterback) I lost almost all interest. Then, when I lived in the Cleveland area and Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, I was pretty much done and over with sports.

However, I must wax poetic.

Professional sports pay people obscene amounts of money for their physical prowess and effort. Most sports take inborn physical abilities, training, and practice, practice, practice.  Being a professional athlete is the physical equivalent of being a Jesuit.

However, I always thought it was a stretch to consider auto racing a sport. To me it’s more technology; you build a vehicle that can do phenomenal things, get inside, then drive fast and turn left {repeat}.

In my opinion, billiards was pushing it and I thought it was beyond the pale when ESPN featured poker, until they advised that the “E” stood for “entertainment.” There explanation was a stretch, but, okay.

However, now that video games–VIDEO GAMES–are not only a “sport” but being proposed as a high school athletic program . . . Wait!

I hereby designate blogging as a professional sport, or will as soon as the city builds me an appropriate blogging stadium, grants me tax free status, and arranges for network coverage.

Let me know when I can pick out my $9 million sports car and my $100 million mansion. In the meantime, if you want something, call my agent.

Random Thoughts

How do you “draw a blank?” Once you draw it, it’s no longer blank.
Can you ever dig half-a-hole? No matter how much or how little you dig, it’s a hole. If you try filling in in, it’s still a hole until it is no longer a hole.
Why are people who explore caves called “spelunkers?”
When did the transition occur in which people now have sex first, and then (possibly) fall in love?
What if everyone in the world were all the same color, relative height, four hair colors (brown, black, blonde, red—grey doesn’t count)? How would people know who to hate?

Commitment

Have you ever read the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America? Most people don’t recognize that as the actual title of what we call the Declaration of Independence. Written in Philadelphia, approved on 2 July 1776, and published two days later on the fourth of July.

Those who signed the document risked much if they failed. If they were lucky, they would be hanged “until dead.” The practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was the prescribed punishment for high treason. In this case, the condemned would be hanged, cut down while still (barely) alive, often disemboweled (again, while still alive), then beheaded and their body cut into pieces.

These founding fathers had to work hard to reach common ground since they had agreed that unanimous consent was required so as not to force brother against brother so many vehement arguments led to revisions that the authors vehemently opposed. The issue of slavery was particularly difficult, and striking a phrase prohibiting slavery did, in fact, lead to the war of brother against brother.

While most of the body of the declaration deals with the grievances against King George the third, I believe the most important part is at the end.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Who among us has that kind of commitment today?

 

Changing Relationships

Wired Magazine has an interesting article this month that talks about how the Internet has changed. When I read it, it was like getting a diagnosis for an unpleasant condition.

I have been somewhat avoiding the Internet because I no longer trust it–and that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. What once was, or at least hoped to be, a forum for exchanging ideas for the betterment of all has become a hate-filled pariah that imposes itself on anyone who will allow it.

Put another way, if the Internet were a neighborhood, I’d move.

Naturally, it makes me less prone to writing. It used to be that I got ideas for blogs on the Internet, but what has become acceptable and routine is not worth reading. Even the news glamorizes the crackpots and mass murderers.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did our attitudes toward civility decline, which led to today’s Internet or did the Internet lead to our loss of civility?

The Play’s the Thing (Complete with Music!)

I’ve decided to write a play specifically designed for off-off-Broadway. I wanted a theme everybody could relate to–something familiar yet somewhat of a challenge. Then the muse hit me–I tried to duck, but she still caught me on the chin.

I realized that no matter what you do, a significant portion of your time will be spent in meetings. It may be called a class, a board, a tiger team, a training session, church, basic training, or whatever–it’s still a meeting. Fortunately, Office Space and The Office have already laid the groundwork. I want to take it one step further and write it as a musical. Imagine——

The stage curtains are closed. The house lights dim and the orchestra begins the overture. [For those of you not musically inclined, overtures are a melodic mashup of the music used throughout the production. Today, we call it recycling.]

SCENE 1: The curtains open to show a conference table with chairs all along the upstage side (a concession to the acoustics in off-off-Broadway facilities). A spotlight is focused on a door, stage right. A man in a suit [the Boss] enters with an armload of papers and breaks into the opening number. “It’s My Meeting So I’m in Control” He dances toward the head of the table, leaving a random portion of the papers in front of each chair, reaches the front empty handed, looks at the various stacks of paper, decides one is slightly taller, dances back to that spot, takes the extras from that stack, dances back to the front of the meeting room and crescendos with the final line, a redux of the first line of “I’m in control.” The spotlight disappears, leaving the stage dark.

SCENE 2: The spotlight, collimated very tightly fades up on a man [the Nerd] with a short sleeved white shirt, out-of-style skinny black necktie, pocket protector, and taped glasses immediately begins singing the second number, “Oh, What I’d Do for a Doughnut!” When he finishes, the stage briefly goes black.

SCENE 3: The lights come up illuminating the table but leaves it dark upstage (behind). The conference table now has people sitting in all but the last chair. The Nerd comes through the door, ignores the looks of derision, grabs a powdered sugar doughnut, leaving a trail of white on people’s clothing. When he sits, the white powder mounds like a snow bank in front of him [special effects, but inexpensive].

The Boss bows and with an exaggerated sweeping gesture points toward the unlit back of the stage. A stern women [Stern Woman] in a business suit emerges from the shadows. As she walks toward the head of the table, with a big smile she begins to sing, “Death by PowerPoint.” The last line, a Capella, is “And My Laser Pointer!”

I don’t have room for everything. Suffice to say, the rest of the play leads to the grand finale with the Stern Woman between the Boss and the Nerd performs a dance number on the conference table surrounded by the entire cast dancing together and singing “Meetings Are Better than Work!

Now, if I can just find a patron.