Archives For Off The Top

Random things that fly off the top of my mind

2014-10-11_08-51-14Americans have a thing for starting over. We love the idea of breaking from the past, beginning from scratch, getting a new life, setting out on a fresh path.

No wonder, then, that some of us seem to be taken with the idea of solving our political problems by calling a constitutional convention to craft a new founding document — one that is less… well, it sort of depends on what you find intolerable about the present system.

Conservatives spend their days dreaming of a balanced budget amendment, term limits for Supreme Court justices, and special protections for the free enterprise system.

Libertarians worry about ever-expanding executive power.

Liberals agonize over the influence of wealthy special interests on all branches of government.

Centrists fret about generalized governmental dysfunction and the danger that it will lead to the kind of breakdown that we’ve seen in presidential democracies throughout the developing world.

I have sympathy for a number of these complaints, especially the ones highlighted by the liberals and centrists. But that doesn’t mean calling a constitutional convention is a good idea. On the contrary, it’s an atrocious idea — and one that would be likely to make our very real problems far worse.

SOURCE:  The myopic folly of demanding a new constitutional convention – The Week.

I thoroughly agree with the folks over at “The Week” that a constitutional convention in the U.S. is a bad idea right now. With all the partisan groups running around the country with their heated rhetoric and not listening to anything anyone else says this is especially a bad time to be fiddling with our foundation documents.  I’m not sure that there is really ever a good time to do it but for now it is best to stay away from the foundations.

But it would be nice to get some people in charge who don’t have a battleship full of baggage! All those guys in Washington seem to have a personal agenda of one sort or another that often trumps the people’s will. All this “right to bear arms” stuff is totally illogical if we take all the words of that amendment seriously. The amendment was to protect militias not guns.  All the gay marriage antagonizers must come to realize that the government is not in the religion business. They simply create legal documents that bind us together. If you want to tag homosexual unions as immoral that is fine but that is not the government’s business.

Until we can manage to at least get along with each other at some of the most basic levels we need to step back from anything that has any long-term consequences. I’m not personally sure that we will ever come to any level of agreement about anything now but at least we can hold out some hope that our children or grandchildren will be able to manage that feat. As long as we don’t pollute their thinking too much maybe they will see a common cause when they take the reigns of power. I don’t know but at least I am hoping that to be the case.

But what do I know….

The Two-Sided Coin….

October 26, 2014 — 2 Comments

I am again going to talk about the two-sided coin of Christianity. The last time I mentioned it was to relate the idea of faith and works.  That is practicing what we preach or accepting Jesus as the Lord of our daily lives as well as our savior. This time the two-sided coin concept will take on a different topic.

When Jesus told us the law of God and all the past prophets boiled down to only two things: to love God and to love each other, he gave us another linked duality for our existence on this earth.

The first side of the coin is to love God — To love God also means to love and take care of everything that He gave us.  The earth, at least for us humans is a very important part of the gift. We are to be good stewards of this planet and that currently means reducing our carbon footprints.

Another important part that God gave us is the laws of nature. In Jesus’ day very little was understood about these laws but over the last two millennia we have learned much. It starts with what are now considered simple things such as gravity up to the latest revelation of DNA. All of our scientific advances happen because God allows it.

And finally we are to take care of the essence of our very being. To me that means that we must constantly be trying to discern between for the basic truths that God has engrained in us verses those things that we have taught ourselves. We must very careful not to do things in the name of God that didn’t really come from God.

The second side of the Christian coin is his command to love one another —  He told us very clearly that we are to love one another and that means all of us not just fellow believers, not just Americans but all of humanity. I upset some when I tell them that my love of country comes pretty far down the list of my priorities. First I love my God, second is humanity, third is family, fourth is trying to do what Jesus commanded of me, and finally I love my country. And I do love my country. I wouldn’t wish to have been born anywhere else.

For me humanity comes before country. If something hurts other but help us in America then I am likely opposed to it. Our senseless wars in the Middle East are an example. We have as collateral damage killed thousands of innocent people in our thrust to get rid of the “bad guys”. Many times that very act simple creates more “bad guys” than it destroys.

Christianity is a two-sided coin and we must pay attention to both sides. It is simply not good enough to just say you are for something you must put some action into your words. That is what we seriously seem to miss in our present times.  It is easy to sit back and complain but hard to actually get down in the trenches and act….

 

2014-10-11_08-11-13There’s another benefit to having this outlook. The developmental psychologist Carol Dweck has shown that having a growth mindset — where you think your outcomes come through effort rather than innate talent — leads to success for kids and grownups alike.

Thinking about your thinking dispositions — rather than how innately smart you are — helps cultivate that attitude.

SOURCE:  Harvard Says The Best Thinkers Have These 7 ‘Thinking Dispositions’ – Yahoo Finance.

Sometimes I am leery of what Harvard puts out as truth. After all don’t many of our high level political leaders have Harvard degrees? I suspect that the majority of the CEOs that almost caused the 2008 meltdown were also Harvard alumni. But this list does make sense to me and it seems to be very much opposite to typical Wall Street thinking.

I am going to give you a redacted version of the seven reasons given in the article the original version just had too many words in it that clouded the list itself. To me it almost turns the list into “Blah, blah, blah”. In order to keep things straight I wanted to separate my redacted list from the original quote above. So here goes…

1. Be broad and adventurous: Be open-minded, to explore alternative views; an alertness to narrow thinking; the ability to generate multiple options.

2. Sustained intellectual curiosity: The tendency to wonder, probe, find problems, a zest for inquiry; an alertness for anomalies; the ability to observe closely and formulate questions.

3. Clarify and seek understanding: A desire to understand clearly, to seek connections and explanations.

4. Be planful and strategic: The drive to set goals, to make and execute plans, to envision outcomes; alertness to lack of direction; the ability to formulate goals and plans.

5. Be intellectually careful: The urge for precision, organization, thoroughness; an alertness to possible error or inaccuracy; the ability to process information precisely.

6. To seek and evaluate reasons: The tendency to question the given, to demand justification; an alertness to the need for evidence; the ability to weigh and assess reasons.

7. Be Reflective: The tendency to be aware of and monitor the flow of one’s own thinking; alertness to complex thinking situations; the ability to exercise control of mental processes and to be reflective.

Maybe it is vanity rising up here but I kind of think that I have most of these qualities. :)  I definitely didn’t go to Harvard; I could never have afforded to pay for even a semester there let alone the time it takes to get a degree. My State college Purdue was fine with me.

I like to the think that some of my strongest qualities are that I am open-minded and can see narrow thinking from a mile away. As I have mentioned many times here the first thing that often pops into my mind is “why?”. I have a zest, maybe an infliction, for inquiry. That is what primarily drives this blog. So, as it turns out I can see I have 1,2 and 6 down pat and the other four to lesser degrees.

How about you? Where do you stand on this list?

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I snagged this from a Facebook friend (thanks Joyce)

With all the politics going on here I need some less serious posts. Not that weight gain is less serious :)  but Garfield’s rationality is very amusing. But then again I do have a big head, both literally and figuratively…

What A Croc….

October 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I grabbed this picture off one of my friends Facebook pages. It made me LOL. ;)

I am somewhat new to Crocs, that is the shoes shown above. I just personally discovered them for myself this year. They are very practical for around the homestead in the warm weather months. I like to take strolls through my kingdom in the early morning after I have browsed the Internet and maybe penned a few posts for my blogs. When I do that there seems to be an ever present dew that thoroughly soaks my shoes. With crocs that is not a problem. When I am working in the garden and gotten mud on my shoes it is no problem, just take them off and hose them down.

I love my new found crocs….

Leaves of Grass…

October 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I recently got another copy of the book “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. This one had a thorough description of the history around the book.  It is interesting to see that Whitman continued to edit the poems contained in the book throughout his lifetime.

Here is a little about that from my friends at Wikipedia:

2014-10-05_16-55-03Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent his entire life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first a small book of twelve poems and the last a compilation of over 400 poems.

The poems of Leaves of Grass are loosely connected and each represents Whitman’s celebration of his philosophy of life and humanity. This book is notable for its discussion of delight in sensual pleasures during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral.

I must admit that I struggle with poetry, especially those that don’t rhyme. :)

The point of this post is not so much to discuss the poetry but the process. I, like Whitman, am a tinkerer of my words and thoughts. Sometimes when reviewing past posts I come across something that I believe “must” be changed. Maybe a particular word I chose when the post was published just doesn’t seem right now. Maybe an additional sentence is added.

I do the initial write of most of my posts at least a week before they are published. Changes are usually made right up to the date of release. I guess maybe I am a compulsive when it comes to my words. But I imagine all of us are compulsive in one matter or another. Some need to disagree with everything that didn’t come from them. The “Not invented here” syndrome is along those lines.  Some are compulsive about their beliefs of God.  Many are convinced that they are the only ones to truly know the heart of God so therefore all religions but theirs are just plain wrong. Some others have to have the order of things a very particular way. If it is not they HAVE to change it. I guess when it comes to compulsive things needing just the right words is not a bad one to have.  At least it doesn’t hurt other people.

In the coming weeks I will be working my way through the book “The Leaves of Grass”. I don’t know which addition I have but that doesn’t really matter to me.  I have a highly commentated version to help me interpret the meaning of Whitman’s words. I hope to gain some insight into this very popular author from more than a century ago.

 

2014-08-24_10-27-11Islamic Sharia law was fairly dormant in the Indonesian province of Aceh until a massive earthquake and tsunami struck in 2004, killing more than 130,000. But as residents rebuild, Sharia officers have strengthened their grip, threatening rights of religious minorities and women….

There are two groups that are actually threatened by this formalization of the Sharia. The first group is religious minorities. More than 20 churches are closed down in Aceh over the last two years. They also banned 14 Islamic religious sects, like the Ahmadiyya, the Shia. We didn’t expect that.

The second victim is women. There are various, strange regulations being produced, for instance, banning women from straddling motorcycles. In some areas, women cannot wear pants to go to work or to go to school, which means that it will restrict their mobilities. Ultimately, it will affect their economic rights. Ultimately, it will affect their education.

SOURCE:  Indonesian province turns up Sharia law after devastating tsunami.

The picture above is of women riding around in the back of a pick-up truck looking for people who are not following strict Sharia law. Maybe they are not at the mandatory five-times-a-day prayer, maybe they don’t have sleeves long enough. Maybe they are unescorted young people. Some are chastised, some are caned and some get much worse treatment..

Islamic Sharia law is a combination of religious and government mandated morality. I believe that is the most dangerous kind. To put absolute power of life and death into one particular religious leader is in itself immoral in my mind. But of course that is Islamic Sharia law it very common in the Middle East where we have far too many of our young men and women in the military today.

Should morality be a mandated thing? Should we be told how to act and what to do in matters that only, at least for the most part, affect our personal lives? That question is currently be actively discussed in this country about our current marijuana laws. Two States have decided that the answer is NO. Several others are leaning in that direction. We currently have hundreds of thousand of our citizens in prison on marijuana charges. They are overwhelming our prison system.  Before you jump to any conclusions about my personal actions I will tell you that I have never tried marijuana and I don’t intend to even if it is declared legal.

Yes I’m sure that marijuana use, like alcohol, is an addiction to some but to most it seems to be just a way to relax. If we legalized marijuana and even some other narcotics we would virtually eliminate all the dark criminal organization that are reeking huge profits from its underground use. As learned from Colorado we would also get a robust tax revenue. It seems like a win-win scenario.

Mandating morality just doesn’t seem to work in any world society. Sooner or later, depending on how iron-fisted it is it will be thrown out.  I will purposely leaving the door open here for your thoughts if you care to give them and maybe we can have a lively discussion about this topic.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits

Fanatics will never learn that, though it is written in letters of gold across the sky

It is prohibition that makes things precious.

Mark Twain

 

I have recently come across several sources of what I consider mandating morality. That is trying to force your version of morality on others. Our personal view of morality can come from one person, usually a parent or other authority figure, telling us what we are to believe about this or that. It can come form one group who think they have it right and others need to get it. It can even come from countries that force their citizens to a certain version of morality. Many times it comes from various religious beliefs.

As the quote above from Mark Twain says if you prohibit someone from doing something it just makes that thing seem more desirable to them. Tell a kid he can’t have something and that is usually the first thing he tries to get. Mandating morality often times has the opposite effect than what was intended.

Let’s look at a morality that was mandated in the U.S. almost a century ago

2014-08-24_10-38-18Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun…But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality. Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, and most especially among young women, liquor consumption rocketed, propelling the rest of the culture with it: skirts shortened. Music heated up. America’s Sweetheart morphed into The Vamp.

SOURCE:  Prohibition: About the Series | PBS.

There were many who were convinced that alcohol was the root of all evil. It was the most immoral part of our society. After ten years of trying to push that morality on the country they finally managed to accomplish it with the  18th amendment to the constitution. When that amendment became law many smaller communities who were the most enthusiastic supporters actually closed their local jails! They were convinced that they would no longer be needed.

Of course what banning alcohol actually did was to drive it underground and put it in the hands of very immoral men like Al Capone. It took almost twenty years to finally convince the majority of citizens that outlawing alcohol actually increased crime and its over use.

Yes, I acknowledge that some, due to a genetic makeup, are destroyed by an addiction to alcohol but for the vast majority it is simply a way to get together with others and forget about the drudgery of life for a few hours.  Alcohol is very much ingrained in to the social fabric of life.

Don’t Wonder Why….

October 3, 2014

Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t.

Ok, that is my observation for today. Yeah, some people go over the edge when life overloads them but don’t we all get overloaded one time or another. I know I do. I see things that just don’t make any sense no matter how you look at them:

Violence - The amount of violence in our society simply astounds me! I know Americans are on the whole more aggressive than most other countries but we seem to be unique in expressing that aggression in violent ways. American football is an obsession for many and it is by far the most violent sanctioned sport on this plant. The most popular video games feature someone with a weapon killing the “bad” guys”

Guns - We have a love of guns and weapons of destruction far above almost everyone else in the world. I think we have more guns that people. The primary purpose for guns is to kill something or someone.

War - I don’t think I can even recall all the wars we have been involved with in my lifetime. It seems if we don’t have someone to go to war with we go out and generate some.  We spend more on our military than all the rest of the world combined. How insane is that!!

Narcissism – Narcissism is spending your life concentrating almost totally on yourself. Selfies are an indication of that condition. I try to be an ardent follower of Jesus Christ and when he tells me the two most important things in life are to love God and the love each other. Narcissism is the exact opposite of that.

Greed - The dark side of capitalism is greed. It is endemic to our way of doing business. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and for many that is the way it is supposed to be.

Corruption – Corruption invades too much in our society. It seems that daily there is yet another politician, religious figurehead, or business man who is exposed for corruption.

Incompetence – There are just too many people who think they can make the big bucks with this or that scheme and sadly many do. They would rather cheat and scheme than put in an honest days work. Someone recently, I think it was Steve Jobs, say it that it takes 10,000 trys to become an expert at something. Too many are just not willing to put in the effort. And then there are the current crop of politicians. Too much incompetence among those folks.

Why do we have to face all these stupid things day after day? It’s enough to make anyone crazy. Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t….

Freestyle School….

September 29, 2014

2014-09-15_11-36-46As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?…

The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.  What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? But suppose there is another solution.  That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading.

SOURCE: Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’.

A recent episode on the PBS NewsHour got me to thinking about summer vacation. It is a known fact that students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in classrooms whereas other developed nations spend much more time than that. The reason we have not kept up with increasing our school hours and days is partly because of the resistance from teacher’s unions and partly because we don’t want to spend the extra tax dollars to make it happen.

Summer vacation was born in the early 19th century when most of America was agriculturally based. The family needed all hand available to plant, tend, and harvest the crops during the growing season.  Fast forward to today and that reason for summer school is totally archaic but the tradition of a three-month vacation in summer continues.

One solution to prevent us from falling further behind the rest of the world in the primary education of our youths is to simply extend the current school year beyond its current boundaries. But what are the alternatives? One was mentioned in this report and shown above.  But I kind of got a different approach to it. What if we made the summer session of school freestyle?

By freestyle I mean what if it were used to broaden education or at least help students overcome barriers? What if it emphasized the arts rather than the three “R”s? I think it is generally recognized that creativity will be a driving force that will keep our country a front-runner in the future. But by drowning out creative thinking and concentration only on the mechanics will we be able to keep up our lead in this area?

Just a thought….