Category Archives: Random Thoughts

The three gifts the Magi brought to the Christ Child.

Doing the best with what one is given

Merry Christmas everyone! If you do not observe Christmas, have a wonderful time anyway. This season of the year marks a turning point from darkness to light – the Winter Solstice – a good time to celebrate however few or many blessing we have been given.

A story and a song can illustrate:

The Parable of the Talents

A rich man needed to go on a trip. Just before his departure, he gave five coins (which were called talents in the old days) to one servant, two coins to another, and one coin to a third. Upon his return he asked his servants for an accounting of the coins. Two servants had used the bounty well and returned double the amount of coins – 10 and 4 coins respectively. The third servant, uncertain and fearful, had hid his one coin, and that is all he had. (Matthew 25:14).

This parable could be the origin of the saying “What have you done with what you were given.” If blessing are used well, they turn into bigger blessings. If there is lack of faith, distrust, and fearfulness, blessings are wasted.

The Little Drummer Boy

The Nativity Story tells of the great gifts the Child Christ received from three Kings: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. A Christmas carol tells of another equally significant gift. Here are two of the verses from The Little Drummer Boy.

Little baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our king
Pa rum pum pum pum,

I played my drum for him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
Then he smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum

The drummer boy is “a poor boy too,” just like the Baby in the manger who has no crib for a bed. All he has is his drum, which one is left to imagine whether that is his work tool in battle. He did very well with what he was given, though!

He smiled at me … Me and my drum.

Pictured: The Gifts of the Three Kings, gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is a screen shot from a beautiful 18-minute dramatization of the Nativity story, found on the Light of the World website. Watch the movie. Note the subtle expressions of acceptance of circumstances, and determination to rise above by doing what needs to be done.

Alice In Wonderland and the Twins

Read till you come to the end: then stop

Has your highschooler read Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass? Not Walt Disney’s or other abridged versions, but the original Lewis Carroll, illustrated with the fantastical drawings of John Tenniel. The original Through the Looking Glass delights with the quirky poem Jabberwocky. Here is a sample,

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

… and the equally zany The Walrus and the Carpenter — one of the best verses for sample,

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

Cautionary tales

Good heavens, you might say, read such nonsense when there is so much strife and challenges in the world?

Well, yes. If your kid can read Through the Looking Glass cover to cover at his own pace and find it fascinating, then he is playing chess while others are playing checkers.

Also, if the reader uses her imagination to turn the “nonsense” into cautionary tales, then she is ready for life’s challenges! Let’s consider tricky folks one of life’s difficulties – like Mr. Walrus and Mr. Carpenter. These snippets from the poem summarize the situation well,

O Oysters, come and walk with us!’
The Walrus did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.’

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Guess what happened to the gullible little oysters.

O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.”

Alas, innocents that believe in wondrous promises from the powerful.

The mathematician who wrote children’s books

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, born in Daresbury, Cheshire, England, in 1832. He died in 1898. He is known for Alice in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871), although he wrote other books, short stories, and poems. His other most-often mentioned works are Bruno’s Revenge (1867), The Hunting of the Snark (1876), and A Tangled Tale (1885).

Carroll was not only a prolific writer, but also a mathematician, logician, photographer, and Anglican deacon. He taught mathematics and logic at Christ Church, Oxford, and wrote several mathematical books under his birth name. His mathematical puzzles are sometimes included in puzzle books. His most-often mentioned mathematical book is An Elementary Treatise on Determinants with their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Geometry (1867).

A whole lot of Carroll’s writings and puzzles were intended to teach children math and logic. His work can still do so today. The popular website Teachers Pay Teachers is just one of the several that have materials related to Lewis Carroll’s works for younger children as well as for highschoolers. Lesson Planet has good material on Lewis Carroll as well.

Gee, this book is long!

The last chapter of Alice in Wonderland has useful advice for readers of long books,

“There’s more evidence to come yet, please your Majesty,” said the White Rabbit, jumping up in a great hurry: “this paper has just been picked up …” “it’s a set of verses …” “Read them,” said the King. The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty,” he asked.

Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

Alice at the Trial

Poor children

World without Roe v Wade: Mommy left to die?

Roe vs. Wade as well as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey might soon be on the chopping block, which has unleashed fury from the left and contentment from the right. The left’s fury is understandable – overturning Roe messes with a lot that women have taken for granted in the last 50 years. The situation on the right seems more difficult to understand.

The majority of conservatives oppose abortion, often declaring that life begins at conception and must be protected from that time on. Great, but whose life? Not all conservatives include in their declarations that there should be exceptions to protect maternal life.

Abortion should be made illegal throughout the United States. No exceptions. Bo Hines, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, North Carolina.

Perhaps Hines has in other occasions better explained his position, and perhaps he does consider maternal life as important as fetus life.

However, Hines’ statement, as well as those of other conservatives speaking on abortion, are the kind of thing that could upend the 2022 midterm elections. That is, unless most conservative women have not heard of maternal risks during pregnancy either.

Here are three of the most serious potential risks to refresh their memory:

Ectopic pregnancy: No way either Baby or Mom can survive without intervention like surgery to remove the fetus or medication to stop the fetus from growth.

Preeclampsia: This used to be called “toxemia.” It is very high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The only cure for severe preeclampsia is to give birth. If the Baby is viable, all might be well. If it is not, either Mom will survive but Baby will not, or both will die.

Detached placenta: As the name implies, the placenta separates from the uterus, preventing Baby from getting nutrition and oxygen. If severe enough, Mom can only be saved by giving birth to Baby, regardless of gestation time.

These risks are common knowledge. Nothing controversial about them. So, conservatives need to show they are aware that if abortions are completely banned, attending physicians might be placed in the position of deciding who gets killed – Mom or Baby – and whether or not to risk their medical career by not letting Mom die.

As an aside, another issue that conservatives might want to clarify is that Planned Parenthood does more than “kill babies.” It provides education and contraceptives that help the less affluent avoid abortions and plan the size of their families.

Picture: The featured picture above is from a series of photographs by Jon Dominis, published by Life Magazine in its January 31, 1964, issue in an essay titled “The Valley of Poverty.”

Immigrants Still Build Empires

Random thought: Is the Woke crowd underestimating the intelligence of immigrants unwittingly or purposefully to fulfill some agenda?

Actions that should bring this question to mind are not new. All children up to their late teen years have quick little brains that learn languages adequately when plunged into a new language environment, yet “bilingual education” treats them like slow learners sometimes for years. Politicians and the media lump immigrants into the category of “people of color,” and relegate that group to the helpless people pile. Progressives express astonishment when naturalized Latino citizens vote for non-progressive candidates (as so many voted for Donald Trump) thereby ignoring the progressive mandate.

Immigrants have gone from being viewed as the builders of America, the captains of industry and culture to being the victims of “white supremacy.” Are our children learning about Andrew Carnegie and Isabel Allende? How about Sandra Cisneros and her classic The House on Mango Street?

One of the most important themes of The House on Mango Street is the power of words. Esperanza first learns that the lack of language (especially English) means powerlessness, as with Mamacita, who is trapped in her apartment by her ignorance and fear of English. This leads to Esperanza understanding the power of controlling language, which first comes through the idea of names. Litcharts – The House on Mango Street

Words and language are immensely powerful tools. Control language, control our personal destiny. Control language, control the populace. Repeat enough times words like “white supremacy,” and even putdowns sound like fighting words for equity and justice:

We are prioritizing antiracist arts instruction in our work,” department director Sam Bass told ABC7. “The use of so many acronyms within the educational field often tends to alienate those who may not speak English to understand the acronym. Newsweek, 02/02/21

And not capable to inquire, find out, get acquainted with an acronym?

In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky’s manual for radical change, he says,

The general idea here is that purity about tactics is a luxury that only the already powerful can afford; that doesn’t mean anything goes, but it does mean that the undesirability of a particular means has to be weighed against the gravity of the injustice being fought.

The organizers first job is to create the issues or problems, and organizations must be based on many issues. The organizer must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression. He must search out controversy and issues, rather than avoid them, for unless there is controversy people are not concerned enough to act. . . . An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent.

If erasing the past, creating issues, and cornering as many groups as possible into a corner of helplessness furthers a cause, so be it.

Pictured: Beto Perez (standing), immigrant from Colombia and founder of the enormously successful Zumba aerobics routines.

Childhood: You blink and you miss it

This is Just Vote No editor sharing random thoughts on a place in Northern California that exemplifies fun for all families: Casa de Fruta. For the more well off, yes, bring your wallet since there is lots to buy. For the less well off, enjoy the grounds without an entrance fee and a reasonably priced lunch.

At present, the grounds feature a store filled with food and wine, restaurant, pond, water wheel, and playground. Additionally, there are real old-time farm equipment on display. How many children know about a hand-operated water pump? [This writer’s family once had a hand-operated water pump in the back yard. The family took turns pumping water to drink, cook, and wash.]

But the children’s highlights are closed until the County says it is OK to re-open.

Visit Casa de Fruta – Store Hours

For how long? How many little ones will miss out? Is the lockdown worth it?

Childhood comes but once. You blink and you miss it. You shut down schools, playgrounds, and carrousels and childhood pays the price. Children whose families earn minimum wage – or nowadays no wage at all, pay the highest price. The legacy of the Covid-19 lockdowns will reverberate for a long time to come.

October 25, 2020

In Those Days There Was Magic

An Editor’s Note About the Old Days:

There is a difference between magic and delusion. In the old days, we kids experienced magic, wonder. There was no TV, laptops, no IPhones, no video games. So, we had time to explore the world. Those lucky enough to have bikes rode them to where someone said there was a huge ant hill or some birds’ eggs in the grass. Those without bikes played tag or hide & seek, or jumped rope.

When I was about six or seven, my parents and I lived in a neighborhood filled with huge old houses. It was a changing place. Some houses were still occupied by the original families. Some were converted into apartments or rooming houses. Some were empty. The once opulent but still well off mingled every Sunday at the farmers’ market with the poor working families. You had to mingle if you wanted to hear, and even discuss, the news of the neighborhood.

One day, one of the kids breathlessly brought the news that the front door of one of the big houses up on the hill was wide open and inside, on one of the walls of the huge front room was a movie screen alive with a Laurel and Hardy movie. Without thinking twice, we all dashed up the hill and made ourselves at home, sitting on the clean polished wood floor watching the movie.  There was no furniture or other obstructions. But soon it was time to go home. The rule was immutable for all of us: home in time for dinner.

There was no schedule or rhyme or reason. We just knew that once in a while the front door of the big house was open, the floor was shinny and spotless, and the Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy movies were playing. Some of us told our parents about it. The response was always, “Oh, that old house is empty. Nobody lives there.”

Since nobody stayed past time for dinner, nobody ever knew when the movies stopped. We just knew they must have stopped at some time because the door was closed the next day.

No one questioned the strangeness of the situation. No one feared or investigated. For all everyone knew, it was magic, and that was that.

Little girls jumping rope

Oil foes do not like kids’ plastic toys

WatermelonGreen deals are popping up like dandelions.  Left-leaning folks are ready to downright ban oil.  No more fossil fuels!  No more fracking!  To be responsibly green, we will need to do a lot more than what is common sense like investing in clean, effective and useful transit systems.

Aside from the question whether we need to anticipate flying in solar-powered airplanes, we also need to reflect on how many things around the house we will need to replace when oil becomes prohibitively expensive or just plain unavailable.

Of course, our toddler’s toys, eating utensils, backyard kiddie pool, and playground slides will need to go away.  Disposable diapers will be a problem — outer shell is plastic.  Crayons — oil based.

Also to depart will be the cheap bag of fertilizer we use for our potted plants.  Inexpensive T-shirts will need to be replaced by cotton or maybe even Irish linen.  Regarding shoes, we will have to face a huge dilemma, since the alternative to synthetic might be leather from little innocent cows.

Vaseline, lipstick, nail polish — all petroleum based.

So, when a candidate for office says at a neighborhood town hall that she would suspend all fossil fuel drilling leases for offshore and public lands, start worrying about all those T-shits and sneakers.

Oh, but wait, the U.S. imports like 70% of all that stuff anyway, so we would not need domestic oil, right?  Other countries can increase their oil production to make up for the U.S. decrease, no?  Oh, that will fight global warming how, again?


Why Calvin Coolidge

Why Calvin Coolidge?

CoolidgeThese days we certainly hear a lot about Lincoln, Roosevelt, Obama, Trump.  How about Coolidge?

“Silent Cal,” so named because he spoke only when it was absolutely necessary, is admired by small-government advocates and ignored by central planners.  In his address delivered to the Holy Name Society, Washington DC, 1924, Coolidge expressed the ultimate liberty-leaning rule:

Liberty is not collective, it is personal. All liberty is individual liberty.

It is your serfdom or liberty.  It is your choice.  It is your vote.  Your vote puts candidates, good or bad, into office.  Your vote determines the laws under which you live.

Your vote also determines your take-home pay, how much of what you earn is available to purchase and invest by yourself and your family.  Here is another favorite Coolidge quote from his 1925 inaugural address,

The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager.

Sheep: The Animal That Fell From Grace

Sheep:  The Animal That Fell From Grace

Flock of sheep 3There is a reason why you may know a lot of people who keep guard dogs, but none who keep guard sheep.

Sheep Logic, an article by W. Ben Hunt published in Epsilon Theory, gives a fascinating account of sheep behavior. After you read the article, you will have a better understanding why there are no guard sheep, why there is a distinction between a flock and a pack, and why today people are encouraged to fall into flocks not packs.

Here is a summary of sheep protocol according to Dr. Hunt:

*Sheep are other-regarding. Their actions are prompted by what they see other sheep do.

*Sheep have zero capacity for altruism. They do not form bonds, they do not lead, nor do they follow. They just do not care!

*Sheep’s other-regarding and selfishness continue even when such traits prove unbeneficial to them. If no outside event prompts any sheep to discontinue a detrimental behavior, the entire flock continues the behavior.

*Sheep’s flocks are social structures that promote other-awareness, and preclude coordination or formation of objectives. Flocks, therefore, differ sharply from packs, since the hallmark of pack animals is a self awareness that encourages a social structure formed to carry out common objectives, such as hunting for food or raising the young.

Do people resemble sheep or wolves today?

According to Ben Hunt, people today are encouraged to behave like sheep – other-regarding, selfish, dogmatic, and “willing to pursue a myopic behavior even unto death.”

“Why are we being trained to think like sheep? Because sheep are wonderful prey animals. They pay the rent with their fleece, and when push comes to shove you can eat them, too.” “Just keep them from killing themselves in some really stupid accident and you can harvest them for years and years and years.”

“How are we trained to think like sheep? By the rewards we receive from our modern social institutions for other-regarding flock behaviors like jealousy (feeling sad when others are glad) and schadenfreude (feeling glad when others are sad), and by the penalties we receive for self-regarding pack behaviors like honor and shame.” “Shame requires self-evaluation and self-judgment against some standard of obligation to the pack, concepts which would make sheep laugh if they could.”

This Biblical animal certainly loses its cuddliness at the hands of Dr. Hunt, though it continues to illustrate human deportment well.

(Sheep Logic, authored by Dr. W. Ben Hunt, appeared on Epsilon Theory, on October 5, 2017)

Does Political Correctness Have Limits?

The Difference

There is a world of difference between civility and political correctness (PC).  Civility is thoughtful behavior towards everyone.  PC is prescribed, agenda-driven speech and action that applies to some but not to others.  Civility comes from the inside, while PC is prompted from the outside.

Increasingly, PC is taking the place of civility.  PC harshly censors our speech, actions, and even thoughts.  Dare to call for discipline in a classroom, and the label of “privileged” soon follows.  Dare to criticize the work of a self-identified-female employee, the label of “sexist” immediately arises.  Oh, and calling anyone female or male without the qualifying “self-identified” borders on the self destructive.

The Advocates

Advocates of PC say they want to level the playing field, promote equality of outcomes, compensate for privilege.  At first blush, such objectives might even sound laudable.  But the problem is political correctness does not recognize limits.

The Example

Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron (1961) paints a world towards which PC advocates might be takings us all, a world in which the new and improved American Constitution prescribes complete equality for all.

In Vonnegut’s dystopian world nobody can be smarter, more talented or prettier than the rest.  Laws force people to wear “handicaps,” such as masks for the beautiful, sound to disrupt thought for the intelligent, and bags filled with lead balls for the strong and/or agile.

Here is Vonnegut’s idea of a domestic dialogue in the age of complete fairness:

“You been so tired lately — kind of wore out,” said Hazel.  “If there were just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls.  Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George.  “I don’t call that a bargain.”…

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it — and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else…”

The Consequences

And here is a concern related in an article on U.S. about the downward trends of math and English scores as measured by college-readiness tests:

“Much more concerning, however, were readiness levels in math and English, which continued a downward slide dating to 2014.  This year [2018], math scores dropped to a 20-year low.”

“The news reignited concerns over whether there is a mismatch between what students learn in school and what college entrance exams ask of them, whether tests are an accurate barometer of college readiness, and — from an equity standpoint — whether the tests present an advantage to those with more means.”

Rich BoyHopefully colleges will not further waste parents and/or taxpayers’ money carrying out studies on whether “those with more means” have advantages over those without, since we all know that to be the case already.  Such advantages will always exist … that is unless legislators decide to really level the playing field by creating the position of “Handicapper General” as those in Kurt Vonnegut’s story did.