Thursday, June 29, 2017


This week's topic was my suggestion. What is education?  Wikipedia says  "Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits." And why should we be educated? To search for truth and improve the human condition? To prepare students to effectively enter the workforce?

Discussion on the purpose of education is as old as civilization itself. A successful society needs folks pulling together at times and yet being independent and thoughtful individually. That means an individuals education needs to be broad enough to teach independence and cooperation - and hopefully to recognize when one's interest is better served by those notions.

My education has been fairly typical for one here in the USA. Primary school - grades k-8 built the basic foundation for more complex subjects in high school. My high school was fairly typical for its time - there was a broad array of subject matter offered so one could supplement the core courseware with "elective" classes, including vocational training. Because of my performance on various tests I was earmarked for college prep type clases, vocational courseware not being practical as I was a three-sport jock (football, wrestling and baseball) so there was always  a conflict with course times. I typically had PE at 7 AM and practices starting a 3PM after school  classes.  Hence I was not a car guy like several friends - I could change tires and put gas in the tank. That is about it.  High school was extremey easy for me although I did have uissues with calculus - math just did not interest me. Luckily my pal Benny (Jim Benson) was a math whiz and I got through it. Interestingly enough, from the ACT and SAT on I typically scored better on the math portions of the tests than the other parts. Go figure.

So in June of 1967 I graduated from Mt Eden High School and prepared to enter college. Wholly unprepared.  But,i was still a decent football player so I muddled through a few years still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. The fact that I had grown up was lost on me. It seems my education focused way to much on grades than on finding something I really cared about. Along the way I failed the physical when trying to join the Army and then got into a huge blowout with a football coach named Les Davis who guaranteed me I would never find a coaching job as long as he had a say about it. Yes - he had that kind of influence but truthfully I actually had very little passion to coach football anyway.

Around that time I developed an interest in Political Science and that became my major - I earned a BA in 1973 afte being a part-time student while working several part time jobs after being married in 1972. But what to do with that degree? I did not (and do not) have the patience to teach. I toyed with the notion of law school until 1976 when Lynn was offered a promotion to New England. So off we went to the far side of the planet - where the ocean was in the wrong direction but lobster (Lynn's favorite) was plentiful.

Why - you may ask am I chronicling this experience? I was still looking for something that I could be passionate about. As luck would have it just as I was figuring that out we were offered a chance to move back to California, Adios Connecticut - hello Hermosa Beach. Oh - and Lynn was pregnant so that was added to the equation. Suddenly family responsibilities trumped job passion. Adios Broadcasting School - no dejay job in the future. Russ the Moose Syracuse's  would remain the top all night dejay ever IMHO.  Russ the Moose Syracuse It is somewhat ironic that one who hates to fly s much as I do  would happily join the nightly midnight flight captained  by Russ the Moose.

Long story short, in November of 1977 I started working at RadioShack in Marina del Rey.  Electronics became the closest thing to a  passion I would ever discover.

My point in this rambling is to simply say that education  must be designed to challenge students and make them curious. To peak their curiosity and point them in a direction that sparks their passion. Exactly how that is done is the topic for another discussion, While the world still sends students here to learn, our own students are falling behind. Our technical institutes of higher learning are populated more and more by Asian students. The American way still works for those willing to work at it.

And whaa do my cohorts have to say?  Check them out - Ramana, Pravin, Maria, and  Ashok

Friday, June 23, 2017

Melting Pot

This weeks topic was suggested by Ramana. Melting pots.  Merriam Webster defines a melting pot as a place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole. 

That sounds great, but does it really work? For years we in the USA were cited as a shining example of a successful melting pot. 
For decades ethnic peo[les flocked to America for work, landing in geographic locations that matched their existing job skills. In other words they went where they were needed, some eventually staying and some  going back to their original homeland when the available jobs plateaued. Those that remained  essentially assimilated into the culture here, while still maintaining their own national identities. That is why there are pockets of ethnic groups in cities all over the USA. States reflect the ethnicity of the early immigrants. And of course the American Southwest shows the Mexican influence that has existed since most of the Southwest was part of Mexico.

After several generations assimilation is complete - Italians become Italian-Americans, Poles become Polish Americans and so on. But do old ethnic rivalries remain in the new American's minds? Are new rivalries created? How are they created?

One obvious problem these days is the terrorism of radical segments of Islam. Suddenly, so-called Christians that lived in peace with Muslims suggest - in fact scream - that the Muslim faith is one of violence and hatred. And Mexicans have been vilified by POTUS 45 from his campaign and even still. Mexicans steal jobs from American workers and are responsible for the decline and fall of the once enormous middle class if one is to believe POTUS 45 and his followers.

Has the lid been put on the melting pot? Is he recipe so complete that there is no more room at the Inn? Or is this a temporary situation brought on by the current political climate?  

Having spent decades in California and Texas I have known and lived/worked with many Mexicans, both legal and illegals. You would be hard pressed to find a harder working, more conservative group of people. Yet they are feared by the right wing political pundits as they are assumed to be (the legal ones anyway) left wing voters. Interesting.

The fear of Muslim immigrants is easier to understand. They are easy to identify ethnically and remember what we did to Japanese Americans in WWII.  Muslim immigrants/refugees are fleeing horrible conditions and as we have seen in  Europe there has been a significant amount of terrorism linked to their communities, although a concerning number of terror events are from second generation folks, so a significant percentage of Americans are for a ban on Muslim immigration even beyond the temporary ban called for by POTUS 45.

So here we are - the once great melting pot that has suddenly boiled over and has had a lid slammed on it. And what does that do to our national identity throughout the world? Is the extreme  nationalism touted by Steve Bannon and POTUS 45 damaging the perception of the USA around the world? Clearly Bannon hopes so - he is after all trying to tear down the system. One can only hope cooler heads will prevail, but we are still a melting pot of sorts and hopefully that will not change. Otherwise France may want to repossess the Statue of Liberty.

Please check my cohorts on their blogs to see what they have to say - RamanaMaria, Pravin and Ashok.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Angels and demons

Image result for Angel and Devil ConscienceThis weeks topic - angels and demons - was suggested by Pravin, Besides being an excellent prequel to Dan Brown's terrific novel The DaVinci Code, angels and demons make a good metaphor for the notion of choices in life. Choices both good and bad, the important notion being the choice is ours to  make. It's that pesky free will thing. We get to make our own choices.  Some might go so far as to say we  have to make our own choices and others might say their god makes the choice. Those folks lay it all of on god. Anything good is the will of god, anything bad is their bad choice. With free will comes responsibility - and in  theory we make thoughtful decisions based on the available information. At least in a perfect world we do. Sometimes. Of course the minefield of life certainly keeps us on our toes - until we manage to blow those toes off with a misstep.Dang – life can be complicated can’t it?  Oh well – it would be boring otherwise IMHO. What fun would that be? The eternal struggle of our conscience = do this – no, do that  - and so on. And now you know where my saying “Life’s a bitch, Then you die” comes from. The ongoing WWE tussle in my brain literally wears me out sometimes. Not often, mind you, but certainly on occasion. It is my contention we live our lives largely by habit – not having to ponder every decision, simply keeps us functioning and allows us to ponder those things which require pondering. Chicken or fish for dinner, white or red. Lager or stout. Glenlivet or Macallan - or a nice blend like Johnnie Walker Blue.
Now about that  conscience thing. The part of us that helps us distinguish between right and wrong - the repository of that set of principles/values hat guide our moral judgments. We all have one. Its that thing that, hopefully as the late Christopher Hitchens said helps us make the right decision when nobody is looking.  Some conscience comes from a religious view, some from a secular viewpoint.
One of the growing fights these days is the battle between globalists and the national populist movements being waged  politically. In many folks the conscience has not yet advanced beyond national borders. While his weeks blog is not intended to address that issue, merely point out its existence, one sill cannot but hope more folks come around to a global vision IMHO. The planet grows smaller every day and is it really such a leap to go from the US B9ill of Rights to "Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination."  How does our conscience help shape our consciousness?? Alas, I am  afraid that is the cliffhanger for this weeks topic (at least foe me).
As you may have noticed, I am typically of  late the only LBC blogger posting from a western state of mind. This weeks comments from my cohorts should be interesting.  Ramana, Pravin, Maria and  Ashok.

See ya next week, same bat time; same bat channel. RIP Adam West.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Creationism vs evolution.

Its line in the sand time. Science  or religion. God or nature. Or is it that simple? While briefly researching the Creation side of the equation I was surprised by the number of competing Creation theories out there. They all share the notion that God created man and the universe, but they vary in the details  on how it was accomplished. (mainly the timeframe).

What we generally accept as the theory of evolution comes from Charles Darwin and involves natural selection - sometimes called survival of the fittest.  Darwin proposed what has become the most famous/infamous notion - common ancestry - that drives the discussion/debate/argument.  Surely you have heard the "man comes from the ape" discussion at least once and heard it severely critiqued by fundamentalist  Christians. That is NOT part of the equation - simply what we these days call fake news. Man and chimps/apes share 98% common genetic makeup. Oh - and 50% of our genetic makeup is the same as a banana. Watch out for offended vegans denying  the banana comes from man argument that just might occur. It might also explain this -

Gotta keep your sense of humor in these matters - and that's a cool song from my perhaps misspent youth.

If pressed on the matter I have to admit that I see evolution as a legitimate mechanism an intelligent creator might use to further his/her agenda. I especially see the fact that evolution creates imperfect things and that fits with the model an  intelligent designer  that creates beings as imperfect as humans and demands absolute fealty - even though those beings were given free will to think and act on their own. I am not so unsure of the existence of  an intelligent designer to  categorically state there is none. I simply do not know nor do I possess a degree of faith - as do several friends - to categorically state there is an intelligent designer. Call it God if you choose. People that know me understand my stance on God is best summed up by U2. If you are new to me simply click on the U2 link.

Back to the topic at hand. Given a choice, I fall on the evolution side of the equation. There is simply an overwhelming amount of  scientific evidence - commonly called facts - to convince me. The earth and humanity are older than 6,000 years. And, even the old earth creationists do not convince me they are correct. I'll stick with inquisitive guys like Neil deGrasse Tyson who are constantly searching for answers. I am confident the answers will be found eventually. If my faithful friends are correct, though, it is not likely to happen in my lifetime so I'd better get used to some heat.

I also realize this is a topic better suited to a more detailed discussion than this little weekly blog allows. Anyone wishing to have  more detailed discussion with me on this issue is free to contact me.

This week's topic was my idea.  To see where my cohorts stand on the issue please check their blogs at the following links - RamanaPravinMaria and Ashok.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Language - the spin starts here. In a world where up means down, black is white and spin is massive, we are expected to understand things being communicated to us. The following definition seems to fit - "the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way". There are some 6500 spoken languages, many with as few as 1000 speakers.  Then there are other languages - those used to program  computers for example. The world of languages is large and diverse.

Various areas may speak the same language - lets use English as an example. Britain, Scotland, Canada, the USA, Ireland, Australia an New Zealand all speak English but there are substantial differences in how the language is spoken in each country.  And consider the different  dialects available in each country.

Once, years ago, I was driving across the country whilst moving from Northern California to Connecticut. I needed  to make a gas stop in West Virginia. I grabbed my Diners Club card and asked the attendant if they accepted Diners Club at the station. He replied we take Donners Club. I was baffled - was this a local card? I checked the door and saw the Diner Club sticker and held my card up to the guy and said "Diners?" - He replied yep - Donners.  I quickly filled my tank and headed off to the next stop - my old friend Stuart's place in New Jersey. Luckily Stu and I had been friends since we were 11 or so and he spent  summers visiting his cousins - our neighbors. So I could speak fluent  Joisey and Stu was fluent in Ca hippy speak. After Stuart's place the next stop was our future home - New England (Rocky Hill, Connecticut). Of course each state in New England has a different dialect.

One of the best things associated with being an avid reader is the discovery of a real wordsmith - an author who can really evoke emotions and feelings in his/her work. Most of my regular readers know I am a huge mystery buff and find the observations on the human condition in that genre equally as valid if not more so than so-called real literature. I have read very few authors as adept and skillful as Dana Stabenow in her Kate Shugak mystery series set in Alaska. Playwrites and screenwriters can see the success or failure of their scripts rise nd fall on their use of language.

Spoken language is even more interesting to me. A speaker's voice can  set a tone almost immediately.

Listen to the difference in the voice of the actor who played Darth Vader (David Prowse)  and the actor who\voiced Darth Vader (James Earl Jones).

In politics often the person who can best manipulate language and put the best spin on a topic and even win the election - against all odds. Just ask POTUS 45.

Verbal language skills are often showcased in debate. Skilled debaters are fun to watch. They employ a number of tactics to control their topic. I was good at increasing the volume of my words and could intimidate many of the other team. In one class I apologized for the tactics at the end of the quarter, Several classmates were livid and claimed the entire class a waste. The professor asked them how it was a waste of time when in every debate he consciously put me on the side of the topic he knew I opposed in real life yet my team constantly one. The nature of the exercise dawned on them and all was well. Listen to the late William F. Buckley in debate some time. Just enter his name in the YouTube search window and pick one.

And last but not least there is the language of music. Music has been called the universal language. There is a song for every emotion. Here are a few examples - just click on the link to hear the song that fits the emotion (try Excited)


Effective use and understanding language can go a long  way to your leading a happy, productive life.
Our topic this week was suggested by Ramana. Check our other bloggers and see how they tackled the subject.

RamanaPravinMaria and Ashok