I love stories, both old and new. One of my favorites is told in the movie Apollo 13. The most iconic line from the film was spoken by Flight Director Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris):
“Failure is not an option.”
In spite of this statement, however, the entire movie (up to the end) chronicles a series of repeated failures. The initial failure of the spacecraft is followed by successive failures to find the fixes necessary to bring the astronauts safely home. Only by repeatedly working through a myriad of failed responses is success achieve. …
Those of us who were blessed with the task of raising children likely taught them an important lesson:
No name calling.
We taught our kids this lesson for the same reason there is an official week dedicated to the effort (No Name-Calling Week) … to instill an attitude of universal respect for each and every human being.
Name-calling, unfortunately, has not been eradicated or for that matter even significantly reduced in spite of our parental strictures. Undoubtedly the lessons may have been poorly taught, or in some cases not taught at all. But perhaps there is a different explanation, one…
Jack and the Beanstalk is a well-known English fairy tale that first appeared in print in 1734. Researchers believe the story may have originated at least 5000 years ago, around 3000 BC. This was well after the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution (10,000 years ago) that transformed humankind’s hunter-gatherer existence into one based on agriculture and settlement.
Hunter-gatherer clans had little need for giant settlements or giant bureaucracies or giant armies. Their only fear was the occasional giant creature. By 3000 BC truly massive civilizations were developing all around the world. …
Some years ago, a friend (now departed) and I were having one of our serious bull sessions over dinner and Jack Daniels. Our conversation that evening turned to what we both perceived as a paucity of “grownup” public discourse. We had both previously followed Robert Bly’s conversations about the need for what Bly termed the “mature masculine”. Though Bly has written extensively on the masculine, many ideas about “missing adulthood” in modern America can be found in his book The Sibling Society: An Impassioned Call for the Rediscovery of Adulthood. Though nearly twenty-five years old, it’s still worth reading.
Prior to 1765, the American colonies were left largely to govern themselves. Britain attempted to enforce stricter authority following the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. The American colonies, unfortunately for Britain, had become accustomed to self-government over the course of the previous 150 years. You heard right … 150 years.
The 150-year period of self-governance resulted in stable and confident governments, and a collective identity separate from Britain. The historical reasons for this period of so-called salutary neglect are still debated in historical circles, likely a combination of conscious policies, imperial malfeasance, and luck.
I love our Declaration of Independence. Perhaps it’s because I’m an American and it’s been so deeply imprinted into our collective psyche. The Declaration defines how we Americans view freedom and liberty, not just for ourselves but for all of humanity.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In the TV series Kung Fu (1972–75), an orphaned young boy is raised and trained to become a Shaolin priest before embarking on a journey through the American West. An elder mentor is the boy’s guide to adulthood. Training by his blind master often included the advice:
Patience, young grasshopper.
One of the ironies of aging is that for many of us, we experience a weird enhancement — even an acceleration — of patience. As someone rounding out my seventh decade circling the sun, I would have thought that quite the opposite would occur. …
At this point, we political junkies are agonizing over the presidential election currently underway. We’re watching the polls, monitoring early voting statistics, and listening to the drivel that candidates and the media are spouting.
Though suspense hangs heavy in the air, I find myself (as befits a hard-core intuitive type) contemplating US politics after the election. In particular I’ve been speculatively considering what might happen to Republicans after November 3. Will the Republican Party
When the US constitution was ratified in 1788 there were no political parties, though two quickly formed: Federalist and Democratic-Republican. Since then, there have always been two major parties in American politics. Since the Civil War, Republicans and Democrats have exclusively dominated the political landscape.
It is unfortunate that our system of single-member districts and plurality voting seems to naturally lead to a two-party duopoly (Duverger’s Law). First-past-the-post plurality systems with single member districts provide no reward for second place. Consequently, minor party and independent candidates are discouraged from running, and citizens are discouraged from “wasting” their votes.
Early in our nation’s history, Congress set the date for Electoral College meetings to be the first Wednesday in December, further requiring that states choose their electors within the prior 34 days.
It was not until 1845, though, that Congress established a uniform election day, setting it 29 days before the Electoral College meeting. The Electoral College meeting date was later moved to the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. But the Tuesday election date in early November stuck — i.e., the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Why Tuesday? Why early November? …
Retired engineer; former university faculty; sometime statewide political candidate; part-time raconteur and provocateur.