eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Tuesday, February 28

The Real State of the Union

This guy seems to think we've taken a wrong direction in foreign policy and have our priorities mixed up. I didn't get through all of it nor have I read The State of the Union 2006. I just wanted to get links to them set up for my future reference.

Are you nice?

What does nice mean?

Is it politeness? Is it doing minor good things? Can a person be "nice" and "bad"? Could they generally seem kind to most people and then go off on a murderous rampage? Could they be nice and just not very good?

Wiki says "pleasant, pretty".

A friend says "generous, caring, sensitive".

What does it mean to be generous?

to be continued...

Kinky Friedman for Governor

With a name like that, how could I NOT vote for him?

Seriously, though, I don't even know what I'd want the ideal candidate to believe, so it seems a bit irresponsible on my part to vote at all.

Kinky says pretty clearly what his "issues" are - more money to schools, toward health insurance for poor children, and toward "renewable energy". He also wants to de-emphasize TAKS tests. He doesn't say where the money is to come from or what should be done to make education better or less worse. He doesn't make any argument for why people should think the way he does about the issues. I guess that's someone else's job.

The whole structure of schools seems bad to me. The idea that kids of the same age will necessarily be ready to learn the same things at the same times just seems ridiculous. It's hard to care about specific policies like TAKS when it all seems so messed up. With the bizarre way things are run, I guess I can see where TAKS might have been a serious attempt to help those in the poorest schools. I know that some people think that "money" is what is needed, but that isn't everything. There have been some fantastic teachers who have done well in poorer districts - it had a lot more to do with their attitudes than with how rich their school district was. I guess in the absence of such attitudes, money is the next best thing. Except, it's a poor 2nd place.

For an example of what I mean, check out Marva Collins. Her methods seem rather heavy handed - and yet they have made a huge (positive) difference in the lives of children. Such methods might not be appropriate for every child, but I wonder if they're the only hope for some children.

Tuesday, February 21


In my more recent research (my fancy term for frantically following whatever links and reading whatever articles catch my interest), I ran across something that particularly resonated with some ideas I've thought a lot about in the past.

Leadership without Vision

I'd like to start with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald that sums up the essence of leading in an unpredictable market: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind, at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
That's what you have to do as a leader in an unpredictable market. You have to think that you're right to act. You have to know that you're wrong, because all knowledge is provisional, and yet you must act. How do you do that?

It's not only leaders of unpredictable markets who have to act while knowing they're wrong. It's most everyone. Everyone else acts while under the illusion that they aren't wrong. By wrong, I mean that a person's understanding of reality isn't complete and can't be. At best one might have a lot of important things close enough to right to accomplish something good.

How do you go about choosing which of several potential visions of your life is your best option? Can you really have such a vision?

When looking at a far off vision that doesn't quite "work" yet can it help to do indirect things to make your own ability to solve problems better? Shouldn't your "vision" change sometimes according to the knew knowledge and skills you've gained (or come to realize you don't possess and don't care to posses)?

What do you think of the idea when "stuck" of exploring things randomly to get unstuck? Is there a more efficient way to get unstuck? Explore randomly and then apply it to the current situation?

The article goes on to talk about criticism - how it's needed and yet difficult to accept. One thing that has come to mind is that fear is a big part of the problem - fear that you won't be able to cope with your new "improved" vision, or understanding, of reality. There may be good reasons for this fear. It may take skills and knowledge and abilities you don't think you have. Then what?

So at its heart, the key to leading in an unpredictable world, is tenacity. It's about never mistaking an interim defeat for final defeat. It's about never confusing a victory with ultimate victory. It's about keeping going, keeping learning, keeping revising, and knowing if you go at it long enough, you can win.

I have thought of tenacity as sticking with something and accomplishing it or continuing to try whether that something is good or not. I imagine it being like a guy persistently beating his head on a wall to knock it down. It might be tenacious, but is it good?

Professor Sull's description is a bit different. It combines stick-to-it-ness with learning and revising. The guy things about bringing in some heavy machinery or some dynamite but then he remembers that the point of his effort was to get to the other side of the wall and walks around it.

Monday, February 20

What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Do you say what you think people want to hear? Do you do things to please them?

Do you relish in saying that which they don't want to hear? In doing what they don't want you to do?

Or are you indifferent to what people think?

Should anyone care what people think?

Early on as a parent, I had the idea that if I wanted to do a good job of bringing up my kids, I ought to know something about the parenting of particularly "good" people. At the time, by good I meant having one or more of the following qualities: productiveness, creativity, inventiveness, courage, intelligence, honesty.

Although I didn't think of it explicitly at the time, I think I would have included "famous". I didn't mean that I necessarily wanted my children to be famous. I think I inadvertantly linked famous with being particularly good.

I did a bit of research on the childhoods of a few famous people. I learned some very interesting things although I only read about two people before abandoning the project. I'll try to say more about the limited results I came across sometime.

I still have a certain fascination for knowing about the childhoods of people and especially "good" people although my description of "good" would be a bit different these days.

One of my favorite readings of this type was What Do You Care What Other People Think? by Richard Feynman.

I picked it up because I recognized his name as a scientist and noticed that most of the books about or by him had humorous titles. His father apparently planned for him to be a scientist all along and went about making it happen in some very interesting ways.

As for the question... it was really the motivator for this post and reminded me about the book. In the book, it's part of the story with his first wife. She comes across as intelligent, creative, inventive, and as someone who had a wicked sense of humor...

Monday, February 13

War is Over (Happy Christmas) - Warning (Link points to some disturbing images)

For those sensitive about imagery, I found another no graphic version of the song.

I know it's well past Christmas, but this song has been on a continous loop lately in my brain. Some people find it annoying to repeat a song over and over like this in their mind. I usually enjoy it. I think of it as a song craving. The only problem sometimes is finding the song I want to hear.

Happy Christmas was one such song craving. I looked all over online for a version of it to listen to. I didn't know what the lyrics were all about. I just thought it sounded sort of sad and a bit optimistic too. It seemed exactly how I tend to feel about the holiday. It's really not my favorite holiday.

As soon as I did a search, I realized the song had more to the title - War is Over. It took a little longer than usual, but I finally dug up a link where I could listen to the whole song to my heart's content. As usual when I'm satisfying a song craving, I looked up the lyrics too so I could sing along. (I really do love to sing and listening to a song several times is a good way to learn it).

Between the video and the lyrics, I found it a bit overwhelming. I couldn't watch it all at first. Then I thought that if the people in the videos could endure living it, I owed it to them to not avoid it. I understand that some people who are particularly visual can't seem to shut off such images. I can, though, so I don't really have an excuse.

I have long been opposed to appealing to emotion in persuasion. I've come to think lately, though, that there's a difference between relying on emotion as an argument and taking an emotion into account when making a decision. Avoiding images like that, for me, would be failing to take important information into account.

Thursday, February 2

YOU can become a legally ordained clergy member

You can become an ordained member of the Spiritual Humanist clergy for FREE right now! As a legally ordained clergy member you can legally perform religious ceremonies and rituals like weddings, funerals, benedictions, etc.

I normally have a strong aversion to this style of advertising, but the product struck me as funny.

On an almost entirely unrelated note, it reminded me of a commercial prepared by a group in my high school Economics class.

The class was divided into groups and assigned the task of coming up with an advertisment which we then recorded on video. We could make up our own products or services to advertise. The idea was to demonstrate some marketing techniques.

The group tied with ours for the best in class. Personally, I didn't think their skill was in their presentation so much as it was in creating their "service provider" - Fast Freddie's Funeral Home. It's been a long time since I watched it, but from what I remember, the commercial looked a bit like the outside of a drive-thru restaurant. The customer drove up and was able to view and pay his respects to his beloved deceased, all without leaving the comfort of his vehicle.

Our group picked a perfectly mundane sounding name and made a commercial in a slapstick style similar toWhere's the Beef? I was a bit skeptical when they started talking about a chicken suit and such a mundane sounding name for a restaurant, but I couldn't argue with the results. It turned out to be quite a laugh, and we had a lot of fun making it:

Scene 1:
Narrator: "At some restaurants the food isn't quite right."
(Customer holds up piece of rubber "chicken" and looks less than enthusiastic about eating it.)

Scene 2:
At some restaurants, the food takes just a little long. "Come here you!!" "Squawk" (Butcher running around chasing chicken - person in a costume - around with a large knife).

Scene 3:
I can't remember this part very well, but basically a happy customer is sitting down to a yummy looking cooked chicken dinner and the narrator talks about the great service.

It ends with a cut back to the cook from other restaurant:
"At Texas Fried Chicken, at least it ain't still kickin'." (Holding chicken and knife):
Chicken: "Squawk!"

Wednesday, February 1

Would the Real First Amendment please stand up?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It was very recently brought to my attention that the First Amendment, by it's own wording, doesn't restrict local school districts, governments, or state government from establishing or prohibing religion, prohibiting free speech, etc.

I remember being taught in one class that the original constitution was generally meant to set the structure and establish limits on the Federal government, but it didn't occur to me - or the teacher as far as I could tell - to apply this to the First Amendment.

Why is it, then, that I have this impression that the First Amendment has been used by the Supreme Court to restrict prayer in schools?