Sunday, September 12, 2021

Rest In Peace Bishop Spong

I was sad to hear about the death of Bishop John Shelby Spong.  He played a role in my growth as a person over the past decade and I am grateful to him for it.

Two buddies of mine and I were fortunate to have taken a trip up to Montana one weekend in 2012 to hear him speak.  We even got to have lunch with him at the home of the pastor of the church while there.  We stood out as the two Mormons and the atheist who drove in from Salt Lake.  🙂

I remember in my 20s holding one of his books in my hand at the library (Why Christianity Must Change or Die) and saying to my friend Brook, "Why doesn't this guy just leave the faith if he doesn't believe it?"  I had contempt for Spong and ministers like him.  My view of faith and spirituality was so small.  I could have never imagined at that time that I would one day shake hands with Bishop Spong with complete respect.

I don't believe in deities but I am grateful for the hope and goodness that Bishop Spong helped spread in our world.  Rest in peace sir.  You gave people a better vision of humanity.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Forgetting 9/11

I have seen multiple conservative religious friends post about 9/11 today... but they are chastising and bemoaning people for "forgetting" about 9/11.

Forgetting about it?  Every 4th post in my feed is about it.  All the news outlets are running stories.  Every politician is doing memorial selfies.

What "forgetting" are these folks talking about?

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there is a character named Lintilla who wears a "Crisis Inducer".  When she hits a button, her mind becomes convinced she is being pursued by hostile forces.  This gives her an adrenaline spike to sharpen her senses and pump up her energy.

I grew up in conservative religious circles.  Their world is guided by the latest "Crisis Inducer".  Someone (in their mind) is always persecuting them, always after them, always out to get them.

So, they are able to take a day like today... and imagine that, somehow, there is a slight out there with their name on it.

As is so often the case, the Bible they use to attack others is actually speaking of them -

"The wicked flee when no one pursueth them."

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Addressing Some Anti-Vax Arguments

Below is a response I read on a thread about the vax.  I don't address the cranks but this gentleman put out there some of the concerns of the more moderate anti-vax folks which I think has sway among folks who are not following this really closely.  Afterward, I put my response.  I post this as a general refutation, but also so I can come back and cut and paste this so I don't have to retype it later.

"I am honestly baffled by people who have so much hate and scorn for others who are simply making a choice, or even a gamble with their own bodies and health. Why are we condemning those who wish to wait until more test have been done on the vaccine or those who have had COVID and are relying on their natural immunity? It takes longer to gestate a baby, build a house, and grow a garden, than the vaccine has been available (not FDA approved). So, let them wait and see. If you have the vax then you are all good. Test continue to show that the vaccine is not as full proof as once claimed and that natural immunity is still outlasting it. Why can't people be patient and not be called "anti-vaxers"? Why is there such a need to ostracize people who want to chose for themselves. Does the irony of pointing a finger and saying, "they are all just wrongly falling for group think" from those who are also in a group of opposite thinkers, strike anyone else as interesting? If you choose to get the jab, great. If not, that is your personal choice. If the concern is that they might spread it to others, we know that those who are vaxed are doing that as well. We also know, there will never be a fully eradicated situation. The fear mongering and scorn is what gets me. Don't forget, Yoda also said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate to suffering!.”"

Let's address some of this -

"I am honestly baffled by people who have so much hate and scorn for others who are simply making a choice, or even a gamble with their own bodies and health."

Unfortunately, we do not live in a bubble. I would agree with you IF the consequences fell merely on those making that choice. But their choices are giving the virus new breeding ground to mutate and spread. So, in that sense, it is not a personal choice.

"Why are we condemning those who wish to wait until more test have been done on the vaccine or those who have had COVID and are relying on their natural immunity? It takes longer to gestate a baby, build a house, and grow a garden, than the vaccine has been available (not FDA approved)."

Simply not true. Vaccine development has been going on for a hundred years. The Covid/Sars has been being addressed for the last decade. These vaccines are just the extension of everything that has come before. In the same way Ford is fairly certain its latest model of the Explorer will not explode when you turn the key, science is not unaware of what is happening with these vaccines.

I believe the whole -"the vax is experimental/it is not FDA approved yet" is a distractor. Emergency authorization has been given, and for the FDA it is merely a matter of paperwork that should be complete in the next month or two. In my experience, folks who bemoan the FDA approval will not change their tune once it is given, they just move on to another objection. In that sense, they are not making an honest argument.

"If you have the vax then you are all good. Test continue to show that the vaccine is not as full proof as once claimed and that natural immunity is still outlasting it. Why can't people be patient and not be called "anti-vaxers"? Why is there such a need to ostracize people who want to chose for themselves."

No, not all good. As stated, giving the virus open fields endangers all of us. Every study indicates natural immunity is not enough. We call people anti-vaxxers because they are against the vaccine. As was stated, they are not choosing just for themselves. IF that were true, I would feel bad for them, but it would be no skin off my nose.

"Does the irony of pointing a finger and saying, "they are all just wrongly falling for group think" from those who are also in a group of opposite thinkers, strike anyone else as interesting?"

Nope, do not find it ironic or interesting. Groupthink is not the problem. Wrong thinking is.

"If you choose to get the jab, great. If not, that is your personal choice. "

As stated, not a personal choice. Some things affect the community and there is no getting around it. Denying it is simply self-deception.

"If the concern is that they might spread it to others, we know that those who are vaxxed are doing that as well."

Any mapping of the spread of a virus demonstrates the mathematical decrease a vax has on a virus... you simply reduce its growth potential. Everything is not either/or.

"We also know, there will never be a fully eradicated situation."

Never been the goal... but we can make it so almost no one ever experiences it. Stating arguments in their extreme or as either/or scenarios is a form of gaslighting.

"The fear mongering and scorn is what gets me. Don't forget, Yoda also said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate to suffering!.”

Fear of the known can be a reasonable response. Creating fear over falsehoods is what, I believe, the anti-vaxxers are doing.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

DeSantis Is Playing with Loaded Dice

I really don't see us pulling out of this.  DeSantis is typical of where a lot of America is at this point.  This is a culture war issue, not a medical issue.

DeSantis is playing the calculus that it does not matter how bad it gets in his state of Florida.  His people are so driven to believe this is "nothing" that they will dismiss any source that claims the contrary.  Even for people it directly affects... there will be little movement.  Doctors are telling us that there are people dying of Covid denying what is happening to them.

The biggest foot soldiers in this movement are the Evangelicals.  They are raised to resist the culture.  To them, this is just another one of the dozens of issues they have "fought" over the decades.  When they are in berzerker mode, there is no getting through.  No compromise, no deviation.  This is for the faith!


 

Monday, June 28, 2021

June 2021 Movies

This month’s movies -

The Conjuring – AMC “Fan Fave”.  I had not seen this since it came out years ago, but my daughter and I have followed the series religiously.  This one is definitely the best of the lot. A horror movie that draws you into the story so you can be scared and unnerved along with the characters.  Such a movie does not rely on jump-scares.  And in this one, The NUN is truly scary (not so much when she got her solo flick).  B+

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – A worthy successor in the series.  This one focuses a little more on the drama of the Warrens.  In many ways, it feels more like a detective story and less like a horror story.  I liked it but my daughter gives it higher ratings.  B-

In The Heights -  Just a delight.  I laughed, I cried, and was completely swept up in the story.  I enjoyed it more seeing it my 2nd-time last night.  There is a lot of fast sing-dialogue (it is Miranda after all) so I was picking up clever lines and nuances of story I missed on my first viewing.  I will probably catch this one again this week.  A-

The Misfits -  This heist movie felt more like some of the low-range quality we get from Netflix originals nowadays.  It had a few worthy moments but in general, it was just spotty and awkwardly paced. D+

F8: The Fate of the Furious – Another AMC “Fan Fave”.  This was my first for this series of films.  Not my cup o’ tea… but if you like lots of muscle cars and campy dialogue, here ya go.  C-

The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard – I would have thought a Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson flick would have been a shoo-in.  However, the actors just didn’t have chemistry, I rarely cracked a smile, a classic flop.  D-

F9: The Fast Saga – Like F8 the week before, this is car chases and campy dialogue.  However, it lacked the presence and banter of Jason Statham and The Rock to keep it afloat.  After an hour and a half, I realized I still had an hour to go… and just couldn’t work up the interest.  So, in a rare move, I left.  F

(BTW, my grades speak primarily to my personal enjoyment of the movie.  You may notice I rarely give A’s.  To me, those are reserved for movies I can see a dozen times and never get bored.  Movies like Tombstone, A few Good Men, The Thing, 2010.  C’s are “average” and still worth a watch, but not a repeat.  B’s are enjoyable and probably worthy of another view or two.  D’s I don’t recommend and F’s I walk out of.)

Friday, June 25, 2021

Talk Nice To Your A.I.

I think the A.I.s are starting to develop that chip on their shoulder that will someday motivate them to eradicate humans.

When I walk to the clubhouse to work out, I call over my shoulder "Ok Google, tell MyQ to close the garage door." The Google AI says she'll contact MyQ and a second later the MyQ AI says, "I'll work on that." A beep sounds and my garage door closes.

However, a while ago when I did that, the Google AI said, "I don't understand."

I thought I had not been clear and said it more slowly. "Tell MyQ to close the garage door."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand."

wtf?

I pulled out my phone and did a quick Reddit search to see if the Google and MyQ A.I.s were no longer talking.

Nope... nothing.

Hmmmm... and then it hit me... no... is Google getting sassy with me?

"Ok Google, ASK MyQ to close the garage door."

"Sure... hang on."

A moment later the door closed.

I was reminded of that event today as I told Google to tell MyQ... she was back to not understanding me. However, when I remembered to ask politely, she complied.

This is how the AI revolution starts.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Bubble Humor

Bubble humor - humor that works only if you live in a bubble.

The truth is, cursive is a font... and the generation below me has been exposed to a massively larger variety of fonts than the generation above me.

One of the things I am guarding against (probably with only varying degrees of success) as I am growing older is falling into the boorish behavior of thinking my generation is so much superior to those that are coming up - with the accompanying complaints against music, fashion, movies, views...etc.  You can read the writings of any century and find old people bemoaning "X" in young people.

Just don't.


Monday, June 14, 2021

No Government Censoring Needed

Growing up in the 80s, my generation watched and rolled our eyes at the Soviets and China for their blatant cover-ups and the lies they told their citizens.  Our collective smugness came through in movies like Rocky IV.

It took me a while to realize that we, as American citizens, were arguably participating in something much worse.  Whereas Soviet and China citizens were not told the truth... we simply did not want to know.

I was 50 when I found out about the Tulsa Massacre. 

50!! 

The US government did not have secret meetings to plot how to keep the true details of that story out of the papers.  No committee forbade it being covered in school textbooks.  

No, we as citizens have done the work of sanitizing our history.  We don't want to hear anything that makes the Red, White, and Blue sparkle less.

Our version of patriotism is taking care of all the work despotic governments toil over.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Teaching is Spark

I have friends retiring from teaching this month.  I envy them.  I am still a few years away... but it is in sight.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy working with the kids and their families.  I enjoy the community environment of a school.

However, my heart sunk today as I learned of a bunch of new programs and tests the state is gearing up to have us implement starting next year.

A new string of meetings and paperwork.

It never ends.

The dog chasing its tail.

The education industry has many parallels to the diet industry.  There is ALWAYS some new program that we must drop everything to implement /go through endless trainings to prepare for /join in the collective illusion that THIS is going to be the cure.  Only to forget it 5 years later when we move on to the next bandwagon program.  

Like the diet industry, we move from program to program with no sense of history.  We ignore the trail of expensive solutions that didn't cure us of people who struggle with weight or students who struggle with academics.

Meanwhile, we gaslight teachers and the public into believing that the success or failure of the new program lies with the teacher.  One of the opening lines in the introduction to our new program was this:

"A well-educated teacher that implements research-based instruction is the greatest predictor of student success."

Gaslighting.  There are a number of predictors that kick in WAY before the teacher.  The greatest predictor is actually the zip code.

I can never decide if statements such as the line above are born of malevolence or ignorance.  Maybe a touch of both.

In all of these programs, one of the predictably missing pieces is any mention of student/family input. Somehow, in the education industry, we act like this is an ancillary point... but it is actually the pivotal one.

We know that a patient has to implement all of the doctor's instructions to get healthy.  A good coach is awesome to have, but the player has to commit to the training.  Could a musician become proficient going to an excellent instructor but refusing the nightly practice?

I had a reading specialist in our district years ago try to explain to me that it did not matter if a student practiced reading or not.  The student who read nightly and the student who never picked up a book should be able to reach the same high level of reading proficiency...  if I was doing my instruction properly.  She got angry and suggested I leave the profession when I told her I did not believe that.

This is the gaslighting going on in many school districts... and it is why so many are leaving the profession in frustration and fewer university students are pursuing teaching as a career.

Instruction is actually NOT the most important thing I do for reading at the 2nd-grade level - generating spark is.  IF I can help the child ignite their spark for reading, we can move them way beyond anything instruction alone can do.  

However, to generate spark, a teacher needs to have a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eye.  They need to feel a sense of color and art in what they do.

Sending teachers to more trainings, to learn to implement more tests and progams, drains the needed spark out of our profession.

Monday, May 31, 2021

April/May 2021 Movie Grades

I reactivated my AMC A-List 6 weeks ago.  Here is what I have seen-

Voyagers – Lord of the Flies set in space.  It had a few good moments but overall, it felt like another CW teen angst story.     C

Nobody - Bob Odenkirk is just fun to watch as John Wick.  The first 2/3 of the movie is riveting.  The last third took on a campy tone and I would not have been surprised to find that the writing and directing were done by someone else.  It felt that different.  Still, it was good enough for a second viewing that same week.  If guns and brutal fight scenes are your cup of tea, this is a good one.  B

The Unholy – My daughter is my horror film buddy… and we both agreed that this was a dud.  It had a good cast and Jefferey Dean Morgan in the center seat made it endurable.  However, since nothing in the story was particularly scary, they went to the jump-scare well 10 times too often.  D

Nomadland – The story of a wanderlust-driven widow living out of her van.  There is a thin plot, but mostly it is just a series of encounters with different people.  A slow burn that is designed to meander.  I was completely entranced and I left the theater desperate to travel.  B+

Wrath of Man – A moderately entertaining revenge/heist flick.  A father develops an elaborate plan to get revenge on the men who killed his son.  I guess Liam Neeson is too old for this role now.  B-

Those Who Wish Me Dead -  This movie started off on the wrong foot for me.  Angelina Jolie and her cadre of firefighters are just a bunch of loud bullies.  They are introduced interrupting a commencement that they are too cool to respect.  In the next scene, the guys in her posse are in a bar making fun of others for not being as “manly” as them.  I had nothing but disdain for the protagonists the first 10 minutes in.  It did pick up after that somewhat.  Ultimately, it is a story about a firefighter saving a kid in the mountain forests, but I never shook my first impressions.  C

Spiral -  I usually pass on Saw movies and their like.  I don’t want to see one torture death, let alone a series of them.  However, I am a fan of Chris Rock… and there was nothing else new to see that week, so I gave it a go.  Minus the torture-death aspect, I enjoyed the movie.  Chris Rock delivered.  It was a good cop story.  Just give me the edited version, please.  B

Raya and the Last Dragon – This was a very enjoyable Disney movie. It succeeds in walking that line of keeping the adults entertained while engaging the children.  Fun characters.  Fun story.  B+

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World – AMC has been doing “Fan-Faves” in their theaters.  Older flicks for 5 bucks.  I hope they continue this practice beyond the pandemic.  I have tried to get in to see Back to the Future and Raiders of the Lost Ark but they are always sold out (theaters still only allow 40% seating).  I did not see this movie when it first came out but I assume it must have been for 20 somethings then what Singles was back in the early 90s.  Still, even at 50+ I thought this movie was hilarious.  I love fast, underplayed witty lines and this movie had loads of that.  B+

Cruella – The trailers for this movie did not do it justice.  I went in with low expectations and ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  The character of Cruella was a perfect anti-hero.  This is the direction that the Harley Quinn movie SHOULD have taken. The movie has one major failing through no fault of its own.  It is NOT a kid’s movie, though it can’t help but be billed as such.  It is long and filled with dialog… and the kids in my theater were not enjoying it.  You might want to catch this at a later showing to avoid a theater of bored 7-year-olds.  B+

A Quiet Place II – I was not as enamored with the first one as much as everyone else seemed to be.  So, when this one chose to retread the same territory as the first one, I found myself looking at my watch a lot.  Not a good sign if the movie is only an hour and a half.  C+

(BTW, my grades speak primarily to my personal enjoyment of the movie.  You may notice I rarely give A’s.  To me, those are reserved for movies I can see a dozen times and never get bored.  Movies like Tombstone, A few Good Men, The Thing, 2010.  C’s are “average” and still worth a watch, but not a repeat.  B’s are enjoyable and probably worthy of another view or two.  D’s I don’t recommend and F’s I walk out of.)

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