Category Archives: culture

Lorena and cultural enrichment

Lorena at Anytime Fitness in Lewisville, TXWe had dear friends over for dinner last night. Whenever that happens Lorena instigates a conversation in person or on the phone that takes almost exactly the same form every time. It happened again yesterday. I love this.

I was sitting at my desk in my office in Lewisville programming and the phone rings.

I pick up and Lorena asks me “Should I do A or should I do B?” about some cooking thing.

So I ask, “What do you think would be best?”

She says, “A.”

I say, “Ok, do A.”

She says “Ok! Thanks!” and hangs up.

Some time in the following day or two she will say something to the effect that it is really good that I tell her what to cook because she can never think of the right thing.

The dinner, as always, was brilliant. Lorena talked the people down at the one true taco shop in Lewisville, Texas into giving her a couple dozen of their very thin corn tortillas when, in reality, they don’t sell tortillas. They sell tacos. But she has that Mexican Mafia thing going and is comadre with the owner of the shop. She grilled sirloin steak in strips, onions and chile morron, made her hand made salsa, sliced up avocado and mango, chopped some raw onions and cilantro, etc.

Today, she is down at the gym working off all those extra calories while I sit and type (writing this blog post and programming on the sickle cell disease project). Don’t ever try to tell me I didn’t hit the lottery when I married her.

A great video on one of the great sadnesses of our times

I saw the video below that a friend posted this video on Facebook last night about challenges for millennials in the workplace. I think it says some important things that has caused me to think I need to work on some of my own behaviors.  He talks about addiction to social media–on cell phones in particular and the dopamine high that is triggered. He talks about what a great disservice it was to tell children they were great when they were not great. He talks about the idea of delayed gratification that seems to be completely missing in an entire generation of young people. He talks about the increase in suicide and accidental drug overdose in that generation that is most probably a result of this. I think he is exactly right on all that. The video is truly a worth 15 minutes of your time.

It was kind of depressing though that in about the last third of the video he espouses the idea that the corporations need to take responsibility for fixing this. That is a completely different subject, but he is objectively wrong on that. The corporations might need to address the issues associated with this large problem because it prevents them from finding good, long term employees that facilitate them meeting achieving their purpose–to make money. Corporations should not be tasked with social engineering. They should, like government, achieve their purposes without meddling in peoples’ in areas where they are so patently unqualified. They really, really have competing interests with respect to what is good for individuals and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The individuals themselves, their families and, most importantly, God and their spiritual communities are the only ones who have the truly worthwhile answers to these kinds of challenges. Disinterested third parties whether they are government school teachers, coaches, bureaucrats, academics and even bad parents are the ones who trained them in this wrong thinking in the first place.

Link to video on Millenials in the workplace

They said there was interesting stuff on Google Earth

Crime Fighting in CentraliaI have seen some of the strange things you can see on Street View of Google Maps, but this is the first time I found one on my own. I was cruising around a small town in Western Washington looking for possible places to live and checking out neighorhoods when I found this image. Maybe we will not look on that side of town. Or, maybe, this is the side of town where we should look because the cops run a tight ship there! The bad part of this whole deal is that we will almost certainly never know what was going on here.

Thanksgiving with family (but apart)

Christian at the Rizos (Kelly, too)Christian hitched a ride with his friend Nathan to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the Rizos in San Diego. Kelly flew down last night from Seattle to join the crowd. We tried to figure out a way to be all together this year, but it just did not make sense. We could not be happier about the alternative as the Rizos selflessly made it all work out (again).

Kelly sent out this photo of Christian working on term papers, test preparation and homework. This is probably the last Thanksgiving he will ever have to do this. He has one more semester with a full load of classes followed by a semester with only one class, then he will be all dissertation all the time until he graduates. That is something for which he can certainly be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Lorena and I will spend some time with friends, but sometime during the weekend, we will cook a turkey–the thought of not having turkey sandwiches and other leftovers is more than we can bear.

Halloween

I have not been much of a fan of Halloween since I got to big to solicit candy door to door in our neighborhood when it was relatively safe to do that back in the early 1960’s. It was never a great holiday, but now it just makes me tired and kind of sad for our culture. I have to admit I still enjoy the clever, well-executed costumes some of the kids create and I love giving out candy to the smaller neighborhood kids, but it is soul deadening to watch junior high schoolers to adults exercise their fantasies–some of them, even at the low end of  that age group, leaning to well beyond PG-13 ratings. Even at the surface level where the celebration seems to be about death, narcissism and extortion, it has never been, in my mind anyway, a good thing. Oh well. I will endeavor to not be a Halloween Scrooge (excuse the mixed metaphor), hand out candy and keep a smile on my face this evening.

Support and tolerance of evil behavior are not ok

The shibboleth of Christian fundamentalism is way past its expiration date. It is the go-to straw man for the unthinking pop-culture, pseudo-intellectual intelligentsia that make up the mainstream media, the vast bulk of academia (primary, secondary and post-secondary), the political class, and large swaths of the rest of America. It is almost impossible to talk about objective morality, abortion, traditional marriage, origins, euthanasia or any other topic of moral import without a self-righteous demand to account for the actions and thought of extremists who make up less than one percent of those who call themselves Christian.

I am through with making caveats. I am no more responsible for the abject immoral behavior of people who call themselves Christians but act otherwise than I am for the evils perpetuated on innocents by the likes of Planned Parenthood, New Atheists, Code Pink, PETA and the Democrat Party. Don’t ask me to account for any of that. I have my own sins to account for but these are not them. And do not expect me to just go along either. I hate ALL of this stuff because it is evil. Tolerance of evil is not a virtue.

This rant was partially motivated by my recent reads through Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It does not seem like their situation was a whole lot different from that of thinking Christians today. At any rate, thanks for reading my rant; it was actually quite cathartic.

Ode to Joy on Glock 22’s


I count this as a birthday gift from one of the blogs I read. The guy who writes the blog does not know I exist, but he is a fellow traveler, transplanted to Texas whose blog I visit at least a couple of times per day (h.t. Bayou Renaissance Man). To my friends in Klamath Falls, Southern Indiana and parts of North Carolina, this video needs no explanation (I did not mention Texas because that goes without saying). What is not to like about Ode to Joy on Glock 22’s, especially when Russians are involved?

Crazy coincidences and strange challenges

I am about to turn 61. A lot of funny little things, and I emphasize the word little, because they are of almost no importance, have been going on in my life. On that birthday theme, I found out today a guy that I have been helping get a business started in Kansas was born the day before me–the day before, the same year. In addition and very randomly, through Facebook, we learned that his daughters roommate in California is the first cousin of one of my daughter’s best friends in Seattle. There was no connection whatsoever between the two, we just found out about it after the fact. There are a couple of other non-coincidences like that about which I really do not have license to speak, but it surely seems odd that things work out serendipitously for great good for no material reason.

The other thing that just seems very random in my life is that the guy in the office next to me is one of those autodidact guys who claims he is an atheist. I called him on it–I really know of no rational person who claims they are atheist. He backed off of his statement. You would have had to been there to understand the context because my calling him on it was not really a heavy handed thing, but an outgrowth of a (relatively) thoughtful conversation. It was about as thoughtful a conversation as one could have with someone who absurdly claims, “No one has given me any good reason to believe there is a God.” That has always seemed to be a profoundly irrational claim, especially in light of the fairly recent, but very clear understanding that nothing existed–literally nothing, not even a quantum vacuum, no time, no space, nothing–then something started to exist. At the very least, that calls for some level of agnosticism. Really, there is no good reason to think there is not a God–much more so than that there is not one.

Life just seems a little surreal right now, but that is not a bad thing, just a little disorienting.

Danger in Brazil… and America?

My brother-in-law worked in São Paulo, Brazil for a couple years, right at the turn of the millennium. Here is an article from 2007 in Vanity Fair titled City of Fear. It talks about a very dangerous series of events that happened there five or six years after he returned to Mexico. There was a continuous string of attacks on the police that created chaos that caused a panic, shutting the city down for days with people locked in their homes cowering in fear with traffic jams everywhere until people got home. It is an interesting read about a scary situation. Peter Grant from the Bayou Renaissance Man blog makes the case that all the stars are aligning that could allow the same kind of event to happen here in the United States. In his article titled US cities are becoming much more dangerous places, he talks about how the BLM movement, the influx of illegals from many chaotic and violent places and the way the law enforcement community has had to respond to what is a no-win situation for them means some version of this kind of chaotic event could arrive in large cities in the US. Read the article. He makes a compelling case.

Update: Turns out, my brother-in-law was on a business trip in São Paulo when this was all happening. I cannot wait to get together with him and hear the story.

The Intellectual Yet Idiot: A seminal article on who is really “the problem”

A brilliant article titled The Intellectual Yet Idiot, written by a guy named Nassim Nicholas Taleb puts in words something that has been in my mind as well as the minds of others, more thoughtful than my myself for a long, long time. I have written about the pontifications of the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Mark Borg, Bart Ehrman and some others with respect to subjects in which I am interested, but the people about whom Taleb writes live in every segment of our society. At some level, they are all Social Justice Warriors. Even, if not especially, our the current president of these United States fits very comfortably into this category. The article starts off like this and just gets better and better the further one reads:

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligenzia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities?—?but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Update: This fascinating and fun article titled Global Warming Alarmists Promote XKCD Time Series Cartoon, Ignore Its Mistakes from The Stream perfectly makes the point with respect to global warming.

What do you do the night of El Grito de Dolores?

Kiwi and Dad partying hard in celebration of Mexican Indepence DayKiwi and I are having a pretty exciting night on the eve of El Grito de Dolores. People all over Mexico will be in the central plazas of their cities and towns to celebrate Mexican Independence. Of course, we are also celebrating our friend Vanesa’s birthday. We are not sure which is most exciting. You can see from the picture at the right that we are partying pretty hard–so hard that I am almost certain we will not make it until midnight when all the shouting begins.

Social status and Tom Wolfe’s take on Chomsky and Darwin

The Kingdom of Speech by Tom WolfeI wonder whether I would really like Tom Wolfe very much in real life. I have always suspected I might not, but I very well could be wrong. My take on his writing is that he finds subjects that people out of vogue have screamed about for years, then very cleverly writes about those “insightful” things and gets many public accolades and lots of money. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is providing a great service and it is a good gig if you can get it. He started doing this with Radical Chic and has had many successes leading up to his latest take on the self-satisfied Noam Chomsky’s ownership of the “right” way to think about linguistics. David Klinghoffer does a stellar job of explaining it all in his post at ENV titled In The Kingdom of Speech, Tom Wolfe Tells the Story of Evolution’s Epic Tumble. My favorite part of the article explains Wolfe’s game, seemingly every time he plays it–and it is a good game–exposing the pretensions of pretentious people:

Wolfe frames his story in terms of two pairs of rivals or doppelgängers — Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, on one hand, and linguists Noam Chomsky and Daniel Everett on the other. As in every other book of his that I’ve read, Wolfe is sharply attuned to matters of status, rank, class — which explain so much not only in fashion or politics but in the history of ideas. In both of these pairs of scientists, one is the established figure, the man of rank and prestige (Darwin, Chomsky), while he was overtaken and nearly knocked from his pedestal by a field researcher of lesser cachet (Wallace, Everett), a “flycatcher” in Wolfe’s phrase.

Chomsky and Darwin “won” the game of science, not because they were right but because they had social, pop cultural cachet. I think that is exactly right. I think Wolfe has earned his place in society partly because he is such an engaging writer, but even more so because he, too, has the social, pop cultural cachet to not only say the emperor has no clothes, but to get people to actually listen to and consider the idea. That is something a lot of people knew all along. They  are mostly people who live in fly-over country and attended Big State U. as opposed to one of the Ivys.

Homeschool continues to grow as the culture (and government schools) coarsen

From an article titled Pressed By Common Core And LGBT Agenda, More Families Homeschool at The Federalist:

One major reason families homeschool is for academic quality. The United States spends roughly $12,000 per student on education, which is more than every other country in the world except Lichtenstein. While our math and science scores have improved slightly over the last few years, we still rank in the middle of the global pack.

In addition, LGBTQ activists have successfully inundated schools with their approved ideology inside sex education that starts now as early as kindergarten. With these problems in public schools and many families unwilling or unable to afford the cost of private schooling, more and more families are choosing homeschooling as an alternative. This ensures they can avoid educational indolence and moral apathy while picking and choosing what learning method, curriculum, and schedule works best for their family.

Every year my own homeschool circle increases and there are waiting lists for the cooperative classes we participate in—and I live in a state that boasts some of the wealthiest counties and highest-praised public school systems in the country. Data released last year from the U.S. Department of Education shows that “between 2003-2012, the number of American children between ages 5 to 17 who are homeschooled has risen 61.8 percent, and that the percentage homeschooled in that age range has increased from 2.2 to 3.4 percent.” Parents are pursuing a style of education they can control that will enrich their children, now with very little fear of the stigma that used to surround it.

This is a great article in that it talks about the normalization of homeschool and the reasons it can be a great way to educate one’s children and not just the reasons to remove them from the caustic government school environment that delivers a bad education. I think this article is just another manifestation of what people are trying to do to fight a morally and spiritually bankrupt culture like the one described in the post before this one.

Why America cannot be fixed through government/politics

Book: Hillbilly EulogyI just read a short review of a book that tells a specific story about the helplessness and hopelessness of growing up poor in rural America with a drug-addicted, single mother. The book titled A Hillbilly Eulogy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance sounds like it is a painful but truly enlightening read. This post is not about the book–it is now on my reading list, but I have not read it yet. It was something that was said in the review that captured a truth of which many people with a similar world view to my own have been reminded due to the trajectory of culture, politics and government today in America. It is about the source of our current problems and the direction from which the only hope for a solution can come:

The book demonstrates in spades that there is no simple statist solution to the so-called “plight of the working poor.” Vance’s experience shows that the problems in these communities lie far beyond the reach of the nanny state. Rather, broken people produce broken cultures and social pathologies. The only way to fix the culture and eliminate the pathologies is to fix the people. And that is the primary conflict of the book. Can people really change? Indeed, Vance’s own doubt about whether he himself could truly escape the demons of his past is one of the most poignant aspects of this story. It is clear that the problems he describes are primarily moral/spiritual in nature, and therefore so are the solutions.

The article has motivated me to make the effort to read a book that is sure to be a painful but worthy exercise. The review article will give you a sense for what you might be getting yourself into.

Chronological snobbery and biblical archeology

"House of David" inscriptionJust a day after I wrote a post on The Veracity of the Bible which included links to articles about fairly recent archaeological discoveries that confirm the biblical record, Eric Metaxas wrote an article that describes the blinders worn by much of academia when they evaluate these kinds of new evidences. In the article, titled A Flood of Evidence, Chronological Snobbery and Archeology, he describes a concept using terms first coined by C.S. Lewis. The article starts out like this:

In his conversion story, “Surprised by Joy,” C. S. Lewis explains how his close friend, Owen Barfield, demolished his “chronological snobbery.” Lewis defined chronological snobbery as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”

In Lewis’s time, much of academia was already convinced that every past generation formed a staircase of progress, leading (of course) to enlightened modernity. And since Lewis’s death, many intellectuals have only become more convinced of their own perch at the pinnacle of history. These days, we barely even notice the snobbery.

Metaxas goes on to list some relatively recent discoveries with links to some great articles about what they mean with respect to the veracity of the biblical record. An example of one of the discoveries is described in a post on the same site about confirmation that King David was an actual, living breathing person (the famous Tel Dan Stele). There are additional links in and after the story to additional confirmations. Then he goes on to describe the silliness of chronological snobbery and how it dampens the acquisition of a better understanding of ancient history.

Dog bites man, press misleads public

There are a continuous stream of reminders for why thoughtful people should not get their news from the main stream media. In an article titled New York Post flubs the strange case of a liberal church and a lesbian minister’s pension, Terry Mattingly of the religious journalism watchdog site GetReligion.org discusses the outrageous misrepresentations made by the NY Post in an article they titled, Lesbian pastor’s widow takes on church to get pension payments. It reminded me of a set of articles written about a homosexual man who was an acquaintance–a friend of a family member, but got caught abusing a boy who was his foster child. It was a horrible, very sad affair. The way the events were reported in the main stream press led people to believe the guy was a serious church goer, but neglected to say he actually taught sexuality classes to eighth and ninth graders at a very liberal Unitarian (who reject the beliefs of historical Christianity) until deep into the articles if they were reported at all. You can read about it and follow links to a couple of the articles on this topic here, here and here.

Teaching ethics in public school while ignoring the parents

The Atlantic is one of those magazine I never read. To find one good article, I need to wade through 100 of them whose quality, content and or morality frankly disgust me. That being said, I receive links for great articles in The Atlantic from two or three different people on a semi-regular basis. If you follow this link, you will see I think highly enough of the good articles that I write about them on this blog. Whenever I start thinking they are on the right track an article like this one titled Student’s Broken Moral Compass show up and I resolve never to read them again on my own, but wait until someone with a stronger stomach than mine wades through the dreck to find the diamonds.

The thing that put me into a state of high dudgeon about this article was the proprietary aire of the piece–like it is actually OK for failed government schools and the education union thugs to assign the teaching of ethics of other people’s children to themselves. Or that an author for a hard left moderate1 rag like The Atlantic can write about it like it is a foregone conclusion that that needs to be done. There is definitely a problem with all this, but it should be obvious that it begins with parents and a culture willing to assign the young and innocent to mediocrity and frequent failure, both morally and academically, at the hands of these progressive drones.

I know, I know, I have not yet made the caveat that there are great teachers in the system like this one. I make that caveat now (for my own safety).

1. Kelly tells me “it is moderate with a left bent tempered by many right-leaning writers,” but I do not think I am willing to say many or moderate. I might go along with “a few writers who are right-leaning on a few issues.” The article described in this post was definitely hard left with a totalitarian bent.

Narcissism and TED talks

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. —1 Timothy 6:10

I watched a TED talk last night that reinforced my resolve to never watch a TED talk unless someone I trust recommends it highly. I have no idea what inspired me watch the thing–the title was a dead giveaway, “How to Become a Millionaire in 3 Years.” I would argue that the narcissism advocated in this video accounts for much of what is wrong with our society. The presenter makes three points, the first of which is that the reading of books is important to success.

Then he goes on to say, “All the books in the world can help us to solve all the problems in the world.”

Just wow. Next he says we only need to read the books that help us solve our own problems. The example he gives is that if we want to know about money we should read books about money. And it gets worse. The next he makes is that you should befriend those people who can help you reach your goals. The idea that the point of friendship and the selection of people with whom I want to associate should be centered on whether or not they can help me reach my goals–in this case, the emphasis was on financial goals–is repugnant.

The final point was that it is important to have goals is to write them down. That is not such a bad thing if the goals are not so narcissistic. But the way this it was expressed gave me that same creepy feeling I get when I am around someone who has bought into the whole “name it and claim it” theology thing.

My immediate thought after watching this was that this was not how the most successful people led their lives. People like Jesus, Paul and even the likes of Michaelangelo, Bach, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Tesla and Einstein were successful because of their singular vision of something bigger than themselves. People whose whole goal in life is aggrandizement of themselves and the accumulation of goods and power are almost never remembered with fondness and admiration. No one remembers the sports stars and actors for more than a generation or two. Those who work on something bigger than themselves for the glory of God, to do the right thing and to help others without regard to money, fame or power are the ones who are truly successful, not the narcissistic visualizers.

These are just my opinions on the topic, but I have decided to make the best of the fifteen minutes the video cost me and visualize myself avoiding self-help TED videos, books and people. Maybe I should read a book about it, too.

“Shelter in place” during a terrorist attack?

A website I frequent wrote about what one should do during a terrorist attack if authorities demand you “shelter in place.” That is the advise given on Twitter by the U.S. Consulate in Munich with respect to today’s terror attack at a mall there with the attackers still at large.

This is what The Bayou Renaissance Man had to say about that idea on a blog post about the recent Nice terror attack in France. He listed things you really should and should not do when there is such attack. His advise on whether you should “shelter in place” is item number 3 in a list of 7. I think he is exactly right. Why die if you can avoid it? Read the whole thing.

3. A “lockdown” is tantamount to herding people into coffins! Pay no attention to “orders” to “shelter in place,” nor to “remain calm and stay where you are.” That is where your body will be found! Get out any way you can and as quickly as you can, and don’t worry about who likes the idea!