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Complex sentances

We were working on complex sentences, with their dependent clauses and independent clauses last night in class.  The example sentence was: “It’s not you, it’s me.” (“It’s not you” being the independent clause and “it’s me” being the dependent clause)  Well, our group of men didn’t like this because we didn’t want to be seen as the dependents, so we changed the sentence to: “It’s definitely not me, it’s you.”  Actually, in my mind, both these sentences are compound sentences, not complex sentences, because the two halves are really two independent clauses.  If these two want their freedom, they can both be independent.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

My family watched a documentary on Lincoln tonight.  About half way though, I began to sense some inaccuracies: I don’t think Harriet Tubman ever met Lincoln.

Dog Love

My daughter decided to explain the love that our dog, Rudy, has for her, only she couldn’t find the right words, so she asked for help.


She said: “Rudy loves me unintentionally… no wait, that’s not right: what’s that word that begins with an ‘I’.”  (Me: “So, you say that your dog loves you accidentally?)


My son and I decided to help her:











Erratically? (OK, not with an “I” but close enough)


She then exclaimed “Unconditionally!”

I read an interesting article from Geopolitical site Stratfor this morning.  Its historical perspective on our current state of war was enlightening to me.  The following are the highlights of this article:


The defeated challenger in the U.S. election, Mitt Romney, had a memorable and important turn of phrase when he said that you can’t kill your way out of the problems of the Middle East. The point that neither Romney nor Obama articulated is what you do instead in the Middle East — and elsewhere.

Constant use of military force is not an option. See the example of the British Empire: Military force was used judiciously, but the preferred course was avoiding war in favor of political arrangements or supporting enemies of enemies politically, economically and with military aid. That was followed by advisers and trainers — officers for native troops. As a last resort, when the balance could not hold and the issue was of sufficient interest, the British would insert overwhelming force to defeat an enemy. Until, as all empires do, they became exhausted.

The American strategy of the past years of inserting insufficient force to defeat an enemy that could be managed by other means, and whose ability to harm the United States was limited, would not have been the policy of the British Empire. Nor is it a sustainable policy for the United States. When war comes, it must be conducted with overwhelming force that can defeat the enemy conclusively. And war therefore must be rare because overwhelming force is hard to come by and enemies are not always easy to beat. The constant warfare that has characterized the beginning of this century is strategically unsustainable.

It is not clear whether Obama saw the doctrine I am discussing (with regards to Syria) — he certainly didn’t see it in Libya, and his Syrian policy might simply have been a reaction to his miscalculations in Libya. But the subjective intentions of a leader are not as important as the realities he is responding to, however thoughtfully or thoughtlessly. It was clear that the United States could not continue to intervene with insufficient forces to achieve unclear goals in countries it could not subdue.

One of the hardest things for a young empire to master is the principle that, for the most part, there is nothing to be done. That is the phase in which the United States finds itself at the moment. It is coming to terms not so much with the limits of power as the nature of power. Great power derives from the understanding of the difference between those things that matter and those that don’t, and a ruthless indifference to those that don’t. It is a hard thing to learn, but history is teaching it to the United States.

David Barton – travel guide

My wife’s family sent me a link to a video on the “US Capitol Tour with David Barton.”  Being a closet historian and an overt deconstructionist, I wanted to check the validity of Mr. Barton’s statements with regards to Christianity and the US Government.  Here’s what I found:
Alas, David Barton (and his sometimes partner Glenn Beck) are well known “revisionists.”  In this case, their revisions go against historical accuracy in an attempt to promote their agendas.  It’s sad because their “truth” is sometimes based on half-truths and outright misinformation.  And yet much of the time, they are historically accurate, making them appear to be on firm footing.  Much of the time, they are not far from the truth, which is why it’s simply tragic — once they are shown to be pedaling misinformation, none of their information can be trusted as accurate.

For the record, Barton is a minister and a Republican activist.  He holds no degrees in history or law, but claims to be an expert in historical and constitutional issues.  To me, he’s like a well-informed tour guide with an agenda.

Based on research, here are the truths and the lies:

1.  Yes, church services were started by Jefferson at the Capitol building.  There were no churches in the newly-built capitol.  People had to worship somewhere.  This trend continued for many years and finally ended in the post-reconstructionist period after the Civil War.  Jefferson was OK with church services in the Capitol so long as services were voluntary, and that no single denomination got to preach there all the time (thus fulfilling the Constitutions requirement that the government not endorse a single church or denomination).  As a result, at times, there were as many as four church services going on at once in the building.  (However, it has now been 130 years since this practice ended, not 50-60 years as Barton states).

2.  Yes, Jefferson used federal money to send missionaries to the Indians… sort of.  He took it personally that the Indians had not yet had the opportunity to hear the Gospel — he wanted them to be under the same Christian umbrella (and notice back then, that God referred specifically to the God of Christianity.  Our Founding Fathers would not have accepted a god other than the Judeo-Christian God.  President Madison even went so far as to say that any religion that wasn’t Christianity was a false religion.)  BUT, there is a lot more to the story.  The people sent to the Indians were archaeologists, whose main purpose (and the main purpose for the trip) was to discover where the Indians had originally come from.  That was Jefferson’s main motivation.  The particular tribe that received these visitors had already been converted to Catholicism.  The Federal funding ($700.) was to build a church and fund a priest who would continue to teach the young.  (BTW – I got all of this from a simple reading of Jefferson’s and Madison’s primary documents — their actual words on the subject).

3.  Yes, there are four very Christian-looking scenes painted in the Capitol’s Rotunda.  Much of our nation’s early history centered on Christianity… and European conquest, which had Christianity as a byproduct: most of the paintings are actually of the latter type.

4.  No, the first printed Bible in America was not printed by congress: the first Bible was printed in 1663 in Algonquin – not English.  The 1782 Bible Barton is referring to is the Aitken Bible.  Robert Aitken was the printer of this Bible, not Congress (and he printed it largely because of a British embargo which included a ban on the importation of Bibles).  It was also Aitken who asked Congress (several times) to endorse his Bible for schools.  Congress absolutely refused.  Eventually, Congress endorsed the accuracy of the translation, but not its use in public schools.

5.  Yes, President Garfield was a minister (and a lawyer, and a politician, and a mathematician, and a military officer).  Basically, he had a lot of different jobs.

6. 1/4 of the statues in the Rotunda are ministers… not quite.  There are nine statues in the rotunda, seven of them presidents.  The others are Hamilton and Martin Luther King Jr.  Garfield and King are the two ministers, so 2/9ths.

7.  29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held seminary or “Bible school” degrees… Half True.  Remember the time period that this occurred: all universities at this time were seminaries or “Bible schools” (Mostly Ivy League schools: Harvard, William & Mary {where most went}, Yale, Princeton, U of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Brown, Rutgers, Dartmouth).  What Barton is actually stating is that 29 of these guys were educated in the US at a time when all Universities were “Bible” Colleges.  These guys mostly got law degrees, not seminary degrees.

And so there you have it: mostly true, but not entirely.  Is Barton correct that America was founded on Christianity and that historically, Christianity played a large part in government?  You bet, Barton is absolutely correct in this regard.  Alas, because he was not entirely truthful, much of what he says will get discounted.  It’s better to stay on firm ground and check your sources.

World BMI

I came across a website today that uses a “global fat scale” to compare your weight with your country’s average and the rest of the world.

According to this, I am 99% fatter than the average American and 100% fatter than the mean for the world.  I’m fat!  I’m way fatter than the average Micronesian (the fattest people on earth).  I would have to lose 84 pounds just to be considered average for America (and America is the 7th fattest country in the world).  If I wanted to achieve the world average, I’d need to lose another 30 pounds beyond that.  To reach the average for Bangladesh (the lightest people on earth), I would have to lose another 36 pounds… and I’d probably die in the process (150 pounds lost total).

I am in the process of losing weight right now, thanks to a renewed push towards a healthy lifestyle.  I’ve lost 16 pounds so far, but getting to the American “average” means I still have a long way to go.  Really, I’d just like to see the other side of 200 pounds again in my lifetime  I haven’t seen that since 1990!  My excessive weight is already leading me towards an early grave, and my wife doesn’t like that one bit.

To the Class of 2012

Neil Howe delivered the following commencement address at the University of Mary Washington on May 12, 2012.

At a commencement address, speakers often go on too long. This I won’t do. I may not succeed as well as Salvador Dali, who famously delivered the world’s shortest speech, only four seconds long. He announced at the podium: “I will be so brief I have already finished,” and then sat down.

Commencement speakers also like to intone about “today’s youth generation.” And this is fine. Except that they then go on to talk at length about their own experiences in their own youth and tell you: Because this worked for me in my generation, it will work for you in yours. This should alert you that these speakers have no idea what a generation is.

Let me clarify. A generation is a group of people who share a basic outlook on life shaped by their common age location in history, their common “generational setting.” The renowned sociologist Karl Mannheim called this “eine Generationslagerung,” which I promise you is both the longest word—and the only German word—that you will hear from me.

“Youth,” on the other hand, is just an age bracket. It’s like an empty hotel room that different generations move into with their own baggage, and then soon leave. Sometimes that room swells with sweet music, sometimes it throbs with death metal, and sometimes it’s utterly silent. But it’s never the same.

Bottom line: All of you Boomer and Generation X parents are essentially unlike your children—and were not the same even when you were kids. And you Millennial Generation graduates are essentially unlike your parents—and will not become like them as you grow older.

So how, exactly, are you different? Well, start with the obvious: pop culture. Believe it or not, parents, your kids have never known that America, Chicago, and Kansas are the names of rock bands, not just places. Or what about technology? Ever notice the blank stares when you tell them roll up the window, turn the channel, or dial a number? Or what about current events? For as long as Millennials can remember, NATO has been looking for a mission, China has been peacefully rising, Brazil has been building shopping malls, and Boomers Bill O’Reilly and David Letterman have been hating on each other in plain view of millions.

Now these markers are interesting, but if there’s one big idea I want you to take away from my remarks, it’s that generational differences go much deeper.


You Millennials grew up in an era of rising parental protection, never knowing a time without bicycle helmets, electric plug covers, Amber Alerts, and fifteen different ways to be buckled into your minivan seat. We, the parents, grew up in an era of declining parental protection: Our moms and dads told us, “We don’t care where you go so long as you’re home for dinner.” As for seatbelts, we were told if there’s an accident to just throw up our hands to protect our heads. As kids, we never saw a “Baby on Board” sticker. “Baby Overboard” would have been more appropriate.

You Millennials were raised to be special—very special—and to trust your counselors, support groups, and smart drugs to keep you feeling pretty good about the world, like a Sims character having just the right digital balance. We, the parents, knew we weren’t very special, didn’t trust anyone to advise us, and thought staying away from counselors was a sign of toughness. When you came to college, there were long orientations and immersions, and many of your parents clutched teddy bears and wept. When we came to college, we jumped out of the car and tried to grab our suitcases before our parents sped off.

You Millennials were raised to be team players—and you are, with community service, group projects in the classroom, and clubs for everything. And, above all, you are team players with digital technology that connects you all to each other on Facebook, and smartphones that you take to bed with you. We, the parents, were a lot more into competition, rebellion, and defying the mainstream. We did not “friend” each other. Our generation invented the “personal” computer. Personal, as in “mine and not yours,” and certainly not part of the corporate mainframe our own parents bequeathed to us. Growing up, our biggest fear was that Big Brother might someday install cameras in our rooms. Our biggest joy was hearing Steve Jobs announce that ” 1984 won’t be like 1984.” And now, our biggest surprise has been to see our kids connect with each other by installing their own cameras in their own rooms!

As a generation, you Millennials have a surprisingly conventional outlook on life. Surveys show that as you grow older you wish to become good citizens, good neighbors, and well-rounded people who start families. Violent youth crime, teen pregnancy, and teen smoking have recently experienced dramatic declines, and for that we congratulate you.

Most startling of all, the values gap separating youth from their parents has virtually disappeared. You watch the same movies as your parents, buy the same brand-name clothing, talk over personal problems with them—and, yes, feel just fine about moving back in with them. When I travel around the country, I often ask people now in their 40s or 50s how many songs on their iPod overlap with what’s on their kids’ iPods. The typical answer is 30 to 40 percent. Let me tell you, back in my days on campus (later known as “the days of rage”), we did not have iPods, but if we had, the overlap would have been absolutely zero. Everything about our youth culture was intentionally hostile and disrespectful of our parents. That was the whole idea.

People sometimes ask me, “What does it mean that one generation is different from another—that Millennials, for example, are different from the Boomers or Gen Xers who raised them? Does it mean that some generations are better than others?” And I say: No. There is no such thing as a good or bad generation. Every generation is what it has to be, given the environment it encounters when it enters the world. History shows that whatever collective personality a new generation brings with it is usually what society needs at the time. As such, youth generations tend to correct for the excesses of the midlife generation in power, and they tend to refill the social role being vacated by the older generation who is disappearing.

To avoid speaking in code, let me rephrase this as follows. The Millennial Generation is correcting for the excesses of Boomers and Gen Xers who today run America. I need not remind you what those excesses are: leadership gridlock, refusal to compromise, rampant individualism, the tearing down of traditions, scorched-earth culture wars, and a pathological distrust of all institutions.

The Millennial Generation is also reprising many of the hallmarks of the original G.I. Generation, the so-called “Greatest Generation,” who are now passing away. Like the Millennials, the G.I.s grew up as protected children and quickly turned into optimistic, consensus-minded team players who, in the dark days of the 1930s and ‘40s, saved our nation from turning in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

Igor Stravinsky once wrote that every generation declares war on its parents and makes friends with its grandparents. Yet again, that has happened.

So all of you parents out there: Be proud of this new generation. They aren’t like you, but they are what America now needs. They don’t complain about the storm clouds looming over their fiscal, economic, and geopolitical future; they try to stay positive. They don’t want to bring the system down; they’re doing what they can to make it work again. They worry about you a lot. And they want to come together and build something big and lasting, something that will win your praise. Beneath their tolerant, optimistic, networked, and risk-averse exterior lie attitudes and habits that may prove vital for our country’s healing and for our country’s future.

No one knows what challenges this Millennial Generation may eventually be asked to bear. Hardly anyone expects them to become America’s next “Greatest Generation.” But someday you can say you heard it from me: That is their destiny, to rescue this country from the mess to which we, the older generations, have contributed, perhaps a bit more than we ever intended—and, in so doing, to become a great generation indeed.

Thank you.

Ya baby, I get lots of traffic

When I started blogging, I did not realize how many people would write comments on such a consistent basis.  Many of them ask me if I get enough traffic.  Some want to sell me something.  Most are obviously ESL folks from some former Soviet country, judging by their syntax.  Today, I got 65 comments about dyslexia — sixty-five!!!  I’d like to think that all this online love is due to my interesting blogs, but this is simply not so.  I get regularly bombarded by spammers.

Now, I’m a realist — I know that very few people have ever read anything I have written; maybe my mom and a few others… and maybe not even my mom.  I know for a fact that my family can’t even find this site, and has no interest in finding it.  Basically, I write for myself.  Why is it then that I get an average of 20 comments a day?  Spammers – Spammers who waste my time; Spammers, who make it almost impossible to find the few genuine comments that I do get.

If you leave an honest-to-goodness comment, I’ll always try to answer it!  If I don’t answer yours, you probably got lost in the pile of spam.

You kids have it so easy, with all your modern conveniences.

We had no running water.

I had to go to the bathroom in a bucket…

… we had no toilet paper.  We used old books, newspapers and leaves.


And we worked hard on a farm, not like you slackers …

… you don’t know the meaning of a hard day’s work.

… all you do is play Nintendo

… we were so poor, we played with mud…

… and we liked it.


When I was a little boy, I had to walk many miles to school every day…

… uphill both ways…

… in the snow…

… on my knees.


Cars had only just been invented, but no one owned one.

Roads had not been invented…

And the world was in black and white;

you can tell that from all the old movies and TV shows.  We didn’t even have sound until 1920!


If you were around when I was little, and you had to do all the things I had to do, you’d be dead by now.

The Kwanzaa maker

So, my daughter Courtney bought a new kitchen appliance for herself, a quesadilla maker.  The quesadillas were indeed yummy.  The thing is, my daughter (and I) suffer from dyslexia.  I have more or less overcome this, but Courtney has not.  Why do I mention this?  Well, she was telling us that she was making Kwanzaas.  She had misread the box, and when we tried to correct her, she told us that we were wrong, since Kwanzaa started with a “qu.”  We told her that we were pretty sure this was not the case; that Kwanzaa was a modern African-American winter season celebration, not a food product, but she kept making Kwanzaas anyway.  She then told us that she preferred her Kwanzaas with tobacco.  OK, this was strange, especially for a 13 year old, so I asked if she was smoking while eating her Kwanzaa.  Of course she denied this.  One usually sprinkles tobacco on their Kwanzaas.  So, tobacco is a food ingredient?  “Right,” she said, “you sprinkle it on your Kwanzaa.”  “OH, Tabasco,” I said.   “You are putting hot sauce on your Kwanzaa.”  “Right, tobacco.”

Later that evening, Courtney made another “Kwanzaa”-related quip.  She said that she didn’t like people who smoke Tabasco.  I told her that I agreed, smoking Tabasco might hurt, and it would probably be unpleasant for those around them as well.  She then exclaimed “You know, George Washington grew a lot of Tabasco – he was a Tabasco farmer.”  I then said, “You mean tobacco.  Remember, Tabasco goes on quesadillas.”  “Kwanzaas,” she said.  “The tobacco goes on Kwanzaas.”