Dialogs

7 December 2019

I have added this new category under Spirit to provide a place for a type of writing that I have been using for a long time.

The word “dialog” (more properly spelled “dialogue”) comes to us via Latin directly from Greek, where “dia” represents “through or between” and “log[os]” represents “talk or word”. Thus, it resides in a group of words beginning with “dia-” that includes the modern coined word Dianetics, “though mind”.

I am of the habit (some consider it an ability) of imagining dialogs or speeches or presentations interrupted by questions as a way of thinking through how more difficult concepts could be conveyed, or made understandable, to others.

Here’s an earlier example of my experiments with dialog in writing:

A more recent example appears here: https://landofdeadtrees.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/the-georgia-guidestones/

I often do something like this at night, while others sleep (peacefully or otherwise). For some reason, I find it difficult to sleep in an unpeaceful world. I feel some need, or duty, to further the postulate that this will change, and that a higher sort of peace than mere “absence of war” can be achieved on this planet.

In that vein, I offer this video: https://www.scientology.tv/series/l-ron-hubbard-library-presents/is-it-possible-to-be-happy.html

I intend to create some more dialogs as an extension of my “science fiction” story called The Lands. All it really intends to do is to point out to those curious enough to read it that solutions for some of our more basic challenges here on Earth are closer than they might have realized. That’s all I really want to accomplish at this point: To let the planet know that a new kind of future is available to it; that we only have to reach for it.

Food!

28 November 2019

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!

From the musical Oliver!, lyrics by Lionel Bart.

I learned some of the songs in this musical in 5th or 6th grade at Wines School in Ann Arbor.

And since I didn’t get any shots of this year’s Thanksgiving meal, I’ll take you on a short trip down Memory Lane to a few major meals I attended in the long-ago.

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We’ll start with summer 1977 at the Beck’s (Culver City, Los Angeles). There’s Mom and Dad in the back, our friend Sophie facing the camera, a young Sherman staring down at something yummy, and my sister’s beautiful blond hair shimmering fuzzily in the foreground.

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Later that summer we stop by the Piersons. Here we see their piano and music books still prominent in the all-purpose room we spent most of our time in whenever we visited them.

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Next, a Thanksgiving spread featuring David, Mom and Barbie.

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And Christmas dessert, with Donna and Barbie all over-exposed in the foreground. Donna had great blond hair, too.

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And three years later, a scene from the big indoor get-together of the Pritchard Family Reunion (Grandma was a Pritchard). This was held in — can I remember? — the general vicinity of Garner, Iowa. The family started out in Belmond.

Food in the wild wild West

My most recent visit to the American River Parkway featured these food-related scenes:

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The salmon have been running in the American River. Last week I saw a big fish skittering up a shallow rapids near to where this vulture had caught another one.

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Woodpeckers feed mostly on insects living in dead tree branches. It is rare indeed that I catch such a good view of a woodpecker.

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When I came across this doe she had a corn chip bag over her snout. She ran away when I tried to catch her wearing the latest deer fashion (she probably fancied the salt). Here she’s trying to hide from me.

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I have ridden past this old orchard many times, and finally decided to snap a photo. These are walnut trees as far as I can tell. These specimens, however, are quite old. Most of the green on the nearest tree is mistletoe, indicating the tree is weakening from age.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Armistice Day, 101 years ago.

11 November 2019

“What happened on that great occasion was this. The news came about midnight. Next morning I called up the President (Hr. George Kidd, I think) of the B. C. Electric Railway, and asked if I may have the sight seeing street car – open top. Mr. Kidd replied, “It will be ready when you want it down at the corner of Cambie and Hastings. There will be a conductor and motorman; you tell them what to do.” I asked that it be there at 10 a.m. and it was. I said that I was not able to pay. He replied, “It is at your service as the contribution of the B. C. Electric Railway Company.”

“I assembled my 72nd Seaforths band at my place of business on Cordova Street between Homer and Cambie Streets. The Mayor of Vancouver was His Worship Mayor Gale, and he placed all bands under my charge – twelve bands in all. There was little preparatory organization, there were many musicians, some of them returned soldiers, some had instruments – some without. I had to purchase three instruments out of my own purse. Altogether I had one hundred and fifty men. Out of these I picked twelve leaders as bandmasters; then gave each leader twelve men according to their instruments, and away they went, some on floats, some marching on foot. The sight seeing street car with band playing went everywhere – over every line. We allowed no one on except returned soldiers, and many of these accompanied us. We went up Mt. Pleasant, Fairview, West End, everywhere, playing as we went, and except for intervals for meals, did not cease playing on that sight seeing street car until 10 o’clock that night. Some musicians stayed the entire time, some would retire, new ones take their places, some come, some go, it was a wild day of jollification, no order, no system, but everywhere harmony and co-operation. I supplied all the music. I had about 400 marches in my library. We played “Tipparary,” “Keep the Home Fire Burning,” “Pack Up Your Troubles,” “Long, Long Trail,” and other popular ones of the period. “Colonel Bogie” was a great favorite.

“I just divided the 150 men into 12 bands under a leader, gave them their music, told them their position in the line of march and left them ‘go to it.’ It was a glorious moment.”

This story was dictated to the Vancouver Archivist, Major Matthews, by my great-grandfather Edward Cox.

He was the leader of the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders band (featured image) during the war years. Earlier (below) he was with the “Sixth Rifles” in their band. He is specifically named by the Archivist as being in the photograph below.

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Armistice Day for real

Armistice Day was about the beginning of the end of a terrible war. The Germans had been defeated in France, where the armistice was signed. A prominent German politician led the delegation that went to France to sign this agreement. The Allies were led by the Supreme Allied Commander, the French General Foch.

The war involved terrible suffering and slaughter among the troops on all sides. By 1918 everyone (except a few insane “leaders”) wanted it ended. The final arrangements were made in the following year. But the news of this Armistice spread like wildfire across the planet, with the help of telegraph equipment.

Now known in the U.S. as “Veterans Day,” this date should be celebrated by the lovers of peace across this planet as a symbol of what is possible when combatants finally decide to lay down their arms. The fact that military units in most places support bands shines like a little ray of hope that one day war as we now know it could end.

 

Of bikes, banks, birds, bucks…

3 November 2019

I thought I might diverge a bit from my usual weekly write-up to mention a little more about the experience of riding from Folsom to Sacramento.

I don’t have any really good photos showing what Folsom is like, but here’s one from the summer showing some geese walking around on the lawn and sidewalk next to a corporate building and a transit station parking lot.

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It is a car-dominated, corporate-dominated suburban area. This is a newer part of town, so it has bike paths and lots of greenery and these random appearances of wildlife. I think a lot of suburbs have these things.

Some attack suburban life as “unsustainable,” but with a combination of lots of local employment plus a big city nearby, many people would much prefer to live in a place like Folsom if they can afford to. With the help of cars, a large grocery store like Winco is very viable here. There is plenty of room for parking, and the store is constantly busy, but especially on Saturday morning. The store is full of parents and kids, plus some older and younger couples, and a few singles like me.

I usually finish my shopping between 11AM and noon, then start back with my load of groceries, a big sun hat, and (in the summer) a dab of sunscreen on the top of each hand – the most exposed body parts (I wear long sleeves and pants when I go on such trips).

I got the bicycle I use in Pullman. It is a very well-built machine, but longer than most bikes. The frame has been extended about seven inches to allow for a lower center of gravity and more leg extension to the pedals. This is very helpful for urban biking where there is a lot of stopping for people and traffic. Most others on the trail ride racing bikes. A few older people ride motor-assisted touring bikes. I also see unusual bicycles on this trail. There is an occasional tandem bike, recumbent bikes, and a few “stepper” bikes.

Folsom is roughly 20 miles east of Sacramento. To its immediate north is a “lake” which is a reservoir formed by a rather large dam. Below that is a smaller “lake” formed by a smaller dam located at a fish hatchery. An aquatic park connected to Sac State University is located on this lower lake, and they host various boat races and similar events there. It is by this lake, across from the “Iron Point” light rail station, that I enter the Parkway and start my ride back to Sacramento.

Here are some people doing a photo shoot in that section of the park. It is right next to Folsom Boulevard, so very accessible.

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This is where most of the tarweed grows, as described in earlier posts.

Below the fish hatchery is a stretch of river used a lot for fishing and leisurely boating. The river is broad, shallow and slow-moving below the hatchery all the way to where it meets the Sacramento River. About 150 years ago, this section of the river was heavily dug up using various mining methods to remove gold from river sediments. Very large piles of river rocks adorn the banks of the river in this area, particularly on the south side where the bike path is. Here is a major example:

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On this part of the river, the other (north) side of the river is steeper and more hilly, so most of the rock from the dredges ended up on the south side.

As this environmental interference is now over 100 years past, many of these areas are regrown, particularly along the river banks. Here is a typical view of the river not far downstream from the hatchery.

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The bike path tends to skirt along the river bank where there are lots of trees, while passing open fields on the other side. At some points the road and houses are quite close to the path, and at other points they are more distant.

There are a few sections of dense woods (which I love – reminds me of Michigan) but in most places the land shows signs that at one time in the past it was cleared by the miners for their work. I have shown this photo before, but I’ll show it here again to convey some of the beauty that a real forest provides.

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The ride home is for the most part a pleasure. But it does take me about three hours, and I usually experience some discomfort on the rump before the ride is over.

On the way I normally stop at one of the parks for a snack. It was not far from my stop this week that I spied these two birds down at the river. With bare eyes I could not tell that the vulture had a fish, but it was obviously feeding on something. The gull seems to be waiting with a sort of pretended attitude of disinterest, hoping – I suppose – that the vulture will leave some scraps behind that it may take advantage of.

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It is not common to come across such a poignant little vignette as the one above, but this area is home to wildlife, and they will sometimes appear close to the bike path, as I have noted many times concerning the deer. This week I got my first sighting of an older buck. I didn’t know there were any buck this old (two or three years judging by antler points) living in this area. I didn’t see any does in the vicinity.

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At Sac State I leave the river and head into town. The roadways in that area are a bit tangled, as a railway runs through it at a diagonal, which breaks up the usual orderly grid of streets.

I usually go into town using M and L streets. These are residential streets until I get close to downtown, so there’s less car traffic on them. On this route I go through the “40s” which is a very posh, upscale old suburban neighborhood. It stays residential until I get to the I-80 freeway which goes right through town between 29th and 30th.

The fact that the I-80 and the I-5 cross in Sacramento makes this spot a major transport crossroads. This fact has been emphasized several times by the drug enforcement officers who come to our church to brief us on the current scene regarding illicit trafficking, and particularly marijuana. It means there is a criminal interest in this location that would be absent if those freeways crossed somewhere else.

In any case, after the freeway comes the hospital (Sutter) along with the fort (Sutter) and then I get into a mix of older houses, apartment buildings, and cute shops that emphasize coffee, food, and drinking. L Street comes into downtown right between the Capitol Mall (a quite nice park) and the Convention Center (currently being renovated).  Then I switch over to K Street which runs right into the new DOCO, and I am home.

I might mention that the ice rink just opened this Friday and I had a nice opening day skate for just two bucks!

I will end with this shot of what was on the ground back in the park at the place where I saw the deer. It is not yet freezing at night here (and actually does not do so that often), and so many of the late-blooming plants just continue to go about their business. Sometimes when I walk down the city streets and see all that brick or concrete I wish the sidewalks could look like this instead.

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Day of the Dead

27 October 2019

We are creeping up on Halloween, so why not work with that theme this week?

The significance and timing (end October) of the observance itself has been a Christian tradition for so long, that the possibility that is was originally a non-Christian observance is now in doubt, even though a traditional Gaelic festival was observed at the same time of year.

Dia de Muertos

In Mexico, the Dia de Muertos tradition definitely began as an observance connected to Aztec tradition and beliefs. Everyone in Mexico knows this. However, it was not traditionally observed at this time of year, but rather at the beginning of summer. When the Spaniards came, this eventually got shifted so that this observance coincided with what we know as Halloween.

In most earlier religions or spiritual systems, the spirit was believed to survive death in some manner. Most religions believe that the spirit “goes somewhere,” but can return to “visit” for various reasons. Though there may have been some societal need fulfilled by this belief system, it is also possible that these ideas came from actual experience, as our best data indicates that the spirit does indeed “leave” and then “come back.”

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In the case of the Mexican tradition, it was taught that this day, or these days (two or three special days may be observed) are somehow set aside for the spirits of those you loved to come back and visit. Little (or not so little) alters of offerings would be set up for those who we hoped would come visit, to make them feel welcome and more comfortable. Note the modern Californian add-ins to this alter display from last year’s celebration in Old Town.

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The circular arrangement of little white bags and oranges (I think) depicted above is not understood by me, but was certainly quite noticeable.

The Devil’s Motorcycle

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I had to find some excuse to include an image of this impressive bike I found parked outside Folsom Winco.

In the fantastical comedy film Raising Arizona, something close to a real devil rides such a machine. I have seen several films that have used the motorcycle as a sort of symbol of approaching danger.

Spooky Butterfly

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This insect is called the “Buckeye,” and the patterns on its wings are called “eye spots.”

Kinda spooky!

Death in Popular Lore

It is surprisingly difficult for most of us to remember what happens when we die. This memory loss has advantages both for us and for the managers trying (never very successfully) to keep us all under control. For us, it means we can end a lifetime by shedding all responsibilities for what we did or didn’t do during it, and “start afresh” every time we get born. For the managers it means we are less likely to realize that we are immortal beings and should hold in contempt any effort to control us by threatening us via our bodies (with torture, death and the like).

As a result, our ideas about what it means to die and “come back” are a bit off base, kooky, and unrealistic. Some think of the departed rising from their graves as animated skeletons. Others think of returning spirits as a bit demonic, tormenting us with swirls of smoke or dust in the shape of bodies and playing tricks on us that are frightening. Some think that they can leave something around to remind you of them.

We could see “trick or treat” I suppose as sort of a dramatization of our attempts to appease the departed so that they won’t continue to bother us. That we in the U.S. use little children to play the role of the returned ones is ironic.

As a part of this whole tradition, those of us who have houses and can afford the time and expense will “dress up” their front yards in keeping with the “spirit” of the season.

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This could be seen as a playful and creative pastime, I suppose. However, the scariest front yards I remember as a kid were the ones that were actually small forests that you had to walk through (or creep through) to get to the house. Spooky!

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The bright orange pumpkin is a great way to decorate the yard as winter begins to turn it brown. Of course, in Sacramento, most of the yards never do actually turn brown…

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I can only imagine this to be the house of a doctor. How else would he have access to so many (classroom) skeletons?

The Vulture

A lurking, dark and nasty-looking bird is a great symbol for spookiness. In Poe’s famous poem, it was The Raven. Well, I didn’t find one of those, but I did find this vulture.

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The dead tree he (or she) is sitting on really adds a dramatic touch, doesn’t it? But I thought I’d try to push it a little further with the color adjustments available in my image editor.

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Now we have more of a night time scene, with the bird in silhouette on a moonlit branch.

My Halloween Project

I always try to squeeze in a project at Halloween time. Though I didn’t have as many LEDs as I really wanted, I’m going for an animated electronic jack-o-lantern.

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Hope I finish it in time!

 

 

 

 

Gone Fishin’

19 October 2019

Tired of titles that have nothing to do with my content? I can’t help it. Hopefully I’ll get over it before too long.

If this title has anything more to do with this article beyond my photo of a guy fishing while an egret looks on, it would probably be that I had to “fish” these images out of larger photos. I almost always “crop” my photos to improve composition and focus more on the central subject. All these had to be cropped quite a lot, mostly because the featured subject was not very close to me when I photographed it.

Somewhere up on the river, after the dam at Aquatic Park, but not much beyond where I saw the guy fishing, I noticed a beautiful red-breasted hawk fly into a nearby tree to rest.

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Hawk sightings are not that common along this part of the river. Vultures are very common, and tend to dominate. Most of the hawks here are smaller birds; and I have never seen an eagle in these parts.

Squirrels are very active this time of year. And a lot of squirrels in this area use burrows for living quarters, rather than build tree nests. A park such as the William Pond Park – one of the larger ones on the river – can get quite torn up with ground squirrel holes.

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These little guys like to stand upright at the entrance to a burrow or nearby. I don’t know to what extent this reflects diligence or concern for personal safety. Perhaps it just gets smelly down there and he needs to refresh himself once in a while.

I’m always looking for the deer. Today they were considerably down river from where they usually hang out. A lady on a bike even stopped and told me she’d seen another one in the area where I saw two. But I didn’t photograph them. I have so many photos now of deer right next to – or on – the trail that it seems to me I have enough.

But when one showed up across from the Cal State – Sac campus, which is very close to town, I stopped to capture the moment.

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This one appeared to be quite young. Otherwise she’d know better than to wander this far down the river. But she was staying down by the trees. The bike trail here is up on a levee.

Perhaps next week I will feel moved to address topics of greater import. Kind of felt the need to take it easy this weekend…

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People Celebrate My Birthday

6 October 2019

It was amazing how many people were out on this sunny Saturday preparing for my birthday celebration!

During my usual trip to and back from Folsom, I ran across not one, but two young bucks. The bucks tend to keep their distance from the trail more than the does do, so they must have known I was coming and wanted to see them.

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Later on, during my lunch break, I was entertained by various flying machines from an airshow someone had thoughtfully decided to put on that day at Mather Field.

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But the really big event of the day happened later that evening, when I went to see “5000 Watts” a charity event thoughtfully themed around two of my favorite subjects, electronics and art.

I arrived well before sunset, when they were still setting it all up.

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In the background of this image is Raley Field, a West Sacramento baseball stadium and event venue named after the locally notable Raley family, famous for their chain of grocery stores.

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Here we see the four symbols used by Square Root Academy, the fundraisers for this event. Earth, Air, Fire and Water if I recall correctly. This group sponsors science programs for disadvantaged youth. Prominent in the background is Eileen the “pearl” peacock, a creation of Kristen Hoard and her group of artists and makers.

Well, the sun finally set, and they let us in.

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We were greeted by Kate Marusina’s installation, featuring Ohmu (a creature that plays a major role in a Japanese anime). It seems Kate is a PhD-level researcher at UC Davis who does this as a hobby.

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As the story goes, when an ohmu’s eyes turn red it means that it is mad. This one, however, just moved its mouth feelers around a little bit.

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These flowers were made by young people participating in a school program.

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The inflatable “plants” are an invention of Stan Clark. He sells them through a company called Astro Botanicals.

In the distance we see William (Cenote) Jerome’s “Luminescent Grand,” an electric piano made of plastic that glows as you play it. The visuals of it on his own website are much better than what I could do with a still camera at night.

Also by the piano was an installation by tech company RocketLife that is marketing an app and a small piece of hardware that can help anyone add animated lighting to their creation or project.

Local electronics guru Chris Biddle also showed up with his huge 3D LED matrix (no photo) and there were several other projects on display.

How thoughtful of them to do this for my entertainment!

The open space across from where I live was recently renamed in honor of a downtown developer who died of cancer at the young age of 35. Ali Youssefi, as it turns out, was instrumental in getting the building I am living in constructed, and also a similar building over on R Street which is specially designed for artists.

Last night someone had the square fenced off for some sort of paid event involving “pro wrestling.”

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And they had failed to invite me! Well, perhaps they knew I wouldn’t be interested…

Blast from the Past – Schools

4 October 2019

Approximately 45 years ago, when I was 20, I wrote a letter to NPR about my views on the importance of improving schools. NPR (National Public Radio) was known for its interest in such topics and debates, and was always presenting little stories about education.

I also included a rather lengthy excerpt from Neil Postman’s book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, co-written with Charles Weingartner. Postman was the major theorist behind this book. He advocated a student-centered approach to education and, in this book at least, was critical of teachers for not working harder to make this happen. For all that, the book took a somewhat lighthearted approach to the whole subject, which appealed to me.

Though my own school experience was not at all negative, I realized that I wasn’t learning in school everything I needed to know. That problem was later solved when I discovered Hubbard’s work. But that does not solve the problem for everyone else going to school.

The Letter

Dear NPR people,

Whenever children are mentioned on “All Things Considered” I listen. I listen because I have a question I’m trying to find an answer to: How can we raise our children to help them survive, and thrive, in the world of the future?

Pollution, overpopulation and war could make life in the future intolerable. They could bring all social and cultural growth to a halt. Will our children be able to prevent that from happening? I am worried for them, and that is why I look for new ways to raise them that will give them a better chance.

My own particular interest is schooling. For the past 15 years, school has been a dominant part of my life. I have always been an inquisitive person, and I liked to work out problems on my own. School gave me this opportunity, and I spent long hours trying to solve every problem, dilemma, or difficult concept the teachers put before me. It was not until I got older, and the reality of making it in the world “outside” started to loom over the horizon, that I began to feel uncomfortable in school.

In junior high many questions that were becoming important to me, questions about people and society and the way they worked, were not being discussed in school. In high school I began to realize that many of my courses would not be useful to me outside of the classroom. By my senior year I was totally opposed to schools. I joined an “alternative school” and worked exclusively on problems and projects of my own choosing. Up to then, everyone around me has assumed I would go to a four-year college. But I had decided against that some time before, and chose instead a two-year electronics program at the local community college.

I have been at Washtenaw Community College for a year now. The quality of education there gave me an unusually strong incentive to look for new approaches to schooling. That inquiry led me to a book entitled Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share some of it with you, so I am including an excerpt from it that includes 16 proposals for initiating change in our schools. I am also including “Think Sheet on Learning” that I wrote for a presentation in a political science class last year. It was also inspired by this book.

The authors of the book are Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. In 1969, when they wrote the book, Neil was working at New York University and Harlem Preparatory School, and Charles was at Queens College. I hope that you will have them on your show someday.

Dr. Farsin touched on the subject of schooling, and most of what he sees happening in schools I also see. His conclusion is that obligatory schooling should be abolished. My conclusion, and that of Postman and Weingartner, is that the schools should be changed to allow much more freedom and much more learning. I guess abolishing public schools as an institution never entered our minds. The idea sounds good to me, but I can’t speak for Neil or Charles.

I must say that NPR has shown an unusual amount of interest in children and their future, and I am very thankful for that.

The Excerpt

16 Proposals to Initiate Change in Our Schools

Postman and Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, 1969, pp 137-140.

1. Declare a five-year moratorium on the use of all textbooks.
Since with two or three exceptions all texts are not only boring but based on the assumption that knowledge exists prior to, independent of, and altogether outside of the learner, they are either worthless or harmful. If it is impossible to function without textbooks, provide every student with a notebook full of blank pages, and have him compose his own text.

2. Have “English” teachers “teach” Math, Math teachers English, Social Studies teachers Science, Science teachers Art, and so on.
One of the largest obstacles to the establishment of a sound learning environment is the desire of teachers to get something they think they know into the heads of people who don’t know it. An English teacher teaching Math would hardly be in a position to fulfill this desire. Even more important, he would be forced to perceive the “subject” as a learner, not a teacher.
If this suggestion is impractical, try numbers 3 and 4.

3. Transfer all the elementary-school teachers to high school and vice-versa.

4. Require every teacher who thinks he knows his “subject” well to write a book on it.
In this way, he will be relieved of the necessity of inflicting his knowledge on other people, particularly his students.

5. Dissolve all “subjects,” “courses,” and especially “course requirements.”
This proposal, all by itself, would wreck every existing educational bureaucracy. The result would be to deprive teachers of the excuses presently given for their failures and to free them to concentrate on their learners.

6. Limit each teacher to three declarative sentences per class, and 15 interrogatives.
Every sentence above the limit would be subject to a 25-cent fine. The students can do the counting and the collecting.

7. Prohibit teachers from asking questions they already know the answers to.
The proposal would not only force teachers to perceive learning from the learner’s perspective, it would help them learn how to ask questions that produce knowledge.

8. Declare a moratorium on all tests and grades.
This would remove from the hands of teachers their major weapons of coercion and would eliminate two of the major obstacles to their students’ learning anything significant.

9. Require all teachers to undergo some form of psychotherapy as part of their in-service training.
This need not be psychoanalysis; some form of group therapy or psychological counseling will do. Its purpose: to give teachers an opportunity to gain insight into themselves, particularly into the reasons they are teachers.

10. Classify teachers according to their ability and make the lists public.
There would be a “smart” group (the Bluebirds), an “average” group (the Robins), and a “dumb” group (the Sandpipers). The lists would be published each year in the community paper. The I.Q. and reading scores of teachers would also be published, as well as the list of those who are “advantaged” and “disadvantaged” by virtue of what they know in relation to what their students know.

11. Require all teachers to take a test prepared by students on what the students know.
Only if a teacher passes this test should he be permitted to “teach.” This test could be used for “grouping” the teachers as in number 10 above.

12. Make every class an elective and withhold a teacher’s monthly check if his students do not show any interest in going to next month’s classes.
This proposal would simply put the teacher on a par with other professionals, e.g., doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. No one forces you to go to a particular doctor unless you are a “clinical case.” In that instance, you must take what you are given. Our present system makes a “clinical case” of every student. Bureaucrats decide who shall govern your education. In this proposal, we are restoring the American philosophy: no clients, no money; lots of clients, lots of money.

13. Require every teacher to take a one-year leave of absence every fourth year to work in some “field” other than education.
Such an experience can be taken as evidence, albeit shaky, that the teacher has been in contact with reality at some point in his life. Recommended occupations: bartender, cab driver, garment worker, waiter. One of the common sources of difficulty with teachers can be found in the fact that most of them simply move from one side of the desk (as students) to the other side (as “teachers”) and they have not had much contact with the way things are outside of school rooms.

14. Require each teacher to provide some sort of evidence that he or she had a loving relationship with at least one other human being.
If the teacher can get someone to say, “I love her (or him),” she should be retained. If she can get two people to say it, she should get a raise. Spouses need not be excluded from testifying.

15. Require that all graffiti accumulated in the school toilets be reproduced on large paper and be hung in the school halls.
Graffiti that concern teachers and administrators should be chiseled into the stone at the front entrance of the school.

16. There should be a general prohibition against the use of the following words and phrases: teach, syllabus, covering ground, I.Q., makeup, test, disadvantaged, gifted, accelerated, enhancement, course, grade, score, human nature, dumb, college material, and administrative necessity.

A look back

We can detect a plentiful amount of tongue-in-cheek in the above “proposals.” But of course the authors were trying to make the point that schools seemed to exist for reasons other than a child’s desire to grow up and take his or her place in the world based on a decent understanding of it and of himself or herself.

I could see that. Many other students and parents didn’t seem to be bothered by this too much. If anyone was a bit upset about the scene, from my own personal experience it seemed to be the teachers. They knew they were failing society in some way, even if society didn’t seem to care that much.

We know now that the first and most basic answer is Hubbard’s Study Technology. That gives students the tools they need to learn by observation, with true understanding, including an ability to act on that understanding and produce results in their areas of expertise.

This has become a critical issue now. If we do not produce enough people in this society that can learn by observation rather than run on orders like little robots, we will lose our freedoms to those who think machines and slaves to operate them are more important than people.

Odds and Ends

28 September 2019

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This weekend the high temperatures fell below 70 (F). But I got on the train for my usual ride up to Folsom. They were getting the streets ready for the annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, featuring food, drink, and entertainment on the Capitol Mall, just blocks from where I live.

At some point in the ride, a young lady – very cute and wearing short shorts – boarded the train and sat down sideways in a seat a few yards in front of me. I couldn’t resist getting a photo of her feet sticking out into the aisle.

American River Parkway

As the Parkway goes into autumn mode, the scenes there are mostly predictable, but with little variations due to the season. The geese are flying around more and gathering on park lawns more. In this shot I also caught a ground squirrel standing at his burrow.

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The four does I had noticed earlier were split into two pairs today. One pair was right at the bike trail. I am surprised they come that close, but they must be a bit acclimated to humans nearby.

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The late-flowering yellow asters are about the only flowers left in these woods now. The big-flowered ones are particularly showy, but their range is very limited – that is, I only see them in a few places.

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The taller plants with all the flowers near the top are more ubiquitous. One field where they predominate is very bright with them right now. And I saw many more on my short walk over to West Sac.

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A new yellow flower joined these usual ones today. It is called Sundrops, or sometimes Evening Primrose. This one may have escaped from cultivation, as it is rare in the wild here. But it is a perennial, so once established it should continue to grow.

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The Festival

I have been out of this scene for so long, it is a bit difficult for me to understand why these events attract so many people. It’s as if these people are constantly looking for “things to do” and ways to spend money. I don’t have to look for things to do or ways to spend money. My various interests keep me totally occupied. But that does not seem to be the case with most of these folks.

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In this typical scene, we have beer being served in the background, and a street entertainer making balloon shapes for kids. The glass of beer in the hand of the woman in the foreground is typical, if anything, a bit small.

On stage at the bridge end of the Mall (nearest the river) a blues-rock act named Samantha Fish was performing.

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This stage – and I suppose the performers using it – was underwritten by Bank of America. The festival is free to get in, so it must make back its operating costs from the sale of alcoholic beverages. Beer is extremely popular in this area. It probably is everywhere and I just have never paid that much attention.

Drake’s Barn

And thus another activity quickly becoming popular in this area – Drake’s Barn. This place has only been open for about a year now. Drake’s makes beer in San Leandro and has another taproom (bar) in Oakland. The Barn is located across the street from a housing development aimed at up-and-coming young people. I am guessing most of them work in Sacramento, as it’s very close to the main bridge that connects Sac and West Sac.

The Barn will be hosting a show of “electric art” next weekend, mostly light-oriented I think, and I plan to go over and check that out. So this weekend I walked over to the location to see exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there (about 20 minutes).

The place was full of kids playing – I guess that’s just part of the amenities there – while parents sipped their cold ones. I wondered what sort of lives these people lead, and what their futures will be like.

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Above you can see “The Barn” in the background. It is an odd-shaped flowing building made of numerous wood planks. Here’s a closer look, from the rear:

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I was keeping track of the time by taking pictures of my phone. However, I had my camera set wrong on this one, and the phone instead worked like a mirror.

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On my walk back, I glanced over the side of the bridge at the bank below and saw two cats there. I’m guessing they are feral cats. The one I caught licking itself in particular looks a bit scary.

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World Peace Day

An event earlier in the week at my church was a small presentation commemorating the International Day of Peace, officially observed each year on 21 September. This was started in 1981. Costa Rica had a lot to do with getting the U.N. resolution written.

The guest speaker at our church event was Edrine Ddungu, formerly of Uganda. He personally witnessed the terrorism in Uganda instigated (apparently) by Idi Amin. His own father was brutally murdered, at which point he was quietly sent to live in Kenya and finally made it to the U.S. where he wanted to study at Sacramento City College.

He told us that his desire to play a leadership role in promoting interfaith cooperation and non-violence comes mostly from his desire to continue the work of his father. He is currently president of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento.

The situation in Africa

Uganda could be considered to be at the center of a very bad scene in Central Africa. I don’t understand it well, but it probably has partly to do with a breakdown of civilization in Africa that occurred in ancient times which has been followed by criminal meddling from outside players ever since. The Portuguese were the first to arrive on the Atlantic coast. They almost immediately started slave operations there. But slave operations on the eastern coast of Central Africa (Indian Ocean) had already been active for hundreds of years, and these were non-European operations.

There seemed to have been an almost world-wide agreement that Africa offered resources that could be freely taken advantage of by any group that had sufficient organization and weapons. And that has been the pattern ever since.

All Mr. Ddungu can do now is return yearly to his home country with a bit of money and educational assistance. The general situation in the region is still largely out of control.

The continuing violence in Africa seems to be fueled both by a complete lack of moral compass on the part of any of the major players in the region, and by increasing demand from the rest of the planet for the various commodities that are produced there.

Of the handful of people who attended the event, several were not particularly aware of how brutal and desperate the situation in Africa has been. We saw the great advances made in South Africa and thought that perhaps the rest of the continent was on a similar path. Though this may some day come to pass, it certainly is not the current situation.

However, getting reliable data on what has really been going on in the region has been nearly impossible. So my characterizations of the current scene are guesses based on reports I have been able scrape up or ran into. I am not a student of African politics or economics. But to say that part of the world is in definite need of sanity would be an understatement.

Earlier in the year, Scientologist Tim Bowles had visited us to talk about his work in Africa. He described the experience of meeting with the leader of one of the many African extremist groups. The man was at the emotional level of a teenager, mainly interested to know if Tim had met any famous Hollywood personalities. These people have stars in their eyes. They think they can become rich off the world’s dependence on various strategic minerals found in Africa. My guess is that they care about little else.

While Tim has had some success at starting real human rights education in Central Africa, it seems to me that until the companies that deal with African suppliers demand compliance with basic standards of human decency, people there will continue to suffer.

It’s our job, then, to get to those companies and change their minds about how they deal with Africa. That racism has nothing to do with this is very hard to imagine. Yet racism is just another manifestation of the insanity we are confronted with on this planet. We must make the people we can reach saner. If we don’t, this planet will be lost.

Equinox

22 September 2019

A few days ago we had our first rain in at least six months. I was wondering if any of the plants in the American River Parkway would respond to this. Of course, we are also just a day or two away from the fall equinox, the official beginning of autumn, and the plants could be responding to that, too.

But I really only saw one big change along the trail, and that was a renewed flowering of the mysterious yellow asters that I haven’t yet identified. While the tarweed that was so visible in a Folsom field has decided to stop flowering, these other yellow flowers decided the opposite.

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The other yellow flowers that I mentioned in a previous post are also blooming more strongly now. I think this may also be triggered by soil moisture.

This is also a time when flocking behavior and migration starts to occur for some birds. This was very evident on the river, with large groups of gulls appearing. I hardly ever see gulls on the river during the summer.

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Some of the larger aquatic birds will also begin to move around more this time of year. This egret is stopping at a man-made water control pond in Folsom. I hardly ever see egrets at this pond.

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The “ARP deer” were camped out at their usual place along the trail. For some reason, though, most of them were lying down – almost hiding – in the dry grass.

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The parties associated with the end of summer – and of the summer school break – are mostly at an end. But I missed including this shot in my last post, and I wanted to mention it because I had never seen something like this before. It was part of a party at Hagan Park last week.

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A child (or even an adult, I suppose) can climb into this clear inflated sphere through one of two ports and then walk or crawl around inside it. I found the somewhat bizarre structure of the object most intriguing.

On my way back home, I usually stop at this little mini-park in midtown to get a drink from the water fountain (the one in the foreground, not the cute one).

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And in the same neighborhood – a quite posh part of town – I happened upon this restored vintage car. This appears to be a 1937 Cadillac.

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The equinox symbolizes a momentary balance that our universe oscillates around. May your balance move towards perfection and your oscillations be interesting and instructive.