High School

February 15, 2018

The more I think about it, the more High School strikes me as a bad idea.

A while back I saw something that went like this:

Q: “Why are novels set in totalitarian dystopias [e.g., Hunger Games or Divergent] so popular with High School students?”

A: “Because High School is a totalitarian dystopia, so they can relate.”

If someone put me in charge of all American High Schools, I’d let the kids get together for band and choir and athletics, but I’d have them do individualized, online courses for their academic subjects. And once they turned 16, I’d try to get them all paying internships so they could learn what it’s like to be economically productive. (If this worked out, I’d try to lower the age for internships to 14 or even 12.) If kids had some feeling of being useful, I doubt we’d see many school shootings.


A couple of notes

February 14, 2018

This would be funny, if they weren’t using it as an excuse to imprison, torture, and kill people: West sent lizards as nuclear spies, claims Iran defense official.

I was reading this article about Apple’s audio labs, and it reminded me how cool anechoic chambers are. If you ever get a chance to go inside one, don’t pass it up.


People vs. ideology

February 10, 2018

I recently finished reading Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem by Michael Austin. (It was a Christmas present. Thanks, Sam!) It was a good book, and I want to highlight something from the concluding chapter, where he’s listing some aphorisms that would apply to the different characters in the poem. One of the ones for Job’s Comforters says:

  • Sometimes being a good friend means doing things that will make you religiously or ideologically uncomfortable. Be a good friend anyway.

I hear more and more about people ending relationships over ideological disagreements. This is very unfortunate; we should value people and relationships over beliefs and ideologies. When it goes the other way we end up with things like the New York Times’ infamous obituary for Pres. Thomas S. Monson. Here was a man who spent his entire, long life visiting widows and the sick and over and over again teaching, by precept and example, the importance of caring for one another, yet for the Times this was all overshadowed by his failure to sign on for their political priorities.

So even if you disagree with me, I’d still like to be friends.

The dream lives

February 6, 2018

When I was a kid, I hoped that some of my children would be born on the Moon or on Mars. As we started having kids, I hoped that maybe some of my grandchildren would be. Even that dream has faded, but today it got a boost: the Falcon Heavy had a successful test flight.

Jesus and politics

February 3, 2018

I frequently see people implying or outright stating that Christians should support some political position or another, often with an appeal to something Jesus said. These kinds of statements come roughly equally from the left and from the right. They’re wrong, though.

Jesus had a lot to say about how we should treat each other, but pretty much nothing to say about how we should organize ourselves politically. He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Whenever someone came to him with a question that had political implications, he reframed or redirected the question; for example, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” or “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”

Jesus taught us to care for the poor and disadvantaged, but he never said to do it by taxing the rich and setting up massive government bureaucracies. He never said not to do it that way, either. Two people can support the same goal, but honestly disagree about the most appropriate way to accomplish that goal. In most cases, Jesus set the goals for us, but didn’t lay out the plan to implement those goals.

Our current culture encourages us to substitute political opinions for religious beliefs, but if we’re really going to be Christians we need to be careful not to confuse the two.

I was wrong

January 23, 2018

Like Mollie Hemingway, I didn’t expect Donald Trump to govern so conservatively.

Trump was not my first or even second choice for president, but a full two years ago I predicted he would win. I also predicted he’d be a progressive president, which explained why I was not among his supporters and why I am so pleased now.

Expecting Progressive Trump was a reasonable assumption. Trump supported the 2009 stimulus, the auto bailouts and the bank bailouts. He’d recently left the Democratic Party and had raised a ton of money for the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer. He’d supportedsingle-payer health coverage, tax increases and even Planned Parenthood.

He was a New York liberal who had conquered the Republican Party in part by promising a good Supreme Court nomination. That was the most I allowed myself to hope for when he won.

I still wouldn’t hold him up as any kind of a role model. However, President Trump has been fortunate in his enemies: no matter how outrageous or vulgar he has been, his opponents have seemed determined to make him look statesmanlike in comparison.

One thing that has pleased and surprised me is how he has shown deference to the constitutional role of Congress. For example, in the DACA issue, I support lenience for illegal aliens whose parents brought them here when they were children, but it needs to be done by legislation, not executive fiat. All my life there’s been a steady transfer of power from Congress to the Presidency, even under conservative presidents like Reagan. Trump’s administration so far seems to be moving in the other direction.

A lot will happen in the next three years, but so far this presidency has been a success.

Sounds like a fun job

November 3, 2017

This week, meet “Lee” who told us he used to work for a British government department that operates lots of offices overseas, usually in embassies.

Lee was On-Call for plenty of them and could be flown out on little notice to sort out technology messes.

One such trip involved “four of us sitting around a cage full of monkeys, feeding them fruit” because one of the simians had swallowed a USB drive that contained classified files.