Notes and Quotes: March 2015


The “learning styles” myth

Middle school reading lists 100 years ago

“Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One”

Occupy the Syllabus

The Last English Teacher

Economic truths about college



“Why the World Still Loves Shakespeare

“Dust to Dust: At 75, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is less persuasive than ever”

Leo Tolstoy’s philosophy

Tom Stoppard: I have to dumb down jokes so the audience can understand

Quantifying Literature!



NASA: The largest picture ever taken



“97 Articles Refuting The ‘97% Consensus’ on global warming

“1350+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarmism

“The Absurdity of Gender Theory”

“An Open Letter from the Child of a Loving Gay Parent

“University bans use of ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ in all correspondence”

“Sorry, liberals, Scandinavian countries aren’t utopias

Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say



Explicating the Allegory of the Olive Tree






–From Read the Bible for Life















The Magic Toenail

My kids often ask me to make up little stories as I tuck them in at night.  Tonight’s was pretty good:


Once upon a time there was a magic warrior giant.  But this story isn’t about him.

The magic giant had a giant magic dog.  But this story isn’t about him, either.

The dog had a nail on his left big toe that could think and talk and cast spells.  This story is about him.  It’s called, “The Magic Toenail.”

The toenail had a sweet life, what with being magic and not having to go to school and all.  Everything was peaceful, until one day when a UFO landed in front of their castle.  Oh, by the way, they lived in a castle.

Gross purple aliens came out and started looking around.

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Notes and Quotes: December 2014


Classical sculptures in color
Great article on the late works of Turner



The main reason we should cherish liberal education as “great books” is that they almost all are—whether written in the form of prose, poetry, plays, or novels—poetic in this sense: They are all about showing, rather than telling. One of the great prejudices of our time is that the truth can be reduced to theory and information expressed directly through “critical thinking” that can, in principle, be displayed through logically ordered PowerPoint slides. But the strangest and most wonderful being in the cosmos—each of us—is too elusive and mysterious to be known through that mode. This means the poetic, indirect, or slow and circuitous mode of knowing could be even more rigorous and rational in its own way. The reason Socrates didn’t write at all, and the reason Plato wrote “dialogues” or really wordy plays, is that books themselves can so readily get in the way of wondrous love and “the joy of discovery” if they are viewed as one-dimensional prose. The difference here is the one between the “great book” or even a “real book” and the “textbook.”

The one true progress has little to do with political institutions or technical devices: It’s the progress that occurs in the directions of wisdom and virtue over a particular unique and irreplaceable human life, and our struggle today is to remember to focus at least some of our higher education on encouraging that personal progress.
Technocracy Versus The Great Books

What’s the Best Teaching Method?
English teacher turned Congressman corrects a colleague’s memo

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Four Best Places For Your Charitable Giving

We all have things we care about.  We all know of needs we want to help fill.  Likely, we all get frustrated because we just don’t have the resources to do all we want to do.

May I suggest that, if you’re reading this, you would care about the following things, and if more people would focus their charitable donations on these, a great difference for the better could be made.

I’ll propose what I find to be the needs that are the most worthy in the realms of politics, religion & literacy, and living well.


In politics, we live in an era where perhaps the greatest political need has arisen from the emergence of a new Puritan class of righteous elites, who set our cultural guidelines and persecute those who dare dissent.  This is a time of stifling conformity, paired with punishment for any who refuse to worship at the right altar.

Free speech is dying.

You might suggest that the physical threat of terrorism, or the more domestic threat of unsustainable debt, for example, are more dangerous than the almost existential desire for free speech.

You would be wrong.  While other issues have massive consequences which can be seen easily, the cowing of individuals portends even more damage in the long run.

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Notes and Quotes: October 2014


Looking back on Bill Murray in The Razor’s Edge

The definitive ranking of every Cosby Show credits sequence


25 great anti-jokes

The Little Rascals’ recreate movie poster 20 years after film was released


Delightful approach to Shakespeare’s language

Why Homer Matters

The savage greatness of A Clockwork Orange

Hear all of Finnegans Wake out loud


40 portraits of four sisters over 40 years

Milky Way photography

National Geographic 2014 photo contest

Photo: Spirits of Westminster

Art from the collection of Ray Bradbury


“Many human behaviours, quirks, eccentricities and woes which in the past would have been seen as parts of the rich tapestry of life are now branded mental disorders.”

Reviewed: How To Be a Conservative

Generation Wuss,” by Bret Easton Ellis

Why I Left My Last School

The 2010-2011 school year should have been my best ever: I was teaching at the same campus for the sixth year, teaching all honors classes, and only had classes that I’d taught before.

But by the middle of second semester, I was worn out from constant frustration.  A series of cheating incidents had made me paranoid and angry, I had faced a massive outcry after raising expectations for late and missing work, and I had gone through several confrontational parent conferences due to both.

During Spring Break, though, I had resolved to make the best of it and restore my optimism.  I was grateful for a lot of things about that job: I worked with great teachers and students, my leaders were generally supportive, and I loved the work I got to do.  I decided to focus on the positive from there on out and make the last part of the year the best part.

Then school started again…

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Closed Bookstores

The Barnes and Noble on South Maryland Parkway shut its doors earlier this year.  That means that every major bookstore that was open in Las Vegas when I was in college, a mere fifteen years ago, is now closed.

The Borders on Sahara and Decatur, where I worked my freshman year, closed several years ago, just as the recession was starting.  The space is still vacant.

When I was in high school, there was a little Barnes and Noble affiliate called Bookstar just down the street from it.  They closed before I even graduated.  It’s a linen shop now.

The Borders on Lake Mead and Rainbow opened while I was in college.  They closed last year.

There used to be two bookstores in the Meadows Mall.  Both are long since closed, that mall now bereft of books.

There are just two Barnes and Noble stores left to service all of Las Vegas.  Both are in the same part of town: out west in the Summerlin area.

There is not, nor has there even been, a major bookstore in the northernmost part of the city, where I live.  I remember a little independent one in the strip mall at Rancho and Craig, but that was as close as it got, and they closed before any of these others.  A raggedy used book store on Ann closed a few years ago.  Other than the Barnes and Noble I started off writing about, I don’t think the easternmost part of town has ever had a big bookstore, either.

There are, however, still several fine used book stores in Las Vegas.  Thank goodness for that.


Family Feud Surveys

Every round of this show says that the answers came from a survey of 100 people.  Wikipedia says that there have been at least 8000 episodes.  Say there’s five rounds in each game (a pretty conservative estimate): that makes 40,000 of these surveys.

And at 100 people per survey, that makes 400,000 people.  Or one out of every 750 people in America.

I’ve never been called by their show with questions.  I don’t know anybody who has been.  Do you?  Sounds fishy to me.

If a Tree Falls…

“If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

NO.  Sound doesn’t exist outside of the ear.  Sound waves themselves aren’t really what we think of as “sound” until they’re decoded by the mechanisms in our ears.  No ears = no sound, right?

However, by that same thinking…

YES.  Does the question assume only human life is at issue here?  If animal life is also to be considered, and is present, then their ears would do the same thing.  Sound would exist.

Unless all the people and/or animals in the area are deaf.  Then, you could have all the people around you want, and there still wouldn’t be any sound.

Unless we allow for those deaf people and animals feeling vibrations through the ground to count as “sound”…

Boy, the things one comes up with on a Friday…

Telescopes Are Time Machines

I love thinking about how space is really a huge window into the ancient past.  We think we see all this great stuff out there, but everything we see is as old and outdated as the time it took the light from those things to reach Earth.

If something is 200 million light years away, we can’t see it; we can only see it the way it was 200 million years ago.

If the sun exploded, I don’t think we’d know about it for eight minutes.  Could the effect of broken gravity travel faster than light?  I doubt it.  And inertia would carry us along for a brief bit, right?

That would make a great science fiction story: a future where we have faster than light communication and travel, and we get word of the sun’s destruction from some satellite near Mercury, giving humanity a few minutes to evacuate the planet.

Here’s another: a future where we can zip across the cosmos–maybe through wormholes–and then look back at Earth and, thus, back into our own history.  In the year 3000, ships could fly out instantaneously to, say, about two thousand light years away, and watch the Crusades through super powerful telescopes.

Historical research sure would get easier.

Why I Disabled Comments

A few weeks ago, I read this great post from Eric D. Snider, and was inspired.  I knew exactly how he felt.  This blog has often been cluttered by comments that typically say little more than, “I disagree with you!  Hooray for me!”  Though not usually so polite or so succinct.

For the first year or two I wrote this blog, I blocked a lot of people, but they still found ways to post, and deleting them all was too much of a chore.  Besides, I did get lots of great comments that I enjoyed, including form people who disagreed with me.

But most of them have stopped posting, and I wonder if it’s because of the trolls.

And I really hate getting the same kinds of critical comments in a thread after those same thoughts have been thoroughly discussed in earlier comments.  Don’t post a comment if you’re not going to read the ones before it first!

So, ultimately, comments have become more of a pain than a blessing.  Since ending them, I’ve started to enjoy this hobby a bit more again.  I feel more comfortable writing in my own online journal.