Notes on His Excellency by Joseph Ellis

This is a short biography on George Washington. In addition to the fact that I really like Ellis as a writer and historian, Ellis offered something that appealed to me–namely, to provide a reason Washington garnered tremendous respect and admiration from all the other Founding Fathers, even though many were more well educated and intellectually superior. I’m not sure if Ellis provides a clear answer to this question, but here is my sense of the reasons Washington had universal respect from the Founding Fathers. Continue reading “Notes on His Excellency by Joseph Ellis”

Funny Moments in TV, Film, Literature, and Real Life

This is thread for to post and discuss humorous moments or anecdotes from TV, movies, books, or even real life.

I want to start off with a tweet from a political reporter, about his exchange with a politician. Before I post the tweet, I want to say that while I feel like I’m having trouble finding comedies that really make me laugh, some of the things I’ve seen in politics prove that I haven’t completely lost my sense of humor. Indeed, a part of me wonders if I’m losing interest in fiction because reality is far more entertaining. With that, here’s the tweet: Continue reading “Funny Moments in TV, Film, Literature, and Real Life”

2018 Year-End Lists

“I love lists. Always have. when I was 14, I wrote down every dirty word I knew on file cards and placed them in alphabetical order. I have a thing about about collections, and a list is a collection with purchase.”

Adam Savage
Wired Magazine
“Step One: Make a List”
October 2012

Alternative to College for High School Graduates

I think I wrote about this idea on the old v-i, but I can’t remember. Because of the high cost of college, I recently had a conversation about an alternative to going to college, something I wouldn’t mind for my children. My concept is based on the St. Johns College’s approach:

Through close engagement with the works of some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers—from Homer, Plato, and Euclid to Nietzsche, Einstein, and Woolf—students at St. John’s College grapple with fundamental questions that confront us as human beings. As they participate in lively discussions and throw themselves into the activity of translating, writing, demonstrating, conducting experiments, and analyzing musical compositions, St. John’s students learn to speak articulately, read attentively, reason effectively, and think creatively.

My understanding is that St. John’s College students basically read the Great Books and discuss them in small groups. For the math and science books, they will sometimes replicate older experiments or solve mathematical problems posed in these classic works. Essentially, the approach comes down to reading really good books and then being able to write and discuss them. Now imagine if a St. John’s College graduate (or some well-read person that was a good teacher) started a “school,” where about ten students would read the Great Books, meet to discuss them, write about them, and do occasional project (replicate experiments, solve math problems, etc.). That’s basically my alternative to sending my kids to college. If I was confident in my teaching ability, particularly of these books, I would consider doing this for my kids. Besides this obstacle, here are some other potential problems that come to mind: Continue reading “Alternative to College for High School Graduates”

Notes on The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

A thread for thoughts and questions about this book. (Note: The posts may not correspond chronologically with the book.)

Here’s a brief description of the book. Haidt has three ideas to explain why people have great difficulty agreeing upon political and religious matters. First, most people are influenced by intuition and emotions, more than reason, when it comes to choosing political and religious positions. Haidt uses the metaphor of a rider (reason) sitting on an elephant (intuition). For the most part the elephant is in control. Second, for Westerners morality involves reducing harm, and that which does not harm someone is morally acceptable. Haidt argues that there are actually five other moral domains, and conservatives tend to use all six, while liberals tend to think in one or two. This can create a barrier and source of misunderstanding between the two groups. Finally, religion has the power to cohesion in a group, but it also can impair judgment and reasoning. (I’m not sure about the last point, because I haven’t completed that section of the book.) With this knowledge I believe Haidt’s goal is to help people from different political and religious backgrounds to better understand and communicate with one another.