We all judge people, even if we try not to. It’s a very human thing to do and I think it get’s a bad rap. We should, for example, judge people on their merits instead of the color of their skin. We should not judge others to elevate ourselves. Judgement gives us a way to measure the world, and with no judgement at all survival would be sketchy. There is a difference in fruit in the wild. Some berries will kill you- others won’t. Judging keeps us alive.
The most famous quote about judging comes from the Bible. “Judge not lest ye be judged,” it says. I feel this quote is often misunderstood. People read it as an admonishment not to judge at all. Horsefeathers. It says if we judge others we should be prepared to be judged ourselves. I’m fine with that.
There are things people do that deserve negative judgement. Criminals, abusers, and those who use two spaces to park all deserve to be judged accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with this. I’m willing to have my own faults examined for the sake of criticising those who would harm others. Go ahead. Make my day.
That’s not to say there’s a lot of bad examples of judgement. If you judge people on their race then be prepared to be judged as a bigot yourself. People who judge in an effort to control others aren’t truly judging- they’re bullying. There’s a difference.
There’s good and bad judgement just as there are good and bad essays.
Feel free to judge for yourself.
Fortunately, enough is known about the professor’s life to give us a glimpse. Here are a few interesting looks at the Professor at home.
– Einstein rarely wore a summer hat. Instead he kept a clean white handkerchief in his pocket all summer. When he needed a hat he knotted the four corners and plopped it over his head.
It’s interesting, because knotting a handkerchief turns a 2 dimensional shape into a 3 dimensional shape that’s curved. It’s the kind of thinking that helped Einstein visualize the universe.
– When cooking a simple lunch of soup and a hard-boiled egg, Einstein boiled his soup with the egg inside, cutting the number of dirty pans in half. He claimed this was his second best idea.
– Although he wouldn’t seem the type, Einstein wore a leather coat, reasoning it may be the last jacket he’d have to buy.
– He often went without socks. He didn’t find them useful.
– His favorite article of clothing seemed to be sweaters. They were warm and required no ironing. They also covered his shirt, which did.
– And of course there’s his hair. If ever there was a “low-maintenance” haircut it was his tousled mane.
There’s lots more, but I’ll leave you with the one I find most important. The one I find most interesting is that Einstein refused to be cowed by popular opinion, an opinion that said it isn’t “normal” to wear knotted kerchiefs on your head, or to boil your eggs in soup.
When it came to the opinions of others on such petty things, he just didn’t care.
The primary function of a window is to bring the outdoors indoors. We live in boxes today, but I suppose somewhere in our genes there is a love of nature that we just can’t shake, and we feel better if we can see it.
Of course some windows have an awful view. A large, beautiful window might look out to a parking lot, for example. But no matter how bad the view having a window seems better than not having one.
On a nice day you can open a window. Fresh air is wonderful. Then again some places don’t smell so great, or you might live in a city full of smog. You’re better off leaving the window closed.
There are some windows that don’t open at all. The windows of most skyscrapers don’t open. If they did the wind would blow all the papers off your desk. Opening a window so high encourages trouble too. There’s always some prankster that wants to chuck a penny out the window to see what would happen. Idiots with water balloons also come to mind.
A quick look online shows hundreds of varieties of windows to buy. There’s picture windows, double hung windows, skylights, sliding windows, basement windows, bay windows, storm windows, and stained glass windows just to name a few. It’s just another example of how people can take something simple like a window and make it more complicated than it needs to be.
One of problems of having a window is that people on the outside can look in just as easily as you can look out. We try to solve this by covering our windows. Blinds, drapes, curtains, and shutters all stop a window from doing what it’s suppose to do. Do we want to see outside or not?
And of course windows make a great metaphor. “That opened a window of insight,” we say. We also talk about a “window of opportunity” or say “That idea went out the window.” The most famous window phrase is that the eyes are the windows to the soul. True perhaps, but some people draw the drapes, and others just aren’t home.
Today’s lesson is on Clarence Gideon; an unlikely American hero as there ever was.
Gideon was a poor small time crook. He did several stretches in prison for petty crimes and robberies- usually thefts that kept him fed during the Depression.
Well one fine day in 1961 he was arrested for burglarizing a local pool hall. He didn’t do it.
Next he finds himself in front of a judge and he tells him he’s broke and can’t afford an attorney. The Judge tells him that in Florida he can only be appointed one if it’s a capital case, which his isn’t. Gideon represented himself as best he could, was found guilty, and sent away to start a five-year sentence.
Clarence is barely educated, but he starts to read in the prison library. The document he reads more than any other is the U.S. Constitution. There, in what seem to him to be clear terms, was listed his right to have an attorney at trial. A right he was denied.
What he did next cements his place in American history. Gideon sat down and wrote a letter to the U.S. Supreme court, in pencil, and on prison stationery. The letter was a legal one, asking the court to grant a writ of habeas corpus to free him because he was denied the right to an attorney. The wonderful thing is, the court read it and agreed to hear his case.
In a resounding vote of 9-0, they affirmed what Gideon already knew. He had the right to an attorney, and so did everyone else.
He was retried and quickly acquitted. Many poor prisoners who had been run roughshod through the legal system were freed or granted new trials of their own. Today 16% of people charged with a crime are found not guilty, a number that would likely be much lower if they did not have a lawyer. The worst thing a free society can do is deny freedom to the innocent. And Gideon’s letter brought us closer to that ideal.
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
I was watching an old Western the other day, you know the type. The guy in the white shirt meets the guy in the black shirt at noon for a shootout. The shooting starts and the guy in white escapes with a slight grazing wound to the shoulder. The guy in black staggers and falls in dramatic fashion to the dirt road. Townsfolk shrug and go about their day. Nothing to see here.
What struck me funny were the horses. The cowboy rides up to the saloon, hops off his horse and wraps the reigns around the hitching post. Of course each hitching post in a Western has the prerequisite full tub of water in front of it. Somewhere along the line, someone in the film will comically tumble into this tub.
But what I’m curious about is what the horses do while the cowboy heads inside. To be more specific, why the heck do they just stand there like trees when they could be making a break for it? Now before you remind me about the reigns and the hitching post, let me warn you. I already thought of that, and it seemed to me that no strap of leather tied to a wooden post was going to keep a horse in one place if it didn’t want to be there. If a couple of horses can pull and entire stagecoach across the plains, they sure as heck can pull a hitching post apart.
So why don’t they?
Being the curious fellow I am, I decided to look it up. Turns out horses are not unique when it comes to this type of thing. The same applies to circus elephants who are kept in place by a chain attached to a small peg in the ground.
Also affected are cows and other fenced in animals, and dogs, who have the distinct honor of participating in studies designed to answer the question- Why the heck do they do that?
The guys working with the dogs are psychologists, and they have a name for this phenomena. They call it “Learned Helplessness.” After a series of experiments the mystery was solved.
It went something like this: A dog is placed in a small room with a button on one wall. When the dog presses the button a treat comes out of a dispenser. The dog gobbles it up and presses the button again and again- each time getting a nice snack for its efforts.
Nothing unusual here, but the scientists throw the dog a curveball. For a while they refuse to give the dog a snack when he presses the button. The dog only eats when they feed him- that’s it. The button is disabled, but this is only temporary. After a while they switch the button back on and watch what the dogs do.
The interesting thing is that the dogs don’t do anything. They ignore the button. The button isn’t working anymore, they tell their doggy selves, don’t even try it. And they don’t, missing out on a hoard of dog snacks simply because they’ve learned that it’s useless to try- learned helplessness.
The same thing happens to young horses tied to posts they can’t move. When they get older they don’t even try, even though they could easily break free. An electrical fence can’t stop a determined cow. But there are no determined cows. They’re all helpless, but only in their bovine heads.
Does the same thing apply to people? You bet. Psychologists tried similar experiments on humans. Note I said similar. It turns out people aren’t terribly motivated by Milkbone dog biscuits.
So being the advanced, highly intellectual creatures we are, surely we excel at such tests, right? Wrong. We’re lousy at it. In fact we’re just as bad as our animal friends or worse.
I don’t know about you, but I find this kind of scary. Millions, if not billions of us are going around doing a lot less than we could because we’ve been taught not to try.
But those clever psychologists, they’re always thinking. There’s a cure, they say, and it’s simple. If you think you can’t do something, if you think you’re trapped and there’s nothing you can do, if you think you’ll never make it so why try- try anyway.
You just might have all the Milkbones you can eat.
I like dogs. If you don’t then there’s not much I can say that will change your mind, but let me tell you- you’re missing out on a lot.
Dogs are what people would be like if they were as kind and friendly as they were supposed to be and occasionally peed on the carpet. For one thing, dogs don’t hold a grudge. If you scream and curse at a dog for eating your glasses, as my dog has done, they’ve forgotten your tantrum in a manner of minutes. There are dumb things I’ve done years ago that I still hear about from time to time. And I’m sure I bring old grudges up myself. If we just forgot about things the way dogs do, we’d all get along much better.
No one, and I mean no one shows love the way a dog does. You come home, walk in the door and there they are, wagging their tail and jumping for joy as if the very sight of you is the most wonderful thing in the whole world. Now I love my wife very much, but if I acted that way when she came home she’d have me committed. Dogs can get away with it, and it’s wonderful.
Dogs can be wise. Oh, I know you non-dog people are skeptical, but it’s true. Dogs know what’s important in life. Snuggling, for instance. If everyone took a little more time to hug and snuggle a loved one the world would be a brighter place.
Dogs remind us that a patch of sunlight on the floor is a wonderful spot to take a nap- and it is.
Parks, dogs tell us, are magical places to be cherished, smelled, and enjoyed often. It’s true. There are a lot of people who are enjoying nature more just because they have a dog. We should be grateful.
Of course dogs like to play. Play is important, even for grownups- perhaps especially for grown-ups. Let’s face it, dogs and children give us an excuse to be goofy and roll around on the floor. Being goofy and rolling around on the floor is good for us. We take things too seriously. Dogs never do.
One of the most important virtues a person can have is patience, and dogs teach us that. This isn’t always fun. My dogs bark every time they hear someone outside. I’ve asked them nicely not to, but they do it anyway. I know they’re just warning me “Hey, someone’s out there. Just thought you should know- woof woof,” but it’s irritating. But then there are things the people in my life tell me that irritate me too, even when it’s done out of care and concern. I should be more understanding, and the dogs remind me of this.
There’s a lot involved in owning a dog. When a kid gets a dog it’s often a great way for them to grow and learn to be responsible. Dogs need walks, food, water and attention. They must be taken to the vet from time to time, which can be expensive, but it’s important. Everything good in life must be taken care of, and dogs are no exception.
One of the saddest things about having a dog is putting one to sleep. It happened to me once, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My dog Skipper had a tumor and was in a lot of pain. In that last moment I stroked his fur as the drugs took hold. I told him he was a good dog, and he looked up at me with those loving eyes and slipped quietly away. There, in that first moment of absence I knew what unconditional love truly was. All thanks to a little dog.
Now, if you’ll excuse me- there’s a patch of sunlight on the living room floor and a dog that wants to play.]]>
I’ve got insomnia.
Why else would I be writing at 3:30 in the morning?
I’m sure I’m not alone tonight. There must be untold drowsy millions who go to bed but not to sleep. It’s the worst.
Being currently miserable, I looked up what’s keeping me awake. Turns out there are several options.
Stress is a common cause of insomnia. I don’t feel particularly stressed- but maybe I am. We often don’t notice how stressed we are until our bodies tell us. Not being able to sleep is one way we learn we’re taking on too much. But I don’t feel stressed. A little anxious about some things, but then we all are- and I’m not ruminating on them when I’m trying to sleep.
People who travel or have work schedules with odd shifts tend to get insomnia- but that’s not me. This essay excluded, I keep my own schedule as a writer. I don’t work late or weird hours. When inspiration strikes late at night I just jot down the gist of the idea and take care of it later. My hours aren’t keeping me up.
Not having regular sleep habits is another common culprit. But I’m usually in bed by 12 and up at 7:30. I take a nap each afternoon- but it’s never interrupted my nighttime sleep. I used to feel lazy about taking a nap everyday, but my doctor told me not to mess with my circadian rhythms. I should nap if I can. My body seems to need it. I like this doctor.
Eating late is sometimes cited as a cause of insomnia. I might have some popcorn or pretzels while I’m watching the Walking Dead, but not just before bed. Maybe I could do better here- but I’ve eaten the same evening snacks before and slept fine. I’m skeptical about the eating thing.
I do drink caffeine, but I’ve always drank caffeine- I am a writer after all. It’s never given me insomnia before and I don’t take it in the evening. I’m not a cup-of-coffee-after-dinner type.
I’m not in pain. I’m not hyperactive. What medications I take make me drowsy- not alert. So what the heck is keeping me up?
Sometime, hopefully very soon, I’ll figure it out.
You know what? I’ll sleep on it.]]>
There seem to be an awful lot of banks to choose from.
There are at least 85 banks in my town. There are somewhere around 58,000 adults living here, so that’s what-about 700 people per bank? Is that really all the customers a bank can handle?
There are probably too many banks.
Like most Americans, my wife and I aren’t doing anything all that complicated with our bank. Our investing and retirement is done separately and like a lot of folks we have loans from places we don’t bank at. So our bank is mainly a place to keep our money and draw checks from.
Every bank does that fine- so what else should we look for?
Don’t tell me interest rates because the interest rates at most banks today are hardly worth the bother. And besides, a lot of banks give about the same interest? Interest rates alone aren’t going to do it.
Well having an ATM nearby used to be a plus, but not so much now. To be honest, I hardly carry cash at all anymore. I use my bank card to pay for most things, and if I need cash I’ll ask for cash back at the store.
I rarely do.
Having a branch nearby is nice, but my check is direct deposited and my current bank has an app that lets us deposit other checks with our phone. We can see our transactions and set up payments online. If we have questions we can call. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to go to the bank anymore.
Still, we’re looking for something nearby, just in case.
There’s a 5th, 3rd bank around the corner from us.
I’m sure it’s a wonderful bank, but the name bothers me.
5th 3rd? How did this happen?
This is the 5th 3rd bank?
So let’s see, there was a bank called the 3rd bank, and now there are 5 of them? Can’t be- there are more than 5 3rd banks. Makes no sense.
Their logo is 5/3 as a fraction.
Well, fractions were never my strong suit, but I know an improper one when I see it. Technically this is the 1 and 2/3rds bank, which sounds just as silly- but at least it’s mathematically correct. Again, they may be a fine bank, but I’d feel better if they learned fractions before handling my money.
We haven’t decided what to do about our bank yet, but like most people I suspect we will go with what’s convenient.
You can bank on that.]]>
We are a nation of immigrants. Well, most of us are. If you’re Native American you’re not an immigrant, you’re a victim of immigrants- but that’s another story. The history of African-Americans is another story too. Those cases show the ugly side of American immigration. Most stories are beautiful.
Many of the immigrants to our country wanted desperately to be here. They escaped from war zones, abject poverty, religious persecution, and mass starvation. They took everything they had and stuffed it into a few bags before getting on an enormous ship to sail across the ocean. It would have been an exhilarating and terrifying experience all at once.
When at last they approached New York the magnificent Statue of Liberty came into view bringing a mix of stunned, reverent silence and shouts of pure joy. They had made it. They were soon to be Americans.
Ronald Reagan liked to tell this story- “America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said, ‘You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.’ But then he added, ‘Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.’”
What a beautiful thought.
There are a lot of people bashing immigrants today, and I don’t like it at all. It’s really unfair to look down on people who so love our country they would do anything to get here, legal or otherwise. I suspect that if the people who complained about immigrants spent more time with them, they wouldn’t complain so much. Most people are good and hate to see bad things happen to other good people.
One of the complaints that comes up often is a complaint about assimilation. Some immigrants, they say, will never be assimilated into American life. They’re too different, and many don’t even want to. Well, as a history teacher it’s my duty to tell you that this was said of every…single…group of immigrants in American history. All of them.
Let me show you.
This picture is about the Irish. Yes, the Irish. The artist here is trying to portray them as savages who will never fit into America’s melting pot. Seems silly to think of today.
Here’s another one about folks from Europe.
And this one about the Chinese who were not allowed to immigrate as soon as they finished building the transcontinental railroad.
More recently the Japanese, who were treated with great suspicion after Pearl Harbor, rounded up and thrown into camps for the duration of the war.
The idea was to protect national security by detaining the enemy. Well, my family is part German. No one locked them up. The Italians either.
Another complaint is that immigrants use our social services. True perhaps, but every immigrant is also a customer for someone. Legal immigrants pay taxes and serve in the military. They fill jobs that are hard to find people for, not just in agriculture- but in the fields of science, medicine, and technology.
We are clearly better off for having them here.
It isn’t fair or appropriate for a country to just leave it’s borders open against its own policy. Millions of immigrants are here when they’re not supposed to be. Their reasons for coming are often just as good as legal immigrants and refugees, but they’re breaking the law. I’m not sure what to do about it. I suspect like most Americans I feel torn between a respect for the law and basic human compassion. It can be hard sometimes.
In the end I believe Americans are a welcoming people who are happy to share the rights and opportunities we declared when we said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Let me leave you now with the stirring words of Emma Lazarus. Words enshrined at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Listen- Give Me Your Tired
Give your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, give these- the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”]]>
These drugs are supposed to be the ones you can just buy on your own. But it makes no sense.
When I get meds with a prescription I walk up to a counter. I pay at the counter and then they are passed – you guessed it – over the counter.
When I want to buy aspirin, considered an over the counter drug- I pick it off a shelf, go to the checkout- set it ON a counter. They ring it up and slide it DOWN the counter into a bag. At no time does my over the counter drug EVER go over a counter. I have never bought a behind the counter drug that wasn’t transacted OVER a counter. Why do we persist with this?
A friend told me it’s because the drugs in the back of the store have to go over the counter to get to the shelves. I’m skeptical. There’s hardly any room behind the counter at most drug stores. What they have is a back room. The “over the counter” drugs are going from the back room to the shelves. If they’re taking each of these items and walking behind the counter and passing them over the counter to someone stocking the shelves they’re not being very efficient.
There are phrases we should change or retire in our language, and “over the counter” is one of them.]]>