Stuck on Stupid

is about to be the newest popular phrase in certain quarters of the blogosphere. It’s not so very new to military folk, though. I didn’t realize it was (apparently) part of military rather than civilian culture, but the way all the blog is buzzing, they don’t seem to have heard it before.

Of course, the context in this case is absolutely brilliant. You must, must, must listen to this press conference where General Honore takes over for the not very effective Mayor Nagin and tells the press, well, go listen:
Radio Blogger has both audio and transcript.
Stuck on Stupid is good. So is telling reporters that they should not confuse the questions with the answers, that a particular question is none of their business, and that they are merely message carriers.

Vodka Pundit liked it very much (comments are not G rated)

Ooh, and the clever Political Teen has a video clip of the ‘stuck on stupid’ moment.

Yesterday I was reading about Dan Rather crying over this tragic state of affairs where the media is actually getting fact-checked by the commoners on a daily basis. Then I read about the New York Times having to lay off 400 people and needing to make their paper a pay per view sort of project in a scrambel to make up for lost readers (which means lost revenues). I wondered, as I was reading, what keeps them so stagnant. All the public really wants is for them to be trustworthy and careful wtih the truth- to truly work at being objective. Why can’t they do it? They cannot do it because that was never their goal. I read a reporter’s complaints in some bloggers comments (sorry, I have forgotten to bookmark it and I don’t remember where it was now), and he said that he’d been wanting to be a reporter ever since Watergate, and his goal was always to be the knight in shining armour, and now people were mocking the profession and belittling it, and he thought the public was snide and dishonest, we didn’t want truth, we only wanted facts we liked told the way we wanted them told. I felt sorry for him. Another commentor pointed out for him that nobody, nobody, asked him to be a knight in shining armour coming to rescue the public, which he apparently viewed as a drippy damsel in distress, and that view of his profession did indicate that he had an agenda other than simple factual reporting. He had advocacy in mind all along, and now, with the behind the curtain view made possible by the internet, this was plain to see.
I realized then that the reason the press does not do the obvious thing and drop their advocacy of Democrat party talking points and stop the drama queen (and racist) shenanigans of reporting endlessly about the tragic murder of every pretty white girl as though it were a national crisis of the same magnitude as Katrina rather than the intensely personal, and very localized heartbreaking tragedy that it is because of their very evangelistic fervor in the first place. It’s one of those nasty images of the snake biting its own tail.

Our media has long had this missionary zeal for promoting a single point of view and mocking all who oppose it, and it’s crippling them now. But the reason they cannot change is the very same reason they have a problem in the first place. They are heroes in their own little mental dramas, not merely the messengers they ought to be. They didn’t lose perspective; they never had it, and apparently they don’t want it. They don’t want to change- they want us to go back to being easily led and persuaded by faulty reporting.

John at Powerline puts it well in this post about the job lay-offs and downsizing in the media:

They would rather go broke than abandon their reason for being, which is, with only a handful of exceptions, promoting the Democratic Party.

Would moderating their hard-left politics help stop the financial bleeding? It’s hard to say for sure. But don’t you think that if they were motivated mainly be economics, just one of our major liberal papers might try it?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Frugal Emergency Preparedness- Bug-Out Bags

Bug Out Bags

I posted about the elderly gentleman who was surprised by flooding that came on so quickly he barely had time to grab a bottle of water and race upstairs to his attic. I applaud his presence of mind. It saved his life.

Bug Out Bags are one step better than grabbing a bottle of water. They sound scary, but believe me, they are not just for wild eyed survivalists. They are for normal, every day people, too.

If you live in earthquake country you know that what you are supposed to do is get out of your building as soon as the quaking is over. Most state and local disaster agencies suggest a bug-out-bag, all packed and ready to go to take with you.
If the floodwaters start rising, you don’t have time to grab several emergency supplies- the bug-out bag has them all in one place.
If your house catches on fire and you live in the country or in cold Alaska, the bug-out bag could keep your from freezing to death before the rescue people arrive.

Here’s one such suggestion.
This is another Backwoods link, it will take you to an article about a group of serious survivors who tested their bug-out-kits and found them wanting.
This is a link to a car-kit, and the supplies for the two will be similar.

This will be harder to do frugally, but even if you can only do part of this, that’s better than nothing.

If you don’t have backpacks use plastic grocery store bags, about three of them inserted in each other to make the bag triple strength. Once your kit is prepared and stocked, then you can start looking for a nice backpack or dufflebag for each family member at your local thrift shop or on ebay.

You want a bug-out bag for each member of the family- if you have tiny members who cannot carry their own, then you’d make yours bigger. The first thing to include is a bottle of water- or two- in every bugout bag.
If you can get water purfication pills, add those, too.
Put some gauze bandages, first aide tape, disinfectant ointment, bandages, a small pair of scissors and superglue (for wound closing) in a ziplock bag, and put one of these bags in each bugout bat.
Get some duct tape and wrap several layers around each water bottle. This is an old hiker’s trick for keeping the pack weight down yet still carrying the indispenable duct tape along.
If family members require medication (like inhalers) include extras in the bug out kits.
A pair of gloves (leather gloves, too, if you have them) and a pair of socks.
Matches, carefully protected from the damp
some food- this is going to depend largely on your area, your tastes, and your dietary needs. I’d suggest foods like raisins, dried apricots, or other dehydrated foods; a package or two of ramen noodles which you would eat dry, like chips (include these because they are light), nuts, fruit rollups, granola bars, hard candies, and so forth.
Canned goods are very heavy, but you might include some of those tuna packets in tin foil (ugh), or one or two canned items and a can opener.
Some cash and some copies of important documents (proof of identity, marriage, birth certificates, that sort of thing)
a flashlight and batteries
Candle
A bowl, spoon, cup, and a good pocket knife
diaper wipes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste (or baking soda)
pet food if you have animals.
A whistle for calling for help

There are various other suggestions on each of the websites I mention. Look them over and create your own personalized bug out kit based on your family, your location, and your budget.

Include as well things that will entertain you, because you might just be sitting somewhere cooling your heels for a while. Get a deck of cards and learn to play a few games with your kids before you need to know them. Keep a deck in the bug out bags. Print out a few pages of the Bible and perhaps some poetry and songs.
I have an index card on which I have written several games we play that require no materials. I keep that card in my wallet so anytime I need it I can refer to it quickly. You might want something like this in your bag.
a small toy for each child- this can be a beanie baby, a matchbox car, a dollhouse sized doll, a yo-yo, a set of jacks, or even a bandana or two. Our children made dolls out of bandanas when they were small- no sewing required. They just folded the bandanas and tied them in the right places. Making bandana people and then playing with them would be a good way to keep little people occupied.

Here is a suggestion for baby food, if you need it. Canned pumpkin is something everybody can eat, and it’s much, much cheaper than baby food. It’s very healthy, too. Pack a can opener and a few cans of pumpkin, grean beans (the sort with nothing added but the vegetable) or beets if you have a baby. Of course, you want to make sure first of all that the baby likes those foods, so try them out before an emergency strikes.

These are just intended as suggestions to get you started. Check out the websites I’ve shared, adn call your local agency responsible for disaster preparation and ask what they recommend.

And I say this for both of us- do not procrastinate! Get started today.

update: embarrassing spelling error corrected in title. Thanks for pointing it out, friends.:-P

Posted in frugalities | 4 Comments

The Corn Song

The Corn Song

Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard!
Heap high the golden corn!
No richer gift has Autumn poured
From out her lavish horn!

Let other lands, exulting, glean
The apple from the pine,
The orange from its glossy green,
The cluster from the vine;

We better love the hardy gift
Our rugged vales bestow,
To cheer us when the storm shall drift
Our harvest-fields with snow.

Through vales of grass and meads of flowers
Our ploughs their furrows made,
While on the hills the sun and showers
Of changeful April played.

We dropped the seed o’er hill and plain
Beneath the sun of May,
And frightened from our sprouting grain
The robber crows away.

All through the long, bright days of June
Its leaves grew green and fair,
And waved in hot midsummer’s noon
Its soft and yellow hair.

And now, with autumn’s moonlit eves,
Its harvest-time has come,
We pluck away the frosted leaves,
And bear the treasure home.

There, when the snows about us drift,
And winter winds are cold,
Fair hands the broken grain shall sift,
And knead its meal of gold.

Let vapid idlers loll in silk
Around their costly board;
Give us the bowl of samp and milk,
By homespun beauty poured!

Where’er the wide old kitchen hearth
Sends up its smoky curls,
Who will not thank the kindly earth
And bless our farmer girls!

Then shame on all the proud and vain,
Whose folly laughs to scorn
The blessing of our hardy grain,
Our wealth of golden corn!

Let earth withhold her goodly root,
Let mildew blight the rye,
Give to the worm the orchard’s fruit,
The wheat-field to the fly:

But let the good old crop adorn
The hills our fathers trod;
Still let us, for his golden corn,
Send up our thanks to God!

-John Greenleaf Whittier

From the Child’s Calendar Beautiful, Fifth Year, September

Posted in Child's Calendar Beautiful (nature and other seasonal poems from the book) | Leave a comment

Teach my Endeavors

…Teach my endeavours so thy workes to read,
That learning them, in thee I may proceed.
Give thou my reason that instructive flight,
Whose weary wings may on thy hands still light.
Teach me to soare aloft, yet ever so,
When neare the Sunne, to stoope againe below.
Thus shall my humble feathers safely hover,
And though neere earth, more then the heavens discover.
And then at last, when holmeward I shall drive
Rich with the spoyles of nature to my hive,
There will I sit, like that industrious flye,
Buzzing thy prayses, which shall never die
Till death abrupts them, and succeeding glory
Bid me goe on in a more lasting story.

- from a sonnet by Sir Thomas Browne
[in case any of you have ever read Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle: this Sir Thomas Browne did not write "If thou couldst empty all thyself of self..." That was written in the 1870's by another writer.]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alms

“Vincent de Paul, patron of all charity, became in his lifetime a one-man relief agency, gathering about him all the open-hearted of France into ministering groups. Foundlings, prostitutes, galley slaves- the hungry, the crippled, the homeless, the rejected, they were all his children, and he prodded an entire nation into a frenzy of kindness for them. Yet even he would not have been content to let a salaried promoter come between him and the objects of his compassion. He would have scorned our calculated giving, which considers duty done when we have drawn a tax-deductible check for the United Hospital Appeal or bundled up our old winter coats for refugees…”

Saint-Watching, by Phyllis McGinley

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Frugal Emergency Preparedness- Bug-Out Bags

Bug Out Bags

I posted about the elderly gentleman who was surprised by flooding that came on so quickly he barely had time to grab a bottle of water and race upstairs to his attic. I applaud his presence of mind. It saved his life.

Bug Out Bags are one step better than grabbing a bottle of water. They sound scary, but believe me, they are not just for wild eyed survivalists. They are for normal, every day people, too.

If you live in earthquake country you know that what you are supposed to do is get out of your building as soon as the quaking is over. Most state and local disaster agencies suggest a bug-out-bag, all packed and ready to go to take with you.
If the floodwaters start rising, you don’t have time to grab several emergency supplies- the bug-out bag has them all in one place.
If your house catches on fire and you live in the country or in cold Alaska, the bug-out bag could keep your from freezing to death before the rescue people arrive.

Here’s one such suggestion.
This is another Backwoods link, it will take you to an article about a group of serious survivors who tested their bug-out-kits and found them wanting.
This is a link to a car-kit, and the supplies for the two will be similar.

This will be harder to do frugally, but even if you can only do part of this, that’s better than nothing.

If you don’t have backpacks use plastic grocery store bags, about three of them inserted in each other to make the bag triple strength. Once your kit is prepared and stocked, then you can start looking for a nice backpack or dufflebag for each family member at your local thrift shop or on ebay.

You want a bug-out bag for each member of the family- if you have tiny members who cannot carry their own, then you’d make yours bigger. The first thing to include is a bottle of water- or two- in every bugout bag.
If you can get water purfication pills, add those, too.
Put some gauze bandages, first aide tape, disinfectant ointment, bandages, a small pair of scissors and superglue (for wound closing) in a ziplock bag, and put one of these bags in each bugout bat.
Get some duct tape and wrap several layers around each water bottle. This is an old hiker’s trick for keeping the pack weight down yet still carrying the indispenable duct tape along.
If family members require medication (like inhalers) include extras in the bug out kits.
A pair of gloves (leather gloves, too, if you have them) and a pair of socks.
Matches, carefully protected from the damp
some food- this is going to depend largely on your area, your tastes, and your dietary needs. I’d suggest foods like raisins, dried apricots, or other dehydrated foods; a package or two of ramen noodles which you would eat dry, like chips (include these because they are light), nuts, fruit rollups, granola bars, hard candies, and so forth.
Canned goods are very heavy, but you might include some of those tuna packets in tin foil (ugh), or one or two canned items and a can opener.
Some cash and some copies of important documents (proof of identity, marriage, birth certificates, that sort of thing)
a flashlight and batteries
Candle
A bowl, spoon, cup, and a good pocket knife
diaper wipes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste (or baking soda)
pet food if you have animals.
A whistle for calling for help

There are various other suggestions on each of the websites I mention. Look them over and create your own personalized bug out kit based on your family, your location, and your budget.

Include as well things that will entertain you, because you might just be sitting somewhere cooling your heels for a while. Get a deck of cards and learn to play a few games with your kids before you need to know them. Keep a deck in the bug out bags. Print out a few pages of the Bible and perhaps some poetry and songs.
I have an index card on which I have written several games we play that require no materials. I keep that card in my wallet so anytime I need it I can refer to it quickly. You might want something like this in your bag.
a small toy for each child- this can be a beanie baby, a matchbox car, a dollhouse sized doll, a yo-yo, a set of jacks, or even a bandana or two. Our children made dolls out of bandanas when they were small- no sewing required. They just folded the bandanas and tied them in the right places. Making bandana people and then playing with them would be a good way to keep little people occupied.

Here is a suggestion for baby food, if you need it. Canned pumpkin is something everybody can eat, and it’s much, much cheaper than baby food. It’s very healthy, too. Pack a can opener and a few cans of pumpkin, grean beans (the sort with nothing added but the vegetable) or beets if you have a baby. Of course, you want to make sure first of all that the baby likes those foods, so try them out before an emergency strikes.

These are just intended as suggestions to get you started. Check out the websites I’ve shared, adn call your local agency responsible for disaster preparation and ask what they recommend.

And I say this for both of us- do not procrastinate! Get started today.

update: embarrassing spelling error corrected in title. Thanks for pointing it out, friends.:-P

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Corn Song

The Corn Song

Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard!
Heap high the golden corn!
No richer gift has Autumn poured
From out her lavish horn!

Let other lands, exulting, glean
The apple from the pine,
The orange from its glossy green,
The cluster from the vine;

We better love the hardy gift
Our rugged vales bestow,
To cheer us when the storm shall drift
Our harvest-fields with snow.

Through vales of grass and meads of flowers
Our ploughs their furrows made,
While on the hills the sun and showers
Of changeful April played.

We dropped the seed o’er hill and plain
Beneath the sun of May,
And frightened from our sprouting grain
The robber crows away.

All through the long, bright days of June
Its leaves grew green and fair,
And waved in hot midsummer’s noon
Its soft and yellow hair.

And now, with autumn’s moonlit eves,
Its harvest-time has come,
We pluck away the frosted leaves,
And bear the treasure home.

There, when the snows about us drift,
And winter winds are cold,
Fair hands the broken grain shall sift,
And knead its meal of gold.

Let vapid idlers loll in silk
Around their costly board;
Give us the bowl of samp and milk,
By homespun beauty poured!

Where’er the wide old kitchen hearth
Sends up its smoky curls,
Who will not thank the kindly earth
And bless our farmer girls!

Then shame on all the proud and vain,
Whose folly laughs to scorn
The blessing of our hardy grain,
Our wealth of golden corn!

Let earth withhold her goodly root,
Let mildew blight the rye,
Give to the worm the orchard’s fruit,
The wheat-field to the fly:

But let the good old crop adorn
The hills our fathers trod;
Still let us, for his golden corn,
Send up our thanks to God!

-John Greenleaf Whittier

From the Child’s Calendar Beautiful, Fifth Year, September

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Teach my Endeavors

…Teach my endeavours so thy workes to read,
That learning them, in thee I may proceed.
Give thou my reason that instructive flight,
Whose weary wings may on thy hands still light.
Teach me to soare aloft, yet ever so,
When neare the Sunne, to stoope againe below.
Thus shall my humble feathers safely hover,
And though neere earth, more then the heavens discover.
And then at last, when holmeward I shall drive
Rich with the spoyles of nature to my hive,
There will I sit, like that industrious flye,
Buzzing thy prayses, which shall never die
Till death abrupts them, and succeeding glory
Bid me goe on in a more lasting story.

- from a sonnet by Sir Thomas Browne
[in case any of you have ever read Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle: this Sir Thomas Browne did not write "If thou couldst empty all thyself of self..." That was written in the 1870's by another writer.]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alms

“Vincent de Paul, patron of all charity, became in his lifetime a one-man relief agency, gathering about him all the open-hearted of France into ministering groups. Foundlings, prostitutes, galley slaves- the hungry, the crippled, the homeless, the rejected, they were all his children, and he prodded an entire nation into a frenzy of kindness for them. Yet even he would not have been content to let a salaried promoter come between him and the objects of his compassion. He would have scorned our calculated giving, which considers duty done when we have drawn a tax-deductible check for the United Hospital Appeal or bundled up our old winter coats for refugees…”

Saint-Watching, by Phyllis McGinley

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Stones for Bread

From the Washington Post comes this disheartening article on how children are being given stones instead of bread for their educational sustenance:

“…The Washington-based Center on Education Policy reported this year that 27 percent of school systems say they are spending less time on social studies, and nearly 25 percent say they are spending less time on science, art and music. “This tendency results in impoverishing the education of all students, but particularly the education of students who perform less well on the tests,” said Robert G. Smith, Arlington County school superintendent, who said his schools have resisted the trend….”

“…Andrew Rotherham, co-director of the nonprofit group Education Sector and a member of the Virginia state school board, said: “When faced with disappointing achievement in math and reading, the first reaction of too many schools is to just teach those subjects more and consequently squeeze out other subjects. This ‘solution,’ however, ignores one common culprit for low achievement — teaching. Instead of using data to determine if teachers are teaching the material, are able to teach it and what exactly students are struggling with, too often schools decide to just extend the time on these subjects. The problem is, if your instruction is weak for 60 minutes a day, it’s going to be for 90 minutes, too.”

Mary Alice Barksdale, associate professor of teaching and learning at Virginia Tech, agreed: “There is lots of evidence that the one thing that really makes a difference in the classroom is the teacher and what she knows and does…”

“Is the meaning of education cramming as much knowledge in, to pass a standardized test, or is it meant to include something else — creativity, reflection, synthesis, hypothesizing, daydreaming?” Hedinger [a parent] asked. “What happens to all of that in the process?”

There are some good schools and programs mentioned. The Core Knowledge folks get some positive press, and I do like what they are doing.

I’m not an professional educator, as most of our readers know, I’m a homeschooler. Professional educators and homeschoolers are not really trying to do the same job, and we certainly don’t have the same challenges or limitations. As a sidenote, I don’t want to be a public educator, and while there are some idiotic ones out there, the vast majority of them are putting up with a lot of nonsense and deserve sympathy (don’t believe me? Look at this post by the Education Wonk).

Nevertheless, I do have opinions.=) One of my opinions is that there is too much testing of and requiring of studentoutput in the public school system and too little provision of meaningful input.

I’m not a researcher, either, and I do know the pural of anecdote is not data. Nevertheless, here are two anecdotes that illustrate, I hope, what I mean. Some details are modified to protect the innocent, which means I will be using he generically. He may or may not have been a ‘he’.

Several years ago we found ourselves in a position to provide help, comfort, and tutoring to a child disadvantaged in nearly every sense. The child came from a seriously impoverished background where the most stimulating activity that occurred was to watch The Price Is Right on television. Nutrition was poor, conversation between parent and child was basic or nonexistant, and the child gave every indication of having an auditory processing disorder. The child could not hold a give and take conversation because he had never participated in one. He did not understand how to answer questions, however basic, and did not know, oh, too many things to list. He could not tell which words rhymed in a simple nursery rhyme until sometime after 8. His vocabulary was several years below his age. I hope that is enough to communicate the picture I wish to convey.

For several years different educational approaches were taken (apologies for the passive sentence structure, but it’s the best way I can think of to muddy the identifying details while still communicating the situation), none of them worked very well. Vocabulary, communication, reading, comprehension- all continued to be far below grade level. Far below.
One day I decided this was all very boring and took a leap and read aloud to the child from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book. Since nothing else had worked very well, I figured we had nothing left to lose. We began with The Golden Touch
This child was hooked from the very first paragraph, “ONCE upon a time, there lived a very rich man, and a king besides, whose name was Midas; and he had a little daughter, whom nobody but myself ever heard of, and whose name I either never knew, or have entirely forgotten. So, because I love odd names for little girls, I choose to call her Marygold.”

From there we went onto read together all of the books on this booklist. Then the child read, independently, all the books on this booklist. Last year the young person read all the books on this booklist.
King Midas and the Golden Touch remains a favorite myth.
Vocabulary drills, worksheets, flashcards, textbooks, testing, professional education, and special tutoring all failed where one real story succeeded. That is a simplification, but it remains a central truth as well.

Here is the second anecdote:
Some time ago I had the opportunity to tutor another disadvantaged child. In this case the child was in junior high and did not know how to read. The young person also came from an impoverished environment, with some differences. The single mother in this case was gainfully employed and supported her family, unlike the previous example. The environment was cleaner, the food was somewhat better, there was more conversation. This child was black, whereas the previous child was white. The single mother felt that the school had, at least in part, allowed her child’s education to suffer because of family’s skin color. So I offered to tutor the youngster in reading. It was not easy. The child was very slow- always polite, appreciative, friendly, and eager to please, but slow. Seldom did my student remember what we had done the week before. Until, one day, figuring that I was boring both of us and we had nothing left to lose, I ended our reading lesson early and began reading aloud the story of Midas and the Golden Touch from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book. I read only a page or so, explaining that we would read more the next week. I gave no tests, I asked no questions, I presented no vocabulary lists.
The following week my student returned. The response to the reading lesson seemed about the same, but when I ended it early and pulled out A Wonder Book, my student’s eyes lit up. I asked, “Can you remind me where we were last week?” My young friend, who had never been able to remember a thing from the previous week before, gave me a flawless narration, eagerly reciting all the details and bringing us up to date. I read another page or two to our mutual satisfaction.
We continued this process for a few more short weeks, and for the first time I began to note some improvement in the reading lessons, too. Certainly I noticed new words in my young friend’s vocabulary. The other children in my family would join us after a lesson for tea, cookies and book discussions. We were making progress I felt, for the first time. Certainly, every week the gratitude expressed by the students was more fervent and deeply moving.
Unfortunately, I do not think this story has a happy ending. Faced with some serious financial difficulties largely caused by being cheated by a housing company, the family abruptly moved out of state, leaving no forwarding address. I often wonder where they are and how they are doing, and if anybody else will care to put this young person in touch with great stories.

It has been a popular myth for many years that it doesn’t matter what students learn so long as we teach them how to learn. This is nonsense. If they are not given meaningful material upon which to bend their minds, they have no motivation to apply their minds in the first place.
Charlotte Mason said something about this. She said it was about as sensible as saying it didn’t matter what children ate so long as we taught them how to eat. It does matter.

Is there a daring school administrator somewhere who will throw away the endless sawdust filled textbooks, workbooks, and tests and allow teachers and students at the real stuff of real books?

Posted in Charlotte Mason | 4 Comments