Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'll Do It Now in a Minute!

The Welsh have invented a wonderful phrase: "I'll do it now in a minute!"

It may seem contradictory at first, but then when you really think about still is contradictory. However, it makes a certain amount of sense in certain situations.

For instance:

I was eating dinner the other day when Husband asked if I had put the colors into the wash. Oops. I had forgotten. So I said, "I'll do it now," and then immediately realized I was still in the middle of my dinner, so I instantly added, "in a minute." Then I repeated the entire phrase again in a Welsh accent, which caused Husband to laugh out loud for quite a long time.

It's obvious how useful this phrase is when you're being hounded to do something right that instant, but you're just not yet ready to jump to it. Like right now, when I am trying to digest a 22-page white paper on robotics software in order to coherently summarize it in about 500 words (including correct terminology), I stopped at page four in order to jump over here and write in my blog, thus relieving my overheated brain.

Yeah, yeah. I'm getting back to the rest of it. In a minute.

(Closely related is the phrase, "I'll be there now in a minute!")

(I think you get the idea.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

This is Not an Allegory

When I was at the end of my sophomore year of high school, the student body of my small school roundly rejected the sensible candidate for student body president and elected a pot-smoking punk instead. The sensible candidate was female, a cheerleader, and a straight-A student who seemed to be in the leadership of nearly every important school organization. She was smart, responsible, and just a tad bossy. She would have followed a long line of sensible, responsible student body presidents, each of whom would be qualified to win the "Most Likely to Succeed" award.

The pot-smoking punk, on the other hand (who happened to be in my circle of friends, though we were not close), was part of the inner drama club elites (and an excellent actor) and would, as a secret signal, wear the front of his hair in a little pigtail on the days he came to school high. He was charismatic and popular, but he wasn't necessarily what you would call responsible or sensible.

It was a revolution that brought Nate to power. Everyone was just sick and tired of the smart, responsible, rich, popular kids getting elected. They wanted something different, something not so status-quo. In a surprising upset, the cheerleader lost to the pot-smoking punk, and we all waited to see what would happen the next year.

When I started my junior year of high school, it soon became apparent that electing Nate had been a mistake. He was really terrible at being president. He didn't take it seriously, and when he did anything presidential, he butted heads with the real authority: the school administration. He wanted things that weren't appropriate, and he treated the position like a joke (which, okay, it really is in high school, where no student is ever going to be given any real authority to make changes). It was an interesting year, and there was even talk of impeachment amongst the more outraged.

Although no real damage was done, I think everyone learned a little bit of a lesson. The next student body president elected (one of my graduating classmates) was a responsible, athletic, charismatic, straight-A young man. I know I voted for him because I had had a secret but very intense crush on him since the first moment I saw him at the beginning of our freshman year. He was something special, that guy. And the girl who got elected as the senior class president that year was a straight-A cheerleader, athlete, and leader in the most important academic school organizations. She was also our class valedictorian, so you can imagine that she was also responsible and sensible.

Before you ask, I am not equating anyone in my story with any of the current presidential candidates. This is not an allegory. I was just musing on this memory as I was listening to and reading the news of the last few days of our nation's presidential circus race. If I have any points to make by sharing this memory, perhaps they are these (which I do not claim to be profound or even useful in any way):

1. Change simply for change's sake alone is never a good idea. Indiscriminate destruction is stupid and dangerous.
2. The real power behind the throne will never give up its power lightly or easily.
3. If the person who is elected actually does manage to wrest power and control away from the shadow power, you better be absolutely sure of his or her character.
4. Collectively, we're still reacting like immature high school students even as adults. Perhaps that is a sad constant.
5. Sometimes it is really satisfying to vote for the underdog.
6. Don't let the satisfaction of voting for an underdog make you forget your responsibility to seriously weigh the consequences of electing said underdog.
7. Presidents of the United States (along with members of Congress) can do real and lasting damage, unlike high school student body presidents. (As a side note, so can unelected Supreme Court judges and hundreds of thousands of unelected bureaucrats.)

That's it. That's the most profound I'm going to end up being today. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

20-Second Lectures on the Dangers of Socialism

I realize my children don't want to hear me spout off about politics, so I have made a conscious effort to restrain myself around them. I will, however, answer their questions when they ask, or make very brief commentary on something we're both hearing on the radio. I keep it short, though, because they have the attention spans of a gnat when it comes to such boring topics, and I don't want them forever equating learning about political ideologies with the need to immediately tune out.

Because of my restraint, I've noticed that they are more willing to ask questions. This morning on the way to school, for instance, Sophia said, "A lot of people like Bernie Sanders because he is talking about free college and stuff," with the implication being, "Why is this a problem?"

I said, "Bernie Sanders is a socialist, and socialists believe in forcing everyone onto an equal playing field. The government does not produce any material thing of value, including money. Therefore, in order to give things for free to some people, they have to force other people to pay for it. When Bernie talks about free college, what he means is that some people will get free college tuition, but the government will force other people to pay for it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If you disagree that some people should be forced to pay for things that are given to people who didn't work for them but you still want free college, you would have to force college teachers and professors and staff and janitors to work for free, which would make them slaves in the truest sense. That's what they don't tell you about socialism. They make it sound so wonderful and equal, but it's just a way of making some people slave away for others to get something they didn't work for, or taking from those that produce and giving them back a lot less of it because you've shared it with everyone else, including those who produce nothing. Eventually, you run out of the producers' money because they aren't interested in producing things they are forced to give away."

Then I shut my mouth and said no more. We had almost arrived at the school anyway.

We have discussed briefly in recent days how true socialism and communism also represses innovation, takes away peoples' incentive to work hard, and reduces everyone to an equal state of misery--except those at the top who are in charge of distributing everyone else's property and who can (and will) take the biggest chunk for themselves.

I can tell they're thinking about it and actually getting it. My job is to help them see through the rhetoric and propaganda and think critically about what they are hearing and learning--not just about politics, but about everything (although you could argue that nearly everything has become politicized anymore). They need to know when an emperor is wearing no clothes and be confident enough that they can note it both to themselves and to others.