Lancing a Windmill

There's something Quixotic in all of us.


Non-book Stuff

This is where you’ll find anything on my blog that’s not about a book.

Confederate Flag: To Fly or Not To Fly?

So this Confederate Flag controversy… makes me wish people would do a little bit of research.

The flag that is in question right now is a red rectangle with a white outline, a large blue X in the center, the blue X filled with 13 white stars.
That flag was rejected as the national flag of the Confederate States of America in 1861. It was later adopted as the battle flag of the Army of North Virginia. This flag’s origin is not tied to Southern heritage, because it was never the nation’s flag. It’s hardly tied to rebellion or battle, because it was the battle flag of ONE ARMY. That flag, according to political scientists Martinez, Richardson, and McNinch-Su, “was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK.”
Put simply, the “southern cross” is not a symbol of heritage or national history, because it was never a part of their heritage or history. In the same way, citizens of the United States of America don’t demand to be called “United Statesers” or “United Statesians”, both names that were proposed and rejected, like the southern cross flag.

NOW, flags the Confederate States of America (CSA) did use include 3 variations that can all be found here.
The original CSA flag was much like the northern flag, a blue square in the upper left of the flag held a circle of 13 stars and the flag bore 3 stripes—2 red, one white. This flag was eventually replaced because it resembled the northern flag, and it was therefore far too related to northern ideals of abolition and emancipation

The second flag was called the “Stainless Banner”. It held the entire southern cross flag in the upper left, and the majority of the flag was plain white. According to W. T. Thompson, the flag’s designer, “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”
This flag flew from 1863 to 1865, when a vertical red bar symbolizing the blood of fallen Confederates was added to the far right of the flag, lest it be confused as a white flag of truce.

When we get down to the history of the flags, the original banners of the Confederate States of America were all racist symbols, AND they were important parts of southern heritage and history. I find it ironic that nobody demands to fly the original CSA flag, nor any of its successors, but rather the battle flag of the Army of North Virginia, which, as mentioned above, was never flown above the capitol or officially used by any groups other than the Army of North Virginia, and later the KKK.

As a final aside, we should all be careful when comparing this situation to the use of the swastika in Nazi Germany. Some call for the removal of the Confederate Flag because, “you don’t see Germans flying the Nazi flag anymore”. While this is true, we should remember that the swastika was not originally a Nazi symbol and is only recognized as such in half of the world. Eastern buddhists and hindus continue to use the swastika as a symbol of prosperity, luck, glory, and good.
Adolf Hitler did believe that the victory of the Aryan man would be a push for good, and in his clouded, human mind, he identified with an eastern symbol of victory and glory. Do we ban the swastika in the world? No. Do we ban the swastika in areas that were impacted by the new symbol of supremacy? Yes. And I think we will ban the symbol until a new meaning has the strength to take its place.

The crucifix was used by Rome as a symbol of terror and oppression. Slave rebellions were often quelled by the crucifixion of the rebels on the main streets of Rome. Today the cross is a sign of hope, peace, worship, and eternity. Do we shun the cross because of its original symbol of tyranny? No—the tyranny has been swallowed up in a new symbol.

Does a piece of red cloth with a blue X and stars on it mean racism? It never did, but now it does, and I believe that we ought to relegate it to the museums until a new, positive meaning arises for the symbol. Whether that does or does not happen, is up to our children and theirs.


“White People Have Never Dealt with Racism”

“White people have never dealt with racism,”
Said the white boy from Utah,
Educated in a prep school,
With less than 25 black students.

And that was the point where I left the conversation.

Y’see, I know that the Native Americans
Lost their heritage to imperialists who were white,
Imperialists who changed Koanhu to Kenny,
Smiling Lotus to Jennifer,
Ata’halne to Alvin.

I know that Mexicans have been stopped by the police,
Simply for being Mexican:
“May I see your papers please?”
“Here you go, officer.”
“I don’t need your driver’s license, registration,
Proof of insurance, birth certificate, Social Security card,
High school diploma, and Engineering degree.
You just look like you belong in a cartel,
Wearing that blue dress shirt and khakis,
So I need a chance to send you back to where you belong,”
The officers say without saying.

And I know that blacks have suffered in this nation.
I know that Emmett Till was beaten beyond recognition
For whistling at a white girl.
(She should be glad she was worth the risk.)

And I know that Martin Luther King Jr.
Was assassinated for believing that it was self-evident
That all men were created equal
By a just and loving God,
But that man had created that inequality
By teaching it as irrefutable scientific fact:
“The highest civilization and culture,
Apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians,
Are found exclusively among the white races.”
Schopenhauer. 1851.

But white people,
We are exempt.
We don’t receive racism,
We only dish it out.

Is it racism if a white man buys a poncho
For twenty five dollars,
While his Latino friend buys the same poncho,
From the same vendor,
In the same hour,
For fifteen?

Is it racist if a white man is asked not to come to church
Among the Navajo,
Because he is too white?

Is it racist if a Korean woman looks at a white man
And says, “You all look the same”?

What of the white business owners
In Ferguson and Cincinnati,
Who board up their storefronts with plywood and nails,
Spraypainting their only defenses with the lie:
Black business
Because they’re poor too, and their little white children
Need to eat.

What of Brayden, who grew up in a double-wide,
His parents on a four-figure salary?
He breaks his back and his brain to get to college,
Because then his kids won’t have to live in filth,
Then maybe they can afford a haircut,
Then maybe the running water in their house will be warm,
Then maybe they won’t have to work at White Castle
To support their mother’s meth addiction,
Handing over the money so she doesn’t beat them again.
Brayden applies to a small-town college,
And doesn’t get in, because even with his hard-earned 4.0,
His 29 on the ACT and 1800 on the SAT,
His extra-curriculars, his job, his Student Government,
He doesn’t fill the quota.
Because he’s white.

What of the black girl
Who says “You look really nice today”
Instead of “Gurl, you ho’ outfit on point”
Who is mocked for being too white?
White is bad. Don’t speak like them.
They are an inferior race.

I know that whites are the majority in the United States,
I know that people of other races have suffered.
Often more.
Often more recently.
Often more frequently.

But if “Whites never deal with racism”
Is still plastered on your walls and picket signs,
In spite of the 1804 Haitian Massacre,
I ask you,
I beg you,
Do not carry your lies to Roman Polansky,
Eva Schloss,
Walter Kohn,
Tibor Rubin,
Eric Vogel,
Władisław Bartoszewski,
Esther Béjarano.

Persecuted for their white, Jewish race.
Killed for their white, Jewish race.
Starved for being white and Jewish.

Islam is not the enemy

I’m not even mad anymore.

I’m sad and disappointed, and I shake my head in pity at the misinformed religious and political zealots who continue to push the narrative that Muslims as a people and Islam as a religion are the biggest threat that the U.S. faces today.

Don't be this guy...
Don’t be this guy…

They believe that Islam is the enemy. And they are dead wrong.

They seem to forget, or maybe they just don’t know, that non-Muslims have been responsible for 90% of terrorist attacks in the past 40 years. More terrorism befell the United States at the hands of Puerto Ricans than Muslims. There have been more attacks on U.S. soil by the Animal Liberation Front than by all of the Islamic groups put together.

Anti-abortion terrorists have carried out 168 attacks in the U.S. since 1970, compared to the 60 attacks made by Muslims. You are almost 3 times more likely to be attacked by an extremist Christian than an extremist Muslim.
60 attacks from any Muslims in the past 40 years, compared to the 120 attacks by the aforementioned Puerto Ricans between 1974 and 1983. Twice as many attacks in a quarter of the time.

Given that there have been 60 attacks on U.S. soil at the hands of Muslims, and there are over 2 million Muslims in the U.S., the odds of any one of those Muslims being an extremist is less than one in 30,000.

And that’s just looking at the numbers, not any individuals.

I’m assuming that the people who blindly like, share, and publish this vitriolic hate have ever met a Muslim. This past summer, I had the privilege of teaching English at an international school that hosted mostly Muslims from Arabic areas such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mali, Egypt, etc.

I remember, after class one day, having a discussion on religion with Hassan, a Muslim student of mine. I told him that I had heard that it was appropriate for a Muslim to attack anyone who attacked the Islamic faith in any way; kind of like self-defence of faith.
Hassan recoiled in horror and quickly told me that I must be mistaken, that Islam would never teach that kind of behavior as acceptable in any way. “You can defend yourself,” he said, “like, if someone’s trying to kill you, you can hurt them to protect yourself.”

*As a side note, Hassan was also in favor of inter-faith relationships and he supported same-sex marriage, because: “It’s their choice.”

I remember Mehmet responding to a short movie we watched in the English through Film class. I had asked the class if it was OK to assign values to people in society, depending on what they did, where they were from, what they believed.
Mehmet responded by saying that everyone was equal, even if they were different from you, and that you can’t treat someone different for looking or thinking different from you.

I remember Turkey writing an essay about an important person in his life. Turkey would write things like, “One day, I was playing close to the street, and my mother said, ‘Turkey, don’t go too close to the street.’ And I listened to my mother.”
Every paragraph , almost every sentence seemed to end with, “and I listened to my mother.” Is this the behavior of a man who would throw acid on a woman for not enjoying being raped?

I remember Eyas telling me that Muslims aren’t required to pay a “tithe” or offering to the church or organization as a whole, but that they are required to give their offerings directly to the poor or someone who is in need. He lamented that the oil tycoons in the Middle East are obviously not faithful Muslims in good standing, “if they were,” he said, “there would be no poor peoples. Not just Saudi Arabia. In the whole world.”

We live in a time and culture where it is not appropriate for us to even think that black people as a whole are responsible for any detail of Michael Brown’s death. We live in a time and culture where we can’t ask if someone is an illegal immigrant, because it’s worse to assume that someone is breaking the law than it is to actually break the law.

But a group of 3, maybe 4 Muslims attack Charlie Hebdo, and the whole religion is to blame.

That would be like saying that Mormonism led to Ted Bundy’s serial murders.

That would be like saying that the Italian mob is a result of the Roman Catholic Church.

That would be like saying that Christianity is responsible for every hateful action of the Klu Klux Klan.

But it would be wrong, because although on the rise in the past 10 years (ironically coincidental with the war that the United States seemed to have waged against Islam) religion has only been the motivation for 7% of terrorism  since 1970. Not Islam. Any religion as a motivation. If you know Christianity, then you know that the KKK is not Christian. If you know Catholicism, then you know that the mob is not Catholic (especially now that Francis has excommunicated them). If you know Mormonism, then you know that modern polygamists are certainly not Mormons.
And if you know Islam, you know that Islam is not responsible for terrorism, but extremist groups who will twist scripture to their already twisted beliefs.

While Islam faces East, extremists face West.
While Islam faces East, extremists face West, away from their God.

Is violence committed in the name of Islam? Yes. It would be ludicrous to deny that.
Has violence been carried out in the name of Christianity? Yes. It would be ludicrous to deny that.
Do either of these religions or their world leaders espouse this violence and condone it?
That would be like all the Baptist pastors in America suddenly saying, “Guys, you know what? The Westboro Baptists have it right. We should condone and support their actions and beliefs, and use their methods too.”  And we all know that’s less likely than Nicholas Cage starring as anyone but Nicholas Cage in any movie he’ll ever be in for the rest of his career.

If you don’t know any Muslims; if you haven’t read more than 3 verses from the Quran (the three most quoted verses in white America, that tell the Prophet to make a war on the infidels); if you like, share, publish, and most disappointingly, believe all the anti-Islam garbage that the media shoves down our throats—

Then go meet a Muslim. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts”

Then read the Quran. Scholars say that it is a book of peace, not war.
2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”

Then study Islam from the eyes of Muslims. You wouldn’t want your faith being taught by those who have already decided that you are a terrorist who will kill infidels. Remember that the news anchor at FOX or a poorly assembled YouTube video is much less of an authority on Islam than the Hadith would be. Most of the antagonists of Islam are much more familiar with the “kill the infidels” motif than with the following.

Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”

Islam is not the enemy. Terrorism is the enemy, and some small extremist groups of Muslims are a small part of that enemy, but remember that they’re about as Muslim as Al Capone is Catholic.


Four reasons why #FreeCommunityCollege won’t help

President Barack Obama has made waves recently by announcing that he plans to make Community College free for the first 2 years if a student can keep a GPA of 2.5 or higher. In a sense, it’s a federally funded scholarship for community college.

People have already taken sides on this issue. Predictably, Democrats are in favor of the President’s plan, while Republicans are against it; at least that’s what it looks like. Take a quick look at #FreeCommunityCollege on Twitter and you might find that there are more Democrats accusing Republicans of being against a good idea and more Republicans accusing Democrats of supporting a bad idea— more than actual support or opposition, that is. Nobody cares about the actual proposition, just that the other side is wrong.

In any case, as a Dempublicratarian Independent voter, this whole free college thing seems a bit problematic to me. Here are four reasons why:

1. Federal involvement in k-12 education hasn’t helped. Why would we want the government involved in college?
Does anyone remember No Child Left Behind? Can anyone recall any brilliant success stories of that piece of work? Let me tell you what I remember from NCLB.
Standardized tests became more common and less rigorous in my high school. In order for teachers to keep their jobs, students had to do well on the standardized tests. In order to make sure that everyone did well on these tests, teachers took valuable time away from teaching what they had been hired to teach in order to prepare us for these “important” tests that didn’t affect our grades…
There was only one test that would ever affect us in any way. The Ohio Graduation Test, or OGT, was to be taken our 10th grade year. We could not graduate from high school until we passed the Science, Reading, Writing, Math, etc. sections of the OGT.
I consider myself to be kind of bright, but in any case, this test was a breeze. The Math section wanted us to be able to do basic algebra and geometry. If you knew how to find the length of the 3rd side of a right triangle, you already aced the Math. It was the same story for the other sections as well. If you had paid attention in 8th grade, you were apparently ready to graduate.

Looking back as an adult, I realize that the easiest way to get more students graduating is to lower the bar. If we let the federal government lower the bar of community college, what favors will we be doing to the lower class?

2. Making college free might not actually help our economy.
Take a quick look at this article about Denmark’s financial crisis and how free college has contributed to the problem instead of helping to fix it. There are various problems. Students with no economic burden (note that I didn’t say debt*) have little to no reason to work their way out of school. With no financial burden, they have little reason to earn high-paying jobs. This leads to lower taxable income, and the nation has less funds to work with. Also, with students able to “pursue their dreams” or becoming philosophers or saxophone players, many would-be engineers are drawn away from the more lucrative fields.

Here’s one key from the article that needs to be recognized: “As the debate heats up, Danish universities have pledged to reduce admission to fields where unemployment among graduates is high.” This means that when education is free, that only the best of the best will get the best majors, and later, jobs. And this is supposed to help the poor?

3. Making things free does not encourage principles of hard work.
If you had a choice to pay for college by working at White Castle or not pay for college and stay home play video games, which would you choose? If you chose White Castle, you’re lying, or you’ve never been to White Castle (I still smell like onions).

Imagine that you grew up thinking Santa Clause was real, and that your amount of presents depended on your behavior. Do you recall how your attitude about behavior and presents changed when you found out that Santa couldn’t actually see every good or bad thing you did? You were going to get the presents anyway.

Now imagine that you’ve had free public school, with free lunch and free transportation, you’ve gone to free community college with a free meal plan and free on-campus housing, and you’d like to move up and get an apartment of your own where you can make your own rules and be the man of the house.
How are you going to respond to your first utility bill? You haven’t had to work for anyone but your teachers for the past 20 years, and you expect to just change that lifestyle on a dime? It’s not happening.

Hard work is what got me and my wife all the way through college (yeah, both of us) with no debt at all. If we continue to live by those principles, we’ll be able to buy, not lease, a home in cash within 10 years. That’s what hard work is worth.

4. Where is the money going to come from?
This is my biggest question, and really there’s not much to say about this financial mess. The United States of America is over 18 TRILLION dollars in debt. That comes out to a staggering FIFTY SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS of debt PER PERSON.

We continue to spend 500 BILLION dollars more than we earn. Every year. I hope I don’t have to explain why I wonder where the money for free college is going to come from, when we obviously have no money to work with.


*I believe that it is feasible for anyone to graduate from college with no debt. My wife and I have both graduated from a 4-year university with no debt. Has there been a financial burden? Yes. Did we have to work hard to get entry-level jobs to help pay for our educations? Yes. Is it fun to spend your Saturdays cleaning toilets and cleaning feminine hygiene products off of dorm room floors? I hope I don’t have to answer that, but I will say that it was worth it.

Refrigerator Poems: Child cryed


Child cryed
Tree so sad

Who, though thunder
did tear,
could stand?

Daily Post: Opening Lines “Fish Heads”

“Rolly polly fish heads are never seen drinking cappuccino in Italian restaurants with oriental women… yeah.

I don’t even know where to go with this, but I hope it brightens someone’s day.



Suicide is a choice, but depression isn’t

“Genie, you’re free”


These small words were tweeted by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in the wake of the death of famed comedian and actor Robin Williams. A lot of controversy has arisen over the inherent or implied meaning behind the tweet. Most of the internet’s hearts melted and many people, including my wife and I, heard the  words with sadness, but teary-eyed hope. Matt Walsh commented a bit tactlessly regarding death, depression, and suicide— I’d rather not post his remarks here— and one of my friends wrote the following, which is quite tactful and at the same time expresses her feeling that we should not popularize suicide as an escape.

Like most everyone else, I’m saddened to hear about Robin Williams. But I am also really frustrated with all the posts of photos from Aladdin captioned “Genie, you’re free”…
Having recently lost someone to suicide, I understand wanting to feel like that person is not in pain anymore, that they are in a better place, that they are finally free of all their problems and negative feelings. But I also think that the last thing we should be doing is encouraging the mentality that suicide will free someone from their problems.
I do appreciate … the many posts people have simply linked to legitimate resources where people can find help and/or learn about depression, suicide, or mental health issues as a whole.

Some have made claims on the “Suicide is a choice” side of the conversation—claims that it’s not really that hard to overcome depression; that good scripture reading, faithfully attending your church or some kind of spiritual support group, daily prayer or meditation, and a positive outlook on a life filled with joy can beat depression. Some have expressed their hope that God will have mercy on Robin Williams because of his condition, because if God isn’t merciful, then Robin Williams has sent himself to Hell.

I do recognize, as do many others, that suicide is a choice with a permanent consequence. I think it would do us all some good to recognize that depression and sadness are two different things. Not having a purpose in life and not having any place where you feel like you are a part of something bigger than the daily grind can give you the blues, it can bring you down, and it can sure make it hard to get through the day. I’m sure we’ve all been there. After a bad breakup, losing a job, losing a loved one, failing an exam, etc. Bad/sad things happen to us in varying degrees of severity and we all have different ways of handling these events.

One key difference between having a lot of sadness in your life and having depression is that clinical depression, or Major Depressive Disorder, is a permanent condition, not a bad case of the blues. It is also often associated with brain chemistry and factors outside of the control of the person who has the disorder. (It is important to note that research shows a connection between traumatic events in early life and significant changes in brain chemistry that later impede ‘normal’ functioning in adult brains. Yes, depression can be caused by social factors, because social factors can in fact change the makeup of the brain.) People don’t choose to have depression, and people can’t just choose not to have depression anymore. It’s a disease. You can’t just wake up one day and choose not to have a broken leg. And this may be a news flash to some, but reading the Bible will not make your leg better by 5:00 this evening when you wanted to go out with your friends. It won’t “fix” depression either.

Do people choose to get angry? All the time. Do people choose to be sad? I did it for most of my teen/young adult life, so yes. Do people choose to be offended? If you are on the internet at all, you know that people choose to get offended where there is no offense even remotely possible.
Do people choose to be happy? Every day.

Do people choose to alter their brain chemistry and suffer years of literally disabling mental oppression? Do they choose to make it impossible for themselves to have a normal day, and do they make themselves feel the pain because they are selfish and less righteous than the rest of us?

Do people choose to commit suicide? Yes.
Do they choose to suffer from clinical depression? No.
Is there a way to help?

A while ago, I mentioned that the simplest way to end racism and discrimination was for people to just get to know each other on a personal level. When you know someone’s story, from their perspective, it gets harder and harder to say that they are the way they are because they’re black. You start to realize that there is a lifetime of experiences behind every person you meet that has shaped them up until that very point, and will continue to shape them forever.

Again; I agree that suicide is a choice. However, clinical depression is not, and we will never know anything about how people with depression feel unless we are willing to open up and talk with them.

Will a conversation cure depression? It would be wonderful, but it’s about as probable as a friendly “Hello!” curing lung cancer.
Might a friendly conversation stop a suicide?

“You can’t just sit there and watch them.”


Like, eat it



Listen child,
have this for lunch.

A hot dog.
Come on, like, eat it.
Be full.

Or, like, drop dead
She laughs.

How to Live on Less: Cooking

Pizza Hut charges $12 for a large 1-topping pizza.

Here’s what you spend if you buy the ingredients and cook it yourself with only name brand ingredients:
-2.50 for a 5lb bag of Gold Medal flour
-6.00 for a 32oz bag of Kraft cheese
-2.50 for a 24oz can of Bertolli pizza sauce
-2.50 for 3oz of McCormick garlic powder
-6.00 for a 16oz Bertolli peperoni log
-3.50 for a can of Pam no-stick spray

I understand that you’re looking at 22.50 for your pizza, and that you have to take the time to buy the groceries and then cook the pizza, which takes some time.
Still, think of things this way. At 22.50, your grocery purchases surpass the price of that pizza by about 10 dollars. Now you want to make another pizza, so you go to the bag of flour you’ve already bought, the bag of cheese you already have in the fridge, the can of pizza sauce that you hopefully used less than half of—I think you get the picture. You just saved 2 dollars on that second pizza.
By the time you get to the third pizza, you are only saving money.

There are plenty of foods that you can make with cheap ingredients.
If you’re willing to learn new recipes, you can take a serious bite out of your budget. Look at the prices of these foods.

-9.00 for 20lb of rice
-2.50 for 10lb of potatoes
-4.00 for 5 dozen eggs
-0.90 for a can of Nalley chili (that means that 10 cans of chili is less than ten dollars)
-2.50 for 5lb of flour (make homemade bread!)
-1.00 or less for most soups

And here are some simple and inexpensive recipes that I’ve been cooking up for a while.
-Mac n’ Cheese
-Cream of Mushroom with sautéed sausage over rice
-homemade pizza
-Mac n’ cheese with a can of chili
-grilled cheese with tomato soup
-fried egg on top of noodles and tomato sauce
-homemade quesadillas
-anything-you-have omlette
-poached eggs and toast
-black beans and rice
-oatmeal (a little bit of cinnamon and honey go a long way)
-can of chili + hot dogs = chili dogs for cheap
-nachos (homemade tortilla chips aren’t that hard either)
-egg salad sandwiches
-baked potatoes
-twice baked potatoes
-hash browns
-potatoes au gratin
-peanut butter and jelly
-any soup with rice in it tastes better
-Ramen with frozen peas added becomes “healthy”?
-Beef stew over noodles
-Biscuits and gravy (homemade is fantastic)
-chicken roll-ups

I think I’ve made my point.

The challenge:

Try to go just one week without eating out at a restaurant at all or heating up a microwave dinner. That’s it! (Leftovers are exempt from this challenge if you cooked them at home.)
To complete this challenge you will have to go grocery shopping and maybe even plan what kind of meals you want to enjoy throughout the week (and believe me, you will enjoy them). Next time you go to spend 12 bucks on a pizza, remember that those dollars could buy you almost 50 pounds of potatoes or get you homemade baked potatoes with fixin’s and chili dogs for an entire week.

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