God speed, little man. Sweet dreams, little man.





When One Should Not Compromise the No


Michael Fishing

“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions, which I shall not choose to answer.”
Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice

The Daily Prompt is Compromise  which reminds me of Shaun White at the Olympics.

Derailing a Press Conference
In the 2018 Winter Games, Shaun White won his third gold medal in snowboarding. He deserved it. His winning run was amazing; it was poetry on the half-pipe. He gave a news conference afterward on what it was like to win a third gold medal. It was going along well until a reporter asked him about allegations of past sexual misconduct. Awkward. White was prepped and primed for questions about the Olympics, his medal run, snowboarding, his competitors, and suddenly he was faced with an off-topic question. He cobbled together an answer that some people judged as unsatisfactory. But who could blame him? His mind was racing down one track when it was blindsided by a reporter on another. In my opinion, Shaun White’s problem was that he attempted to answer the question in the first place. He needed to realize that not all questions deserve an answer, especially the ones that are off topic.

Diverting a Class Lecture
Students are adept at asking off-topic questions. They do it to divert the lesson from a boring subject to one that is more interesting. I used this tactic myself to great effect. Once, at the beginning of a class on business law, I asked the teacher about his stint in the navy. What followed was an entertaining fifty-minute monologue about life on a navy ship. It was hilarious. A wise teacher would have recognized what I was attempting and would not have been distracted. (On the other hand, perhaps the teacher was just as bored by business law as we were and was glad for an excuse to change the subject.) The point is: Not all questions need to be answered.

Delivering a Sale
Phone solicitors use questions as a selling tool. They want to know all sorts of things about you, trying to get you to compromise your privacy. What was your energy bill last month? How much do you pay for homeowners’ insurance? What is your social security number? Do you wear boxers or briefs? (Okay, I made up the last one.) Whatever the questions, phone solicitors know if they can get you to answer, then they have a chance at selling you something. However, one is not under any obligation to answer their questions.

Dissembling an Opinion
Donald Trump seems to have learned this lesson since he became president. He provides all sorts of non-answers to the many questions reporters lob at him. Of course, that then becomes the story.

  • Donald Trump refuses to answer questions on immigration.
  • The President ignored repeated questions about Rob Porter’s wives.
  • BREAKING NEWS! When asked if he planned to release his 2017 tax return, Donald Trump looked out the window.

At each press conference, I can sense the reporters’ frustration as their questions go unanswered. I feel sorry for them; after all, they are human, they have a job to do, but they are going about it the wrong way. Pestering Trump with off-topic questions only strengthens his resolve not to answer them. There is a way to get people like him to answer questions, but it involves emotional manipulation, something I consider unethical.

Declining an Answer
I stumbled on the power of emotional manipulation accidentally when I was a teacher, sort of like Andrew Fleming and penicillin. Actually, it was more like discovering how to split an atom. It was a powerful, yet dreadful tool. It was like Ice-Nine in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle. Once I used it the first time, I just could not use it again. That is why if anyone wants to know how to get people to answer off-topic questions, I will not answer. Not every question deserves an answer. I do not compromise my no.

The Liebster Award


A. J. Reeves, who writes milesofpages, has nominated me for the Liebster Award.

What is the Liebster Award?

“The Liebster Award 2017 is an award that exists only on the Internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.” The Global Aussie

The Official Rules of the Liebster Award 2018

  • Link to the Liebster website.
  • Answer the questions given to you.
  • Nominate up to ten bloggers that you follow who (a) meet the criteria of Liebster and (b) have no more than 200 followers.
  • Create more questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Comment on this blog post with a link DIRECTLY to your Liebster award.

What is milesofpages?
A.J. Reeves maintains an interesting and informative website of book reviews, literary analysis, writing advice, original fiction, and M. A. L. C. O. L. M, an ongoing romantic comedy about Olivia Moore, her friend Addison Lockwood, and M. A. L. C. O. L. M, and human-like machine Addison has created.

I especially appreciate Reeves’ book reviews. She gives an overview of the setting, characters, and plot outline, and then explains what she likes and does not like about the book. She is very thorough.

I also appreciate that A. J. Reeves nominated me for a Liebster award; it is an honor and an act of kindness on her part.

Questions From milesofpages Which I Answered Truthfully

  1. What book had the most impact on you? The Bible
  2. What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical? Children of the Corn – call it “Children of the Con” and make it about people who are conned into giving their life savings to children.
  3. If giving the choice with literary man or woman would you like to have a relationship with? and what relationship? (friend/co-consiprator/love interest/enemy/etc.) I would like to be one of C. S. Lewis’ close friends.
  4. What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever worn? The back end of a horse costume–I should add, it was a dancing horse.
  5.  What part of a kid’s movie completely scarred you? I cannot recall being scarred by a kid’s movie.
  6. If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done? They might assume I had written a political letter to the editor.
  7. What is your weirdest hobby? Looking for number patterns in my car’s odometer and rejoicing when I find one.
  8. What secret conspiracy would you like to start? I would not start a secret conspiracy; conspiracies are too complicated for me to think about.
  9. What mythical creature would improve the world most if it existed? A unicorn would be most helpful; here in California, it could lead us to water. There is an implied unicorn in the world of Albion, which I think is an improvement.
  10.  What’s the most imaginative insult you can come up with? My math study group had a great one: “You are undefined.”

My List of Liebster Nominees
Oh, dear. This is the one rule I cannot follow. Of the blogs I follow, only four of them meet the criteria for number of followers. Of those four, only one meets the criteria for the Liebster award, and that blog has already been nominated. This is disturbing to me because I always strive to follow the rules. If this disqualifies me from the Liebster award, I understand.

However, in my own defense, I admit to reading under the influence of H. L. Mencken, a writer whom no one would accuse of being a Liebster. A glance at the books on my bookshelves reveals there are no Liebsters among their authors.

Nonetheless, I do want to respect the intent of the Liebster award and honor the blogger who nominated me. To do so, I decided to make all of my questions about the books on one’s bookshelves. I love to peruse the titles on people’s bookshelves; they speak volumes about a person’s tastes, values, and interests.

My Questions About The Books Are On Your Bookshelves

  1. Are the majority of the books on your bookshelves fiction or nonfiction, or are they approximately an equal amount of both?
  2. Are the majority of the books on your bookshelves written by men or by women, or are both genders equally represented?
  3. Which of the following is the predominant time period for the settings of your fiction books: the ancient past, dark ages – medieval times, 16th – 18th centuries, 19th century, 20th – 21st centuries, or the future?
  4. Which of the following is the predominant topic of your nonfiction books: History, Language Arts, Mathematics, Philosophy, Religion, Science, or Social Science?
  5. Which book on your bookshelves would you make mandatory reading for high school students?
  6. Which of your books would you require members of Congress to read in order to qualify for office?
  7. Which fiction book on your bookshelves have you read the most?
  8. Which nonfiction book on your bookshelves have you read the most?
  9. Which fiction book is your latest acquisition?
  10. Which nonfiction book is your latest acquisition?


Even though I do not have a list of nominees, I hope that people who read this blog will take the time to answer my questions. Thank you for sharing.

Curious Hart



George MacDonald ~ Mary Cassatt


“Here I lay in a delicious reverie for some time, during which all lovely forms, and colours, and sounds seemed to use my brain as a common hall, where they could come and go, unbidden and unexcused.

“I had never imagined that such capacity for simple happiness lay in me, as was now awakened by this assembly of forms and spiritual sensation, which yet were far too vague to admit of being translated into any shape common to my own and another mind.”

George MacDonald ~ Phantastes (1858)

Painting by Mary Cassatt



Thoughts on the Illumination of Shadows


“If there were no shadows, we could not fully perceive the beauty of light.”
The Book of Rhino ~ The Revelation

Thinking Like a Hunter
Aldo Leopold wrote that when he was young he thought that “fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise.” He never passed up an opportunity to kill a wolf. It was not until many years later that he realized that a mountain might have a different opinion about deer and wolves. Leopold eventually saw the havoc wreaked on a mountain by too many deer and not enough wolves to keep them in check.

Thinking Like a Deer
The deer on Leopold’s mountain overgrazed the trees and shrubs, robbing the mountain of its shade. Without sufficient shade, grasses withered under the heat of the sun and deprived the deer of a food source. The number of deer eventually outpaced the food supply, and the deer began to starve. The deer needed the wolves for the welfare of the herd, but they did not know it. They saw the wolves as shadows.

Thinking Like a Wolf
Leopold wrote: “Just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.”
Sand County Almanac
The wolves protected the mountain, and in return, the mountain gave the wolves its caves and rocks for dens. The wolves did not know they were shadows.

Thinking Like a Mountain
One day a child learns of evil. Her world is undone, and she cries out to the universe. She cannot comprehend why anything that is not good is allowed to exist. It seems so unfair, so unjust to her. She longs to return to the innocence of light; she does not want to acknowledge the shadows.

But what she does not yet realize is that her mind, her heart, and her soul have come to an agreement that it is time for her to grow. Her eyes are ready for a greater vision, one that can only be seen with the help of shadows. But shadows are not always safe; sometimes they have teeth and claws that rend and tear. The child could spend the rest of her life killing wolves, thinking they are shadows. On the other hand, she could think like a mountain.

Appreciation and Gratitude


Thank you, all you lovely people who are following my blog. I really appreciate it. I am honored and feel motivated to make sure whatever I write is worth reading. It’s like my number one rule for teaching: Do Not Bore the Students.

In the light of that, I am going to reduce the number of times I regularly post from three times a week to once a week. I do not want to publish mediocre content just to get something “out there.” Quality is preferred over quantity, (unless one is H. L. Mencken who could apparently produce both.) Reducing the number of posts also avoids inundating you with articles to read. I might feel inspired to publish more than once but only if the content is worthy.

I needed to pick a day on which to post so I decided on Wednesday because it starts with the letter “W” and so do the words Writing and Why. I think that those are two of the loveliest words in the universe. It is as great a privilege to ask why as it is to write about it. I also picked Wednesday in honor of Wednesday’s Child. According to the rhyme, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” When I was a child and first read the rhyme, my heart was moved with compassion for Wednesday’s child. I wanted to comfort her (I thought it was a girl.) I still feel the same about Wednesday’s children. I want to comfort and care for them and be their advocate.

Enough said. I hope that whoever is reading this has a very lovely day. Many blessings to you all.

Curious Hart



Why Knowledge is Essential to Life



The sun also arises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose.
The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.
All rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
Ecclesiastes 1: 5 – 7

Why Patterns are Essential to Knowledge
Patterns are rather amazing things. We depend on patterns to help us make sense of the universe. For example, we see that the sun eventually disappears from our sight within a twenty-four hour period, and that the sky grows dark. However, the disappearance of the sun does not cause us to panic because we know that it will eventually reappear in the sky, bringing light to our world. We know this because this is the pattern we have observed for millennia. Picture it otherwise. Can you imagine what the world–our lives–would be like if this phenomenon happened at random, unpredictable intervals? This pattern is one of the kindnesses of the universe.

Why Time is Essential to Patterns
Time allows a pattern to be identified. We measure the length of intervals during which things remain the same, when they change, and how long the change lasts until it is replaced by another change. When the changes repeat themselves at regular intervals, they reveal a pattern. Because time is so intimately related to patterns, I find the length of time intervals of particular interest.

Why Measurement is Essential to Time
If a time interval is too short or too long, the pattern–if it exists–may remain undetected. Take, for example, the pattern of a hummingbird’s wing beats. To the unaided eye, it looks like a blur. Only when time is artificially slowed can one see the wing beats’ pattern. On the other hand, suppose that low tides occurred only once every ten thousand years. How would we know that high tides existed? The Bible tells the story of a great flood that covered the earth. What if that was part of a pattern that happened over a long interval of time?

Why Perspective is Essential to Measurement
Sometimes I wonder if the things that appear linear or exponential are actually part of a sinusoidal pattern. It’s a possibility. Every curve looks like a line if you zoom in close enough. For years, humans believed the earth was flat because they were too close to the curve to see it. (I recently read that there are some people that still hold that belief.) But how does one know that the line which one sees is in reality a curve? How does one “zoom out?” How does one shorten a too-long time interval? What is needed is a “wrinkle in time.” Does such a thing exist? I got a hint of an answer after reading The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, but that is for another post.



Emotional Manipulation


“The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized by the possessor.”
Jane Austen ~ Pride and Prejudice

Investigating the Source of Fear
I usually taught a unit on logic and critical thinking to my calculus students after the AP exam. I would give them dozens of advertisements pulled from magazines and would ask them to choose the one they liked the best. Then we could discuss their choice; in particular, we focused on the strongest emotion they experienced when looking at the picture. The point of the exercise was to investigate the emotional response that advertisers and marketers try to evoke in order to sell their products. My late father-in-law was advertising manager for a local newspaper and understood the efficacy of manipulating the emotions. He gave me a book to read titled Subliminal Seduction by Wilson Bryan Key that explained the concept in detail. It was an illuminating and rather frightening book. According to the author, every word and image of an advertisement is carefully choreographed to manipulate human behavior by playing on human emotions.

Examining the Purpose of Fear
I think of that when I see the current ads on television and the Internet and wonder what emotions are being played. Many of the ads have incorporated a time factor to their message, in that whatever the product, it either speeds up or slows down the passage of time. There are some products that claim one can do things faster with faster being assumed to be better. But it is? Why is faster equated with better? Why the need for speed?

For a possible answer, I investigated the emotions being massaged by such advertising and concluded that the most plausible one is fear–a very powerful emotion.

Identifying the Personality of Fear
The rise in online networking and social media has intensified an anxiety known as FOMO or “fear of missing out.” Some people are afraid that everyone else is experiencing something important that they are not. Their fear can dictate their behavior; it is not unusual for them to camp out overnight in line for the latest movie, the newest phone, or best bargain on Black Friday. Advertisers and marketers play on this fear, especially when it comes to being left behind the “cool” people. Given the abundance of ads that use the FOMO strategy, I conclude that it must work. In his book, Key emphasized that the expense of a marketing campaign greatly influences how a product or service is advertised. Companies do not invest money into an ad campaign that does not prove effective. Therefore, there must be enough people for whom FOMO influences to make it worthwhile to use as an advertising tool. Who are these people for whom the need for speed is a necessity? Who are the most likely to respond to an emotional prompt? For the answer, I looked to the Enneagram.

There are three personality types who are motivated primarily by their emotions: Type Two, the Helper; Type Three, the Achiever, and Type Four, the Romantic. Of these three, only the Achiever is oriented toward the future, which is the logical time orientation of the speed associated with growth. I find this interesting; the Achievers are the most likely sellers, and they are also the most likely buyers of what the Achievers have to sell. It makes sense in that they know how to communicate with one another, speaking as it were the same language.

Overcoming the Seduction of Fear
I do not know how cognizant or comfortable people are with emotional manipulation, but I do have a few recommendations for those who wish to avoid it.

  1. Imagine doing without something that you have or want to have and identify the immediate emotion produced. If you feel disappointed, angry, depressed, or some other unpleasant emotion, then consider why you feel that way. Is this response proportionate to the object denied? Feeling annoyed that the grocery store is out of fuyu persimmons is not the same as launching into a purple-faced tirade about it. Sit with the idea of not having what you want until your emotional response is satisfactory to you.
  2. Determine whether it is a need or a want. Try to place it on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If it is not a ready fit, it probably is a want. How much value do you place on something you want? What is it worth to you? Are you comfortable being emotionally manipulated to have it? If not, then go back to #1.
  3. Picture what you want in the hands of someone you do not like. (This may be difficult if you like everybody.) Can you live with the object of your desire in someone else’s possession, or does the very thought make the sun dark in your eyes? If the latter, then practice #1.

I did not grow up with emotional manipulation; it was not our family culture, so it was not until I was twelve years old that I experienced my first taste of it. For a while, I was powerless against it, having no clue what was going on. At the time, I concluded that I was going insane. Eventually, I learned a few tools for dealing with it, the chief of which is that knowledge is power. Understanding is more than half the battle. That was the reason I presented my students with a lesson on logic and critical thinking. Most of them were seniors heading off to college, and I wanted to prepare them for some of the non-academic, social issues they would face. It was a lesson they always found fascinating. I am fascinated by the subject myself and consider it well worth a side journey on the Time Project.




Is It Possible to Sell a Secret?



They Have a Secret
There are a great many books written about secrets; their titles are generic. The Secret to Success, The Secret to Popularity, The Secret to Selling, etc. With so many secrets being sold, are there any left to sell? The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Secret Life of Bees, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. The irony in selling a secret to the public is that, once it is revealed, it is no longer a secret. But people keep buying it; like Schrödinger’s cat, it is simultaneously both alive and dead. But a universe observed is a universe altered by the observation.

I Have a Secret
I, too, have secrets: a secret for success, a secret to popularity–why, I even have a secret for selling mathematics to teenagers, but my secrets are not for sale. Why? It’s because I do not know what they are; my secrets are very secretive, even from me. Oh, I have some reasonable conjectures based on empirical evidence and analysis but nothing definitive. I don’t know enough about my secrets to say, “Aha! I have a secret to sell.”

Archimedes Had a Secret
Getting back to the idea of selling secrets: The secrets I have investigated thus far are not really secrets, at least, not in the sense of being revelations. They are more like common sense ideas that have been wafting around for years that anyone could identify by observing real world phenomena. I suppose whenever a new technology is invented, it is followed by a flurry of secrets on how to best appropriate it. I imagine after Archimedes invented the catapult, some enterprising Achiever produced a pamphlet titled The Secret to Getting the Most out of Your Catapult: The Perfect Arc to Hit Your Mark.

Some Secrets are More Serious Than Others
The Underground Man did not sell his secret, at least not intentionally. He gave it to Liza for the price of her body. His tragedy was not knowing his secret until Liza exposed it; Liza’s tragedy was finding herself possessing a secret that was not intend for sale. How could it be? Who would buy the secret of being a sick man, a spiteful man, an unattractive man. Those secrets are never for sale, yet it was freely given to Liza. The Underground Man hid his questions in her face but never looked for answers. His secret was that his consciousness was his disease. Poor man…he thought it was his liver.

(Hmm…I had a mass on my spleen. Is that where my secrets are hiding?)

The Secret to Levity is No Secret
I don’t think it is possible to sell a secret. But what do I know? It’s a secret. But I can always find a way to laugh, even when I don’t feel like it. The secret? It’s from H. L. Mencken.

Most of the sorrows of man, I incline to think, are caused by just such repining. Alone among the animals, he is dowered with the capacity to invent imaginary worlds, and he is always making himself unhappy trying to move into them. Thus he underrates the world in which he actually lives, and so misses most of the fun of it. That world, I am convinced, could be materially improved, but even as it stands it is good enough to keep any reasonable man entertained for a lifetime.