College was not, as it turned out, particularly useful for practical stuff. Although I learned a reasonable amount, it had a tendency to be the kind of thing that makes great conversation while playing Trivial Pursuit rather than while trying to figure out your household budget for the month.
Consider the subject of infinite sets. I am not a mathematician. I’m okay with arithmetic and I can figure out a basic, algebraic equation if you give me enough time and scratch paper … but otherwise? Unless it’s part of a computer language, I’m at a loss.
I remember infinite sets because it was similar to trying to understand time travel.
An infinite set is any combination of numbers that has no end. There are lots and lots of them. All positive numbers, like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 … and obviously, you can keep counting until the moon turns blue and the world is exhausted.
But what about an infinite set of all negative AND positive numbers, so they go back forever into the minuses as well and forward into the positives. Forever and a day. Without end. That would be twice as big as all positive number … but equally infinite.
There can be infinite sets of only numbers which divide by three or cardinal number and any bizarre combination of fractions. They are all infinite. But some are bigger than others.
How can one infinity be bigger than another infinity? Apparently, universes are sort of like that and now, my brain is due for an explosion because I can’t keep this kind of information there.
Our personal numeric world consists of shockingly finite numbers. That’s one of the amazing parts of retirement. You have what you have and you will never have more unless you hit the lottery or have an extremely rich relative planning to die and leave his fortune behind for you.
Retirement income just “IS.” It won’t get bigger. Retirement income pretty much stays the same while the world trundles on. Life and the universe may be infinite, but retirement is not.
It’s just a thought to ponder if you feel like pondering.
I never think of myself as having had mentors. I suppose I thought they were supposed to announce themselves or wear an ID that said “Mentor” on it. They were the teachers that listened to me. Who really read the papers I wrote and didn’t give me an automatic “A” because I was good with words.
My favorite grade was an A+/D. It was a 40-page paper and I thought it read pretty well. So what kind of grade was that?
I went up to him after class and said “Huh?”
He said: “Great writing. Pity you didn’t do the research. Writing is a wonderful skill, but if you don’t do the research …”
If you don’t do the research — or ignore the results of the research — you become Fox News.
Learning (or, in my case, tryingto learn) another language was high entertainment.
In English, I rarely if ever used a word the wrong way. I was a serious reader very young and had a big passive vocabulary. By passive, I mean I knew a lot of words but had never used them in conversation. I knew what they meant and how to spell them, but not how they sounded.
I had no idea that Too-son and Tucson were one place. Or that ep-ee-TOME was epitome. I remember those two examples because of the hilarity they caused the adults in the area. I was all of 8, but adults were not all that nice to kids. They still aren’t, if I think about it.
I was even more entertaining in Israel. I am sure that my fumbling attempts to learn the language, having caused hysterical laughter, probably played a part in my never properly learning Hebrew. I was so embarrassed by my errors, it didn’t seem worth it, especially since everyone knew at least a little English.
My first big discovery — during my first week in the country — was that Zion (Zy-on) means penis. In Hebrew, it’s tzee-own. So if you say that Israel is the Land of Zion using your good American pronunciation, you will reduce Israelis within earshot to tears of laughter.
They can be a rough crowd.
To add another layer of problems over the difficulty in just getting the words out through my teeth which were clearly not designed for all those gutturals, many words in Hebrew are very much like one another, yet have hugely different meanings. Sha-ah is an hour. Shan-nah is a year. So there you are saying “My Hebrew isn’t all that good, I’ve only been here for two hours.”
After a while, I mostly spoke English and used Hebrew words as needed when I could find no English equivalent. Eventually, I got to a point where almost everyone could be expected to understand most of what I said. Without laughing at me. But not happily. My accent made their ears hurt.
You might consider this when you meet immigrants who are trying to learn English. I mention this only because, having been on the other side of this experience, a bit of kindness to people trying to work through a difficult life transition while learning a new language and culture can go a long way to make them feel less lonely, threatened, excluded, and generally miserable.
There’s a beautiful and poignant song in the musical “South Pacific”, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It’s called, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”. It opens with the lines “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year.”
I’ve been thinking about those lyrics recently. I was struck by a common statistic in both the Brexit vote in the UK and our election of Donald Trump. In the UK, the voters who voted most heavily anti-immigrant and anti-EU were from areas that had few to no immigrants. The open-minded, pro-immigrant, pro-EU voters were clustered in the areas with the highest volume of immigrants.
The same phenomenon repeated itself in the United States. Trump supporters accepted, if not endorsed his xenophobic, anti-Muslim, racist rhetoric and dog whistling. His voters were concentrated in areas that were most heavily white, with the lowest number of immigrants and other racial minorities.
The cities, where immigrants and minorities are concentrated, were across the board Democratic and anti-Trump. It seems that if you have contacts with minority groups or people not exactly like yourself, you accept and don’t fear them.
If these groups of people are total unknowns to you, you’re open to believing all the negative rhetoric about them. You’re open to seeing them as dangerous and destructive to you and your way of life.
At first, I thought this was counter-intuitive. But I realized that it makes perfect sense. When you live with a diverse group of people, you see that everyone, regardless of race, nationality or religion, shares your life experience. Most importantly, you see all other people as individuals. To you, they’re not, nor can they be seen as, a monolithic, mysterious blob of humanity, threatening everything you hold dear.
On a personal note, I grew up in New York City. Even in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, I saw different races and nationalities everywhere. I also went to integrated schools. When I was four years old, I had an eye-opening experience that I still remember. I’m a Jewish Caucasian. My beloved Nanny was a Christian black woman.
To me, Ethie was part of the family. She was just like me in every way. The first time that belief was challenged was when something came up about her going to church. It suddenly hit me that Ethie wasn’t JEWISH! She wasn’t just like me, she was different in some ways. It still didn’t register on me that her skin was a different color. That didn’t even show up on my four-year-old radar. I just remember grappling with the idea that Ethie was not really family.
She was not JUST LIKE US. She was, in some crucial way, different. I didn’t love her any less. I learned something that day. That I could love someone who wasn’t exactly like me.
Different was okay.
I guess isolation from different religious and ethnic groups leaves you susceptible to hate and fear.
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
|Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
This challenge will be 21 questions or in truth 16 “flexible questions” because there will be five (well, maybe not five, but something kind of like that) permanent ones that are supposed to stay in place all the time. Except I deleted one and added an alternatively dumb question to another dumb one.
Apart from those 5 impermanent questions, should you choose to reblog, then you can change any of the other 16 questions or create 16 of your own, that’s down to you, however, you must stick to the Daily Topic Subject. Which today is “Knowledge.”
Someone needs to define “knowledge” because this ain’t it.
The Rules …
1] Leave the Permanent Questions [PQ] always in place, please.
2] Reblog should you so desire
3] If you do reblog, a pingback would always be welcomed so l don’t miss it.
4] This is a non-tagger/ non-nomination game.
Daily Topic Subject – Knowledge (It appears to me that this might be called “Trivia” because the questions are more trivial than knowledgeable. But peel an onion, you get a lot of layers, right? (Marilyn: I agree — NOT knowledge. Not even close.)
Marilyn’s Notes: Many of these questions are silly. Is the center of the earth icy? Duh! Does the earth travel around the sun? Double-duh! Who played what in “Friends”? That isn’t knowledge and frankly, unless you are the right age, it isn’t even trivia.
The meaning of knowledge in fewer than 100 words? Seriously? And that’s a permanent question? Another permanent question — A song full of knowledge? That’s like a Facebook meme full of knowledge. Ain’t no such thing. It is, as we say, an oxymoron.
Q1] Bambi was what exactly? First a fawn, then a buck. But for those of you who might need to look up whether the sun travels around the earth or vice-versa, deer.
Q2] Who was the gloomy donkey in Winnie the Pooh? Eyeore.
Q3] In Shrek who was the voice actor of Donkey? Eddie Murphy
Q4] What part of the body produces insulin? Pancreas.
PQ5] What is your best song with regards knowledge – provide a link, please. I don’t know any songs full of knowledge. It’s MUSIC. They are full of lyrics, notes, chords, and such. I know songs that are tender, sweet, loving, haunting, and passionate. I know some that make me weep.
I do not know any that are knowledgeable. Music is not supposed to educate you unless it’s the ABCs.
Q6] How many syllables make up a haiku? 17.
PQ7] What is the best Knowledge film you have ever seen – please provide a link. The Emerald Forest. It was the first movie of Boorman’s I ever saw, but it left an impression. I’ve been interested in the Amazon ever since.
I should add a second one: The Seventh Seal. It’s about the 14th century, death, human madness, superstition, and the Plague. It is one of the things that got me seriously interested in history. It’s also a great movie, but not everyone’s cuppa tea. My husband will let me watch it as long as he can read a newspaper while it’s on. To be fair, he isn’t fascinated with the 14th century.
Q8] Who wrote the Scarlet Letter? Nathanial Hawthorne
Q9] Did the writers and signers of the American constitution know that the civil war was inevitable? How do we know this answer? Yes, they knew. We know because they wrote it down. In diaries, letters, memoirs. They knew, but they thought the formation of a country was more important than justice. We are living with the result of that Devil’s choice. Followup question: Were they right? Think about it. Get back to me on it.
Q10] Entomology is the science that studies what? Bugs.
Q11] Who was the Father of Geometry? Euclid.
PQ12] What is your favorite quote concerning ‘knowledge’?’ It’s not what you don’t know that will get you. It’s what you DO know that’s wrong. (Author: my father) (Note 2: “Most favorite” was redundant. Favorite is the favorite. If you’ve got “more than one favorite,” only one is actually the favorite. This is up there linguistically with “bestest.”)
Q13] Who played the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin and Marian”?
Q14] What are the two valves is human left ventricle?
Aortic and mitral valves. I know this because I had both of them replaced — among other things. I got very familiar with the heart.
PQ15] What famous TV executive was a telegrapher in New York during the sinking of the Titanic? What television network did he later found?
In 1912, Sarnoff was assigned to manage the Marconi wireless station at the Wanamaker department store in New York City, which led to his participation in a pivotal moment in the history of communication. On the evening of April 14th, 1912, the ocean liner Titanic struck an iceberg and started taking on water.
Almost immediately, the ship began transmitting distress signals. Soon the airwaves were flooded with news of the disaster as operators tracked the rescue effort. Sarnoff played an important role throughout the crisis After three days at his Wanamaker’s post, he traveled to Marconi’s Sea Gate station on Coney Island.
While there, he contacted the steamship Carpathia, which had picked up survivors from the Titanic and was returning to New York. Sarnoff proceeded to compile the names of these passengers and forward the good news to their families.
He created RCA, then NBC.
Q16] What famous American baseball stadium opened the day the Titanic sank? Fenway Park.
Many people think that’s why the Red Sox spent 89 years trying to win the World Series, but that’s mere sports mythology.
Q17] Which ‘G’ is an Italian blue cheese made with unskimmed cow’s milk? Gorgonzola (mmm-mm!) I do love bleu cheese! Made anywhere!
Q18] What is the philosophical term for the study of knowledge, justice, and the rationality of belief? Epistemology.
Q19] What does MRI stand for? Magnetic Resonance Imaging
PQ20] Are you deleting any questions, if so which ones? 9, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19
Q21] On average which might be the heavier animal? The Giraffe or the American Bison? Hard to say. Both pretty heavy. I’m betting (just a guess) it might be the giraffe. It’s just overall a bigger creature. But I could be wrong.
I deleted one permanent question. I can’t describe my understanding of knowledge in under 100 words. I can’t even describe what knowledge IS in 100 words. Call me long-winded. No one will argue with you, not even me.
I got a note from a reader about an article I wrote more than five years ago about blood types. I’m a B+ from an O+ mother and an AB+ father, which cannot, in theory, produce me. But it did and there’s no doubt who my parents were.
It turns out that unexpected blood types just sometimes “pop up.” Why?
There is more we don’t know about blood types and where they come from than we do know. The article is titled: DESCENDING FROM THE GOLDEN HORDE – B+ AND ME and it is the most popular article I ever wrote. Especially since I wrote it more than five years ago and it’s still widely read today.
I got a letter yesterday from what turns out to be a first cousin. Or is it second cousin? I’ve never worked out the first, second, third and how many times removed thing in familial relationships. Regardless, she’s a pretty close match and is the great-granddaughter of my grandfather’s sister. This came with pictures and everything and damned if we don’t all pretty much look alike. Not exactly the same, but similar enough to form a congenial family portrait.
I didn’t even know this branch of the family existed. If my mother knew, she never mentioned it. I never knew my grandparents. They died when I was too young to know anything except how to walk. When you don’t know your grandparents, you lose a lot of history.
The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. The more I learn, the more yawning the unknown gets, too.
Maybe that is why so many people enjoy ignorance. If you don’t know anything, you don’t need to recognize how much more you need to learn to lose your ignorance. No matter how much you know, you always need to know more.
Ignorance is so easy. You just assume what you know (or think you know) is everything there is to know. Then carefully avoid learning more. If anyone intrudes on your ignorance, you can run screaming with your ears covered lest your lack of knowledge be devastated by the intrusion of previously unknown information.
Meanwhile, I have a whole unknown branch of my family branch to explore. Call me crazy, but I find the unknown the most alluring part of my universe.
Send down the Mother Ship! I’ve got my bags packed.
There was an article in the Sunday New York Times a while back that was titled “To Help Kids Thrive, Coach Their Parents.” It was written by Paul Tough and was an excerpt from a book he had written called “Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why.” The article cited a long-term study that started in 1986 and has followed the subjects constantly to the present.
The study proved that children who lived in poverty did substantially better than their peers, into adulthood, if one simple thing was changed in their homes during their first three years of life. If their parents received coaching from trained researchers who encouraged them to play with and stimulate their infants, for example, by reading to them, singing to them and playing peekaboo, the kids did much better.
Parents were taught the importance of these face to face exchanges in creating attachment, warmth, and trust between parents and children. This, in turn, helped create a more stable, nurturing environment in the impoverished homes, which are usually plagued by stress, neglect, and instability.
It’s hard to believe that some people don’t know that they should talk to and play with their infants and young children. But if no one ever did that with you when you were a child and no one later taught you how important it is, how would you know?
The impact of this easy and low-cost intervention was off the charts. The study showed that the children who had the play counseling had higher IQ’s, less aggressive behavior and better self-control than the control groups. They also had better ability to focus, follow directions, interact calmly with others and cope with disappointment and frustration. In other words, they improved intellectually, socially and emotionally. All this just by receiving the kind of attention that most of us take for granted every child automatically gets.
It turns out that adults can be taught to create an environment that fosters success for their children. Why isn’t this being done in every poor neighborhood in the world? Or at least in this country?
This is particularly frustrating for me because my father proposed the same type of in-home interventions in the 1960’s and no one listened to him. My father was a well-known psychoanalyst, anthropologist, and sociologist who stressed the importance of the first 3 years of life. He also did a study that showed how little stimulation and affection a large number of black children living in poverty in Harlem, New York, in the 1950’s were receiving from their parents. He suggested doing exactly what the 1986 study did – send in trained professionals to teach the parents how to give their children the kind of nurturing they needed to thrive.
Guess who shot my father’s idea down? The “liberals” of the day and the radical Black Panther movement. They said it was racist to assume that black people didn’t know how to be good parents. It was also considered paternalistic and condescending to send (often white) people into black homes to “tell them” how to deal with their own children. My father backed away from the conflict that surrounded his proposal.
Now, 50 years later, the idea is being proposed again. Think of all the kids who could have benefited in all these years! With so much poverty, even just in this country, you’d think this article would have been front page news. You’d think that politicians, as well as educators and mental health professionals, would be jumping on the bandwagon and yelling from the rooftops. You’d hope that large numbers of “family counselors” would be amassing to go in and make a huge difference in the lives of millions of children.
I haven’t heard anything yet. But I’m still waiting and hoping.
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