Dumb Questions and Dumb Answers

As we age, we change the dumb questions that we ask. As children, we asked questions like “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why is there war?” and “Why don’t the rich people just share with the poor people so nobody would be hungry?” They are dumb questions only because adults don’t know a good answer.

As children get older, their dumb questions get harder, so we parents resort to tried-and-true answers like “Because I said so.” This is usually every bit as satisfactory as the answers we gave to “Why is there war?”

In an attempt to get children and youth to ask questions, teachers often maintain that there is no such thing as a dumb question. Asking is essential for learning.

Of course, the teachers are not completely correct. These are dumb questions we ask at a later age:

Do Roman paramedics refer to IV’s as “4’s”?

What do people in China call their good plates?

Why do people tell you when they are speechless?

What happens if you’re half-scared to death, twice?

Do television evangelists do more than laypeople?

We used to live in a science-based world in which questions had actual answers based on what we used to call “facts.” This led to college science students chanting, “What do we want? Facts. When do we want them? After peer review.”

Now in America, facts are no longer facts. If you don’t like the concept of climate change, you simply say, “I don’t believe it.” If you don’t like the outcome of an election, “I don’t believe it.” This is much easier then trying to ascertain what corresponds to reality.

If there are no more actual answers that apply to everyone, then are there any dumb questions anymore? Yes, that was one.

The wrong dumb question can bring even dumber answers.

For instance, one really dumb question is “If people in bars consume alcohol that makes many people both dumber and more violent, how can we make bars safer?”

That is a particularly dumb question to ask when a Republican-controlled legislature is in town, because they gave the answer and our Republican governor agreed. Make them safer by allowing everyone to carry a concealed weapon into any bar (or bank or college campus or government building) without any training or licensing of any kind.

That was the story on the front page of the Helena IR today. Democrats voted no. Republican proponents of the bill really said every place would be safer. Really dumb questions can lead to deadly dumb answers from people untethered from facts.

Don’t you long for the good old days when we had dumb questions like

“Should I tell my parents I’m adopted?”

Or, if you are a member of QAnon, “Did NASA invent thunderstorms to cover up the sound of space battles?”

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Be My Valentine Anyway?

We live in a time when the former President accomplished what no other nation has done since the British took over our Capitol building in the War of 1812. It is amazing what a person with a bully pulpit can do if he repeats lies over and over.

We also live in a time when that same person and his minions did what no other nation could do. The nation with the best medical research and the most money in the world became the clear world leader in deaths from Covid19. Lies were once again essential for gaining the top spot.

I won’t lie to you. I long for a simpler time when on Valentine’s Day you tried to come up with silly love poems to put all depressing thoughts out of your head.

I haven’t written poetry in quite a long time, but I assume it’s like riding a bicycle. If you do it in traffic, you can be seriously injured. When writing, you have to wait until the words well up from your subconscious source of creativity. That’s my excuse for the following:

Complaint of the Suitor Who Doesn’t Know When to Keep His Hands to Himself

I love your eyes, they shine like stars.
I love your mouth like chocolate bars.
I love your ears like ocean shells.
I love your nose, the way it smells.

I love your heart, it beats ba-boom,
I love your curves, say va-va-voom.
I love your charm, your style, your grace,
But not your hands that slap my face.

Two points: 1. That isn’t autobiographical. 2. The amazing Amanda Gorman is not worried that I will be appointed the first geezer poet laureate.

Hey, it is -15° outside right now, and it takes a little time to warm up your subconscious creativity center. I relaxed and my subconscious coughed up another hairball.

Beware of Cupid
On Valentine’s Day near our house you might see
A short naked dude with a bow and some arrows.
Just give him a wave, for he surely must be
The drunk two blocks down who’s out hunting for sparrows.

Will Pat love me more than she already does if I give her these poems? I didn’t think so. Maybe I’m too old for this sort of thing. I’ll have to dust off one I wrote a couple of years ago when I was much younger. It’s worth a try.

When Patty Smiles
When Patty smiles, the chickadees
All giggle and they slap their knees.
Bird snickers fill the morning breeze,
When Patty smiles.

When Patty laughs, the flowers bloom,
The sun breaks through the clouds of gloom,
And joy plays tag from room to room,
When Patty laughs.

When Patty hugs, I’m near to tears
Of gratitude. My heart still cheers —
She loves me after all these years!
When Patty hugs.

Maybe she’ll still be my valentine, even though I’m going to lose my poetic license.

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The Good Old Days

Don’t you long for the good old days? I mean the wonderful years of, say, ten or twelve years ago. The only talk of virus was “Did you get your flu shot?” If some individual attacked school children because they spoke out as survivors of mass murder at their school, and if that individual called them “actors” who made it all up, then such a sick individual was called “wacko” or “deeply disturbed,” rather than “Representative.”

Those were good times when the loser of the electoral college vote, whether Republican or Democrat, graciously conceded to the winner, even if the loser had obtained more total popular votes in the nation. Those were times when protecting the constitution meant abiding by the constitution and the laws of the land, rather than using lies to stir up millions of domestic terrorists to try to overturn the election by killing the opposition.

As I was deleting ancient computer files yesterday, I ran across a Friday Good News I wrote back in July of 2008. It has nothing to do with national or international problems. What a simple column from a simpleton writer in simpler times. Here it is.

July 27, 2008 Friday Good News

Good news doesn’t have to be good. It can just be “not bad.” With that in mind, consider how much better you are doing than:

Phillip Boucher, who gunned his Buick LeSabre to try to cross the rising drawbridge in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, and he almost made it.

Mara Ranger of Gorham, Maine, who can be seen on the CNN front web page as an eight-foot python is pulled from her washing machine.

James Kevin Pope, of Weatherford, Texas, who was convicted on 40 counts of sexual assault on three teenage girls and sentenced to 40 consecutive life sentences or 4060 years. He will be eligible for parole in 3209.

An unidentified Mesa, Arizona man, picked up by the police when neighbors called in about a violent domestic dispute. Police found only the one man, arguing with himself and changing his voice from high to low as he switched parts, all the while breaking windows and furniture in the apartment.

David Gebhart of Manchester, Connecticut, while wearing a thong, a wig and a brassiere was picked up by police because pedestrians are not allowed on the interstate.

Carol Greta, lawyer for the Iowa Department of Education, who had to defend publicly the department’s decision to throw out applications from 30 districts for preschool grants because “they weren’t double-spaced,” as stated in the instructions. Among the discarded applications was one from Danville which the superintendent claimed was double-spaced in Apple Works, which appears smaller when viewed with Microsoft Word.

Unless some of these are your relatives, you can relax, knowing that you’ve got it good this Friday. Rusty


February 5, 2021: Wouldn’t it be fine if those were the only shocking news headlines now?

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Trump is Gone?

Good news? We survived the pandemic so far, except for 400,000+ of us and about 3000 more every day. We live in the nation with perhaps the most advanced medical and research facilities in the world, but when you choose bad leaders, you get to be the worst nation in the world for handling the COVID. It is our own fault.

As a bonus, those same leadership qualities in the people we elected caused America to cease being the leader of the free world. We demeaned our allies, cozied up to dictators, and became the laughingstock of the whole world — democracies and authoritarian countries alike. Our bad.

Good news? Comedians all over the world came up with some great routines. Here is comedy from the Netherlands. I hope this link works.

Good news? As stupid as we are as a nation, we had enough sense to elect somebody better. We still came within an eyelash of having a loser of a president take over the country by lies and encouraging violence. If he and his followers had been smarter, they could have killed everyone in Congress (and maybe the Supreme Court as well) and tried to establish a perpetual president. We pulled through, by the skin of our teeth, although democracy is still hanging in the balance when nearly half the nation doesn’t trust the free press, the courts, or the electoral system.

Really good news? Now we have a president who believes in science and in the advice of smart people instead of incompetent fools. We have a spectacular multiple-glass-ceiling-breaking vice-president. And, if the link below works, you can hear the kind of inspirational songs comedians are now doing:

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Of Presidents, Slaves, and Baseball

Friends sometimes write to correct my misstatements in the Friday Good News. Last week I wrote that Trump was not the most racist president ever because some presidents owned slaves. My friend, Craig Wright, didn’t quarrel with my statement, but did some research on it.

That’s not surprising. Craig was the first sabermetrician (numbers guy) in baseball before there was such a name. After years with the Rangers, Dodgers, and work done for other teams, he retired to became arguably the best historian in baseball. More below about how you can subscribe to his “Pages from Baseball’s Past” if you love the sport.

Craig can tell a good baseball story. He is now famous for the incredible research he does on each story, often unearthing pictures or facts not previously known, and often pointing out errors in other baseball sources, such as plaques in the Hall of Fame.

Craig didn’t argue with me, but did some research he usually reserves for baseball. Here is what Craig wrote about presidents and slaves:

”Personal involvement with slavery was much more commonplace among our US Presidents, and for a longer period of time, than most folks realize.

“Our first President George Washington was a huge slave owner, owning about 600, roughly the same as Thomas Jefferson. In his will George provided for all of them to be set free when his widow passed. She did not wait for that event and freed them a year after George’s death.

“Owning slaves seemed to be a great way to win a second term as President. Through 1837, the only Presidents who did not own slaves were my cousins John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, and they were also the only Presidents through that time to serve a single term.

“While JQ Adams never owned slaves and said he would not have it in his own family, he did tolerate slavery in his household, including during his time in the White House. Members of his wife’s family were slave owners and even when they stayed for lengthy times with the Adams, they were allowed to bring a slave servant. A slave servant of his brother-in-law died while staying at the White House.

“When JQ’s wife’s niece Mary was orphaned, she was taken in by the Adams and came with an inherited slave companion, Rachel Clark, of roughly the same age. Rachel remained a slave in Mary’s first 8 to 10 years with the Adams. Mary appeared to get with the program in 1828 when she officially joined the family by marrying the middle son, John Adams II. On the day of the wedding she freed her slave companion. Given the specificity of the timing, this may have been required of Mary to become an Adams. Otherwise the marriage would have turned JQ’s son into a slaveowner.

 “Technically, one could say the Adams were the only Presidents who had never owned a slave all the way through 1850.

 “Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) is generally not counted as a slave owner, but he actually did own a single slave. Tom escaped around 1814 and lived free for ten years before being discovered in Massachusetts by an Alonzo Hammond. Alonzo wrote to Van Buren that he would like to capture Tom and buy him from Van Buren.  Van Buren wrote back that if Tom could be captured without violence “I would take $50” for him. That’s a slave owner. Thankfully it appears the two men were not able to reach an agreement and Tom stayed free, though technically still property.

“Van Buren also employed hired slave servants during his time in Washington D.C., a common practice in the city where the “wages” went directly to the slave’s owner. It was hard sometimes to tell who was who, as census records showed that his “colored” servants were a mixture of hired free people and hired slave servants.

” William Henry Harrison (1841) did not own a single slave during his Presidency, but he had owned many slaves in his past and was clearly pro-slavery. When he was governor of the Indiana Territory he had sought to legalize slavery in Indiana. He also chose a strong advocate of slavery in his running mate John Tyler, who became President when Harrison died in office. Tyler was not only a lifelong slave owner but a proponent of expanding slavery into the new territories.

 “It wasn’t all the way until Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) that we had a President outside the Adams family who had never owned a slave. Fillmore incidentally was the last president who wasn’t of the Democratic or Republican parties.

“The last President who had owned a slave was Ulysses Grant. His wife came into the marriage with four slaves, and Ulysses briefly owned a personal slave that was hard to turn down because he was a gift from his father-in-law. It was still more than Grant could abide and he freed the man less than two years later, early in 1859. His wife freed the other four slaves in 1863, about a year before her husband was named General-in-Chief of the whole union army (Mar 9, 1864).

In total, twelve Presidents were slave owners at some time in their lives. So, it wasn’t until William McKinley, whose term took us into the 20th century, that we could say that the majority of our Presidents had never owned a slave!”                                                 Craig Wright

Rusty here again: If you are a baseball fan or know someone who is, here is a Christmas present suggestion. For only $21 for a yearly subscription to Pages from Baseball’s Past, you or someone else can receive a couple of great baseball stories in your email each week. Here are some websites and a couple of reviews by Craig’s readers. Enjoy:

http://baseballspast.com/order/ to use paypal or a credit card

http://www.baseballspast.com/mailorder.pdf to mail a check

“Pages from Baseballs Past is just excellent. I learn a lot from reading it.” Bill James, baseball historian, former Senior Advisor, Boston Red Sox

A friend asked me what was the best baseball book I read this year. I thought a moment and told him to subscribe to Pages from Baseball’s Past – it’s like a good book but better! – James Boyd, Wooster, OH

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Happy Friday the 13th

What’s the best day of the week?

Before the pandemic, Monday would have gotten the most votes for worst day of the week. Saturday night would have won for best night. Churchgoers might have claimed Sunday for best day, although now that many churches are virtual only, you can watch services online any day.

For most people, Friday would have been best day, as in the religiously tinged “Thank God It’s Friday.” But now, with people working from home, or out of work, or retired, one day is pretty much the same as another.

Even before the pandemic, every Friday wasn’t TGIF. Friday the 13th is the second scariest day of the year, following only Halloween in terrifying movies bearing its name.

Not in our house. Pat and I got married on Friday the 13th so that I would remember it. I can’t remember the month, but I know we get 1 and 5/7 extra anniversaries per year, on average.

Wow, that means I forgot to get….

(Later) Back from the store. It means I have that many more chances to forget anniversaries.

We have mixed feelings on this Happy Friday the 13th.

On the one hand, the most narcissistic and lying president of all time was defeated. (He is not the most racist ever — some presidents owned slaves.)

       On the other hand, that same president is actively trying to commit treason by getting Americans to support his lies in order to retain power through fraud. He is being actively abetted in this crime by most Republican office holders so far. Even if they don’t succeed, they are poisoning the body politic.

On the one hand, in 3 months we will have leadership that believes in science, listens to intelligent and competent people, and actually cares about saving American lives.

       On the other, we will still be in a pandemic with a nation of people, many of whom willingly spread the virus through rallies for “freedom.” Their freedom means only one thing — the freedom to be completely free of personal responsibility for sickening or killing others by refusing to wear a mask and acting like an adult. If they all were young teenage boys with this level of immaturity, we would say they will grow out of it. They aren’t.

On the one hand, I and most of my family and friends have avoided COVID-19 so far, and are still working if they are not retired.

       On the other hand, the bar for being a good person has been set so low, that this is the wisdom now making the rounds on an internet meme: “Live your life so that the whole world doesn’t dance with joy when you lose your job.”

Nevertheless, we are having a Happy Friday the 13th in this house today. Hope your 13th is closer to Happy than to a horror movie where people are dying by the ones and twos. Wait a minute, that would still be better than…

Happy Friday the 13th anyway.

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The Mama Hat Controversy

Now that the members of the defunct Montana Logging and Ballet
Company are old, we figure we are supposed to turn into conservative
Republicans, but it’s hard. Don’t say we didn’t try.

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MLBC Designs GOP Voting

Ever since the Montana Logging and Ballet Company officially passed away, kicked the bucket, and lost our poetic license, we zombie members sometimes zoom through the ether to enjoy a weird laugh “together.” Since we are no longer corporately corporeal, we can do things we never did as a group, such as “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

          We had a few laughs at our own expense while walking in the Republicans shoes in order to plan a voting strategy. We never thought they would take our advice. If we were a group, we would issue a group apology.

This might lead to the MLBC facebook page. Scroll down and click on “MLBC Designs GOP Voting.”

https://www.facebook.com/MLandBC/

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The Republican Convention

Who says we’re so partisan that we never say something good about the Republicans? We’ve got great ideas for a convention their followers will love.

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A Day in the Life of a Mother of Three Boys

My siblings and I possess several letters written by our mother Dorothy Harper, which only serve to make us more in awe of her.

She raised 5 children, with a husband who was away from home much of the time in the early years in his role as national youth leader for the Methodist Church in the US. She held down the home front, while writing scripts for religious radio programs, and volunteering for church and civic causes.

Here are some excerpts from one of the letters that our mom wrote almost every day that dad was travelling. This one was from the time there were only us three boys — Steve 1 year old, Hal 3, and Rusty 5.

Dear Snookums,

The name of this is “From Morning Til Night.” As you drove out the driveway, the whole tribe, pajama clad, stood on the porch waving til the last streak of you disappeared down the road, then made a mad dash for the kitchen. Stevie hollered, “Bake-bake” (bacon) as he hoisted himself into his highchair. Russ and Hal had the usual verbal skirmish about who would sit in the green highchair. As they ate raisin bread toast and bacon, Hal said, “Mama aren’t you glad I didn’t wet my pants last night? Soon I’ll be a big boy up to the sky! I’ll be so big I haf to stoop down to come in the door.” The veracity of this statement was immediately challenged by Rusty, “Nobody can get that big. They couldn’t get in the house at all if they were that big.” This produced an argument that lasted thru breakfast….

Hal sat dawdling over his scrap of bread. There was something on his mind: “Mommy, what makes food spoil?” I explained how little bugs called bacteria got onto the food and would eat and walk around on it and make it taste bad. Then followed much discussion. “Can we see the bugs? Why can’t we see little enough? Why don’t they like to live in the refrigerator? Why don’t we just keep some left-over bread and things out so they can get on them and not our good food? I want to hurry up and go to school to see that machine so I can look at all those bugs”….

Hal hollered from the living room, “What does m-a-c spell?” I answered, “Mac”. “You mean like Mac-a-roni? Oh! I didn’t know I could spell!” Delighted with himself. (Normally he just calls out letters like v-r-a that don’t spell anything.) This spelling spree is in imitation of Rusty who reads off letters from cereal boxes, signs, etc…

As I was writing this, Hal came up with an old pill box Bert Lyle left under the bed. “You know what I got in this? I got some old raisins I pulled out of my toast, and I’m saving them so the little bugs will have something to eat.”

Meanwhile. Russ is in the back bedroom teaching Stevie to jump across from one bed to the other. One is too high for Stevie to climb, but he pulls himself up and makes as if to dive across, and falls like a chunk of lead into Rusty’s arms. Both are tickled to death…

By this time, Hal is into the refrigerator. “Now, Hal, What am I going to tell you?” “You are going to say get out of the refrigerator—but I’m not the one letting all the cold air out. Stevie’s just standing here punching the light off and on and wasting ‘lectricity!”…but as I return to writing, Hal is back in the refrigerator. “Hal,” I call in my warning voice, and the explanations just flow; “but Rusty wanted some water. Aren’t you glad I’m sharing my cold water with him?” By now Stevie has pushed his highchair over and is walking around on the table.

I herded them out to the front porch with a bunch of toy cars and planks to run them on, but Stevie has decided to call on the Johnsons. He is across the street in a wink at their front door in his diaper. When I get him back, settled with the ball and hammer set, Rusty and Hal want to go across the street to see the new child riding a stick-horse and playing cowboy.…

While Stevie is contentedly banging away, I will recall for you the events of yesterday when ElizabethAnn (a girl from next door) pretended to be the Mommy washing Hal, and Hal squealing, “But I don’t want to be washed AGAIN!” She had washed Stevie’s hair under the hydrant for the third consecutive day, and brought him in curled and shiny on top as a new penny, but with as dirty a face and legs as a street urchin.

At nap time, we discussed deep sea fishing, with special emphasis on octopuses, and “what they do to you!” Before we went to bed, they needed to see a picture of one which I managed to find in a dictionary. Then, as a final gesture to ward off sleep, they wanted to play everybody-take-a-turn-singing-their-favorite-song. Rusty asked for “Go to sleepy little baby”, a song Grandma Harper mostly makes up as she sings. I said I didn’t know it, and Rusty exclaimed. “Well, Mother! I learned how to play “Hallelujah” on the piano and spell cat and tree. It looks like you’d be smart enough to learn one little old baby song!”

When Hal’s 2nd turn came (the first time he always chooses, “I Love Little Pussy”) he picked the song Rusty made up months ago when he told me he was going to “compose some songs.” It has such elevated thoughts as: “Ears from the hall, ears from the hall, earsy, dearsy, mearsy………..” The second verse is : “Nose from the hall…….etc.” Occasionally I choose this song when my turn comes, and this pleases them no end. It has become such a classic in the family.

Hal wistfully remarked, “I wish we had a mother hen and a daddy hen so we could get us lots of chickens, about a hundred, cause you got to have a mother and a daddy hen before you get baby hens, don’t you?”

COME HOME, Daddy Hen!
Love, Snookums

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