Perhaps it is because I’m getting old, and the closest I get to adventure is paying my taxes, or having some body-part such as a tooth or kidney removed, that I have developed a strange longing for the trouble I used to get into as a young man. Back then, (especially just after various women had the good sense to not marry me), I had no reason to settle down, and was able to take despair (and freedom from responsibility) and use it to become a sort of desparado.

Because I liked to write, I was a sort of prissy desparado, as desparadoes go, but there can be no denying I lived life on the edge, and occasionally fell off.  I was very downwardly mobile, and not the sort of person many would think was a “good prospect”, and one thing I learned was how badly one can want love. I was too proud too beg, and therefore seldom saw the human charity of spare change clinking into my cap, and instead expected nothing but shunning from my fellow man. To win a smile from someone made my day. But, even when I didn’t deserve a smile, and none were forthcoming from my fellow man, I had a sense God was with me.

Not that I didn’t grumble, but if you read the poetry (psalms) of King David you see he too grumbled a fair amount. I believe such grumbling counts as prayer, and also believe such prayer is answered. True, when you are in a run of bad luck, cruising for a bruising in a way where you deserve your bruises, you don’t catch many breaks. If you sow thistles you will reap a crop of thorns, and therefore your life may not look like an answered prayer. But when you are actually in those shoes the smallest thing can be a blessing, like a warm beam of sunshine finding its way through storm clouds to your shoulders.

That is what I want to capture, if I write about my days as a drifter. But I recognize a danger, as I go through my notes and play with rough drafts. The danger is I may create a “pity-party”, or a smudge of resentment, or even glorify something I should be a little embarrassed about. I want to avoid all that, and instead to show that there was truly glory in the hardship, but it sure wasn’t me. It was a sense that even when life is at its loneliest, you do not walk alone.

Jesus actually stated he did not come for people who had their act together. He came for the people down on their luck, and perhaps that is why the people down on their luck seem to meet Him more than millionaires.  (Also perhaps that is why some millionaires become so decadent, so they too can fall into the gutter and discover the kindness of God.)

Not that I’m in any hurry to get back to the gutter. What I desire is the sense of glory that strangely goes along with having nothing, perhaps because one inadvertently and unintentionally is renouncing the world,  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Last summer I wearied of a church that seemed dulled by complacency. That church seemed a place where no one had any problems, (or pretended that.) Outside its doors there was a serious drug problem, but people didn’t really want “that sort” coming in the doors. Church was a hide-out, a safe sanctuary where people escaped such problems. So I headed out the doors, more interested in places where people had problems, and were facing the issues of “detox” and “rehab” (two words that were not in the English dictionary not all that long ago.)

People who go through “detox” and “rehab” face something called “recidivism”, which in the old days we called “backsliding” or “falling off the wagon.”   In fact some addicts and drunkards use shelters and halfway houses as a way to get back in shape, to regain their health so they can go on another bender. This is very discouraging to those who want to help people escape addiction and become “useful members of society.” However it was noticed that the recidivism rate was much lower at halfway houses that employed God. This is discouraging to atheists. In fact I recently heard a person joke, “The only people who are Christians are perverts, addicts, and Republicans.”  God may have gotten a chuckle out of that, but cynicism doesn’t seem to stop Him.

In any case, I far prefer going to a church full of street people,  who are going through hard times and are down on their luck. They may not wear Sunday suits, nor look like people whose prayers are answered, but they know what I was talking about when I wrote, “the smallest thing can be a blessing, like a warm beam of sunshine finding its way through storm clouds to your shoulders.” Their faces light up, as they talk of mercies from lives few envy.

You hear unexpected bits of wisdom, as you listen. For example, In my life I’ve met people who prayed for something, drummed their fingers impatiently, and then, when the prayer was not answered, stated it was irrefutable proof God does not exist. So I expect such a response from people. Yet I recently heard a person explain the phenomenon roughly like this, “It had been a long, long time since I talked to God. He really liked it when I came back, but He knew, if He answered my prayer, I’d forget all about Him in a big hurry, all over again.  So He kept me talking.”

Another recovering addict told a tale that made me chuckle. He had been working very hard to arise from the ashes and get his life back on track, but his financial situation was in complete ruins, and various bill-collectors were in no mood to be merciful. He (with his wife’s support), had done all the right things, taking more than one embarrassing, menial job and going to the bill-collectors and attempting to arrange payment plans to get back on track, but, even working two jobs, the pay wasn’t enough. Therefore he pushed himself further, and attempted to get a good job despite his criminal record, honestly explaining his situation and offering to take drug tests. He deemed it an example of God’s mercy shining through a human being when he actually landed a good job, for twice as much pay as he had ever earned before, but the job would not start for two weeks and then he’d have to go two weeks before he got his first check. That was too long for his landlord to wait. Although the recovering addict and his wife had paid the current rent he still owed back rent from months before, and had only managed to make a few ten and twenty dollar payments on that back rent, and still owed $1,200.00. The landlord had been patient for months, and served an eviction notice: “Pay up in ten days or move out.”

This dropped the recovering addict to his knees, but as he was praying he heard a crash outside. The old man next door had backed into his wife’s car,  and she had no insurance, nor the money to fix it. The former addict fought off the temptation to use the misfortune as an excuse to get high, and bent the fender back out enough for his wife to use the car. Then he went to work at his two menial jobs, wondering where his wife and he were going to move, as he awaited the start of his better job.

After hanging on in this agonized manner for the ten allotted days his landlord had given him to come up with the rent, the old man next door came up and handed him a check for $1,200. The neighbor did have insurance, and that was how much the insurance company had paid to repair the dent. But the man’s wife said, “The car drives just fine. Let’s use the money to pay the rent.”

And that is the tale of the dent that paid the rent.  It shows the mysterious ways in which God may answer prayers better than any sermon.


LOCAL VIEW –Addict In The Family–

Whenever I stop posting my “Local View” posts you can be fairly certain that there is something going on in my life that I don’t want to talk about. I like Local View posts to have a Norman Rockwellian character, and to reflect my belief that God is in everything and everyone. Even when I gripe and grouch, I like to do so in a manner that makes people smile. I want to cheer people up, not bring people down. Unfortunately a wrench gets thrown into the machinery of cranking out optimism, from time to time, and then I go silent.

What stuffed a sock in my mouth most recently was an addiction in the family, involving a daughter’s ne’er-do-well boyfriend.  He kept his distance from the family, and seemed to want my daughter to do the same, and while there were signs all wasn’t well, the family respected their right to live life as they chose.

Andy Capp 13088c42432632cdf79aa504522aa793

Unlike the cartoon character Andy Capp, (which is an English, drop-the-“h”, play on “handycap”) the boyfriend couldn’t maintain a “working addiction”, and the family had to step in and help, especially after my daughter had a baby. Initially addiction was suspected, but vehemently denied.  And… it began.

I don’t feel as much shame is attached to such misfortune as there used to be, but addiction certainly is not a problem people smile fondly at, or an event that Norman Rockwell portrayed on the covers of the old Saturday Evening Post. It is a level above boozing, and no laughing matter.

The only reason shame is not as involved as it once was is because addiction has become all too commonplace. In truth it is indeed shameful, because it involves the humiliation of the human spirit. Not only is the addict far less than they might be, but all those closely connected are dragged down as well. Vast amounts of time and money are frittered away on a sidetrack which produces nothing but grief, exasperation and rage.

The only true escape from the shame involves a compassion that feels unnatural, for it is not soft and mushy and sweet, but hard as iron. Call it “tough Love”, if you will. It seems ambiguous to us, for we equate understanding and mercy with gentle people, with the kind nurse who tucks us in and allows us to stay in bed. Escaping addiction is more like the snarling sergeant who boots us out.

The escape is also ambiguous because it involves accepting even while refusing to accept.  In many cases the hardest part of dealing with a problem lies in admitting you have one.

In order to feel compassion towards addicts it is helpful to confess that we too have shortcomings. All but the greatest saints have things they don’t want to give up. People who feel they are well balanced, and who are too smug about it, run a risk of seeing fate come along and stagger them. We are well balanced until we are abruptly fired, or robbed, or the stock market crashes, or there is an earthquake or hurricane.  All sorts of things can knock us off balance. Our kindly family doctor has to do it to people all the time, with the word, “cancer.”

It is hard to feel  compassion towards an addict because they qualify as one of the things, (one of the earthquakes or hurricanes), that come into the pleasantness of life and disturbs the peace. We stroll into the living room to watch the TV, and discover they stole it.  Then they lie, and claim they didn’t do it. Rather than compassion, we want to strangle.

It is hard to have pity, but the fact is that an addict is living in a state of constant earthquake. If they don’t get the next fix, the walls come crashing down. Even if they go to rehab, and get through the initial physical withdrawal, and are “clean”, the urge to backslide is constantly prowling around like a roaring lion living in their back yard. Is that not pitiable?

Many former addicts say they never truly escape addiction. They are still an addict even when they have gone without drugs for decades. That is not merely pitiable, but, in the case of those who escape the tyrant, it is heroic. Sadly, it is also unnecessary, and could have been avoided, by never starting in the first place.

One addiction I have personal experience with, which is less destructive in the short term than others, involves tobacco. One is able to be a so-called “working addict” in such cases, and one seldom steals TV’s for the next fix. However, when one runs out of cigarettes, I know, from personal experience, it is no problem at all to drive through a howling blizzard to buy the next pack. (Or to smoke the stubs of filthy butts from an ashtray.)

In the case of a “working addict” the dependency can even become part of ones ego, like a fancy hat one wears which all  identify with being “you”. FDR had his long cigarette holder, and Winston Churchill his cigar. People (or most people) didn’t scowl at them and sneer, “addict.” However they  were. I have wondered what efforts had to be made, in wartime situations, to get them their next fix. Were flights diverted to bring Churchill his cigars?

Churchill so identified with his cigar that one time, when 45 seconds were scheduled in his frantic wartime day for a propaganda photo, he made sure to have a cigar clamped in his bulldog mouth. The photographer was ushered into the room to take the picture, and felt an immediate dislike of the cigar, and had the audacity to snatch it from the great leader’s mouth. Churchill looked at the photographer with an expression of incredulous fury, and the photographer snapped the picture. What a great shot! “You don’t mess around with Jim.”


In essence, to confront an addict is to mess around with Jim. It is to snatch the cigar from Winston Churchill’s mouth. It is to cause an earthquake in the life of another, and when you do such a thing it is a declaration of war, and you are a fool if you do not expect an earthquake in return.

Churchill karsh_churchill

In such situations it pays to ask a simple question, “Is it worth it?” In the case of Winston Churchill, it paid to put up with the stink of his cigar, (except in the case of one photographer who got a great picture). Cigars made The Last Lion content, allowed him to not only concentrate on greatness, but pay all his bills and live to be over ninety years old . Importantly, he likely spent less than 0.1% of his time thinking about his next cigar. (Speaking for myself, I can say that when I was most busy writing I could smoke an entire carton of cigarettes without even thinking about smoking).

In the case of addictions like heroin the equation is very different. Few are able to maintain the precarious balance of a “working addict” for very long. The “monkey on their shoulder” gradually grows into a gorilla. It is not a very gentle giant, either. It demands feeding before all else. A crying baby comes second. To snatch the cigar from the mouth of such an ogre is downright dangerous.

Not that addiction shows its true face, at first. At first addiction gives you the smile a police officer sees, for whether you like it or not you are the “gestapo”, and the addict is of the “underground”.  Your honesty makes you “oppressive”, while their deceit makes them “noble”.  Just as there is honor among thieves there is a bizarre, back-stabbing brotherhood among addicts, wherein a person who tells the truth is a “rat”, “an informer”, or some other astonishingly unflattering term for “an honest person.”

An addict is largely a liar, and the person they fool most is themselves. I know all about such self-deception, because for forty-five years I promised I’d quit cigarettes “soon.” However it still came as something as a surprise to be lied to so sincerely, so frequently, and so fluently,  as I was lied to this summer.

Fortunately I don’t expect much of my fellow man, after so many years, and rather than the lying making me irate, the lying just made me double down. This occurred because the lies were expressed in the form of excuses: “Why I can’t pay the rent”, “Why I can’t get a job”, “Why I can’t get up in the morning”.  The answer to all such questions is, “Because I am a druggie”, but that is the last thing any addict wants to admit. It is far easier to blame society, and blather on and on about an unjust or perverted third grade teacher, than it is to face the fact you yourself are the slave of a lousy, little chemical.

What I did was to supply solutions, when I heard “catch 22” logic such as, “I can’t get a job because I don’t have a car, and can’t get a car because I don’t have job.” Faced with the comfortably convenient couch of such snug helplessness, I got the young man a job, and I supplied the ride to work. When he couldn’t get up in the morning, I could, and drove to his place at 4:45 AM, and rousted him out of bed like a drill  sergeant. It took me a lot of time and effort, but had some slight benefits. Rather than pasty-skinned, he developed a tan; also he developed an appetite and put on some muscle. Rather than needing to wheedle for money he felt the self-esteem of a pay-check. So far, so good.

However an addict and his money are soon parted, ( I have heard it said that “cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you have too much money.”) Rather than a paycheck solving problems, it suddenly makes it harder to get out of bed, harder to get to work, and harder to keep the job. Also he couldn’t pay bills despite the paycheck. Explaining this strange twist of affairs drives an addict to concoct an entire new network of lies, in the form of new excuses, which tend to point the blame away from the self to others.

This strategy can only work if the “others” don’t compare notes. If you can keep them from talking to one another, or find a sole person you can trick and bully into being your “enabler”, such excuse-making can prolong your miserable deceit, but if you are dealing with a healthy, cheerful and honest family who all are out to help you, they do compare notes, and your deceit is doomed. With the innocence of children questions get asked, excuses don’t add up, and the walls come closing in, as a thing called “accountability” starts to expose your lies, one by one.

Many addicts have been through this downfall a number of times. When their deceits are exposed, plan A has failed and they move to plan B. They move on to tearfully confessing their addiction, and even going through the motions of attending AA meetings or rehab groups, but sometimes even such emotion is little more than grandiose drama and a cynical ploy. Some know the routine so well they could even run the rehab groups. It is just one more lie. Even when they promise to enter a detox, it may be an act.

It is when you get them to the door of the detox center that all the smiling and nodding, all the tears and all the the tugging of heart strings, all bluster and all blame,and all the other make-believes of lying may abruptly cease, and you may suddenly find yourself face to face with the big, ugly gorilla that rules the addict’s mind. No way are they going to step through that door. No way are they going to face the agony of withdrawal. No way are they going to honestly face their problem.

It is then they are at long last honest. They tell you exactly what they think of you, and also of all your lame, prissy, holy-rolling efforts to help them. Then they storm off in a huff.

Let them go. I once stormed off like that, and no one heard much of me for years, and during those years I cleaned up my act. True, I wasn’t addicted to anything terribly unforgiving, but it did seem necessary to get away from my past to learn what I needed to learn, and I’m thankful I lived in a free country that allowed me to do it.

The problem with addicts is that they often don’t stay away very long; they often call home quite soon, from jail, repentant and asking for bail. Again they are telling the lies, tugging the heart strings, (or perhaps, if they are a spouse or lover,  even blustering, and threatening to tell some intimate secrets you’ve foolishly shared with them.) It is as if they want to employ the line from Robert Frost’s “Death Of A Hired Hand“: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

Don’t take them in. Don’t be taken.  Tell them, “Detox or no talks.”

Not that detox helps, in and of itself. For many addicts Detox is a warm bed in January, three squares a day, and a place to regain strength and stamina before the next binge. Even the detox places, who are prone to inflating their success rates, confess terrible rates of recidivism. The typical rate of relapse given is between 60% and 70%.

At this point it is important to draw a distinction between the secular and the religious. The secular detox places get all the government funding, and can be amazingly ineffective, while the religious places are far more effective, and are not allowed to get any government funding. (It is just a glaring example of the government perversely funding what doesn’t work.) In the case of some inner city Detox centers, involving the more vicious addictions such as heroin, a pathetic 2% of the addicts actually stay off the drug when they depart, whereas the Christian “Teen Challenge” Detox centers sees over 60% succeed in staying “clean”.

(In terms of gathering statistics, the secular groups always include “all” centers when stating success-rates, while the religious centers make sure to exclude secular center’s rates, when stating their success rates. Go figure.)

When attempting to explain why the religious groups did better, the secular centers noticed the religious groups involved confession and soul-searching. Talk seemed important, and the secular centers got the idea that, besides “Detox”, “Rehab” was important. And indeed there was an improvement in success rates, once tax-payers were hit upon to fund further time for addicts in warm shelters and half-way houses. However the statistics still showed the religious Rehabs did better than the secular Rehabs.

This annoys people who feel God should be banned from government. However it does suggest that that there is something about an addict turning to the sky, during the screaming agony and nausea of withdrawal, and pleading to the heavens for help, that draws some sort of mysterious healing down. Of course, God likely knows the mention of his name causes some to break out in a rash, and therefore it is likely better to substitute the word “Truth” for “God”.

Truth is the opposite of a lie, and, as addicts are such consummate liars, Truth is a sort of antidote to what is poisoning them. Or that is the best I can do to explain why Bible-thumping holy rollers succeed, where highly educated doctors and psychologists and social workers and billions of dollars fail.

Not that a truly ingenious addict cannot milk the religious organizations just as effectively as they leech from everyone else. Just as they know the right things to say to a degree where they can run a Rehab group, there have been addicts who have been pastors. But such liars eventually falter;  there is something about the hell of addiction that is corrosive to the sense of hope that keeps humans going, and eventually the lies drag every addict to rock bottom, where the options are either suicide or the honesty of a desperate cry for help.

That honesty is not a thing you can make an addict do. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. The drinking involves the despairing torment of burning thirst. It is a state a person must find for themselves, but those who have fallen so low often speak of remarkable events, and of experiencing unexpected, inexplicable compassion.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live…”     (From the start of chapter 55, the Book of Isaiah)

It is a truly remarkable thing to witness a soul step over the threshold from a dark landscape of lies into the broad, open vistas of Truth.  In essence, it strikes one as impossible. A complete skumbag? Become a rose? Fat chance. But then you see it happen. You see this fellow who formerly would pawn his grandmother’s teeth cheerfully scrubbing the floors in a soup kitchen. And then, when you see this, you simply have to wonder, “What the heck happened to you?” Sometimes they might tell you, but sometimes they keep it to themselves, because they don’t want to sound weird.

Catholics are big on confession, and there does seem to be some element of confession involved in stepping over the threshold. When you are living a lie, a way to kill the lie is to confess, which is why such stress is put on this part of the first chapter of 1 John:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Of course, because the addict tends to see you as a narc and as the gestapo, he doesn’t have much of an urge to confess. Pressed in that direction, he will fight like a cat fights a bath. He may despise you, and look at you with eyes of unabashed hatred. That may well be your reward for trying to help. You can lead a cat to water, but you cannot make it bathe.

But what is the alternative?  Pretending you don’t see through the lies? Pretending you can trust when you cannot? Pretending a person can ever honor his own word when his only obedience is to a gorilla?

Sometimes your only choice is to throw the bum out. Perhaps you are not the one who will uplift. Perhaps the cat has its own way of washing, and doesn’t need your bathtub. Perhaps the addict will clean up on his own. However you do not help an addict by enabling the addict to continue his deception. Sometimes by pushing a person towards a crisis in the gutter you are pushing them towards the threshold of salvation.

And in the end that is how things ended this summer. The young man told me in no uncertain terms that I am a meddlesome jerk, a spiritual hypocrite, and a home wrecker. (Addicts seldom blame themselves.)  It was up to my daughter to chose whether to follow him or not, and she chose not to.  Next thing I heard the fellow was in jail. Not a happy ending, at this point.

And that is why there have been so few “Local View” posts. I have been busy totally wasting my time on a young man who doesn’t seem worth the time of day. And I wonder how much other time has been wasted in other lives, by the stupidity of addiction. Drugs seem a weapon used by our enemy to weaken us. Every day I hear about drug deaths, even in our quaint and rural landscape.

But I cannot end a Local View in such a depressing manner. But what can I say? It would take a genius to make a cartoon out the way that addiction is turning good, intelligent people into beasts.


Well I’ll be.  America has already been given that genius, and has had a great symbol of how vices turn people into jackasses, ever since 1940. There is no mystery in it, for we’ve known for 76 years. Why then does the entire nation seem so determined to turn itself into a jackass?

Perhaps it is a sort of payback for the fact some Americans once got wealthy sailing clipper ships and selling opium to China. What goes around comes around. Or perhaps it is a trial that will make us a better people in the long run. There can be little doubt that those who survive addiction have an awareness of human frailty and of evil far greater than those who haven’t been through the hell. They know when compassion merely enables and when compassion is life-changing. Perhaps, if the drug epidemic doesn’t destroy us as a nation, it will result in a core group of solid people who know all the wiles of liars, are seldom fooled, and who love the Truth.








Back on January 17, when just beginning this blog, I wrote a piece called “Attention Surplus Disorder,” thinking I was witty to come up with the name. However lots of people thought up the name before me, as I found out when I ran a search on “Attention Surplus Disorder.”

Yesterday Rush Limbaugh apparently used the phrase, and when someone with that many listeners uses a phrase like that people use their search engines, and I can get an accidental hit on my old story. Then I get curious about what made the person do such a thing.

Apparently it was due to a story in the Wall Street Journal, suggesting drugging boys doesn’t improve their grades.

I am such a cynic!  My immediate thought was that some pharmaceutical company didn’t donate enough to Obama, or else the government is worried about paying for four million children on drugs. Otherwise such news would be suppressed.

To me drugging children has always been appalling. If it is such a crime to spank a fanny, how can it be good to spank a brain?

I’m fairly certain I would have been put on those drugs, as a boy.  The mental gifts God gave me are a two-edged-sword, and often are a flaw.  However this seems to be a rule with gifts. They are our best and our worst.

My brain likes to leap from topic to topic.  This is called “range” and “scope,” and it can be a good thing when it brings several topics together in a way that works.  When it doesn’t work, my mind just jumps to a new topic, and no one can see how I made the jump.

For example, when I was a boy the curve on the number “5” reminded me of the curve on a fat stomach.  Math teachers were not interested, and did not want to hear how “fives are fat.” They wanted to know where the heck my homework was.

I pity teachers who have to control twenty or thirty kids.  However drugging active boys is not the way to go.

Boys need, and often don’t get,

A.)   Lots and lots of exercise.

B.)    Proper nutrition

C.)    At least eight and likely ten hours of sleep.

D.)   Time away from TV and video games.

E.)    A basic framework in life that is stable; IE less moving from town to town; less divorce and switching parents.

F.)    Within such stability, boys need “wild time.” IE Unsupervised sports; Time in fields and woods rather than groomed gardens and parks.

G.) I can’t believe I left this until last. Boys need a Dad.

Just do that, and a lot of the problems vanish.  As I’ve described in two posts:

And the first two parts of:






            W.C. Fields is said to have been the first to say, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit,” and I have to admit that, while it may not be the most altruistic of statements, it does describe the way humans respond when they find themselves cornered in any sort of debate.

Kids do it all the time, when caught breaking rules at the Childcare on our farm.  I can hardly blame them; for many of the rules are State Laws made up by people who want to bubble-wrap childhood.  For example, any toy higher than the height of my knee must have a six-inch bed of woodchips beneath it.

That is a rule begging to be broken, because children love to climb. I too attempt to circumvent the rule, because I have no desire to buy or shovel woodchips.  Therefore I seek to avoid the State Law by purchasing very short toys, however the kids still manage to break the law by stacking the toys up into teetering towers and then climbing them. This forces me to be one of the frowning teachers who, in my own boyhood, we rudely called, “The Gestapo.”

Of course, there are a whole bunch of other State Laws that force me to be a rather prissy Gestapo, as Gestapi go.  I can’t treat kids the way teacher’s treated me.

I’m old enough to remember when teachers were allowed to haul you down to the principal’s office by your ear.  One teacher, (who had the wonderful name of “Mr. Lynch,”) was said to have grabbed a misbehaving boy, dangled him upside-down by his ankles, and lowered him into the wastepaper basket.  I never actually saw him do this; he’d done it once in the distant past, and word spread from boy to boy across time until it reached me, and I did not want to test the man’s reputation: I behaved remarkably well, for a small hooligan, in Mr. Lynch’s class.

Nowadays, of course, Mr. Lynch would be swiftly fired.  I am asked to care for children in a kinder, gentler fashion.  For example, word recently dribbled down from on high that so-called “Time Outs” were no longer an acceptable response to a misbehaving child.  Instead something called “Redirection” was urged.

This puzzled me.  Wasn’t a “Time Out” supposed to “redirect” a child?  For that matter, wasn’t tanning a child’s hide with a willow switch supposed to “redirect” the child?  What was this exercise in semantics intended to do?

Semantics don’t change the reality.  At times using the word “redirection” is a bit like a glowering police chief informing a surly suspect that their “failure to communicate” requires “an attitude adjustment.”

Kids are kids, and they need to learn their limits, and the way they learn is to test their limits. Children are downright scientific as they test. Even when they do things for the fun of it they are a researcher, eager “to see what happens.” When Johnnie pulls out the chair as Susie sits down, it is a laboratory experiment, and, among the other observations he jots down in his mental notebook, is the observation that steam comes out of the teacher’s ears, as he gets “redirected.” Calling it “redirection” doesn’t change the fundamental fact that the teacher is laying down the law.

The law doesn’t really seem to matter a hill of beans to a child.  They have a desire, and a rule stands in the way, so they break the rule. This actually doesn’t bother me all that much.  I like the fact humanity strives to overcome limitations.  I just don’t want the kid to get hurt.  Therefore I, as the ruler, have lots and lots and lots of rules, at my Childcare.

In the eyes of many children the main advantage of rules, (it seems to me,) is that rules can be used to get other kids in trouble.  If Johnnie has the wagon Susie wants, and gets tattled on by Susie for driving it full tilt into the pond, then he gets redirected, and Susie gets the wagon.

Children are constantly coming before me like little lawyers, and I am the judge.  When they bicker about who ought have a certain toy, I, with the Wisdom of Solomon, decide we should cut the toy in half. Even three-year-olds know sharing-the-wealth is a stupid idea, when it destroys the wealth, and they break my law by refusing to break the toy, and instead resort to more sensible sharing. In the same manner, it is amazing how swiftly children patch up a quarrel when you exile them to opposite sides of a playground: Moments before they were shouting at each other, stating they were not going to invite each other to each other’s birthday parties, but now they suddenly are creeping and sneaking, just to get back together.

Of course, when there is a real danger of them getting hurt, I have to adopt a different demeanor. For example, my personal Childcare Law #727B states that flying machines will not be tested from a height above the child’s own shoulders, and that leaping from the peak of the barn to test out wings is strictly forbidden. When I spot a child attempting to break that law, I might be chuckling on the inside, but on the outside my brow darkens like thunder.  I don’t say much, and do nothing, (and therefore break no State Laws,) however the children bite their knuckles and say, “Oh, Oh.” The difference is in my demeanor.

I actually think it makes little difference if a child is “redirected” or caned.  They both can be equally ineffective, or effective, depending on demeanor.

For those who like to quote, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” I can only state I attended an English boarding school for a year, at the very end of the time when caning was allowed, and saw first hand that, among many of the boys, being whipped was more of a badge of honor than a deterrent. Not that boys wouldn’t try to talk their way out of punishment, if possible, but if caught red-handed, they were proud of the machismo they (to some degree) displayed, and when, afterwards, other boys demanded, “Show us your stripes,” they did not hesitate to drop their trousers to show off their welts.

It is no longer politically correct to drop your trousers in this manner, and anyway, where is the glamour of showing off the wounds of “redirection?”  People who wished to make childhood kinder and gentler have robbed boyhood of one of its simple pleasures.

(As an aside, Winston Churchill experienced an above-average amount of corporal punishment, even to a degree where the other boys wished he’d stop antagonizing teachers, however he was what he was:  Rather than surrendering to the dictatorship of the headmaster he would…well…look like Winston Churchill.)  (I suppose nowadays Winston Churchill would be put on Ritalin, likely when he was six months old.)

Speaking subjectively, I found the good side of corporal punishment was that it was so swift, and when it was done you had served your time and were free.  You were forgiven.  Whatever your transgression was was forgotten. You walked into a new day, cleansed of all guilt, (until the next time.)

It was the adults who suffered.  I didn’t believe it, at the time, when they said, “This hurts me more than it does you,” but it was in some ways a very real truth.  Adults (supposedly) know more about cause and effect, about reaping what you sow, about “Karma,” and they worry about what they may reap when they strike a child.

When I passed my 21st birthday I inherited a small amount of money. It was just enough to do what you did in those days, which was to emulate the Beatles.  Airfare to India was $650.00, so off I went, to “seek.” One thing I found was an explanation of the Karmic consequences of corporal punishment that would make any parent think twice, before spanking a child.

As it was explained to me, Karmic law states that when a child is spanked, all the bad Karma the child would have earned from their transgression passes to the parent or teacher punishing them.  Even if this law is merely a superstition, it might be a good thing if adults feared that being cruel to a kid might get them “Bad Karma,” (especially if they feared a fate worse than having “a millstone tied around their neck,” and being chucked overboard in a deep, green sea, as was suggested by Jesus.)

(Not only would they be slower to spank, but also I think they’d be slower to drug a child.  For the life of me I’ve never quite understood why smacking a fanny is deemed worse than smacking a brain.)

However I have learned both spankings and drugs are unnecessary, if you know how to frown. Your demeanor has power.  But what exactly is “demeanor?”

“Demeanor” is an intangible indicator of whether you are in trouble or not, with a fellow human.  What is most surprising is how little it actually has to do with being sensible.  When a beautiful blond smiles at a young man, all is right with the world, but when she glares, he starts hopping about like a cricket in a skillet.

We like to believe that men get better at being sensible as they get older, however I’m not entirely sure they do. What is so sensible about George Washington wearing that silly white wig?  What is so sensible about Abraham Lincoln wearing that silly stovepipe hat?  A future president might have a tattooed tongue, and what would be the sense of it?  I myself think fashion is rubbish, but have to confess my wife halts me as I’m heading out the door on a regular basis. She looks me up and down, pats my hair, adjusts my collar, hands me a Kleenex, and tells me to zip up my fly.  So I begrudge the fact that even I get shoved around, by what the world calls “correctness.”

To children correctness is largely a game.  Superficiality is dress-up, and they have no trouble donning Washington’s white wig or Lincoln’s stove pipe hat; one moment they are wearing the armor of the past, (a cardboard box,) and the next they are wearing the space helmet of the future, (a cardboard box.) Adults tend to be indulgent about such disregard towards the current social norms, however when the weather gets hot, and the child strolls by wearing nothing at all, the current generation utterly freaks out.

Such was not always the case.  Nudity comes and goes with the strange regularity of other fashions.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s the French were scandalized because the English allowed their children to “paddle” naked on beaches; these same French were determined to “civilize” African women by forcing them to wear blouses in jungle heat, only to start going topless on their own beaches after the Africans complied.

In the same manner many of my own generation have swung from one extreme to another.  As a young, somewhat prudish hippy I never was all that comfortable with the nudity which was the norm at certain pools and parties, and was informed on a regular basis that my discomfort was proof I was oppressed by irrational inhibitions which I ought to overcome.  Now, (perhaps due to what occurred at some of those parties,) I am informed I ought suspect every person who comes within fifty yards of a child at our Childcare.

The laws concerning “background checks” are quite strict.  It does not matter if I am hiring an old friend to come by after my Childcare is closed, to help me shovel stables and milk goats; I must tell him to get a background check and be fingerprinted, which takes both time and money, and is somewhat offensive to boot. Even more offensive are the names that can pop up during a background check. Perfectly harmless people are labeled “predators,” and mixed in with the truly foul people who likely ought not even be allowed out on the street.

For example, if you are a red blooded fifteen-year-old boy, and mess around with a eighteen-year-old girl, she might end up on the dreaded list, but if you mess around with a fourteen-year-old girl, you might end up on the list. It is no joke to be on that list, either.  You are likely to receive hate mail and death threats.  All in all, it proves we are undergoing a backlash to the “free love” of the 1960’s, and may be moving towards an oppressiveness that could make Puritans look liberal.

The reality that social “correctness” can go through such enormous swings, even during my life, tends to suggest many laws are not commandments written on stone, and may explain why some small children don’t take laws all that seriously. Not that one small child won’t be completely horrified and scandalized if another walks by buff naked, however that same moralistic tot might take toy scissors and shave the head of another child’s Barbie Doll, five minutes later. Adults must step in and draw lines.

I usually skip the bother of explaining the logic behind my rules, when I lay down the law.  I try to avoid saying, “Because I said so,” because using the word “I” involves me.  I find it is better to speak of “the Law” as if laws were some alien power, separate from me, like gravity.  It saves a lot of time ordinarily spent arguing.  However, if I have the time, I actually like listening to the arguments of little lawyers.

In a strange way the manner that children argue gives me hope. It demonstrates that down near the core of the human spirit is a huge desire for freedom that balks at any sort of limitation. “Something there is that does not love a wall.”  The fact that this may lead to anarchy and boyish bullshit does not belay the inherent beauty of the impulse, and understanding the forces behind boyish bullshit and excuse-making not only helps me understand children, but also Climate Scientists.


Most people, when they are honest with themselves, must confess that when they were young they were not entirely honest with their elders. Many can even confess they were proud of their dishonesty, for they saw adults as the Gestapo and they themselves as the French Resistance.  Among some boys honesty itself is seen as a sort of betrayal: One must not “tattle,” “squeal,” or be an “informer.”

While it is good fun to hang out with a gang and consider yourself a member of a counter-culture, there arises a sad day when one is faced with the onerous prospect of increased responsibility.  Perhaps one is working at Floppy Burger and gets the chance to do twice the work for a ten-cent raise, and accepts a promotion to the position of “Assistant Manager.”  On that day one discovers a remarkable thing.  The other workers abruptly regard you with suspicion, for you have sold out and joined the Gestapo.  Suddenly rather than inventing excuses you start to hear them.  Rather than dolling out bullshit you receive it.

This downfall happens to the best of us.  Even those who attempt to avoid ever graduating from college, or who join some group which attempts to avoid responsibility and forever blame the responsible, (such as some labor unions,) tend to go home and find they have children of their own, dolling out bullshit.  Even George Washington had to give up revolution and become a president.

Once you accept responsibility then other responsible people, such as your own parents, stop looking so unreasonable. One starts to see that there are reasons for rules, and rules stop seeming so oppressive. One can even feel grateful for some of the rules they had to endure, when young.

However one doesn’t want to go overboard, and forget the reasons for the rebellions of youth. If one is totally accepting of the limitations and disciplines that exist, one loses something important: Freedom.  While it is true that freedom and discipline walk hand in hand, and “freedom isn’t free,” if one becomes too conventional imagination gets stifled, and one is also likely to accept some erroneous belief, such as that the sun goes around the earth.

One discipline I rue rebelling from involves Math classes at school.  Math just wasn’t my cup of tea. I have since had many occasions to regret I learned so little in thirteen years of Math classes, and if I awoke and found the past fifty years were a dream I likely would do differently. However that would mean I would turn out differently.  Rather than a writer I likely would be a mathematician. However that was not my fate; my mother didn’t raise me to be no mathematician. (Even if she had attempted it, she likely would have failed, for it doesn’t seem to be in my make-up.)

I think each child is born with a gift, and one reason they rebel is because we are trying to make them be something they aren’t. In my case Math classes were trying to discipline my mind into a square peg for a square hole, when the shape of my mind was nonlinear.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t do Math, if I gritted my teeth. I recall that, back in third grade, the entire concept of division made absolutely no sense to me, and the teacher didn’t help me by calling it “backwards multiplication.” Then, after strenuous contortions of boyish logic, division suddenly made sense, and the golden flash of realization that then flooded my skull seemed to light the entire room. It was definitely a very enjoyable sensation, however it was a very long run for a very short slide, and I found there were other ways to experience the same flashes of inspiration. Other ways were, to a person of my psychic make-up, much easier, (and led in the direction of becoming a writer.)  Therefore I took the route of least resistance, even when it involved a lot of resistance to Math teachers.  I pity those teachers.  The only reasons they put up with me at all were that Math was a required class, and also I provided a certain comic relief.

As the years passed I am ashamed to confess the depths I sunk to, to avoid the disciplines of Math.  I mostly hid behind my book while looking out the window, however when necessary I copied, cheated and lied.  The lying helped me hone my skills as a creative writer, and involved the bullshit teachers must endure when they ask for homework that cannot be produced, because it doesn’t exist. The silver lining was that, by being forced to explain what doesn’t exist, I learned some principles of both Physics and Religion.

At reunions former classmates have since told me that my excuses were often the most interesting part of Math class. For me, however, it was agony, and the clock never moved slower than it did waiting for Math class to end, hoping and praying I could escape without needing to come up with yet another excuse. In fact one of my first poems was written in Math class, describing how slowly the clock moved, and was called, “Math Forever.”

Bullshitting wasn’t merely a matter of making things up.  One had to tread warily, for some teachers did not take kindly to being lied to.  There was the necessity of charm, tact, humor, and believability, which, among other things, has helped me spot others who stretch the truth, over the years, and has made me suspect Climate Scientists right from the start.

However Climate Scientists are good at Math. In any debate with them, I was at a distinct disadvantage, if I allowed the subject to move towards Physics.  Fortunately I could fall back on all my experience in Math classes, and adroitly steer the subject away from Math with baffling brilliance. (It’s a skill and an art: I’m sure some of my Math teachers wondered how in the world, when they asked me for my Math homework, they wound up talking about their childhoods.)

Some might wonder how and why, considering I was so unskilled with Math, I could have the nerve to criticize a Climate Science that was so highly mathematical. The simple fact of the matter is that wisdom does not require Math. Shakespeare likely would be puzzled by any modern Math beyond basic arithmetic, however his depth of understanding resulted in works that have shaped and changed people all over the planet, including some who don’t even speak English, for centuries.

What is that “depth of understanding?”

My personal view is that “depth” is an extra dimension gained by being broad minded, and having the ability to grasp a concept some find difficult to grasp:  The concept that there can be more than one answer to a single question, and that it is possible to accept both answers simultaneously.

The simplest example of this is the fact we are not formed as a Cyclops, and instead have two eyes.  By using both eyes at the same time we gain a depth perception neither eye has by itself.  We gain an extra dimension by holding two views.

There are all sorts of dull and tedious people who insist there can only be one answer to a question.  Included are policemen who are extremely frustrated when they get ten differing eyewitness accounts of the same event, and historians who wade through the winner’s and loser’s differing versions of a battle. In attempting to arrive at a single “version” of what occurred, they inadvertently winnow out what allows an extra dimension, and in the end arrive at the myopia of a Cyclops.

Life is full of events that have different versions. For the fun of it, imagine a dullard historian interviewing a husband and wife just after they have made love, and then writing a history about what occurred.  Obviously he will have two highly different versions of what occurred, and will need to cancel out all conflicting testimony.  After canceling out all the differences he will either arrive at the conclusion that nothing happened at all, or concede there was an exchange of a small amount of bodily fluids.  This will be a correct, and scientific, history.  It will also miss a large part of what just occurred.

For another example, simply look at some small object across the room, such as a thermostat on the wall, and line up your thumb so it blocks your view of that object.  Often you will need to close one eye, because your thumb is too small to block the view from both sides of your nose. If you block the view from your right eye, your left eye can see, but if you shift your thumb so the left eye can’t see, the right eye can.  Then ask the stupid question, “Which position of the thumb blocks the view?” Or the even stupider question, “Which version is correct?”

Obviously the questions are to blame. They are simply inadequate. However it is amazing how often people get sucked into choosing between one version or another version of history.  Often they take sides, or get so frustrated they reject both sides, when the truth of the matter is that both sides have validity.

I think I began thinking about this stuff due to the fact I loved both my parents, but they went through a particularly ugly divorce involving two very different versions of history.  The simple fact I refused to take sides broadened my mind even as their minds remained one-sided, until I had a sort of marriage in my skull even as they enacted divorce in real life.  I gained a dimension they lost.

This “depth of understanding,” which I gained in a small way, is what Shakespeare had in a Great Way.  It allows you fathom human nature.  It also fills you with a thirst to hear different versions, even when they conflict with versions you have already heard.  You listen to story after story, and “story” is five-sevenths of the word “history.”  Beyond that, very little Math is involved at all.

History holds a golden hue, which we fail to notice during the drudgery of our day-to-day disciplines.  People sometimes scorn that gold, claiming it is a delusion, caused by a sort of amnesia that sets in, causing us to forget past pains, but actually it is the other way around: The pain in our current situation blinds us to the gold which is all around us.  Only when that pain is gone does a woman think she might like to have another child, or a man think he might like to start another business, or climb another mountain. When we speak of “twenty-twenty hindsight” or even use an expression such as “absence makes the heart grow fonder” we are recognizing the golden vistas history allows us to glimpse.  Even people who despise history books and historians often like to open an old photo album, and simply remember.

When seen in this light the expression, “when seen in this light,” is seen in a new light. It is a phenomenon many can relate to, however we are running headlong into a problem.  This golden light is a light science has yet to measure. Cameras cannot record it, thermometers cannot measure it, tweezers cannot tweeze it, and therefore to even broach this subject is to leave the firmly grounded rock of science and venture out onto the treacherous quicksand of pseudoscience.

Because I don’t want to go there, I simply won’t call it science.  I’ll call it nostalgia.  I likely should leave it at that, however it is my understanding English is a limiting language, because it only has one word for nostalgia.  Other languages go into greater detail, recognizing the nuances of nostalgia by using different words. For example, in one language (Japanese?) remembering-your-mother-after-she-has-passed-away is described by a different word than remembering-your-mother-while-she-is-still-alive.

To demonstrate the strange power of nostalgia I will bring up two things from the past that were a royal pain, back in the day, but that now can make old-timers smile. The two things were two knobs on the side of an old fashioned TV set called “vert” and “hoz.”  They were necessary because the “picture” (IE; Video screen) of old fashioned TV’s had the annoying tendency to flip or warp in a manner difficult to describe to modern youth, but which requires no description to old-timers.

This annoyance made no one smile back in the day. The only reason mentioning the “vert” and “hoz” knobs now makes old-timers smile is because such problems seem so much simpler than a computer virus. The only time an old-fashioned TV crashed was when someone pitched a beer bottle at a commercial.

However sometimes the “vert” and “hoz” knobs failed to stop the screen from flipping and warping, and when this was occurring during the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series, it called for desperate measures:  Sometimes the problem could be fixed by giving the TV set a firm but not-too-firm whack on the side.

I was good at TV whacking, as a youth.  People may well have said, “That Caleb Shaw may be no good at Math, but he sure can whack a TV.” It may have been the only reason my girlfriend’s father allowed me in their house at all. Looking back, the main reason that some lacked this skill was because they had too much respect for the delicate circuitry of a TV set, and when they dared whack a TV at all, did so in a tentative manner that was barely more than a gentle tap.

I have no idea why giving the circuitry of a TV a jolt stopped the picture from flipping and warping.  Perhaps there was a build up of static electricity in the cathode thingy which was released by the whack, however I had no pretentions that I was any sort of TV repairman, nor that I had a clue how the gizmo worked. Despite the fact I, as a teenager, tended to brag and swagger about all sorts of things I had no business acting knowledgeable about, it never even occurred to me that I ought pretend I was an expert on TV’s.

Therefore it amazes me that some psychologists have the audacity to pretend they understand the human brain, after using electroshock or drugs to basically give a person a whack on the side of the head.  The circuitry of a brain is far more complex than the circuitry of a TV, and just because whacking a brain may stop a mind from flipping gives the whacker no right to state he knows what is happening, or why whacking works.

This is not to say psychologists can’t save lives. Lonely people need someone to talk to. Misunderstood people need understanding. The mentorless need mentors. However this is not science; it is kindness.  To pretend it is science is to step across an invisible line into the landscape of fraud.

There is a temptation to make a science out of psychology, because certain patterns of human behavior seem recognizable. Though Chaucer created the Wife Of Bath back in 1375, she reminds me of a lady who served me burgers back in college, and though Shakespeare created Falstaff in 1593, Flastaff reminds me of a guy I worked third shift with, in a cannery. Certain characters are like certain weather maps, and provide us with analogs we use, and give us the sense we can predict behavior in the same manner we can predict the weather.

However every forecaster knows that all it takes is some stupid butterfly flapping its wing somewhere, and two maps which start out nearly identical can come to quite opposite solutions.  In the same manner two people, both resembling Falstaff, can reach a fork in the road where one is redeemed while the other progresses steadfastly on to their tragic demise.

Human being are, in fact, chaotic systems, and when we deal with chaotic systems we need to be humble and say something difficult to say, namely: “I connot predict the future with 100% certainty.”  This is not to say that, when we meet a Falstaff, we ought loan him money, or that, when the sky gets pitch black and thunders, we should ignore our raincoat. We are allowed to forecast, and in fact it is our nature to forecast; we just need to be prepared to be wrong, and not get all crabby about it when it happens.

It is when someone is dealing with a chaotic system, and puts on a white coat and pretends to be sure, and to be able to speak with scientific certainty, that the fraud enters in.  They are claiming to have authority they lack, and are setting themselves up for a Falstaffian fall. Unfortunately they see some short-term gain in their pompous buffoonery, money to be made and power to be gripped, and they often hurt others in the process of acting out their tragedy.

In the case of psychologists, bad ones can clamber up onto pedestals and claim to be experts, pontificating upon “predatory behavior” even while they themselves prey upon the most vulnerable and hapless members of society, bullying meek clients with thinly-veiled threats to incarcerate them and subject them to cruel and unusual punishment without trial. In the process they destroy the reputation of good psychologists who do save lives, and the public gradually gets so disgusted that it may even pass a law such as the one passed in Texas, which had to be vetoed by the governor. (That law stated that when psychologists gave testimony as expert witnesses in trials they had to wear tall, pointed, wizard-hats, complete with stars and moons.)

To conclude, we need a different attitude when dealing with chaotic systems than the attitude we adopt when dealing with Math, and Climate Scientists have failed to adopt this attitude.


For the non-mathematical reasons mentioned in the first two parts of this essay I distrusted Climate Scientists as soon as I became aware they had staked out a certain turf to call their own.  First, they were pretending to be certain about a chaotic system.  Second, they behaved in a manner that resembled Falstaff. Third, their versions of history shifted like sinister shadows amidst the golden versions of history I knew.  Lastly, they somewhat snidely stated I couldn’t know anything because I didn’t know the mathematics of programming modeling into computers. I think it was that last thing that really got me riled up. Perhaps it is pure egotism, but I have never taken kindly to people who tell me I’m stupid.

Fortunately I enjoy debating, and my hot temper is nicely balanced by my ability to fearlessly apologize, which tends to keep my opponents off balance. Of course, keeping your opponents off balance is totally unnecessary, and not anything you want to do, if you are debating in good faith, seeking to find the Truth.  It is only necessary when your opponent is slightly immature, and perhaps behaving a bit like a jerk.

When three-year-olds come to me like little lawyers at my Childcare, they tend to be slightly immature, but completely sincere.  Often they are arguing about a relatively worthless object, for example, a mere stick, one of hundreds of sticks in our woods.  I scratch my head in wonder, aware the reason for rage is not the stick, it is the principle of the thing. Who “had it first,” and who “started it,” matters a heck of a lot more than the stupid stick does, as the tots bellow jaw to jaw, eyes bugging out and veins bulging and skin turning purple.  Fortunately they are so small it is comical, and not only does my sense of humor kick in, but also fondness comes welling up from my heart.

The same sense of humor kicks in when I am dealing with people who ought be old enough to know better. There is the same illogical tendency to drift from the subject at hand to who “had it first,” who “started it,” and whether or not I have the IQ of an opossum. It is a big mistake to move in this direction with me, for it is a movement away from Math, which I struggle with, into landscapes I’m more familiar with.

Some day sooner than I like I will stand before my Maker, and He is likely to ask me, among other things, why I spent so much of the last ten years quarreling with Alarmists. I fear my first response will be that of a three-year-old: I will point my finger and say, “They started it.”  As I recall how things developed, such blaming is actually the truth. Initially I was not arguing, but rather merely asking questions. My questions had to do with the Medieval Warm Period, and the Viking colony in Greenland.

I knew a fair amount about those Vikings, due to my love of history. (My brain is full of interesting trivia I collected when I should have been doing my Math homework.) I knew those Vikings raised cows, and grew barley for beer, in an environment where it currently is impossible.  Therefore when the Medieval Warm Period was abruptly “erased” by Climate Scientists I had questions.  When I got answers they were the sorts of answers that do not give you a sense of peace, but rather make you restless with many more questions.  For example, I was told the Medieval Warm Period only occurred on either side of the North Atlantic, and no where else.  In order for this to occur some new and interesting rearrangement of the Gulf Stream and the Jet Stream would have to exist, and persist for decades and even centuries, and I was curious about this unheard-of weather pattern. At this point I started to get the impression my questions were unwelcome.

This struck me as unusual, for it had always been my experience that scientists studied obscure things no one else was interested in, and often felt misunderstood and starved for attention, and when someone actually asked a question about what they were studying they either fainted in shock, or else were so overjoyed about finding a listener that you couldn’t get them to stop talking, once they started.  To receive a cold shoulder instead made me instantaneously curious.

I suppose it involved the same principle as playing “hard to get” involves. When I was in high school, and a girl spurned my adolescent grins, my older brother told me to stop being so friendly, and to utterly ignore the girl.  To my complete astonishment, the ploy worked.  Of course, I didn’t have a clue what to do next, but at least I had her attention.

When a person becomes evasive, we immediately wonder what they are evading.  When Climate Scientists and their Alarmist groupies stopped answering questions I developed a curiosity I might otherwise not have possessed.  The situation then became odder, because they turned out to be Falstaffs who loved basking in the spotlight. They wanted attention but didn’t want it; they loved looking wise but didn’t want certain questions to be asked.  They were like James Bond strolling into a casino, sticking out like a sore thumb at the same time they were secret.

It was at this time people who knew their Math, such as Steve McIntyre and Willis Eschenbach, first began asking questions and first ran into the evasiveness that eventually resulted in stonewalling and the need to employ the Freedom Of Information Act.  However for a person like myself, who knew little Math, the evasiveness took the form of The Snoot. Just as a psychologist might haughtily state, “You can’t possibly understand; you haven’t studied psychology,” I increasingly heard the news that I couldn’t possibly understand, because I am a moron.

Well, I admit that, but even a moron has the right to ask questions. Then I ran into the evasive tactic of using jargon and big words an ordinary person doesn’t use.  However, due to my love of writing, I have a rather large vocabulary for a moron, and even when I didn’t know the meaning of a word, I could always ask what it meant.  For example, the first time I heard “dendochronological” I was silenced and had to back off, but, after a pause, I persisted, pestered, (and even when the answers were evasive I could Google the word,) and I wound up exclaiming, “Oh! Tree rings!  If you meant tree rings, why didn’t you say so!”  I then discovered that haughty people do not like it when you simplify things they are haughty about.

The question, “Why do you use the word ‘dendrochronological’ when you could say ‘tree rings’ ?” is admittedly drifting a bit off-topic from the actual topic of tree rings, but so is the topic of whether I am a moron or not.  So is the topic of whether or not I am “a shill of Big Oil,” “ a ditto head,”  “a wing nut,” a “useful idiot,” or any of the other interesting gobs of mud I’ve found flung my way. Fortunately I’m not the sensitive young poet I once was, have a thick skin, and also think it is good fun to devise sophisticated and witty insults to reply with. In fact I’ve been told I’m fairly good at the sort of insult you have to scratch your head over, before you realize it is an insult.  (We used to call these “polar bear traps,” for a polar bear trap is a sphere of frozen fat with a coiled piece of steel within.  As the fat melts in the polar bear’s stomach, the steel springs out straight and kills the bear; in the same way, some sweet words only stab you when they are digested.)

However descending to the level of mud slinging, even when it is gussied up with charm, gets tiresome, and asking real questions and getting to the real Truth turns out to be far more interesting and rewarding in the long run.  That is why I was always so swift to apologize, (even when no one apologized for calling me a moron,) and returned to innocent and sincere questions.

An amazing thing happens when you do this.  You learn.  You can even learn a little Math.  Not much, I’ll admit, but enough to get by on.

One technical word that backed me off, in the beginning, was the word, “albedo.”  For the Alarmists it was a sort of magical word that explained everything.  I ran into it due to my interest in Vikings, and the amount of ice up by Greenland.  The more I asked questions about “abedo” the more questions I had, and the more annoyed the people I was questioning became.  They wanted to strictly focus on the Arctic Sea, but I wanted to explore the Antarctic.  Then I asked an annoying question about the albedo of the Arctic land masses when they are covered with snow.  I think this was annoying because it turned out freshly fallen snow has a significantly higher albedo than rotten ice, and the people I was talking with had neglected to include the albedo of vast stretches of tunda, from Finland to Sibera to Alaska to Canada, in their calculations.  Then I asked about the albedo of flat, open water, when the sun sits low on the horizon, as it does in September at the North Pole, and discovered water has a higher albedo than ice does when the sun is that low. This was annoying because it suggested the opposite of what Alarmist theory suggests; rather than absorbing more sunlight, open water would reflect more sunlight.

It was not necessary to develop a counter-theory.  Using “doesn’t-it-follow-that” questions would suffice.  For example, your question could be, “If freshly fallen snow has a higher albedo than ice, and the northern hemisphere has just had its greatest snow cover in recent history, doesn’t it follow that…”

Asking so many questions was great fun, for I learned all sorts of interesting trivia, for example I learned that salt water behaves differently than fresh water when both are chilled to thirty-three degrees. However it was also fun because I discovered I was putting Alarmists on the defensive, because most had not done their homework.  There were a few who were as eager as I was to learn new things, and these few were wonderful to talk with, but most behaved as I once had behaved, facing my Math teachers with undone homework, and I found it great fun to have the tables turned, and to watch them squirm.

One neat thing about being a Math teacher is that you get to assign homework, without having to do it. Simply by asking questions I was demanding answers that involved the sort of work that people who delight in Math find joy in, but others are made miserable by.  For example, asking about the “area of albedo” involved finding the surface area of the globe north of eighty degrees latitude, between seventy and eighty degrees north, between sixty and seventy degrees north, and between fifty-five and sixty degrees north.  While someone like Willis could figure out such things on the back of an envelope, the Alarmists I was questioning tended to turn an interesting shade of green.

I wasn’t asking these questions to cause trouble.  I had simply turned my globe upside-down, and realized Antarctica had sea ice at the latitude of northern Scotland.  I began to wonder if sea ice at lower latitudes had a greater effect than ice at higher latitudes, because the sun has greater power at lower latitudes, and there is more of it to reflect. After all, albedo means very little when the sun is on the horizon and weak, or even has set. I decided the word “albedo” was insufficient. There needed to be a word for the sunlight that actually was reflected, and, because the Alarmists I was questioning had no such word, I decided the word ought be coined, and ought be, “calbedo.” (Not derived from “calorie,” which would be sensible, but rather from “Caleb,” because I am vain.)

Once your questions are along the lines of, “Isn’t the word ‘albedo’ insufficient, and shouldn’t there be a word such as ‘calbedo’ in order to…” Alarmists tend to be in full retreat.  They haven’t done their homework, and the best they can do is defer to authority, pointing at the gobbledygook of computer code they themselves don’t understand, and insisting that it proves something you can’t understand. This debating technique is often seen among three-year-olds at my Childcare, and usually takes the form of, “My Daddy is bigger than your Daddy.”

This retreat is also a form of evasiveness much like the behavior of Shakespeare’s Falstaff.  Honest people do not need to evade in such a manner.

In conclusion, without Math, and only asking questions, it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that Climate Science, at the very least, is not a thing that is “settled” to a degree where we ought to invest in what it concludes. The buyer beware.




            The news about the “Smoke In” in Denver troubles me, for I always imagined that the harm of marijuana would be obvious to the young, as they looked at their aging Baby Boomer parents.  Apparently it isn’t, and therefore I suppose I must state the obvious: Marijuana is harmful.

Furthermore, it is more harmful than alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine.

The harm is not visible in scans of the brain, for the harm is done on the level of memory.  While the latest scans are able to give a rough estimate of the emotion a memory produces, whether it be anger or fear, or pleasurable or unpleasant, there is absolutely no way of showing what the actual memory is, nor how memory is shuffled and resorted.

As memory is crucial to learning, the obvious forgetfulness, which is quite apparent to anyone who smokes marijuana, should be a reason for concern to the smoker, however it isn’t, for they are quite often under the illusion they are learning more, when the truth is they are forgetting more.

The processes of creativity and learning are bipolar processes, involving agony and ecstasy, both manic and depressive states.  While we all prefer the manic, the depressive is also crucial to learning. “You’ve got to pay the dues if you’re going to play the blues.”

The best analogy I can think of involves a desk that gets messier and messier as one is hard at work, until it gets so messy that one simply has to stop working and clean up.

In the brain’s manic state it is making “connections,” and this continues until there are simply too many connections to progress further, at which point the brain must “hit the delete key,” and discard some of the connections it has made.  This important second step is what we are undergoing when we suffer the state commonly known as “depression.”

In actual fact the brain does not utterly “delete” any memory, but rather is rearranging the “connections” (which lead from memory to memory) into a more efficient pattern.  This takes energy, and rather than the manic, “Eureka” of making a connection, it is more of a process of saying, “This doesn’t work, and this doesn’t work, and this doesn’t work.”  Even though the process isn’t pleasant, (sort of like getting a lot of rejection slips,) it lays the groundwork for the next creative effort.

When the mind is done “cleaning the desk” and gets back to work, the next sequence of connections is more efficient.  It is for this reason that Beethoven’s Ninth symphony is more amazing than Beethoven’s First symphony.

A person who smokes a lot of marijuana will notice, in the long run, no such improvement.  Or perhaps they will not notice. What is there to notice, if your ninth symphony is exactly the same as your first?  In fact you can say marijuana obviously hasn’t harmed you, for you are no different.

However we are supposed to become different.  It is a process called “maturing.”

Deep down people do notice when they are no different, and nothing changes.  It creates a sense of frustration. Unfortunately the user of marijuana seldom makes the connection that the frustration is due to marijuana, and instead of quitting, they smoke more. They want to recreate the sense of “eureka,” but what they discover is that the same dosage gets them less and less “high.”  Sometimes they then increase the dosage, until they arrive at a point where rather than high, they just get buzzed.

I arrived at that point as a teenager, over forty years ago, and even then I was too stupid to blame marijuana.  Instead I was blaming society and capitalism and what-have-you.  I had to be told, rather bluntly, that marijuana was making me stupid.

(As I recall what penetrated my thick skull was a tract entitled, “God In A Pill?”  One hippy was handing the tract out to other hippies on Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.)

Quitting marijuana was one of the few smart things I ever did, as a teenager. It was difficult, because I had to get through roughly six months where I was largely depressed and had very few “natural highs.”  (I suppose my brains were drained, and had to replenish energy reservoirs.)  However now I can do things with my creative side, which were completely impossible for me to do, back then.

Whoever it was who handed me that tract, all those years ago, did me a very great favor.  I am especially aware of it when I meet old friends who never quit marijuana, and who were once smarter than me, but now seem strangely stuck forty years in their past.

It is because I want to return the favor that I chose to be a nag, and tell modern youth, “Don’t smoke marijuana.  It will harm you, and no good will come of it.”