Saturday, January 20, 2018

Arrival: Chinese Influence on American Culture

I just finished watching the film Arrival for a second time. It is a very thoughtful and imaginative film.  A friend said it was slow, but that slowness is really a French influence.  I looked up the director, Denis Villeneaue, and found that he is French Canadian.  The author of the science fiction novella upon which the film is based, Ted Chiang, is Chinese American.  His parents were born in China , he was born in New York state, and he made a nice contribution to our American culture with his story, Story of Your Life, upon which the movie was based.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Teaching the Holocaust

I have noticed a rise in antisemitism.  I am wondering if we are doing an adequate job of teaching our children about the Holocaust.  When I was in high school we watched the film Night and Fog.  That film left a life-long impression on me.  One has to see the images to begin to understand the Holocaust.  Reading statistics does not make an impression, does not make an impact.

I looked to see what my son learned about the Holocaust.  I looked at the AP World History Exam prep book from Princeton Review.  The copy I had saved (2014) gave 5 cm. length of text to the Holocaust.  This same book gave 9 cm length of text to the Rwanda massacre.  The statistics were 800,000 dead in Rwanda compared to 6 million Jews and 6 million non-Jews dead in the Holocaust.  The obvious impression is that the Holocaust is less important because it is farther in the past.  The newer atrocity had twice as much coverage as the Holocaust.

I purchased a copy of Night and Fog recently from Amazon.  The documentary is only 40 minutes long.  Neither my wife nor my college-age son were willing to watch it.  Some of the scenes are ghastly, but the most jarring scenes were probably only 15 minutes at the end of the film.  Because the film is only 40 minutes long, it can fit into a school class.  I think I saw the film in my freshman or sophomore year of high school.  Just based on my experience, you might consider purchasing a copy of the Night and Fog film and sitting with your child during his freshman or sophomore year of high school to watch the film together.  Images are the only way to begin to comprehend the horror of the Holocaust.

To understand the Holocaust as an adult, I watched a 6 part documentary from the BBC on Netflix, Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'.  This film is hard to watch.  I did not cry when I watched Night and Fog, but I cried a number of times while watching this BBC documentary on Auschwitz.  We cannot let all this suffering be forgotten.  We dishonor the dead if we do not remember them.

Even with almost 5 hours of film in the Auschwitz documentary, I still did not pick up on the difference between Auschwitz and Treblinka.  Also on Netflix is the documentary Death Camp Treblinka, Survivor Stories.  It is 58 minutes long and I surprised to learn how very different Treblinka was from Auschwitz.  From my perspective, as an adult, I found this film worth watching.

How could this horror have happened?  Were the masterminds of death madmen?  No.  They were highly educated Germans, many of them lawyers.  A small segment within the documentary Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution', portrayed the meeting organized by the SS to plan the Holocaust.  This meeting has been portrayed in a full length film, Conspiracy starring Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci.  There was a scene where the SS general leading the meeting asked the lawyers to raise their hands.  More than half of those planning the Holocaust were lawyers.  The Germans were probably the most educated people in Europe, but university education does not impart morality or conscience.

Could this happen again?  I can imagine Marxists rounding up both Christians and Jews for execution.  Martin Luther King said, "... the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  If that were so, then Marxism would have dried up and blown away, but it has not.  Every year, more Americans are drawn towards Marxism.  Remember Joseph Stalin killed more people than Adolph Hitler.  Remember what George Orwell said in his novel, 1984:  "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

I believe everyone should understand the horror of the Holocaust, perhaps by watching Night and Fog around the age of 14 or 15.  I have mentioned other films that adults can watch to try to understand the Holocaust.  Films must be used because it is the imagery that makes the emotional connection.  If people do not understand the Holocaust, they cannot understand the need for a Jewish state, the importance of Israel.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Copying What Works

We want to coach our children, we want to give them the best advice we can to help them through life.  Here is a piece of advice I gave my son:  Copy what works.

Here is a perfect example from the obituary of Macon F. Brock Jr, founder of Dollar Tree. (  Mr. Brock was inspired by a chain called Everything’s a Dollar. He believed he could improve on the idea.  Mr. Brock, his brother-in-law and H. Ray Compton, started opening dollar stores in 1986, under the name Only $1.00, starting with five locations.

The chain Everything’s a Dollar was not the country’s only other dollar store, but the company did sue Only $1.00, forcing it to change the name of stores in overlapping markets to Dollar Tree.  “We ripped off what they wanted to be. Not what they were,” Mr. Brock wrote, adding, “We hoped to occupy the same role in the dollar business that Henry Ford had in the car business.”

Macon Brock copied an idea that worked, but his execution was better so his store, Dollar Tree, survived while Everything’s a Dollar did not survive, but eventually went bankrupt.

I have previously written a post, Teaching Our Children Exploitation is Better than Innovation (May 14, 2017).  Copying what works is a benign form of exploitation.  A less benign form is described in the movie The Founder, starring Michael Keaton (2106).  In this movie you see how Ray Kroc became very wealthy from the ideas the McDonald brothers licensed to him, while treating the McDonald brothers with questionable fairness.  Ray Kroc's exploitation of the ideas developed by the McDonald brothers portrays why the word exploitation has negative connotations.

Honor and fairness are lessons we also need to impart to our children.


PS: Mr Brock wrote a book about his business:  One Buck at a Time: An Insider's Account of How Dollar Tree Remade American Retail by Macon Brock and‎ Earl Swift

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Water Ballons from Plano

There is a water balloon inventor in Plano!  The article This Water-Balloon Battle Threatens to Soak Everybody by Ruth Simon, Nov. 15, 2017 New York Times.  Josh Malone, a mechanical engineer in Plano, invented a device called Bunch O Balloons that fills many water balloons at once.  Bunch O Balloons generates about $125 million a year in sales.  It is so nice to hear about a local inventor.  Of course, as soon as you invent something, your invention will get copied.  The NYT article is about the lawsuit between Zuru Ltd., which sells Mr. Malone's Bunch O Balloons, and TeleBrands Corp. which sells a knock-off product.  It is an interesting article that highlights the need for deep pockets to protect your intellectual property.

Here is a picture of the Bunch O Balloons product:

You can order them from Amazon:

This is so cool. I remember how long it took to make water balloons.  I have warm memories of the time I first ran across water balloon cannons:

My son and his friends, when they were young, went to a meadow for a water balloon fight and barrage of water balloons came sailing over the tree tops from water balloon artillery.  Our boys were carpet bombed.  It as a hoot.  Just think of all the extra water balloons you can make with Bunch O Balloons.  Yes indeed, water balloons are part of childhood!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Watch out for scams

Here is a perfect example of an email scam.  I am forwarding a picture of it to my family to warn them.  I am including copy here to share the warning with you.
Notice the goofy email address:  This is a red flag.
Notice it is not sent to me, but to  This is a red flag.
The email directs you to download a file and open it.  This is a red flag.
It is just one red flag after another.  But if this email goes out to enough people, some will certainly fall for the scam.

If you click on the picture, it will enlarge so you can read it.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Teaching Our Children About Inflation and Debt

Teaching Inflation
I watched a documentary recently that described the impact of inflation on the price of homes.  I put the data in a chart to share with you.
Yes, these numbers are good numbers.  I learned recently that the average price of a new home in Prosper, Texas, is $500,000.  What is scary is that our children will live to see the 2065 house price of $4.5 Million and our grand-children will live to see the 2115 house price of $45 Million.  The driving factor for the rise of house cost is inflation.  If you know the formula, you can determine that it is an inflation rate of 4.7% that makes housing go up ten-fold in 50 years.

Right now one U.S. dollar will buy 111 Japanese yen, so the yen is worth less than one U.S. penny.  Clearly, the dollar our grand-children receive in their salaries will be worth one penny in today's dollar.  Our currency will be like the Japanese yen.  Here is a statement from 2015: "The average price of a newly constructed house listed for sale in the Tokyo 23 Wards in May [2015] was ¥62,710,000."  That is 62 million yen for an average house in Tokyo, Japan, so 45 million dollars for an average American house in 100 years makes sense, aside from the mathematics.

We need to educate our children about inflation because the government is a major contributor to inflation.  Here is what Milton Friedman said about inflation:  "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output."  Only the government controls the money supply.  And the government loves inflation because it is a hidden tax.  Most people do not understand inflation, making theft through inflation like stealing candy from a baby.  Our government will continue robbing us until we make it stop.  If we or our children cannot put the brakes on inflation, it will be too late for our grand-children to make a difference.

Teaching Debt

This article,  Student Debt Gets Attention of States by Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2017, has these quotes:

Study after study shows that college students are terrible at keeping track of how much debt they are racking up in school, so states are working to make the cost of higher education crystal clear.  This month, Florida joined Indiana and Nebraska in requiring that colleges and universities provide detailed information about student debt and projected loan payments.

A 2014 Brookings Institution report found about half of all first-year students in the U.S. “seriously underestimate” how much debt they have, and less than one-third can estimate their debt loads within a reasonable margin of error. Many also don’t understand that their financial aid is in the form of a loan. More than one-quarter of students with federal loans reported having no federal debt and 14% said they didn’t have any student debt at all.

It is we parents who are responsible for teaching our children about debt and for guiding them though the college loan process.  When state legislatures dictate colleges must prepare reports for individual students, then the legislators create more costs that increase tuition bills.  College tuition has been rising sharply because of all the reporting requirements forced onto colleges by legislatures.  And we have to foot the bill for all the overhead and administrative costs for these reports.  A Nanny State is an expensive state.


We work for money and inflation waters down our money, which is a form of theft.  Debt reduces the amount of money we are free to spend.  Inflation is bad and debt is dangerous.  This fits into a fortune cookie.  We need to fit this into our kids' minds.


Previous articles:
Teaching Our Kids About Interest and Inflation  April 11, 2015
Debt is Dangerous October 20, 2015

Film Reference: The film Agenda 2 by Curtis Bowers had the illustration on inflation of home prices.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

English Grammar Early

I was cleaning out old books and I ran across a 6th grade workbook with this note on the cover: "Save. Some material here not in college handbooks."  Education is cumulative and it so happens in America that the time English grammar is taught is the early years.  I remember from my youth that the last big push to teach grammar was in 5th or 6th grade.  When I was sent off to middle school the English curriculum changed to literature.  Grammar is not taught in high school or college, you are simply marked down for poor grammar.

The 6th grade workbook I used with my son had sections on "helping verbs" and "linking verbs" and college handbooks say very little about helping verbs and linking verbs. 

The best college writer's handbook, in my opinion, is The Hodges Harbrace Handbook, created by John C. Hodges in 1941, now in its eighteenth edition. It is one of the most widely used grammar reference books at colleges and universities in the United States.  I have compared it to other well liked handbooks and I do prefer The Hodges Harbrace Handbook, but it does have very little in it about helping verbs and linking verbs.  So if you have not learned about them in elementary school, you won't learn about them in college.  From a University of Tennessee website we have this insight on why Hodges Harbrace Handbook has been so successful:  Dr. John Hodges studied the frequency of errors in college students’ essays. He collected 20,000 student-penned papers, counted and analyzed the errors in those papers, and created the taxonomy he used to organize the original Harbrace Handbook of English.  The English professor used a scientific approach to analyze the problem!

The 6th grade English grammar workbook that I used with my son was Spectrum Language Arts, Grade 6.  I have mentioned it before.  Here is a snapshot of the table of contents.  Notice the workbook has a section on transitive verbs, but not one on intransitive verbs. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
I worked with my son on English Grammar during grades 4, 5, and 6.  Grade 7 was a big push into mastering word problems in math, then 8th grade was all about mastering Algebra, the gateway to high income professions.

The 4th grade English grammar workbook that I used with my son was Brighter Child English & Grammar for Grade 4.  The table of contents is below.  Notice that the 4th grade workbook does have a section on intransitive verbs.
Using grammar workbooks with your children in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades can be an invaluable help to your children.  You put your child's education at risk if you rely too much on the Plano ISD and its teachers to teach grammar to your children.  Do not let these years slip by,  they won't come back again!