Friday, November 18, 2011

Note from July 12, 2011

At breakfast this moring at a Bob Evans Restaurant in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Zach (our 8-year-old grandson), while munching a chocolate chip pancake drowning in syrup, said, "I kinda wish I was younger, because it sucks getting old." Then he added, "I want to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts."
From August 5, 2011

Today Zach and I were biking home from downtown along the Greenbelt which is about 5-8 miles. About 35 minutes into the ride the following conversation took place.
Leonard: Zach, I'm surprised your not whining about your legs getting tired.
Zach: I'm saving my whines until we get home.
The following conversation took place back in August:
After unloading the clothes dryer, filled with Zach's clothes, he, Kate, and I had this conversation:

Papa: Zach, you need to fold your clean clothes and put them away.
Kate: Yes, Zach, get to it
Papa: From now on it will be your job to fold your clothes and put them away. Helping to take care of yourself by folding your clothes and putting them where they belong will make you a happier kid.
Zach (with a dour or gloomy tone in his voice): I'm already too happy.
I recommend this article which addresses the issue of workplace bullying, a problem in many businesses, especially health care.
On Oct 20 Zach and I were making Christmas cards together from scratch using recycled Christmas cards from previous years. Zach picked up one I made years ago with the words "Peace on Earth," on it and announced that this was a good birthday care for Jackson. I pointed out that that particular phrase applies to Christmas, not to a regular birthday, and Zach promptly responded by saying that since Jackson was born on April 22, which is Earth Day, it applies as much to his birthday as to Christmas. Although he thought of it first, I immediately recognized the accuracy of his insight and complimented him for it.
Zach, commenting on the new, expensive, but very disappointing LED light bulb I recently put in a lamp in our living room: "It's so bad the bugs won't even fly to it."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When we're listening to political candidates talk about immigration, it's important and helpful to remember this information:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"If all U.S. residents reduced their consumption of animal products by half, the nation's total dietary water requirements in 2025 would drop by 261 billion cubic meters per year, a savings equal to the annual flow of 14 Colorado Rivers."

Sandra Postel, Director of Global Water Policy Project; author of "Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity." in Yes! Magazine, Summer, 2010 issue, page 23.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For those familiar with his work, the theologian Gordon Kaufman, died recently. Here's an article about him by Ted Grimsrud.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Curtis White in The Middle Mind argues that most Americans are aware of the brutality and injustice used to maintain the excesses of their consumer society and empire. He suspects they do not care. They don't want to see what is done in their name. They do not want to look at the rows of flag-draped coffins or the horribly maimed bodies and faces of the veterans who return home, or the hundreds and thousands we have killed in Iraq. It is too upsetting. They do not want to read about the nation's growing legions of under-employed and poor, or the child laborers in sweat shops who make our clothing and our shoes. Government and media censorship - increasingly common since the attack of 2001 - are appreciated. Most prefer to be entertained."
From "I Don't Believe in Atheists" by Chris Hedges; Pages 85-86.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The NRA: Couriers of Death

The irresponsible National Rifle Association (NRA) has done an enormous amount of damage to the people of this country, making our homeland a more dangerous place for children as well as adults and turning our neighborhood into places characterized by hostility rather than hospitality. The over-population of firearms, especially those designed primarily to shoot people, results in many more successful suicide attempts than would take place if firearms were not so prevalent. It also makes it far easier for arguments and conflicts to turn deadly. Unfortunately the nefarious influence of the NRA also extends to victimizing birds and other creatures as pointed out in this article.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"My job was to give them faith in their own voice, and let them know that a friend was listening."
A beautiful line from the movie, "The King's Speech,"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"The afternoon is an unmade bed you can't crawl into."

from "Milkdress" poems by
Nicole Cooley, Pub. 2010
by Alice James Books
page 58.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Language and Life

Note: This essay/review, with some slight changes, was written in 1995 for the Psycholinguistics class I was taking at Boise State University, taught by Mary Ellen Ryder.
Ryder, one of the two or three best professors I had in college, died in a wildfire that consumed her home and several others in east Boise on Aug, 25, 2008.

For over twenty-five years I've worked in hospitals and medical centers mostly as a respiratory therapist, but also as a nurse aide and orderly. I've been intrigued by the kind of communication which takes place between patients and health care workers. Frequently I've heard nurses and others involved in health care refer to patients with words like "honey," "luv," "darling," and "dear." Usually the people they're addressing are older, smaller in stature, and in a weaker physical condition. They may be male or female. They are also strangers, people they've had no contact with outside of their place of employment. Often they are new admissions who have just arrived at the hospital. It's always bothered me to hear others use those terms in addressing strangers. I have to wonder what terms they use to address those they are intimate with, spouses, children, and other family members, and loved ones. If words normally used for that purpose are used on strangers, what kind of language remains for their loved ones?

Robin Lakoff toward the end of her book Language and Woman's Place addresses the same concern. Lakoff claims that women who are socially subordinate, especially saleswomen and waitresses, are inclined to talk like this. Probably that would also include most health care workers, since they, like waitresses and saleswomen have never been included in the upper echelons of society. I've heard women speak like that to male and female patients and I've heard some men use these terms when speaking to a female patient, but I've never heard a heterosexual man speak that way to a male patient. Lakoff reports the same observation.

Lakoff claims that speaking in condescending terms of endearment (as to a child) toward another adult, who does not respond in a similar manner, is evidence that a nonparallel relationship exists. In other words it's a relationship in which one person is seen as being subordinate to another. Lakoff is accurate in her assessment of the situation. In the hospital a patient is "under" the care and to some extent, also under the power and control of the physicians, nurses, aides, therapists, and technicians caring for him or her. Today patients have more rights and more control over the care they receive so the discrepancy is not as great as it was a couple decades ago, but it's still significant. This nonparallel relationship impacts the language people use. However not every health care worker speaks to patients in such a manner. Are those who refrain from addressing patients with intimate terms, when no intimacy exists between them, showing more respect and granting more control to the patient?

Lakoff starts her book with the following sentence, "Language uses us as much as we use language." Language and Woman's Place is a short, but powerful treatise proving that point. Unfortunately a large segment of our society is misused by the language they've been taught, and have to hear. Recently I saw the movie Dangerous Minds, and in one scene the teacher, played by Michele Peiffer, tells her class that they have to have a vocabulary in order to think. Lakoff maintains that the vocabularies taught to boys and girls differ, and they differ in ways which oppress women and make it more difficult for them to succeed, and to be taken seriously by others when they are adults. The way we use words directs our thinking, and it sends our thoughts down paths that support mistreating others with language, and ultimately also with action or inaction. We are told and taught to think before we speak in order to avoid saying something foolish. The reverse is also true. The words we select and the way we arrange them in sentences can also mislead our thinking.

The language people speak reflect social inequalities which make succeeding in life more difficult for women. Language also helps perpetuate those same inequalities which it reflects. Some language considered appropriate for men to use is seen as being too strong for female usage which, according to Lakoff, reinforces male positions of strength in society while denying women equal access to those same positions.

Of course language isn't the only part of our society which oppresses women, but it's the only topic of this book. Lakoff comments on the traditional conclusion of the marriage ceremony, "I now pronounce you man and wife," a conclusion which probably isn't used much any more. She doesn't mention the equally discriminatory and much more alive tradition of a woman having to wait until a man asks her for a date, and also the tradition of using the bride's father to "give her away" to the groom at the wedding. If when they started dating, a woman was given the power of making the initial choice by asking a man for a date, a big step would be taken toward equality of the sexes. I have four daughters and I have, at times, encouraged them to ask a boy for a date, but tradition and peer pressure have always been much stronger than a father's suggestion, a suggestion that's trying to change a deeply ingrained cultural habit. None of my daughters are married but I've informed them that I wouldn't give them away when they got married unless the groom's mother does the same to the groom. That tradition, which I find revolting, implies that the bride is the property of her father until she becomes the property of her husband. If Lakoff had tied more of her observations about language to examples of customs like this, she might have been more convincing to doubting readers. Of course then she would have a much longer book. I found her arguments and observations very insightful and convincing, but I was a believer before I read it.

The words we use oppress or liberate, not just others, but us also. It's impossible to legislate a different way of talking. The status of women in society will only improve when the accomplishments of women are given equal recognition. According to Lakoff unequal language and communication reflects inequalities in society. Only by being aware of society's inequalities and the ways in which they are supported linguistically will someone gain the power to change and gradually help attain a better, more equitable society. Lakoff's book is a gift which raises awareness of these inequalities in speech. That can make a positive difference.

from Oct. 9, 1995

Leonard Nolt

Monday, February 28, 2011

"In the end we will remember, not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Martin Luther King

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"It's easier to learn to do without some of the things than money can buy than to earn the money to buy them." Dolly Freed from the book "Possum Living;" quoted from the Jan, 2010 issue of Oprah, Page 103.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Health Care: Canada vs USA

There a lot of controversy about US and Canadian health care systems. Many US citizens criticize the Canadian system, painting horror stories about health care in our neighbor to the north. Others say we would do well to copy the Canadian system. Sara Robinson regularly sees doctors on both sides of the border and is therefore better qualified than most to see the pros and cons of both systems. She writes about her experiences in the following two-part article:

Mythbusting Canadian Health care -- Part 1


Mythbusting Canadian Health Care, Part 11: Debunking the Free Marketeers
Papa and Zachary on the way to school this morning, about a ten-minute walk.
Papa: "Look, it's clear outside! Sunshine!!" (a pause)
"Do you know what moonshine is, Zachary?"
Zach: "Yes, it's light from the moon."
Papa: "That's right, but the word moonshine is also used to describe home-made whiskey."
Zach: "Wow! Two entirely different definitions. Just like stool."

Sunday, January 9, 2011


1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

From the book "Leavings" by Wendell Berry
pages 14, 15. Pub. by Counterpoint,
Berkley, CA

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"War is the sum of all evils wrapped up in one."

Leonard Nolt

Monday, January 3, 2011

A few days ago my 7-year-old grandson, Zachary, constructed with legos, a 12 inch structure that looked very similar to a cross like the one used to crucify Jesus. However he had a mysterious shape on the back of the cross close to where the veterical and horizontal sections crossed. I asked him about his creation and he said. "This is Jesus on the cross," hesitated a moment then added, "Luckily Jesus has a jet pack."
"Fame is underwritten by those who want it to be there when it is their turn to have it"

from "By the Numbers: Poems and Aphorisms" by James Richardson (Page 50).