Tima and the Not So Simple 'Three Little Pigs'

Kids' stories seem simple. But, they are deceptively complex.

Tima seemed a little jaded with the kids' stories we've been reading. He is in his twenties. But, they're a lot more fun than a textbook, and they're better for learning in a lot of ways. Sometimes I forget that other people don't see all of the meaning that I do. It's a good idea to show people how to look deeper. There are entire cultures that miss the true meaning of their most famous and foundational stories. (I'll do an article on the maiden tower stories from the Middle East at some point, which is a good example.)

"The Three Little Pigs" is a story that everyone knows. But I've never heard anyone other than me seriously discuss it. Here are some of the notes I took from the conversation Tima and I had about the story.

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What's the moral of the story?
Or, the meaning of the story?
build a strong house
don't build a weak house
wolves like to eat pigs

Graduation Parties and Words of Wisdom

I recently attended a high school graduation party for the daughter of a friend of mine.

Different people choose different ways to memorialize such events. Her older sister had everyone sign a chair when she graduated. It's a cool idea, but apparently there have been some logistical concerns of where to put it since then. So, on this occasion, a book was chosen. I, of course, like books. It's perfectly fine to just put your name down, and maybe a simple statement like "Good job!" or "Good luck!" But, I wanted to try for something that would be memorable and different. Something that could potentially act as a bulwark during those moments when you need such a thing. Perhaps it's too much to shoot for in a graduation book that you haven't prepared for or thought about. Nevertheless, I might have done it.

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Life goes up,
Life goes down,
Life is all around.

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When I read this here's what I think. "'Life goes up,'…

Toward a Hong Kong Declaration of Justice and Rights

Freedom is gained or lost with every generation. But sometimes there are key moments. A small series of events that have a huge impact on the trajectory of the world. Hong Kong, right now, is having one of those moments.

Hong Kong has a great history of freedom, prosperity, and bravery. A history that China has been working hard to destroy for the past 20 years. Hong Kongers have resisted the tyrannical Chinese oppression. This came to worldwide attention in 2014 with the Umbrella Movement against China interfering in and corrupting Hong Kong elections.

A tyrannical system has two options when encountering resistance: increase oppression, or adapt. China has chosen again and again to increase oppression in Hong Kong. In 2019 they pushed a law taking away Hong Kong courts, so that people from Hong Kong would be taken to mainland China for so-called trials. Millions of people in Hong Kong marched in the streets against these clear violations of basic rights. China feigned adapting to th…

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 18 of ?

A real election is happening in Dalton Township. A real election with real choices. And that's a huge win.

Elections are one of the most important parts of a system of checks and balances. And without checks and balances, individual rights are never protected.

Dalton hasn't been having real elections. Whoever would run as a Democrat would simply win uncontested. The single party decided all positions of political power in the township. A rumor had even been started that no one other than a Democrat could run in Dalton. I broke through that myth when I filed for office. Others followed, and now we have a ballot full of options, for the will of the people to reveal itself.

Personally, I do not think this is a small step, I think this a gigantic leap forward for Dalton. There are two more important leaps: replacing people on the board, and then making positive policy changes. And that process has already begun by having an election the way that it is supposed to happen.

I've …

Liming and the Difference Between Prose and Poetry

Most twelve-year-old boys aren't really into poetry. Liming is no different. And, I don't understand how poetry even works in the Chinese language. Their spoken language is tonal, meaning when you change the sound you change the word. And their written language is logographic, meaning their symbols evolved from pictures representing whole words. But Liming is fluent in English, so we tackled the prose versus poetry issue anyway.

I like to generate examples for things in the moment, off the cuff. It's a fun challenge. And it's often a good way to compare things. For instance, I was telling Liming about how I've been reading poetry from John Keats and Ovid recently. I inquired into his understanding of poetry, and there is an almost complete absence of exposure. He reads a lot of prose though. I decided to take a basic sentence in prose and show him what the same idea might look like in a poetical form. Here's the sentence in prose.

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The sunset looks…

Michigan Monarchy

The word monarchy comes from Greek and means "one ruler". It's an old form of government, and it's new again.

In a monarchy the authority of law emanates from the king or queen. This is opposed to the idea of natural and individual rights. And the similarities between how the government in Michigan is currently operating, and a medieval monarchy, are quite striking.

In a monarchy the queen issues edicts. Laws that she makes whenever, wherever, and however she wants. In Michigan, Queen Whitmer calls them executive orders. And she's issued over 100 in the last three months. In a monarchy you must live by the whim of the sovereign. In Michigan, the same.

In a classic monarchy there isn't a congress in the way the United States has traditionally had a congress, designated as the branch of the government with the power to make and change laws. That power is held by the queen. Instead, the queen has an advisory council that can suggest things, and she thinks them …

How Tyrants Get People to Give Them Power

History has discernible patterns.

As an example, this is John Ponet writing in the year 1556. He's talking about William the Conqueror in 1066.

"He spoiled the nobility of their goods and possessions, made them slaves, and his own slaves lords: and upon the commoners he put immense taxes and impositions. He took from the people their weapons and harness, and made a law that no man should come out of his house after [eight o’clock]..." (Short Treatise on Political Power)

These same tactics occur in every age.

The tendency toward forms of government also has patterns. Patterns of power.

Niccolo Machiavelli describes the classic cycle in his "Discourses on Livy". A single ruler is able to unite people and is thus a king. The next few generations become tyrannical kings. Nobles resist and overthrow the tyrant. The next few generations become tyrannical oligarchs. A populist movement rises up and overthrows the oligarchs. The leader becomes a king, and the cycle rep…

Vera's First Story in English

You don't know what's going to happen when you write. That's doubly true when you're co-writing with a kid.

Vera is an eight-year-old girl from Russia who likes English, and is good at it, but finds her class in school to be the normal form of boring. She likes dolphins, break-dancing, and math. This is the first story she's ever written in English. I started, then we alternated, going over changes and corrections along the way.

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Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a small dragon sleeping in a cave.
He had a son. And he had a lot of food.
But, there was a problem. His son wouldn't stop growing. He was already twice the size of the father, and he wasn't slowing down.
One day the son was gone.
The father sought him everywhere, but he couldn't find him.
As he was walking home he heard some laughter from nearby. As he peeked through the bushes he couldn't believe his eyes.
He saw a dolphin dancing with his son. The dolphin had L…

Maksim Makes a Story

Fiction writing has a higher level of technical skill at both the stylistic and structural levels. That can be useful.

If you've never written a story before, it can be intimidating to do. That's especially true if English isn't your native language, and you live in a non-English speaking country. I have helped a lot of people break through that barrier. I seem to have a bit of a knack for it, and I find it fun.

Maksim is a middle-aged family man from Belarus that does online marketing for a large computer gaming company. He likes soccer, has some expensive guitars, and is making a music app. And, he was a little skeptical about writing fiction. I could tell. We did it anyway, and it went well. I started, and then we alternated.

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Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived an old man. He went for a walk in the woods everyday at noon. He walked the same path, in the same way. Looked at the same trees, and across the same lake.

Everything was the same unti…

20 Tiny and Mind-Blowing Documents for Learning

I recently sent a few documents to a 13-year-old girl that is intelligent, but is annoyed by reading long texts that take too long to get to the point. I've read thousands of books, and the more I read the more I value writing that can change your perspective on the world in just a few pages.

My book list is always changing. I update it every few days, but right now I have 388 things listed in 10 sections. Some of them are large book series. But, some of them are small. Some, very small.

So I looked through my list and pulled out a few small things that I thought might surprise her as to how valuable a small work can be. My selection was excellent. But, there were too many things. And, even though they were smaller than you would think, some of them could still be considered a book. I wanted to make the list smaller, and I wanted the works to be smaller. I went through it again.

This time I guessed at how long each work was and included the length. I got it down to 20 items. And I…

Hope in the Time of Quarantine

I went for a motorcycle ride a couple of days ago. In Michigan right now that might be illegal. Governor Whitmer has been issuing new executive orders every day limiting people's freedom. It is sad to see the death of freedom. But, something more important is happening.

When you're riding a motorcycle it's common to give a sign to other riders. It's a sign of solidarity, a connection between like-minded people.

I rode from Twin Lake through Whitehall and Montague to Lake Michigan. I saw a few other people on motorcycles and we gave each other the sign. You hold out two fingers. It's a sign that commonly means peace now. In WW2 the sign meant victory. Those two go well together, for peace is the highest form of victory, and there is no peace without victory.

But, those weren't the only people that gave me the sign. People were riding bicycles and giving me the sign. People were walking down the side of the road and giving me the sign. People were walking dogs, a…

Moral Engagement

Morality is one of the greatest confrontations people have, both with themselves and with others.

Albert Bandura is one of the greatest psychologists of morality in history. In his paper "Selective Moral Disengagement in the Exercise of Moral Agency" the first line of the abstract reads, "Moral agency has dual aspects manifested in both the power to refrain from behaving inhumanely and the proactive power to behave humanely."
Bandura focused on identifying the eight different ways that people morally disengage. Those are the things that we have to work on avoiding. But, in addition to that there needs to be the things that we are aiming for. There's a reverse to each of the eight things that Bandura identified, and in addition to avoiding moral disengagement, which rightly brings self-condemnation, we must also pursue moral engagement.
Moral Justification

This is the basic idea that the ends justify the means. If the end is justice we cannot reach it through inj…

The Short and Long of Grief

My aunt Deb died a few weeks ago. I received an email the very next day from my friend Don. I'm in a writing group with him and his wife Jean. And he asked me about grief.

Here's part of the email.

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Hi Jeff,

Interesting to browse through your comments on grief, thanks. Question: can one grief about the present, case in point, can we grief that we are stuck in a lockdown on account of a damn little virus that is killing some of us. Given your implied sense of time relativity, I’d guess that grieving the present situation is possible. Today certainly means the future we were anticipating is different. We’ve already had our trip to the Netherlands canceled, after planning on it for more than a year.

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Obviously the trip to Europe is most likely annoying, but not a major emotional issue like the loss of a life. Although emotions are complex things, and it's hard to know what's going to hit people the hardest. Across all of these situations the proc…

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 17 of ?

When it is easier for those in power to violate the rights of citizens than for the citizens to seek redress for injustices, it's time for a change. Two things are necessary to save Dalton Township from the corruption and government overreach that has infected it: better people and better policies.

In a civilized society elections take the place of revolutions. They allow for the peaceful transfer of power, and the reformation of policies. We've had brave citizens step forward to run for office. Without them no progress can be made, with them we have the opportunity to restore rights that have been trampled underfoot by the current township officials. A just government secures the freedom and property of its citizens, rather than attacks it. Now, we must look at what changes are needed to secure those rights.

My mother has always extolled the virtue of balance, and it applies to government more than anything else. The United States was founded on the idea of individual rights …

The Opposite of Communism - Part 2 of 2

Chapter 2 of "The Communist Manifesto" is only 16 pages long. With just 9 quotes from these pages we can reveal the ideas that are the basis of the horrors of communism. And by taking their opposite, we can reveal important truths for a Free and Just society.

In order, let's begin.

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In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single phrase: Abolition of private property.

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That makes the matter rather simple. Either you are for the "Abolition of private property." Or, you are for the Protection of private property.

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In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

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At least Marx was plain. Others are not so forthright in stating that doing "away with your property" is what they stand for.

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Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

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