Tag Archives: Education

National Grammar Day – Haiku Winners

Haikus can be wonderful. I’m not a purist, so if something doesn’t adhere to the classical rules of Haiku, I’m not going to complain, as long as it’s honest about its heritage.

Grammar Girl posted a short piece on the recent National Grammar Day Haiku Contest winners. I’ll share a bit of that with you, because I love Haiku and so should you.

This being Grammar Girl and Grammar Day, the contest focuses on haikus that centrally involve grammar.

This one, written by Arika Okrent in 2013, cleverly references we all know from experience.

I am an error

And I will reveal myself

After you press “send”

The first and third place winners from 2016 didn’t move me, so I won’t share them here, but you can find them here.

The second place winner, from Monica Sharman, is striking in its emotion and metaphorical truth.

“Edit” in Latin

means “He eats” or “She eats”—

We devour your words

The fourth place winner, from Larry Kunz, is brilliant in its use of grammar and mental imagery.

She said, I love you.

Her beau replied, I loved you.

Then the time passed, tense.

If you enjoyed these, there are many more a quick search away. I’ll close with a non grammar related mutt of a haiku that always cracks me up.

Take me down to Hai-

ku city where the grass is

green, and the dammit

Should we respect all beliefs?

I’m reposting an intriguing question I encountered on G+. The original post is first, including a beautiful picture as well as a comment by Sam Harris, followed by my response.

Should we respect all Beliefs? Here’s an interesting take by Sam Harris…

Consider for a moment this notion that you should respect other people’s beliefs. Where else in our discourse do we encounter this?

When was the last time anyone was admonished to respect another person’s beliefs about history, or biology, or physics? We do not respect people’s beliefs; we evaluate their reasons.

Illusion Art 4

Harris’ take on this is thought provoking and tempting to follow, isn’t it? My response is below.

We don’t need to respect people’s beliefs. We do need to respect people. It’s fine, and very desirable, to critique a set of beliefs. That’s fundamentally different than criticizing a person for their beliefs.

If you critique beliefs by analyzing them and pointing out deficiencies as well as strengths, especially in a process of dialogue, then you gain understanding of the framework in which those beliefs exist, and you also allow the person holding those beliefs room to engage you openly and examine their beliefs if they’re willing. If you criticize the person, then you shut down the possibility of dialogue and place them in a defensive stance, focused on defending themselves and their beliefs.

What do you think?

Here’s a link to my reshare of the original post – https://plus.google.com/+ChristopherLamke/posts/jBEWpqBvbdV – The comments on mine and especially the original are worth reading if you’re exploring this topic.

Hand Sanitizer is fine. Don’t use antibacterial soap.


A friend shared an interesting IFLScience video titled, “Why You Should Never Use Hand Sanitizer.” The video is particularly interesting because IFLScience is usually a great source for interesting and useful science and in this post someone has confused hand sanitizer with antibacterial soap and ends up giving bad advice as a result.

The video asserts that hand sanitizers contain Triclosan and notes that studies have shown Triclosan to kill good bacteria on your skin and make your skin far more permeable to toxic chemicals like BPA.

The presenter is confusing antibacterial hand soap with hand sanitizer. Some antibacterial hand soaps contain Triclosan, but hand sanitizer does not. Hand sanitizers generally contain ethyl alcohol as the active ingredient, which kills bacteria by dissolving the lipid membrane and denaturing the proteins – http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=2160. The alcohol physically destroys bacteria, which is why bacteria can’t develop resistance to it, which is a concern with antibacterial soap and Triclosan.

A commenter on the G+ post where I found this video notes that he just found the following on the Purell website: “U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations do not allow the use of triclosan as an active ingredient in “leave on” products like hand sanitizer. PURELL hand sanitizer products do not contain triclosan.” There’s a video on the topic at http://www.purell.com/faq.

I use hand sanitizer all the time and I’ve noticed that workplaces, including hospitals, have it prominently displayed for use. Alcohol based sanitizer is demonstrably beneficial in destroying harmful bacteria. Hopefully no one will accept the IFLScience post without checking the facts. I’d like IFLScience to correct their post, but the comment area was quickly closed. Hopefully they will see this or other posts and correct their errors.

Capital Oppresses Labor


Tolstoy was exactly right.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Welfare Capitalism, as practiced in most of the developed world, allows the creative destruction of capitalism to proceed while shielding individuals from its excesses.

Supporting capitalism does not require that we support a free for all in which the capitalists use people and natural resources as they will. Capitalism left to run its natural course results in the destruction of individual life, liberty, and ultimately the environment we need to survive. A serious capitalist will acknowledge the need for strong government regulation of capitalist practices, even as he fights against those regulations that limit his own profits.

When should a question begin with “what” as opposed to “which”?

Answer by Will Wister:

“Which” is preferred when you have a very limited number of known choices.

  • Which arm is stronger?
  • Which of your siblings do you like best?

“What” is preferred when you have a large number of choices or you don’t even know how many choices there are.

  • What color do you like best?
  • What is the best company that does X?
  • What was the most impressive empire of all time?

Here are some references that back this up:

[1] http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae…
[2] http://www.englishpractice.com/g…
[3] http://www.english-test.net/foru…
[4] http://learnenglish.britishcounc…
[5] http://www.knoxnews.com/news/200…
[6] http://www.blurtit.com/q870947.html
[7] http://www.differencebetween.com…

When should a question begin with “what” as opposed to “which”?

Faking Cultural Literacy

Food for Thought

This piece is well written and thought provoking.

I’m not going to lament the passing of the great age of American reading and thinking, because I’m not sure it ever existed. But we certainly need to read and think more as a nation, and not the drivel that mostly passes for best sellers. 

When you all vote me in as Emperor of the World, I’ll be sure everyone gets a proper classical education. The GOP will then fall off the edge of their flat earth and never be heard from again.

Should the Bible ever be studied like a work of literature?

I originally posted this as an answer to the question “The Bible: Should the Bible ever be studied like a work of literature rather than the literal word of God?” on Quora.

The Bible is studied as literature in many high schools and universities. I studied it in high school as literature. It has many profound and beautiful passages. If you focus on the Bible as a historical document of the way people thought and lived two to three thousand years ago, it’s very valuable and enlightening. 

The Bible is only dangerous when people try to cast it as the actual instructions of a god for humans to live by. We’ve seen, and continue to see, how poorly groups and civilizations fare when they treat the Bible as “The Word of God”. The saddest part is that these groups and civilizations cause massive suffering to others, humans and non-humans, when they take the Bible as literally true. 

To conclude, I support reading the Bible and other scriptures as part of a full education. This literature has formed the basis for, or influenced, much of modern civilization, and we should read it just as we read the secular literature that helped create the world we have today. My immediate family, including my wife and children are all atheists, and I encourage my children to read it and I discuss the Bible and other foundational religious books and ideas with them, to help them understand why people think and act the way they do.