Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Reclaiming American History


It’s about time! Wilfred M. McClay has decided it’s time to take back history from the dominance of Howard Zinn, who disparaged America in his history books and wrote with an extreme, Leftist perspective. His books still dominate the market; his publisher claims over two million in sales (nine years after Zinn died). Although Professor McClay will not be able to change the history education of our children overnight, he has taken a major step in providing a balanced view of American History.

In an Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (it may be behind a pay wall so I cite a number of other articles here), McClay decries the current state of history textbooks:

‘They’re completely unreadable because they’re assembled by committee, by graduate students who write little bits and pieces of them. I’m not convinced that most of the textbooks that have the names of very eminent historians on the cover were actually read by them, let alone written by them.’

There are also the committees that approve them—state and local school boards, which answer to a variety of ‘stakeholders.’ Members of every racial, cultural and religious group want a say in how they and events important to them are described. Mr. McClay opted to dispense with that process, and ‘Land of Hope”’ is being published by a conservative house, Encounter Books.

So what makes McClay’s writing so special?

McClay also focuses on America as a story—something that is more than the sum of its parts—with threads that run through the narrative and tie it together: individual liberty, self-reliance, and relentless optimism. Because of this focus, Land of Hope is more than just a list of dates, battles, and important people. It also contains poetry (including Robert Frost’s “And All We Call American”), excerpts from literature (a large section on the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example), and even music (including the lyrics of “WPA,” a satiric song by the Mills Brothers and jazz great Louis Armstrong).

Of course, it also includes all the obligatory history book stock features: maps of the country as it evolved from 13 colonies to 50 states, excerpts from famous speeches, and important political changes. They are woven into America’s story to provide the rich detail that makes history interesting.

He also explains the pathetic job that historians have done in trying to make American history come alive:

What gets him most riled up is what he sees as an abdication. ‘When you teach an introductory course in American history,” he says, ‘you really have a responsibility. . . to reflect in some way the national story, in a way that is conducive to the development of the outlook and skills of a citizen—of an engaged, patriotic, serious citizen.’ Most professional historians don’t ‘take that mandate very seriously at all,’ and instead provide ‘a basically negative understanding of American history.’

Today’s history books are tedious, with lists of events, dates, and ideas that are supposed to be memorized, without understanding the context or the times.

McClay also understands the dilemma of young scholars who want to find a place in the academic world but are faced with many barriers simply because they are Christian or conservative or both; he also knows that the environment will be slow to change.

Most conservatives realize that our education system has been hijacked by the political Left, and there is little effort to provide a deep and balanced view of our own history. We realize that, to take back the system, we will need to make inroads one book, one teacher, one school, one proponent at a time.

I’ll end with this quote that I think demonstrates Professor McClay’s role in this effort This article shares a powerful quote by Professor Mark Bauerlein:

This book is THE antidote to abysmal levels of historical knowledge our high school graduates possess. History bores them; the textbooks are dreary; lessons play up guilt and identity politics. It turns them off. They want powerful tales and momentous events, genuine heroes and villains, too—an accurate but stirring rendition of the past. This is Bill McClay’s Land of Hope, a superb historian’s version of the American story, in lively prose spiced with keen analysis and compelling drama. Every school that assigns this book will see students’ eyes brighten when the Civil War comes up, the Progressive Era, the Depression, Civil Rights…The kids want an authentic, meaningful heritage, a usable past. McClay makes it real.

I can’t wait to receive my copy!

Postscript: After completing this post, I saw that Powerline and Steve Hayward interviewed McClay. You can hear it here

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. First, Be Good


I hate to admit this, but MacGyver is not good. I’m not referring to the unwatchable reboot currently withering away on CBS. No, I mean the original Richard Dean Anderson vehicle of awesomeness which aired from 1985-1992.

Dat dat dat dat dat dat daaaaa, dat dat daaaaa. The theme song gets you pumped, right? It makes we want to go rifling through the kitchen junk drawer, grab the broken can openers and fashion a defibrillator, just in case we need one. Or take the mercury out of those unused curly cue light bulbs (still in the four-year-old box, because they suck) and make…something with mercury, and batteries!

MacGyver was more than a hero, he was a superhero. In the days before Captain America, comic book superheroes were lame. Heroes were more grounded in reality: “The A-Team” (a bunch of guys with guns and explosives), “Knight Rider” (a guy with a tricked out car), “Walker, Texas Ranger” (a cop with a good roundhouse). But MacGyver was more than all that; he became a verb. Younger folk might not understand, but I’ll bet every GenXer knows what it means to “MacGyver the crap out of (something).” Amen?

I loved MacGyver, even so far as to get annoyed when the Monday Night Football game went long and preempted it. And you know how I feel about Monday Night Football, especially in the ’90s, when the Chiefs had Derrick Thomas in his prime.

So I was filled with childlike glee the day I noticed all 139 episodes of all seven seasons of MacGyver pop up on Amazon Prime Video to stream. “Oh, I’m in,” I told my wife while laying in bed looking at my phone. She raised an eyebrow, then went back to reading Dickens, probably because she has a greater recall ability with respect to quality. She is much less swayed by nostalgic sentimentality. “Whatever,” I thought, “MacGyver rocks.”

But she was right. MacGyver is awful. The cheap, soap-opera set lighting, boring storylines, ’80s TV writing … it all seemed so much better when I was 14. Even the action couldn’t save the pilot episode. I figured I’d try and skim through a few later seasons. What I remember as a kid was 45 minutes of this:

When in reality, it was 40 minutes of this:

The acting? Two observations: 1) Richard Dean Anderson started his career on “General Hospital.” 2) They had an episode featuring Traci Lords. Any questions?

It was heartbreaking. I almost wept, then began wondering what other childhood favorites I would have to refile into the “regrets” category alongside hang-over memories, ex-girlfriends, and old college writing. The Neverending StoryThe Dark CrystalTron? “Quantum Leap”? Surely these hold up, right? Nope, not even a little. Quality is rare, it would seem.

This is a problem for me. I’m trying to make a career in the creative arts. I write fiction. What if what I’m writing today doesn’t pass the test of time? I went to the bookshelf and pulled off some of my all-time favorite fiction: Red Storm Rising, Perelandra, The Killer Angels, Fahrenheit 451. Do you know what? They’re still good. They hold up as well as Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Whew.

Hopefully in 20 years, people won’t look at my work and shake their heads, wondering, “Why did I like that again?” Perhaps it’s because the written word lends itself so well to customization. The words on the page don’t reflect era-specific hair height, or show a hero wearing a printed silk vest over a white t-shirt. It kinda takes the suspense out of the story.

But that’s not always true. Star Wars has ’70s haircuts all over the place. You can hardly identify Harrison Ford’s blue Members Only jacket in The Empire Strikes Back. The dramatic synthesizer riffs we’re ashamed of liking in Duran Duran or Erasure seem strangely unnoticeable in great films like The Right Stuff or Top Gun. George Lucas, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott were (are) not great writers, but they create some amazing backdrops for their characters to play in. If the story is good, and we care about the characters, the details seem to peel away.

First, be good — then we can overlook the perm hairstyle.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. This Week’s Book Review – A Most Dangerous Innocence


I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘A Most Dangerous Innocence’ a coming of age novel


May 12, 2019

“A Most Dangerous Innocence,” by Fiorella de Maria, Ignatius Press, 2019, 220 pages, $15.95

Judy Randall is the type of student to madden an educator. She’s smart (especially in mathematics) and creative. She’s also obsessive about her interests, uninterested in conforming, and determinedly goes her own way.

Judy is the central character of “A Most Dangerous Innocence,” by Fiorella de Maria. The novel is set in autumn 1939. Sixteen-year-old Judy is a student at Mulwith, an isolated Catholic girls’ boarding school on England’s Channel Coast.

World War II has begun. Judy wants to remain in London to help fight the Nazis. At 16, with her father’s permission, Judy could do war work. Her father wants Judy out of London where she will be safe. He’s sending her back to Mulwith to finish her education.

Judy’s opposition to the Nazi’s is steadfast, almost obsessive. Judy had a Jewish grandmother. While Judy is Catholic, by the Nazi racial laws, one Jewish grandparent makes you Jewish, regardless of religion. As Judy points out to her father, if she were in Germany or newly conquered Poland, Judy would have to wear a yellow Star of David.

Judy is considered a troublemaker at Mulwith, especially by the headmistress Miss Miller. Miller is as obsessive about conformity as Judy is about her own interests. Miller views Judy as disobedient and insolent. Miller is also anti-Semitic (she owns a copy of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”) and opposed to war with Germany.

Judy’s semester begins badly. Miller privately directs Judy to lose the footrace in the school games. Judy ignores Miller, winning the race. Thereafter, Judy decides Miller is out to get her. Judy also decides Miller is a Nazi spy and begins seeking proof of her thesis. Thing begin going very wrong.

Judy allies among the staff include the Petersons, husband-and-wife instructors, and the new mathematic instructor Harry Forbes. Yet, they find sheltering Judy from her follies more and more difficult.

With “A Most Dangerous Innocence” de Maria has written a marvelous and absorbing coming of age novel. De Maria’s portrait of Judy, on the cusp of becoming an adult in a difficult time, is engaging.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Johns Hopkins’s Blooming Ideas Hopkins was born on this day, May 19, 1795. A Marylander, his Quaker parents lived out their religious beliefs by freeing their slaves. This cost them greatly and led them to put their son into their tobacco fields at age 12, ending his formal education. Yet, Johns Hopkins not only overcame the economic disadvantages imposed on him by his parents, but also overcame the natural human impulse to hate the “other,” the people with darker skin who society and his personal experience would tell him to blame. From a poor start in his parents’ tobacco fields, after transplantation to the merchantile field, Johns Hopkins blossomed into a business leader, then grew other businesses through investment, finally creating seedbeds from which amazing new ideas bloomed.

Johns Hopkins started life with a very unusual first name. As Johns Hopkins Medicine explains:

Johns Hopkins’ peculiar first name was simply a family affair; it had been his great-grandmother’s maiden name.

His great-grandmother was Margaret Johns, the daughter of Richard Johns, owner of a 4,000-acre estate in Calvert County, Maryland. Margaret Johns married Gerard Hopkins in 1700; one of their children was named Johns Hopkins. The second Johns Hopkins, grandson of the first, was born in 1795 on his family’s tobacco plantation in southern Maryland.

From the Library of Congress, Today in History, May 19:

Ambitious and hardworking, he abandoned farming, and, at his mother’s urging, became an apprentice in his uncle’s wholesale grocery business when he was seventeen. Within a decade, he had created his own Baltimore-based mercantile operation. Hopkins single-mindedly pursued his business ventures. He never married, lived frugally, and retired a rich man at age fifty. A series of wise investments over the next two decades—he was the largest individual stockholder in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, for example—further increased his wealth. He used his fortune to found Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, incorporating them in 1867.

Hopkins died in 1873. His will divided $7 million equally between the hospital and the university. At the time, the gift was the largest philanthropic bequest in U.S. history. Hopkins also endowed an orphanage for African-American children.

So, a young man, whose parents’ decisions would seem to have fated him to become a modest businessman, defied both the odds and human nature. Johns Hopkins became a captain of industry, who helped make America great in the world. He advocated for abolition of slavery and supported Abraham Lincoln. Johns Hopkins died as Reconstruction was dying, yet had it in his heart to endow an orphanage for children representing the source of his childhood field labor and lack of formal education.

Contemplating Johns Hopkins’ life calls to mind the 2019 Hillsdale College commencement address by General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. In it, General Neller made three points about a successful life: effort is required, you must persevere in the face of adversity, and character counts. Johns Hopkins applied himself from his earliest days, only changing his fields of endeavor over time. He persevered in the face of early adversity and through a lifetime without material advantage given him. His character shone through in both his life and in his will.

Johns Hopkins could have let his heart be taken over by weeds of resentment, bearing bitter fruit of hatred against his parents and the population associated with the slaves they freed. He could have let material ambition grow until it crowded out any sense of duty to God and to his neighbors. Instead, his works show a life of careful cultivation leading to continuously growing harvests.

Johns Hopkins carefully planned and provided for a way to give to many in America an education denied to him. He put his money, as it grew, into other young men with ideas, realizing a fine return on each investment. In the end, he amassed a fortune of around $8 million (1873 value). Hopkins’s wealth at the time of his death was 9% of GDP.

From the early days of his career, Johns Hopkins had looked upon his wealth as a trust to benefit future generations. He is said to have told his gardener that, “like the man in the parable, I have had many talents given to me and I feel they are in trust. I shall not bury them but give them to the lads who long for a wider education.”

His seed money, carefully planted and tended by a board of trustees he selected, blossomed into vast fields of brilliant ideas.

Johns Hopkins University opened February 22, 1876. Hopkins’ first President, Dr. Daniel Coit Gilman, set a new standard for higher education by focusing on ground-breaking research and advanced study. [LOC]

This helped set America on a course to challenge Prussia and the nascent German nation. The states that would become Germany were the heart of scientific inquiry and advancement through the early 1930s, until the poison of European hatred of Jews was given its fullest expression. Yet, the upstarts in the New World were set on course to win the intellectual and industrial race. This particularly American course was also set in medicine, in important part thanks to Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins Hospital opened in 1889, and the medical school opened four years later. Here too, rigorous academic standards and an emphasis on scientific research profoundly influenced medical practice in the United States. [LOC]

Johns Hopkins was trained up by his Quaker parents, and did not depart from the way they had taught. He stood for Abolition in a time and place where it was not favored. He did well by doing good, and amassed a great fortune without becoming money’s servant. The seeds he planted have germinated, produced great blooms, and multiplied over the century and a half since his passing.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Parenting Thoughts: The Virtue of “No”


I think I did alright in the child-raising department. There are a lot of things I don’t do well, and a few I do very badly, but I think I’ve been a good parent, particularly in the last decade or so. There’s quite a bit of on-the-job training involved in parenting — hardly any other kind, in fact — and I think I was better at it when I finished than when I started. I’m sure my older children would second that, perhaps with more vigor than I’d like.

If I could pass on a bit of advice, it would be on the important topic of saying “no” to your children.

There are other things, of course, essential things: love them and don’t let them doubt that you love them, control your temper, never be cruel, show them that you love their mother and respect their father, give them security. I’d like to simply assume those things, because they’re pretty obvious and, as I said, essential.

What isn’t obvious to everyone — and I think this is particularly true for single mothers — is that it’s good for children to hear “no.”

I think a lot of parents feel that they have to justify a “no,” that they have to be apologetic about it, or have a defense ready in case the child responds with “why not?” That’s nonsense: parents have enormous discretionary authority, and there’s nothing wrong with using it. If “no” feels right, don’t think you have to defend your answer — and certainly not when you deliver it. If “no means no” is ever true, it’s true when talking to children.

Kid have nothing but time and will argue, whine, wheedle, negotiate, and act as if nothing in the world is more important than the thing they want right now. They’re wrong. Not only don’t they need to watch that show/play that game/eat that dessert/buy that thing, but they’ll ultimately be happier if they develop the ability to accept defeat, shift their focus, and go find something else to do. They won’t be scarred by disappointment.

Children who can’t accept “no” as an answer are going to be unpleasant to deal with, and are going to face difficulties in life. They’ll grow up acting like typical progressives: nothing will ever be acceptable except exactly what they demand. By all means, discuss your decision-making process with your kids. But do it at your convenience, not theirs. Getting what they want is the highest priority for children, and nothing is ever more pressing for them: if they really want to discuss it, let them come back when it’s convenient for you.

Above all — and, this is particularly important for single mothers — don’t think for a moment that you are going to lose your child’s love if you say “no.” Mothers have an enormous, primal claim to their children’s love, and nothing short of sustained, monstrous misconduct will endanger it. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you think it’s the best answer.

Two final points.

First, learning to say “no” is particularly important at meal time. Kids should learn to eat what’s served. We made it a point not to make meals that were especially difficult for any of our children; those simply weren’t on the family menu. But, beyond that, the kids were expected to eat what was put in front of them — and, after some learning, they did.

Secondly, if your children are fortunate enough to be in a stable, two-parent household, they should learn that the first “no” means “no”: if mom says “no,” don’t ask dad, and vice versa. Having both parents on the same page communicates to the children that their resistance is futile — and heightens their respect for parental authority.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Bill & Bill’s Excellent Road Trip – Bill Hemmer Talks to AG Bill Barr


Attorney General Bill Barr agreed to speak with Fox News host Bill Hemmer during a trip to meet with El Salvador officials to support their efforts in dealing with Justice issues of concern to both the US and El Salvador (e.g., MS-13 gang). According to Hemmer, it was Bill Barr’s first interview in nearly 20 years.

Fox aired the approximately 20-minute interview in small increments interspersed throughout their May 17 “America’s Newsroom” morning broadcast, but I found this uninterrupted audio version.

I don’t agree with Chris Wallace’s view that AG Barr is “protecting this president and advocating his point of view”. Clearly, Barr thinks Donald Trump has reason to object to his presidency having been impeded while an alleged conspiracy that never occurred was investigated in minute detail. He does explain to some degree, but explaining is not at all the same as advocating. In contrast to Wallace, Chuck Ross briefly reported opinion-free on the interview and surrounding facts/events (which is why I often read Mr. Ross).

What stuck with me most about the interview is that while all things Trump have been investigated extensively, Barr said he learned upon taking office that the government’s activities have never been and that some of the answers he’s been given are insufficient. The closest thing to an investigation of the government’s activities surrounding the Trump Campaign/Presidency so far is DOJ IG Horowitz’ FISA review. Robert Mueller only investigated Trump/Russia.

Let that sink in a bit: two and a half years and the government had never investigated why DOJ (and intelligence from the sounds of it) officials broke protocols left, right, and center to spy on an opposing political party.

Of the many impressions and observations I have of Bill Barr, the strongest is that the underlying factor that drives his every word and act can be summed up in the phrase “rule of law”. He understands that while Washington DC is nothing if not politics 24/7, the rule of law at a minimum requires a barrier between law and politics. It’s the very real prospect that barrier may have been trampled in pursuit of Trump that had him willing to take a second run at Attorney General.

UPDATE: Adding video of majority of Barr’s first interview (approximately 15 minutes of it)

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post


Along with a few tears, for my friends at Ricochet. Most of you know about my hearing, balance and vision problems, which make it extremely difficult for me to function normally. I can no longer drive my beloved T-Bird, I really get ticked off when I bend over to pick up something I’ve dropped and […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Never Argue with Sophia!


She’s stubborn as all get out. When she makes a plan, she sticks with it and won’t let anyone interfere. She argues with us incessantly, and when we go against her wishes, she reluctantly goes along, but only after several protests. She always wants to go back to her original plan. And she is so polite, too; it’s very annoying to see that nothing ruffles her. But most of the time we defer to her: after all, what do a couple of old geezers know about these things?!

So who is Sophia? She is our GPS system. Not the name we gave our GPS system, she is the system. We have Android Auto in our car, and sometimes I’d like to throttle Google.

Sophia seems to have taken on a life of her own. And she knows how to take her revenge. One time she suggested we avoid a major traffic jam by taking a less trafficked route. Less-trafficked is right! We wondered, if the car broke down, would we find our way out of the wheat fields or have to fight off the steers! In fact, I wondered if somehow, we’d gotten off track and ended up in Kansas. And course there were no cell towers, so we couldn’t re-route or call anyone. Eventually we wandered into civilization and found a gas station. Sophia was probably smirking at us by that time. But we had the upper hand once cell towers showed up.

Then there was the time we wanted to re-route to a destination. After a couple of directions from Sophia, we realized after two U-turns that we were essentially going in a big circle. Not nice, Sophia. We were once again going to show her who was in charge and took a parallel route. We showed her!

But sometimes Sophia is actually right. She wanted us to take one route to a Ricochet meet-up and we defied—yes, defied her! We went on a more familiar route. Of course, it was longer and less convenient (we found out from our friends at the meet-up).

Please don’t tell her what I’ve said.

She might take it personally.

And we’ll end up in China.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Susan In The Sky with Spring Flowers


Madison Wisconsin, Spring 1975

She was house sitting, that week, as memory serves. The teacher’s home had an adobe-style wall fencing in a plethora of dogwoods and cherry, plum and almond with an occasional Japanese maple thrown in. There were hydrangeas and rhubarb, the stalks of irises, and some jonquils so newly yellow peeking out from behind some type of vegetation.

“I love it here, don’t you?” she asked. We, two young women, sat swinging on the porch couch, sipping our coffee and enjoying our lives.

The sky above us yawned so that the silvery grey clouds revealed a slumbering sun. From the way things felt around us, it was hard to know if it would be sunny or rainy, chilly or warm. Being Wisconsin, it could be all of those things, in just ten or twelve hours!

“We could bike over to the lumber yard, if you want.” She could tell I was battling simmering emotions. Friends always know these things.

“Are you sure Dar hasn’t forgotten?” I asked, feeling nervous. The deal was, today was crib day. We would make the baby’s crib, from wood that would be carved into beads, and one wooden slat on the bottom to be covered with a soft mattress that would be where the baby would lie. When it was finished, it would hang on ropes hung from the ceiling of the nursery. It was designed so it would be something that could swing back and forth rocking the little one to sleep.

“Dar rarely forgets anything. Are you doing okay?” She glanced at my belly, barely a small bump beneath the peasant blouse. In two weeks I would announce to my women’s writing group that I would be spending the summer taking care of my new baby, and they would all be aghast. Several women would speak up: “But you have to be pregnant to have a baby this summer!” That is how little my stomach revealed.

I climbed down the stairs to the yard and picked a small bouquet of violets and tulips.

“Sue, I think you’ve got a great idea about biking to the lumber place. Right now I have so much energy I could explode.”

“Okay dokey. It has been a while since we biked anywhere.” She went off to the side of the house, and then she was pushing two bikes over to the steps in front of the porch.

I ambled down and took one of the two from her.”I’m not sure what has gotten into you,” she said softly.

I examined her face, so kind so considerate. She looked perplexed. “It’s nothing really, except that my whole life I have been a procrastinator. And now in two months, I have to go through with something no matter what.”

“What got you in this mood?”

“You’ll think I’m nuts. It was the bowling balls last night. Watching you and Dar bowling, and I kept thinking…”

“That a baby’s head was not much smaller,” she finished my statement. The grin on her face could have split that face apart.

“It really isn’t, Sue.”

“I know. I know. I mean, it’s like Yikes, right?” Hearing her being in agreement, the tension inside me broke clean away, and we both began laughing – happy full throttled laughs. We mounted the bikes and rode off, a soft rain starting to fall.

At the lumber yard, Dar was in his element. He had obviously explained his project to the yard’s manager. The two men waved us over to where the lumber was stacked in a rain-free spot on the ground. There was a glorious deep golden mahogany teak for the beads. There was one cedar slab for the crib bottom. And the rope was there too.

“You the mom to be?” queried the man in the navy blue work outfit, with “Ray” inscribed as his monogram.

“I am, but the brains behind the crib is Sue.” I motioned to my friend, who was busy jabbering away at Dar about our bike ride over. “She is studying children’s playground projects. At UW School of Art and Architecture.”

“My daughter goes there. To UW, the nursing school end of things.”

He began whistling as Dar and he carried things out to the truck.

“You know something,” said Sue, as we followed the men out. “Today is gonna be a day we always remember. The day we built the crib.”

As we joined the men at the truck, it began to rain harder. Dar pointed at a store a half block up the street. “None of us have rain duds, what ya say if we go see if the thrift ship has some?”

Without knowing why we all began to run. A moment after we took flight, there was a crack of thunder and then lightning, and the rain came down in buckets. By the time we reached the thrift shop, we were sopping wet. And the three of us laughing, deep belly laughs that filled the store.

As we sauntered around the store, we found everything perfectly laid out for our purposes. Dar and I both selected rain gear that would have made a New England fisherman green with envy, while Sue had found a raincoat-like ensemble in soft and shimmery pink.

After we made the purchases, Sue edged her small frame into Dar’s. “There is one more thing we have to do, Dar.”

“I think I know what you mean. It is Carol’s surprise from you, for her and Jim and the baby. Right?”

She beamed a smile of pure sunshine at him. “Yep, the very same.”

We all squeezed into the front seat of his 1973 aqua GMC truck. Dar carefully angled it down the streets back to my house. But at the last moment, he veered off Langdon to Gilman. There on a shady tree-edged bit of property sat an old but sturdy farmhouse.

Lilacs bloomed from every possible nook and cranny. It had a screened in porch, and something about it tugged at my heart.

“So guess what? Yesterday I put a down payment on this place,” said Sue. “We have a full year’s lease, first and last month already paid, and we move in the first week in July. Little Baby Dude or Baby Madam will be two weeks old by then.”

My face must have carried a worried expression. “Now don’t go looking at me like that. There is plenty of room for you and me and the baby. You married love birds will have the master bedroom. And there’s a whole room to serve as Jim’s music studio, as soon as the Army lets leave of him and he is back here with you.”

I couldn’t make my voice go above a whisper. “What if he never gets back?” The Army had somehow managed to put his paperwork into a dark hole faster than that of all the dark holes of Calcutta. And they kept saying he would be wise to stay in the service.

Something he didn’t want anymore, and I couldn’t fathom either of us agreeing to.

“Don’t worry so much. He’ll be back.” Anyone looking over us from the outside would see why the friendship worked. She was the sunny optimist, me the pessimist. Even our bike rides around Madison were like that. She zoomed ahead, whimsical and daring, while I followed slowly behind. Occasionally I served as a “pick” as though I played basketball on bike: totally needing to intervene and stop some random car from mowing her down.

“It’s made for us, don’t you think? The old tenants are moving out later this month. We can go in and have a look at it then.”

“Susan, I don’t know what to say.”

“Tell me you like it?”

I couldn’t find a single word to say. I leaned in and hugged her, and she held me. Then without knowing how it happened, the moment was pressed into my memory, to stay there solid like a huge and glorious tree. And happy/sad this memory was, like a vista so beautiful that it seems both that you could reach out forever and touch it always, or that it could never have happened.

Next thing I knew it was June and Jim was clear and free of his duty to the US Army. We were so happy to be together all the time. Before I knew it, I had the baby. We were staying on a farm not far from LaCrosse Wisconsin.

And Sue and Dar had visited us the weekend before the baby was born. They rode their bikes there one Friday, the 6th of June, and spent a happy few days visiting all the many people that were staying on this farm. On Tuesday the 10th, they took off. Their ultimate destination was Minneapolis, where they had a few weeks of visiting friends and museums, and attending concerts all planned out.

On Saturday the 14th, my labor ended up taking about three hours. Nature handled everything perfectly. A small bud-like face attached to the imp-like baby body were placed in my arms. And Jim and I realized our lives had been more blessed than we could believe possible.

Some three weeks later, two friends from Madison drove out to visit the three of us. They were eager to see the little baby boy, Gabe Lincoln.

But there was something much sadder behind their reason for coming. The very day that Susan and Dar left the farm, a drunk driver wended his way down the highway they were on. He hit both of the bikers. Dar was only stunned by the blow, but Sue never knew what happened.

When they told me that I had lost my friend, the dreams made sense. Three times I had dreamed that Sue was in this deep and windy fog. “Where are you?” I kept asking. “I don’t know,” she replied, as mystified as I was. “But I had to have you come and be with me, if only for a short few moments. I want you to know we will see each other again. Don’t be sad. We will see each other soon. I promise.”

That was many years ago. But I know that we will.


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Seen today: mothers on a parenting page are panicking about heartbeat bills and saying, “If this passes in my state, I’m going to offer birth control to my teenage daughter.” So you want to give your daughter birth control, but only if you think she might get pregnant and not be able to get rid […]

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The lovely and talented Mrs. Mongo loves the show Naked and Afraid. She is always telling me to stop whatever I’m doing and watch an episode with her. Phooey. I can stand watching only a little bit of the show before I stomp off, ranting. Even when one of my best friends is on the […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. I Just Read ‘The Great Good Thing’


When Ricochet member @andrewklavan posted about his new book called The Great Good Thing – A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ, I was curious. I was curious why he took a little flack from a few Jewish members of Ricochet when he posted about his new book, who didn’t feel he gave Judaism a fair shake. But that’s not why I ordered the book. As a Christian, I was born into the faith, but came to a more personal faith backward and sideways, sometimes kicking and screaming. I was curious to hear about another person’s journey of faith – was it worse than mine?

So I ordered it and threw it up on my bookshelf for another day. Published in 2016, I am three years late in picking it up, but not really. I read it at the perfect time. There are times in a person’s life when a book like this is profound and quite frankly, more appreciated, than other times. The recent deaths of people I love and thoughts about mortality and immortality flowing through my mind, rapidly changing world events, including challenges to people of faith, especially Christians and Jews, with the dramatic rise in antisemitism, religious persecution across the world, and the upcoming peace talks in Israel made it the right time.

This book is a story of a soul – we’re all born with one, and Andrew Klavan, an atheist at one time, then an agnostic, could not shake this truth. His awareness seemed to start at around eight years old. Then there was the abusive father, along with the distant mother. In the midst of great suffering, somehow his spirit was never extinguished. I am amazed at how some people can put in words what cannot be put in words. It’s like he turned himself inside out. Andrew Klavan found the words to hold his heart and soul out to the world, that others might find comfort. This book teaches how fragile children are, how innocent, and how parents especially, form their mental and emotional health and well-being.

I could not put it down. An excerpt:

The human heart is so steeped in self-deception that it can easily outrun our own lies. It can even use meticulous honesty as a form of dishonesty, a way of saying to God, “Look how honest I am “. So I let it go – I let it all go. I swung wide the gates to the sorry junkyard of my soul and let God have a good look at the whole rubble-strewn wreck of it.


An Ultimate Moral Good cannot just be an idea. It must be, in effect, a personality with consciousness and free will. Happy and sad events, from birth to death, just happen, and we ascribe moral qualities to them as they suit us or don’t. We have to choose. Either there is no God and no morality whatsoever, or there is morality and God is real. I couldn’t quite bring myself to accept the existence of God. But I knew the road to hell when I saw it and I chose to go home by another way.

What does love have to do with his experience, marriage, seeing a birth, being on death’s door, suffering mental anguish beyond description, addiction, anger, forgiveness, miracles, poverty, success, rejection, fear, depression and ultimately peace, have to do with it? Read the book. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, how old, what faith or none, how successful or barely making it – this book has something for wherever you find yourself in life. It will give you hope if nothing else. There is no other reason to write it. I found it to be a gift. It’s a story of the human spirit – and in it, you will discover a better understanding of yourself and your place in this world.

Thank you, Mr. Klavan, for sharing your amazing story.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Hot Take: Electoral Shock and Awe in Australia


G’day from your friendly neighborhood Yank Down Under.

Australia went to the polls yesterday, and the result has the pundits in shock this morning. A Labor Party victory was widely expected after polls had indicated for well over a year that the country had soured on the right-leaning Liberal Party (yes, we’re talking classical liberalism Down Under) coalition. Conventional wisdom seemed to have coalesced around the idea that this was a change election. Not so much, it turned out.

Incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison was also thought to be burdened by the collective disgust of voters tired of the constant drama of leadership “spills” which had produced six different prime ministers since 2007, and most recently last August when Morrison emerged from the Liberal tussle that saw previous PM Malcolm Turnbull pushed aside by a party nervous about this very election. While it is true most Australians are embarrassed about these palace coups, it is also true that once the deed was done, “ScoMo” pulled out the upset.

So here’s what the shocked pundits are saying this morning: Labor went too hard after “change”, including climate change, which was a big issue for them. Liberals were able to cast Labor’s agenda into a threat to jobs and pocketbooks. While urban Australians are quite progressive on many social and environmental issues (they overwhelming chose to allow same-sex marriage in a 2017 national referendum, for example), Australia’s economy has been very much dependent on the export of raw materials. They are therefore put in the strange situation of feeling queasy about using their own fossil fuels and minerals, but accepting that they need to keep digging big mines and shipping coal and iron ore off to China.

So the bottom line is that Australia will continue to have a center-right government led by an Evangelical conservative, and the pundits and pollsters will spend the next three years trying to figure out how they missed it.

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I signed up for a service called Book Bub to alert me to all the books for sale on Kindle. These are often $1.99, but many of these bargains are high quality work, worth your time. Sales are short-term, but often if a book has been for sale, it will be featured at that price […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Bob Is in Thrall to a Treat-Dispensing Device Called Dogness


There may be a lesson in human behavior from the addiction of Bob the dog to a device called Dogness. Or maybe not. Actually, I’m not sure I’ll find a moral before I end this post. Wish me luck.

Marie and I will be taking a cruise around the Mediterranean in a couple of months, and I wanted to give Bob some comfort while we’re gone. He’s a terribly needy dog with a severe case of separation anxiety. The lady across the street is going to come to the house twice a day to look to Bob while we’re gone, but I know Bob will still miss us. To ease his distress, then, I bought Dogness, the treat-dispensing device you see to your right.

Even aboard our ship sailing on the Mediterranean, I can talk to Bob through a speaker on the device (“Hi Bob! Good dog”), dispense a treat or two, and take a photo or video.

Unfortunately, Bob is now in thrall to Dogness, as you can see by the submissive look on his face in the photo below. When our robot masters take over, it looks like our pets will easily fall into line like the rest of us. It won’t be so bad. In fact, I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that the robots are at this moment building Dogness-like devices for humanity that will spit out little cupcakes, kale, vitamins, and Hershey kisses — a perfectly balanced diet that will keep our skin clear, our will compliant, and heal our broken hearts. It’s going to be nice.

There may be other lessons that flow from Bob’s behavior, but I can’t think of any more. Besides, the robot stuff was just a lame excuse to post some pics of Bob the dog. You know me. I can’t be trusted.

Here’s Bob waiting for Dogness to dispense his next treat.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘You Are Wrong and Your God Is Wrong.’


“You are wrong and your God is wrong.” A statement that a committed Catholic, Christian, or Jew might hear in China, North Korea, or in any number of countries, but not in Canada, and not from a judge.

Mary Wagner may be known in Canada, and in the United States among pro-life advocates, but she is well known in Poland. Poland is under pressure from the EU to liberalize their abortion laws. Poland is also under pressure to repeal a mandatory retirement age for judges, a law that was written to remove judges that were hearing cases during the Soviet occupation of Poland. As one writer put it, Poland was not impressed with the old totalitarians, and they are not impressed with the new totalitarians. Mary Wagner has been honored with a postage stamp in Poland.

“Speaking of Poland,” I said. “Why is there such an affinity between Mary and Poland? Here in Canada, very few people have heard of her, and in Poland a million people came out to see her. I mean, she’s not even Polish. That’s just incredible.”

“The Poles still have the [fullness of the Catholic] faith, so they understand her more than Canadians,” said Jack. “The faith is deeper in them. The Polish Church was persecuted, that’s why. The Polish episcopate is very strong. The Canadians are weak.”

Canadians are not the only weak ones in Western Christianity. Judeo-Christian believers are under siege and there are those that wish to open the gates in a misplaced belief that one can reason with the relentless demands of popular culture warriors.

Mary Wagner has been in and out of jail in Canada because she is considered a dangerous woman. One cannot be too careful when dealing with a woman who hands a woman a red or white rose inside an abortion clinic and asks them to reconsider their decision to abort their child.

“Why do you give pregnant women white roses?” I remembered to ask.

“White or red roses,” Mary corrected. She explained that in 2012 she had spoken to a man named John, the survivor of a chemical abortion, who had gone to an abortion clinic on his birthday to give roses to the clinic staff on their way to work and tell them his story. Mary was very moved by that and thought it was a beautiful and non-threatening thing to do.

You can read the entire essay from Catholic World Report here.

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What are we to make of these competing stories? The First Story – Republican Congressman Amish calls for Trump to be Impeached  – played up by the media; from Politico: “Michigan Rep. Justin Amash became the first Republican lawmaker to declare that President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses and that Attorney General William Barr “deliberately […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Cultural Incompetence


It’s easy to poke fun at foreigners or immigrants when they fail to fully grasp local customs and idioms. But sometimes we fail even at our own customs. That’s when the real razzing begins.

Crawfish are not exotic here on the edge of bayou country. I was born in Louisiana and have lived nearly my entire life somewhere along the I-10 corridor of Cajun cooking between Houston and Pensacola. So you’d think I could peel a mudbug in nothing flat.

But the honest truth is I’m slower than a Democrat with his own money when separating meat and shell. I’m slow at many things, but this one hurts my pride as a Gulf Coast Southerner.

This is not a mouth made for spicy foods either. Tabasco, cayenne, Slap Ya Mama — it makes no difference. I have an Irish tongue made for eating dirt. Black pepper is sufficient.

Do you similarly shame your family by failing to properly represent your blood, your hometown, or some other heritage while participating in sacred rituals of frivolity? Do you dance like an Englishman? Do you swing a bat like a soccer player? Are you a poor excuse for a Californian, a bad Italian, an embarrassment to Steelers fans, or an impostor of another kind?

Why not tell us so we can make fun of you too?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Socialists, Check Your Incentives


Socialism is the Democratic Party’s hot “new” direction, though there seems to be some disagreement about just what “socialism” means. Whether it’s “only” a vastly expanded welfare state tacked onto a capitalist economic engine or whether the government takes ownership of the economy’s “commanding heights” is yet to be determined. Either way, the vision entails government redistribution of wealth to ensure that it is more equitably allotted.

But will redistribution really result in more equality? It might, in the sense that the richer will likely be made poorer, but more redistribution will certainly result in more corruption. The issue is one of incentives. What incentives do the following economic actors have?

  1. Producers of goods being confiscated for redistribution
  2. Government personnel doing the confiscation
  3. Government personnel doing the redistribution
  4. People receiving redistributed goods

The owners want to minimize their losses, so their incentives are to:

  1. Hide some or all of what they’ve produced
  2. Produce less
  3. Bribe the people trying to confiscate the fruits of their labor

The people doing the confiscation are just as “human” as anyone else and just as subject to temptation. They want to increase their own material well-being and that of their families and loved ones. So, their incentives are to:

  1. Confiscate more than is required so they can “skim off the top”
  2. Accept bribes from people trying to keep their goods

The people redistributing the goods also want to improve their well-being, so their incentives are to:

  1. Skim off the top
  2. Accept bribes from people who wish to receive confiscated goods
  3. Always have goods available for important people (i.e., people who can affect their well-being), so they tend to…
  4. Skimp on the goods given to “non-important” people

The people receiving goods have incentives to:

  1. Exaggerate their needs
  2. Bribe the people who are redistributing the goods
  3. Obtain whatever goods they can; even things that they don’t need can be sold or exchanged on the black market

This sort of corruption was common in the Soviet Union and in each of its satellite countries. As a result, strange things happened in the USSR. For example:

  • Whenever it started raining, traffic came to a complete stop while people jumped out of their cars and installed their windshield wipers. Wipers were all but impossible to find in stores, so they were commonly stolen. As a result, drivers kept them inside their cars until needed.
  • Burnt-out light bulbs could be purchased on the black market. Buyers would smuggle them into work and switch them out for working light bulbs, which they would then take home.
  • Most people carried string-bags in their pockets and purses. Whenever they saw a line forming at a shop, they got in it. Lines meant that the shop had received a shipment of something. Even if they didn’t need whatever it was being sold, they bought it, as they could later trade it for something they did need. The string bags were used to carry their purchases home.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Friday Food and Drink Post: Currying Favor


File:Indian Curry Chicken.jpgI love a nice bowl of curry! Unfortunately, I get the same reaction to those words in my married-into family as I get when I exclaim “I love a nice piece of fruitcake!” So to indulge myself, it’s necessary to either go out with friends who share similar tastes, or to hook up, one way or another, with my brother and sister in the UK so that we can have a pig-out. (The Worcestershire area has some very nice Balti restaurants (I prefer the beef), and some of the better Indian restaurants, which offer more of a variety, do lovely curries. I’m not a fan of “curry and chips.” Nor of most “fish and chips” as they manifest themselves in the land of my birth, either, but that’s a whole nother story).

In the matter of curry, I’m pretty indifferent to, and catholic in my tastes, as far as the country of origin and heat output. A nice Thai panang (red or green curry), or Kiang Som Kung (sour shrimp curry) is scrumptious. Vindaloo, ramped up to a heat scale of about nine out of ten is delicious, as is Makhani, a mild chicken dish. Stretching the definition a bit, I’ll throw in a nice jambalaya here as well. The common factor with most curries, worldwide is rice, although the varieties change from place to place–plain long-grain, basmati, jasmine and so on. The subtle flavor of the rice enhances the spices in the curry, or in the case of plain rice, provides a nice contrast, and it’s important to use the right one for the right dish. Or so I think.

I’ve just returned from a trip to Pittsburgh to help my friend Andrea, who’s had a bit of a run of bad health lately, plant some flowers in her garden. She and I had a delightful afternoon last week at a local ice-cream parlor, and we followed that up with a visit to Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse, just down the road. It’s a lovely nursery of the plant variety. It’s the only other place, besides luxury fabric stores in Italy, and sundry exotic spinning and knitting supply places all over the world, where I have to worry that the credit card company might be calling Mr. She to “turn me in” for an overabundance of retail therapy before I make it home. But I digress.

Andy and I had a delightful morning and afternoon, starting with delicious fresh bagels, cream cheese and coffee, followed by gardening (her garden is lovely; a haven for birds and wildlife, almost right in the middle of the city of Pittsburgh), and then she took me to lunch.

At a new and nice little curry place on Banksville Road. I asked for Vindaloo, as hot as they could make it. The young woman taking my order wasn’t sure I knew what I was asking for, and was a bit tentative about writing it down.

Andrea assured her I did, and that “hot as you can make it” was exactly what I wanted.

You see, she was with me in Washington DC a few decades ago, on a trip to the Smithsonian to see the Mesopotamian Art treasures from the Louvre which were on display. The trip on which I ate the hottest Vindaloo I think the world has ever seen. And she’s been trying to recreate that experience for me ever since.

Now that’s a real pal.

When you’re in the mood for a good curry, what do you order up?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Transgenderism Is Female Appropriation


Men who become women, transgender if you like, are simply appropriating the female appearance. Without the proper body functions, this is only a surface change. It is a change in the appearance, not in the genetic material that makes a woman female. Some of the hormones may be added or subtracted, sure, however, it does not mean having a truly female experience.

Transgender women never have a first period. They never have the worry about being pregnant; either that they are or that they’re not. They never have the joy of wondering just how normal their anatomical bits are: they are scientifically implanted or grown and adjusted according to spec. They never grow up with the fear of men.

Transgender women get all of the surface portrayal. Like drag queens, they appear female, but unlike drag queens, they do not do it for play or show or entertainment. They somehow genuinely believe that their surface performance of femininity should be respected  and even accepted by other women. Though they have challenges of their own, they do not have the same ones as women.

How is it that feminists and liberals everywhere have not condemned this? It is using the perceived experiences of women and profiting by them. It is using an outside experience of what it is to be a woman and internalizing it as if there were any ability to know the workings of women.

For all the concern about appropriating another’s experience, I do not know how it is that we women have allowed men to even steal the experience of being woman from us.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Morning at the Club


“Smith,” I said, lowering the Wall Street Journal to address the gentleman seated in the easy chair opposite mine. “This headline says, ‘Trump tariffs likely to hit consumers mostly.’ Is that true?”

Smith didn’t look up from the chess problem he had set up on the board in front of him, but only grimaced in a way that meant that I had just asked a stupid question. To my right, another fellow said, “Oh, Camper! I was so absorbed in this book I didn’t even see you come in. Shouldn’t you be home with that beautiful wife of yours at this time of the morning?”

“As soon as the mechanic is finished with my motorcar. I stayed at the club last night because the thing wouldn’t start.”

Adam Smith, still pondering the opening, which appeared to be some variation on the Ruy Lopez, asked “Who wrote it?”

“Greg Ip,” I replied.

To my right, I heard a quiet snort of derision from Ludwig.

“Camper,” Smith continued. “First, I have a question for you. What is the purpose of production?”

I strained mentally to recall the answer. I’d never actually read “The Wealth of Nations,” and I think that Adam knew this little secret; I had only read P.J. O’Rourke’s amusing summary of it. Luck, and the caffeine in George’s as-always well-brewed coffee (George’s or Lelita’s: they run the club’s kitchen as a husband-and-wife team) were with me this morning, and the answer popped out of my mouth. “Consumption,” I said nonchalantly, as if it were a fact that any child would know. Where was he going with this?

“Then who is mostly affected by a change affecting production?”

“I guess mostly the consumer…but then it’s the wrong question, isn’t it? The tariffs don’t mostly affect customers, but rather only affect customers.

“Quite so,” murmered Adam Smith, as he captured a pawn on the King’s side, clearly preferring a wide-open game.

“So, Smith,” I said, “then the question ‘Who is affected by the Trump tariffs?” is answered?”

Adam’s brow suddenly betrayed unease. Something wasn’t right. He finally looked over to von Mises. Ludwig must have sensed this, though he appeared to be once again absorbed in his book. “Right answer, but once again the wrong question, Smith. Camper, please help our Classical friend. What is the right question?”

When the conversation started down this path, it usually ended up having something to do with what Ludwig called the “missing dimension” in Classical Economics. There are only so many dimensions, and so the right question came to me almost immediately.

When will the Trump tariffs affect consumers?” I blurted out.

Von Mises graded this answer with the highest score he ever gave, a barely perceptible smile. “And when our Keynesian-variant friend, Mr. Ip, foolishly answered his doubly confused question with “mostly the consumer, rather than mostly the producer” what economically correct fact was he grasping for?”

“Trumps tariffs will affect the consumer mostly sooner, rather than mostly later,” I uttered, allowing myself the gift of a moment’s self-satisfaction. I had realized that

  • all production is for eventual consumption.
  • production of consumption goods and services takes many steps which must occur in the correct logical order
  • each step requires time.

So, if the production process is interfered with from the outside, whether by a cyclone, or a terrorist attack, or an economic intervention like a tariff, it will hurt the consumer later (/sooner) if the production steps interfered with are farther from (/closer to) delivery of final consumption goods.

Production is like an assembly line, I had mused. If a workstation suffers a damaging attack, whether by nature’s violence or by man’s (government intervention), then if the workstation is at the end of the line, consumers will suffer the loss of output immediately. If the workstation is far back from the end, say five years back at the current speed of the conveyor belt, then the rest of the line will continue to deliver outputs to the consumers for a long time, until the spot on the belt where the capital goods are missing hits the last workstation, and less final output is produced because that workstation lacks the inputs needed.

Each of us returned to his studies, having experienced the pleasuring of learning or teaching or both. The car was fixed very soon after; the Triumph had experienced another electrical failure, and the mechanic had wisely brought the parts with him. I drove home and am dashing this off before returning to the routines of suburban life.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Blooming Millenials


Some blooms are millennia in the making. Take, for example, this desert rose.

“Desert rose” refers to a favorite crystalline structure of gypsum that can be found just lying around in some deserts. The same mineral is ground into dust to make wallboard. Go ahead. Sniff your wall and smell the roses.

Odds are, you have witnessed crystallization in motion. Ice is a true mineral. Its crystals just don’t last very long at room temperature. Whether or not hexagonal snowflakes taste better than ice cubes, I leave to snowbirds.

This is what most people think of when considering crystals, and for good reason. Quartz (silicon and oxygen) is among the most common minerals on Earth. Our word “crystal” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “icy cold” because some proto-scientists theorized quartz to be supercooled ice. It is pretty cool, but not super cool.

The most common mineral is feldspar, which is the main ingredient of clay. Combine it with quartz and you get granite. Yeah, try keeping your countertop clean now that you know it’s crystallized dirt!

Removed from their original setting, these stalagmites seem to stretch upward. But they actually result from dripping water in a cave. The shapes are similar to the mud castles kids make at a beach by letting wet sand drip between their fingers. Mammoth Caverns and Carlsbad Caverns are two of many cave systems in the US that are well worth visiting to see entire rooms of sparkling quartz formed in this way.

Cavern stalactites occasionally form more intricate shapes, as seen in this helictite … which I thought vaguely resembles a dragon.

There are two ways of considering a mineral’s shape: its crystal structure and its crystal habit. The former refers to molecular structure and the latter to its visual appearance as a group of many crystals. Just think what interesting shapes gamers could build with a thousand 12-sided dice.

Pyrite (fool’s gold) is a common and relatively inexpensive mineral that takes a variety of forms. Sometimes it forms in perfect cubes. Other times it takes octahedral or dodecahedral shapes. Perhaps most intriguingly, in fossilization, its tiny crystals form in the patterns of whatever animal or plant it is replacing. Here you can see a lily pad.

Fossils are not typically very colorful. But this petrified wood, set on a decorative chair for visual effect, shows how elaborate fossilization can be.

Okenite crystals form strands so delicate that they look and even feel like white fur. Of course, crystals don’t bend like hairs, so you really shouldn’t pet them unless you have plenty to spare. Kids can get away with it.

Sometimes crystals form within other crystals, like these strands of titanium within quartz. Such specimens are called rutilated quartz.

Not every mineral forms the same way. Some grow by organic excretion, such as the calcium carbonate of shells. Don’t be discouraged if your mineral collection grows at a snail’s pace.

Drop a bunch of scallops to the bottom of a tropical sea and a layer of limestone might form. Pack trillions of little shells together and you get chalk. Then toddlers can spend a billion little lives on a smiley face to be erased a day later. Budding geologists, I’m sure.

How many microscopic organisms had to accumulate to form the White Cliffs of Dover? Never mind the plastic threads you are probably wearing (made from petroleum, which is similarly formed by organic deposits). Even inanimate elements of nature tell histories of life.

This post is part of a Ricochet Group Writing series, Blooming Ideas, for May 2019. My geology photography can be found here along with my other photography

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Fran Lebowitz: Still Upset Fawn Died in Animal House


Liberal media, double standards; same song, different verse. We already knew HBO promotes leftist propaganda, whether it’s Vice, Bill Maher, John Oliver, or ensuring its Game of Thrones middle-earth soap opera is diverse enough for their woke overlords. When Vanity Fair Contributing Editor (liberal author) Fran Lebowitz stated to Maher’s barking seal audience that impeachment was not enough for President Trump she added that he “deserves to be handed over to the Saudis” to face the same treatment as the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally killed and dismembered.

When asked whether she believes Trump should face impeachment, Lebowitz responded: ‘Impeachment would be just the beginning of what he deserves, not even scratching the surface of what he deserves.

She continued: ‘Whenever I think about this and what he really deserves, I think ‘We should turn him over to the Saudis!’ His buddies! The same Saudis who got rid of that reporter [Khashoggi]. Maybe they could do the same for him!’

Imagine anyone on HBO or in any mainstream media saying this about President Obama. What would be the blowback? Would Bill Maher still even have a show? Which members of the White House Press Pool would shout questions about it to the Press Secretary? Would we end up seeing the tan-suited one downplay it at the podium, remaining above the fray of his unhinged critics?

Apparently, the Producers at Real Time were surprised (shocked!) at the social media outrage and during the shows “Overtime” episode informed Fawn’s bereaved sister where she responded: “I regret saying it.” Ok, a good start … that’s almost an apology.

She continued, “I regret everyone misinterpreted it because they misinterpret everything.”

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In this day of hug and release I was fortunate that my turn at policing took place in an earlier era. It’s a strange job. You offer compassion when you can, and there are times that you have to use physical force, pain compliance to stop the nonsense. The Mounted Unit is gone now, a […]

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