In Pursuit of Trivia

My wife's excursions through her college courses this semester remind me only too much of what I had to put up with during my education process. Simply speaking, she is having to do a term paper and it's driving her crazy. I am utterly sympathetic.

I still remember my first term paper, required in English III in high school. Not only did we have to research and write the whole thing, on a southern author (I was assigned "Harnett Kane", which unfortunately for me happened to be my teachers' fave author from way back when Methusaleh was a baby), but we were expected to keep 3x5 index cards on every note we took and every source we documented, AND to build our outline, then our paper from said index cards.

I have a question for any professional writers out there. Have any of you ever had the need to rely upon neatly organized, 3x5 index cards, and an outline, to write a paper? Or do you sit down, research your notes, and begin writing?

To this day, I have never seen the necessity of the additional work of maintaining 3x5 index cards except as a futile exercise in academic woolgathering. Those cards did not help me write a better paper, and although my paper was good (given the understanding of a typical 16-year-old in 1979), my teacher's disapproval of my method of documentation cost me enough on the paper that I made an 80 on the overall effort (a low C back in those days; a B nowadays, which burns me as well). I can see the use of a rough outline to organize one's thoughts, as well as a scribble pad for making notes, but I still have yet to see the need for using 3x5 index cards.

To this day, I still hate English classes. Even though I love literature and love writing. I would estimate that of everything I ever "learned" in an English class, only about 2% was useful information. The rest of it was trivia.

In fact, thinking about it, most of what I learned during my first twelve years of education was trivia. The quadratic formula? Trivia! Whether a particular verb form was a participle, an infinitive, or a gerund? Trivia! The entire process of mitosis? Trivia, all trivia!

What was useful to me from my high school days? Accounting/bookkeeping, for one. Typing, for another (keyboarding nowadays). Because of my typing courses, to this day I can type upward of 70 wpm without error. Being able to read (and enjoying it), although I was doing that back in kindergarten. Free Enterprise/Economics. Courses like that warmed my desire to follow a business curriculum, and because of that, I have an MBA.

It was the electives, not the core subject matter, that influenced me the most. I do appreciate my math courses, and most of my social studies classes (other than US History, which I have later come to really appreciate and wish it had been taught by anyone other than a high school coach more interested in football than in teaching history). English and science, however? Forget it. Hardly anything useful came from those courses, and I haven't missed them in thirty years.

In schools now, educators have come to see the error of their ways of teaching from the 60's and 70's with their "prunes and prisms" methods, but to my mind, have swung the pendulum so far back the other direction as to be basically ineffective as well. Teachers are now expected to provide "infotainment" to their classes, to be entertainers rather than educators, and that discipline must supercede learning no matter what the circumstance. We are told that today's kids "learn differently" from how we used to (poppycock; the human brain has not significantly evolved in thirty years!) and that we must cater to their method of learning. I don't see that it is working very well.

Is there a middle ground, somewhere between trivia and infotainment, where true learning can occur?
  • Current Mood
    pensive pensive


Lela and I have made friends with a raccoon that is regularly appearing on our back patio. Lela has named her Luna since she only comes after dark.

When we first saw Luna, she was clearly foraging for something to eat, and was basically eating oak leaves. I figured she'd want something a bit more substantial other than "oakmeal," so I went into the house and found some club crackers for her. By the time I had returned to the patio, she had scampered off, but Lela left the club crackers out on the edge of the deck. Sure enough, the next morning all the crackers were gone.

A couple of days later, when we went to the grocery, we decided to get some of the bargain-bin cookies for Luna (coconut, by the way). The next time she came by, I went in and got some of the cookies and placed them out in the same place we put the crackers. This time, we saw her at the edge of the patio, scarfing down the goodies. Lela returned later that night after I had retired and put some more cookies for her, but she didn't eat all of them.

Tonight Luna came back up (I think she had eaten the rest from the other night) and was sniffing around. She was VERY close to us; like within two feet. When she retreated, once again I went in for some of the coconut cookies, but this time, instead of placing them all at the edge of the patio deck, I put two near there, two leading into the center of the patio, and one near our feet.

Luna snagged the two near the edge quickly. She then found one of the ones near the middle, after sniffing around for a bit. (I think coons are a bit nearsighted, although they have a great sense of smell). She was looking around again and then, interestingly enough, found the one near us. Hesitatingly, she took the cookie, looking up at us to make sure we weren't going to do anything to her, then genteelly knocked it back about three feet from us before she began to eat. We now know her "comfort zone." Needless to say, both Lela and I were totally charmed by her.

I said gently, "There's still one more, Luna; can you find it?" It had become almost like a game to see if she could find the last cookie. I know she was smelling it, for she was sniffing around and eventually she did find it. After she ate it, she looked around to ascertain that there were no more cookies, then quietly, she took her leave of us. Lela and I went back in after that.

To say we are charmed is an understatement. I also know that Luna is a wild creature and that we are taking all precautions. But to have an interaction with a bit of Nature really brings one closer to the heart of God. I wouldn't trade my experience tonight for anything.
  • Current Mood

Dumb and Dumber

I hate April Fool's Day.

The origins of the "holiday" date back to when Pope Gregory changed the calendar from the Julian to the new Gregorian Calendar we use to this date, subtracting 11 days from the year to bring the calendar back in alignment with the seasons, and moving the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1.

What we are celebrating is the remembrance of a bunch of people too dumb to realize that the calendar had been amended and the date of the new year moved back three months.

Now normally this shouldn't be too much of an issue. If people want to celebrate the base idiocy of human nature, that is their lookout. What gets me is how pervasive and invasive this so-called "holiday" actually is.

It gets to the point that no one can update a news story, no one can make a post, no one can put ANYTHING even remotely unusual up on April Fool's day without getting called out and accused of "punking" someone. (Where the heck did THAT term come from, anyway?) No matter that the post was true--any intelligent discussion about it gets debunked by people screaming "Bulls**t" because the post just HAPPENED to be placed on a date where the majority of the world decides to detach their minds from their brains and act like Jim Carrey and Jeff Davis in "Dumb and Dumber." Except they, at least, were getting paid for it and were laughing their ways to the bank.

I have opted out of this ridiculous celebration of human inanity, and will continue to do so.


The wisteria in town in in full bloom. Incredibly gorgeous!


This is from one of the old homes down on South Grand Street. Wisteria looks like lavender spun-sugar candy and smells almost as sweet. Unfortunately, it's also short-lived, as its blooming season lasts only about 2 weeks. Still, it's just in time for Easter. And a happy Easter to everyone!
  • Current Mood
    cheerful cheerful

Update on the Ghost Cat

Later today I talked with my wife, and she, too, has admitted to seeing the "ghost cat." She also described it as black, and about a foot tall (indicating with her hand). It is a fairly large cat, which is why I think I associate it with being male.

She has seen the cat at the door to her room (immediately adjacent to mine) and that it seemed to dash behind the couch and disappear.

Ghost Cat

So we have a ghost cat at our house.

I've known about the ghost cat for some time. My mother told me she had been seeing it years ago, but was afraid she was just seeing things, until she broached the subject with my now late stepfather, who said, "I've been seeing it, too." Both of them described seeing a dark, either iron-grey or black cat, that would flash around a corner, or encounter them in the hallway, then vanish.

Since my wife and I have moved back to the old homestead, I have seen the cat twice myself now--both times in my room, or right at the doorway of it. I was talking with my wife and mother in the hallway when the cat ran around the corner, past my legs, and into my room. I thought it was Kesoun, my mom's long-haired grey cat, and was doing what I could to find him and shoo him out of the room (before he got in a closet or under the bed and made mischief.)  A little later I realized that Kesoun was on my mom's bed and had been there for some time.

Today, as I was coming out of my room, unmistakeably I saw the cat try to dart into my room, see me, then stop abruptly, turn tail, and start running...and vanish. Very odd. Both Kesoun and Lily (my mom's two cats) were outside, and my wife and I were the only ones in the house at the time.

I know Louisiana is rife with ghosts. Well, we have a cat haunting our house. By all accounts he seems friendly (for some reason I think it's a "he") but a bit skittish, and is fascinated with my room for some reason. If no one else names him anything but the "ghost cat," I may end up calling him "Spook." I wonder who he was in life?

Over and out.