Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rotary Invocation - December 9 2014

A Christmas Wish

Why do we need the Holidays to be in the holiday spirit?  Why do we need the Season to wish each other season’s greetings?

Shouldn’t we be well-wishing and good-spirited all year?

The good work of Gleaners and the Salvation Army are especially important at Christmastime.  But aren’t people hungry every day?  Don’t people need a place to stay, freedom from fear and protection from abuse during the other eleven months a year?  Don’t children want to believe in Santa every day?

Our attention is claimed by so many priorities, so often, by so many urgent causes – some near and dear, some merely annoying interruptions.  The great malady of our day is attention deficit disorder.   We have so much to pay attention to that we can’t pay attention to anything.

But paying attention is exactly what we need to do.  Whether you are rich or poor, a captain of industry or looking for a job, you have exactly the same attention to pay as the person sitting next to you and the same as everyone else on the planet.

And Christmas is the time when, for a little while, for a part of the world at least, our tradition is to pay a little more attention to each other – to loved ones, family and friends, but also to those who, for the rest of the year, we may not pay any attention to at all.

Practice paying attention this holiday – but don’t stop.   You’ll get better at it if you try!  Use the rest of Winter to practice.  By Spring you ought to be pretty good!  Keep at it through the Summer and Fall and before long you may find that you’ve been paying attention to other people for a whole year!

And when the thought of how to account for all that attention you’ve been paying occurs to you, I hope you find that you have even more to pay.  Like a checking account that grows larger the more you use it.

We all need to pay more attention to other people in this world.  I believe it is the source of goodness and charity and change for the better.  And it doesn’t need to just happen during the holidays.  The people you pay attention to will value it any day, in any season.

That is the true spirit of Christmas and my Holiday wish for us all.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Rotary Invocation - October 2014

Rotary Invocation October 7, 2014
Kim Brand & Beth Ann Brand

Last week, the Earth passed through an imaginary point in space that marks the beginning of a new season: Autumn.  Opposite of Spring – the days get shorter quickly now.  The weather becomes less agreeable.  Even the sun wants to wake up later and rises ever lower in the sky at mid-day.  The more intelligent animals leave if they can.  Winter is surely not far away.

If we didn’t have faith that this was just another in Earth’s eon’s old cycles around the sun it would be worrisome.  But in fact, it is a reminder of life’s great cycle and our place in it.

Poets and writers wax sentimental about the coming cold and the change of seasons.  The change brings vibrant colors and radiant skies and crispness in the air.  The cooler temps signal the start of harvest season.  Soon we’ll have Halloween and Thanksgiving.

But for me Autumn is part of a great rebalancing – perhaps the most thoughtful change of season.  Spring heralds new life.  Summer fills us with confidence that life goes on.  Winter convinces us it won’t.  Autumn is a reminder that balance is what the seasons, and our own lives are all about.  Autumn is like humility to Summer’s pride and Spring’s enthusiasm.

Take a moment today to appreciate the blessings of the harvest time and think about your place in the great cycle of seasons – and life.  There will be more time to be close to the ones we love as we huddle nearer against the cold winds of the approaching winter.   With shorter days and longer nights the glow of home fires and the company of family can sustain our souls in place of the sun.

The point of a college education

I stumbled upon a recorded lecture by Steven Pinker at the Free Library of Philadelphia on the topic of writing.  In it, he explains (during the Q&A @ 55:00) the point of a college education.  I heartily agree.
I think we can be more specific. It seems to me that educated people should know something about the 13-billion-year prehistory of our species and the basic laws governing the physical and living world, including our bodies and brains. They should grasp the timeline of human history from the dawn of agriculture to the present. They should be exposed to the diversity of human cultures, and the major systems of belief and value with which they have made sense of their lives. They should know about the formative events in human history, including the blunders we can hope not to repeat. They should understand the principles behind democratic governance and the rule of law. They should know how to appreciate works of fiction and art as sources of aesthetic pleasure and as impetuses to reflect on the human condition. 
On top of this knowledge, a liberal education should make certain habits of rationality second nature. Educated people should be able to express complex ideas in clear writing and speech. They should appreciate that objective knowledge is a precious commodity, and know how to distinguish vetted fact from superstition, rumor, and unexamined conventional wisdom. They should know how to reason logically and statistically, avoiding the fallacies and biases to which the untutored human mind is vulnerable. They should think causally rather than magically, and know what it takes to distinguish causation from correlation and coincidence. They should be acutely aware of human fallibility, most notably their own, and appreciate that people who disagree with them are not stupid or evil. Accordingly, they should appreciate the value of trying to change minds by persuasion rather than intimidation or demagoguery.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Optimist's Creed

My dad, Leonard R Brand, was a lifelong Optimist (member & believer.)  After he died, I was responsible for clearing out his office at the family printing company: Brand Printing Co, Inc.

On the wall near his desk was the plaque he had received as an award from the Northside Optimist Club in Indianapolis where he had been President.

On May 20, 2014 I presented the Optimist's Creed as the invocation for our Indianapolis Rotary Club.

Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Avon HS Lip Dub

A totally impressive, inspiring, uplifting video by a bunch of HS kids who just rock it!  America Strong!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Justifying what you think

For a moment, you can fall into the trap of interpreting this blog title in a sort of chronological sequence.  First comes the justification - the theory, evidence, reason for thinking a particular way; then comes the thought part.  Who would be so foolish to start with the thought and end up with the justification.  But I think that is exactly what people do.

I've caught myself.  An idea pops into my head.  Usually uninvited, unanticipated and without warning.  I believe that is the clearest evidence of my adult ADHD.  I can't stop them.

But later, as I mull over the idea, I seem to find all kinds of exciting, self-affirming, confidence inspiring justifications for it.  Recently, it finally dawned on my just how backward that is.

Rationally, we should all have ideas that are based in truth, or at least facts.  But it seems to me that more often than not we have an idea pop into our head and we try as hard as we can to justify it.  Exactly backwards, but I think that protects our self image somehow.  How smart could I claim to be if bad ideas popped into my head.  I'm brilliant!  I must have only good ideas!

Of course, that's stupid.  Random ideas are probably randomly good and bad.  So I need to recognize that abandoning many of them is necessary if I'm not going to waste my time attempting to resuscitate ideas that should have been dead on arrival.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

STEM: Necessary but insufficient

I love Sir Ken Robinson's approach to education.  In this talk titled: How To Change Education from the Ground Up he indicates that STEM is a necessary but insufficient component in the bundle of knowledge we desire to pass along to our children.

His epic TED Talk: How Schools Kill Creativity has been viewed over 25M times!  Right up there with Lady Gaga!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

L. S. Starrett - Mechanical Entrepreneur

I fancy myself a Mechanical Engineer + Entrepreneur.  This country has been blessed with many MEEs since our founding.  Any list would leave many out.  But just so you know the type of person I'm talking about here are a few: Deere, Whitney, McCormick, Singer, Otis, and so many more.  Their names have become household words and labels for the machines they invented that changed the world.

Yesterday I acquainted myself with another MEE: Laroy Starrett - inventor of measuring devices, without which, the manufacture and quality control of nearly any industrial product would not be possible.

The Starrett website is a treasure trove of information about precision measuring and offers many free resources...several of which (like the Metric and Decimal Equivalent Cards and Tools and Rules Booklets) I hope to employ at our upcoming MechanicsCamp hosted on March 1, 2014 at ConnerPrairie Interactive History Park.

My wife is amazed that I could be so fascinated with rulers and conversion charts and calipers and micrometers.  I guess it comes down to my desire to know things - and measuring things is just a part of that.  With today's measuring tools you can (and some people to) make a career out of it.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of Laroy Starrett's story is how he had to overcome so many struggles to establish his tools and his company as the leading innovator in that space.  Doubt, disloyalty, financial trouble and hard times were just as much a part of his story and his accomplishments.

Two items from Bulletin 1216: The Starrett Story are most notable.  The first is a quote attributed to: Thomas Caryle (1795-1881)

“Man is a tool-using animal. Weak in
himself and of small stature, he stands
on a basis of some half square foot,
has to straddleout his legs lest the
very winds supplant him. Neverless,
he can use tools, devise tools; with
these the granite mountain melts into
light dust before him; seas are his
smooth highway, wind and fire his
unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you
find him without tools. Without tools he
is nothing, with tools he is all.”

The second is a quote from Starrett himself that defines his purpose as an entrepreneur:

“I have believed that I could do no greater good than help create a
business that would give people employment 
and a chance to earn an honest living.”