Freelance Educational Consulting

The other morning I got up to write, but I ended up spending 90 minutes helping a friend write instructions to his students for a class project. It was a complicated game he brilliantly called Leviathan. We had been hashing out parts of it over the past few weeks. He wanted a kind of simulation that would help his students think more critically about the writings of Thomas Hobbes (the war of all against all, and all that). The idea we worked out riffed on a popular camp game called “Assassins,” but with lots of complicated rules intended to keep the students engaged and the professor (my friend) out of trouble (rules that involved not making university officials ask questions). I ended up having a lot of fun thinking about this thing off and on over the past few weeks, and then in the 90 minutes it took me to try to make the rules of a pedagogical LARP into something his students could understand easily.  Continue reading “Freelance Educational Consulting”

What the Hell is Happening???

I woke up this morning to find that the Trump administration had fired Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, because she refused to defend his refugee ban in court. Screw the independent judiciary.

Two days ago I learned that the Department of Homeland security was defying court stays of Trump’s executive order banning refugees.

A few days before that I saw a rich white woman talk about the threat of bear attacks in schools, and today she is poised to be approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions later today.

Oh! And did I mention that a white nationalist with no experience in national security is now sitting in on every National Security Council meeting?

The past few days have convinced me more than ever before of two things.

  1. Americans desperately need to revive a liberal arts education. Focusing on education as a means to earn an income has left us bereft of critical thinking skills or the kind of historical knowledge that would help more people to recognize the serious danger Trump poses to democracy.
  2. American Christianity is bankrupt. The fact that many good, church-going people voted for this man, even though they had serious misgivings about him, proves that far too many Christians do not know the difference between being a disciple of Jesus Christ and being a Republican.

I have never felt closer to principled conservatives than I do today. I desperately need them to step up, which they are beginning to do. The conservative public needs their leadership.

I have hope for Bob Corker, my senator from Tennessee, if for no other reason than that he has always struck me as a decent and reasonable human being.

There is political opportunity to be had here as well. The first Republican senator to hold a news conference denouncing Trump’s demagoguery will be the next GOP presidential frontrunner. Assuming we make it that long.

#NoBanNoWall Protest

This afternoon I took two of my three children to the protest outside senator Bob Corker’s office. If you’ve been living under a rock, Trump recently blocked refugees and legal residents from five mostly Muslim countries (where he does not hold business interests) from entering the country.

I honestly did not expect Trump to make such a bigoted move so quickly. Nor did I think he would pull it off as badly as he did. Especially worrisome is that he now appears to be snubbing his nose at a court stay of the president’s executive order. That is a serious danger to democracy, folks.

So I turned out to protest. It is one thing I could do. I know enough history to know that first a dictator gets democratically elected and then he dismantles the checks against his power. Of course, this has been underway for years. Greater power has shifted to the executive branch over the past few decades. No leader should be capable of something like this without congressional approval.

I brought my kids because it is important for them to understand what we value as a family. Today was a history lesson. It was a lesson in the past and an expression of our conviction never to repeat it. It is a cliché, but it is true, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Well, in our family, nothing is not an option.

Vladimir Solovyov on the Tower of Babel

I have been working through Vladimir Solovyov’s Justification of the Good and wanted to get your thoughts on an interesting passage. Solovyov is great at making clever arguments, and this one about the Tower of Babel struck me as particularly clever.  Continue reading “Vladimir Solovyov on the Tower of Babel”

What’s Your Collaborative Research Platform?

The hardest part about being an academic ronin is the lack of conversation. People with traditional academic jobs end up talking to friends and colleagues in the hall or at the bar. It is an important stimulant for creative thinking and for providing one with resources one might not otherwise have known about.

“Have you read this article…?”

“There’s this great book by…”

“Let me send you a link to…”

You discuss what you are reading and thinking about, and you get suggestions on what to read and (thusly) think about.  Continue reading “What’s Your Collaborative Research Platform?”

Thoughts on Solovyov and the Social Trinity

This morning I was reading Vladimir Solovyov’s The Justification of the Good where he talks about pity being the foundation of altruism. He criticizes Shopenhauer, who said that pity arises out of an identification of the self with the other; the boundary between two separate things gets blurred. Solovyov criticizes this idea on the basis that there are not two purely separate things to begin with. Were that the case, and people were constantly confusing themselves with others, then not only would children eat while their mothers starved, but it is just as true that mothers could grow fat while their children starved. People would be in a constant state of confusion. That is manifestly not the case.  Continue reading “Thoughts on Solovyov and the Social Trinity”

Germany Day 1.0


I am sitting in my inlaws’ living room, waiting for my old iPad to restart, typing a blog post on my phone. I leave for Germany soon. My mom is picking me up in a couple of hours. We are going to drive with her coach to Chicago, and from there fly to Germany with a stop over in Ireland. We are going to stay a couple days in Berlin and then head up to Stralsund for the competition.

I am not sure of the competition schedule after that. I tend not to plan my itinerary when I travel. My mom has Berlin all planned out. I will be watching my mom compete, and apart from that I have no idea what I am doing. The adventure for me is in not having a plan, but when I arrive, looking for something non-touristy to do. Like last time I was in New York, I walked, looking for a diner, and wound up at the one that inspired Seinfeld and the song, “Tom’s Diner.” I enjoyed eavesdropping on the conversation between the guys behind the counter and a regular they called, “Professor.” I think he was from Columbia, doing something with political science, but the guys behind the counter seemed to think he was a meteorologist because they asked him if they were supposed to get a lot of snow this winter. It was charming.

So that is some of what I expect will happen, but I am really not sure. I have no plan. I do have my passport and will be updating my blog as I travel. Stay tuned.