Critical Thinking, Scholarship, and Knowing Your Source

If you want credibility, you must earn it. What is a reputable, authoritative source? What are the characteristics of a source which can be believed as accurate?

An authoritative source is strong on multiple fronts, none of them being the opinion or statement of a single entity.

Vet your sources. “Vetting” means finding its source of authority.

If a source comes from an objective panel of proven, established experts without bias, it is authoritative.

If it comes from direct evaluation by objective professionals without bias, it is authoritative.

If it comes from stringent objective international evaluation without bias, it is credible.

See the key factor, here?

If propaganda comes from a SUBJECTIVE, BIASED source, plain and simple, you should question every statement that source makes, and compare it to every OTHER relevant source you can find. It is important to branch out. OBJECTIVITY is the basis of all science.

If it comes from anyone with something to gain from your support, keep looking; it is not authoritative. Loud, maybe. Fancy, why not. It may be insistent about itself and its power and its rightness and correctness and invincibility, but does that make it credible? Keep looking, because none of those traits translate to credibility. If they did, Trump saying he won the election would make it so.

Think about it.

Do not allow yourself to be manipulated.

Out of the heart, the mouth speaks

I have, saved as “private” posts, a selection of updates written for this journal which I’ll never publish. It hurts to keep some of them to myself — I’ve always turned to writing as a means of organizing my thoughts, my plans and motivations and experiences, and sometimes those thoughts and experiences are negative. Sometimes, like pretty much all of us, I just want to tear somebody a new one, to teach them a lesson. Not doing so is never easy; I tend to do it anyway, sometimes wasting a lot of time and energy putting hostility to words… then end up not even putting it up here, where just about anyone could stumble over it.

Yeah, make no mistake — not doing it rankles me. I can spend considerable time (and creativity) ripping into someone for something. It takes a lot to get me really angry, actually. This hasn’t always been the case, but it is now. Once it’s done, though, it isn’t pretty and doesn’t pass easily.

Committing thoughts and emotions to words is something I never regret, though I’ve regretted publishing in anger on more than one occasion. Words have superpowers, no doubt about it, and a few carelessly or viciously thrown may be remembered for decades, affecting relationships and opportunities for years and years.

Case in point: When I was very young, a relative to whom I was not close made a crack that to this day, some 40 years later, I still associate with this person every time someone mentions their name. We were both little kids when it happened, and as a mature adult, I do understand that kids can be assholes.

The crack was about my grandmother, who could never turn away a stray. She took them into her home, making room and accommodations for them, finding a way to provide for them and keep them apart where necessary, to keep them safe. She just loved animals. Her goal was to provide love, and a home. She passed this trait on to all of us–my mother, my sister, and my brother. We all have multiple pets. Grandma’s house was small, but not crowded. She typically had a dog or two and two or three cats. She kept up with them, had a yard for the dogs, and scrimped on nothing for her animals. My grandfather died before I was born, so she lived alone with them, and they were beloved companions to her. This kid’s very sarcastic crack, laced with profanity and delivered in a mocking tone, was about her small home and the fact that it was possible to tell that animals lived there. I was no older than 12 or so. The other child was my own age. We’re still in touch to this day, but that nasty comment has never faded from my mind.

Never mind that he thought nothing about insulting my own grandmother, whom I loved, to my face without hesitation. This person’s insult of one of my grandmother’s (who was not his blood relative, and who was putting him up in her home at the time) most admirable traits left a serious mark against my impression of who this kid was. Who even does something like that? I couldn’t put it to words then, but I certainly recognize my own incipient powers of judgment and betrayal now.

It made me see this kid differently. As a result of fewer than a dozen offhand words, not once have I been able to look at this person in the same way. Instead, I saw the careful veneer or false empathy put on, typically in the company of others; it was shocking to witness this person, whom I’d believed incapable of a harsh or judgmental word about anyone, much less an elder, speak so derisively about my full-blood Native American grandmother. Suddenly I saw an imposter. Insincerity. Posing. A costume hiding the reality of what was to me, then as now, one of the ugliest, most ungenerous types of character trait a person can possess — true and hostile contempt for the compassion for others.

While I’m able to interact with this person now, even well, that’s a black stain I doubt will ever fade. It always informs my view of everything they’ve done since.

And so I’m conscious of the near-immortal, perpetually creative power of words whenever I put my hand to the language. Because do I want to leave a legacy like that in anyone’s mind? There’s enough hostility, anger, hatred, outright rejection of all that is human and decent and good — there’s enough of that garbage everywhere I look. Does the face of the world really need one more sloppy asshole, polluting the place with their nasty personality? Or do I want to create something else, something that generates another kind of impression, hopefully as lasting, hopefully as potent?

The answer should be obvious. In my lifetime, I have witnessed such a precipitous decline in the way people relate to and treat each other, it’s absolutely horrific. What we’ve seen this year in America turns the stomach. People can be so self-interested, so self-enamored, so in love with their own lives and views, so bent on attention and approval, so judgmental. Just wicked.

Human nature is a very real mess in 2020, no two ways about it. But hopefully we can reverse this trend and reclaim some semblance of decency, with the results of the recent election. It helps to see hopeful competence, intelligence, and concern at the masthead of America again. May it be a reminder to everyone, not just in this nation but everywhere, of the real value of real quality. Never forget Trump. He nearly destroyed America. The damage the worst of human nature has to offer wrought the world over cannot be understated. His most horrible, destructive actions weren’t policy, they were words.

I can do better than that.


I love it, even the baby steps, which still advance the final goal. There have been a number of days of baby steps, but they do add up.

3 hours of solid book work so far this morning, furthering the revision. I keep removing clutter. It’s getting lean and quick… which is inspiring all its own. Feels great, but why did I wake up at 4 am? That’s just irritating.

School’s also pretty great. All good students.

Another good day. 🙏🏼

Still writing.

Revision, revision, revision

Spent the morning pruning chapter 1, committing many edits I’ve been thinking about for months but on which I was avoiding pulling the trigger. Now it’s done, and wow, the improvement’s dramatic — everything in the intro moves more quickly. I haven’t actually altered the story itself much, only the presentation, and a few things happen offstage instead of in their own scenes. The result is a leaner, tighter first chapter and a faster pace, bringing us into the main action so much more quickly. It was definitely the right move; though the removed scenes are necessary to the story, their explicit action wasn’t. I needed but never liked them; problem solved.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle the next round of queries.

Classes tonight, and a supply run to the vet soon .

How are you?

New School Year, Yay!

Definitely miss going back to the university, obviously. One of the highlights of the change of seasons is heading back to campus as the days cool down, with the colors just beginning to show. There’ll be none of that this year. What a letdown. It’s the best part of the year.

New semesters are great, though. That “fresh start” feeling — there’s nothing like it… syllabi shiny and new, everything still possible. So there’s that, at least.

Life is good.

Many people are without jobs or income right now; I know how fortunate I am to be working. And not just working, but working from home. And not just working from home, but doing something I love. And not just something I love, but something rewarding.

And not just rewarding to me–teaching language builds communication ability, its benefits extend beyond individuals, beyond teacher and student, beyond the international classroom on the other side of the world to allow us to cross borders of not only nations but minds and mouths and homes and centers of experience, into each others’ cultures and lives; the intimate levels where we’re all the same in all the ways that matter–heart and health and spirit and the knowledge of love… things which need no translation.

That is a worthy thing, and I am grateful.

& then…

A friend of mine lost his mom today after a long illness; I sent him this, because it’s the most comforting thing I can say to that level of loss:

Everyone has his own beliefs about what comes next; mine is that [your mom] is again as she was originally, and will hear you now if you speak to her.

When I was 9 years old my grandmother died. About a year later I began to really miss her; it wasn’t until then that I got a sense of the finality of death. When I understood that I would not see her again I cried and cried. Then wrote her a 14-page letter.

That night I had a vivid, very odd dream: there were no images and there was nothing to see, but suddenly she was with me. I was so excited, I yelled and told her how much I missed her and that I had so much that had happened that I wanted her to know. She put me on her lap — still no images, I never saw her — and told me to tell her everything. I talked and talked and talked, filling her in on the past year.
When I was done she told me she wanted me to know something, too.

She said that she would still have to leave, and that we couldn’t see each other for a while, but that there was a very important reason for the separation, and the distance was necessary, but temporary. She told me if I ever missed her the way that I had that day, that I should write again, exactly as I had. She said, “Just aim and write, exactly like you did, and even God will hear you.”

I woke up so comforted, relieved and peaceful. I was not quite 11 years old. The letter I had written her had disappeared; I never found it again.

Because of this I have never feared death.

My belief is that your mom is safe where she is, whole, at peace, and aware of what you’re going through. ❤🙏🏼


And I do believe this.  That was one of the most defining moments of my childhood, because it shaped my response to every big, significant thing that came after it.  This experience was such huge comfort to a grieving kid… maybe it can give solace to someone else.


The trees!  They are magnificent.  Even here on the edge of the city they’re exploding into brightness so brilliant it practically has auras.  There’s been a spate of rainy days so everything’s more striking, bursts of red and gold against a low gunmetal sky.  The chill in the air finishes it all off perfectly.  Yesterday was Halloween; for the first time the wind really kicked up, and after dark there was a driving rain.  This morning I was thinking we must have lost the leaves but there they still are, hanging on.

Such seasonal perfection surely can’t last.  I do not venture far from the windows; I don’t want to miss a minute of it.  I’ve been spoiled by fall this year:  during our trip up north for my sister’s wedding, the colors at our destination were peaking as we arrived.  The days were uniformly blustery, all high blue skies and bright sun, trees shining.  We stayed for 4 days and by the time we made the return drive, the trees for the entire route home had also reached their peak.  There was snow for the first 2 hours of the drive, then frigid wind and rain; the trees practically strobed against that deep autumnal sky.  We were rapt for the full 8 hours.

And as the trip had been marred by a couple practically back-to-back emergencies still in the process of resolving, the beauty of the drive was a very welcome distraction.  Arriving home, the color change began here and advanced slowly, with stately progress.

I almost feel like we’ve earned it, after the past 3 months or so.

Preparations for that trip took a ton of time and money and energy away from the beginning of the semester, and I paid for it in more ways that one.  Things have settled down now, so I’ve been writing regularly again.  Emergency situations were quickly resolved.  All that remains to do for the moment is think, relax, and admire November.




Well, that was unpleasant.

Am I really thinking about a return trip to China already?  I barely got through submitting midterm grades for the fall semester and speaking of that, how is it possibly time for midterms already?  This semester’s flying by.  I have a ton of work to do at all times.

School and writing are taking just about all I’ve got.  Now that my sister’s wedding is over, I can focus a little.  There has been a great deal of extra time and energy demanded since last month, which has made things a bit harrowing, but now things should settle down a bit.

Next week is my birthday… so, just in time.

Final Beijing Entry: Grading hell, victorious. Dragon Tie. Non-communication Taxi. PEK. Delta slacking. SkyClub lounge. First Class with a sliding privacy door.

On the tarmack, and I have to get this up ASAP because we’re due to take off relatively soon and this lady just handed me a menu.

I’ll really miss Beijing.  I’m ready to go home, but I fell in love with it.

Grading sucked up the entire day yesterday, as I knew it would. Thursday I was able to venture out one last time into the city via the most excellent supreme Beijing subway system.  Thanks to my friend Fan, a Beijing resident of 25 years, I saw the Temple of Heaven park and grounds, The National Museum, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City (from one end to the other), Ghost Street, downtown hutongs, and experienced Peking Roast Duck.  I saw things I never would have on my own.  She made the trip incredible, and  I’ll be forever grateful.

So much more to write about; I’ll post this one now, but will have lots of flight time in my private first-class cabin to work on a more thorough report.

Overall: Beijing 2019 was a rampant success.  The kids did exceptionally well, I worked my ass off, and I totally earned my Delta One seat.

The plane’s rolling… bye for now, China.  Maybe I’ll see you next year.